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Some Folk-Songs and Myths From Samoa


1. Septennial observances.
Gen. viii., 10. And he stayed yet other seven days, &c.
Deut. xv., 1. At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.
Septennial Observances of the Samoans
1. The fire of ‘Naiufi’ was kept burning continuously for seven days. The ‘Naiufi’ was a very sacred kind of shark and so seldom seen, that, whenever one was caught, the fishermen used to keep a fire burning night and day for seven days.
2. The fire of a man who ‘eats men’ (a warrior) was kept burning in his honour for seven days. This was done for any one who made himself illustrious in battle.
3. The number seven was also observed in all matters that concerned the ‘aitu’ or minor gods. Feasts to them were often appointed seven days in advance; the order was given thus:—‘Let the feast be made seven days hence.'
2. Circumcision.
Gen. xvii., 10. Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
Joshua v., 2. Make thee sharp knives and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.
Samoa.—The Samoans also have circumcision for cleanliness and manliness.
3. Bespeaking attention.
Gen. xxiii., 6, 11, 15. Hear us, my lord.
Samoa.—The Samoans use the same form of address.
4. The giving of names.
Gen. xxvi., 20, 22. He called the name of the well Esek [‘strife'].
Gen. xviii., 12. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself.
Gen. xxi., 3. Abraham called the name of his son Isaac.
Also Gen. xxix., 32; xxx., 24; xxxv., 18.
Samoa.—Names are given from circumstances attending birth. Family names are hereditary. Names are given to places from events associated with them.
5. The changing of names.
Gen. xxviii., 19. And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.page 142
Samoa—The Samoans change names for similar reasons.
6. A feast at a marriage.
Gen. xxix., 22. And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast.
Samoa.—The Samoans have a feast at a marriage.
7. Presents to great men.
Gen. xliii., 11—15. Carry down the man a present.
Samoa.—Samoans always take a present when paying a visit of respect or friendship to a superior.
8. Benjamin's mess.
Gen. xliii., 34. And he took and sent messes unto them from before him.
Samoa.—Samoan meals are served as here recorded.
9. Natural eloquence.
Gen. xliv., 18 to the end. Oh, my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord's ears, &c.
Samoa.—A Samoan orator, or the principal man in a family, has naturally a readiness for such eloquence as this in similar circumstances. Samoan orators have a habit of giving details as here.
10. Embalming.
Gen. 1., 2, 26. And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. Also 2 Chron. xvi., 14.
Samoa.—Embalming was an ancient Samoan custom and was called ‘atualala,’ but is now lost. See Turner's “Nineteen Years in Polynesia.”
11. Mourning for the dead.
Gen. 1., 4, 10, 11. And when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph &c.
Samoa.—The Samoans have different stages of mourning for the dead. See Turner's “Nineteen Years in Polynesia.”
12. Doing reverence to superiors.
Gen. 1., 18. And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold we be thy servants.page 143
Samoa.—The Samoan ifoga, ‘bowing down, as an act of submission (from ifo ‘down'), is similar to this.
13. Tatooing.
Lev. xix., 28. Ye shall not… print any marks upon you.
Samoa.—The Samoans, as is well-known, tatoo their bodies.
14. Songs of celebration.
Num. xxi., 17. Then Israel sang this song.
Judges v., 1. Then sang Deborah… on that day, saying, &c.
Samoa.—The Samoans celebrate in song all important events in their experience.
15. The invoking of a curse.
Num. xxii., 6. Come now, therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people.
Num. xxiii., 7. Come, curse me Jacob, and defy Israel.
Samoa.—The Samoans have o le tagata na fai tu'i, ‘the man who devotes to destruction,’ like Balaam. They curse an object of hatred or dread, and use enchantments against it.
16. New year offerings.
Num. xxviii., 11 - 15. And, in the beginning of your months, ye shall offer a burnt offering to the Lord.
