Page:The Folk-Lore Journal Volume 7 1889.djvu/408

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Superstition and Sorcery in New Guinea. — In the Report to the Colonial Office of the Special Commissioner for British New Guinea during the past year, there is a long and very interesting account of some of the superstitions of the natives of that country, written by Mr. H. H. Romilly. One of the most sacred obligations, he says, on the relatives of a deceased man is to place in his grave, and in his accustomed haunts, food and water for the spirit of the departed. It is thought that this spirit is all that remains of the deceased, and the human appetites take possession of it. or, rather, remain in existence, just as if the body had not died. If, however, he is killed in battle, there is not the same necessity of constantly feeding his spirit ; the head of one of the tribe or race who killed him is sufficient. If the slayer is a white man, the angry spirit can be laid by a large pay- ment of goods to the relatives of the deceased, and this constantly happens. Dreams are, to them, voices from the land of spirits, telling them what to do, for whom to work, from whom to steal, and what to plunder. White men are always aj;tended by a familiar spirit, which is blamed for any mischief that befalls the natives in a locality where a white man happens to be. If the white man is a friend of theirs, they merely demand compensation, which he will pay, says Mr. Romilly, if he is a wise man ; if he is unfriendly to them, the unfortunate Avhite man may prepare for the worst. His attendant spirit will not help him, for it flies at the sound of a gun. On the death of a relative there is a great drumming and burning of torches to send the spirit safely and pleasantly on its travels. In some parts of the country certain trees have spirits, and on feast-days a portion of the food is set apart for these spirits. It is worthy of remark that all their spirits are malignant, and these have to be overcome by force of arms, by blessings, or by cursings. They cannot grasp the idea of a bene- ficent spirit, but regard them all as resembling Papuans generally — that is, vindictive, cruel, and revengeful. Consequently, these spirits are much feared ; though they cannot be seen, yet they constantly use arrows and spears when they are vexed. The great opposer of spirits is fire, and hence, on every possible occasion, bonfires and torches are employed. Strange to say, though fire is thus all-powerful with them.