(1) A religious system--Spirit-world--Sorcery--Incantations--Personal immortality--Retaliation--Propitiatory sacrifice; (2) Weaknesses--Impurity--Untruthfulness--Callousness; (3) Virtues--Generosity--Domestic affections--Patience--Sense of justice.
It will be necessary now to look a little more closely at the Papuan and get an insight into his nature so as to fully appreciate his racial characteristics.
How far can traces be discovered of anything that may be called a religion? In the first place the Papuan lives in daily and hourly realization of an immaterial world in which he believes intensely. He peoples it with invisible beings, he knows himself to be at the mercy of personal influences far stronger than himself. It is usual to say that he regards all these spirits as evil. Tin's needs some qualification. He may seem chiefly concerned with these evil powers because he is anxious to avert their hostility. The good, he may argue, need no gifts for they do not desire to do him harm. This may account for so little reference to them. There are traces of a belief in Providence as has already been mentioned. Again the supernatural beings who, Atlas-like, bear up the universe are beneficent. True, they often tire for the rising tide marks the time when they seek repose, the falling tide the resumption of their burden. There is, too, a belief that a man is protected by good powers and herein [22/23] lies the diabolical wickedness of the white man's gun, which first makes a great noise to drive away the victim's protecting spirits and then discharges a missile which lays him low. Many native legends tell of superhuman beings who have destroyed monsters and wrought deliverance for man--none is greater than he who taught the use of the domestic pig for feasts and sacrifices. Of him more anon.
The Papuan believes intensely in a spirit world. Among the mountain tribes are to be found the most definite, clear-cut beliefs. There Nature lends her aid to deepen awe in the mysterious unknown. The lofty peaks which surround men; the more local rains and winds they experience; the dread of avalanche or fire in their hemmed-in settlements; the strange, weird night-roar of the turbulent torrent many hundred feet below;--all these, foreign to the coast dwellers, are the daily and nightly surroundings of the hillmen.
So from the mountains come the sorcerers and enchanters, the medicine men and those who claim power over wind and rain. Talismans, philtres, charms, even medicinal herbs, are drawn very largely thence and the cessation of strife between coast and mountain led at once to a great development of this trade in superstitions. The spirits in whom the Papuan believes so firmly are of many kinds. One class specially feared by the men are the disembodied spirits of sleeping women which they by sorcery have expelled from their bodies. A man is therefore never quite secure even with the partner of his joys and griefs. There is an instance well known to the mission in which a man called his wife "New Guinea," because he had heard the missionaries say that "New Guinea" made them ill when fever laid them low and the word to the native's mind could only mean "witch," for to witches and sorcerers all ills are traced. This dangerous [23/24] power that the women are supposed to possess does not make home-life any the happier. A man for instance sitting in his house and hearing his dog bark outside, thinks that his wife's spirit means mischief and will hastily shut himself in and try to profit by his dog's warning. The most comprehensive word for spirits includes those enshrined in the totem emblems already referred to and a large class of beings, such as ogres, giants, dwarfs, trolls. The disembodied spirits of men haunt the places where they dwelt when alive. A species of night-bird with a very weird cry is supposed to be the spirit of a warrior killed in battle. At night the spirits are especially active. Few will go alone near a burial ground after the sun has set. Dangers beset the man from all sides. His crops may fail, the wind blow down his house, his child sicken and die. To him it is evident that some evil influence has been at work, and made him the object of its malevolence. But these spirits are very much under the control of human beings. If the spirits are spiteful and bad human beings must be worse, for they set the influences in motion which cause the trouble. So the man tries to find out his enemy. He can always rely on the help of a sorcerer if he is able and willing to reward him sufficiently. The sorcerers were, in the olden days the cause of nearly all the feuds and they are still believed in. They never profess themselves ignorant of anything on which information is sought. Even in the grim presence of the Government officer a man will brave all consequences and claim to have brought about some death or disaster rather than acknowledge in the hearing of the villagers that his charms are without power. At the time of sickness and death his services were in special request. No death can be from natural causes. It is the work of a foe. Some hair has been cut from the victim's head and obtained by his enemy, [24/25] or he has unguardedly left undestroyed the remains of a meal. He has put a weapon into the hand of the sorcerer which will be used against him. This man may work in many ways. A common plan is to bury a charm in the victim's path, leaving a little bit above ground for the man's foot to touch and the mischief has been wrought because the unfortunate, who is the object of such attention, is always carefully informed of the fact and the fright that follows has, in many instances, caused death. It is wonderful what a large stock-in-trade a well-esteemed sorcerer possesses. All these articles have been on various occasions in use: stones, shells, fish-bones, leaves, roots, scented bark, ginger, a carved wooden image, seeds, even pigs' and wallabies' eyelashes! The whole would be carried in a string bag or wrapped up in larger leaves, or even since civilization reached the land, preserved in a red-coloured pocket-handkerchief. The fear instilled into men is very terrible. One of the saddest sights to be seen in New Guinea is some poor sufferer, "whose stomach the evil spirits have taken away," forced to live in a little annexe to a native house not much bigger than a dog-kennel, given a sufficiency of food, but feared and shunned rather than pitied because he was the victim of some malevolent influence. Superstitious belief controls every act of importance in native life. Yet there are ways of averting the evil. Sir William MacGregor relates how he was made immune for the night at a place where he camped: "A high priest went round my tent wearing a dress shirt, which he always put on in the reversed position, blowing chewed aromatic bark and saliva all about my habitation; then he went at a rapid walk all about the camp or village besprinkling the place from his mouth." [Government Report, B. N. G. 1892-3, p. 50.]
