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24. CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR
IDEAS SUGGESTED BY THE FEAST OF CALABASHES--INACCURACY OF CERTAIN PUBLISHED ACCOUNTS OF THE ISLANDS--A REASON--NEGLECTED STATE OF HEATHENISM IN THE VALLEY--EFFIGY OF A DEAD WARRIOR--A SINGULAR SUPERSTITION--THE PRIEST KOLORY AND THE GOD MOA ARTUA--AMAZING RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE--A DILAPIDATED SHRINE--KORY-KORY AND THE IDOL--AN INFERENCE
ALTHOUGH I had been baffled in my attempts to learn the origin of the Feast of Calabashes, yet it seemed very plain to me that it was principally, if not wholly, of a religious character. As a religious solemnity, however, it had not at all corresponded with the horrible descriptions of Polynesian worship which we have received in some published narratives, and especially in those accounts of the evangelized islands with which the missionaries have favoured us. Did not the sacred character of these persons render the purity of their intentions unquestionable, I should certainly be led to suppose that they had exaggerated the evils of Paganism, in order to enhance the merit of their own disinterested labours.
In a certain work incidentally treating of the 'Washington, or Northern Marquesas Islands,' I have seen the frequent immolation of human victims upon the altars of their gods, positively and repeatedly charged upon the inhabitants. The same work gives also a rather minute account of their religion--enumerates a great many of their superstitions--and makes known the particular designations of numerous orders of the priesthood. One would almost imagine from the long list that is given of cannibal primates, bishops, arch-deacons, prebendaries, and other inferior ecclesiastics, that the sacerdotal order far outnumbered the rest of the population, and that the poor natives were more severely priest-ridden than even the inhabitants of the papal states. These accounts are likewise calculated to leave upon the reader's mind an impression that human victims are daily cooked and served up upon the altars; that heathenish cruelties of every description are continually practised; and that these ignorant Pagans are in a state of the extremest wretchedness in consequence of the grossness of their superstitions. Be it observed, however, that all this information is given by a man who, according to his own statement, was only at one of the islands, and remained there but two weeks, sleeping every night on board his ship, and taking little kid-glove excursions ashore in the daytime, attended by an armed party.
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