Page:Picturesque New Guinea.djvu/288

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Veata of Maiva.

LIKE all other savages, the Papuans are a prey to superstition. As an example of the beliefs they entertain, and the fears they cherish, I will narrate my adventures with a great sorcerer, a Maivan, dreaded by his countrymen on account of the power he is supposed by them to possess. Like other pretenders of the same class, he was himself the dupe of his own cabalistic juggleries, and as big a coward as the simple folk who hung upon the rites he practised. I had often heard of this man, but never met him personally till, when in Maiva, I was presented at an inland village with a broken crystal, and on inquiring if there were others of the same kind about, I was informed they all came from the vicinity of Mount Yule, but that one in particular, by common report surpassing all others, was in the possession of Veata, the mighty sorcerer, never to be seen by mortal eye except his own, for no other person could look on it and live. One of our teachers hearing of it, and thinking, I suppose, it was some precious stone, offered the sorcerer several tomahawks only to be allowed to see it. On returning to the coast I went to my friend Miria, and asked him to use his influence with Veata to show me his burning jewel. "Yes," he replied, "but I am afraid; I myself have never seen it, although he is my cousin, and should he show it to you