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Some Folk-Songs and Myths From Samoa

XV.—Tangaloa-a-Ui—A ‘Tala.’ How sacrifices to the Sun ceased

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XV.—Tangaloa-a-UiA ‘Tala.’ How sacrifices to the Sun ceased.

Introduction—1. The Polynesians were cannibals and they offered human victims to their gods; food also and other articles of value in page 122 daily life were presented as offerings. It is strange that, all the world over, the worship of the Sun had human sacrifices as one of its chief features. The principle that regulated the quality of the offerings in heathen worship is a simple one; for, whatever was the essential quality or feature of the god, goddess, or demon to be worshipped, so must the offering be of a similar or corresponding kind. In Rome, the goddess Ceres got her appropriate offerings of grain; Bacchus had his libations of wine; Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, had her perpetual fire; none of these could be propitiated by the blood of animals or men; but Apollo, in his character as the far-darting and pest-producing Sun, was the slayer of men; and human flesh would thus be no unwonted diet for him. The Persians gave him white horses; the priests of Baal cut their bodies with knives for him, covering themselves with gore; and in the religions of many nations, nothing of less value than the life of a human being could be laid on his altar. Another principle affecting these altar-gifts was this,—the value of the gift must be in proportion to the need of the worshipper and the importance of his request. For a god that accepted bloody sacrifices, a kid or a goat or a sheep might be sufficient in ordinary circumstances; with an extraordinary prayer, a bull; but for any dire emergency either in the family or the state, a human victim must be presented, in order to avert calamity. Hence the efficacy of such a sacrifice as that of Iphigenia when offered to a very angry or a relentless god; hence also the gift of their children to the fires of Moloch by pious mothers; hence the ‘hekatombs’ of the ancient Greeks; and everywhere, the lives of men presented by themselves or by others to turn aside some great national danger.

2. In this story, there is a fabulous account of the manner in which the Sun was led to abandon his claim to a daily supply of human flesh. The incidents are said to have happened in Atafu, which seems to me to be, not any particular island, but some myth-land of wonder where, as we learn from another tale, there are “no houses; the people sleep on the ground; the sky is their house.” This view is the more probable because, in this tale, there are four parts of the Atafu land, ‘the black,’ ‘the brown,’ ‘the fair,’ and ‘the white’; and Ui, the heroine of the tale, is the daughter of ‘Sugar-cane’ and ‘Yam.’ Seeing that the daily ‘aso’ of victims was destroying all the families in Atafu, she resolved to approach the Sun and try to get him to be satisfied with less costly food. In this, with her brother's aid, she succeeded, as the story tells. But lest the old propensities of his solar majesty should return, she thought it prudent to leave her home; and so, at last, after some adventures she reached Manu'a, where she gave birth to a son, the great semi-divine Tangaloa- page 123 a-Ui, and he was the father of Ta'e-o-Tangaloa, Le-Fanonga and others, who are famed in Samoan myths.

Mr. Powell's Summary—3. Ui was the daughter of a couple named Fiso and Ufi. They belonged to and lived in the Atafu land, which included Atafu'uli, Atafu mea, Atafu tea, Atafu sina. It was the custom of the people of Atafu to present a human sacrifice every day as an offering to the Sun (‘ua fai le aso ole La i tagata’); each family by turns furnished a victim, either male or female. The families were thus gradually disappearing, and, in the family of Ui, there were only three survivors,—her old mother, herself, and her brother Lua-ma'a. Some say that, besides Ui, there was another daughter named Ala. The day was approaching when one of these also must be sacrificed. They wept together, each being unwilling that either of the others should die, and each contending to be the victim. Then Ui said that she would endeavour to induce the Sun to accept a substitute. Accordingly, with her brother's aid, she at once prepared her offering, which consisted of taro, some fish, a fowl, and portions of the kava plant, together with the bowl for preparing the kava drink, a drinking cup, a strainer, and some turmeric. These were placed carefully in a basket; and, on the morning of the day, when the sacrifice should be presented, very early before day-light, she, accompanied by her brother, repaired to the altar of sacrifice, which was on a mountain at some distance from the village and stood between two trees, a fetau and a fasa. Shortly after she had taken her seat upon the altar, the Sun arose over the fasa tree. She immediately addressed him in the following strain—

Le La e, maui mai,
E taumafa ola atu lau tagata,
Ua leai le aiga nai lou taumafa,
Le La fai atu;
Ui e, ta fia inu ‘ava, &c.

