Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/367

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Heads. Castaways.

(2) Heads. Head-hunting is not practised by any of the natives eastwards from Ysabel; that is to say, they do not make expeditions for the sole purpose of obtaining heads. In Bugotu, the south-eastern extremity of Ysabel, the people have suffered and still suffer most seriously from the attacks of the head-hunters from beyond, whose expeditions, following the coasts from a great distance, and sometimes for months, have reached Malanta and Guadalcanar, in one most disgraceful instance the head-hunters being brought to Florida in an European vessel. The practice, however, of taking heads and preserving them as signs of power and success belongs to the Solomon Islands generally. The heads of enemies killed in fight are preserved as trophies, and set out on stages as in Florida, or hung up under the eaves of the canoe-house as in San Cristoval. When a chief in the exercise of his authority had a man killed for an offence, or had him murdered out of revenge or hatred, or for a sacrifice, he added the head to his collection; it was a sign of his power and greatness. Hence, as the more heads he could show the more his power was in view, he was ready on every opportunity and on any pretext to take a life and a head. When a chief had a man killed, he would keep the head, but sent the legs and arms to his neighbours, to shew what he had done. If, for example, an accused man got away from Mboli in Florida to Savo, the Mboli chief would send a request, backed by a present of money, to the Savo chief to have him killed; the Savo chief would keep the head and send a leg or arm to Florida, where the chief would hang it up to shew his power. The heads thus taken and preserved are distinct from those of deceased relatives, which are kept as memorials of affection. Skulls may be seen suspended equally at the entrance of a Solomon Island oha and a New Hebrides gamal, but the signification is, in all cases probably, distinct.

(3) Castaways. A stranger as such was generally throughout the islands an enemy to be killed. Thus at Florida a stranger who had escaped from a wreck on to an islet was killed when seen, and spoken of as a cocoa-nut that had floated