While a dead body was in the house no food was eaten under the same roof; the family had their meals outside, or in another house. Those who attended the deceased were most careful not to handle food, and for days were fed by others as if they were helpless infants. Baldness and the loss of teeth were supposed to be the punishment inflicted by the household god if they violated the rule. Fasting was common at such times, and they who did so ate nothing during the day, but had a meal in the evening. The fifth day was a day of “purification.” They bathed the face and hands with hot water, and then they were “clean,” and resumed the usual time and mode of eating.
The death of a chief of high rank was attended with great excitement and display; all work was suspended in the settlement; no stranger dared to pass through the place. For days they kept the body unburied, until all the different parties connected with that particular clan assembled from various parts of the islands, and until each party had, in turn, paraded the body, shoulder high, through the village, singing at the same time some mournful dirge. The body, too, was wrapped up in the most valuable fine mat clothing which the deceased possessed.
The burial generally took place the day after death. As many of the friends as could be present in time attended. Every one brought a present, and the day after the funeral these presents were all so distributed again as that every one went away with something in return for what he brought. The body was buried without a coffin, except in the case of chiefs, when a log of wood was hollowed out for the purpose. The body being put into this rude encasement, all was done up again in some other folds of native cloth, and carried on the shoulders of four or five men to the grave. The friends followed, but in no particular order; and at the grave again there was often further wailing and exclamations, such as, “Alas! I looked to you for protection, but you have gone away; why did you die? would that I had died for you!”
The grave was called “the fast resting-place,” and in the case of chiefs, “the house thatched with the leaves of the sandal wood,” alluding to the custom of planting some tree with pretty foliage near the grave. There was no village burying-ground all preferred laying their dead among the ashes of their ancestors on their own particular ground. They carried the skulls of their dead from a land where they had been residing during war back to the graves of their fathers as soon as possible after peace was proclaimed. The grave was often dug close by the house. They made it about four feet deep, and after spreading it with mats, like a comfortable bed, there they placed the body with the head to the rising of the sun, and the feet to the west. With the body they deposited several things which may have been used during the person’s illness, such as his clothing, his drinking-cup, and his bamboo