Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/360

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was the same passionate ceremonial waiting for the dead, the same sort of religious service to appease the unquiet spirit, and prevent it from returning to earth to annoy the survivors. In place of burning paper effigies of horses, and houses, and other things likely to be useful in the spirit-world, the Tahitian priest placed about the corpse pieces of the stalk of the mountain-plantain, and told the dead that these were its parents, its wife, its children, and that with these it must be satisfied, and refrain from vexing the living.

Here likewise, as in the Chinese cities of the dead, small low houses were built as temporary homes for the unburied corpses, which were laid on biers, and by day were drawn out into the sun; but by night the body lay horizontally, and was frequently turned, lest it should dry irregularly. When, notwithstanding all care, the poor body began to decay, then the skull was wrapped in cloth, and carried home to be preserved with the family gods, and duly worshipped. The bones were either buried or carried off to the mountains in the mysterious way I have already described.

Although the Tahitian embalmers failed to preserve their dead for more than a year, the Samoans seem to have been more successful, though, apparently, only a limited number of the chiefs were thus honoured. Dr Turner, however, has seen bodies which had certainly been embalmed for upwards of thirty years, and were still in excellent preservation, when, on the death of the relations whose task it was to dress and tend the bodies, all were laid together beneath the sod. The office of embalmer was an exclusively feminine one, and the process observed in Samoa was exactly the same as that practised in Tahiti, The body was wrapped in native cloth, leaving the head, face, and hands exposed; these were occasionally anointed with scented oil and turmeric, to give a life-like tinge to the complexion, and so were exhibited to all comers.

I spoke of the wailing at funerals as ceremonial, because it was not only customary to weep frantically, rending the hair, tearing the garments, and uttering agonising cries, but it was also de rigueur to display sympathy by inflicting on one's self very serious wounds with instruments made for the purpose. Several rows of shark's teeth were fixed in small canes, and with these the mourners