Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/294

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Death. Burial. After Death.

other, are thought to come and eat the food, which they say is given as a friendly remembrance only, and in the way of associating together those whom death has separated; but it can hardly be doubted that the original intention at least was a common participation in the meal. It is not altogether consistent, however, with the conception of an underground abode of the dead, that they should be conceived of as present at the later feasts, though the first of all is held while they are still believed to be about. The eating the death, gana matea, begins with the burial; they eat first, as they say, his grave; after that they 'eat his days.' The days are the fifth and the tenth, and after that every tenth day up to the hundredth, and it may be in the case of a father, wife, or mother even so far as the thousandth. At Nembek, a part of Gaua, where they lay the corpse between fires, they bury the remains and finish the death-meal on the fifth day. At Tarasag, near by, when a great man dies the people from all the villages around bring mashed yams the next morning to the place where the dead man lies, and eat them there. The people of the place begin the death-meals that day with a large ovenful, and continue on the tenth, and on every successive tenth day. Sometimes for a very great man they eat every day up to the fiftieth, and then start with the fifth and tenth day feasts. For counting the days so that the guests from distant villages may arrive on the proper days, they use cycas fronds, one in the hands of each party, on which the appointed days are marked by the pinching off or turning down of a leaflet as each day passes. At Ureparapara the first fire for the death-meal is lit on the day after the burial; after that on each fifth day to the hundredth, and if they go beyond that every tenth day to the thousandth. At Lakona, in Santa Maria, immediately after the death the pigs of the deceased which he has left as legacies are distributed to his relatives, and one or two more are killed and the meat given to the people of the place. In the evening he is buried, or laid out in a chest or in a cave, and no food or water is put with him. Next morning begins the counting of the