The Fijians: A Study of the Decay of Custom
Gods of the After-world
Gods of the After-world
Besides the divinities that concerned themselves with terrestrial affairs, there was a well-peopled mythology of the after-life. These beings had neither temples nor priests. They haunted well-known spots on the road by which the Shades must pass to their last resting-place, but as they left the living unmolested, the living were not called upon to make propitiatory offerings. They were kept alive by the professional story-tellers, who revived them after funerals, when men's thoughts were directed to the problem of Death, and they gained in detailed portraiture at every telling. In a land where every stranger is an enemy, the idea of the naked Shade, turned out friendless into eternity, to find his own way to the Elysium of Bulotu, conjured up images of the perils that would beset every lone wayfarer on earth, and the Shade was made to run the gauntlet of fiends that were the incarnations of such perils.
Though the story of the Soul's journey agreed in general outline, the details were filled in by each tribe to suit its geographical position. There was generally water to cross, either the sea or a river, and there was, therefore, a ghostly ferryman (Vakaleleyalo) who treated his passengers with scant courtesy. There was Ghost-scatterer, who stoned the Shade, and Reed-spear, who impaled him. Goddesses of fearsome aspect peered at him, gnashing their teeth; the god of murder fell upon him; the Dismisser sifted out the real dead from the trance-smitten; fisher-fiends entangled cowards in their net; at every turn in the road there was some malevolent being to put the Shade to the ordeal, and search out every weak point, until none but brave warriors who had died a violent death—the only sure passport to Bulotu— passed through unscathed. The names differed, but the features of the myth were the same. The shades of all Vitilevu and the contiguous islands, and of a large part of Vanualevu took the nearest road either to the Nakauvandra range, the dwelling-place of Ndengei, or to Naithombothombo, page 118the jumping-off place in Mbau, and thence passed over the Western Ocean to Bulotu,1 the birth-place of the race.
What belief was more natural for a primitive people, having no revealed belief in a future state except than that the land of which their fathers had told them, where the yams were larger and the air warmer, and the earth more fruitful, was the goal of their spirits after death. We almost do the same ourselves. Englishmen who emigrate never tire of telling their children of the delights of "home" as compared with their adopted country. If the Canadians or South Africans knew nothing of England but what they had heard from their fathers, and had no beliefs concerning a future state, England would have come to be the mysterious paradise whither their souls would journey after death, and their "jumping-off place" would be the mouth of the St. Lawrence or of the Orange River. With the Fijians the traditions have become so dim with antiquity that nothing remains but a vague belief that somewhere to the westward lies the After-world, and that the Shades must leap from the western cliff to reach it.
1 Buro-tu, or Bulo-tu as the Samoans and Tongans call it, is Buro, or Bouro or Bauro with the suffix tu, signifying high rank, which is found in the words tu-i (king) and tu-ranga (chief). There are two places of that name in the West, namely, Bauro (S. Christoval) in the Solomon Islan ds, and Bouro in the Malay Archipelago. Quiros heard of an Indian, "a great pilot," who had come from Bouro when he visited Taumaco in the Duff Group in 1606, and Mr. Hale, the philologist in Wilkes Expedition, tried to establish the identity of the Malay Bouro with the sacred island, by assuming that the "arrows tipped with silver," which Quiros says were in possession of this native, showed that there was communication between Taumaco and the Malay Islands. But, as Dr. Guppy points out (The Solomon Islands, p. 277), the Bouro there alluded to must have been S. Christoval, which was only 300 miles distant, and the silver arrows a relic of the Spanish expedition to that island forty years before. Nevertheless, it is quite possible that S. Christoval was named Bouro by emigrants from the Malay Island after their old home, and that S. Christoval was a halting-place of the race on their journey eastward.
The Spirit Path (Sala Ni Yalo)
There is a long range which has its source at Mumuria in the Kauvandra mountain, and stretches eastward right down to Nathengani at Mokani in Mbau. It is called the Tuatuambalavu (Long Range), but in Tholo and Ra it is called the Tualeita. This range is nowhere broken or cut through, nor does the course of any stream pass through it. And all the streams that discharge into the Wainimbuka take their source in this range, and also the streams that run towards the sea, on the whole coast, from Navitilevu to Namata.
