The Temple of Aitu

O Malumalu o Aitu

I aso anamua, sa gaosia ni fale e nonofo ai aitu. E fa’asaina ia fale fa’apitoa mo aitu. E leai se tasi e fa’atagaina ona ulufale i ai vagana le faia o ni taulaga ona fa’atoā o lea i ai o tagata. Sa ta’ua ia fale o malumalu o sauali’i po o aitu. O se tama’ita’i e fia faia se taulaga, e tatau ona la’ei i ni ona lavalava aupito sili ona lelei. O taulaga, e mafai ona molia e ni ali’i po o ni tama’ita’i, mo le sauali’i, i ni o latou la’ei lelei ma aofia ai mea manogi ‘ese’ese ma se fasi ava. A’o iai i latou i totonu o malumalu e moli taulaga, e saunia e le to’atele o le nu’u ni mea’ai ‘ese’ese e taumamafa fa’atasi ai pe a uma ona momoli o taulaga.

E molia ia taulaga ina ia fa’amalie ai le sauali’i, ma aua ne’i tupu se fa’ama’i i le nu’u. E le gata i taulaga faitele a le nu’u, a e iai fo’i le taulaga e molia e le aiga lava ia mo lo latou lava aitu. Sa tu’u ai lava i le malumalu se tanoa ava, se ipu ava, ma se fasi ava. O ni isi aso tu’upoina, e la’ei lelei ai tama’ita’i, ma malaga atu i le malumalu e fa’au’uina i le suau’u le aitu. O ni isi sauali’i e gaosia i ni ma’a po’o ni papa; o ni isi fo’i e taina (togi, vane) i ni la’au. E ufitia i latou (sauali’i) i ni siapo.

O le malumalu, e pei lava o fale e masani ai Samoa. E fa’atūina fo’i i luga o se paepae. A fai e pagātia se aiga, latou te tausia se paepae i luma o le malumalu, e pei o se latou togisala (togiola). E puipui le malumalu i ni pola. E masani ona fausia o le malumalu i le ogātotonu o le nu’u. I ni isi malumalu, e leai ni fa’atagata o ni aitu e tu’u ai. E pule tagata lava latou i ni aso e manana’o e momoli ai la latou taulaga ma fa’atagisia ai lo latou aitu.

Sa iai ni isi fanua na vavae ese ma fa’asaina e faia ai tapua’iga i aitu. E fa’asaina i se tasi ona alu atu fua i ai, e fa’asaina fo’i le pisa i ni tua’oi. E mamalu fo’i ni la’au uma e tutupu i lea fanua. I se tasi nu’u i le itumalō o Falealili (Upolu), sa iai so latou sauali’i e igoa i a Lili. O lea sauali’i, sa tapua’i i ai i latou pe a o’o atu i le masina o Iuni; auā o le masina o Me sa fa’apea lo latou taofi, o le masina lea e fe’ai ai i’a o le sami, e fe’ai ai fo’i aitu o le vao; e tupu ai fo’i ma fa’ama’i. A latou aulia le masina o Iuni, ona latou faia ai lea o le taulaga i a Lili, aua ua latou sao mai le masina o Me.
O le uiga o lea taulaga, fa’afetai ina ua saogalemū le nu’u atoa mai le masina o Me. A aulia atu le aso e fai ai lea taulaga ona fa’apotopoto ai lea o ali’i i se fale e tasi. E la’uina atu i le malae mea’ai ‘ese’ese uma sa saunia. Manufata (pua’a), i’a (malie, atu, ulua), fa’i pula, e faula’i uma i le malae, ona faia ai lea o le ava o ali’i, a mae’a, ona ave fo’i lea o le ava a le sauali’i o Lili ma ni mea’ai mo ia. Ona ‘a’ai ai lea o tagata uma, ina ua laulelei ali’i, o tane ma fafine, teine ma tamaiti; pe tusa o le itulā lea e valu i le taeao. A ma’o’ona uma tagata, ona latou eli ai lea o se lua i le ‘ele’ele, la’u uma i ai mea sa saunia ma tanumia ai. E leai fo’i se ta gata e to e ai e o’o ai lava i le afiafi; na’o le aiga e tasi i le aso atoa. A uma ona tanumia mea uma sa saunia, ona o atu ai lea o tamaiti, teine ma fafine ua taua’ifusu ma tau ma’a i le malae, a o tane e tau i la’au, e fetaa’i ai. E to’atele e foafoa ulu ma tafe le toto mai gutu ma isu, o isi tagata e lavevea i togi ma ta i la’au. O le afiafi e fa’ai’u ai le taulaga. O le va’afa’atau, o lona uiga o le tagata e talanoa ma le aitu. O ia na te ta’ua mai mea uma e loto i ai le aitu; na te fa’amatala atu mea sa faimai ai le aitu ia te ia, ina ia iloa ai e tagata uma. O ali’i o va’afa’atau i latou, aua o i latou ia e faia upu o taua; e ta’u mai ia te i latou e aitu le mea o le a fai. O latou fo’i e ta’uina atu i tagata uma mea e uiga i taua, pe latou te malolosi pe latou te vaivai.

