Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/328

This page has been validated.
Arts of Life.

in a sudden quarrel perhaps; in Florida and thereabouts a paddle-shaped club is a favourite walking weapon, rau ni Aba, the leaf, so called, of Aba, a place in Guadalcanar where they are made. The spears, shields, clubs, bows and arrows of the Solomon Islands are common in museums. The spear[1] is practically unknown as a weapon in the Banks' Islands, it comes into use, in company with the bow, in Ambrym; the Espiritu Santo spear, with its triple point and graduated barbing of human bone, is perhaps the mosfc fearful of all these weapons. Where they fought with bows, as in the Banks' Islands, an open battle was not common; much shouting of defiance, cursing, abuse and boasting, stamping with the heel, and grasping of the ground with the toes, a great sign of valour, resulted in little bloodshed[2]. Slings, talvava, in the Banks' Islands were used chiefly in defence against a night attack; when such was expected, men would from time to time sling stones down the paths by which the enemy would approach; but skilful slingers would do good service in a fight. Clubs in the Banks' Islands never seem to have been the carefully, and indeed beautifully, shaped weapons used in the New Hebrides; with these latter arrows are warded off in fighting.

The Melanesian weapons, however, which demand most attention, and require most explanation, are the poisoned arrows, as yet so little understood. The belief in the deadly virulence of the poison used, and in the hideous methods of preparing it, is too firmly fixed to readily give way. Yet a careful examination of poisoned arrows and of their effects, by English and by French medical officers, has resulted twice

  1. Old men in the Torres Islands carry a heavy wooden pointed staff which may be called a pike. In the Banks' Islands a spear is called isar, stabber, but is only known in use, as in Aurora also, to stab pigs.
  2. About thirty years ago a combined attack was made by about 600 men from the southern parts of Vanua Lava upon the people of Port Patteson, who with their allies numbered about half their assailants. Their women backed up the attacked party, encouraging them with cries and beating upon the trees. There was no great loss of life, and the assailants retired. Not half the number could be brought together now.