Evil influences may be averted by propitiatory [25/26] offerings. Dancing of a violently energetic kind, accompanied by noisy shouts and songs and uncouth gestures, has the same effect--also curses and imprecations. The spirits are not always regarded as possessing a high order of intelligence for a man by changing the position of a door will expect to keep them out of his house. The sick will ascribe their sores and swellings to the bite of an evil spirit, giving most exact and graphic details as to the nip they felt. A man with a toe short on one foot will tell how the wicked one bit it off. The powers possessed by these unseen beings are in some places ascribed also to the sorcerer who can disappear into and travel through the ground when on his way to bewitch a person.
No death can be regarded as resulting from natural causes. A man can only die in two ways: slain in battle or bewitched. To die in battle was regarded as a fault to such an extent that the man's spirit was punished in the nether regions by having to take its food standing. In fact it might never sit down and rest. To be bewitched involved the man's near relatives in the obligation to avenge his life. His murderer could be discovered in various ways. In one place the horrid custom was to expose the dead body on a platform in the centre of the village, allot its various portions to some tribe, family, or individual, watch the epidermis peel and discover the source of the evil according to the particular part of the body where this first took place. A custom at Cape Vogel which has now ceased under mission influence sought the sorcerer in another way. A man was carried to his grave on a bier by four friends. At a little distance round the bier stood twenty men armed with spears. At the side was one of the village sorcerers carrying a number of small sticks. With one of these he struck the corpse saying twice, [26/27] "Who caused you to die? Did So-and-so?" The circle of them repeated the words, at the same time aiming their spears at the corpse. If there was no answer that stick was dropped and the ceremony repeated again and again, each time with a fresh stick, until the affirmative answer was given by the corpse shaking the bier. The dead man's friends would then seek to avenge his death by killing the sorcerer named or one of his tribe.
The sorcerer's lot was therefore not without danger. He could exact large rewards for his services but he made some bitter enemies, though in many cases he could excuse himself and betray his client. On one occasion the whole village rose against a sorcerer and disembowelled him. The establishment of the village policeman has greatly spoilt the sorcery business. In one instance it did more, for when the policeman arrested a sorcerer for "compassing a man's death," and was in some doubt whether he could keep him secure until the magistrate arrived, he went to the extreme length of tying his prisoner up, putting him on board a canoe and dropping him with a stone round his neck into the river.
To the Papuan, then, the world is full of spiritual influences though he has to be ever on his guard against their machinations. To protect himself he will resort to any form of superstitious practice because such usages are the only weapons with which he can defend himself. He thus becomes the prey of a class which lives by the ill-will of men one towards another and by presents of food, weapons, ornaments and other gifts, he keeps these sorcerers in affluence and helps to maintain their dignity and importance.
It will here be necessary to mention the practice of incantations which, though used by sorcerers before any [27/28] performance of their art, are by no means confined to them. These incantations are a very prominent feature in native life. Every person, food, animal, occupation, and amusement has its "pari." [This word, meaning the heathen incantation, has been taken by the mission for "prayer," and so consecrated.] These must be used or results cannot be looked for. Some forms can be bought from their owners who are usually the old men of the village. Some are hereditary possessions and bestow upon the possessor a distinct office. The rainmaker, the wind-raiser, the man or woman who knows how to make the water flow in the irrigation trench--these are positions which no one can buy or usurp. The owner of a "pari" will wait until he is near death before initiating his son, nephew, or daughter. A formula is even repeated over the dead body that the man may know it in the spirit world.
These incantations often mean nothing and are not always repeated audibly. Yet though the result is ascribed directly to them there is no doubt an association in the native mind between the person who recites and the "pari" recited. The proper person must be brought, even though it is the incantation which effects the result. These incantations are not addressed to any person or spirit. They are closely bound up with the system of superstition just described. To "utter a 'pari' to a person's face" is equivalent to casting a spell upon him and so the "pari" utterer is not far removed from the sorcerer. Nature yields obedience to these powers. The setting of the sun may be hastened or delayed by certain processes. The rain-makers are supposed to know incantations which will produce either rain or lightning which latter they can direct against those they dislike. At the present time the state of transition is very marked in relation to the efficiency [28/29] of "pari." The strong conservative desire to preserve all native customs came out in the explanation given of the luxuriance of certain native crops in a mountain district by a coast-man who disliked the foreigner's ways. "Here the crops are good. There is no Sunday rest, no school, no Government duties; the people have time to say the 'pari,' and the food is plentiful." Another attitude is that of the man, who would not give himself wholly to the one life or the other. "I have both the New Guinea and the Christian 'pari' in my heart." The third stage is that of the woman who said, "I need not teach my daughter the New Guinea 'pari' to use in the food gardens, she has the Christian 'pari' in her heart." The belief that unseen powers guide and rule men's lives is not far off when these facts arc kept in view. Man feels his weakness and needs external aid to sustain him in his journey through life.
