A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War/Chapter 9
When I first landed in Fiji in 1875, nothing amazed me so much as the wonderful work which has there been done by the Wesleyan Mission—a work of which the outside world literally knew nothing. Now that my wanderings have led me further east, I see that different regiments of the great Christian army have each been doing their part in forwarding their Master's cause; and so strangely interesting are many details of their work, which I have now heard for the first time, that I think I cannot do better than note them down, feeling quite convinced that you will find them as new and as full of interest as I myself have done.
The extraordinary success of the South Sea missions is certainly to be attributed in a great measure to that triumph of commonsense which made the various societies agree, almost at the outset, in a great measure to divide the field of labour, and so endeavour to avoid distracting the minds of the simple islanders, by allowing them to perceive that their teachers could possibly disagree among themselves.
In the North Pacific some good working power has doubtless been lost by the establishment in the Sandwich Isles of both an English Episcopal Mission and American Congregationalists. The Dowager Queen Emma is a stanch adherent of the English Church, as was also her husband, who himself translated the prayer-book into the Hawaiian language. But the majority of the people there (as throughout Polynesia) find the less ceremonious forms of religious observance better adapted to their needs.
So the American Board of Foreign Missions, which commenced its work in 1820, met with such success, that within half a century the whole group had been evangelised, and a self-supporting native Church, with native pastors, established. It is now extending its operations among the islands in the north-western part of the Pacific, between the equator and Japan. These are collectively described as Micronesia, on account of their extremely small size, the majority being simply low atolls, few of which rise more than ten feet above the level of the ocean.
The south-western isles of the Pacific, which come under the general name of Melanesia, are chiefly in the hands of the English Church Societies, and of the Presbyterian Mission.
The countless large groups which occupy the south-east of the ocean, and are generally described as Polynesia, have been almost entirely Christianised by the London and Wesleyan Missions.
Shortly after Captain Cook's discoveries had first drawn attention to the existence of these unexplored regions, the London Mission, which includes men of all the evangelical sects, began its work by sending men to the Marquesas, the Society Isles (Tahiti and Raiatea), and to Tonga.
Of the sad fate which befell the first Tongan missionaries, I have already spoken. Three were murdered, and the rest compelled to fly for their lives. Some years later, the Wesleyan Mission ventured to reoccupy the field, when they found the people somewhat penitent. They were able to establish themselves under the protection of some friendly chiefs, and ere long had the satisfaction of knowing that Christianity was striking firm deep roots in the soil which at first seemed so unpromising.
Truly marvellous has been the growth of the tree thus watered by the blood of those brave pioneers. Eighty years have elapsed since their martyrdom, at which time there was not one isle in the whole Pacific which was not steeped in debasing heathenism and cruel wars. Now, throughout Polynesia, idolatry is a thing of the past; none of the present generation have even seen the wood and stone gods of their fathers: infanticide and murder are probably less common than in Europe, and a reverent obedience to all Christian precepts a good deal more apparent than in civilised countries. On upwards of 300 isles (where in the early half of this century no boat could have touched without imminent danger), Christianity of a really practical sort now reigns. Upwards of a quarter of a million persons show their faith in its requirements by utterly changed lives, and at least 60,000 of these are regular communicants. The casual traveller, who, a few years ago, would almost inevitably have been killed had he ventured to land, is now chiefly in danger of asserting that the natives have been trained to be religious overmuch,—their "innocent nature" cramped; and so the chances are, that without intending to do mischief, he throws his influence of the moment into the opposite scale, and is perhaps the source of more evil than he dreams of.
Having not only succeeded in transforming the savage Tongans into earnest Christians, but also into most zealous and capable teachers, the Wesleyan missionaries next made their way to Fiji, where their success was still more wonderful, and a race of most cruel cannibals has become one of the gentlest on earth.
About the same time the Samoan Isles, which were then an almost unknown group, were sought out by the Rev. John Williams of the London Mission, one of the boldest and most successful of the early pioneers. He began his work at Raiatea, in the year 1817, with such success, that when, in 1821, an opportunity presented itself of visiting the Hervey Isles (of which nothing was known, except that such a group existed), several converts from Raiatea volunteered to go there as pioneers. They were accordingly landed on the isle of Aitutaki, the very name of which might have suggested encouragement. There they were favourably received by Tamatoa, the chief, and his people. Nevertheless, as it was well known that these were all cannibals, and constantly at war one with another, it was not without deep anxiety that Mr Williams left the teachers to begin the mission. When, however, in the following year, he returned to the group, in company with Mr Bourne, they were received with the glad tidings that the people of Aitutaki had all, without exception, abjured idolatry, burnt their marais, and begun to worship the Saviour; that they had built a large church, and rigidly hallowed the Sabbath. On the following day nearly 2000 of these now tamed savages assembled on the shore, and all knelt together in solemn prayer to the Christian's God; after which they brought thirty of their discarded idols, and carried them on board the mission-ship, that the men of other isles, beholding them, might know that they were no gods, but only worthless images, and so might be led to discard their own.
This was a satisfactory beginning for one year's work; and a great promise for the future lay in the fact that among the converts were six natives from the then unknown isle of Rarotonga, who earnestly prayed that teachers might be sent to their brethren, and that they themselves might be allowed to accompany them. The men of Aitutaki declared the Rarotongans to be most ferocious cannibals, and horribly treacherous, and were sorely alarmed for the safety of any teachers who should venture among them. Nevertheless it was agreed that the opportunity was one not to be lost. Accordingly the mission-ship sailed in search of Rarotonga. For eight days they sought in vain, but failed to discover it.
At last they found themselves off an isle which proved to be Mangaia. There three brave Tahitian teachers, two of whom were accompanied by their wives, volunteered to land and endeavour to establish a footing among the people. These, however, proved such unmitigated savages that the attempt was frustrated. Though the chiefs had invited the teachers to land, their doing so was the signal for brutal ill-treatment of both men and women. All their little property was at once stolen, and they only escaped with their lives by swimming back to the ship through the surf.
A few months later another attempt was made to commence a mission in the Hervey Isles. Once more the mission-ship returned to Mangaia, and two unmarried teachers, Davida and Tiere, leaped into the sea and swam to the shore, taking nothing with them but the cloth they wore, and a portion of the New Testament in Tahitian, which was carefully wrapped up and tied on their heads. Crowds had assembled on the shore, and one warrior rushed at them with a long spear, but the lunge was arrested by the king himself, who received them kindly, and at once led them to his own seaside temple, in order that the people might consider their persons sacred. This they were inclined to do; for soon after their cruel treatment of the first teachers, a terrible epidemic had broken out in the isle, which had carried off young and old, chiefs and peasants. Supposing this to be a punishment sent by the God of those strangers, they collected all the property they had stolen from them, the calico dresses torn off the women, and the strips into which they had torn the Bibles to make ornaments for their hair at the midnight dances in honour of the god Tane. All these things they threw into a chasm in the mountains into which they were in the habit of casting their dead, and made solemn vows to the unknown God that if His servants returned to their isle they should be well cared for. So now they prepared a feast for the two bold swimmers, and allowed them to settle among them in peace.
