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lofty crags, so veiled with trailing vines as to resemble gr<e« | waterfalls.
After breakfast we got a canoe and rowed back for a conskierable distance along the shore to a fine old marae—an immense platform of huge blocks of hewn coral, on a pyramidal base, which. in olden days was a heathen altar, and also a tomb. Close by it are two smaller marais and a large sacrificial stone, enclosed by a wall of small coral-blocks. The whole place is overgrown by grand old iron-wood trees (easuarina). After we had left it, we "were told of a stone image, four or five feet high, which has somehow escaped the general destruction of its fellows; and I was very sorry to have missed seeing so interesting a survivor of a past so recent and yet so thoroughly extinguished.
This is the only marae I have seen, the majority having been destroyed, together with the temples and the altars, when the people, in the zeal of first love, endeavoured to sweep away every trace of the old idolatry.
Mr Ellis has recorded that one huge marae having been destroyed, the natives used the stones composing it to build an immense platform, on which was spread a great feast for all the children of the school (both boys and girls, in number about 240) and their parents. The point of interest lay in the fact that in heathen times it would have been death for a girl or a woman to set foot in the marae, or to taste the food which was there offered. Indeed all the better sorts of food, such as pig and fowl, were reserved exclusively for the men and the gods; and the fire with which men's food was cooked was also sacred; no woman dared to use it—her simpler fare must be cooked apart, and eaten in a separate hut. So a united festival, such as that held on the ruins of the marae, was in every sense a Christian love-feast, and strangely in contrast with the hideous scenes previously enacted on the spot, when the coral-walls were dyed with the blood of human victims offered to the cruel war-gods, and where, in every crevice of the noble old trees, were seen bleaching human bones, skeletons hanging from the boughs, and beneath them, ghastly heaps of skulls, generally those of warriors slain in battle.]
These horribly unfragrant marais were also considered as family mausoleums, where the dried bones of great men might safely be deposited. Nevertheless, even the sanctity of the temple did not always protect the dead from ruthless spoliation; and in times of war the victors not only carried off the idols of the vanquished, but also the bones of their relations, to be converted into chisels or fish-hooks, which was considered the lowest depth of degradation.
To avoid this danger, the dead were laid in small houses apart, and carefully watched, till the flesh fell from their bones, when these were collected by a trusty hand, and carried to some safe hiding-place in the mountains. In the case of any person of great note, this custom is still observed, as I learnt on visiting the little sea-side chapel where old Queen Pomare was buried shortly before my arrival; and I was told her bones had been secretly removed, only three or four of her nearest kindred being aware of their present hiding-place.
In olden days, however, a simple process of embalming was practised, by means of which the wealthier families could preserve their dead for about a year, not longer. The brain and intestines having been removed, they were replaced by cloth saturated with aromatic oils, which were also daily rubbed all over the corpse. Every day it was placed in a 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 a-day, 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
1 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 Maugaia 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.
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.
Here likewise, as in the Chinese cities of the dead, small low houses were built as temporary homes for the unburied corpses, which were laid on biers, and by day were drawn out into the sun; but by night the body lay horizontally, and was frequently turned, lest it should dry irregularly. 'When, notwithstanding all can-, the poor body began to decay, then the skull was wrapped in cloth, and carried home to be preserved with the family gods, and duly worshipped. The bones were either buried or carried off to the mountains in the mysterious way I have already described.
Although the Tahitian embalmors failed to preserve their dead for more than a year, the Samoans seem to have been more successful, though, apparently, only a limited number of the chiefs were thus honoured. Dr Turner, however, has seen bodies which had certainly been embalmed for upwards of thirty years, and were still in excellent preservation, when, on the death of the relations whose task it was to dress and tend the bodies, all were laid together beneath the sod. The office of embabner was an exclusively feminine one, and the process observed in Samoa was exactly the same as that practised in Tahiti. The body was wrapped in native cloth, leaving the head, face, and hands exposed; these were occasionally anointed with scented oil and turmeric, to give a lifelike tinge to the complexion, and so were exhibited to all comers.
I spoke of the wailing at funerals as ceremonial, because it was not only customary to weep frantically, rending the hair, tearing the garments, and uttering agonising cries, but it was also de rigueur to display sympathy by inflicting on one's self very serious wounds with instruments made for the purpose. Several rows of shark's teeth were fixed in small canes, and with these the mourners