Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/354

This page has been validated.


CHAPTER XVII.

DANCES. MUSIC. GAMES.

(1) Dances. It may be confidently asserted that in the Melanesian islands here in view dances have absolutely no religious or superstitious character, although visitors find 'devil dances' and 'devil grounds' enough. Men and women always dance apart; the songs which accompany the dances are undoubtedly some of them indecent, and I would by no means deny that there are indecent dances, though I never heard of them. There might be thought to be a superstitious character in those dances in which the performers are supposed to be 'ghosts,' if it were not that ghosts were believed to amuse themselves with dancing as well as men; it might be thought that when the members of tamate ghost clubs dance in masks representing birds or fish they are dancing in honour of what may be called their totems, if there were the least reason to believe that the emblems of the clubs had any character of the sort. An Ambrym drum set up when a death-feast is celebrated, and carved into a representation of a face, is no doubt meant to represent the deceased, so that it may be said that dances are performed before the images of ancestors, and the deceased may be called either 'god' or 'devil,' according to the terms employed; but after all it is but a festival in memory of some lately dead member of the community, and the dancing and drumming are parts of the festivity. Women's dances are everywhere ungraceful and uninteresting; in the rorohi of Florida they sway their bodies