Samoa.—The principal feast of the year is that in honour of Tangaloa-fua. See “List of Months.”
17. Wizards, enchanters, &c.
Deut. xviii., 10, 11. There shall not be found among you… an enchanter, a witch, or a charmer, &c.
Samoa.—The Samoans consult persons who practise magical arts.
18. Messengers run.
Josh. vii., 22. So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent.
Samoa.—Samoan messengers, sent in such a case, would do exactly the same thing. Young men, sent on a errand by the council (fono) of chiefs in Samoa, would set off at a run.
19. Heads cut off in war.
Judges vii., 25. They brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan. Also 2 Sam. iv., 7, 8.
Samoa.—The Samoans do the same.page 144
20. The use of slings and stones in war.
Judges xx., 16. Among all this people [of war], there were seven hundred chosen men left handed; every one could sling stones at a hair-breadth and not miss.
Samoa.—The Samoans use slings and stones in war.
21. Run-away wives.
Judges xix., 2, 3. And her husband arose and went after her.
Samoa.—There is a great deal of this sort of thing in Samoa, and especially as in verse 3. A man goes after a fugitive wife, and the wife's family tries to keep him among themselves.
22. Stepping over the threshold.
1 Sam. v., 5. Therefore neither the priests of Dagon… tread on the threshold of Dagon; cf. Zeph. i. 9.
Samoa.—The Samoans step over the threshold of their houses in reverential remembrance of Tae-o-Tangaloa. See ‘Tala i le Sega.'
23. A choice portion of food for an honoured guest.
1 Sam. ix., 22, 24. And the cook took up the shoulder. and set it before Saul.
Samoa.—Samoans reserve a choice portion for an expected guest, a leg or a sirloin of pork, &c.
24. Demoniacal possessions.
1 Sam. xvi., 14, 15, 23. An evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.
Samoan.—The Samoan wizards use charms to drive evil spirits out of the bodies of those possessed by them.
25. Single combat in war.
1 Sam. xvii., 1 — 8. Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me, &c.
Samoa.—Armies place themselves opposite to each other, a cleared space between; champions are chosen to fight for them.
26. Familiar spirits.
1 Sam. xxviii., 7 — 19. Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, &c.page 145
Samoa.—The wizards pretend that they are speaking under the influence of a spirit.
27. Use of parables.
2 Sam. xii., 1 — 4. There were two men in one city; the one rich and the other poor.
Samoa.—The Samoan traditions are often symbolical representations of real events.
28. Relations between brothers and sisters.
2 Sam. xiii., 10. And Amnon said unto Tamar, Bring the meat into the chamber, that I may eat of thine hand.
Samoa.—Brothers in Samoa scrupulously shun the doing of anything unseemly in the presence of their sisters, and are supposed to be above suspicion.
29. Long hair.
2 Sam. xiv., 26. The hair was heavy on him; cf. also xviii., 9.
Samoa.—Young chiefs and others wear long hair.
30. Head officers.
1 Kings iv., 7. And Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel.
Samoa.—The office and duties of the tula-fale somewhat resemble this.
31. Funereal burnings.
2 Chron. xvi., 14. And they made a very great burning for him. xxi., 19. And his people made no burning for him.
Jer. xxxiv., 5. But thou shalt die in peace; and with the burnings of thy fathers, &c.
Samoa.—The Samoans have burnings in honour of deceased kings and chiefs o le lagi; but they withhold the burnings in the case of cruel and despotic ones. Cf. the history of Tui Manu'a taalolo.
32. Calling the name of the chief who is to drink.
Jer. xxv., 17. Then I took the cup… and made all nations to drink.
Samoa.—It is the custom at all feasts to call out the name of the chief who is next to drink.page 146
33. Rod or staff of office.
Ez. xxi., 10 et al. It contemneth the rod of my son.
Samoa.—The Samoan to'o-to'o, ‘a rod or staff of office,'is a sign of authority.