Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/237

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Taboo.

equal fear lest he should be charmed through a fragment of his food or poisoned by what might be put into his food. The poisoned arrows, of which more hereafter, have never been found to have been prepared with anything which could be properly said to be poison; and undoubtedly the dreaded power of such arrows to give fatal wounds was by the natives believed to be due to the magic charms with which they were made, and to the dead man's bone with which they were pointed.

(9) Tapu and Curses. The word taboo is one of the very few that the languages of the Pacific Ocean have given to the English language; and something of its meaning therefore may be supposed to be understood. But the tapu or tambu of Melanesia is not so conspicuous in native life as the tapu of Polynesia; and it differs also perhaps in this, that it never signifies any inherent holiness or awfulness, but always a sacred and unapproachable character which is imposed. This is not strictly accurate as regards the word in the Solomon Islands, where everything connected with a ghost of worship, tindalo, lio'a, or 'adaro, is tambu of itself; it is accurate as concerns the Banks' Islands and New Hebrides, where what is inherently sacred is rongo or sapuga. But still in cases where the English word taboo can be employed there is always in Melanesia human sanction and prohibition. Some thing, action, or place is made tambu or tapu by one who has the power to do it, any one whose standing among the people gives him confidence to lay this character upon it. The power at the back of the tapu or tambu is that of the ghost or spirit in whose name, or in reliance upon whom, it is pronounced; for the tapu is a prohibition with a curse expressed or implied. Thus in Florida a chief will forbid something to be done or touched under a penalty; he has said, for example, tambu hangalatu) any one who violates his prohibition must pay him a hundred strings of money; it seems to the European a proof of the power of the chief; but to the native the power of the chief, in this and in everything else, rests on the persuasion that the chief has his tindalo at his back. The sense of this in the particular case is remote, the apprehension