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The Fijians: A Study of the Decay of Custom

Klnda and Yalovaki

Klnda and Yalovaki

Not less important in the native polity were the wizard's services in the detection of crime. This was a special branch of the black art, and the ndaukinda seldom engaged in the deadly business of ndraunikau. When property was stolen the owner took a present to the seer, and told the story of his loss. The seer, bidding the man pronounce the names of those whom he suspected, fell into deep abstraction, and presently checked the man at a certain name, announcing that an itching in his side or this finger or toe proved the person named to be the thief. If the seer was a member of the tribe he would dispense with the names, and would begin to twitch convulsively and himself pronounce the thief's name. If he was lucky enough to hit upon the right man—and an intimate knowledge of the characters and relations of his fellowtribesmen often enabled him to do so—the offender would confess at once, for to brazen out a theft against the evidence of a seer's little finger demanded an effrontery that no Fijian could boast. The proper course for a person wrongfully accused by a seer was shown in the case of Mbuli Yasawa, who in 1885 was charged with embezzling the district funds. It appeared that the funds in question were intact, but that, through an error in book-keeping, the scribe had led the page 168people to believe that a considerable sum had been abstracted. Persons were deputed to consult a noted seer, called Ndrau-ni-ivi, whose finger tingled at the mention of the Mbuli's name. The poor Mbuli, knowing for the best of reasons that he was innocent, instead of taking the obvious course of submitting his books to be audited by the magistrate, presented a larger fee to a rival seer to "press down" (mbika) that given to Ndrau-ni-ivi, and triumphantly vindicated his character by the verdict of his practitioner's great toe. Upon this evidence he prosecuted his slanderers for defamation before the Provincial Court. The cunning and knack of clever guessing necessary for the lucrative calling of the seer formerly made the business a monopoly of the priests.

The yalovaki (soul-stealing) was an even surer method of detecting crime. It was the mildest form of trial by ordeal ever devised, but no boiling water or hot ploughshare could have been more effective. If the evidence was strong, but the suspect obstinately refused to confess, complaint was made to the chief, who summoned the accused, and called for a scarf. Usually the man confessed at the bare mention of the instrument, but if he did not, the cloth was waved over his head until his spirit (yalo) was entangled in it, and it was then folded together and nailed to the prow of the chief's canoe. Then the man went mad, for the mad are they whose soul have been stolen away.