Meanwhile Mr Williams had continued the search for Rarotonga, and had touched at the isles of Atiu, Mauke, and Mitiaro. The story of that voyage is more thrilling than any romance. It was as if a flash of electric light had suddenly illumined the thick darkness. What that darkness was you may infer from the fact that only four years previously all these islands had been decimated by war and cannibalism. The fierce people of Mitiaro had slain and eaten several canoe-loads of the men of Atiu, whose kinsfolk, determined to avenge them, came over in force, and by treachery gained access to the stronghold of the men of Mitiaro. A fearful massacre ensued, and to this day the oven is shown into which men and women and helpless infants were thrown alive to be cooked; the only mercy shown was when the brains of the children were dashed on the stones, and so they were killed ere being cast into the oven. When the conquerors had eaten their fill, they packed basketfuls of the savoury meat to regale their wives and families at Atiu; but ere they left the blood-stained isle they practised one more barbarity common to heathen warfare. In dragging the great double canoes over the sharp coral, it is usual to lay down soft banana stumps to act as rollers, and so protect the canoes from injury. The rollers now used were living naked men and women, tied together hand and foot, and over their writhing bodies were the heavy canoes drawn in triumph.
The same terrible fate had overtaken the neighbouring isle of Mauke, when the arrival of the mission-ship brought to these isles the blessed Gospel of peace. The first man to step on board at Atiu was the terrible chief, Romatane, who had led the expeditions against Mitiaro and Mauke: he was a man of strikingly commanding aspect, with beautiful long black hair. He was eagerly welcomed by the chief of Aitutaki, who had already destroyed his idols and accepted the new faith; and so earnestly did this zealous convert plead all through the long night with his brother chief, that, ere the morrow dawned, the truth of his words seemed borne in upon the mind of Romatane, and he vowed that never again would he worship any God save Jehovah. He returned ashore to announce this decision to his people, and his intention of immediately destroying his idols and their temples. Then returning on board, he agreed to direct the course of the vessel to the then unknown isles of Mitiaro and Mauke, which hitherto he had visited only with fire and sword. Now it was his voice that proclaimed the truths he had just learned, and that exhorted the people to destroy all their idols and build a house for the worship of the true God. At each isle he himself escorted the Tahitian teachers and their wives to the house of the principal chief, and charged him to care for them and hearken to their instructions.
Thus in one short day was this mighty revolution wrought in three isles, which had never before even seen a foreign ship. Romatane and his brother Mana proved themselves true to their first convictions; and among their stanch fellow-workers was one who, to this day, tells how, at the massacre of his kinsfolk on Mauke, when he was carried away captive, he was laid on the baskets containing the baked flesh of his uncles and fellow-countrymen, and narrowly escaped being himself consigned to the oven.
The mission work progressed without a drawback. The people, almost without demur, determined to destroy the idols they had so long revered. Many were rescued as museum curiosities, and the mission-ship sailed onward with those grotesque monsters hanging from her yard-arms, and otherwise displayed as trophies, leaving in their stead earnest converts, from Raiatea and Tahiti, to instruct these willing hearers.
When they had almost given up in despair their search for Rarotonga, one of the new converts told them that if they would sail to a given point on the isle of Atiu, he could thence take bearings which would enable him to find it. So for this starting-point they made; and, true to his word, the islesman directed them how to steer, and after several days they reached the beautiful isle they sought. Here they were received in the most friendly manner; and the young king, Makea (an exceedingly handsome man, six feet high, and beautifully tattooed), came on board himself, and agreed to take the native teachers ashore, with their wives and the six Christian natives who had been brought back to their own isle. This promising beginning was, however, not without a check; for in the early dawn the teachers returned to the ship, bringing back their wives with garments all tattered and torn, telling of the grievous treatment they had endured. The chiefs were exceedingly anxious that the teachers should remain on the isle to teach them the Word of God, but wished to annex their wives.
It was therefore decided that, for the present, only one fine old teacher should be left, with the six Rarotongans who had first suggested the commencement of the mission, on their unknown isle. So well did their work progress, that within a year the whole population had renounced idolatry. Makea, the king, was among the earliest converts; and when, in 1827, Mr Williams and Mr Pitman arrived with their wives and families to settle in Rarotonga, they were received by an enthusiastic crowd of about 3000 persons, each of whom insisted on shaking hands so heartily, that their arms ached severely for several hours after. All these were professedly Christians; and the new-comers learnt that there was not a house on the isle in which the family did not assemble morning and evening for family worship. A few days after their arrival, they perceived a great body of people approaching bearing heavy burdens. These proved to be fourteen immense idols, the smallest of which was about fifteen feet high. Some of these were reserved to decorate the rafters of the new chapel, built by the people themselves, to contain 3000 persons; the rest were destroyed.
While this marvellous change was being wrought on the other isles, the brave young teachers who had swum ashore on Mangaia were steadily making their way. Within two years one died, leaving Davida to labour alone. He had, however, by this time made some progress; and on one glad day the king and chiefs determined to abandon the idol shrine, where, every evening, offerings of food were presented to the thirteen known gods, and to the great host of the unknown. So, to the great joy of Davida, the thirteen idols were carried to his house by their late worshippers, and there stripped of the sacred white cloth in which priests and gods were always clothed. They are now preserved in the museum of the London mission, and very much resemble the wooden idols of the ancient Britons to be seen in our antiquarian museums.
Thus, in an incredibly short space of time, was the whole system of idolatry, with its bloody human sacrifices, overthrown in the Hervey Isles; and how marvellous was the change wrought in every respect, has been described by Lord Byron, Commander of H.M.S. Blonde, when he accidentally found himself in the group,—and, recognising it as one of those discovered by Captain Cook, approached land with extreme caution, but was welcomed by noble-looking men, dressed in cotton shirts and very fine mats, who produced written documents from the London Mission Society, qualifying them to act as teachers, and then took him ashore to a neat village with a good school and a crowded church.
From that time forward, the Hervey Islanders have not only been true to their own profession, but have proved zealous missionaries in carrying the Gospel to other isles. Their theological college has already sent forth about 150 trained men as teachers. About 50 of these are at the present moment scattered among various remote isles of the Pacific, some of which are still cannibal. Six of the most zealous and determined men have gone, accompanied by their brave missionary wives, to face the unknown perils that await them in New Guinea—where, doubtless, their work will bear good fruit, and prove the first step in opening up that vast island to the commerce of the civilised world.
The very first missionary effort of the Hervey Islanders was directed by Mr Williams towards Samoa. Even before he left Raiatea, he had resolved to visit the Navigator group, to endeavour, there also, to plant some seed of good, which might perchance take root. Now that the work had so prospered in the Hervey Isles, he ventured to broach the subject to his wife, who, naturally enough, at first objected to being left alone with her children for many months among a race of utter savages, while her husband went off on a very long and dangerous voyage of about 200 miles, to face perhaps still greater dangers when he reached his destination. After a while, however, this brave woman made up her mind that it was right he should go; and much to his astonishment, several months after the subject had been dismissed, she volunteered her consent.
