Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/255

This page has been validated.
xiv.]
233
Avoidance. Noviciate at Saa.

but has not this character. At Santa Cruz the men and women never work together promiscuously or assemble in one group; men with their wives and children only, and men with their mothers, work in the gardens; when a crowd assembles the women collect aloof. In Nufilole, one of the Swallow group, the separation is complete; men and women are never out together; in the morning the men go out first and come back, after that the women go and fetch water, when they return the men go out again.

It has been said in Chapters V and VI that there is not known in these Islands of Melanesia any initiation or 'making of young men'; there is only the entrance into the various societies. The nearest approach to such initiation seems to be found at Saa. A chief's son in that part of Malanta goes early to the oha, canoe-house and public hall, while common children still eat and sleep at home; he may go there when he is twelve years old. Before that they are very careful about him; he must not go under the women's bedplace, his mother must never use bad words in scolding him, he must not consort with big boys who will teach him bad ways; he is kept apart lest he Io'u, fall, be low[1]. At first he goes only in the daytime to the oha, and comes back to his mother to sleep. When the time comes he is put with boys of his own age to undergo a sort of noviciate. The custom is dying out; boys used to stay in the oha sometimes for years. First of all there was a toto sacrifice (page 137) to purify the boys. Afterwards they went out every morning early in a canoe to catch the bonito-fish, till each boy had caught one. Men paddled with the boys, a boy sitting behind a man; when the man had a bite the boy behind him came forward and helped to haul it in; the fish counted as the boy's, he had caught a fish which one must be saka, be possessed of a certain mysterious power, to

  1. It is curious that the word lotu, commonly used for the profession of Christianity in Polynesia and in Fiji, should occur in this sense in the Solomon Islands. The meaning from which its use to describe the new religion came was that of bowing down as in prayer. To go where women may be above his head is degrading to a chief; hence the refusal to go below on board a vessel.