Old Samoa or Flotsam and Jetsam from the Pacific Ocean
Chapter IX — Mythology and Spirit-lore
Mythology and Spirit-lore
The religious system of the later generations of the Samoans differed widely from that of still older generations, and also from the religious worship of the Tahitians and other groups surrounding. They had no idols or teraphim, neither were they accustomed to offer human sacrifices to their idols; still, they were burdened with superstitions which were most oppressive and exacting.
It is difficult to arrive at anything like a clear and connected account of their mythology, as native statements are often vague and conflicting. I give some particulars which I gathered from intelligent natives, and which I think may be relied upon, as I tested them carefully, and moreover they were the outcome of more than one testimony. These accounts were collected more than fifty years ago, i.e. before the natives had had much intercourse with Europeans, and before their records had become mixed and unreliable, as they are likely to have been in later years.
The Samoans had several superior divinities and a host of inferior ones, 'lords many and gods many,' and they were also accustomed to deify the spirits of deceased chiefs. In addition to the homage paid to these, page 211petitions were offered and libations of ava were poured out at the graves of deceased relatives; whilst the war-clubs of renowned warriors were regarded with much superstitious reverence, if not actually worshipped, under the name of Anava.
Several classes or orders of spiritual beings seem to have been recognized in Samoan mythology.
|>1.||Atua, or the original gods who dwelt in Pulotu (a Samoan Elysium), as also i 1e Langi, or heavens.|
|2.||Tupua, the deified spirits of chiefs, who were also supposed to dwell in Pulotu. The embalmed bodies of some chiefs were also worshipped under the significant name of Le faa-Atua-lala-ina, or made into a sun-dried god, as were also certain objects into which they were supposed to have been changed, which were called Tupua, and held to personate them.|
|3.||Aitu, a class which included the descendants of the original gods, or rather all deities whose aid was invoked or whose vengeance might be denounced by the various classes of the priesthood. Of this class of deities some were supposed to inhabit Pulotu, others held sway in Fafā, or Hades, whilst one, Mafui'e, was supposed to take up his abode in the volcanic region i lalo, or below, which was called Sā-le-Fe'e, of or pertaining to the Fe'e.|
|4.||O Sanali'i, which term I think may be said to include ghosts or apparitions. These seem to have been regarded as an inferior class of spirits, ever ready for mischief or frolic, but who do not seem to have been represented by any ciass of priesthood, or to have had any dwellings sacred to them. The term is also used respectfully for an Aitu, or god.|
The Atua, or original gods, who are described as page 212dwelling in the Langi, or heavens, were considered the progenitors of the other deities, and believed to have formed the earth and its inhabitants. These original gods were not represented by any priests or temples, neither were they invoked like their descendants. Of the primitive gods the chief place is assigned to Tangaloa, or, as he is sometimes called, Tangaloa-langi, Tangaloa of the Skies. He was always spoken of as the principal god, the creator of the world and progenitor of the other gods and mankind. In one tradition that gives an account of the formation of the earth mention is made of other divinities or helpers, Tangaloatosi, also styled Ngai-tosi (Ngai the marker), and Ngai-va'a-va'ai (Ngai the seer or beholder), also called Tan-galoa-va'a-va'ai. These two helpers are introduced as being sent by Tangaloa to complete the formation of the bodies of the first two of mankind, and to impart life to them. In this tradition there would seem to be a remarkable allusion to a trinity of workers, and also what appears to be an indistinct reference to the phenomenon of the elevation of portions of the land by volcanic agency, or, as tradition puts it, the successive elevation of the earth by means of the far-famed fishhook of Tangaloa, described further on.
The son of Tangaloa was the Tuli (species of plover). Tuli went down from the heavens to the surface of the ocean, but found no place on which to rest, and returned to complain to his father. On this his father threw down a stone from the heavens, which became land. Another account of the origin of the earth states that, in answer to Tuli's complaint of want of a resting-place, Tangaloa fished up a large stone from the bottom of the sea with page 213a fish-hook. Having raised the stone to the surface, he gave it to his son for his dwelling-place. On going thither to take possession of his new home, Tuli found that every wave or swell of the ocean partially over-flowed it, which compelled him to hop from one part to another of the stone to prevent his feet being wetted by each succeeding wave. Annoyed at this, he returned to the skies to complain to his father, who, by a second application of the mighty fish-hook, raised the land to the desired height. This version is also given by the inhabitants of other groups in Polynesia1.
On the formation of the two bodies being complete they lived, but were both males, and dwelt on the land on which they were formed. One day, whilst fishing with a net called the faamutu, one of them was injured by a small fish called the lo, which caused his death. Upon this Tuli returned to the skies, and bewailed the loss of one of the inhabitants of his land to his father, when Ngai-tosi was directed by Tangaloa to proceed to the earth and reanimate the dead body, previously to which, however, he changed the sex of the deceased male to that of a female. The two then became man and wife, and the parents of the human race.
