Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/256

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Birth. Childhood. Marriage.

catch; and he had reached a certain stage in life. A boy did not come out when he had caught his fish, he remained for the time fixed for him at his entrance, according to his father's rank, or that in which his father had aspired to set him; for the length of his stay depended very much upon the expense to which his father proposed to go. One might come out before his time, as Wateaado did when his brother died and he was wanted to take his place. At certain intervals during this seclusion feasts were made, and a great one when a boy came out. There was no secret initiation, nothing whatever was taught the boys, the only thing they learnt was how to fish for bonito. They came out young men and strangers to the people of the village, out of whose sight they had grown up. This custom has now ceased at Saa.

Circumcision is unknown in almost all the islands which are here in view; it has come up from Ambrym to the lower end of Pentecost, as a prevailing custom, and not very lately. It is done at any age, whenever the boy's friends choose to make the feast. It is not a mark of initiation and has no religious or superstitious character; it is a social distinction. It is known but not yet practised in Lepers' Island, but is said to have been already introduced into the southern part of Aurora. A sharp bamboo is used. There is no doubt that the custom, for it is not a rite, has come across from the eastwards to the Southern New Hebrides, and has been for some time in common use, the dress in some of those islands, if it may be so called, being adapted to it.

The childhood of a girl can hardly be marked except by her advance towards matrimony, to which her being clothed and tattooed is in some places at least a necessary step. In Florida and the neighbouring parts, in Santa Cruz, in Pentecost Island, and most of the New Hebrides, the women's dress is a petticoat of strings of fibre or of leaves. In the southeastern Solomon Islands and the Banks' Islands the women wear a band with tufts or fringes, to which in Lepers' Island there is added out of doors a mat which envelopes the person. The moral character and training of the girls may well be