Now our ancestors said that the souls of the dead followed this range on their way to Kauvandra, and at the foot of the range at Mokani was their fountain of drinking water, called Wainindula. We begin our account of the "Spirit Path" at Ndravo, for at that place all the souls of those who have died at Mburetu, and Nakelo, and Tokatoka, and Lomaindreketi, and Ndravo crossed the water.
This is the story—
When a man died his body was washed, and girded up with masi and laid in its shroud. A whale's tooth was laid on his breast, to be his stone to throw at the pandanus-tree, which page 121all the Shades had to aim at. And while his friends were weeping, the Shade left the body and came to a stream so swift that no Shade could swim across it. This stream was called the Wainiyalo (River of the Shades), but it is now called the Ndravo river. When the Shade reached the bank he stood and called towards the Mokani side, where the god Thernba dwelt, the same whose duty it is to ferry the Shades across the water. Now Themba has a great canoe, divided in the middle; one end is of vesi, and in this the chiefs embark; but the other is of ndolou (a kind of bread-fruit), and on this the low-born Shades take passage. The name of the place where they stand and call Themba is Lelele. When the Shade reaches Lelele he stands and calls, "Themba, bring over your canoe." And Themba answers, "Which end is to be the prow?" If the Shade answers, "The vesi end," Themba knows that it is the shade of a chief, but if it cries, "Let the bread-fruit be the prow," it is a low-born Shade, and the bread-fruit end touches the bank.
When the Shade is ferried across from Lelele it goes straight to the bluff at Nathengani, but before it reaches it it has to cross a bridge called Kawakawa-i-rewai. Now this bridge is a monstrous eel, and while the Shade is crossing it, if it writhes it is a sign to the Shade not to tarry, for it means that his wife will not be strangled to follow him. But if the eel does not writhe, then the Shade sits down, for he knows that his wife is being strangled to his manes, and will soon overtake him.
Now, as he climbs the bluff at Nathengani the path is blocked by an orchid, and from this orchid the disposition of the man is known, whether it is good or bad; for if it is the Shade of a man kindly in his life, and he cries to the orchid "Move aside," it allows the Shade to pass, but if it is the Shade of a churlish man the orchid will not move, but still blocks the path, and the Shade has to crawl beneath it. And when he reaches the top of Nathengani he sees the pandanus-tree, and he flings his stone at it. If he hits it he sits down to await his wife, for it means that she has been strangled and is following him, but if he misses it he goes straight on, page 122knowing that no one is following him as an offering to his manes.
It is also related of the eel-bridge that if it turns over as a Shade crosses it, that is a sign that the husband or wife of the Shade has been unfaithful during life, and that when the Shade feels the eel turning he goes forward weeping, because he knows that his wife had been unfaithful to him in life.
A goddess named Tinaingenangena guards the end of the range at Nathengani. These are the verses that relate to her:—
Let us send, for Tinaingenangena,
To teach us the song,
When we have learned it we are dissolved in laughter,
Her short liku is flapping about,
As for us we are being laughed at,
The Shade of the dead is passing on,
Passing on to Nathengani,
He is stepping on the bridge; the eel-bridge,
It writhes and the Shade rolls off,
My dress is wet through,
He speaks to the orchid at Nathengani,
Speaks to the orchid that blocks the road,
Move a little that I may pass on,
He breaks the whale's tooth in half,
Breaks it that we may each have one,
That we may throw at the red pandanus,
He misses and bites his fingers in chagrin,
She loves her life too well.
And as the spirit travels onward it comes to a Ndawa-tree called "The-Ndawa-that-fells-the-Shades" (Vuni-ndawa-thovana-yalo), which stands at Vunithava. This it climbs to tear down the ndawa fruit to be its provision for the journey, and it weeps aloud as it goes in self-pity for the deceit of the wife who had been unfaithful, as it now knows.
And now the Shade hears the voice of the god Ndrondroyalo (Pursuer-of-Shades), and he strides towards the Shade bearing in his hand a great stone with which he pounds the nape of his neck, and the ndawa fruit the Shade is carrying is scattered far and wide. Therefore this spot was called Naitukivatu (the Place-of-the-pounding-stone).