One feature of this keen realization of the spirit world is the belief in personal immortality and the future life. This seems to be the ineradicable possession of the human heart in one form or another. A man's body is laid in the earth but "he" goes to the unseen world. In Goodenough Bay, the district chiefly under review, the part that goes forth is the "konaga," a term applied to the reflection seen in the eye of a living man. When he dies and the eye glazes this reflection is no longer seen. It has gone to the nether regions. The man when dead is spoken of as the "konaga;" occasionally before burial the corpse will be so termed but no "konaga" is ever buried. It has gone forth to another life, and there i It is occupied in the same habits and pursuits and interests as on earth. After a period which is never defined, the "konaga" dies and becomes a spirit, goes into the sea and feeds on the foam. There he remains for ever.
 The man never dies. He will need food for his journey so this is placed upon his grave. He will require it when he revisits, as he is expected to do, the haunts familiar to him in life, so the food is renewed. He will come back to hunt, so spears are placed there too. On the other hand, he is able to cook his own food in the nether regions, for the smoke of the volcano, Mount Victory in Collingwood Bay, often elicits the remark, "There are the dead cooking their food."
The belief in immortality is universal, though the details vary and oven contradict one another. Sir WTilliam MacGregor has stated: "Married couples in some cases where jealousy exists, to make sure in the case of one dying before the other that the survivor may not marry again, threaten to return in the spirit and work all kinds of ill. This does not prevent them always from marrying again but it proves that the idea of a future state of existence is strongly imbued in their nature." [Government Report, B. N. G., 1893-4, p. 76.]
A sight not unknown to any one who has resided in New Guinea is the widow of one lately laid to rest prostrate on the new-made grave, calling passionately upon the departed by name, and holding a long and animated conversation with him until she is silenced by physical exhaustion.
The following is the native legend, in Goodenough Bay, of "The Man who visited the Unseen World," and expresses the local belief as to the life beyond the grave:--
"A man was walking along the beach, and heard his name called. He looked up and saw his dead wife in a tree. It was her spirit and she said, 'Tie up your dog or it will bite me.' So he tied it up and carried it. Then she led him for two days till they came to a big hole in the hill and they went in and walked for another day. [30/31] Then she said, 'Tie up your dog and leave it here.' He did so. 'Otherwise,' she said, 'you will never come back and we should never reunite again.' So he then came to the place and saw all the people working at their gardens. At sunset they fell to pieces and became invisible. At dawn their limbs reunited once more and the man came away and got back safely again to his village with his dog."
A hint at transmigration of souls is contained in a belief which comes from the hills above Goodenough Bay. There the child's spirit does not enter him until he is able to speak or gains intelligence. Others put it differently. He has an uninstructed vaporous soul which is in danger of being lost. Or the spirit of an ancestor may seek to enter into some new-born member of his line to its detriment. At any rate the right spirit has to be got into the child and the wrong one kept out and charms and exorcisms are employed for this purpose. When a very young child has convulsions, or cries continually, the parents may be heard calling to the wandering spirit. Again when a baby is carried along a path for the first time the father walks some little distance behind and throws down bundles of leaves. This is to avoid the danger of the spirit not finding the path, for then the child would never be able to speak.
The idea of sacrifice and propitiation is not absent from the Papuan mind, though it is not very prominent. Over a very large stretch of coast the practice of dedicating each new house for the community and each new fighting canoe by human sacrifice was customary. The lamented but glorious death of James Chalmers and his companions in 1901 has been ascribed to the fact that they were the first suitable victims that arrived after the building of one of these houses, for they were massacred just as they got inside. An instance of belief in the efficacy of human [31/32] sacrifice in the past is shown by a legend dealing with the erection of a house. The builder could not lift a particularly heavy post into the hole dug for it. He killed a dog and laid it in the hole, but still the post resisted his efforts. Then he sacrificed a pig, with the same lack of result. At last he seized a child, and killing it, laid it in the hole. This time he was successful. The legend explains that the child belonged to another tribe and that a member of that tribe when' wishing to build was given a child in return for the one killed.
This system of payment is very typical. "A life for a life" is engrained into the Papuan system, and many white men have lost their lives in payment for natives who have died or been killed while in the company of foreigners. Many of the natives, recruited in 1883-4 for the Queensland plantations, never returned and attacks on traders and others were frequent in consequence. The difficulty was at last met by the Queensland authorities sending a present of trade articles to the relatives of every native whom they were unable to return. This satisfied the people and their alarm on behalf of the departed was allayed, for the native belief is that unless compensation is made by payment or the taking of a life the spirit of the unatoned will have no rest in the unseen world.
