Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/284

This page has been validated.
262
[ch.
Death. Burial. After Death.

to spread under and above it, and lay over that certain large leaves, and planks above all. The canoe is not closed over with cement, but there is very little smell. Sometimes the corpse is kept in this way for years, either in the house or in the oha, the public canoe-house, waiting for a great funeral feast[1]. When a year of good crops arrives a man will say, 'Now we will take out Father.' The corpse is taken then, if that of a comparatively inferior person, to the common burial-ground, if of a chief, to the family burying-place, where sacrifices are made as above (page 137) described. The skull and jawbone are taken out, and these are called mangite, which are sa&a, hot with spiritual power, and by means of which the help of the lio'a, the powerful ghost of the man whose relics these are, can be obtained. The mangite is enclosed in the hollow wooden figure of a bonito-fish, and set up in the house or in the oha, where it remains till the lio'a goes out of memory or credit. In the oha on the beach at Saa they lately made a boat-like receptacle, and put in it all the old mangite of forgotten lio'a. A man will sometimes hang up his wife in this way, and when she is taken out to the burying-place her jaw will be kept in a basket, or one of her teeth in a bit of bamboo, and hung up in the house as a memorial. It can be nothing more, for no woman's ghost can be a ghost of power, lio'a, nothing but a mere departed soul, akalo. Men will put food as an offering of affection and memory to these mangite, and to the figures and canoes containing corpses.

Burial, however, is not universal at Saa. It often happens that the corpse of a chief or lesser man is thrown into the sea (to do which is called kulu rae), either at the request of the deceased, or to save trouble. The friends tie a bag of sand to the feet of the corpse, paddle out, and sink the corpse in a certain place where are hollow rocks below; it never rises to the surface. When this is done a mangite is preserved, hair or nails, tied in a bundle and hung up. Sometimes, but rarely,

  1. A similar custom was observed by Mr. Forbes at Timor. Naturalist's Wanderings in the Eastern Archipelago, p. 435.