Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/247

This page has been validated.
Form of Possession in Torres Islands.

with charms. Then the leader and his assistants went into all the sacred places which ghosts haunt, such as where men wash off the black of mourning, collecting as they went the ghosts and becoming themselves so much possessed that they appeared to have lost their senses, though they acted in a certain method. In the meanwhile the subjects lying in the gamal begin to be moved; those who bring as they say the ghosts to them go quietly along both sides of the house without, and all at once strike the house along its whole length with the sticks they carry in their hands. This startles those inside, and they roll about on the ground distracted. Then the 'ghosts' enter in with their sticks, and in this performance each is believed to be some one deceased, one Tagilrow, another Qatawala; they leap from side to side, turning their sticks over to be beaten by the subjects on one side and the other. The subjects are given sticks for this purpose, and as they strike the stick the ghost 'strikes,' possesses, them one after another. In this state the sticks draw them out into the open place of the village, where they are seen. They appear not to recognize or hear any one but the 'ghosts' who have brought this upon them, and who alone can control them and prevent them from pulling down the houses; for they have a rage for seizing and striking with anything, bows, clubs, bamboo water-vessels, or the rafters of the houses, and their strength is such that a full-grown man cannot hold a boy in this state. After a time the 'ghosts' take them back into the gamal, and there they lie exhausted; the 'ghosts' go to drink kava, and as each drinks he pours away the dregs calling the name of one of the possessed, and the senses of each return as his name is called. It is five days, however, before they can go about again. This was done once after a Christian teacher had come to Lo, and two of his scholars whom he let go to prove that it was a deception were possessed.

People in the Banks' Islands have certain tricks which those who do not understand them believe to be the work of ghosts. A man will hear a voice from the ground beneath