Over the whole of the East Cape Peninsula and up to the head of Goodenough Bay the existence of a distinct religious system has lately been discovered. In 1901 a great feast was held in the hill country above Bartle Bay at which elaborate ceremonies took place, at the time puzzling and obscure. Preparations for the feast commenced a long time beforehand. It had a special name given to it from the platform on which the ceremonies took place. This great gathering apparently occurred every sixteen to twenty years. Certain dancers [32/33] were prepared by training and fasting beforehand, and many pigs were brought in for the feast. The chief ceremony was the carrying in procession from the bush a mango tree which with groat pomp and circumstance was placed in the centre of the platform. Some two thousand people were present and were exhorted to avoid making any disturbance, so that the spirits might not be angry and "the religious ceremonies" upset.
The mission party present asked to be allowed, on grounds of humanity, to shoot the pigs for the feast and this was conceded. But when it was being done the "governor of the feast" and others complained that the pigs were dying too quietly and unless they cried out "the mango tree -would not hear them." This they evidently regarded as a great disaster. So one was made to squeal and the need was satisfied. The feast followed the usual course of dancing, food preparation and distribution and all that could be made out of it was that it seemed to be a kind of harvest festival, suitable enough at a time when pigs were numerous and food plentiful.
Four years elapsed before the full meaning was disclosed. A long while ago when human victims were offered Dabedabe was born. He was the only man-child; the rest of his mother's offspring were pigs. He lay in the hollow of a tree, now known as Dabedabe's tree, which has a shoot like a human teat. Dabedabe grew up and was anxious to stop human sacrifice. He heard one day that a feast was to be held at a certain place and he sent his servants to see if the victims were human beings or pigs. The servant found the victims all tied up and when he moved them they uttered human cries. Dabedabe then went to the feasters and explained the advantage of pigs, showing them a number of bones which were those of his own brothers and sisters. Thus [33/34] he was instrumental in getting pigs substituted for human victims. In time Dabedabe died but his spirit can be passed, by ceremonies and incantations, into a mango tree selected for the purpose. This is placed, as already described, in the centre of the platform and reverence akin to worship is paid to it. It cries out for victims. Sacrifices must be offered if it would send a blessing upon the land. It must be sure that the pigs are offered. It must hear their cries, smell the burning fat, and know that the blood has been poured out. Otherwise the land will not yield her fruit, the pigs will not be productive the crops will fail, the fruit trees be barren and even the women fail to bear children.
The tree is a sacred tree; every part of it is treasured, even to the dry leaves and the dust that falls from it. No one must be without a portion, otherwise he will not be admitted to the ordinary village feast where food is exchanged and every one makes merry. What is left of the tree after this distribution is carefully treasured. It has its own special house and its guardian. At times it cries out for more victims. It demands the smell of the sacrifice. And so it is brought out and exhibited and fresh pigs are killed and those who desire to possess themselves of a leaf or twig have the opportunity afforded them. The greatest reverence is ensured in all who take a prominent part in this feast. For three months previously they abstain from boiled food, from flesh, from women and from water. The last-named prohibition prevents them washing as well as drinking water. In fact, their only drink for this period is roasted sugar-cane and cocoanut juice.
Here are all the elements of a religious system: The belief in powers more than human, the discipline of self, the incantations, the sacrifice, the propitiation, and the feast upon the victims. The words of Archbishop Benson [34/35] are not amiss here: "A religious tone of mind, though heathen, is a better field for Christian effort than a non-religious tone of mind. ... It is the upgrowth of many generations. The religious tone in any nation has been gradually formed in it and for any generation that we may be dealing with it is the offspring of the teaching of old traditions, conveyed by teaching and by habits early formed. . . . We ought to do our utmost to understand the religions we are to deal with. ... It is not true that they are ordinarily wicked except by contrast. We know that there may be wickedness in and among them. . . . But we know it has been so in Christianity too. . . . We must be prepared to follow the misbeliefs and misunderstandings to their very root and origin." ["Life," pp. 458-9, 461.]
In investigating the nature of Papuan beliefs and superstitions great difficulties have to be encountered. The secretiveness and suspicion ingrained in the native character has to be met, and these are somewhat accentuated in days when the fear of the Government, which sets itself resolutely to put down sorcery, "the old customs," makes natives wonder if the missionary is playing the part of a "delator."
Again, when beginning his work in a new district the missionary is most anxious not to compromise the new teaching by appearing to sanction any breach of the moral law. With his feeble grasp of the language and the perplexing nature of native customs ---especially dances--and in face of the laxity that prevails, the policy of non-committal seems the only possible one. Yet to stand aloof must often seem to the native mind to condemn. It may lead to the drying up of all sources of local information and the idea so quickly formed by the native that "New Guinea" spells heathenism and "evil deeds," to the missionary. If so, a check is put upon all [35/36] reference to native ways and habits in his presence. On the other hand, an ardent nature, longing to dispel from the native mind the idea that the missionary regards all local customs as in themselves wrong, and eager to separate the innocent from the impure, may without knowing it act and speak unwisely, and suggest to the native a very false conception of the purpose for which he has come amongst them. The royal road is the road of patience. The mission had been working fourteen years in Goodenough Bay before the religious system here described was at all understood; and it seems better to wait as long, and even longer, than give wrong impressions on moral questions and as the result of impatience let the Church's trumpet give an uncertain sound.