Then the Shade comes to a place called Ndrekei, where there are two goddesses named Nino, whose custom it is to page 123peer at all the Shades that travel along the "Spirit-path." These goddesses are terrible on account of their teeth; and as the Shade limps along the path they peer at it, creeping towards it, and gnashing their teeth. And when the Shade sees them it cries aloud in its terror and flees.
And as the Shades flee they come to a spring, and stop to drink. And as soon as they taste the water they immediately cease their weeping, and their friends who are still weeping in their former homes also cease, for their grief is assuaged. Therefore this spring is called Wai-ni-ndula (Water-of-Solace).
And as soon as they have finished drinking they rise up and look afar, and lo! the mbuli shells of the great dwellings of Kauvandra are gleaming white, and they throw away the rest of their provision of via, and to this day one may see the via they throw away sprouting at this place, where no mortal may dig it. For now they know that they are drawing near their resting-place; therefore they throw away their provisions that they may travel the lighter.
These are the verses that tell of the journey of the Shade from Vunithava to the Water-of-Solace:—
What do we see at Vunithava?
A ndawa-tree weighted to the ground with fruit,
Climb it that we may eat,
To be provision for the Shades on their long journey,
Here have we reached the "Stonebreaker,"
He pounds us and spills our ndawa fruit,
Thence we go forward limping,
Nino begin to creep forward peering at us,
Now we arrive at the garden of puddings,
We stop to rest at the Wainindula,
We meet and drink together, e e.
Having drunk we are mad with joy (forgetting the past)
The Kai Ndreketi are growing excited,
They have sight of our bourne,
The shell-covered ridge-poles to which we are journeying
They seem to pierce the empyrean
We throw down our provisions,
Soon the great via plants will appear (that have sprouted from the via thrown away).
Journeying on from the Water-of-Solace the Shade comes to a place called Naisongovitho, where stands a god armed page 124with an axe. The name of this god is Tatovu. When the Shade reaches this place Tatovu poises his axe and chops at his back, and thenceforward the Shade goes with his back bent. Presently he reaches Namburongo, where the god Motonduruka (Palm-spear) lies in wait to impale every Shade with a spear fashioned from a reed.
Wounded with the rush-spear of Motonduruka, the Shade journeys on to a place called Natambu, where there is a god called Naiuandui who wounds him in the back, and he goes forward reeling in his gait. Therefore is this place called Naimbalembale (the Reeling-place).
There are verses that tell of the journey of the Shades from Rokowewe to Naimbalembale:—
Rokowewe ("Lord Ue-Ue!") announces us,
"Prepare, ye old women,"
They prepare their nets and shake them out for a cast,
They entangle them (the Shades), and cast them out,
Tatovuya (the Back-cutter) cuts them down,
Motonduruka (the Cane-spear) stabs them,
Naiuandui bruises them,
How far below us lies Nawakura,
How far above Mambua,
Mambua the land of insolence,
The land to which the spirits of every land come,
We are struck down,
we are slain, We go on reeling from side to side, e e.
Now when the Shades have passed Naimbalembale they reach a spot called Narewai. Here they have to crawl on their bellies. Thence they journey to a place called Nosonoso (the Bowing-place), which they have to pass in a stooping posture. There they bow down ten times.
Thence they come to Veisule, where they throw down the provisions they have taken and faint away. Thence they are dragged on to Nayarayara (the Dragging-place) as corpses are dragged to the ovens to be cooked. Thence they travel to Nangele.
Thence they come to a place called Navakathiwa (the Nine-times). This they have to encircle nine times. Thence they have to journey on till they come to a spot called the Vatukiniti (the Pinching-stone). Every Shade has to pinch page 125this stone. If he indents it it is known that he was a lazy man in his lifetime, for his nails were long, as they never are when a man has been diligent in scooping up the yam hills in his garden with his hands. But if his nails do not indent the stone it is known that he was industrious, for his nails were worn away with working in his plantation. From the "Pinching-stone" they go forward, dancing and jesting, towards the god Taleya (the Dismisser), who is the god that lives in the great mbaka-tree at Maumi. Then Taleya asks each Shade how he died, whether by a natural death, or by the club in war, or by strangling, or by drowning. And if he answers "I died by a natural death," Taleya replies "Then go back and re-enter your body."1 Hence is the god called Taleya—the Dismisser. But if the Shade replies that he was slain in war or drowned, Taleya lets him pass on. The Shades that are sent back to re-enter their bodies do not always obey, for some are so eager to reach Kauvandra that they disobey his command.2
1 The disgrace of dying a natural death is so keenly felt that the bodies of the Tui Thakau of Somosomo, and the Rokovaka of Kandavu, who die naturally, are struck with a stone on the forehead or clubbed, to avert the contempt of the gods [Waterhouse].