Then came the primary difficulty of transit. They possessed no vessel which could possibly make such a journey—only native canoes. Nothing daunted, Mr Williams determined to try his hand at shipbuilding, though it was a trade of which he knew little, and he had scarcely any tools. His first great difficulty lay in making a pair of smith's bellows. Though he possessed only four goats, three were sacrificed for the sake of their skins. The fourth, which was giving a little milk, was spared. Scarcely were the bellows finished, when the rats, sole indigenous animals, assembled in scores, and in one night devoured every particle of leather. Having none in reserve, invention was sorely taxed, till at last Mr Williams devised a machine which should throw out air as a pump throws water.
This was but one of the countless difficulties to be overcome. To obtain planks, trees were split with wedges, and then cut up with small hatchets. For lack of nails the planks were riveted together with wooden pins. Sails were made of quilted mats and ropes of hybiscus-bark. Cocoa-nut husk supplied the place of oakum. A clumsy stone anchor was contrived, and also a wooden one. In short, determination triumphed over every difficulty; and in fifteen weeks, without any help save what the Rarotongans could give by obeying his directions, Mr Williams had the satisfaction of launching a seaworthy vessel of about 80 tons burden, 60 feet in length, and 18 in breadth. To test her sailing powers, she was to make a preliminary trip to Aitutaki, distant about 170 miles. Before they had gone six miles, the natives let slip the foresail, which, straining in the wind, broke the foremast, and with some difficulty they returned to land. Having repaired the damage, they started again, reached Aitutaki, and returned thence to Rarotonga with a cargo of pigs, cats, and cocoa-nuts. The two first, but especially the pigs, were invaluable in ridding the island of rats; but a cargo of cocoa-nuts suggests coals to Newcastle, till we learn that in native warfare the cocoa-palms and bread-fruit trees were invariably destroyed, so that the fruitful isles were utterly ravaged.
The Messenger of Peace being now proven seaworthy, sailed for Tahiti, whence she was despatched to the Marquesas, and on several other mission expeditions, ere starting on that for which she had been designed. It was not till the year 1830, that Mr Williams, taking Mr Barff as his colleague, and seven Tahitian teachers with their wives and children, actually sailed in search of the almost unknown Navigator's Isles. They touched at the Hervey Isles on their way, and these likewise contributed several teachers, eager to carry to Samoa the Word of Peace, which had so recently gladdened themselves.
Passing on thence to Tonga they received warm welcome from King George, who had long been a zealous Christian, and whose energetic nature had thrown itself heart and soul into the work of converting his people. Never did finer material exist. The Tongans have ever been noted for their strong, self-reliant, earnest character; and the same determination which in old days made them dreaded as the most daring pirates of the South Seas, was now called into play in quite a new manner, and the pushing ambitious men who were ever coming to the front in deeds of aggression, were henceforth the champions of the Christian faith and its most zealous pioneers.
At Tonga Mr Williams was the guest of Messrs Nathaniel Turner and Cross. The name of the latter is familiar to us, as having shared, with the Rev. David Cargill, the danger and honour of founding the Wesleyan Mission in Fiji. From them they heard with joy that Taufaahau, the chief of the Happai group,—a man of indomitable courage and determination,—had recently visited King George at Tongatabu, in order to judge for himself of the new religion. He then returned to his own dominions accompanied by Tongan native teachers, and proceeded to destroy all the idols and altars, exhorting the chiefs to follow his example. Many were naturally indignant at this proceeding, and determined to celebrate a great festival in honour of the gods. Turtle and other sacred fish had to be caught for the offerings; so the high-handed chief, Taufaahau, profited by the delay to desecrate the temple by driving a herd of pigs into the sacred enclosure, and converting the temple itself into a sleeping-room for his women-servants—the presence of a woman being considered pollution to a marae.
So utterly obnoxious to the gods was the female sex, that it was certain death for any woman to set foot in a temple—and when victims were about to be seized for sacrifice, the greatest care was taken to prevent the approach of any female relation, lest she should touch the corpse, and so render it unfit to be offered at the marae. When the worshippers arrived with their offerings of turtle, they found the poor gods all disrobed, hanging by the neck from the rafters; and knowing the stern resolution of their chief, they retired, discomfited. Having given this proof of his sincerity, Taufaahau next sent his best canoe to Tonga, to bring Mr Thomas, the missionary whose teaching had so impressed him; and who, in answer to this summons, started with his wife to make the journey of 200 miles in this open canoe, in order to follow up the work thus begun on Happai.
At Vavau, the third group, the work seemed to have little prospect of success, so virulent was the opposition of Finau the high chief, who threatened death to any of his people who listened to the teachers. Yet within two years he was himself a zealous convert, and upwards of 2000 of his followers were in the habit of assembling for the Sunday services.
The teachers of the Tonga lotu—i.e., the Wesleyans—continued steadily working, and their influence spread as a leaven of good from isle to isle. At Tonga the Samoan party received an unlooked-for reinforcement in the person of Fauea, a Samoan chief, who had for some time been living in Tonga, and had there become a Christian. He requested Mr Williams to give him a passage in his ship, and proved an invaluable helper, directing him to steer for Savaii, the principal isle, of which he himself proved to be a high chief, and related to Malietoa, the greatest chief of all.
Fauea was a man of sound judgment and of most persuasive eloquence. But he was greatly troubled lest they should meet with violent opposition from Tamafainga, whom the people obeyed with trembling, believing that in him dwelt the spirit of the gods. It was therefore with unmixed relief that he heard, on his arrival, that this dreaded opponent had been killed a few days previously, and that there had not yet been time for the chiefs of all the isles to meet and elect his successor in the office of spiritual ruler.
So the Messenger of Peace was found to have arrived in the very nick of time, and all the people received Fauea and his papalangi friends with open arms. Malietoa indeed, declared that he was engaged in a war of vengeance, in which he could not stay his hand, but that it should be the last; and that when peace was restored he would himself lotu—that is, become a Christian—and encourage all his people to do likewise. He and his brother Tamalelangi, or "Son of the Sky," each promised to protect the native teachers and their wives, and gave them a hearty welcome as they landed; nevertheless, the old order passed away in flames and bloodshed, all to avenge the murder of the rapacious tyrant, who had actually been worshipped as a god, till the people could no longer endure his outrages and oppressions, and so waylaid and slew him.
Even at the moment when the teachers were landing on the island of Savaii, the mountains of Upolu, on the other side of the straits, were enveloped in flames and smoke, which told that a battle had been fought that very morning, and that not only were the plantations being destroyed, but that the women, children, and infirm people were all being murdered, and their bodies burnt in their villages. This sanguinary war continued for several months, and the country was so desolated that for miles together not a house was left standing; and even the villages which escaped were full of the sound of wailing and mourning for the dead, in whose honour the living lacerated their own flesh with broken shells and sharks' teeth. When, finally, one party triumphed, they made huge bonfires, into which they threw many of the vanquished. Though the Samoans were never guilty of cannibalism, still there was enough of barbarous cruelty in their warfare to make a residence among them a very anxious experiment. Having done what they could to smooth the way for the teachers, Mr Williams and his colleague were obliged to leave them, in devout trust that their work might prosper.