An answer has now been given to the question, "How far can traces of a religion be found amongst the Papuans?" It has been shown that he lives in a world peopled by superhuman influences, who take the closest interest, nay, constantly interfere, in all the details of his daily life. He desires to propitiate them by offerings and to avert their ill-will by employing and paying those who have the requisite power. He believes that every action of the day must be made fruitful by the use of incantations. He is prepared to offer sacrifice to secure prosperous seasons and fruitful fields. He believes that when he dies he will pass into the unseen world, preserving his individuality and neither unremembering nor unremembered, will pursue his course. "What a basis is here for the building up of the Christian faith and the Christian life! True, weeds and nettles have grown round and into the foundation; there is much to be cut and cleared away. The stones will need to be reset. But a preparation there has been. The nature has been taught to look out beyond itself. It has learned deeply [36/37] the great principle of superhuman aid and the truth, when at length presented, finds something in the native heart on which to build.
In estimating the personal characteristics of the Papuan it is again necessary to emphasize the fact that he is a child--a child with the passions of a man. He quickly passes from one mood to another. He is excitable, demonstrative in joy and grief, passionate and fickle. He lives in the present and thinks of little beyond the limits of the passing day; also he is essentially Eastern in thought and ways and must not be measured by Western standards.
His special weaknesses, from a Christian point of view, are impurity, untruthfulness and a callousness in giving pain, especially to dumb animals.
In impurity the mission teacher finds his greatest foe. The utmost laxity prevails before marriage and after marriage a man will "throw away" his wife and take another in her place with very little concern. The temptation that assails a young Christian on this head is incessant. A lad who made a short visit to some other villages, said on his return that he was tempted to commit sin with fifteen different people; on one occasion he found his temptress lying down beside him when he awoke in the early morning. The fathers of these girls would encourage them in this--it was a mark of hospitality. The Christian teacher has so constantly to war against this sin, that the words "bad deeds" have assumed to the native mind the limited meaning of impurity. As regards sin after marriage cases of adultery are common. It is the cause of many quarrels' and the Government makes it a punishable offence. But it is often hard to get evidence for the injured husband does not feel injured; he may take his revenge by committing the same offence with the paramour's wife. Group marriage is not [37/38] unknown, and there is reason to believe that men whose wives were suckling their children had access for the time to the wives of all those of their own generation; yet native customs never failed to forbid men having intercourse with women of their own sept or clan. Christian teaching has practically killed this practice of group marriage, even though its widespread existence was only discovered after its extinction. Laxity after marriage is illustrated by an incident reported by a native teacher. He heard a man jeering at another and giving as evidence of his own superiority the fact that he had frequently changed his wives while the other had kept entirely to one. This case shows that laxity though very common was not universal. The fight with impurity is the hardest that the Christian teacher has to wage, but that it is waged with success the true, pure lives of many native Christians, men and women, are witnesses. In the direction of purifying common talk, great improvement has taken place. Obscene words were not only used as forms of abuse but also of pleasantry and even of endearment. A native Christian said not long ago, "When we were children, we were told filthy stories by the older people in connection with places and things; our children will never hear them!" A moral conscience is created and the "new, clean life" comes into view.
Lying is closely connected with the sin of impurity. An offender will lie shamelessly to protect himself. He will confess what you make him aware is known to you of his misdeeds but keep back what is unknown. An amusing instance of lying after theft came out in connection with a native feast where a pig's heart was stolen, and the accused person stoutly maintained that the pig never had a heart, backing it up by the argument that a great many pigs are so constituted. It is, of course, wrong to be found out in a lie. "You told that [38/39] lie badly" is all the rebuke a parent or a friend will utter; yet here also a conscience is being created. The sentiment "It is wrong to lie" is often on native lips and men are known to witness truthfully even to their own detriment. This weakness is thoroughly Eastern. To gain an end secretly, to use cunning not force, to avert anger rather than brave it--this seems natural and sensible to these people, and the whole experience and training of life in the olden days developed this peculiarity. The hostile tribes in the hills or along the coast, and the evil spirits all around and about them, kept the Papuan ever on the defence, ever eager to avert disaster, ever secretly thinking and scheming how to protect himself. The advent of the white man exposes him to fresh risks. These he tries to escape by using the same weapons that have often proved effectual in meeting other kinds of danger.