2 Thus the Fijians explain recovery from trance.
The goddesses are looping up their nets,
They are listening to the sound of weeping,
From what village does this weeper come?
Let us stand and dispute about it,
It is weeping from the village of—?
They spread out their nets for a catch,
They spread their net across the belly of the road,
We hold the net and wait,
The shade of the dead is topping the ridge,
Let us lift up the head of the net cautiously,
The Shade leaps and clears the net at a bound,
One goddess claps, and clasps her hands, and the other bites her fingers (in chagrin).
I look after the Shade, but it is far on its way,
Let us fold up the net and return.
The Shades that have escaped from the Fisherwomen at Uluisanka follow the "Long Road" to Naikathikathi-ni-kaile1 (the Calling-place-for-kaile). In the valley below this spot are two goddesses boiling kaile, and when the Shade reaches the spot it calls to them for kaile. If it calls for a red kaile it is known for the Shade of a man slain in war, but if it calls for a white kaile it is the Shade of one who was strangled. Some, however, call for kaile from Mburotu; these are they who have died a natural death, and kaile from Mburotu are taken to them. Other things, too, are called from this place.
When each Shade has received the kaile for which he called, he passes on to a place called Naikanakana (the Eating-place), and there he eats. Thence he goes on to a place called Naililili (the Hanging-place). Here there is a vasa tree, and from the branches are hanging like bats the Shades of the little children who are waiting for their fathers or their mothers, and when one sees its mother it drops down, and goes on with her to Kauvandra.
1 An edible root related to the yam.
Thence the Shade follows the "Long Road" to a place called Vuningasau-leka (Short reeds). Here the Shades stop to rest for a time, and they turn to see who is following them, and there they recognize each other, and become companions for the rest of their journey to Kauvandra. Hence this place of Vuningasauleka is a by-word when there is strong anger between two persons. If one would tell the other that he will not see his face or speak to him again until one of them is dead, he says, "We two will meet again at Vuningasaleka," meaning that they will never meet again in this world.
Thence the Shades journey to Nankasenkase (the Crawling-place). Here they kneel down and crawl to the place called Naisausau (the Clapping-place), where they stand upright and clap their hands. In former times a village of the Naimbosa tribe was in this place, and they say that in those days they used to hear about them the sound of the hand-clapping which the Shades made at Naisausau.
Thence they pass on to a place called Tree-fern-target (Balabala-ulaki), where there is a tree-fern at which reeds are thrown, and here they stop to throw at it. And next they come to Levukaniwai, and then to Vakanandaku, where they rest for a time with their backs turned to one another (Vakanandaku). Then they come to Naterema (the Coughing-place), and here they cough loudly. Thence they pass through the place called Buremundu, to Nainkoronkoro (the Place of Wonder), and there they stand and marvel at the world, the beauty, the pleasures, the sorrows, and the labour of it. Here they take their last look at the world before passing on to Kauvandra.
Passing through Nakovalangi, and Bulia, and Navunindakua, page 128and Matanikorowalu (the-Gate-of-the-eight-villages), which is a village of Vungalei, they come to a place called Naisa-vusavu-ni-weli (the Spitting-place). Each Shade as it arrives at this spot spits at the foot of a ndrindriwai tree, and go on to another place called Naikanakana (the Eating-place), and here they stop to eat. Now our fathers have told us that when we dream that the spirit of a dead man is eating us, it signifies that the Shade has reached Naikanakana-ni-yalo, and that there he finds the spirits of us the living, and that straightway he pursues our spirits with intent to devour them. Therefore we sometimes say, "Last night the Shade of so-and-so ate me, and I shouted till I almost died."
