Spirits in Culture, History, and Mind, 2-6


pp. 29-54 – 2. Jeannette Marie Mageo : "Samoan Spirits in Culture History".

pp. 33, 41 aitu

p. 33

"The war goddess Nafauna was the only deity worshiped by all Samoans, but Nafauna was an aitu who was the daughter of an aitu, Savea Si<uleo, chief of the underworld".


"Aitu were born as ... a miscarried fetus".

p. 41

"The most famous female aitu are Letelesa and Sauma<iafe."

p. 40 "there are souls (agaga) who return from the dead to bother their living relatives ad who are, therefore, ghosts".

pp. 35-36 public entertainments involving sexual features

p. 35

"the evening featured ula, "joking." ... Ula is a specific kind of joking, ... sexual or scatological in nature ... . Thus, when someone makes a sexual quip, it is ula, and when giggling girls grab at one another’s breasts and genitals, this also is ula."

p. 36

"a dance called sa<e" : "In the sa<e the old women began dancing naked and singing a chorus of sexually explicit songs ... . As the sa<e progressed, ... banter became obscene, and then began the final phase – the "spirit frenzy" (<ale<aleaitu) – in which all dancers tore off their own and one another’s clothes, after which "many bonds of love, more or less transitory" were forged ... . ... "The <ale<ale means whoever you are dancing with at that time, you will take off the lavalava, and you can run off, elope"".

pp. 42, 45 spirit-mediumship; spirit-possession

p. 42

"In old Samoa, professional spirit mediums were called taulaitu, "spirit anchors.""

p. 45

"When possessed, a girl’s face and carriage are said to become like that of a female aitu." "during possession : the girl’s behavior is ... apt to wander about half-clad or wholly naked, and her language may become obscene".

pp. 53-54, n. 2:8 Nifo-loa

p. 53, n. 2:8

"the Nifoloa and Nafanua possess people in Manu<a. The Nifoloa is a notorious male aitu usually said to reside in Savai<i ... .

p. 54, n. 2:8

Nifoloa sickness takes the form ... that is believed to be the tooth of the Nifoloa. ... [A woman] was possessed by the Nifoloa ... when she crossed the bridge he haunted. ... a loud popping sound ... was the [tooth] exploding." {"the ihamba tooth ... is the tooth of a dead hunter that is wandering about in search of meat; it is also his spirit." (ER, p. 29)}

ER = Edith L. B. Turner : Experiencing Ritual. U of PA Pr, Philadelphia, 1992. http://books.google.com/books?id=AVdr7iOJ0UIC&pg=PA29&lpg=PA29&dq=ihamba+tooth&source=bl&ots=NhbynGR1zK&sig=I7htOugrxQJ8lnUf2InknrSkxag&hl=en&ei=IGCSS46NI8GXtgexwJDVCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CAgQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=ihamba%20tooth&f=false


pp. 55-74 – 3. Tamar Gordon : "Interpreting Spirit Possession in Tonga".

pp. 59-60 caerimonially-induced spirit-possession of priests by deities

p. 59

"Tongans believed in a shadow land called Pulotu that lay to the northwest of the Tongan archipelago. Pulotu housed the hierarchy of gods (<otua) ... – all of whom could return to speak through the mouths of priests. ...

Ritual <avanga worked officially through a caste of priests – mainly men, but including some women – who were routinely possessed by the gods ... . These greater and lesser deities were elicited as players ... in ... the warnings, prophesies and injunctions that issued from them through the mediumship of the priests ... . ... Priest mediums also had the power to heal, and people who were physically ill ... were brought to their homes to receive interpretation and prognosis of their maladies. ... When a priest was called upon to mediate between gods and people, ... the priest was considered "inspired" ... . His message delivered and the kava and food consumed, the priest finished by striking a club on the ground, thereby releasing the spirit and its mana from his body."


[quotation from ANTI, p. 84 :] Se’ance of a priest : "all that he says is supposed to be the declaration of the god, and he accordingly speaks in the first person as though he were the god. ... He is seized with universal trembling, the perspiration breaks out on his forehead and his lips, turning black, are convulsed; at length, tears start in floods from his eyes, his breast heaves with great emotion, and his

p. 60

utterance is choked. ... Before this paroxysm comes on, and after it is over, he often eats as much as four hungry men, under other circumstances, could devour."