As regards his callousness in giving pain, it is hard to defend the Papuan. It is not fair to say that he is cruel but he certainly seems indifferent to the sufferings of others. This is most commonly exemplified in these days of peace by his habit of giving pain to animals. He will snare a bird, or net a wallaby or wild pig, and break its wings or legs to prevent it escaping. The Tugeri in the west used to break the arms and legs of their prisoners so that they should not fight or run away. Men will prepare a pig for a feast by breaking all its front teeth with a stone that its flesh may be more tender after a week's fast. Pigs in the hills and elsewhere are often blinded to prevent them seeing their way to the gardens and eating the food. The children are very fond of tying butterflies, birds, or mice to a string and using them as playthings. A boy will play for an hour or more with a little furry tree-bear, letting it run all over him and fondling it; then, wearying of his play and feeling [39/40] hungry, he will throw it alive on to the hot embers of a fire breaking its legs to prevent it getting away. It is a common sight to see an animal or bird being singed over the fire without first being killed. Probably the same was done formerly to human victims. Not that there seems any delight in torturing creatures but their pain is no concern.
On the other hand, the Papuan has many excellent qualities of heart, which only need the beautiful influence of the world's Redeemer to purify and make Christian graces.
He is generous and open-handed. He will share his food with his friends and even strangers will be invited to partake if they reach a village when food has been prepared. Give a lad a cocoanut, a biscuit, a plate of rice--he may be alone at the time and the gift may be intended as a special reward for services performed--yet he will not eat it at once. He will go to his friends and divide the food amongst them with scrupulous exactness, reserving only an equal portion for himself--a portion which he will the very next moment halve with another who unexpectedly joins the party. A not unfamiliar sight in these days is a man returning from a year's absence during which he has wearily carried rice and other loads for the miner on the goldfield, or worked on the trader's pearl-shelling, bêche-de-mer, or recruiting vessel. He comes back to his village with rich stores of trade tobacco, calico, tomahawks, knives, pouches, belts and mirrors. He has first to pay those who have done the work in his garden during his absence. But that is by no means the limit of his benefactions. Every one claims friendship with him and no such claim goes unrequited. At the end of a few days he has little left but a tomahawk, a calico, and a few sticks of tobacco. It is easy to say that he will at a future date make a similar [40/41] claim on others. This may be true; but what if his fellow-villagers never follow his example of going away to work and therefore never have the opportunity of imitating his generosity? It cannot be denied that this characteristic generosity of the Papuan reminds the observer of the quality of megaloprepeia which Aristotle commends. ["Ethics," Book IV.] The "munificent man" combines greatness and propriety. He chooses a befitting occasion for a large expenditure. "We must take into consideration the grandeur and the moral effect produced on the beholders." There is in this a strong vein of self-consciousness. It is more blessed to give than to receive because it ministers more to self-esteem, and the man magnifies himself in all eyes by giving rather than receiving benefits. While this spirit undoubtedly tinges the open-handedness of the Papuan it must not be allowed to negative it. He most generously shares with others what he possesses. It is largely the effect of what he has been trained and brought up in, viz. a communal possession of land, food, tools, and ornaments. There is a beautiful expression in the Motu district; a generous man is there described as one who "eats and looks up." He looks up to see if there is any one whom he can call to share his food. Elsewhere in the Pacific generosity is accounted the highest virtue. [Ambrym, New Hebrides; vide "Saints and Savages," Dr Lamb, p. 220.] "If a man is liberal towards his friends during life; if, when he gets a child, for instance, he gives pigs to his relations and friends--on the mother's side of the house as well as on his own--he will go to the good place and be saved. But the pigs and feasts a man gives in order to get a big name and rise in rank don't count--there is no merit in doing that."
There is great difference of opinion as to whether [41/42] a Papuan is grateful for benefits received. Numerous instances may be cited from any missionary's experience of benefits conferred upon a native leading to the recipient promptly demanding payment. A mission nurse healed a most evil-smelling sore on a native's leg and was asked by him, "How much are you going to give me? You have put ointment on me for two moons!" Yet an equal number of instances may be brought on the other side--grateful patients bringing baskets of food, natives in their villages far away from the mission station recognizing their benefactor, as he itinerates, and welcoming him with a cordial invitation to share the simple hospitality. The Papuan is not ungrateful but he has a way of introducing his main lines of thought into every day's events. One of these is the strict law of payment. For all that he does he expects some return and, if he subjects himself to a long course of treatment, he thinks that some payment for the time he has given up and the obedience he has rendered is his due. Other natives under similar circumstances possessed by the same principle but applying it differently, feel that they should pay for the medicine or ointment received and the services of the nurse or doctor rendered to them.
The Papuan, then, is marked by an open-handed, open-hearted generosity, only equalled by the lavishness of a child who in an enthusiasm of affection bestows his all upon the object of his love. It is a condition of heart that cleared of self-consciousness and improvidence and inspired by a new motive offers a fair field for the seed springing into the flower and fruit of Christian charity.
