Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/243

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Omens. Vampires.

canoe, might be such if the sign were not given in answer to the wizard on board. True omens are observed at Saa. There is a small bird named wisi from its cry, which means; 'No.' It has other notes which resemble the voice of a man talking. If men starting on an expedition hear the cry wisi! it is not enough to turn them back perhaps, but if they fail they remember the warning; if they hear the other notes they are confident of success. A man working in his garden hears the bird, and he asks, 'Is there fighting?' The bird answers wisi, No. He asks again, 'Is it a stranger come from far?' The bird answers wisi, or chatters to give an affirmative reply. This is, however, not seriously thought of. If a frog, or some other creature that does not usually come indoors, is seen in a house it is an omen. They will go and enquire of a wizard what it means. If the creature comes and cries they know that soon there will be crying for a death. There is in that island a remarkable kind of snake rarely seen, called mati e sato; it is about ten inches long, glistening like gold, and when full grown, the natives say, so resplendent that nothing of it can be clearly seen but its eyes and snout; when it is taken into the hand it is exceedingly smooth and slippery. If one of these is seen in a house it is a sign of death; if running, of violent death; if quiet, of death by sickness. If the venomous snake a'u is seen in a house it is a sign of death or fighting or misfortune; if coiled up it is a sign of quiet death; if running, there will be violence. When a beginning is made of building a house or canoe, or of clearing a garden, a man will call aloud, and then if something remarkable appears it is a sign that the work will be interrupted by death or war; if nothing comes, all will be well. The sacred character of the sigo, kingfisher, in the Banks' Islands has been mentioned, and that its cry is ominous. It is the same in Lepers' Island, where, if a party is going to battle and a king-fisher, higo, cries to the right, it foretells victory; if it cries to the left, it bodes failure.

There is a belief in the Banks' Islands in the existence of a power like that of Vampires. A man or woman would obtain