O le taulaitu, o lona uiga o le tagata ua ulu’itino ai le aitu. O ia na te ta’u mai mea e faia ma mea uma e loto i ai le aitu.
Sa le momolia ni tagata e fai ai ni taulaga i le aitu. E tusa ai ma le aganu’u a Samoa: A fai o se tagata ua na ‘aia se aitu o lo latou aiga (o ia aitu e masani ona liu mai i se tino o se i’a, manulele po’o se tasi lava manu), ua na iloa ua sese lana amioga ua fai, na te fa’amoemoeina lava lona fasiotia e lona aiga, ma fa’avela i le umu na taoina ai lo latou sauali’i. O le a fa’ato’a fa’a malieina ai le aitu ua aumai ai le fa’amagaloga.

The Temple of Aitu

A long time ago, houses were built for ghosts or spirits (aitu) to live in. Since these houses were restricted to ghosts and spirits only, no one was allowed to enter unless they first gave an offering. These houses were called Temples of Spirits or Temples of Ghosts.

A female who wanted to present an offering was required to wear her best clothes. The offering for the ghost (head ghost), presented by a male or female, included a variety of perfumes or spices and also a piece of kava. When the villagers prepared to present their offerings to the ghosts, most of them also prepared different kinds of food for everyone to eat after the ceremonial presentation of the offering to the spirit gods or ghosts.

The presentation of the offering was to please the head or chief ghost (sauali’i), often with the purpose to prevent the spirit or ghost from casting a scourge of disease throughout the village. Not only did an entire village gather to present an offering as a whole, but each family in the village presented their own offering to their own ghost. In the Temple, there was a larger carved bowl for the kava, a cup for individual servings of kava, and a piece of kava left in the Temple. On special days, the women, wearing their best clothes, went to the Temple to anoint the ghost by rubbing them with oil. Statuary replicas were made for some of these ghosts out of stone or big rocks; others are carved out of tree trunks. Often, the villagers covered these replicas with tapa cloth. In some Temples, there are no statues of ghosts at all. (See the related Taema story where the spirit has taken the form of a bird, and only a human voice is heard speaking the prophecy.)

The Temple was built just like the traditional Samoan house. They were always built on a foundation of rocks. When a family endured suffering, perhaps due to a wrongdoing, they would make it their duty to attend to and repair the foundation at the front of the Temple, as an atonement in repayment for this wrongdoing. The Temple was covered with blinds; the traditional blinds made with coconut leaves. The Temple was usually built in the spacious centre of the village called the malae. It was up to the people to choose which days they wanted to make their offering to their personal or family ghost.

In addition to lands set aside for the Temples, there were other lands set aside where it was forbidden to practise the worship of the ghosts. Indeed, it was forbidden for anyone to go there at all, and forbidden even to make noise in the neighbouring land. Every tree that grew on these restricted lands was sacred.

In one village in the district of Faleālili (Upolu), they had a ghost (head ghost) named Lili. This ghost was worshipped annually, promptly when the month of June arrived. This celebration in honor of Lili occurred to show their gratitude for having survived the preceding month of May. It was believed that in May all of the fish of the sea became wild, along with the ghosts of the forest. This wildness in the fish and ghosts was thought to bring forth disease. When the month of June came, they made offerings of thanks to Lili, for they had endured the terrible month of May without an epidemic of disease, and indeed, had survived.

When the day arrived for the offering, the chiefs gathered in one house. Food was prepared and taken to the village centre (the malae) which is the common gathering place. They would prepare pig, fish (shark, tuna, ulua), ripe bananas, and, once the feast was finished, it would be followed by the kava ceremony for chiefs (or men). Afterwards, the kava was delivered to Lili as well as food. Only when the chiefs were finished eating could the others begin, whether man or woman, girls or boys. This began about eight o’clock in the morning. When all the people had had their fill, they would dig a hole in the ground, and bury all the food they had made but not consumed. For the rest of the day, the villagers would fast, even including the evening. There was only one meal in a whole day.

After all the leftovers had been buried, the boys and girls and women would fight with rocks in the centre on the malae, while the men fought with sticks, actually hitting each other. Many of them got hit in the head, causing blood to run from their mouths and noses, or sustained other injuries from the thrown rocks or being beaten with the sticks. The ceremonial battles and contests finally came to their bloody end as the sun set in the evening.

Ghosts and spirits did not converse with individuals in the Temples. The medium (messenger) is the only person permitted to speak with the ghost. It was he who interpreted everything that the ghost wanted to say or do; he also explained what the ghost was experiencing, and made its state of mind known to all. The chiefs were also messengers; they conversed especially on matters of war, since the ghost told them what they must do, whether or not to prepare for war, and whether they were strong enough or too weak to prevail.

It was also known and accepted that when an evil spirit has entered the body, the person has become possessed. The ghost takes over the chosen person’s individual will, and the possessed person does what he is told to do by the ghost, including anything and everything the ghost wants him to do.

People were not sacrificed to the ghosts. According to Samoan custom, when a person inadvertently eats a ghost in their family (for example, when a ghost has transformed into the body of a fish, a bird or some other animal), and he knows he did something wrong, he understands that he will be killed by his family and cooked in the same oven where the ghost was baked. This will then appease the ghost and bring forgiveness to the family. Examples of the efforts to make amends and appease the spirits are found everywhere throughout Samoan stories and history.

Translated by Tracey Pritchard Evans and Vaeva Lei-Sam Pritchard, on August 20, 2019

Note: See, for example, the story of Lata (or Rata) who was unable to build a boat since he has offended the god of fairies by chopping down the trees in the sacred forest, but had not sought permission or yet offered any gift of appeasement. He is further frustrated and can accomplish nothing until he does so.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *