The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead Volume Ii Part 43

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[88] J. J. Jarves, _op. cit._ p. 48.

[89] W. Ellis, _op. cit._ iv. 97.

[90] L. de Freycinet, _Voyage autour du Monde, Historique_, ii.


Distinct from the regular priests were the diviners or sorcerers who formed a sort of lower priesthood or clergy. Their services were employed for various purposes, such as to discover the cause of illness or to detect a thief. The people generally believed that all deaths, which were not due to acts of violence, were wrought either by the action of a deity or by the incantations of a sorcerer. Hence in cases of protracted illness the aid of one of these inferior clergy was almost invariably sought by all who could procure a dog and a fowl for the necessary sacrifice to the G.o.d, and a piece or two of cloth as a fee for the priest. But the offerings to the G.o.d and the fees to the priest naturally varied with the rank or wealth of the sufferer. After sacrificing the victims the priest lay down to sleep, and if his prayers were answered, he was usually able to inform the invalid of the cause of his illness, which had been revealed to him in a dream. But the same men, who could thus heal the sick by ascertaining and removing the cause of sickness, were supposed to possess the power of praying or enchanting people to death by the recitation of spells or incantations. The prayers or incantations which they employed for these beneficent or maleficent purposes varied with the individual: every pract.i.tioner had his own formulas, the knowledge of which he carefully confined to his own family; and he who was thought to have most influence with his G.o.d was most frequently employed by the people and derived the greatest emoluments from his profession.[91] Of this cla.s.s of men the most dreaded were those who invoked the G.o.d Uli as their patron deity. Their special business was to kill people by their spells, which they recited secretly, and for the most part by night; but to render these effectual it was necessary for them to obtain some of the personal refuse of their victim, such as his spittle, the parings of his nails, or the clippings of his hair, which they buried or burned with the appropriate incantations.[92] Hence the king of Hawaii was constantly attended by a servant carrying a spittoon in which he collected the royal saliva to prevent it from being used by the king's enemies for his injury or destruction.[93] Ordinary chiefs seem to have adopted the same precaution; a confidential servant deposited their spittle carefully in a portable spittoon and buried it every morning.[94]

[91] W. Ellis, _op. cit._ iv. 293-295. Compare U. Lisiansky, _op. cit._ pp. 120 _sq._; A. Campbell, _Voyage round the World_, pp. 171 _sqq._; C. S. Stewart, _Residence in the Sandwich Islands_, pp. 202 _sq._; Tyerman and Bennett, _op. cit._ i. 414; J. J. Jarves, _op. cit._ pp. 36 _sq._, 71 _sq._; A. Marcuse, _op. cit._ pp. 103-105.

[92] A. Marcuse, _op. cit._ p. 104.

[93] O. von Kotzebue, _Voyage of Discovery into the South Sea and Beering's Straits_ (London, 1821), i. 313.

[94] W. Ellis, _op. cit._ i. 365.

A form of divination or magic was employed to detect a thief. The person who had suffered the loss used to apply to a priest, to whom he presented a pig and told his story. Thereupon the priest kindled a fire by rubbing two pieces of wood together, and having taken three nuts he broke the sh.e.l.ls and threw one of the kernels into the fire, saying, "Kill or shoot the fellow." If the thief did not appear before the nut was consumed in the flames, the priest repeated the ceremony with the other two nuts. Such was the fear inspired by this rite that the culprit seldom failed to come forward and acknowledge his guilt. But if he persisted in concealing his crime, the king would cause proclamation to be made throughout the island that so-and-so had been robbed, and that the robber or robbers had been prayed to death. So firm was the belief of the people in the power of these prayers, that the criminal, on hearing the proclamation, would pine away, refuse food, and fall a victim to his own credulity.[95]

[95] A. Campbell, _Voyage round the World_, pp. 171-173.

-- 7. _Temples, Images, Human Sacrifices_

Of the Hawaiian temples, as they existed before the abolition of the native religion, we seem to possess no good and clear description. When Captain Cook first visited Hawaii and was sailing along the coast, he noticed from the ship at every village one or more elevated white objects, like pyramids or rather obelisks; one of them he judged to be fifty feet high. On landing to examine it, he could not reach it on account of an intervening pool of water. However, he visited another structure of the same sort in a more accessible situation, and found that it stood in what he calls a burying-ground or _morai_ closely resembling those which he had seen in other Polynesian islands and especially in Tahiti. This particular _morai_ was an oblong s.p.a.ce, of considerable extent, surrounded by a wall of stone, about four feet high. The area enclosed was loosely paved with smaller stones; and at one end of it stood the pyramid or obelisk, measuring about four feet square at the base and about twenty feet high. The four sides were composed, not of stones, but of small poles interwoven with twigs and branches, thus forming an indifferent wicker-work, hollow or open within from bottom to top. It seemed to be in a rather ruinous state, but enough remained to show that it had been originally covered with the light grey cloth to which the natives attached a religious significance.

