Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/329

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Poisoned Arrows.

over in the declaration that the reputed poison-stuff on the arrows is not poisonous, and that therefore the fatal effects of wounds from the arrows are not due to the preparation which is reputed poisonous[1]. From the scientific side, then, the view is clear; and if the matter is approached from the native side, it appears with equal plainness that the deadly quality which they believe to attach to these weapons does not belong to what can properly be called poison. It has been said (page 213) that the Melanesian preparations wherewith deadly property was believed to be conveyed to food were not properly poisonous, that the effect was not thought to be produced by the natural properties of the substance used, but entirely by supernatural properties imparted by magic arts; and this although there might be deleterious qualities in the stuff employed. Most certainly this is the native view of what is called poison on their arrows; what is sought, and as they firmly believe obtained, is an arrow which shall have supernatural power, mana, to hurt, in the material of which it is made, and in the qualities added by charms and magical

  1. 'An Enquiry into the Reputed Poisonous Nature of the Arrows of the South Sea Islanders, by Staff-Surgeon A. B. Messer, M.D., E.N., published by the Authority of the Lords of the Admiralty,' 1876, has, with others, the following conclusions. 'That in the numerous cases in which men have been wounded by these arrows, no recorded instances are known of poisonous effects following.' 'That the "locked-jaw" is not the result of poison on the arrows; and as this disease is the only cause of fatal results after these wounds, the arrows themselves are not in any way dangerous beyond the severity of their wounds, and the conditions under which they are received.' The Report of the Commission appointed by the Governor of New Caledonia in 1883 is quoted by Mr. Romilly in the chapter on Poisoned Arrows in 'The Western Pacific and New Guinea,' as completely dispelling 'the vulgar notion of the fatal nature of these weapons.' As Mr. Romilly refers to myself, I may say that in the two cases mentioned the man who died had been little influenced, and the one who survived much influenced by Mission teaching, to which indeed it is reasonable to ascribe a good deal of the absence of alarm and distress from his mind. His constant exclamation was 'My mind is easy, I have heard the Bishop/ In that year, 1870, I obtained without difficulty the information concerning these arrows in the Banks' Islands which is here set forth, and which all that I have learnt since from other islands has shown to be correct. I do not remember to have heard of the renewal of the poison, which is likely enough.

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