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FIJIAN FIRE WALKERS., Issue 10452, 23 October 1897, Supplement
FIJIAN FIRE WALKERS.
A MYSTERIOUS CEREMONY. A short time ago the Union Steam Ship Company’s steamer Maori made an excursion from Suva, Fiji, to the Island of Bega, to allow visitors to witness the celebrated “ Firewalkers ” on this island. This mysterious ceremony, the secret ofwhich is known to only one tribe on this particular island, has puzzled old and experienced scientists, and no satisfactory solution of the feat has yet been discovered. The ceremony has only been performed at long intervals, and this was the first occasion on which it had been opened to the general public. There was a large gathering to witness the Fijians walking over the hot stones.—’ Daily Telegraph,’ Sydney, August 25. The above extraordinary proceeding was described in the Government paper of Fiji, printed in the native language, and ca’led ‘Na Mata,’ some eleven years ago. It is a very rare performance, indeed, and as extraordinary as it is rare. When gone through in ISBC, a high Government official was present, and vouched for the narrative as correct. Mbengga is an island of some size, near Suva, and has a legendary importance . as the seat of gods, and then of high chiefs in the misty past. There are traditions extant there, one of which, a, veritable fairy tale, bears upon the performance referred to in the extract from the ‘ Daily Telegraph 5 at the head of this article.
A man called Tingalita had discovered a large eel in a cave at Namoliwai, and, wishing on a later occasion to capture the creature to make a present thereof to some friends, he revisited the cave and made preparations for securing its occupant; Aftcr exploring with. his hands the dark interior, and then groping in the mud for some time, he at last came upon a hand, and then a head of a human form, and, seizing the body, drew it out into the open air for inspeotion. The fairy, for such it proved to he, crouched in humble supplication, and begged to be released, promising to Tingalita to be his “god of war”; but no, he was obdurate. Then “ I will be your good genius in the but he was obdurate still. He then offered to be his “god of riches,” of “ fine women,” and to assist in various desirable capacities, but Tingalita was obdurate still. At last the fairy said: “ Tingalita, when your tribesmen of Sawau have a masawe baking you and I can be baked in the oven and dug out alive in four days’ time.” This tempting offer was more than Tingalita could resist, and so he closed with it, and gave the fairy his liberty. In time a pit-oven was prepared, stones were made hot in it, and when they were at their whitest heat the fairy sprung in and seated himself upon them. “ Come on, Tingalita, my chief, and join me here,” he cried ; but the other thought twice about it. At last he made up his mind—“ Here goes ! ” and in he stopped. But, lo ! the stones were cold to him. He thought, however, that, delightful as it was, it would be unnecessary to spend four days there, an occasional renewal of the feat being sufficient. Whereupon his strangelv-acquired friend bestowed on him the power that for himself, his heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns, and all his descendants, they should walk on 6re unharmed, and tread on hot stones without a singeing. And this he vanished for ever. a °
This, then, is the explanation of what is referred: .to in the news cited. When the Sawau people.last gave a demonstration of the faculty which has come down to them from their progenitor, Tingalita, they invited many spectators and the Governor’s Commissioner from Suva. What was done was this. - ‘
A pit was dug, known as a lovo (by the average white man miscalled a “lote”), firewjod was placed in this, and then round water-worn'stones upon the wood. The cavity thus occupied was from 12 to 18' feet long, and when the timber was fired a great heat sprang up so that men could only approach it, shading themselves with large via leaves. When the heat was, :such ah this, the brands were removed,- and the red hot stones left. Jonathan, a Native stipendiary magistrate, led the way into the .formidable pit, bare - legged and bare - footed, and there crouched about upon, tho hot stones;.two or three of his tribesmen following him and doing likewise. “They moved slowly’’-iaaid an _ eye - witness—“ and did not lift up their ‘ feet quickly from the heated pavement, but walked leisurely about. And when they came up out of the pit to where we stood tbero was not one of them whose -foot was .burnt, or who had a burn or a singed hair upon-his body-or limbs. Nor had they anointed themselves with oil, or rubbed themselves over with any preparation.”. After this a company of Sawau men, numbering twenty, walked the whole length -of the hot trench, and returning stood in the midst of it. On, quantities of green leaves being throwir there, a dense vapor uprose from the heat, and hid from view the fire kings. : . Since the above was gone through, the foremost scientific gentleman then in Fiji witnessed a repetition of the ordeal, and he remarked - that the .way it was done was quite explainable. He did not explain it, however, and no one else as yet has, to the writer’s knowledge, at any rate, given what would be 'a most interesting solution of a very curious fact. ' The intimation given the other day in the ‘Daily Telegraph,’ which stands above, will be more clearly understood by this short narration.—By Rev. A. J. Webb, in the ‘ Australian Christian World.’
FIJIAN FIRE WALKERS., Issue 10452, 23 October 1897, Supplement
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