ANTI = John Martin : An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands. Neiafu : Vaa<u Pr, 1981.

pp. 60-61 spontaneous spirit-possession of non-priests by the dead

p. 60

"the spirits of chiefs often appeared in dreams and visions to their relatives and descendants, who in turn publicized their messages. [A Tu<i Tonga’s] son, for example, was regularly possessed by the dead Tu<i Tonga who advised him on political and personal matters."


"On one occasion a certain chief ... swooned away. When recovered from this, ... he was taken to the house of a priest, who told the sick chief that it was a woman, mentioning her name, who had died two years before and was now in Bolotoo [Pulotu], that had inspired him; that she was deeply in love with him, and wished him to die ... that she might have him near her. The chief replied, that he had seen the figure of a female two or three successive nights in his sleep, and had begun to suspect that he was inspired by her, though he could not tell who she was. He died two days afterwards."


"Spirits who possessed common people and whose messages were then interpreted by priests pointed by directly and

p. 61

indirectly to ... inordinate attachment to a deceased spouse or lover, too-fierce mourning".

p. 59 "chiefs were interred in langi {literally, ‘heaven’}, or raised graves. ... the shades of dead chiefs ... did ... said away to Pulotu at the moment of physical death."


pp. 75-97 – 4. Niko Besnier : "Heteroglossic Discourses on Nukulaelae Spirits".

pp. 75-76 Nukulaelae

p. 75

"Nukulaelae is a very small atoll ... in the southern region of a chain of nine islands called Tuvalu".

p. 76

"Peruvian slave traders raided the atoll in 1863 and made off with 70 to 80 percent of the population ... All the victims of the raid perished abroad within a few years".

pp. 76, 81-82 spirit-mediumship

p. 76

"Nukulaelae people may have practiced an ancestor cult involving the skulls of forebears. Supernatural beings apparently were ... iconicized in the shape of unworked stones. Spirit mediums, called vaka atua (literally, "vessel {canoe} of god[s]" ...) are said to have functioned as religious practitioners, engaging in prescience, divination, and communication with the spirits of dead individuals".

p. 81

"Spirits manifest themselves in ... spirit mediumship (fakalleo, literally, "to give [someone] a voice") and possession (pukea ...). Briefly, a spirit enters (ulu) the body and mind of the medium or possessed person and takes over its "normal" human functions, particularly its voice ... . As ... in Tikopia, Nukulaelae islanders characterize possession as an essentially involuntary event ...; in contrast, mediumship is a voluntarily induced state in which the spirit is called (kalaga) to enter the body of the medium. Yet the agency in mediumship does not rest with the medium; the spirit’s caller is always someone other the medium, usually a relative of higher status than the medium (e.g., an older man), who hence has some degree of control over the" spirit. ["spirits can go to people that are in the habit of calling out to spirits. ... the spirit ... can’t come ... to those of us who are not friendly with it, but it always comes to people who are happy to make friends with it, because they called out for it to come." (p. 88)]

p. 82

[spirit-mediumship on Funafuti :] "a young Funafuti woman ... embarked on a major series of mediumship episodes ... . ... According to Nukulaelae narrators, Saumaiafi ["a powerful female spirit"], through the medium of [the Funafuti woman], was able to tell ... who had performed love magic on whom, and where lost [personal possessions] could be found."

"Saumaiafi claims to have gone to and been able to land at all atolls and islands of Tuvalu, with the exception of Nukulaelae".


pp. 99-120 – 5. Richard Feinberg : "Spirit Encounters on a Polynesian Outlier : Anuta, Solomon Islands".

pp. 101-102 atua

p. 101

"atua vare, "common spirits" or undistinguished spirits" ... haunt the bush, primarily at night ... . It is difficult to see their faces, although their bodies are often quite visible."

p. 102

"When spirits are seen, they often look like people, only larger and more powerful. Observers feel they have a relatively clear view, yet they can rarely see the spirit’s face."

p. 103 "a culture hero, a man of great manuu, "mana; supernaturally derived potency," ... was born with his face "colored like a rainbow" (pani marara), which marked him as an ariki pakatomo or ariki manuu – a chief of exceptional mana."

