« PreviousContinue »
waiting for a falu lotu—a religion-ship—to bring them a teacher who could tell them about Jesus Christ. Great was their disappointment when they heard that Mr Williams had only been able to secure one teacher, whom he had promised to leave on another isle.
These people had received such knowledge as they possessed from a canoe which had drifted all the way from Rairavae, an island upwards of 300 miles to the south of Tahiti, and fully 2000 miles from that where it at length arrived, after a three months' voyage, in the course of which twenty of the party died of the hardships they underwent. But the survivors had carefully preserved their copy of the Tahitian translation of the Scriptures; and on reaching the unknown isle they built a reed-hut for their chapel, and there met daily for worship. Thus, among the strange and precious treasures which from time to time are cast up by the ocean on far-away isles, did the people of Manua receive the Word of Life.
Among those who had heard it gladly was a fine young fellow, a native of Leone, in the Isle Tutuila, to which he begged to be conveyed in the foreign ship, that he might teach his brethren what he had learnt. Thither they sailed, touching at the Isles Orosenga and Ofu, where as yet no rumour of the new teaching had been heard.
As they approached Tutuila, they were surrounded by a vast number of canoes filled with excessively wild-looking men, clamouring for powder and muskets, as they were on the eve of a great war with a neighbouring chief. No sign there of any leaven of good—in fact, the presence among them of a resident Englishman of the "beach-combing" fraternity, was anything but a hopeful indication. The amount of mischief done by even the average specimens of this class has been incalculable; but many have been miscreants of the deepest dye, whose crimes have aroused the horror of even the vilest heathen. Many of them were desperadoes—convicts escaped from New South Wales in stolen vessels, which they scuttled on reaching any desirable isle, where they generally contrived to make themselves useful in war, and so "CAST THY BREAD UPON THE WATERS." 133
secure the protection of some chief. One of these men, who made Lis way to Samoa, was said to have shot 200 persons with his musket, smearing himself with charcoal and oil to enable him to creep within range undetected. His delight at the end of such a day's sport was to seat himself on a sort of litter, smeared with blood, surrounded by the heads of his victims, and so be carried home by his followers, yelling savage songs of triumph. Such men as these were not exactly calculated to improve the morals of the Pacific!
Passing on to beautiful Leone, which bore an evil character for savage cruelty and treachery, and the massacre of various boats' crews, the mission party beheld the people drawn up on the beach, in what appeared a formidable array. They, however, lowered the boat and neared the shore, when the chief, bidding his people sit down, waded up to his neck till he reached the strangers, and explained that he and his followers were no longer savage, but "sons of the word;" and went on to tell how, twenty moons previously, some of his people had been at Savaii when the white chief Williams had arrived there with some tama-fai-lotu, "workers of religion," and having learnt a little, they had returned home with the news, and already fifty of the people had become Christians. Pointing to a group who sat somewhat apart, under the shade of the bread-fruit trees, and who each wore a strip of white native cloth tied round one arm, he said that those were the Christians, who had adopted that badge to distinguish them from the heathen; that they had built a place for prayer, in a thicket of bananas; and that one of their number from time to time crossed over to Savaii in his little canoe, to "get some more religion " from the teachers 1 to bring back to his own people.
On learning that the man he was addressing was the identical
1 The thought of this poor savage, week by week imperilling his life by 'crossing that stormy sea in his frail canoe, has often come vividly to my mind as an illustration of the words in Dent. xxx. 11-14: "This commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is sot .... beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in tby heart, that thou mayest do it."
"white chief" who had visited Savaii, he made a sign to hi3 people, who rushed into the sea, and carried the boat and all who were in it high and dry on the beach in their enthusiastic welcome; but when they learnt that the religion-ship had brought no teacher for them, their disappointment was unbounded; and so, we may well believe, was that of the zealous apostle who had discovered these isles " white to the harvest," but had failed to find reapers.
So eager was the desire to know about the better way, that there were many places in the isles where the people, having only heard a dim rumour of what others had learnt, had actually built places for the worship of the unknown God, and, having prepared their food on the Saturday, assembled there at six o'clock each Sabbath morning, and again twice in the day, not for service, because none knew what to say, but to sit together in reverent silence, waiting for some revelation of His will . It seemed a strangely literal illustration of 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 lotu;* 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
TOTEM OR ETU WORSHIP. 135
afar while those daring men had cooked their hananas on the embers.
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 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 leapt 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 tattooed but little clothed warriors abounds in picturesque detail. Thus, when the great chief Malietoa promised Mr Williams that he would become 1 See note on Etu worship at the end of this letter.
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, however, 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 mel 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 superstition, 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