Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/289

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Banks Islands. Death. Burial.

or dying person to rouse him, and shout his name into his ear, in hope that the soul may hear it and return. The soul possibly may be caught. A woman at Mota some years ago who knew that a neighbour was at the point of death heard something rustling in her house, like the fluttering of a moth, just when cries and wailings told her that the soul had flown. She caught the fluttering thing between her hands and ran with it to the house of death, crying that she had caught the atai; she opened her hands above the corpse's mouth to restore the soul, but there was no recovery. The ghost does not at once leave the neighbourhood of the body, it hangs about the house and the grave five or ten days, and shews its presence by noises in the house and lights upon the grave. It is not generally in the Banks' Islands thought desirable that the ghost should stay longer than the fifth day, and there is a custom of driving it away with shouts and blowing of conchs; in some places bull-roarers are sounded. It will be convenient to take the proceedings which fellow after death in the various islands of the group, before describing the course of the departed ghost into the lower world and its condition there. These proceedings consist of the mourning, the funeral, and the funeral-feasts.

In the Banks' Islands the dead are generally buried. It is the duty of the members of the other Veve, of the other 'side of the house,' to dig the grave. The burial takes place earlier or later, according to the estimation in which the deceased is held. In an ordinary case it is on the second day; the friends cry round the corpse, and women are hired to wail meanwhile. The place of burial is in the bush not far from the village; but a great man, or one whose death was remarkable, was buried in the village near the gamal, and a favourite son or child in the house itself. In the latter case the grave was opened after fifty or a hundred days, and the bones taken up and hidden in the bush, or some of them hung up in the house. Some bodies were not buried, but laid up in the bush outside the village in a chest, pugoro, such as those in which dry bread-fruit is kept, and there left to decay. This is called