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ANCIENT SPORTS. 161
traders may have been the first to suggest to our fair-skinned forefathers the attractions of blue woad as high art decoration ? Not only have such practices as tattooing died out in Tahiti, but even the distinctive games of the people have apparently been forgotten, at least I have seen none played. Yet in olden times there were many national sports; as, for instance, one which exactly answered to golf, and was played with sticks, slightly curved at one end, and a hard ball made of strips of native cloth. Football was formerly as popular in Tahiti as in Britain or Japan, the ball used being a large roll of the stalks of banana - leaves, firmly twisted together. The players were often women, twenty or thirty on each side ; and in the scramble to seize the ball, there was as much rough sport as in any English public school. As the games were generally played on the beach, the ball was often thrown into the sea, and followed by the merry crowd with shouts and ringing laughter. Boxing also found favour with the lower orders; and wrestling and archery were as highly esteemed in Tahiti as in Japan, and, moreover, were equally associated with religious festivals, which probably is the reason of their having fallen into disuse. The dresses worn by the archers, with their bows and arrows, were all considered sacred, and certain VOL. II. L
persons were appointed to keep them. Before the contest began, the archers went to the marae to perform certain religious ceremonies; and at the end of the game, they returned thither to change their dress, bathe, and restore their bow and arrows to their appointed keeper, before they could venture to eat, or to enter their own homes. The bows in use were about five feet in length; the arrows about three feet, and the distance to which they would fly was often about 300 yards. They were never used in war, nor for shooting at a mark, as in Fiji. Spear-throwing and slinging stones were games in which a target was always set up, and generally hit with precision; but these were exercises of war, in which the players had abundant practice. The slingers generally formed the advance - guard in battle, and often did much execution. The stones selected were about the size of a hen's egg. The slings were made of finely braided cocoa-nut husk, or filaments of native flax, with a loop at one end for the hand, and at the other, a place for the stone. In throwing, the sling was stretched across the back, whirled round the head, and thus the missile was discharged with great force. But the game which always excited the keenest interest was wrestling. Here, as in Japan, the announcement of a wrestling - match brought to
RELIGIOUS WRESTLERS. 163
gether thousands both of men and women, all in their holiday garbs. The wrestlers, like the archers, first repaired to the marae to do homage to the gods; then entering the ring, which was generally on some grassy spot near the sea-shore, they fell to work in good earnest. Sometimes the wrestlers of one island challenged those of another; or else the challenge was from men of different districts. Their dress consisted only of a waist-cloth, and a coating of fresh oil. The moment a man was thrown, the friends of the conqueror commenced to dance and sing triumphantly with an accompaniment of drums; and as the vanquished party raised songs of defiance, the din must have been pretty considerable. However, it subsided the moment fresh wrestlers entered the ring, and the spectators watched the progress of the struggle in dead silence and with intense interest. When the contest was over, the wrestlers returned to the marae to present their offerings to the protecting gods. Without looking back to classical times and Greek games, it seems strange, does it not, that these very uncivilised savages of the South Seas should have assigned to wrestling precisely the same religious importance as is bestowed on it by the Shintoists of Japan. Possibly both nations retained this sacred game as practised by their common Malay ancestors," from whom, probably, both derived their custom” of offering savoury meats, and making acts of homage to their deceased relations; though the Japanese, either from inborn refinement or Chinese influence, place on their domestic shrine only the tablets of the dead; whereas the Tahitian preserved the ancestral skulls hidden in the roof of his house. The perch for fowls,” so familiar in the neighbourhood of all Shinto temples in Japan, had its counterpart in the homes of the Tahitian chiefs; though the fowls here do not appear to have been consecrated to the gods, but trained for fighting. The native legends assert that cock-fighting was the most ancient native game, and the birds were reared and tended with the utmost care. No artificial spurs were used, and the belligerents were separated before either was injured. The fights came off at break of day, that the birds might be perfectly cool; and large crowds assembled to wit
* I do not by this mean to suggest any trace of a common origin, merely founded on ancestor-worship, which prevailed in almost all countries, and which in the Pacific is to this day practised by the Papuan races. The islanders of the Torres Straits, in common with those of the Line islands, worship the skulls of their ancestors, and treasure them in their huts as reverently as did the Tahitians in heathen days.
2 For a trace of this custom, as practised in the Marquesas, see pp. 122, 123.
* Whence has developed the Torii.
THEORY OF MIGRATION. 1.65
ness the contests, which sometimes were carried on for several mornings consecutively. In tracing all manner of kindred customs in the isles of the North and South Pacific, I observe, amongst minor points, how very widespread is the passion for shampooing,-a friendly office which every old woman in the South Seas seems as ready to perform for the wearied wayfarer as is the professional blind man of Japan; involving an amount of manipulation which I should suppose to be truly odious, but to which many foreigners take kindly, and which seems to find favour in all Asiatic countries. I take an especial interest in all such links as seem to connect these isles with Japan, because I have a pet theory of my own, that all these fair Polynesian islanders have drifted here by a circuitous route vid the North Pacific. The commonly accepted notion is, that all the groups in the East Pacific have been peopled by Malays, who found their way here by a directly eastward migration. It is difficult, however, to imagine why they should have come so far, when, in coming from that direction, Australia and New Guinea lay so much nearer to them. If you open the map of the world and rule a transverse line, passing through the Sandwich Islands in the North Pacific and the Friendly Isles in the