Having eaten the spirits of the living, the Shades of the dead pass onward to Vunivau-nkusi-mata (the Hybiscus-for-wiping-the-face), and here they break off leaves of the hybiscus, and wipe their faces with them. If it be the Shade of a man the leaf will be black, but if it be the Shade of a woman the leaf will be red.
Thence they pass on to a spot called Navuniyasikinikini (the Sandal-wood-tree-to-be-pinched), for in this spot there is a sandal-wood which is pinched by all the Shades, and if the nails of the spirit make an impression on the tree, it is known that it is the Shade of a lazy man, but if the Shade pinches and leaves no impression it is plain that it is the Shade of an industrious man who is diligent in gardening.
Thence they pass on through the places called Naloturango and Tova, through Navitikau and Tanginakarakara, still following the "Long Road" through Thengunawai and Naitholasama and Nathau.
Next they reach a spot called Mbalenayalo (the Spirit falls), and as each Shade reaches this spot it suddenly falls down with a loud report. Thence they pass through Thengunasonki (Pigeon's rest), Drakusi (the Wound), and Nambaikau (the Wooden wall), and Kelia, and Suva, and Waitamia, the waterfall of Ndelakurukuru (Thunder-hill), Namatua's city. Now this is a great city of the gods built on the "Long Road." Here the Shades enter a house near the rara (village square) called Naisongolatha (Sail-cloth door). In this house page 129they are to rest and witness the dance of the gods of Ndela-kurukuru. And when the gods have finished dancing the Shades of the dead dance before them in their turn in the great house of Nasongolatha. This is the song of the gods:—
I am in the house of Nasongolatha,
The great chiefs are met to practise a song,
Thou, dear to women, come and practise.
Mbatibukawanka leads the song,
Thavuthavu-mata (the Face-stealer) follows. (This god used to steal the faces of good-looking men in order to seduce women.)
He carries the club Singana-i-tamana (His father's triumph).
Roko Mataniyula ("Lord Moon") is next;
Whence do all these chiefs come?
They are the chiefs from Molikula,
All their brothers follow them,
They assemble in the rara,
They turn once and scrape their feet,
They stamp and the earth splits,
Like the sound of thunder in the morning.
When this song is finished the Shades leave the house to bathe in the bathing-place of Ndelakurukuru, which is called Ndranukula (the Red pond). This pool is in the middle of the city. And when they are about to bathe, the god Namatua, who rules the city of Ndelakurukuru, exorcises the water. This is the song with which he exorcises it:—
Bathe at Ndranukula and Namatua speaks,
There is a wind on Ndelakurukuru (Thunder-hill).
The breeze is scented with ndomole flowers,
As clear water flowing forth from a spring.
All my children are dancing,
Weliwelinivula (Moonshine) leads the dance,
Together with Molikula.
And after they have bathed the Shades go to look at the quicksand. This sand is white and very fine, and the spirits go to look at it, and after trying to cross it they fall asleep from very weariness, for, being a shifting sand, it cannot be crossed. This is the song that tells of it:—
I fall asleep at Nukutoro, the quicksand,
The sound of the singers and the drummers floats to me,
The sound of the spear-dance from the mountains,
The onlookers in their delight climb one upon another to see.
page 130 The guardians of the mountains sing on,
The calves of their legs are like shaddocks,
Their red turbans are of the colour of blood,
Like the fruit of the vutore tree floating down a river.
