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Ethnology of Tokelau Islands

Ancestral Gods

Ancestral Gods

The souls of men (aitu) were less powerful than atua and had no influence over the forces of nature. The aitu advised their descendants and helped them in times of sickness and trouble. One aitu, Fafie, whose name is fourth in the list of high chiefs, was a deified high chief of Fakaofu. He was worshiped even before his death, according to Newell (19):

Fafie here referred to was the god (aitu) of the clan Sulu. He became on the death of Leua (King of Fakaofu) king of that island. But before this no less than two hundred people made allegiance and offered sacrifice to him.

A spirit named Fenu, who dwelt at Nukunono, is classed as an aitu, though his character is not typical. At one time Nukunono had a fresh-water well and Fakaofu had none. A Fakaofu aitu5 came to Nukunono and carried off the well in a coconut-shell cup. Fenu chased him, caught him at the islet, Motu Akea, and hit his hands, spilling some of the stolen water he page 63 was carrying which formed a well. The aitu fled to Fakaofu where he made wells on all the islets, but he used most of the water to create the large well on the village islet. In retaliation, Fenu flew to Fakaofu, stole the kie pandanus, and planted it in Nukunono. Today Nukunono has but one small well, and the kie pandanus, though recently introduced, is said to grow poorly on Fakaofu.