Again, the domestic affections of the Papuan are strong. Fathers and mothers are indulgent to a fault with their children. A bandage that incommodes a child is at once removed regardless of consequences. This arises from a real though misplaced sympathy. [42/43] The discipline and punishment of children by foreign parents or teachers perplexes them. At one moment the "foreigner" is rebuking a native for ill-treating a dumb animal yet at the next he is himself punishing a child whom he seems to love for he has often fed him, and taught him and tended him in sickness! Parents have said to the mission teacher, "If you punish him my heart will be distressed!" The love of wife and child is sincere. After threatened danger a man has said, "Had I been killed, who would have looked after my wife and boy?" Brothers have come offering to be punished for those younger than themselves. Women will not leave their sick children to others and get food for themselves, even when needing it greatly. A remarkable instance of domestic affection is cited by Sir W. MacGregor from Toaripi. A small house there was owned by a married couple, a blind man about forty and the wife about thirty-five. "She appeared first with a load of firewood and food on her back, and holding the end of a stick in her right hand, by which she was leading her blind husband who held it by the other end. He had many sores and bruises, the result of knocking himself against sticks, etc., and he suffered from hydrocele. The greater portion of his face was eaten away and disfigured by lupus; the corrosion had invaded and destroyed his eyes so that he was stone-blind and unique in his ugliness and deformity. She was fearful at first that harm might be done to him but was speedily reassured on that ground. On receiving a little present of tobacco for herself, she smiled in the most devoted and affectionate manner into the fragments of her husband's face and looked with loving eyes into his ulcerated, sightless orbs. She then put him into a small canoe, seated herself in one end and paddled He was the most loathsome-looking husband, [43/44] and she perhaps the most loving and devoted wife I have ever seen." [Government Report, B. N. G., 1892-3, p. 25.]
It will no doubt be possible to bring on the other side many instances of lack of affection of mothers to newborn children--cases where they have thrown away their babies in order to ensure their own escape. An occasion will be remembered in Goodenough Bay when a sickly baby was left where a pig would kill it, to save the trouble of rearing it; another when the same man went off to the mountains with his mother dying in the village that he might avoid having to dig her grave. Cape Vogel was notorious not long ago for the number of cases brought before the magistrate of mothers murdering their children, though the scarcity of food in their district may account for this. But these are exceptional instances and nearly all deal with newly-born children. It is rare to find cases of mothers willing to part with their little ones even for a time. Also the cruel practice, as it seems to foreigners, of burying in their mothers' grave infants lately born, has been explained by the deaire both to protect them from neglect and starvation and the community from children so ill-starred as to cause their mothers' death. On the whole, it is true to say that the family tie is a strong one, the parent has great affection for his or her child and shows it in a sincere though undemonstrative way. This characteristic it may be which causes the native to be greatly moved by pictures of our Lord on the cross. Some, as the result of this picture being shown to them with the magic-lantern, have expressed a desire to at once set off and avenge His death. It has led others to ask for teaching and the catechumenate. Good Friday and the solemn events it commemorates have found people who have been taught to enter into its meaning, keeping the day as a still and solemn one, sitting silently in little [44/45] groups under the trees (a most unusual occurrence among natives), the children refusing to play, several quietly shedding tears. Their gentle, sympathetic nature is wonderfully evidenced in this way.
But perhaps the most admirable characteristic of this race and one in which the Anglo-Saxon may well confess himself greatly defective, is the Papuan's patience. His nature is even and equable. He blames little. He accepts the inevitable. He never grumbles for grumbling's sake. Complaints which cannot alter either the present or the past, never pass his lips. He is prepared to take time for anything he does. He will let other people waste his time. He starts on a journey and comes back when he has seen his friends, or satisfied his desire for a change, or finds his food supply exhausted. He does not bind himself to time and therefore is never in a hurry. Mountain people will come long journeys to the mission station or trading vessel, content to accept little pieces of tobacco in exchange for their baskets of food, often kept waiting at the white man's pleasure, and then starting on their long, steep climb under a scorching sun back to their homes in the hills, so contented, so patient, so cheerful and uncomplaining. The native laboriously produces fire by friction. His process of shaving is a training in patience. The men shave one another, picking out each hair by catching it between two vegetable threads, and never wearying in their task. The early explorers of New Guinea were puzzled to know how the disc-shaped clubs were fitted with handles. The head of basalt, an inch thick, was drilled with a hole, through which the wooden shaft was placed. One day a man in the village was found at this work. He was tapping the thick basalt with a rounded pebble, first on one side with endless blows, and then on the other. It must have been the work of days, nay weeks, till the two round holes [45/46] met in the centre and the disc-shaped stone was perforated.
Many a native carrier and schooner-boy has followed his white master into danger--often much hardship and suffering has been his lot--but he never complains. Some are quickly frightened but are willing to be reassured by those whom they trust. Others will be cheerful in the midst of very real danger. None will ever show ill-will towards him who has involved them in so awkward a situation. He is sharing it with them, and they will remain unruffled, unexcited, without a murmur or a grumble, only uttering some remark, which shows that their thoughts are in their own village: "This is a bad place," and the inevitable is accepted. This quality, again, is Eastern. It is a constant rebuke to those who at the least emergency are hasty in word and deed, complaining at the slightest hardship and grumbling at that which no grumbling can alter. It is often, too, an eloquent sermon without words to the Christian from his unbaptized brother, and the mission teacher may gain an unexpected revelation of character which recalls to his mind nothing less than the patience and gentleness of his Divine Master and recalls it to his own shame and confusion.