It was no doubt with similar cloth that the white pyramids or obelisks were covered which Captain Cook beheld in the distance from the deck of his ship. Beside the particular pyramid which he examined Captain Cook found a sacrificial stage or altar with plantains laid upon it. The pyramids or obelisks which he thus saw and described were presumably the structures in which the priests concealed themselves when they gave oracles in the name of the G.o.d. On the farther side of the area of the _morai_ of which Captain Cook has given us a description stood a house or shed about ten feet high, forty feet long, and ten broad in the middle, but tapering somewhat towards the ends. The entrance into it was at the middle of the side, which was in the _morai_. On the farther side of the house, opposite the entrance, stood two wooden images, each cut out of a single piece, with pedestals, in all about three feet high, not badly designed nor executed. They were said to represent G.o.ddesses (_eatooa no veheina_). On the head of one of them was a carved helmet, and on the other a cylindrical cap like the head-dress worn at Tahiti.

In the middle of the house, and before the two images, was an oblong s.p.a.ce, enclosed by a low edging of stone and covered with shreds of the same grey cloth which draped the pyramid or obelisk. Within this enclosure seven chiefs lay buried; and outside the house, just on one side of the entrance, were two small square s.p.a.ces in which a man and a hog were buried respectively, after being killed and sacrificed to the divinity. At a little distance from these, and near the middle of the _morai_, were three more of these square enclosed places, in which three chiefs had been interred. In front of their graves was an oblong enclosed s.p.a.ce in which, as Captain Cook was told, three human victims were buried, each of them having been sacrificed at the funeral of one of the three chiefs. Within the area of the _morai_ or burying-ground, as Captain Cook calls it, were planted trees of various kinds. Similar sanctuaries appeared to Captain Cook to abound in the island; the particular one described by him he believed to be among the least considerable, being far less conspicuous than several others which he had seen in sailing along the coast.[96]

[96] J. Cook, _Voyages_, vi. 183-187. The cloth-covered pyramid or obelisk was called a _henananoo_ (_ib._ p. 187).

From his description we may infer that the temples (_morais_) observed by him did not contain stone pyramids like those which formed such prominent features in the Tahitian sanctuaries and in the burial grounds of the Tooitongas in Tongataboo; for the pyramids, or rather obelisks, of wicker-work seen by Captain Cook in the Hawaiian sanctuaries were obviously structures of a wholly different kind. But there seem to be some grounds for thinking that stone pyramids, built in steps or terraces, did occur in some of the Hawaiian temples. Thus Captain King saw a _morai_, as he calls it, which consisted of a square solid pile of stones about forty yards long, twenty broad, and fourteen [feet?] in height. The top was flat and well paved, and surrounded by a wooden rail, on which were fixed the skulls of captives who had been sacrificed on the death of chiefs. The ascent to the top of the pile was easy, but whether it was a staircase or an inclined plane is not mentioned by Captain King. At one end of the temple or sacred enclosure was an irregular kind of scaffold supported on poles more than twenty feet high, at the foot of which were twelve images ranged in a semicircle with a sacrificial table or altar in front of them. On the scaffold Captain Cook was made to stand, and there, swathed in red cloth, he received the adoration of the natives, who offered him a hog and chanted a long litany in his honour.[97]

[97] J. Cook, _Voyages_, vii. 5-7.

When Kamehameha was busy conquering the archipelago in the last years of the eighteenth century, he built a great temple (_heiau_) for his war-G.o.d Tairi in the island of Hawaii. Some thirty years later the ruined temple was visited and described by the missionary William Ellis.

He says: "Its shape is an irregular parallelogram, 224 feet long, and 100 wide. The walls, though built of loose stones, were solid and compact. At both ends, and on the side next the mountains, they were twenty feet high, twelve feet thick at the bottom, but narrowed in gradually towards the top, where a course of smooth stones, six feet wide, formed a pleasant walk. The walls next the sea were not more than seven or eight feet high, and were proportionally wide. The entrance to the temple is by a narrow pa.s.sage between two high walls.... The upper terrace within the area was s.p.a.cious, and much better finished than the lower ones. It was paved with flat smooth stones, brought from a distance. At the south end was a kind of inner court, which might be called the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, where the princ.i.p.al idol used to stand, surrounded by a number of images of inferior deities....

