Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/149

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IDOL-WORSHIP ABANDONED.

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.[1]

  1. 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:—