Twenty months elapsed ere they were again able to return to Samoa, and marvellous, far beyond their highest hopes, was the change they found. On their first visit they had only touched at Savaii and Upolu, the most westerly of the Navigator group. Now the first land they sighted was Manua, the most easterly, about 250 miles distant from that on which the teachers were established. To their astonishment a number of canoes came out to meet them, and as they neared the vessel several natives stood up and declared themselves to be Christians, and that they were waiting for a falu lotu—a religion-ship—to bring them a teacher who could tell them about Jesus Christ. Great was their disappointment when they heard that Mr Williams had only been able to secure one teacher, whom he had promised to leave on another isle.
These people had received such knowledge as they possessed from a canoe which had drifted all the way from Rairavae, an island upwards of 300 miles to the south of Tahiti, and fully 2000 miles from that where it at length arrived, after a three months' voyage, in the course of which twenty of the party died of the hardships they underwent. But the survivors had carefully preserved their copy of the Tahitian translation of the Scriptures; and on reaching the unknown isle they built a reed-hut for their chapel, and there met daily for worship. Thus, among the strange and precious treasures which from time to time are cast up by the ocean on far-away isles, did the people of Manua receive the Word of Life.
Among those who had heard it gladly was a fine young fellow, a native of Leone, in the Isle Tutuila, to which he begged to be conveyed in the foreign ship, that he might teach his brethren what he had learnt. Thither they sailed, touching at the Isles Orosenga and Ofu, where as yet no rumour of the new teaching had been heard.
As they approached Tutuila, they were surrounded by a vast number of canoes filled with excessively wild-looking men, clamouring for powder and muskets, as they were on the eve of a great war with a neighbouring chief. No sign there of any leaven of good—in fact, the presence among them of a resident Englishman of the "beach-combing" fraternity, was anything but a hopeful indication. The amount of mischief done by even the average specimens of this class has been incalculable; but many have been miscreants of the deepest dye, whose crimes have aroused the horror of even the vilest heathen. Many of them were desperadoes—convicts escaped from New South Wales in stolen vessels, which they scuttled on reaching any desirable isle, where they generally contrived to make themselves useful in war, and so secure the protection of some chief. One of these men, who made his way to Samoa, was said to have shot 200 persons with his musket, smearing himself with charcoal and oil to enable him to creep within range undetected. His delight at the end of such a day's sport was to seat himself on a sort of litter, smeared with blood, surrounded by the heads of his victims, and so be carried home by his followers, yelling savage songs of triumph. Such men as these were not exactly calculated to improve the morals of the Pacific!
Passing on to beautiful Leone, which bore an evil character for savage cruelty and treachery, and the massacre of various boats' crews, the mission party beheld the people drawn up on the beach, in what appeared a formidable array. They, however, lowered the boat and neared the shore, when the chief, bidding his people sit down, waded up to his neck till he reached the strangers, and explained that he and his followers were no longer savage, but "sons of the word;" and went on to tell how, twenty moons previously, some of his people had been at Savaii when the white chief Williams had arrived there with some tama-fui-lotu, "workers of religion," and having learnt a little, they had returned home with the news, and already fifty of the people had become Christians. Pointing to a group who sat somewhat apart, under the shade of the bread-fruit trees, and who each wore a strip of white native cloth tied round one arm, he said that those were the Christians, who had adopted that badge to distinguish them from the heathen; that they had built a place for prayer, in a thicket of bananas; and that one of their number from time to time crossed over to Savaii in his little canoe, to "get some more religion" from the teachers to bring back to his own people.
On learning that the man he was addressing was the identical "white chief" who had visited Savaii, he made a sign to his people, who rushed into the sea, and carried the boat and all who were in it high and dry on the beach in their enthusiastic welcome; but when they learnt that the religion-ship had brought no teacher for them, their disappointment was unbounded; and so, we may well believe, was that of the zealous apostle who had discovered these isles "white to the harvest," but had failed to find reapers.
So eager was the desire to know about the better way, that there were many places in the isles where the people, having only heard a dim rumour of what others had learnt, had actually built places for the worship of the unknown God, and, having prepared their food on the Saturday, assembled there at six o'clock each Sabbath morning, and again twice in the day, not for service, because none knew what to say, but to sit together in reverent silence, waiting for some revelation of His will. It seemed a strangely literal illustration of the words of the Hebrew prophet, "The isles shall wait for His law."
Passing on to the beautiful little isle of Manono, and the great isles of Savaii and Upolu, the missionaries were received with extravagant joy by teachers and people; and by the high chiefs with more nose-rubbing than was agreeable! They heard with delight that all the principal chiefs and many of the people had already declared themselves Christians, and had proved themselves in earnest by truly consistent conduct; and that the majority of the people had resolved to follow their good example. Upwards of a thousand sat breathlessly to hear the white man's words, spoken in Tahitian, and interpreted by one of the teachers. Then Makea, the king of Rarotonga, a man of magnificent stature, who had accompanied Mr Williams, addressed the people, and explained how wonderful had been the change wrought in his own isles since they embraced the lotu; how, in old days, they had been for ever fighting and murdering one another, till at length they had hearkened to the voice of the teachers, and, in fear and trembling, had brought their idols to be burnt, and had watched from afar while those daring men had cooked their bananas on the embers.
Here, in Samoa, there were very few idols, and no blood-stained maraes, altars, or temples; human sacrifice, or indeed any sort of sacrifice, was not required; hence the expression, "Godless as a Samoan," by which the men of other groups described any one who neglected the service of the temples. The Samoans, however, were diligent in the worship of their own ancestors, and, moreover, supposed that the spirit of their gods animated divers birds, fishes, or reptiles. As certain Indian tribes have adopted different animals as their totem-god, so in Samoa and the Hervey Isles, each chief had his etu—i.e., some living creature, which to him and to his people was sacred; and foreigners, ignorant of this matter, sometimes incurred serious danger from accidentally killing some revered reptile, or even insect. The man who found a dead body of his representative deity, say an owl, a heron, or a bat, would stop and wail piteously, beating his own forehead with stones till it bled; then wrapping up the poor dead creature with all reverence, he would solemnly bury it, with as much care as if it had been a near relation. This was supposed to be pleasing to the gods. When, therefore, any Samoan resolved to declare himself a Christian, he commenced by killing and eating the familiar spirit of his tribe, whether grasshopper, centipede, octopus, vampire-bat, snake, eel, lizard, parrot, or other creature.