On the outside, near the entrance to the inner court, was the place of the _rere_ (altar) on which human and other sacrifices were offered. The remains of one of the pillars that supported it were pointed out by the natives, and the pavement around was strewed with bones of men and animals, the mouldering remains of those numerous offerings once presented there. About the centre of the terrace was the spot where the king's sacred house stood, in which he resided during the season of strict _tabu_, and at the north end, the place occupied by the houses of priests, who, with the exception of the king, were the only persons permitted to dwell within the sacred enclosures. Holes were seen on the walls, all around this, as well as the lower terraces, where wooden idols of varied size and shape formerly stood, casting their hideous stare in every direction."[98]

[98] W. Ellis, _op. cit._ iv. 96-98. Compare J. J. Jarves, _op.

cit._ pp. 45 _sq._

From this somewhat indistinct description we gather that the temple was a large oblong area enclosed by high stone walls and open to the sky, and that at some place within the enclosure there rose a structure in a series of terraces, of which the uppermost was paved with flat stones and supported the king's house, while the houses of the priests stood in another part of the sacred enclosure. If this interpretation is correct, we may infer that the temple resembled a Tahitian _morai_, which was a walled enclosure enclosing a sort of stepped and truncated pyramid built of stone.[99] The inference is confirmed by the language used by Captain King in speaking of the temple which he describes, for he calls it a _morai_,[100] and the same term is applied to the sacred edifices in Hawaii by other voyagers.[101]

[99] See above, pp. 278 _sqq._

[100] J. Cook, _Voyages_, vii. 5.

[101] O. von Kotzebue, _Neue Reise um die Welt_, ii. 89 _sq._; A. Campbell, _Voyage round the World_, p. 175.

Another ruined temple (_heiau_) seen by Ellis in Hawaii, is described by him as built of immense blocks of lava, and measuring a hundred and fifty feet long by seventy feet wide. At the north end was a smaller enclosure, sixty feet long and ten wide, part.i.tioned off by a high wall, with but one narrow entrance. The places where the idols formerly stood were apparent, though the idols had been removed. The spot where the altar had been erected could be distinctly traced; it was a mound of earth, paved with smooth stones, and surrounded by a firm curb of lava.

The adjacent ground was strewn with bones of the ancient offerings.[102]

Another temple (_heiau_), in good preservation, visited by Ellis, measured no less than two hundred and seventy feet in one direction by two hundred and ten in another. The walls were thick and solid; on the top of them the stones were piled in a series of small spires. The temple was said to have been built by a queen of Hawaii about eleven generations back.[103] Once more in one of the _puhonuas_ or cities of refuge, which in Hawaii afforded an inviolable sanctuary to fugitives, Ellis saw another temple (_heiau_), which he describes as "a compact pile of stones, laid up in a solid ma.s.s, 126 feet by 65, and ten feet high. Many fragments of rock, or pieces of lava, of two or more tons each, were seen in several parts of the wall, raised at least six feet from the ground." Ellis was told that the city of refuge, of which this temple formed part, had been built for Keave, who reigned in Hawaii about two hundred and fifty years before the time when the missionary was writing.[104] From his descriptions we may infer that some at least of the Hawaiian temples deserved to rank among megalithic structures, and that the natives had definite traditions of the kings or queens by whom the temples had been built.

[102] W. Ellis, _op. cit._ iv. 116.

[103] W. Ellis, _op. cit._ iv. 117 _sq._

[104] W. Ellis, _op. cit._ iv. 169.

In the island of Oahu a temple (_heiau_) visited by the missionary Stewart was forty yards long by twenty yards broad. The walls, of dark stone, were perfectly regular and well built, about six feet high, three feet wide at the level of the ground, and two feet wide at the top. It was enclosed only on three sides, the oblong area formed by the walls being open on the west; from that side there was a descent by three regular terraces or very broad steps.[105] This brief account confirms the inference which I have drawn from the more detailed description of Ellis, as to the terraced structure of some Hawaiian temples.

[105] C. S. Stewart, _Residence in the Sandwich Islands_, pp.

226 _sq._

In the mountains of Hawaii, at a height of about five thousand feet above the sea, Commodore Wilkes saw the ruins of an ancient temple of the G.o.d Kaili (Tairi), round about which stood eight small pyramids built of compact blocks of lava laid without cement. These pyramids were said to have been erected at the command of Umi, an ancient king, to commemorate his conquests. They seem to have measured each some ten or twelve feet square. The temple which they surrounded was about ninety-two feet long by seventy-two feet wide; the outer walls were about seven feet high and as many thick. Internally the edifice was divided by part.i.tion walls three feet high. The building was said to have been formerly covered with idols, of which no traces remained at the time of Wilkes's visit.[106]

[106] Ch. Wilkes, _op. cit._ iv. 99 _sq._, with the plate.

Often, apparently, a Hawaiian temple consisted of little more than a walled or palisaded enclosure containing a number of rudely carved images and a place of sacrifice in the form of a platform raised on poles. Such a temple is described by the Russian navigator Lisiansky.

