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THE LEAVEN WORKS.
the words of the Hebrew prophet, "The isles shall wait for His law."
Passing on to the beautiful little isle of Manono, and the great isles of Savaii and Upolu, the missionaries were received with extravagant joy by teachers and people; and by the high chiefs with more nose-rubbing than was agreeable! They heard with delight that all the principal chiefs and many of the people had already declared themselves Christians, and had proved themselves in earnest by truly consistent conduct; and that the majority of the people had resolved to follow their good example. Upwards of a thousand sat breathlessly to hear the white man's words, spoken in Tahitian, and interpreted by one of the teachers. Then Makea, the king of Rarotonga, a man of magnificent stature, who had accompanied Mr Williams, addressed the people, and explained how wonderful had been the change wrought in his own isles since they embraced the lolu;1 how, in old days, they had been for ever fighting and murdering one another, till at length they had hearkened to the voice of the teachers, and, in fear and trembling, had brought their idols to be burnt, and had watched from afar while those daring men had cooked their bananas on the embers.
1 Christianity. VOL. L P
Here, in Samoa, there were very few idols, and no blood-stained maraes, altars, or temples; human sacrifice, or indeed any sort of sacrifice, was not required; hence the expression, "Godless as a Samoan," by which the men of other groups described any one who neglected the service of the temples. The Samoans, however, were diligent in the worship of their own ancestors, and, moreover, supposed that the spirit of their gods animated divers birds, fishes, or reptiles. As certain Indian tribes have adopted different animals as their totem-god, so in Samoa and the Hervey Isles, each chief had his etu—i.e., some living creature, which to him and to his people was sacred; and foreigners, ignorant of this matter, sometimes incurred serious danger from accidentally killing some revered reptile, or even insect. The man who found a dead body of his representative deity, say an owl, a heron, or a bat, would stop and wail piteously, beating his own forehead with stones till it bled; then wrapping up the poor dead creature with all reverence, he would solemnly bury it, with as much care as if it had been a near relation. This was supposed to be pleasing to the gods. When, therefore, any Samoan resolved to declare himself a Christian, he commenced by killing and eating the familiar spirit of his tribe, whether TOTEM OR ETU WORSHIP.
grasshopper, centipede, octopus, vampire-bat, snake, eel, lizard, parrot, or other creature.1
There was one chief who reverenced as his etu the fractured, but carefully mended, skull of a white man, whose firearms had won his admiration, though the man's crimes had led to his being clubbed. An amusing story is told of the terror with which these simple folk first beheld a talking cockatoo in the cabin of a vessel. With a cry of dismay they rushed on deck and leaped overboard, declaring that the captain had his etu in the cabin, and that they had heard it talking to him.
The story of the conversion of these much tattoed but little clothed warriors abounds in picturesque detail. Thus, when the great chief Malietoa promised Mr Williams that he would become a Christian so soon as he had fully avenged the death of Tamafainga, "in whom was the spirit of the evil gods," before himself going forth to battle, he sent one of his sons to help the teachers to build their chapel. On his return, when the chapel was to be opened, he called his sons together and announced his intention of fulfilling his promise to the white chief. With one accord they replied that what was good for their father was good for them, and that they too would lotu. This, how
1 See note on Etu worship at the end of this letter.
ever, he forbade, declaring that if they obstinately insisted on so doing, he would continue in the faith of his ancestors. "Do you not know," he said, "that the gods will be enraged with me and seek to destroy me? and perhaps Jehovah may not be strong enough to protect me against them! I purpose, therefore, to try the experiment. If He can protect me, you may safely follow my example; but if not, then I only shall perish."
The young men were reluctant to obey, and asked how long they must allow for this test. Malietoa suggested a month or six weeks; and intense was the interest with which all his people waited and watched, lest sickness or other evil should befall him. But when, at the end of three weeks, all went on prosperously, it was felt that the supremacy of the Christian's God was established, and the sons of Malietoa would wait no longer. So, calling together a great company of friends and kinsmen, they proceeded solemnly to cook a large quantity of anae, a silvery fish, which was the etu of their tribe. These being laid on freshly gathered leaves, were placed before each person, and the teachers solemnly offered a prayer, ere, with fear and trembling, these young converts nerved themselves to swallow a few morsels of the sacred fish, hitherto held in such reverence. So intense, however, was the hold of the old supersti
tion, that the young men, unable to conquer their fear lest the etu should gnaw their vitals and destroy them, immediately retired to swallow a large dose of cocoa-nut oil and salt water, which, acting as a powerful emetic, greatly tended to counteract any malignant influence of the offended gods.
Soon after this, a great meeting of chiefs was convened to consult on the fate of Papo, the venerable god of war. This renowned relic was nothing but a strip of rotten old matting, about three yards long and four inches wide, which was always attached to the war-canoe of the highest chief when he went forth to battle. Now an impious voice suggested that this venerated rag should be thrown in the fire, but a burst of disapprobation silenced this cruel suggestion. However, all agreed that Papo must be exterminated; so as drowning was a less horrible death than burning, they resolved to launch a new canoe, in which a number of high chiefs should row out to sea, and, having fastened Papo to a heavy stone, should commit him to the deep. They had actually started on this errand, with great ceremony, when the teachers hurried after them in another canoe, to beg that the old war-god might be presented to Mr Williams. The chiefs were immensely relieved by the suggestion; and the venerable strip of matting is now to be seen in the museum of the London Mission.