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Mangaian Society



Every individual had a spirit (vaerua) which was liberated by death when the life principle (mauri) was destroyed. The spirits remained in the vicinity of the body for a while and then wandered off disconsolately to the seashore, where they waited among the rocks and tangled vines until the time came for them to leave for the spirit world. They also haunted the place where the placenta to which they had been attached was buried. The spirits were said to be shadowy likenesses of their material forms. The spirits of warriors, showed the wounds from which they had died. Gill (6, p. 156) states:

They were arrayed in ghostly network, and a fantastic mourning of weeds picked upon the way, relieved, however, by the fragrant heliotrope which grows freely on the barren rocks. A red creeper, resembling dyed twine, wound round and round the head like a turban, completed their ghostly toilet.

The spirits in their wanderings were affected by the sharpness of rocks and the undergrowth of vines. Somewhat inconsistent with the report of the ghostly apparel above is the existence, on the west coast, of a smooth piece of coral rock said to be the place where the spirits spread out newly made bark cloth, and called Te-renanga-a-te-atua. It was held that the spirits, during the period of waiting for their departure, danced and revisited the vicinity of their former homes at night. From among the neighboring trees they sometimes attempted to peek inside the houses. They remembered their relatives with affection but became hostile if a loved child was ill-treated. They relieved the tedium by following the course of the sun from east to west along the coast.

A favorite gathering place was at Ana-kura (red-cave) on the west coast where the spirits of the southern half of the island met. Above the cave of Ana-kura is an open grassy space known as One-makenukenu (Smooth-sand) where they also gathered as a change. The spirits of the northern half met at Karanga-iti in the north. Some dominant spirit became leader of the waiting spirits and, when it considered that the company was large enough, it sent out spirit messages with instructions for all the spirits to gather on a set date for departure to the spirit world.