1 Tuli is the general name for plover, of which there are several species in Samoa; and it is remarkable that one species, Charadrius fulvus, is called by the natives 0 le tuli-o-Tangaloa.
The deified spirits of deceased persons of rank appear to have comprised another order of spiritual beings, the more exalted of whom were supposed to become posts in the house or temple of the gods at Pulotu. Many beautiful emblems were chosen to represent their immortality, as some of the heavenly bodies, such as Lii (the Pleiades), Tupua-lengase (Jupiter), also Nuanua (the rainbow), and La'o-ma'o-ma'o (the marine rainbow), with many others. The embalmed bodies of chiefs of rank, or those who had been fa'a-Atua-lala-ina (made into sun-dried gods), were also reverenced under the title of Tupua.
The third order included all the many deities whose aid was invoked by the different orders of priests, and who were included in the general term of Aitu. These comprised war-gods, family gods, those invoked by prophets and sorcerers, as well as the tutelar deities of the various trades and employments. Some of them, as Savea-se'u-leo and Nā-fanua, were stated to be the more immediate descendants of the gods, and to have their residence in Pulotu, over which place the former was said to preside. These two were the national gods of war; but in addition to these were many other war-gods invoked by different settlements, as local war-gods, of which may be mentioned Moso, Sepomalosi, Aitu-i-Pava, and Le Tamafainga. The same gods were also invoked by family priests. Moso, O-le-nifo-loa (long tooth), and page 216Ita-ngatā appear to have been regarded as vindictive spirits, and to be cursed with their maledictions was looked upon as a calamity. One or two of the names given to the aitu thus invoked would seem to have been chosen to illustrate the manner in which their vengeance was shown. Pūpū-i-toto (spitting blood) and Lipi-ola (sudden death) may be given as illustrations. These spiritual beings were supposed to enter into the priests representing them, and to make known their commands through them; but they were also considered as accustomed to take the form of certain objects, as birds, fish, reptiles, as well as at times the human form, in which latter case they were represented as possessing the various passions incident to fallen humanity. This belief at times enabled erring mortals to cloke over their delinquencies by attributing them to the gods. Many a faithless wife and many a murderer have secured themselves from punishment in this manner.
As every settlement has its local god of war in addition to the national war-gods, so every family has its own particular aitu, or tutelary deity, who was usually considered to inhabit some familiar object. One family supposed their god to possess a shark; another, some bird or a stone; and another, a reptile. Thus a great variety of objects, animate and inanimate, were reverenced by the Samoans. Their feelings with respect to these guardian deities do not appear to have been very sensitive, as although the members of one family were accustomed to regard a given object, say a shark, with superstitious reverence as their family god, they were continually seeing the same fish killed and eaten by others around them. In the case of local or district page 217war-gods the entire district were careful to protect their chosen object of reverence from insult. Still, it often happened that if the gods were not propitious to their suppliants, torrents of abuse were heaped upon them; but, as a rule, the chosen deities were much dreaded. Many of these gods were supposed to dwell in the Făfā, or else in Sā-le-Fe'e, whilst others ruled in Pulotu.
O le Făfā, Sā-le-Fe'e, and Pulotu are places which occupy a prominent position in Samoan mythology, and seem in some manner to be connected the one with the other.
O le Făfā (Hades) is alike the entrance to Sā-le-Fe'e, the Samoan Tartarus, or dread place of punishment, and also to Pulotu, the abode of the blest; the one entrance being called 0 le Lua-loto-o-Alii, or deep hole of chiefs, by which they passed to Pulotu; the other, O le Lua-loto-o-tau-fanua, or deep hole of the common people, by which they passed to Le nu'u-o-nonoa, or the land of the bound, which is simply another term for the much-dreaded Sā-le-Fe'e. The idea of the superiority of the chiefs over the common people was thus perpetuated, none but chiefs or higher ranks gaining entrance to the Samoan Elysium.
Speaking of the condition of the dead, an old chief of Savaii once told me that there were supposed to be two places to which they went, the one called O le nu'u-o-Aitu, or land of spirits; the other, O le nu'u-o-nonoa, the land of the bound; their bondage being superintended by such vindictive spirits as Moso, Ita-nga-tā, and other deities who hold sway there, whilst the significant name itself is, I think, simply another name for Sā-le-Fe'e.page 218
It is interesting to notice how much this name O le Fe'e is mixed up with Samoan mythology, whether as the name of a renowned war-god and deity, or as Sā-le-Fe'e, the much-dreaded regions below; as also with a mysterious building of the distant past known as O le fale-o-le-Fe'e, the house of the Fe'e, the ruins of which still remain as mute witnesses of a bygone worship of which the Samoans now have no knowledge or record whatever, save the name. All these facts point to it as a name of deep significance and meaning in the history of the past, whether in connexion with the history of the ancestors of the present race of Samoans or, as many think, with the records of an earlier, but long since extinct, race. A halo of mystery and romance seems thrown around the name which has been selected as the name of the war-god of A'ana, O le Fe'e (octopus). At some future time light may be thrown upon the subject, but at present all seems mysterious.