This characteristic of patience has its weak side. There is a disinclination on the part of the native to do to-day what he can put off until to-morrow. "By-and-by" is an expression that soon becomes familiar to the foreigner. Some critics will say that that putting off goes further than the morrow and will accuse the Papuan of downright, incorrigible idleness. There has probably never been a more unjust charge, when levied without qualification, against a native race. While acknowledging that there are places and individuals where idleness is to be found, as among all other races, it is far truer to say that the Papuan is industrious. He must not be measured [46/47] by Western standards. The work expended on his garden, house, canoe, fishing and hunting gear, native cloth and ornaments constitutes industry. A man snug and warm under the Equator, with nature bountifully yielding her fruit to his hand, cannot be expected to work like one who is shivering in the bleak regions of the Poles. An Anglo-Saxon, who buys his clothes, imports his food, pays others to build his house and repair his boat, is hardly the man to levy the charge of idleness against those who supply all these and other needs for themselves. A good deal of misunderstanding arises from lack of acquaintance with local conditions of work. In some districts a native rises very early, is at work in the garden soon after the sun is up, and having worked laboriously for several hours, returns to his village to sleep or rest during the hottest part of the day. Again, certain work--not by any means the most laborious--is done by the women, and when the season for the women's work comes on their husbands are off duty and may then be found for several days running in the villages, performing all kinds of necessary tasks which from the quiet way in which they are done, and the hours over which they are spread, often escape the notice of his critic. The chief fault in the native, from a white man's point of view, is really his greatest excellence. He is so simple in his habits and mode of life that he does not care to "toil and moil" for those things which other people value. He is content with his own plain living and cannot see why at a stranger's bidding, he should leave all he loves to face hardship, unaccustomed food, a master with capricious temper, loss of liberty, and work which is often too severe for his constitution--leading to sickness and, in many cases to death. This latter fact of the inability of natives in tropical lands to do work which is not injurious to other races in different circumstances is often overlooked. The [47/48] following strong testimony to the ill results of such treatment may here be recorded; it is the statement of a medical man: "These natives are not constituted for such hard work. Look at those 'boys' on the jetty yonder. One of them came to me with a ruptured vessel at the back of the eye; he was carrying a sack of potatoes, and suddenly went blind in that eye. Another was lifting a sack of flour and strained his back; inflammation followed and he was carried to hospital and his pelvis found to be riddled with abscesses. The sacral wedge, or keystone of the pelvic arch, had given way; there was no hope for him and he died after a few weeks of profuse suppuration. "When taken to the white man's country they can't stand the long hours and the sudden changes of climate; and you know the great reproach against the trade is that it kills three or four Kanakas to one white man. Their tissues are too soft--they get consumption, come home to die and infect their fellows." [Dr. Lamb, "Saints and Savages," p. 57.]
The native knows his own capabilities better than his critics do; and the acres and acres of ground at the food gardens, carefully cultivated by means of wooden digging-sticks, and the clever irrigation systems in force, alone contradict most effectually the charge that he is lazy in his work.
The last characteristic of the Papuan to be dwelt upon is his sense of justice. This is very real and British rule has greatly developed it. At first the prison system perplexed the native. He was taken away from his home and his friends never expected to see him again. But they were astonished to hear that he was housed comfortably and kept well supplied with food. This was an expense they thought the Government might willingly be spared, so a large present was prepared and was brought in payment for the man's release. When this was refused [48/49] they despaired of understanding such strange ways. They know now that work has to be done by the prisoner--often laborious work--consequently the food is regarded as payment for it. This the native supposes is the Government's plan of getting its work done, just as the gold-miners, many think, are employed by the Government to go inland and bring forth the earth's treasures. The Government is just and they do not now question its right to employ in its own way both whites and natives. In the early days they were not so satisfied. For instance, a man was arrested by the policeman for spearing and killing another villager. This he thought hard for he explained, "The spear only went in a very little way."
The mission teacher may, unless he is careful, offend this innate sense of justice even in the children under his care. Talking over events which happened some years previously a youth reminded his teacher, "One day you caned me." "Surely I caned you many times," was the reply. "Yes; but this punishment was an unjust one--I had done nothing to deserve it--the others I have forgotten." The native never forgets unpaid scores. Instances of little unfairnesses which would soon pass out of the minds of others are recalled by the native and many a time talked over at night in the public sleeping-house where the unmarried men and lads reside. It is to this sense of justice, as much as to a realization of his impotence, that may be ascribed the readiness with which the native of New Guinea has yielded to law and order.
The Papuan now stands out in clear and distinct outlines. He is not a materialist. He possesses a distinct religious system, which keeps ever before his mind the unseen and the intangible. He has many excellent qualities. He is generous and open-hearted; his domestic affections [49/50] are well developed; he is of a patient and equable temperament; he is not ungrateful though he has a way of introducing his ideas of payment into all relations with other people. To this is largely due his keen sense of justice and love of quoting precedents which he treasures up in a remarkably fresh and reliable memory. He takes little account of time but can make out a very good case for himself in rebutting the charge of laziness so freely brought against him.