Page images



IN the course of my missionary voyages in the Pacific I have had opportunities of collecting ethnological and other facts from various islands at distances of from 200 to 2000 miles from Samoa. In most instances I have used as my interpreters Samoan native teachers who had lived for years. among the people from whom I wished to elicit information. Without a lengthened personal residence reliable details are necessarily limited. The following notes, however, will not be unacceptable:

Lat. 9° 26' S. Lon. 170° 12' W.

The natives there say that men had their origin in a small stone on Fakaofo. The stone became changed into a man called Vasefanua. After a time he thought of making a woman. This he did by collecting a quantity of earth, and forming an earth model on the ground. He made the head,

body, arms, and legs all of earth, then took out a rib from his left side and thrust it inside of the earth model, when suddenly the earth became alive, and up started a woman on her feet. He called her Ivi (Eevee), or rib, he took her to be his wife, and from them sprang the race of men. To this day the children play on the sand at making models of men-body, hands, feet, head, and face, with holes for the eyes.

The government was monarchical, and the king, Tui Tokelau, was high priest as well. There were three families from which the king was selected, and they always selected an aged man. They said that a young man was a bad ruler, and that mature age was essential to the office. They were a quiet people, and rarely fought.

Their great god was called Tui Tokelau, or king of Tokelau. He was supposed to be embodied in a stone, which was carefully wrapped up with fine mats, and never seen by any one but the king, and that only once a year, when the decayed mats were stripped off and thrown away. In sickness, offerings of fine mats were taken and rolled round the sacred stone, and thus it got busked up to a prodigious size; but as the idol was exposed to the weather out of doors, night and day, the mats soon rotted. No one dared to appropriate what had been offered to the god, and hence the old mats, as they were taken off, were heaped in a place by themselves

and allowed to rot. Before the idol was its house, or temple, a great thatched shed, which might hold some 400 people. Once a year, viz. about the month of May, a whole month was devoted to the worship of the god. All work was then laid aside. Great quantities of food was prepared. The people assembled from the three islands, prayed for life, and health, and a plentiful supply of fish and cocoanuts. They had dancing too, men with men, and women with women, and lighted up the temple all the night over during the month with what they called "light in honour of the god."

No fire was allowed to be kindled at night in the houses of the people all the year round. It was sacred to the god, and so, after sundown, they sat and chatted in the dark. There were only two exceptions to the rule: 1st, fire to cook fish taken in the night, but then it must not be taken to their

1 How remarkably this compares with what the Earl of Roden says of a stone idol in his Progress of the Reformation in Ireland :— "In the south island, in the house of a man named Monigan, a stone idol, called in the Irish Neevougi,' has been from time immemorial religiously preserved and worshipped. This god resembles in appearance a thick roll of home-spun flannel, which arises from the custom of dedicating a dress of that material to it whenever its aid is sought; this is sewn on by an old woman, its priestess, whose peculiar care it is. Of the early history of this idol no authentic information can be procured, but its power is believed to be immense; they pray to it in time of sickness; it is invoked when a storm is desired to dash some hapless ship upon their coast; and, again, the exercise of its power is solicited in calming the angry waves, to admit of fishing or visiting the mainland."

houses, only to the cooking-house; and, 2d, a light was allowed at night in a house where there happened to be a confinement.

The origin of fire they traced to Mafuike, but, unlike the Mafuike of the mythology of some other islands, this was an old blind lady. Talanga went down to her in her lower regions and asked her to give him some of her fire. She obstinately refused, until he threatened to kill her, and then she yielded. With the fire he made her say what fish were to be cooked with it, and what were still to be eaten raw; and then began the time of cooking food.

Polygamy prevailed. Cocoa-nuts and fish formed the prevailing food of the people. There were no fowls or pigs there, but swarms of rats. Boys at sport played at catching rats. They who caught the most won the game. Canoes were made from a single log hollowed out. They now use iron tools, but formerly they used shell hatchets. They sometimes burned the trunk of a tree to make it fall, but as the fire occasionally ran up the heart of a tree and destroyed it all, they usually cut away at the trunk with their shell hatchets, day after day, until it fell. It took ten, fifteen, and thirty days to fell a tree. Another plan was to dig down and cut the roots. They showed some ingenuity in the manufacture of buckets with lids. They were made by hollowing out a solid block of wood. They did it by burning.

When a ship was seen they consulted the king

and high priest whether they should go out to it. He decided for or against. If they went they did so with great fear, praying all the way that they might be preserved alive and free from harm. When a party went the king often went with them. When he went, one sat a little before him, holding up a cocoa-nut leaflet, as a sort of protecting flag, or charm, and the king sat immediately behind, praying all the while, as the rest paddled, that they might be kept from harm. A party of them once went out to visit a ship, and when near the vessel one of their number was shot dead; all the rest fled to the shore. They supposed that the people in the ship thought they had gone out to fight.

They thought a foreign ship something unearthly, and the white crew sailing gods from some region of spirits. The fire burning in their inside, and sending forth volumes of smoke (tobacco smoke) seemed superhuman, and the guns, belching out fire and smoke and "stones," seemed to be no work of man. If any one died about the time a vessel had been seen, they concluded that the party of sailing gods had come for his spirit, and when they happened to see any on board ship with their hair cut short, they supposed they were some of the spirits but lately received.

Apart from the god Tui Tokelau, there wa particular disease-making god, whose priest received offerings from the sick of fine mats. When the

« PreviousContinue »