The disembodied spirit was supposed to retain the exact resemblance of its former self, and immediately on leaving the body it was believed to commence its solitary journey to the Făfā, which was located to the westward of Savaii, the most westerly of the group, and towards this point disembodied spirits from all the islands bent their way immediately after death. Thus in case of a spirit commencing its journey at Manu'a, the most easterly of the group, it journeyed on to the western end of that island from whence it started, where it dived into the sea and swam to the nearest point of Tutuila, where, having journeyed along the shore to the extreme west point of that island, it again plunged into the sea and pursued its solitary way to the next island, and thus page 219onward throughout the entire group until it reached the extreme west point of Savaii, the most westerly island, where it finally dived into the ocean and pursued its solitary way to the mysterious Făfā. At the west point of Upolu the land terminates in a narrow rocky point, which is still known as O le fatu-osofia (the leaping-stone), from which all spirits were said to leap into the sea en route to the Făfā. This was a much-dreaded point, where the lonely travellers were said to be certainly met with, and their company was anything but desired. I well remember the astonishment expressed at the daring courage of a man I well knew who, after he became a Christian, built his house upon this haunted point.
Many times natives have assured me that disembodied spirits have passed them on the road when travelling. When asked how they knew them, they answered, 'Why, we knew them personally, and spoke to them, but received no answer,' which was quite sufficient in their estimation to determine the spiritual nature of the parties met, since it is the invariable custom of the Samoans to return an answer when accosted on a journey; to do otherwise being looked upon as an insult.
The war-clubs of renowned warriors, anava, were regarded with superstitious veneration by the different members of their families. Prior to an engagement various rites and ceremonies were observed towards the war-clubs, which were considered essential to their owners' success in battle. I have often seen battered and blood-stained war-clubs treasured up and reverenced as articles of the highest value by natives, who resisted for a long time all attempts to purchase them, even at page 220a high price, as they considered that in parting with them all hopes of success in battle went with the club. The family of Fa'atauvelo, an old Manono chief and renowned warrior, for a long time resisted my efforts to purchase their father's war-club, O Tama-ma-teine (boys and girls), so called from the number of poor children he had slain with this club during his many midnight attacks upon defenceless villages and settlements. At length, some time after his death, I was enabled to purchase this relic, and deposit it in the London Missionary Society's Museum on my return to England in 1846.
The soul is termed anganga in a general sense, but atamai is also sometimes used for the mind; but this latter word more properly expresses wisdom, cleverness, instinct, or skill in manufacturing. Mouli is also a term occasionally used for the spiritual portion of a man, but in a restricted sense. In case a man had been very much startled he would say, 'My mauli, or spirit, has been startled' (Ua sengia lo'u mauli). In this connexion it may also mean, 'My heart is startled.'
The priesthood, Taula-aitu (anchors of the spirits)—from taula, an anchor, and Aitu, spirits or gods—were divided into four classes, viz. priests of the war-gods, keepers of the war-gods, family priests, and prophets or sorcerers.
The Taula-aitu-o-aitu tau (anchors of the priests of the war-gods) were important personages, being consulted upon all warlike occasions. This class invoked the assistance of various war-gods, but most of all Nafanua, a female deity who was reverenced by the entire population, and who in conjunction with Savea-se'u-leo may be considered the national gods of war. In page 221addition to these, however, each district had its own war-god.
It was one of this class, the representative of Le Tamafainga, that usurped the regal power of the islands, and reigned with great tyranny over the whole of Samoa until the year 1829, when he was slain by the people of A'ana. He was worshipped as combining both regal and divine attributes.