p. 104 constellations

"Manu, "Bird," is a male spirit seen in a constellation consisting of Sirius ( his "body"), Canopus (his "east wing"), and Procyon (his "north wing"). Manu’s north wing is horter than his east wing, having been broken off in a fight with Motikitiki [by whom "Anuta was initially pulled from the ocean floor"] over the female spirit taro (Antares)."

pp. 104-105 totemic spirits



its pakatino (totemic embodiment)

p. 104


toke (eel)



moko (lizard)


Tepuko; Rotomua

mangoo (shark)

p. 105


peke (octopus)



ponu (seaturtle)

p. 104 "Spirit sharks could be identified by their ... propensity to come onto the reef to "lie" or "sleep" (moe) in front of the Tapu Ariki". [The Tapu Ariki was the caerimonial ground where the Kava ritual for Tearakura was held (p. 103)]

pp. 104, 106 tupua

p. 104

"Between gods (tupua tapu) and undistinguished spirits (atua vare) are beings known as tupua penua, "land spirits," {cf. landwights} and entities ... which have no distinct class label in Anutan."

p. 106

"tupua penua ... were numerous and of both sexes. ... Among the more prominent are :


Uuperuu, a female spirit with one very long, folded breast (na uu e peruperu), which she used to lasso men and force them to have sex with her.


Uunapine, a female spirit who lived in a cave known as Te Ana Rai "The Large Cave" ... near the main passage to the ocean.


Rua Taka, meaning "Two Spinsters," (rua, "two"; taka "unmarried"), denotes a pair of sisters whom Tearakura banished from Anuta ... . Eventaully, these spirits ascended to the heavens and became embodied in the two Magellanic Clouds.


Paaira, who was sometimes male and sometimes female, is said to have had a white skin ... .


Uuarenga, Matarua, and Pu Roa were male spirits inhabiting a number of caves in different sections of Anuta’s beach."

pp. 108-109, 111 spirit-mediumship

p. 108

"Those spirits that possess and communicate through a particular medium are that medium’s spirit familiars. ... Mediumship involves reciprocal communication between the spirit and the human community, whereas other forms of possession are taken to involve one-way communication emanating from the spirit. ... The common Anutan term for "spirit medium" is vakaatua, "spirit vessel" or "spirit vehicle.""


"When spirit mediums (vakaatua) existed, an atua rushed hither to enter the medium. The spirit announced that he wished a betel chew. The medium chewed his betel. Then his body shook violently.

p. 109

When he was done chewing his betel, the spirit fell from the medium and fled. Then another entered. He would also come and chew. ... Then his body shook again."


"Mediums entered by the leading deities were not termed vakaatua but tauraatua, "spirit anchors.""

p. 111

"Tauraatua, mediums for the high gods, included only men of special prominence. Vakaatua apparently included men and women representing a variety of social statuses."

p. 111 "Anutans distinguish mediumship (vakaatua and tauraatua) from other types of spirit encounter. ... Information not readily available to the senses can be obtained through dreams or visions in which spirits "speak" (karanga) to the recipient, "revealing" (pakaari) what is hidden from the view of others".

p. 115 sacred names

"To invoke a god’s assistance ..., one called him by his sacred name (ingoa pakaepa or ingoa pakataputapu). If one should speak a sacred name in profane contexts, the god would hear that he was being called upon for trivial concerns, grow annoyed, and offer punishment".


pp. 121-145 – 6. Alan Howard : "Discourse and Belief in Spirits on Rotuma".

p. 122-124 spirit-possession by <atua

p. 122

"<atua ... "dead person, corpse, ghost.""

p. 123

"As soon as a human being dies he becomes an <atua."

"<atua refers to a corpse as well as a ghost. ... It is actually ... the dead body"". ["edible items, is used in reference to a person killed in war" (p. 123), however, is not /<atua/ but /<atue/ (p. 144, n. 6:1)]

p. 124

"The compound form sur<atua ... used in reference to possession [sur = "to enter"] ... signifies a person into whom the spirit of a deceased person has entered. ... When a person was possessed by an <atua they were said to take on the appearance, mannerism and voice of the deceased person who entered them".

pp. 124-125 communication by <a.itu with humans

p. 124

"<a.itu ... "god ...; shark, stingray, or other creature regarded as the habitat of a god"".

p. 125

"the god of the sau and mua, Tagroa sir<ia ["sir<ia ... "... to go further, go beyond; to surpass, excell ..." ... the name of a star used ... to find Rotuma." (p. 144, n. 6:3)], was an <a.itu. The sau was ... the "king" of Rotuma ..., while the mua was ... a "high priest" ... . Tagroa sir<ia was prayed to ... for rain, and ... could be called on to avert hurricanes".


