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PROPITIATION OF THE DEAD. 241
sitting posture in the sun, that it might gradually become dried up ; and an altar was erected before it, on which were daily offered fresh flowers, and fruit, and other food. With this the relations or priests touched the lips of the dead several times aday, for, like the Chinese, they averred that the departed spirit came to feast on the spiritual essence" of the gross meats. Indeed the whole ceremony savours of Chinese custom. There was the same passionate ceremonial wailing for the dead, the same sort of religious service to appease the unquiet spirit, and prevent it from returning to earth to annoy the survivors. In place of burning paper effigies of horses, and houses, and other things likely to be useful in the spirit-world, the Tahitian priest placed about the corpse pieces of the stalk of the mountain-plantain, and told the dead that these were its parents, its wife, its children, and that with these it must be satisfied, and refrain from vexing the living.
* The gods also were supposed to feed on the essence of the food offered to them. Every evening the priest in the principal temple of Mangaia cooked an ovenful of taro for their use, and threw one root at a time into the scrub, dedicating each to one of the gods. When the thirteen principal deities had thus been recognised, the priest threw one more, as an offering to all the lesser gods, of whose names and attributes he was ignorant. This ceremony exactly answers to one which I have seen practised at the Buddhist monasteries in China, where, ere the monks taste their own food, a small portion is set aside on a pillar, as an offering to any saintly or divine beings whom they have neglected in their temple-worship.
VOL. II. Q