O Tausi-aitu-tau (keepers of the war-gods), or, as they were also called, O va'a-fa'atāu-o-aitu-tau (war-ships of the war-gods), next claim our attention. To their custody were committed the objects supposed to be inspired by the district war-gods. These emblems of the gods' presence were various, and had different names. The fleets of Manono were accompanied by two of such symbols, Limulimu-ta and Sa-ma-lulu, the former a kind of drum, and the latter a long pennant that floated at the masthead of the sacred canoe. In the Tuamasanga it consisted of the pu, or sacred conch-shell, which was named O aitu langi (gods of the heavens). The same symbol was used by the people of Matautu or Savaii; whilst at Fangaloa, in Atua, the object of reverence was called O le Atua (the god), and resembled a large box or chest, which was placed upon the canoe of the priest, and accompanied the fleet to battle. Another emblem used by the people of the latter place took the form of a broom or besom, which was carried, like the broom of Van Tromp, at the masthead of the war-priest's canoe. The pu, or sacred conch-shell, was carried by the war-priest or keeper of the god when the Tuamasanga were engaged in warfare, but the other emblems were only taken in canoes.page 222
In connexion with the well-known fact that in Polynesia the pu, or conch-shell, was regarded as a sacred emblem of the war-god, I may mention a remarkable instance of one having been found by the late Mr. H. B. Sterndale of Samoa, in some cyclopean remains placed on a cromlech in an extraordinary mountain burial-place in the district of Le Tuama-sanga1. In the midst of these remains he came upon 'an inner chamber or cell about 10 feet square. The floor was of flat stones, the walls of enormous blocks of the same placed on end. The roof was of inter-twisted trunks of the banyan-tree, which had grown together into a solid arch. In the centre was a cromlech, about 4 feet high, formed of several stones arranged in a triangle with a great flat slab on the top. Upon it was what appeared to be another small stone, but which on examination proved to be a great conch-shell, white with age, and encrusted with moss and dead animalculae.' This strange relic of the distant past had evidently been placed on the cromlech as a sacred relic, as was the common custom in bygone days at the time of the burial of the occupant of this mysterious tomb, whether king or priest none could tell, but certain it is that it was some one of great renown amongst the' people of his day.
O Taulā-aitu-o-ainga (anchors of gods of families, or priests of families) are the next class to be noticed. These summoned the aid of various gods, such as Moso, Ita-nga-tā, Sepo-malosi, O le alii-tu-maunga, O le Tama-fainga. This office was also sometimes held by the head of the family or his sister. If held by the former, it page 223gave him great power and authority over the different branches of his family, which he seldom failed to make use of in the acquisition of wealth. It was also found very convenient to dedicate property to the family god, either canoes or valuable mats, as in that case the articles could never be given away or parted with, although they might be used occasionally by the Taulā-aitu himself.
Some one of the aforenamed deities was selected by a family as the object of their veneration, and at certain times the god was supposed to enter into the Taulā-aitu, or priest, to answer inquiries or deliver demands. The approach or presence of the god was indicated by the priest commencing to gape, yawn, and clear his throat, but at length his countenance and body underwent violent contortions, after which, in loud, unearthly tones, the visitor from the land of spirits was heard announcing his approach to the terrified inmates of the house, who sat silent and trembling at respectful distances from the priest.
Perhaps the god worshipped by the family was Moso, and upon the announcement, 'I am Moso, I am just arrived from the land of spirits to visit you,' one of the elders of the party present answered, with much fear and reverence, 'Approach; we are your subjects, and are here waiting to receive your commands,' which address to the ghostly visitor was always made in the highest chief's language. At the close of these introductory speeches the occasion of the visit was made known. Perhaps this was to utter a complaint of carelessness in bringing donations of food and property, accompanied with severe threats of vengeance if a liberal page 224supply was not speedily brought to his representative. Or perhaps the god's anger was directed against some unfortunate who had been treasuring up a valuable mat, the existence of which had been known to the speaker and the possessor was threatened with quick punishment if the said mat were not immediately forthcoming. At other times the god announced it to be his pleasure that the entire family should assemble and build him a large canoe or a house, which command was always obeyed with alacrity, and a humble apology tendered for past neglect. Or it might be that the god was summoned and his assistance implored in effecting the recovery of some sick person placed before him. On such occasions it was often announced that there was no immediate danger, but that recovery was retarded in consequence of the meanness of the sick person's more immediate relatives, and intimation given that a valuable mat was left behind. At other times the patient, although perhaps in a dying state was directed to take plenty of food, and those who accompanied the sick person, if brought from a distance, were told to send immediately to their land for such food, or seek it amongst relatives; and they were told to see especially that there was no lack of pigs. Sometimes the patient recovered, and the fame of the cure was noised far and near; but if, after all, death ensued, and the more immediate friends ventured to expostulate with the god for his cruelty in taking from them one of their small number, and not going to a more numerous family, they were coolly told by the god that the deceased died in consequence of his having been overpowered by the aitu of the family on the mother's side.page 225
O Taulā-aitu-vavalo-ma-fai-tu'i (anchors of the gods to predict and curse, or prophets and sorcerers), from vavalo, to prophesy, and fai-tu'i, to curse. This class of the priesthood invoked the assistance of the following aitu, Tito-uso, Pũpū-i-toto (spitting blood), Lipi-ola (sudden death), and many others. Their services were sought after by persons who had been robbed or otherwise injured, and who sought to know the spot where the stolen articles were hidden, as also who was the thief, or cause of the injury or curse that was supposed to have fallen upon them. They were also consulted by persons who sought to revenge themselves on others, and asked that curses might be uttered upon parties who were specially named 1. The sick were also taken to the Taulā-aitu, and they were consulted as to the occasion of the sickness and probable issue, at the same time they were besought to invoke the aid of the gods in the removal of the disease. In return for these services they received large presents of food and valuable property.