The images in it were grouped and arranged so as to form a sort of semicircle. The chief priest of the temple informed the Russians "that the fifteen statues wrapped in cloth represented the G.o.ds of war; the two to the right of the place of sacrifice, the G.o.ds of spring; those on the opposite side, the guardians of autumn; and that the altar was dedicated to the G.o.d of joy, before which the islanders dance and sing on festivals appointed by their religion." With regard to the temples in general, Lisiansky observes that they "were by no means calculated to excite in the mind of a stranger religious veneration. They are suffered to remain in so neglected and filthy a condition, that, were it not for the statues, they might be taken rather for hog-sties than places of worship."[107]

[107] U. Lisiansky, _op. cit._ pp. 105-107. He says (p. 106) that the temple was "called by the natives _Heavoo_, not _Morai_, as some navigators have said." The word _Heavoo_ is probably identical with the word _heiau_, which other writers give as the Hawaiian name for a temple. As to the form of the temples see also A. Campbell, _Voyage round the World_, pp. 175 _sq._: "Their Morais, or places of worship, consist of one large house or temple, with some smaller ones round it, in which are the images of their inferior G.o.ds. The tabooed or consecrated precincts are marked out by four square posts, which stand thirty or forty yards from the building. In the inside of the princ.i.p.al house there is a screen or curtain of white cloth, hung across one end within which the image of Etooah [_atua_, _akua_] is placed." Remy (_op. cit._ p. xl) describes the Hawaiian temples as "simple enclosures of stones, roofless, where the religious ceremonies were performed."

The images of the G.o.ds were usually carved of wood. When a new idol was to be made, a royal and priestly procession went forth, with great ceremony, to the destined tree, where the king himself, with a stone axe, struck the first blow at the root. After the tree was felled, a man or a hog was killed and buried on the spot where it had grown.[108]

Sometimes, apparently, the direction to carve an idol out of a particular tree was given by a G.o.d in a dream. There is a tradition that once when the woodmen were felling such a tree with their stone axes, the chips flew out and killed two of them; whereupon the other woodmen covered their faces with masks, and cut down the tree with their daggers.[109] Another famous idol was said to be made of wood so poisonous, that if chips of it were steeped in water, and anybody drank of the water, he would die in less than twenty-four hours.[110] The Hawaiians seem to have made their idols hideous on purpose to inspire terror.[111] The features of some of the images were violently distorted, their mouths set with a double row of the fangs of dogs, their eyes made of large pearl oysters with black nuts in the middle; some had long pieces of carved wood, shaped like inverted cones, rising from the top of their heads;[112] some had tongues of a monstrous size, others had no tongues at all; some had mouths that reached from ear to ear; the heads of some were a great deal larger than their bodies.[113]

Some of the idols were stones. In the island of Hawaii there is a pebbly beach from which pebbles used to be carried away to be deified or to represent deities. They were generally taken in couples, a male and a female, and having been wrapt up very carefully together in a piece of native cloth, they were conveyed to a temple (_heiau_), where ceremonies of consecration or deification were performed over them.[114]

[108] Tyerman and Bennet, _op. cit._ i. 450.

[109] W. Ellis, _op. cit._ iv. 92 _sq._

[110] W. Ellis, _op. cit._ iv. 91.

[111] A. Marcuse, _Die Hawaiischen Inseln_, p. 101.

[112] J. Cook, _Voyages_, vii. 6, 15; compare A. Campbell, _op.

cit._ p. 76.

[113] U. Lisiansky, _op. cit._ p. 107.

[114] W. Ellis, _op. cit._ iv. 212 _sq._

The human sacrifice offered at the making of an idol was intended to impart strength to the image.[115] But human sacrifices were offered on many other occasions, such as on the approach of war, on the death of a chief, and so forth. There is a tradition that Umi, a famous king of Hawaii, once offered eighty men to his G.o.d as a thank-offering for victory. The victims were generally prisoners of war, but in default of captives any men who had broken taboos or rendered themselves obnoxious to the chiefs were sacrificed. It does not appear that they were slain in the presence of the idol or within the temple, but either on the outside or where they were first taken; in all cases an attempt seems to have been made to preserve the body entire or as little mangled as possible. Generally the victims were despatched by a blow on the head with a club or stone; sometimes, however, they were stabbed. Having been stripped naked, the bodies were carried into the temple and laid in a row, with their faces downwards, on the altar immediately before the idol. The priest thereupon, in a kind of prayer, offered them to the G.o.ds; and if hogs were sacrificed at the same time, they were afterwards piled on the human bodies and left there to rot and putrefy together.[116]

[115] J. Remy, _op. cit._ p. 161.

[116] W. Ellis, _op. cit._ iv. 150-152; J. J. Jarves, _op. cit._ pp. 47 _sq._; J. Remy, _op. cit._ pp. xl _sq._ Compare U.

Lisiansky, _op. cit._ pp. 121 _sq._; Tyerman and Bennet, _op.

cit._ i. 423 _sq._

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The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead Volume Ii Part 43 summary

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