Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/98

This page has been validated.
76
[ch.
Secret Societies and Mysteries.

ornamented by the particular flower that marks the member of the tamate. To assume the badge without being a member of a tamate is an offence against the society, to be punished according to the power and position of the society offended. In the Torres Islands, for example, one of the three great tamate societies is Nipir, and its badge is a hibiscus flower worn over the forehead. If any one not a member should be seen with this. flower thus worn, a bunch of flowers and leaves is set up in a public place by the society, and the offender knows that he must forfeit a pig. He brings his pig, ties it in the open space in the middle of his village, and stands by it; one of the society then beats him for his presumption, and after that he has to go through the regular initiation with the payment of the entrance fees.

The origin of these societies in the Banks' Islands has no light thrown upon it, as in Florida, by tradition, and must be presumed therefore to belong to no recent times. There is a story that a woman received from a ghost, whom she saw in a tree, an image with the hat and cloak of a tamate, and that she kept this hidden behind a partition in her house. It became known that she had something wonderful concealed, and she admitted men on payment to a private view. When those who had partaken of the secret became numerous enough they took it out of the woman's hands, made a lodge for themselves, were taught by the image, which was all the while itself a ghost, how to make the dress, and thus set up the first tamate association, with the strictest exclusion of all women ever afterwards. From this story nothing can be learnt concerning the origin of so widely spread an institution. The multitude of minor associations, generally named after birds, are however mostly local, and may be thought to be modern. Any one might start a new society, and gather round him his co-founders, taking any object that might strike their fancy as the ground and symbol of their association. A visitor to Norfolk Island having seen there a bird that was strange to him, established on his return to Mota a society-called 'the Norfolk Island Bird.' Some such new foundations