All the different orders of the priesthood possessed great influence over the minds of the people, who were kept in constant fear by their threats, and impoverished by their exactions. This remark applies more particularly to the two latter classes, although frequent offerings were made by the people to their war-gods, with which the priests, or Taulā-aitu, failed not to enrich themselves. There would seem to have been a strong resemblance between this class of priests and the Maori tohunga, with their much-dreaded incantations.
1 Thus Balak to Baalam, 'Coma, … curse me this people,' Num. xxii 6.
When the priests of the war-gods were consulted professionally, they were accustomed to go to these houses for the purpose of advising with the god, who was supposed to enter into the priest, as well as the particular emblems of the deity, in case any were deposited in the temple, and then deliver his answer to the proposed question.
One very interesting exception to the usual style of building these temples is found in the case of a remarkable old ruin of the Fale-o-le-Fe'e (house of the Fe'e), the famous war-god of A'ana and Faleata, the site of which became known tome a short time before leaving Samoa in 1845. This appears to have been built in the usual Samoan style, but its ruins disclose the fact that its builders had used stone slabs for the supporting-posts of the roof, and thus it got the name of O le fale-ma'a-o-le-Fe'e (the stone house of the Fe'e), and hence became enshrouded with much mystery and wonder. I think this is the only instance of such a departure from the usual style of Samoan building known in the islands.
Various localities were supposed to be the haunts of different aitu, or spirits. On the road leading from Falelatai to Le Fangā there is a gap in a mountain-top washed by the rains, through which the road passes, and which was said to have been formed by repeated blows from the club of a vindictive spirit who had taken up his residence there, and was continually assaulting travelling parties as they passed. I have often been entertained, whilst passing this spot, with the recital of the various hairbreadth escapes of parties from the assaults of this tyrant. On the different roads throughout the islands spots are still pointed out as places which were formerly regarded with dread as the abode of some aitu; and on passing which every person was accustomed to make some small offering, accompanied with a petition for a prosperous journey.
Sometimes a tree acquired sacredness and renown page 229from its being the gathering-place of spirits. Even as late as the year 1844 I was much surprised one day to see an old blind man labouring to cut down a beautiful and very ornamental tree that stood near his house, and which till then had afforded him shelter from both heat and storm. I remonstrated with him for destroying so great an ornament to his land, when he told me that it was the resort of an aitu who disturbed him greatly with his doings, and that by cutting the tree down he hoped he should be rid of his torment, and thus get peace. On my return, some little time after, I found the man had succeeded in cutting down the obnoxious tree, near to which he sat and told me with evident pleasure he hoped to get quiet nights for the future, as of late his rest had been sadly disturbed by the aitu and his visitors. In the olden days such an act of summary ejectment and daring impiety would never have been thought of or entertained for a moment.
The dispositions attributed to their aitu and sau-ālii by the Samoans varied considerably, some being considered playful and mischievous, other vindictive; whilst some again were reputed to be of mild and inoffensive temper.
The playful or frolicksome aitu were said to disturb the peace of some quiet family at their evening meal with unearthly noises or sounds; or perhaps, just as the last flickering flame passed from their wood fire, the company would be startled by the arrival of aitu in the shape of a dull-coloured ball of fire, which flitted from rafter to rafter, or passed along the ridge-pole, and then took his departure amidst the uproar and clatter made by the affrighted inmates of the dwelling, who rushed helter-skelter out of the house. At other times page 230taking the form of a man, and feeling disposed for a ride, the aitu terrified some poor benighted traveller by leaping on his back, and nearly choking him, while he continued to ride on in this fashion. Resistance was vain, and the terrified traveller marched along in silence, but with hair on end, until his tormentor released his hold, and left him to pursue his journey in peace.
This love of a ride on the part of the playful spirits was said on one occasion to have enabled a party of visitors to compass the destruction of one who had long been a terror to the neighbourhood, as he haunted a particular spot, to the dread of all passers-by These details were given me by an old orator of Mulinuu, who seemed convinced of the reality of the whole proceeding, which he declared had actually happened a few years before the details were narrated to me; and also that he knew the man who had carried the aitu, a dare-devil fellow whom I also knew, and who was fearless of danger.
