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RELIGIOUS WRESTLERS. 279
sling was Btretched 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 wrestlingmatch brought together 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 waistcloth, 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,1 from whom, probably, both derived their custom2 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 Ta
1 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.
■ For a trace of this custom, as practised in the Marquesas, see p. 257.
hitian preserved the ancestral skulls hidden in the roof of his house.
The perch for fowls,1 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 witness 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 South, you will perceive that the groups lying to the east are the Navigators, Fiji, the Hervey Isles, Tahiti, the Paumotu, the Marquesan, the Austral Isles, and New Zealand, 1 Whence has developed the Torii.
CIRCUITOUS OCEAN-CURRENTS. 281
every one of which is peopled by comparatively fair-skinned races, with hair which by nature is straight and black, although in many of the isles, as in Samoa, custom requires that it should be dyed or bleached, cut short and stiffened, so as to produce the effect of a wig. I am not sure if the spiral curls of the yellow-haired Tongans and Fijians are artificially produced, because I have never seen one individual of either race whose hair had not been dyed with coral-lime; but I know that a Samoan girl who refrains from "improving" nature, finds herself possessed of fine black tresses, as silky and as beautiful as those of any Italian maiden.
To the west of our line lies Melanesia, comprising the Marshall Isles, the Carolines, Solomon Isles, New Guinea, New Britain, New Hebrides, New Caledonia, and Australia. These, almost without exception, are peopled by dark-skinned races, repulsive in their ugliness, and with hair more or less woolly.
All these lie between Eastern Polynesia and the Malay country, and there seems no reason whatever to account for those hardy little warriors passing by so many fertile isles, in search of the unknown region to the east. Surely it is more probable that, having first overrun Formosa, and then peopled Japan, they thence sailed to the Sandwich Isles, and so gradually made their way to the south. We know that in old days their vessels were very much better than those now commonly used by them; and the voyage from Japan to Hawaii, and thence to Tahiti, would have been by no means impossible, especially as the existing strong ocean-currents would naturally tend to draw any ship by this course.
It is said that even a log of wood fairly launched on the Malay eoast, would naturally drift by this circuitous water-way till it returned westward to the shores of New Guinea. A glance at a map of ocean-currents will, I think, make this plain to you.
I know that this theory is contrary to that generally entertained; but as the natives of Tahiti have always maintained that their ancestors came from Hawaii (to which they retain the strongest links of family affection, the principal families of the two groups being united to one another by ties of blood), I cannot understand why learned men should maintain that Hawaii must really mean Savaii in the Samoan group, concerning which the Tahitians know little or nothing, except what they have learned, by their visits to that group, in the character of native missionaries.
There are many points which seem to me in favour of the circuitous route vid Japan; such, for instance, as the gradual deterioration in the art of tattooing, in which, beyond all question, Japan excels all other nations, and which in the Marquesas, Tahiti, New Zealand, and, I think, also in Hawaii, retained its graceful character, gradually falling off as it travelled westward to Fiji and Tonga, Many other points of similarity exist, such as the use of the honorific prefix 0 before proper names, as in Japan, O-yama (Respected mountain), or in addressing any person politely. Throughout Polynesia the same custom exists. Hence early travellers wrote of Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, as O-whyhee, O-taheiti, 0samoa; and the same with reference to names of persons.
Another point which to me appears to support the theory of the circuitous movement is, that those best acquainted with Samoan matters assert that, beyond any doubt, the Ellice group, lying far to the west of Samoa, was peopled from thence. It is therefore only natural to infer that the tall, comely race of light coppercoloured people who inhabit the south-east coast of New Guinea (that is to say, due west from the Ellice Isles), probably reached those shores about the same period, and from the same direction. Their women are beautifully tattooed, and their language wonderfully resembles that of the Rarotongan teachers, who have come from the distant Hervey Isles to settle among them as pioneers, sent by the native mission in that far easterly group; in fact, many of their words are identical.
Again, it is a well-established fact that Fotuna and Aniwa, two of the southern New Hebrides, which lie due west of the Friendly Isles, were peopled by the descendants of a party of Tongans, who drifted thither in a large canoe and settled on these uninhabited isles. These islanders have retained their own language, and their children when born are very fair, but as they grow up they become almost as dark in colour as their Papuan neighbours. Their hair CHANGES IN PHYSIQUE. 283
is of the Polynesian type, and some allow it to grow long and smooth by not dyeing it with lime.
Yet another argument in favour of the migration having originally taken a northward course, lies in the physical development of the race. Surely it is easier to recognise a direct Malay ancestry for the warlike little Japanese, with their reverence for the sacred swords of their demi-gods, than for these stalwart Polynesians, with their firmly knit, muscular limbs, and Btately yet graceful bearing. The race increased in stature, improved in feature, and enriched in colour on their southward way—circumstances doubtless due to more easy and luxurious lives, with better and more abundant food.
Beautiful as is the rich copper colour of these islanders, their own ideal of beauty, as showing pure blood, consists in possessing a very fair skin; and I have often been amused, when sketching, by their anxiety to be represented several shades lighter than nature, not from any wish to resemble foreigners, but evidently as embodying their tradition of good ancestry. They by no means despise the use of cosmetics to bring about so desirable a result: the Marquesan women, for instance, though naturally of a light copper colour, contrive to make their skin almost white by an application of the root of the papawa tree.
That modifying circumstances may produce such changes, both in stature and complexion, is now, I suppose, generally admitted; in fact it is almost certain that in some cases where barren atolls (such as the Kingsmill or Gilbert group, on the equator) have from accidental circumstances been peopled by descendants of these splendid men they have degenerated beyond recognition, and are now a short, spare, and generally ugly race. Naturally, the change from unbounded supplies of nutritious vegetable diet—bread-fruit, bananas, cocoa-nut, yams, sugar, and all the luxuries of the tropics— to isles where a coarse meal, prepared from the woody fruit of the pandanus, is the only edible form of vegetable, has in due time produced this result. Therefore it seems perfectly reasonable to infer that the converse occurred when an under-fed aggressive race, engaged from their cradles in piracy and strife, found themselves