Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/93

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Absence of Religious Character.

who are members; and also that such a young man has probably no wife. Such a young man has not been able to meet the expense of initiation or of matrimony; his friends, from carelessness or poverty, have let him grow up without making proper provision for him; he remains uninitiated and unmarried from the same cause; but initiation is by no means a preliminary step to matrimony. It is difficult, in view of the strict secrecy and solemnity of the mysteries, to believe that there is no knowledge imparted in initiation of a religious character. The outer world of women and children, and the uninitiated,matawonowono,—whose eyes were closed,—undoubtedly believed that the initiated entered into association with the ghosts of the dead; the strangle cries and awful sounds that proceeded from the sacred and unapproachable lodge of the association, or from the forest when the members of it were abroad, were more than human in their ears; the figures that appeared were not those of men. An accident would no doubt sometimes make it plain that it was a man, some one well known and recognized, who was figuring as a ghost; but then his disguise was not the work of mortal hands; and the shrewd conjecture that all the rest were as much men and neighbours as the one whose fall revealed him might be entertained, but would be dangerous to express. It was only when the neophyte was admitted into the mysterious precincts that he found only his daily companions there, and learnt that there was nothing to be imparted to him except the knowledge how the sounds were produced, how the dresses and decorations were made, and in some cases a song and dance. There was no secret article of belief made known, and no secret form of worship practised. The ordinary forms of prayer and sacrifice were performed as elsewhere, though here in connexion with these mysteries. There were no forms of worship peculiar to the society, and no objects of worship of a kind unknown to those without.

It is remarkable also that, as far as I have been able to ascertain, there is nothing or very little that is obscene, or more objectionable from a moral point of view than imposture