Tradition says that this aitu was accustomed to sit upon the limb of a tree near Palauli, from which he so constantly assaulted travellers as to become the bug-bear of the place. At length a travelling party from Falelatai, happening to stay there, one of them proposed to destroy the pest, provided the villagers would lend their aid, and support him in his plans, which they gladly consented to do. He procured some putrid fish, with which he rubbed himself over as the night advanced, and started alone for the haunt of the aitu, having previously arranged with his companions that they should light a fire in the malae, and appear as though they were having a merrymaking; whilst some were to lie in ambush near the fire with their clubs. page 231On nearing the spot he saw the aitu seated upon a branch, and at once accosted him. After a little, the aitu said, 'What a nice smell comes from you!' 'Yes,' said the man; 'I have been feasting upon a dead man, and a famous feast I have had: would not you like to have some of what is left?' 'Indeed I should,' said the aitu; 'but if I go you must carry me.' 'All right,' said Mu, as the man was called. 'I will carry you part of the way, and you shall carry me the rest.' On this Mu started, with the aitu on his back, taking the road towards the village The aitu made some remark about the noises and laughter that came from the village, but they trudged onwards until at length they neared the spot, when Mu said to his companion, who was riding, 'Don't hold so tightly, you will choke me; sit very loose upon my back, and hold slightly by my throat, for as we must pass through this village I shall have to walk quickly, as I know they are a bad lot, so don't stop my breathing.'
The aitu, anxious to get to the promised feast, did as he was told, and Mu trudged onwards, taking care to pass close by the fire, into which he pitched his burden, when the ambush rushed to the spot and beat fire and aitu to pieces with their clubs, and thus were enabled to rid themselves of their tormentor.
The natives often assured me, with much earnestness, that sometimes an assembled company would be compelled to flee in terror to escape from furious and repeated blows which were dealt amongst them with cudgels wielded by invisible hands. These blows were declared to be inflicted by aitu of vindictive and revengeful disposition; and it was also asserted that individuals were frequently carried away by them and page 232never heard of afterwards. Many were so severely beaten by the aitu as to cause death; but it is probable that these poor creatures were put to death in personal revenge by some enemy; whilst ascribing the deed to some spiritual agency was found a convenient mode of stifling inquiry.
It sometimes happened that an alarm was raised that proved groundless. Not long after my arrival at the islands, I was suddenly summoned to accompany a young man, who came in breathless haste, to prevent, as he said, the designs of an aitu, who had come to take away his mother. In answer to my inquiry as to what he meant, he urged: 'Oh, be quick, be quick, or the old woman will be gone before we reach the place.' This was a startling summons; but I at once went with the lad, who hurried me along with frequent fears lest we should be too late It was very dark, and the road stony and rough; but we hurried on, and as we approached the house, the lad's sister, hearing footsteps, asked who was approaching. My companion replied to her question, and then asked, 'And how is mother?' 'Oh, she is better,' was the reply, 'and the aitu has gone away.' 'Indeed,' replied the boy, 'how was that?' 'Well,' said the girl, 'when you jumped up to run for the missionary, the aitu said, "Where is he going?" "Oh," I said, "he is going to fetch the missionary to you." On hearing this he said, "Call him back, call him back; if you are going to send for him, I am off," and immediately took his departure.' I found the mother sitting quietly in her house, the attack of delirium having passed away; whilst the application of a blister served still further to keep off the visits of her ghostly tormentor.
The subject of the effects produced upon the native page 233mind in their heathen state, by spiritual influences and agencies by which they firmly believed themselves to be surrounded, is difficult and important. Were the natives in their heathen state more directly under what is called 'Satanic agency and Influence' than after the introduction of Christianity? is, to my mind, a question most difficult to answer. It often occupied my thoughts, and was regarded from different standpoints during years of close contact with the natives of Samoa just when they were emerging from their heathen state.
To illustrate the power which this belief had over the native mind in their heathen state, I may mention the following fact that occurred as late as 1845. A native of Lalomaunga, an inland village of Upolu, returned from his plantation one evening in distress. He hastily summoned his family and their relatives from a distance, and stated that he had that evening been told by an aitu, in the bush, that his death was close at hand. He had left home in good health, and continued his work until the evening, when he declared an aitu spoke to him and said, 'Nonsense, working here until this time, and just going to die!' The man immediately left his work, returned home, and spreading his mat, lay down and appeared sickening for death. His family gathered around him, his neighbours came to salute him as they thought for the last time, whilst he gave what he considered his dying directions, and fully believing that his doom as pronounced by the aitu was irrevocable, quietly gave himself up to die. Happily for him, one of his relatives came to tell me of the circumstance, and suspecting his ailment to be sunstroke, I sent him some medicine, as I was unable to go myself to see him, and page 234he lived several miles away. The medicine had a good effect, and the party of friends collected for his funeral dispersed, leaving the man in good health.
On another occasion a similar case occurred, but this I did not hear of until it had terminated fatally. The man, who lived at Satapuala, came home from his plantation to the settlement, stating that he had been violently beaten in the bush by an aitu, who had nearly killed him. His body was sadly bruised, and he appeared to have been subjected to much ill-treatment. He lingered for a few days, and then died, both himself and family firmly believing that his death was occasioned by the ill-treatment of the aitu He had most likely been attacked by sunstroke, or a fit of epilepsy, and the bruises had been inflicted by himself in his delirium.
