Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/269

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CHAPTER XV.

DEATH. BURIAL. AFTER DEATH.

That death is the parting of soul and body, and that the departed soul continues in an intelligent and more or less active existence, is what Melanesians everywhere believe; but what that is which in life abides with the body, and in death departs from it, and which, speaking of it in English, we call the soul, they find it very difficult to explain. Like people very much more advanced than themselves, they have not in the first place a perfectly clear conception of what it is; and in the second place, like other people, they use words to represent these conceptions which they acknowledge to be more or less figurative and inexact, when the precise meaning of them is sought for. Nor is it any wonder that, believing that such a thing as what we call a soul exists in connexion with the body which they see, they speak of and conceive of the soul when separate from the body as if it were in some form and shape visible to the eyes. Thinking, to Melanesia natives at any rate, is like seeing; what is thought of must have some form to be thought of in; and a visible thing that has a likeness to that which is thought of offers its name as a convenient means of expression. Suppose that there are people who call the soul a shadow, I do not in the least believe that they think the shadow a soul or the soul a shadow; but they use the word shadow figuratively for that belonging to man which is like his shadow, definitely individual and inseparable from him, but unsubstantial. The Mota word we use for soul is in Maori a shadow, but