There was one chief who reverenced as his etu the fractured, but carefully mended, skull of a white man, whose firearms had won his admiration, though the man's crimes had led to his being clubbed. An amusing story is told of the terror with which these simple folk first beheld a talking cockatoo in the cabin of a vessel. With a cry of dismay they rushed on deck and leapt overboard, declaring that the captain had his etu in the cabin, and that they had heard it talking to him.
The story of the conversion of these much tattooed but little clothed warriors abounds in picturesque detail. Thus, when the great chief Malietoa promised Mr Williams that he would become a Christian so soon as he had fully avenged the death of Tamafainga, "in whom was the spirit of the evil gods," before himself going forth to battle, he sent one of his sons to help the teachers to build their chapel. On his return, when the chapel was to be opened, he called his sons together and announced his intention of fulfilling his promise to the white chief. With one accord they replied that what was good for their father was good for them, and that they too would lotu. This, however, he forbade, declaring that if they obstinately insisted on so doing, he would continue in the faith of his ancestors. "Do you not know," he said, "that the gods will be enraged with me and seek to destroy me? and perhaps Jehovah may not be strong enough to protect me against them! I purpose, therefore, to try the experiment. If He can protect me, you may safely follow my example; but if not, then I only shall perish."
The young men were reluctant to obey, and asked how long they must allow for this test, Malietoa suggested a month or six weeks; and intense was the interest with which all his people waited and watched, lest sickness or other evil should befall him. But when, at the end of three weeks, all went on prosperously, it was felt that the supremacy of the Christian's God was established, and the sons of Malietoa would wait no longer. So, calling together a great company of friends and kinsmen, they proceeded solemnly to cook a large quantity of anae, a silvery fish, which was the etu of their tribe. These being laid on freshly gathered leaves, were placed before each person, and the teachers solemnly offered a prayer, ere, with fear and trembling, these young converts nerved themselves to swallow a few morsels of the sacred fish, hitherto held in such reverence. So intense, however, was the hold of the old superstition, that the young men, unable to conquer their fear lest the etu should gnaw their vitals and destroy them, immediately retired to swallow a large dose of cocoa-nut oil and salt water, which, acting as a powerful emetic, greatly tended to counteract any malignant influence of the offended gods.
Soon after this, a great meeting of chiefs was convened to consult on the fate of Papo, the venerable god of war. This renowned relic was nothing but a strip of rotten old matting, about three yards long and four inches wide, which was always attached to the war-canoe of the highest chief when he went forth to battle. Now an impious voice suggested that this venerated rag should be thrown in the fire, but a burst of disapprobation silenced this cruel suggestion. However, all agreed that Papo must be exterminated; so as drowning was a less horrible death than burning, they resolved to launch a new canoe, in which a number of high chiefs should row out to sea, and, having fastened Papo to a heavy stone, should commit him to the deep. They had actually started on this errand, with great ceremony, when the teachers hurried after them in another canoe, to beg that the old war-god might be presented to Mr Williams. The chiefs were immensely relieved by the suggestion; and the venerable strip of matting is now to be seen in the museum of the London Mission.
I cannot solve the mystery of this Samoan reverence for certain ancient mats; but I well remember our astonishment, when the Samoan chiefs came to Fiji to consult Sir Arthur Gordon on the question of British protection, to see with what infinite solemnity these fine stately men presented him with a very dirty and exceedingly unfragrant and tattered old mat, which, I believe, was to be offered to her Majesty Queenie Vikatoria, but has, I think, found an asylum in the British Museum. What makes this so very strange is, that the mats worn by the Samoan chiefs and ladies are beautifully fine and glossy, of most delicate straw-colour, and edged with handsome grass-fringe.
Whatever may have been the origin of this form of antiquarian lunacy, its existence is an unmistakable reality. The Samoan chief treasures the dirty and ragged old mat of some revered ancestor as a British regiment does the tattered colours which find their honoured rest in some grey sanctuary. The old mat, which from generation to generation has been jealously guarded by his clan, is his patent of nobility, and the title-deed which, proves his right to broad acres. Some of these strips of dirty old matting, which no rag-man would pick off a dust-heap, are known throughout the group by special names. There is one, which is known to be upwards of 200 years old, during which period its successive guardians have all been duly enrolled. It is called Moe-e-fui-fui—i.e., the mat which slept beneath the vines—in allusion to its having lain hidden for several years among the lilac ipomeas which twine in matted tangles all along the sea-beach. No money would induce a Samoan to sell one of these unsavoury treasures: it is said that £100 might be offered in vain, though I certainly cannot imagine any sane person offering 100 pence.
However, it is simply a form of relic-worship,—and probably no whit more foolish than the adoration of dirty clothes and kindred objects, supposed to have been hallowed by the touch of Christian or Buddhist saints. Indeed I am far more inclined to sympathise with the heathen Tahitian, who wore as an amulet the toe-nail of the father whom he had loved, than I can do with the multitudinous Christians who sanctify their altars by the presence of some splinter of saintly bone.
Amongst the many touching incidents of these early days, was that of one large village in which, contrary to the general course, all the women became Christians before any of the men did so. Mr Williams had reached a town called Amoa, the people of which had all accepted the lotu, when a party of seventy women approached in single file, each bearing a gift. At their head walked a tall handsome woman, with a mat, dyed red, folded about her loins, and the upper part of her body freely anointed with sweet-oil, tinged with turmeric. On her neck and arms she wore a necklace and bracelets of large blue beads; but her hair, alas! was all cut off, except one little lock falling over the left cheek. Her companions were equally picturesque,—the unmarried women being distinguished by their wearing a white mat, and no oil and turmeric, and by their retaining a profusion of graceful curls on one side of their head, while the other was shaven and shorn. The poorest girls wore only fringes of large leaves and wreaths of flowers.
It appeared that the leader was a chiefess of high rank, who, some time previously, had come to Amoa, and there remained for a month, diligently attending to the instructions of the teachers. Then, returning to her own district, she had collected all the women, and told them all she had learnt, and so interested them in the subject, that a large number had agreed to renounce heathen worship. They built a leaf-hut for their church; and here the teacher from Amoa occasionally came to conduct service. At other times the chiefess herself did so, making frequent pilgrimages through the week to learn new lessons from the teacher, and returning to impart this wisdom to her companions.
Thus, within the short space of twenty moons, was Mr Williams allowed to see the beginning of an abundant harvest, where he had but scattered the seed; and a true grief saddened his heart when compelled to refuse the entreaties of chiefs and people that he would fetch his family and come to live and die among them, to teach them how to love Jesus Christ. But when he reminded them that there were eight isles in the group, and that he must return to England to fetch other teachers, they bade him Godspeed,—only praying that he would hasten back, because assuredly many of them would be dead ere his return.