At one period all bodily pain was supposed to be occasioned by the aitu, and strange things sometimes occurred in connexion with such notions. 'What a dreadful noise you made last night!' said some young lads to a companion; 'we thought you were being killed.' 'Oh,' said he, 'I had a dreadful struggle with an aitu in the night; he sprang upon me and tried to choke me, in which I thought he would have succeeded.' In vain I tried to persuade him that his hobgoblin was nothing but nightmare occasioned by eating to excess the night before; he persisted that it must have been a messenger from the land of spirits.
Offerings of food and property were made to the different aitu themselves, as well as to their representatives, the priesthood, or taulā-aitu. Sometimes these were used by the priests, but many of them were allowed to decay in the spirit-houses, no one presuming to appro-page 235priate so sacred an article to their own private use. Upon an aitu expressing a wish that a cocoanut-tree, or even the produce of an entire grove, should be rendered sacred to him, his wish was strictly complied with, the simple tying of a small portion of cocoanut-leaf around the trunk or trunks of the trees being sufficient to intimidate the stoutest heart. The tree remained untouched, its fruit ripened and fell to the ground, where the nuts decayed, or vegetated around the parent stem. Sometimes they formed a considerable heap, as they were allowed to accumulate month after month, no person presuming to touch them, or break the sacredness imposed.
Frequent folaunga aitu, or voyaging spirits, were supposed to visit the islands, and for their accommodation and refreshment the matini (offerings to the aitu) were placed upon the beach. These offerings consisted of small branches of the ava plant (Piper mythisticum), with fish of all kinds and sizes, according to the devotional feelings of the donors. The fish were allowed to putrefy on the beach, frequently remaining until they fell to pieces, and were washed away by the tide.
A desire to propitiate the gods was also shown in a custom common amongst the Samoans of casting aside a small portion of food on the commencement of a meal and pouring out upon the ground a small quantity of ava, as a peace-offering to the family aitu, or deity.
Annual feasts or revels were held in some districts in honour of their gods. That celebrated in the district of A'ana was called O le Tapu-o-A'ana-i-le Fe'e (the dedication of A'ana to the Fe'e, the district war-god). This festival, which was very popular, was usually attended by parties from all parts of the groups, and page 236was celebrated in the central malae of Leulumoenga, the chief settlement of A'ana. For this feast preparations on a large scale were made by the whole district; vast quantities of fish, pigs, and vegetables being required to satisfy the hundreds or rather thousands of visitors and spectators of the various club and sham fights, boxing and wrestling-matches, dances and obscenities, which followed each other in quick succession during the five days the feast lasted. During this time rioting and debauchery prevailed, and these were unmixed with any religious ceremony.
'Aue le ūnga i Fao, e,
Tangi ti'eti'e le ūnga i Fao,
E, tangi i lou tama ua mao,
O Foa le maunga o Atua,
Ia ta lavea atoa ua;
Talofa, ua tau puao.
A'ana e, e on le faiva o tau,
Ua 'ai eleele, ua tafili-i-le-mutia.
Chorus—I, saesae ē; I, saesae ē.'
Translation of song.
'Alas, for the hermit crab upon Fao,
The hermit crab has been crying to sit upon Fao,
But, oh weep for your son in his error.
Fao is the mountain of Atua,
It can collect all the showers.
Oh, our sympathy, the mists are fighting!
A'ana, your employment is combat,
But, you are eating the dirt, and sprawling upon the grass
Chorus—Oh carry him away! Oh carry him away!'
'Tufulele le vai a puea,
Aana e, tau fa'a ea?
'Na vele le mutia: vele le mutia!
Ua-ngau Fao! Ua-ngau Fao!
Chorus—I, saesae ē! I, saesae ē!'
'There pluck the greensward; pluck the greensward!
Fao is broken! Fao is broken!
Chorus—Oh carry him away! Oh carry him away!'
The vanquished champion was then borne from the ground by his companions, and the victor retired, their places being taken by other combatants.
The next day the whole assemblage proceeded to Falepapa, the malae at Lufilufi, at which place, if the Tulanga a Sasavai presented themselves, similar scenes to those just described followed; if not, the districts whose warriors had contended with each other the day before exchanged their titi, or girdles of ti leaves, in token of good-will; after which the amusements of the festival proceeded on to the close. Manono also celebrated a festival.
Earthquakes were attributed to the freaks of a god named Mafui'e, who dwelt in the volcanic regions below. Earthquakes were also called Mafui'e, and so named after this god.
The earth was supposed to be flat, and supported by a pillar, and upon anything exciting the wrath of Mafui'e, he seized the pillar supporting the earth and shook it violently, thus causing earthquakes. That they were not disastrous in their effects was attributed to the fact that Mafui'e had but one arm, which was cause for great rejoicing in Samoa, otherwise they said the earth would long since have been destroyed.
The tradition proceeds to describe how this occurred, and also tells how fire was first obtained on Samoa.
