Page:The Folk-Lore Journal Volume 7 1889.djvu/409

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Notes and queuies. 321

they have no god or spirit of the fire. In this they are at least true to their belief, for no spirit can be, with them, beneficent. Sor- cerers are implicitly believed in, and they generally do a good trade in the sale of charms, which are made, not on any fixed principle, but according to the freaks of fancy of the sorcerer or the purchaser. Sometimes it is a bit of bark, sometimes a crab's claw worked in the most fantastic way. These are protectors against all injuries or accidents that may happen to a man. A sailor will wear one as a protection against shipwreck, another charm saves its wearer from wounds in battle, another from disease, and so on. Besides being a sorcerer, that personage is also a physician and surgeon, and usually the astrologer and weather prophet of his district. It can hardly be said that he is skilled in these professions. An unvarying mode of treatment of a patient who is suffering pain from any cause whatever is to make a long, and sometimes a deep, incision over the abdomen. As may be imagined, this is not a very safe remedy. In one in- stance Mr. Romilly mentions, a woman, who was suffering severely from several spear-wounds, was thus treated by the native sorcerer, who, in pursuit of his profession of surgeon, inflicted by far the most severe wound the poor woman received, thus destroying the chance of life which she had before he attended her. Many of the tribes are, through the influence of the missionaries, shaking off these superstitions. " But even these people," says Mr. Romilly, " the most civilised in New Guinea, and many of them professed Chris- tians, in times of great excitement revert to their old habits. This was shown during the autumn of 1886. At that time a severe epidemic raged along the south coast. The people were dying by hundreds of pneumonia, and were beside themselves with fear. The usual remedies for driving away spirits at night were tried, remedies which had been in disuse for years ; torches were burnt, horns were blown, and the hereditary sorcerers sat up all night cursing; but still the people died. Then it was decided that the land spirits were working this harm, and the whole population moved their canoes out in the bay and slept in them at night ; but still the people died. Then they returned to their village, and fired arrows