Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/341

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
309
PRE-CHRISTIAN OBSERVANCES.

availing; other victims must be brought, and the whole ceremony repeated from the beginning.

So, too, the rigid observance of the Jewish Sabbatical laws seemed a natural requirement to a people who, from their infancy, had been taught implicit obedience to the laws of tabu, or sacred seasons, when, at the bidding of priest or chief, no fire must be kindled, no canoe launched, and neither food nor drink might be tasted, under severest penalties. When, therefore, the early missionaries declared one day in seven to be strictly tabu, and themselves gave the example by abstaining from every sort of secular employment, even preparing their own food on the previous day (which was hence called the mahana maa, or food-day), the natives willingly obeyed, and proved themselves capable of such close and continuous attention to spiritual subjects as the majority of Christians nowadays would find wellnigh impossible.

So, too, with the custom of saying grace before eating, which is so strictly practised by all the converts in Polynesia. It was the more readily adopted because, in heathen days, no morsel might pass the lips of any member of the family till the chief person present had offered a portion to the gods, adding a few words of prayer for their protection and blessing. In some instances they chanted a form of thanksgiving for the good things received, as being the gift of the gods.

I have written this story of old days somewhat at length, from a conviction that it is probably almost unknown to you, and must surely prove interesting, though I am fully aware that it cannot be so to you in the same degree as it is to me, who have heard the story for the first time on the very spot where those terrible scenes were formerly enacted, and where the marvellous change was actually wrought.