"to<a.k <a.itu refers to a condition in which an <a.itu speaks, unheard by others, to an entranced recipient who then relates the messages to a waiting audience".

p. 125 When they "translated ... Bible ... terms", "Methodists chose <a.itu for God and relegated the concept of <atua to "devils," while Catholics chose the reverse. ... this ... did provide a basis for adherents of the conflicting faiths to heap verbal scorn on one another."

pp. 125-126 hosts for spirits; abodes for spirits

p. 125

"The term tu<ura was used to designate a being that hosted an <atua." Thus, a (particular) dead "woman ... has tu<ura[-e]d to an owl" (where "tu<ura ... is used ... as a verb") by using the owl as the host (temporary abode) for herself (as dead soul).

p. 126

The "ape<a.itu ... priests (and priestesses) ... acted as mediums for local gods."


"Another term associated with spirits is tupu<a ... "immortal man; rock or stone reputed to be such a person petrified" ... . Certain rocks were thought to be tupu<a, and their spirits could be called upon by persons acting as mediums."

p. 128 seductive spirits

"One particular spirit, a legendary figure by the name of ha.nit e ma.<us, "wild woman of the bush," sometimes appeared in the form of a succubus, a beautiful temptress who lured men into sexual liaisons in order to capture their souls. ... a number of people reported having seen <atua. They told ... that the road to Losa, which passes through the bush, is especially plagued by spirits, and that the night of a quarter moon is worst. A large hefau tree on the way was supposedly inhabited by a whole family of <atua. Individuals also reported having seen the figure of a woman standing facing a mango tree along the same road. She was described as nude, with long black hair down to her waist, and white skin. ... Another story concerned a large bird that flies through the air and, upon landing, assumes a human form."

"<Atua were said to lure human beings by presenting themselves as attractive paramours, particularly in dreams. Women were especially vulnerable to malicious spirits who sought to enter their vaginas when they were urinating, sometimes causing miscarriages. When outside, women were instructed never to urinate in an open space; instead they should relieve themselves near a rock or tree."

p. 129 communication of <atua with the living, other than by way of spirit-possession

"The souls of recently deceased individuals were said to make their presence known through the cries of birds, an owl’s flying by, or other unusual events. This indicated the spirit was restless, and it was common for relatives to go to the cemetery to implore it to rest".

pp. 129-130 propitiations of spirits

p. 129

"Despite the tropical heat, windows were often closed at night to keep out marauding <atua. ...

At other times spirits have to be mollified by ritual. ... The goal is to placate the spirit or spirits who

p. 130

caused the event, so as to avoid a recurrence."

pp. 130, 145 spirits of localities

p. 130

"each locality in Rotuma had spirits who were propitiated and were supposed to look after the interests of the local group. Such spirits generally took the form of animals and were treated with ... respect. {cf. the Norse landvaettir ("landwights"), deities of localities who took the form of animals, such as dragon, snakes, bird, bull – RP16; ICA} ...

The "hoag [ho<aga] gods" were usually incarnated in the form of some animal, as the tanifa (the hammer-headed shark), juli (sandpiper), olusi (lizard), mafrop (gecko)".

p. 145, n. 6:12

"a certain class of spirits ..., those who had not had sex during their lifetimes, ... are the spirits of people who were not devoured by the <atua at the times of their death; their dwelling place was said to be in the hanua fa.vi "anchored land," visible at times on the horizon".

RP16 = http://www.northvegr.org/northern/book/religious016.php

ICA = http://nordicculturespot.blogspot.com/2009/10/landvttir-and-iceland-coat-of-arms.html


Jeannette Marie Mageo & Alan Howard (eds) : Spirits in Culture, History, and Mind. Routledge, NY & London, 1996.