Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/371

This page has been validated.
xviii.]
349
Heavenly Bodies. Seasons.

the shining stone of light; the Pleiades are togo ni samu, the company of maidens; Orion's belt is the peko, the war canoe; the evening star is vaovarongo diva, listen for the oven, because the daily meal is taken as the evening draws on; stars are called dead men's eyes. At Saa the Southern Cross is ape, the net, with four men letting it down to catch the palolo, and the Pointers are two men cooking what has been caught, because the palolo appears when one of the Pointers appears above the horizon; the Pleiades are apurunge, the tangle; the Southern Triangle is Three men in a canoe; Mars is the Red Pig.

(8) Months and Seasons. The moon is naturally the measure of time; there is no native notion of a year as a period of fixed time; the word, tau or niulu, which corresponds most nearly to the word year, signifies a season, and so now the space of time between recurring seasons; thus the yam has its tau, its season of five moons from the planting, when the erythrina is in flower, till the harvest after the palolo has come and gone; the bread-fruit has its tau during the winter months; the banana and the cocoa-nut have no tau, being at all times in fruit. The notion of a year as the time from yam to yam, from palolo to palolo, has been readily received; it is very doubtful if such a conception is anywhere purely native. It is impossible to fit the native succession of moons into a solar year; months have their names from what is done and what happens when the moon appears and while it lasts; the same moon has different names. If all the names of moons in use in one language were set in order the periods of time would overlap, and the native year would be artificially made up of twenty or thirty months. The moons and seasons of Mota in the Banks' Islands may serve as an example. The garden work of the year is the principal guide to the arrangement, the succession of (1) clearing garden ground, uma; (2) cutting down the trees, tara; (3) turning over and piling up the stuff, rakasag; (4) burning it, sing; (5) digging the holes for yams, nur, and planting, riv. Then follows the care of the yam plants till