Then the children of Namatua are assembled to be counted in order that the Shades may know their numbers, the children of the god of Vungalei. And when they are counted they are found to number one hundred and two, and they are called collectively the Vuanivonokula (the Fruit-of-the-red-kula). This was their title of honour. Now all these sons of Namatua are young gods, strong and handsome. This is a portion of one of the poems that relates to them:—
Let the sons of the god be counted,
They number one hundred and two;
The fruit of the vono is drifting,
The fruit of the red vono.1
The Shades, watching the dances of Ndelakurukuru and marvelling at the strong and warlike appearance of the young gods, long to repay them by singing a song of their own land. But they can only sing of their own sufferings. They think that they will thus raise in the minds of the gods anger against the mortals that are still living, and against the race of mosquitoes, and flies, and black ants, for the dead are ever malignant towards the living. This is their lament:—
My Lords, in ill fashion are we buried,
Buried staring up into heaven,
We see the scud flying over the sky,
We are worn out with the feet stamping in the earth,2
The rafters of our house (the ribs) are torn asunder,
The eyes with which we gazed on one another are destroyed;
The nose with which we kissed has fallen in;
The breast to which we embraced is ruined;
The thighs with which we clasped have fallen away;
The lips with which we smiled are fretted with decay;
The teeth with which we bite have showered down,
Gone is the hand which threw the tinka stick,
Rolled away are the hawks' stones (testiculi).
Rolled away are the blunters of razors (alluding to the custom of shaving the pubes).
1 There are many poems relating to the gods at Ndelakurukuru. They are all well known at Namata, where they are performed on great occasions, such as the feast made on the departure of the Thakaundrove chiefs.
2 The Chief of Lakemba used to assure the missionaries that they could do him no greater favour than to give him a wooden coffin, that his body might not be trampled on [Williams].
Hark to the lament of the mosquito:
"Well it is that they should die and pass onward;
"But alas for my conch-shell that they have taken away" (the human ear).
Hark to the lament of the fly:1
"Well it is that they should die and pass onward,
But alas! they have carried away the eye from which I drank."
Hark to the lament of the black ant:
"Well it is that they should die and pass onward;
"But, alas! for my whale's tooth that they have taken away!" (The male organ; the most vulnerable point of attack for that insect when a native sits down.)
And when the gods of Ndelakurukuru heard this song they cried, "Liku tangoi ya io," which signifies in the language of the immortals, "The mortals' way of burial is well enough, are we to condemn it for a song?"
We are sitting and the stars are appearing,
My feet are in the ferry canoe,
There is trampling on the Path of the Shades
They are following the "Long Road."
I go on and speak as I go,
The world there is lying empty,
I am standing on the firm ground,
I stand on the hard path,
The path that leads straight to Kauvandra,
The dance of the "Mbuno-ni-tokalau" echoes,
What tree shall I take shelter under,
I sit under the ndanindani tree,
We sit there chattering,
Our food is thrown away,
Our children are weeping,
I hate to be buried looking skywards,
I hate being buried to be stamped upon,
The hand with which I threw my tinka stick has been torn off,
My legs have fallen off, like rotten fruit.
Our bodies have been broken in half,
Our teeth have showered down till not one is left,
Our pupils have been turned round to show the whites,
Turned so as to show the whites,
The whole land is tremulous with haze,
I sit down and weep with head bowed to the earth,
Let us go and enter the house at Naisongolatha,
Ndaunivotua has entered it (the singer of the votua),
To teach us to sing the votua,
They keep remembering as they dance,
They sleep till it is daylight.
1 The indigenous fly is nearly extinct. He is larger than the European species that has supplanted him, and his buzz is louder.
Yet so gloomy and joyless is the prospect of a return to life that the Shades who are offered the privilege by Taleya do not all obey, so "anxious are they to reach Nakauvandra."
"The weariest and most loathed worldly life,
Is Paradise to what we fear of death."
Light is also thrown upon a fact wonderingly related by the early missionaries, that the widows of dead chiefs themselves insisted upon being strangled to his manes, although it was notorious that they did not love him. It was their good name that was at stake, for we read that when the Shade had missed his throw at the pandanus-tree, and knew therefrom that his wives would not be strangled, he went on weeping, for he had now a proof that they had been unfaithful to him in life.
The religion of a primitive people springs from within them and reflects their moral qualities, and the modification that it receives from the physical character of the country in which page 133they live is a mere colour that goes no deeper than the surface. Every turn in the "Long Road" embodies an article of social ethics. If there had been no long spur protruding from Nakauvandra into the plain the story would have been different, but the moral ethics of the race would somehow have been illustrated; the industrious and courageous would somehow have been rewarded; the man of violence would have had some advantage over the man of peace; the Shades would in some way have shown their preference for the terrors of death to the gloom of life; the idle and the cowardly would somehow have been put to shame.