Page images
PDF
EPUB

NAMES OF DEIFIED SHARKS.

247

calculation, and extending a quarter of a mile laterally. It consists of one enormous mass of very black chert. Many huge fragments lie at the foot, which are, for the most part, overrun with grass and low shrubs. From the

upper

face of the precipice itself spring scattered tufts of ito and purau plants. We walked upwards of three miles into the valley, from whence the inland mountains tower away to an elevation which gives the sense of toil to the eye that climbs them, stage by stage, over thick forests and interrupting crags, following their sinuosities, and marking their slopes, as they diminish in distance. One of these acclivities we ascended, to visit a marae, situated in a solitude of woods and rocks which gave more than ordinary solemnity of horror to the idolatrous temple. Here, again, sharks were the tutelary deities, or rather the hostile fiends whose fury was sought to be appeased by the superstitious reverence paid to them. Several of these sea-monsters were distinguished above the nameless multitude that prowl for prey throughout the boundless ocean. One, named Tuarihono, had the

preeminence, because he was a foreigner, and came from the island of Maupiti. It is a remarkable fact that the natives here were always more prone to think highly of what was brought from a strange country than what belonged to their

A second was called Teabua, a third Teariihioroa, a fourth Teareaumua, &c. How many others were thus distinctly recognized we could not ascertain. Indeed, almost every family had its particular shark, to which it vowed and made oblations here, or at other maraes. They always gave a name to these savage creatures, when they numbered them among the gods, by some circumstance connected with the fish itself, the place where it appeared, its size, colour, &c.; but all the appellations were magnificent and sounding, it being understood that the sharks would be offended

own.

[blocks in formation]

with paltry and vulgar ones. On this spot the raatiras, or landowners, used to meet to practise the sacred exercise of the bow and arrow, which, being tabued, were never employed as weapons in war. In the course of our excursion this day we visited another marae, on the beach, larger than either of the former, but learnt nothing particular in reference to its history. A white bird, with a long blue bill, and web-footed, about the size of a dove, was brought to us. The natives call it pirai ; and this harmless creature was also one of “the lords many, and gods many,” worshipped here. It was supposed to preside over accidents, and, being often found sitting in the bread-fruit trees, its protection against falls in climbing them was sought. It was believed that when this bird perceived any one thus precipitated by an unlucky slip, it would immediately fly beneath his body, as if to rescue him before he reached the ground, or, at least, lighten his descent. The chief who gave us this curious information assured us that he had proved it to be true by personal experience; for, on a certain occasion, when he was dislodged from a bread-fruit tree, one of these compassionate birds glanced under him so closely as to touch his neck with the flapping of its wings, and he sustained no injury (as he presumed) in consequence of this happy interference of one of the gods; whereupon he immediately cut a large bunch of bananas, and went and offered them to his deliverer at the marae. This day, in the course of our ramble, we caught a vivi, a giant of a grasshopper, which measured nearly five inches in length. The body was green, the wings red.

We have been told that the first nail ever seen in this island was taken from a boat at Raiatea. It was a spikenail, and brought hither by its fortunate possessor as something of rare value. And so it proved, for he made no

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

VALUE OF A NAIL.

249

small gain by lending it out for hire, to canoe-builders, to bore holes in the sides of their planks. Afterwards another lucky fellow got hold of a nail, and not knowing how such a thing came into existence, he shrewdly conjectured that it must have been formed by a process of vegetation. Wherefore, to propagate so valuable an exotic, he planted his nail in the ground, but waited in vain for the blade, the bud, the blossom, and the fruit. This man is still living, and has not heard the last of his speculation, being often reminded, to his no small chagrin, of the folly by which he acquired at least one piece of knowledge.

CHAPTER XII.

Lizard-God — Motley Dinner Company, Traditions-Dog-Marae-Rock

Scenery—District of Hiro, God of Thieves—Puerile Prerogative of Areois-Cascade—Fern-leaf Printing--Memorial Trees planted— Columnar Rock-Comfortless Plight of the Coasting Party-Curious Species of Lobster-Marae of Tani— Idol-Festival—Extensive Lagoon -Extraordinary Aoa Tree-Royal Burying-place-Native Contributions to Missionary Society-Gross Notions formerly entertained concerning a Future State.

[ocr errors]

1822. Jan. 1. PROCEEDING on our circumnavigation of the island, along the north-east coast, we landed about two miles from our last quarters to visit a ravine which has been opened, by some unrecorded convulsion, to a great depth through a solid rock of chert and breccia. This singular fissure is a quarter of a mile in length, from twelve to fifteen feet wide, near the entrance, but narrowing to eight or nine towards the upper end. A strange tradition existed concerning this place : in a remote age a lizard was born, of a human mother, and immediately translated into a god when it saw the light. Here was its retreat and its temple; and here divine honours have been paid to the four-footed reptiles of that species ever since. From thence we walked along the beach, though it was hard to pick our steps among the protruding rocks and sharp prickly corals that interrupted our path in many places. We rested

[blocks in formation]

at a native house whither the queen and her retinue had gone last night, and where they had now prepared a sumptuous entertainment, of the usual country viands, for us and our attendants and all that chose to partake of it. The house was a miserable shed, though spacious, the roof being rent into skylights and the walls into breaches. The dinner-party was more numerous and hearty than either select or congenial—the queen and her friends, ourselves and our servants, with sundry hangers-on of the natives, also a rabble of dogs, cats, hogs, and fowls, eagerly and unceremoniously putting in their claims for a share of the feast. Good humour, however, prevailed, and there was abundant fare both for man, and beast, and winged fowl. In addition to our portion of this social meal we each received a present of a live hog.

Near at hand was the ruin of a marae, out of which we picked several human skulls, being those of victims who had been here offered to Oro. An intelligent native, of high rank, now a Christian, formerly an Areoi, told us, in answer to a question, that the belief of these vagabonds (the Areois) respecting a future state was this—The spirits of themselves and their friends went into some place far away, where they enjoyed happiness, in the tenth degree, or of the highest kind. They lived at large, in the midst of an immense plain, round which stood all the gods, joining hands, with interlocked fingers, and forming an impregnable protection; while those within the circle revelled in all manner of sensual delights. We have heard other traditions on the same subject; little dependence can be placed on any as being universal; one was believed here, and another there, and they had only one common qualitythat of being equally preposterous in mass and abominable in detail.

« EelmineJätka »