This true apostle went on his way, carrying the light to many a region of darkness, till, in the year 1839, he reached the ill-fated shores of Eromanga, in the New Hebrides, which was the scene of his martyrdom. With his loved friend, James Harris, he had succeeded in obtaining a friendly reception on the neighbouring isle of Tanna, and there left three Samoan teachers to begin work among its hideous savages. Twenty miles further lies Eromanga, whose people are the most hopeless cannibals of the Pacific. As the brave men landed on the inhospitable isle, a host of armed savages rushed out from the bushes in which they were concealed. In an instant both were clubbed, and the bodies of the grand apostle of the South Seas and his young disciple became food for the miserable cannibals whom they longed to reclaim. It was the usual tale of revenge. These Eromangans had, shortly before, been cruelly ill-treated by a party of sandal-wood traders, who wantonly killed several natives on their attempting to defend their women, and to save their plantations from indiscriminate plunder. Naturally enough, these poor savages, seeing another foreign boat land at the same spot as their enemies had done, failed to discriminate friend from foe.
It is impossible to overstate the amount of hindrance to mission work and to all civilising influences which has been occasioned by the lawless proceedings of unprincipled white men, too many of whom have proved themselves truly white barbarians. In their greedy craving for gain, they have so thoroughly quenched every spark of justice and honour in their dealings with the dark-skinned races, that on some of the Papuan Isles, the name by which the natives describe a white man means literally "a sailing profligate."
The vessels employed in the labour trade—i.e., in "engaging" or securing men to work on plantations in Fiji or Australia—were by no means the only culprits, though the horrible cruelties practised by many of these in former years have been a disgrace to humanity. Nearly as much harm was done by men engaged in the sandal-wood trade, who gloried in defrauding the natives by every means in their power—promising certain articles in exchange for a given amount of sandal-wood, and on its receipt sailing away, to be no more heard of. Or perhaps they inveigled a chief on board, and there kept him as a hostage till his people brought large quantities of sandal-wood as his ransom; and having secured all they could get at that particular isle, they still refused to give up the chief—probably secured some of his followers, and carried them to another isle, where they forced them to work for months in cutting the coveted wood, and finally sold them to the natives, in exchange for yams and pigs—a man fetching from five to ten live pigs, according to his size. It is almost needless to say that the hostile natives merely purchased the strangers as food for the cannibal oven. Occasionally some of these unfortunates contrived to escape, and got on board whaling-ships, where they were kindly treated, and some were even taken back to their own isles. There were ships which fired unscrupulously on any village which failed to bring them sandal-wood. On one occasion three vessels engaged in this trade anchored off one of the New Hebrides. Their men plundered the yam-gardens and stole all the pigs, numbering several hundreds. Of course the owners resisted, and were ruthlessly shot. Finally, many took refuge in a cave, when the white barbarians proceeded to pull down the houses and heap up the dry thatch and rafters at the mouth of the cave as fuel for a great bonfire. Of course all the inmates were suffocated. Such deeds as these, of course, led to reprisals; and Dr Turner says that, to his own knowledge, upwards of 320 men engaged in the sandal-wood traffic perished between the years 1839 and 1848. Such facts as these should be borne in mind, as affording the clue to many an unprovoked outrage by brown men on white. The tradition of past wrongs lingers long in savage races.
Within a year of John Williams's murder, the Rev. George Turner and Rev. H. Nisbet attempted to commence work in the same field, but found it impossible. Even while they were struggling to maintain their position on the isle of Tanna, a whaling-ship touched there for water, and her men immediately fell to quarrelling with the natives, whereupon the vessel weighed anchor and sailed along the coast, firing promiscuously into all the villages she passed. There would not have been much cause for wonder if the savages (who had seen Mr Turner directing these men where to find water) had at once turned on him and his companions and murdered them all. As it was, they continued to brave the perils of their position for some months ere they were compelled to fly.
When Mr Turner revisited Eromanga in 1859, the Rev. Gordon, who was then settled there, told them that a few months previously another sandal-wood trader had got into serious trouble, and three of his men had been killed by the natives; but he himself acknowledged that they had earned their fate. On that occasion the Eromangans had the discrimination to spare the righteous; but not long afterwards Mr Gordon and his wife were cruelly murdered.
Eleven years passed, when a message reached the Rev. J. D. Gordon (brother of the above) praying him to come and heal some sick children at Eromanga. As a medical missionary he at once complied, only to hear on his arrival that the children were dead; and their father could find no solace for his blind, ungrateful grief, but to slay the medicine-man who had arrived too late. One blow from his tomahawk added yet another to the grievous list of the martyrs of Eromanga.
At the mission station at Apia, on the isle of Upolu, on the very spot where John Williams first landed in Samoa, and where he stood to bid what proved to be his last farewell to the people—two graves lying side by side contain some bones brought to Samoa in 1840 by H.M.S. Favourite, in the belief that they were those of the martyrs. It is now, however, known that they were bones taken at random by the natives from a cave where they are wont to deposit their own dead, under the impression that the foreign ship wished to purchase human bones. The skull of John Williams is buried beneath a palm-tree on Eromanga, which is doubtless as quiet a resting-place as a foreign grave in turbulent Apia. Near it, was buried a small bit of red sealing-wax, about an inch and a half in length, which was found by the natives in his pocket, and supposed to be a foreign idol. This relic was afterwards disinterred and sent home to his children.
I think the attempt to recover the remains of the dead from their savage murderers is at best very unsatisfactory. We had a fair example of it in Fiji, where great efforts were made to recover the bones of the Rev. Baker, who was there killed and eaten. So successful was this endeavour that one mission station alone has received three skulls, all positively declared to be his!
While both the London Mission and the Wesleyans have done such excellent work in Samoa, it is to be regretted that a corner of rivalry should have contrived to creep in—a rootlet of bitterness—not very serious perhaps, but still a corner of contention. It appears that at the time when Mr Williams first landed in Samoa, in 1830, several native teachers from the Wesleyan Mission in Tonga had already begun to work there, and the promise of white teachers had already been made to expectant congregations. When, therefore, in 1835, the Rev. Peter Turner, of the Wesleyan Mission, reached the isle of Manono, he was received with open arms by a zealous flock; and when, shortly afterwards, he travelled round the isles of Savaii and Upolu, he found more than 2000 persons who were members of the Tonga lotu, and 40 persons who were acting as teachers.
At that time the Tahiti lotu—i.e., the London Mission—was only represented by five or six Tahitian teachers, who were located at certain towns, and confined their labours to their immediate neighbourhood. On Mr Turner's arrival he commenced diligently seeking the people in all parts of the isles, with such marked result that within twenty months upwards of 13,000 persons had joined the Tonga lotu.
The Wesleyans specially note that Mr Turner was the first resident white missionary in Samoa. Some months after his arrival came a trading ship, which brought Mr Pratt, as representative of the London Mission; and in 1836, six missionaries of the London Society arrived and held a public meeting in the Tahitian chapel at Manono, when it was clearly proved that a considerable number of Samoans had adopted the Tonga lotu before the arrival of Mr Williams, though they only met for worship quietly in their own homes. The Tahitian teachers were the first who began to conduct public services, but their adherents were found to be numerically fewer than those of the Tongans.
