Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/282

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256 The Natives of New Caledonia.

though in that case how was it he allowed himself to kill it ? They have also many mysterious taboos and mysteries in the cultivation of their crops of yams, taros, &c.

In the case of women engaged in planting, cohabitation is not allowed for some time before and after. A white man told me the following yarn. The ship he was in touched at the Isle of Pines many years ago — it was the yam-planting season. While asleep that night ashore in a hut where there were several women, he awoke and found himself gently but firmly pinioned by several pairs of hands. At the same time he heard a commotion in the hut, and the cries of some one evidently in the death-agony. While he was being held, it turned out afterwards, by some men, others came and took out one of the women, and killed her outside, savagely picking the flesh off the bones with the ends of their spears. She was, it seems, an unhappy one who had been engaged at the yam-planting, and yet had been detected that day on board the ship. Among the strangest things in their cultivation is the belief in the power of certain magical stones to increase the crops. They have generally a rough resemblance to the thing they are supposed to benefit, and are put into the ground at the same time, and in the same bed or planta- tion. They are said to have the power of reproduction themselves ; the young ones, however, are not visible to all eyes. The owners pretend to know, if the stones have been touched in their absence, by the appearance of these invisible ones. I saw a fellow once get into a tremendous state of excitement at someone having, as he declared, disturbed the magical stone in his plantation, of which he averred himself to be aware in that manner. These stones are to be procured in the following way. A native walking along will hear a low cooing or humming noise. He runs up, and after a hunt turns up the stone. The help of sorcerers is called in too in cultivation, they arranging favourable rains, &c., suns, and winds. I have heard of boys being seen