of folds. There are three lengths of mats in common use; some mats are a hundred fathoms long-, some when folded ten fathoms; the width is about two feet. A middlesized mat will buy a tusked pig. A rich man will keep fifty mats and more in his house, hung up and decaying, a proof of ancient wealth. Mat-money is also lent at interest, and so becomes a source of wealth; there is no fixed rate of increase, the lender gets what he is able to insist upon, up to a double return. In these three islands the discs of shell, som, hom, are beautifully prepared and worked up into armlets and necklaces, which are much valued, but there is no use of them as money. Feather-money is peculiar to Santa Cruz; it is made of the red feathers from under the wings of a parrot, Trichoglossus Massena. The birds are caught in the deep bush, where they are very tame, with bird-lime smeared on a rod which a man carries in his hand, and on which they perch; he must take care not to eat anything hot or fat, or they will not come near him. The small red feathers are first gummed on to pigeon's feathers, and these are bound on to a prepared foundation in rows, so that only the red is seen. A length of this feather-money, called tavau, about fifteen feet long, is coiled up and packed with peculiar ornaments. Short pieces are made for convenience in arranging about prices. On festive occasions the dancing ground, nava, fenced round with huge discs of coral, is hung with the uncoiled feather-money of those who make the feast. The people say that formerly they had also shell-money. Though this feather-money is peculiar to Santa Cruz, there is in the Banks' Islands, in Santa Maria and Meralava, where the som shells are not found, a medium of exchange of the same character. The little feathers near the eye of fowls are bound on strings, and generally dyed a fine crimson; these are used as necklaces or anklets, by way of ornament and distinction (kole wetapup, p. 110), but also pass very much in the way of money. A braid not unlike this was formerly used in the Loyalty Islands as a medium of exchange, the red fur under
Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/346
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Arts of Life.