Mafui'e was an inhabitant of the regions below, or Sa-le-Fe'e. Ti'iti'i-a-Talanga dwelt upon this upper world, and was the offspring of the Ve'a. The employment of Mafui'e was to work in the lower regions and plant taro-tops. Ti'iti'i was sometimes called Talanga, in short. One day he determined to go below and visit page 239 Sa-le-Fe'e. He therefore went to Vailele, and standing upon a rock, exclaimed, 'Rock, rock, I am Talanga, open to me, I wish to go below.' On this the rock clave asunder, and Ti'iti'i proceeded to the regions below. At this time there was no fire in the upper world, but in the lower regions there was fire, i. e. in the place where Mafui'e dwelt. When Ti'iti'i had descended, Mafui'e, who had heard him descend, and beheld him approach said, 'Who is this strong one of Samoa, that thus disturbs my land?' Ti'iti'i answered, 'Be silent; this fellow has not ceased to eat cooked food, whilst those above have been eating uncooked food; for there was a great fire always burning below.' To this Mafui'e responded, 'Well, choose an employment upon which we shall first engage, whether wrestling, or boxing, or fighting, with spears and stones, or twisting of arms.' Ti'iti'i answered, 'Then let us two twist.' On this they immediately closed with each other, but Mafui'e's right arm was soon twisted off by Ti'iti'i, who then seized his opponent's left arm and began twisting that off also, but Mafui'e cried out, 'Enough, let me live; leave me one arm, that I may take hold of things with.'
Talanga demanded some acknowledgement of defeat from Mafui'e, when the latter said, 'Take some fire, this burning brand of Toa, with these taro-tops; thus your people will be able to eat cooked food.' On this Talanga left the lower regions, and on coming to the place whence he started, he struck various kinds of wood with his burning brand, which caused them to yield fire. This latter statement apparently has a reference to the kinds of wood from which fire is usually obtained by friction, and which seems to be referred to in this statement.page 240
Tradition further states that Talanga on one occasion went for a sail in his canoe. The Tuaoloa (south wind) blew, on which he said, 'Bring hither that wind, and put it into my canoe, it is a bad wind.' This was followed by the Mātū (north wind), when Ti'iti'i said, 'This wind is a nuisance, it will cause many tempests,' upon which it was brought and placed in the canoe. Shortly after the Mata Upolu (east wind) sprang up, it was also bad, would be accompanied by rain, and prove unpleasant; this wind was also brought to the canoe. The To'elau (trades) came next, but were considered bad from their strength, and summoned to the canoe. They were followed by the Laufala, the Faati'u, and the Piipapa, but as neither gave satisfaction, they were all summoned to the canoe. These were succeeded by the Tonga (Ssw.), which was also secured on account of its bringing rain, and inducing drowsiness. At last came the Fisanga, a gentle, pleasant wind, when Ti'iti'i said, 'Let this remain, lest both the land and the sea become bad; and also that its breezes may gently fan my flowing hair.'
A tradition also existed of Malietoa-fainga, a chief who was so called from his custom of having a man cooked daily for his own eating. Pou-niu-tele, of Safotu, was sent for by this cannibal chief to come to Sangana, where he lived. Pou-niu-tele started, and was met by Maesama, who sent him back, and went himself. He was also sent back, by Le Tufunga, who sent his son Angavale in his stead. He crossed over to Upolu, and on entering the harbour Avalua, in the neighbourhood of Sangana, he came up with a fishing-party, amongst whom was Polua-le-uli-nganga, a son of Malietoa, who page 241asked Angavale where he was going, and on the latter telling him his destination, he expressed his sorrow at his father's cruelty, and devised a scheme to shock him. He returned to the shore and caused himself to be bound up in cocoanut-leaves, as though prepared for baking. He then had himself carried and placed before his father, causing his legs to be put under the stool on which his father sat, so that his countenance, the only part of his body left uncovered, might be seen instantly by his father. As he expected, his father knew him, and, shocked to see his son in that position, at once ordered the body to be unrolled. In the explanation that followed, the son made such an impression upon his father that he prevailed upon him to give up his horrible daily feast.
It is well known that there was much intercourse between Samoa and Tonga in the past, as also that frequent attempts were made by the Tongans to subdue Samoa, but they could never conquer the group. On one occasion, on the defeat of one of these attempts, the chief in command of the Tongan invaders made an admission, as he prepared to leave Samoa, from which the name of Mālietoa takes its rise. Preparing to leave Samoa, he addressed himself to the Samoan leader, as follows: 'Ua mălie tau, ua Mālie toa' (I am pleased with your fighting, and satisfied with your bravery. I shall now leave Samoa, and return to Tonga to stay). On this the Samoan chief thus addressed changed his name, as the custom was, and adopted the well-known name of Mālietoa (satisfied with your bravery), in commemoration of the compliment paid to him on his prowess, by the defeated Tonga chieftain.