Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/810

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

mother, he was the result of two great people coming together, while his father was only one great person.

The games of the Maoris included kite-flying, tops, cat's cradle, skipping rope, ducking one another, swing (peculiar in character), dart-throwing, wrestling, diving, ball, twirling a disk, various games played with the fingers and hands, a kind of hunt the slipper, slinging, stilts, draughts, proverbs, hide and seek, a game played by boys standing on their heads and marking time with their feet, and dancing. A certain legend is of great interest because it mentions a variety of other amusements, but more so on account of its antiquity. It is known both in Samoa and New Zealand, although so many centuries have elapsed since the separation of the tribes that Samoan is incomprehensible to a Maori.

Omens were drawn from convulsive startings in sleep, and the twitching of the arms and legs outward and inward. Tripping the foot on starting and getting the feet between the toes filled with fern were evil. An itching chin denoted that something oily would be eaten. An ember popping out of fire or the singing of gas from burning wood were ominous. Aërolites, meteors, and the approach of the moon to a large star were unlucky. The unpremeditated stretching out or stepping out with the right hand or foot was accepted as an omen. Omens were drawn from the flight of birds and from dreams, when the soul was supposed to have left the body and wandered in Te Reinga. In illness the soul journeyed away and was on the brink of crossing to hades, but returned if the man lived. Messages were sent by the dying to friends gone before. The souls passed from south to north till they came to the extreme northwest point of New Zealand, to Te Reinga, the spirit's leap. Here the soul leaped into the sea or slid down the trunk of a tree, the pohutukawa. Hence the saying for one dead, "He has slid down the pohutukawa"—and passes to Po (hades). It was only the soul of an offering, as of food, which was accepted by the gods. When the fairies accepted certain jewels, they only took the souls of the ornaments, while the material jewels were returned to the votor. Weapons have not souls exactly, but the weapons which have been used in war have a wonderful mana or prestige, power, or influence. Some weapons have come down from the gods, and have their genealogies of owners up to chaos. Such weapons sometimes prophesy, sometimes shift about. They would kill with their subtle power the inferior person who dared to touch them. The souls of the departed were not exactly worshiped, for Maoris hardly had the idea of worship, or were not humbly minded enough to worship. They offered death sacrifices, but it was rather with the idea of pacifying the evil deities and paying honor to a chief than of adoration.—From the Journal of the Anthropological Institute.