Stress is laid on these details, because it was alleged by the London Mission that Messrs N. Turner and Cross had agreed with Mr Williams to devote their efforts to the Fijian group, and leave the Navigator's Isles to the London Mission. Messrs Turner and Cross, on the other hand, entirely repudiate any such compact, and state that the first they heard of it was when the London missionaries arrived in Samoa, where their agent was already established, in accordance with their promise to the friendly chiefs.
As neither party were inclined to yield, both missions continued to work simultaneously, each acknowledging the good work done by the other, yet regretting the division, which might so easily have been avoided. However, it has been a sacrifice of uniformity rather than of unity; and I suppose the Church militant must always be made up of divers regiments.
I believe the London Mission has at present seven congregational ministers in Samoa, and seventy-five native teachers. Their nominal adherents number about 30,000. The Australasian Wesleyan Mission has two white missionaries and one native minister. These superintend the work of 50 teachers and 85 local preachers. There are 47 chapels, with 1200 church members, and congregations numbering altogether about 5000.
The Roman Catholics number about 4000.
As has been the case throughout Polynesia, many of the new converts have become earnest missionaries; and not only have several Samoan teachers found their way to Fiji, but when in its turn the infant Church in that group determined to commence a mission among the savage races of New Britain, two Samoan teachers volunteered to accompany their Fijian brethren on this noble but dangerous enterprise. Others have gone to settle in the very uninviting Gilbert and Kingsmill groups, close to the equator, amongst hideous tribes of the lowest type, whose barren isles fail to yield any manner of crop; so that for lack of better diet, the unpalatable fruit of the pandanus, which in Samoa is only used for stringing into necklaces, is accounted an important item of food. For love of these poor souls these self-denying men give up their own most lovely homes, and bid a lifelong farewell to parents and kindred. Many a bitter scene has been enacted on these shores, when aged relatives, clinging to these dear ones with all the demonstrative love of the warm southern temperament, follow the mission-boat as it pushes off, and wade up to the shoulders, weeping and wailing for those who may never come back to them, and knowing full well how many have already fallen in the hard-fought battle. Certainly these Samoan teachers have given good proof of their zeal and willingness to endure hardship, as good soldiers of the Cross.
NOTE ON ETU OR TOTEM WORSHIP.
We are so much in the habit of considering this strange worship of representative animals, in connection with the simple superstitions of such utterly uncivilised races as these poor savages of the Pacific Isles, or the Indian tribes of America, that it is startling to recollect how large a place it held in the intricate mythology of so wise and learned a people as the ancient Egyptians, who not only excelled in all arts of peace and war, but seem to have mastered many of those mysteries of science which still perplex the learned men of the nineteenth century. Long ere the Greeks and Israelites had learnt their earliest lessons from the sages from Egypt, and while Rome was but a village of mud-huts, the banks of the Nile were graced with buildings, which, in their stately beauty, rivalled the marvels of Babel. Prominent among these was the temple of the sacred bull Mnevis. The patron god of Memphis was the golden bull Apis, to whom pure white bulls were sacrificed; while in his honour jet-black bulls were worshipped during life, and after death were embalmed, and preserved in sarcophagi of polished black basalt. Only their bones were preserved, swathed in linen, and tied up so as to resemble an animal lying down. A full-grown bull thus prepared was no bigger than a calf, while a calf was the size of a dog. Thirty-three of these sacred bull-mummies were found in the catacombs, each in its own sarcophagus.
Other catacombs were entirely devoted to the mummies of sacred dogs and cats, beetles and mice, hawks and ibis, each neatly strapped up in linen and sealed up in a red earthenware jar. These are found packed like the contents of some vast wine-cellar—tier behind tier, and in layers reaching to the roof of the catacombs, some of which are large caves, with endless ramifications; yet chamber after chamber of these vast storehouses are all alike closely packed with this vast multitude of mummy-jars, accumulated by countless generations of reverent worshippers.
Strangest of all these sepulchres of sacred creatures, are the crocodile mummy-pits, in which are stored a vast assemblage of crocodiles of all sizes, from the patriarch measuring twelve or fourteen feet in length, to the poor baby only five inches long, each wrapped up in palm-leaves. Thousands of these little demigods, about eighteen inches long, are tied together in bundles of eight or ten, and swathed in coarse cloth. True believers in the crocodile-headed god Savak, kept these creatures tame in a great crocodile city near the artificial lake Mœris, where they were fed with cake and roast meat, washed down by draughts of mulled wine; their fore-feet were adorned with golden bracelets, and their ears were pierced and enriched with precious gems. But the worshippers had to fight the battles of their gods against various irreverent neighbours, notably against the people of Elephantine, who, so far from worshipping the crocodile, considered it a dainty dish, to be eaten as often as it could be captured.
So well known to their contemporaries was this Egyptian reverence for certain birds, beasts, and insects, that on at least one occasion it proved a valuable aid to their foes, as when Cambyses captured a city, by forming a vanguard of all manner of animals—cats and dogs, bulls and goats—assured that one or other must be held sacred by the besieged; and so it proved, for the latter dared not throw a dart lest they should injure their "bleating gods."
Each of these had their especial sacred city, where their precious remains were embalmed and their mummies stored. Dogs and ichneumons might indeed be buried in their own cities, but hawks and shrew-mice were generally conveyed to Buto, and ibises to Hermopolis. Onuphis was the city specially dedicated to the worship of the asp; but all manner of serpents were worshipped in gorgeous temples over the length and breadth of the land, and the reptiles were fed with flour and honey by their appointed priests, and their bodies eventually embalmed with all possible reverence. Cat-mummies were stored in the sacred city of Bubastis; goats at Mendes; wolves were preserved in pits near Sioux; while the ram, sacred to the sun, was worshipped at Thebes, the sun city.
The death of a cat was considered so dire a misfortune, that if a house were to take fire the Egyptians would let it burn to the ground, if only they could rescue the cats, which, however, had an awkward trick of jumping into the flames. Should one of these perish, all the inmates of the house shaved their eyebrows. Should a dog die, the head and beard were also shaved. Each species of animal had its appointed guardians to feed and tend them, the office being hereditary. A heavy fine attended any accident which befell these precious creatures; and should one perish through carelessness, the life of the keeper was forfeit, more especially if the victim were an ibis or a hawk, for whose death there was no forgiveness.
The hawk, whose piercing eye can so fearlessly gaze upon the sun, was the special type of that great source of light. It was worshipped in Heliopolis and the other sun temples, where living birds were kept in cages, and pictures of sacred hawks, seated amidst lotus-plants, adorned the walls. With such reverence were they treated, that when the Egyptian hosts went forth to battle, they carried their hawks with their armies; and should some chance to die in foreign lands, their bodies were embalmed, and brought to Egypt to be buried in consecrated tombs. Thus numerous hawk-mummies have been discovered at Thebes and elsewhere.
Hence it would appear that each of these creatures was the totem, or representative animal of some tribe, which bestowed thereon all due veneration in life and in death. Probably the totem of one tribe would receive no honour from the next. Hence the battles already alluded to between the cities which worshipped crocodiles and those which ate them! and the still more deadly civil wars that raged between the worshippers of the Oxyrinchus fish and the dog-worshippers of Cynopolis, when the latter were guilty of fishing in the Nile, and not only capturing the holy fish, but also eating them.
