Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/244

This page has been validated.
Possession. Intercourse with Ghosts.

this power out of a morbid desire for communion with some ghost, and to gain it would steal and eat a morsel of a corpse. The ghost then of the dead man would join in a close friendship with the person who had eaten, and would gratify him by afflicting any one against whom his ghostly power might be directed. The man so afflicted would feel that something was influencing his life, and would come to dread some particular person among his neighbours, who was therefore suspected of being a talamaur. This latter when seized and tried in the smoke of strong-smelling leaves would call out the name of the dead man whose ghost was his familiar, often the names of more than one, and lastly the name of the man who was afflicted. The same name talamaur was given to one whose soul was supposed to go out and eat the soul or lingering life of a freshly-dead corpse. There was a woman some years ago of whom the story is told that she made no secret of doing this, and that once on the death of a neighbour she gave notice that she should go in the night and eat the corpse. The friends of the deceased therefore kept watch in the house where the corpse lay, and at dead of night heard a scratching at the door, followed by a rustling noise close by the corpse. One of them threw a stone and seemed to hit the unseen thing; and in the morning the talamaur was found with a bruise on her arm which she confessed was caused by a stone thrown at her while she was eating the corpse. Such a woman would feel a morbid delight in the dread which she inspired, and would also be secretly rewarded by some whose secret spite she gratified.

A certain mysterious power was believed to attach to some men in the Banks' Islands, which the natives find it difficult to explain. There is something belonging to a man called his wuqa or uqa. If a stranger sleeps in some one's habitual sleeping-place in his absence and afterwards finds himself unwell, he knows that the uqa of the man in whose place he slept has struck him there; or if one leaves an associate and goes elsewhere to sleep, the uqa of the man he leaves will follow him and strike him; he will rise in the morning weak and