Which means—

4. O Sun, approach, thy human being to eat alive;
For of this family, through thy feasting, none survive.
To this the Sun replies:
O Ui, for kava, [not for blood,] I thirst.
The virgin immediately answers:
Here's kava [grown] by a man of skill and labours many;
It stood [grew] in the rocky ground;
It stood devoted unto thee;
Its root-branches were of a rich and tempting hue;
This kava I'll divide in pieces, and with shell will scrape it well;

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Will wash it; and with the fibre-strainer rub it clean.
I'll rinse well the mouth, and chew!
In a tava bowl, I'll mix it;
And strain it out to cleanse it fully from the lees.
This kava I'll now apportion !
O Sun, if thou wilt feast,
There's this fish, the ‘ata’ata, [sacred to the gods,]
The fish that near the harbour waits;
There's this fowl, a fowl of many broods, full-grown and plump;
Oh then ! on these now turn thy [longing] eyes;
For of this family, through thy feasting, none survives.

The Sun approached; he beheld a damsel well-attired, and beautiful in person. He was smitten with her beauty and loved her. From that time, the offering of human sacrifices to the Sun ceased.

5. When the Sun promised Ui that he would require no more human sacrifices, she went home with joy and reported her success. “I am not devoured, you see; the Sun said to me,—Sau ia, o le a ola le nu'u; ua ifo le aso o le La; e le toe faia,—‘ Come here; your land shall live; the offering to the Sun shall terminate; it shall not be repeated.’” Her family and the people generally rejoiced at the good news. But still her parents felt anxious and distrustful, and they said, ‘Come let us leave, and go to some other land, lest the custom should be renewed, and we, as it will be our turn, become the first victims.’ Accordingly, Fiso and Ufi left in a canoe, with Lua-ma'a, but Ui and Ala proceeded inland. When the sisters had come to a district called Rurutu, and to a part of it where was a boat-entrance in the reef, called Eutala, they saw on the beach two idols. These belonged to a man named Li'i, or, as others say, to two men named Nimoa'i and Lavea'i, who were sporting in the rollers. One of the idols was a trumpet shell (‘panea,’ Triton tritonis), which was so placed on the shore that when the men shouted from the sea, the shell re-echoed the shout. Ui took up the idols and concealed them in her bag. When the owners found that the echo had ceased, they suspected the cause and gave chase to the thieves, but the theft was denied. The incensed loosers uttered this imprecation on the thieves of their idols, (o le lai ma le panea, ‘the bird and the shell’):—

Le au manumanu lē ō atu;
Ua lā goai a'u mea;
Au mai, a oi onatau;
Ua lā goai au tupua;
Nei mau matutu lava i gauta;
A e oti i le sami.

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Which means—

There is a band of covetous ones going on;
They have stolen my things;
Let them bring them to me, as is proper to do;
[If not, let my curse be upon them; for]
They have stolen my images;
Let them never get firm footing on land,
But let them perish at sea!

(The parents died at Rurutu.)

6. So they jumped into the sea and swam hither, [i.e., to Taū in Manu'a]; and just as they arrived on the reef at the south side of Fitiuta, at a spot still called Lua-ma'a on the south-east side of Sauā, Ui gave birth to a male child. She cast it on to the shore, between two stones, which are now named Ui and Lua-ma'a, for they two died there on the beach.

7. Tangaloa looked down from heaven, saw the child lying in that condition, took compassion on it, and sent Tuli and Fuia, his representatives, to look after it. He also sent the ‘Miti’ (a bird) and the ‘Unga’ (a kind of land crab); the Miti sucked the mucus from the child's mouth and nose, and the Unga divided the navel-string. Thus cared for and adopted by the god Tangaloa, the child was called Tangaloa-a-Ui, i.e., Tangaloa the son of Ui. He grew up and took to wife Sina-a-Sa'umani. By her he had six children—(1) Ta'e-o-Tangaloa; (2) ‘O Le-Fanonga; (3) ‘O Lele; (4) Asi-asi-o-Langi; (5) Moe-u'u-lē-apai, (a girl), who became the wife of Tui-Fiti, ‘king of Fiji.’ Her brother, Ta'e-o-Tangaloa, dreamed that his sister was ill-used by her husband, Tui-Fiti, and hence he undertook the voyage celebrated in another solo; this he did in the canoe of Tui-Afono, ‘king of Afono,’ which is a village on the north side of Tutuila, between Masefau and Vatia. The sixth child of Tangaloa-a-Ui and Sina-a-Sa'umani was a girl named Sina-Tauata.

The following is the poetic account of the effort of Ui and her brother Lua-ma'a to bring to an end the offering of human sacrifices to the Sun.

[Note.—Mr. Pratt recently handed the original text of this solo to a Samoan native teacher, well acquainted with his own language, and asked him to read it. On reading it through, the ‘pundit’ exclaimed, “I seem to have been reading a foreign language; only the old men understand these words.”—Ed.]