No salmon commissioners could be more wrathful at the wilful destruction of salmon-fry than were these fish-adoring Egyptians when tidings of the crime reached their city. Swift vengeance followed; for the deified dogs, worshipped by the gluttonous offenders, were caught and sacrificed to appease the wrath of the fish-gods, their flesh affording a delicious feast for the priests. This of course led to a prolonged civil war, and the sacking of towns and bloodshed were only checked by the arrival of the Roman legions, who punished both parties, and reduced them to order. Such wars continued from time to time, even so late as the fourth century after Christ, by which time, however, various cities (notably that of Oxyrinchus) had adopted the new faith, and the cells set apart for sacred animals were tenanted by the monks.
If we follow out this subject, it may perhaps bring us nearer home than we imagine; for just as the Australian blacks are divided into clans bearing the name of the animal, or even the plant, from which they believe themselves to be descended, and which they must on no account eat or gather—and are thus known as "The Black Snakes," "The Swans," "The Turtles," "The Kangaroos," &c.,—so our antiquarians tell us, that many of our tattooed or painted Anglo-Saxon ancestors bore the names of animals or plants, which doubtless were in truth the totem of their family. Thus the Bercings and Thornings traced their descent from the birch and thorn, and the Bookings from the beech; and the homes of these families still bear such names as Booking, Birchington, and Thornington. Elmington and Oakington are supposed to have been peopled by sons of the elm and of the oak; while Ashendon recalls the Ashings or Æscings, who bore the name of the sacred ash-tree; and the Fearnings of Farningham were supposed to descend from a humble fern.
Buckingham and Berrington are said to have derived their names from the Buccings and Berings, sons of the buck and of the bear; while the followers of the wolf did him honour by bestowing on their children such names as Wulfing, Eadwulf, Beowulf, or Ethelwulf. The sacred white horse (whose image remains to this day on the downs of Westbury and Wantage, as clearly defined as when first our Saxon ancestors scraped the green grass from off the chalk hillside) was the symbol reverenced by all Aryan races, and Hengest and Horsa, the leaders of the early English, bore names which entitled them to command their fellows. They have left their mark in such territorial names as Hengestesdun, Horstead, Horsington, and many more. The Otterings of Otterington owed allegiance to the otter.
The snake was as much revered in Britain as in all other corners of the world, and no disrespect was implied in describing him as a worm. Hence the family of Wyrmings, and such geographical traces as Wormington, Wormingford, and even Ormskirk and Great Orm's (or Worm's) Head. The Earnings were adherents of the earn or eagle; the Everings or Eoferings of Eofer, the wild boar, whose home was at Eversley. Raveningham and Cockington are said to bear the name of the old lords of the soil, the sons of the raven and of the cock; while the Fincings of Finchingfield and the Thryscings of Thrushington, are said to represent the families who adopted the Thrush and the Finch as their totem.
Altogether there appears good reason to infer that the reverence for birds and beasts, fishes and reptiles, which excites our compassionate wonder in reading of poor untutored savages, such as these Samoans, was once a powerful influence in our own British Isles.
- Vide 'At Home in Fiji,' by C. F. Gordon Cumming.
- Aitutaki, "led by God."
- Notably one dug out of the peat-moss at Ballachulish, now in the Antiquarian Museum in Edinburgh; and those in the Museum at Hull; also those in the Berlin Museum. All these have the eyes formed of quartz pebbles, instead of the bits of pearly shell or of obsidian used in the manufacture of idols in the Pacific.
The stone gods also had their counterparts in our own isles. When Dr Turner visited the Union or Tokelau Isles in 1850, be found that the great god, Tui Tokelau, was supposed to be embodied in a rude stone, which was carefully wrapped up in fine mats, and never seen by any human eyes save those of the king, who is also the high priest. Even he might only look upon the sacred stone once a-year, when the old mats were removed and new ones supplied. Of course constant exposure in all weather, day and night, soon decayed the mats; but the worshippers continually offered new ones, especially in cases of sickness, and these were wrapped round the idol, so that, ere the day came round for its disrobing, it attained a prodigious size. The old mats were considered so sacred that none might touch them; so they were laid in a place apart, and there left to rot. The month of May was especially devoted to the worship of this god, and the people assembled from all the Tokelau isles to hold a great feast in its honour, and to pray for prosperity and health, and especially for an abundant supply of fish and cocoa-nuts.
Now turn from the Pacific to the North Atlantic, and read a statement by the Earl of Roden, in his 'Progress of the Reformation in Ireland.' He says:—
"In the south island—i.e., Inniskea, off the coast of Mayo—in the house of a man named Monigan, a stone idol, called in the Irish Neevougi, has been, from time immemorial, religiously preserved and worshipped. This god resembles in appearance a thick roll of home-spun flannel, which arises from the custom of dedicating a dress of that material to it whenever its aid is sought; this is sewn on by an old woman, its priestess, whose peculiar care it is. Of the early history of this idol no authentic information can be procured, but its power is believed to be immense. They pray to it in time of sickness; it is invoked when a storm is desired to dash some hapless ship upon their coast; and again, the exercise of its power is solicited in calming the angry waves to admit of fishing or visiting the mainland."
It scarcely seems possible, does it, to realise that our own ancestors were as gross idolaters as any South Sea Islanders? Yet in the majority of these isles the present generation have never seen an idol of any sort; and should they ever visit our museums, they would gaze on the gods of their own fathers as wonderingly as we do on those of the early Britons.
- Alas! the fate of the majority has already been sealed. In the spring of 1881, the following brief paragraph announced that the lives of these brave pioneers had already been sacrificed:—
"Massacre of Missionaries.—Despatches received in Liverpool announce the massacre in New Guinea of a number of missionaries belonging to the London Missionary Society. The news was conveyed to Melbourne in a telegram from the Rev. Mr Beswick, who himself narrowly escaped with his life. On the 7th of March the missionaries were attacked by the natives at Kato, in the district of Port Moresby, Hulu, and four of them, with two of their wives, four children, and two servants, were killed. The natives also attempted to kill four native boys who were with the missionary party, but they saved themselves by swimming. Not the slightest provocation was given; but it is stated in the despatch that the perpetrators of other previous massacres on the coast have not been punished, and this is considered to be the main cause of the outbreak. The total number of persons killed was twelve, but the list would have been much greater had not the remainder of the party made their immediate escape. For fear the natives would make a further attack upon the missionaries in the outlying districts, they were all removed from their stations to Port Moresby."
- The thought of this poor savage, week by week imperilling his life by crossing that stormy sea in his frail canoe, has often come vividly to my mind as an illustration of the words in Deut. xxx. 11-14: "This commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not .... beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say. Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it."
- See note on Etu worship at the end of this letter.
- See an interesting article on the origin of clan names in Britain, 'Cornhill Magazine,' September 1881—"Old English Clans."