Nafanua Goddess of War

Nafanua Le Atua Fafine O Taua

Taluai ‘o lenei atua fafine o taua e_a’afia tele i ni taua i vā o ‘āiga ma itūmālō, ‘o le mea lea e tatau ai ona tātou mālamalama e uiga ‘i ā te ia.
I le talaga o gafa, (itūlau 79), sā tātou iloa ai ‘o Nāfanua ‘o le āfafine o Saveasi’uleo, ma e tagafa mai ai le Tonumaipe’a Sauo’āiga, pei ona sā tā’ua taluai. Sā nofo Nāfanua i Faleālupo, le nu’u J.o iai ‘Auva’a ma Tupa’i, le atali’i o Tonumaipe’a Sauo’āiga, ‘o ana ositaulaga ma ‘ilāmutu ma tafa’i lātou te tau’aveina ma fa’ataunu’uina ana fuafuaga. ‘0 Tonumaipe’a ma lona ‘āiga sā nofo sāuni e fai pea le finagalo o le atua fafine i so_’o se taimi ma so ‘o se poloa’iga lava e tu’uina atu ‘i ā ‘ilātou, ui atu ‘i ā ‘Auva’a ma Tupa’i.

‘0 ia lava onapō sā tele fo’i ni isi atua o taua i Sāmoa; ‘a ‘o le tele o ‘ilātou e fa’aaloalogia i nā ‘o se itūmālō. ‘Ina ‘ia fa’ailoa ’ilātou i ni isi, ‘e fa’apea e ulu atu ‘i ni manu, manulele po ‘o ni i’a. ‘E fa’apea fo’i le Fe’e, ‘o le atuaotaua o_Ā’ana ma Vaimauga. ‘0 tausaga ta’itasi.’e fai ai se ‘aiga e le itūmālō o Ā’ana e fa’amamalu ai le Fe e. 0 tagata o le Vaimauga,’e tusa ‘o le 10 maila ‘i uta o Apia, i ‘auvai o le Vaisigano, sa lātou fa’atūina ai se mālumalu ma’a e fai talosaga ai mo lenei atua. 0 lo’o vā’aia ai pea ni vāega o lenei malumalu i aso nei. ‘E lauiloa i 1e igoa ‘o “Fale o Fe’e” ‘0 1e matu’u, sā ‘avea ma atua o taua o Manono; 1e Tupualgase, sā fa’amamaluina i Rtua. Pei fo’i o A’ana.’e iai lava ni aso fa apitoa e fai ai ni ā lātou ifoga ‘1 lenei atuaotaua. 0 lea faiga ai e ta ua o le Amo a fltua ‘i le TupualSgase,” ‘o le ifoga a Atua i le Tupualegase.

Na ‘o ni fa’aa’oa’oga nei. ‘0 1e meamoni lava,’e tofu 1e itūmālō ma_ ona fa’alupega ma lona atuaotaua, peita’i pei ona fa’aalia, ‘o atua ‘uma na
e le taualoa i Sāmoa ‘ātoa.

‘0 Nāfanua, ‘e 1e fa’atusatusaina ‘o 1e atua-o-tāua fa’al eatunu’u ‘ātoa. ‘0 lona mamalu na māfua mai ana fesoasoani sā ia tu’uina atu ‘i ni ana ‘aumea- mamae i ā lātou fetaua’iga. ‘0 le mea lea, fe pei ‘o lenei, i 1e taua i Te vā o Sālega ma Faleālupo i Savai’i. Sā manumālō pea lava Sāleaa, ‘e tusa ma 1e aga’ifanua a Sāmoa, sā tāusia a lātou pāgotā (tagata o_taua), ‘e 1e gata ‘i le fa’atauemu ‘a e fa’aopoopo atu fo’i ‘1 ai ma ni ‘ypu fāifai ma fa’atonu ‘ilār tou e fa’agāoioi i ni gāoioiga matatutupa ma le mātagā.

‘0 le tasi aso, sā lātpu fa’amālosia Tāi’i, ‘o se tulāfalq o Faleālupo, e ‘a’e ‘i luga o se niu ‘a e ū ‘i lalo lopa ulu. Sā taumafai le tulāfale e fa’amālilie 1e mana’o o ona fa’ao’o-$a1a,peita’i, ‘a ‘o ‘a’e ‘o ia i lea tū- laga, sā- selasela tetele ma māpuea, sā āga’i ‘ina leo tele lava. ‘0 le leo tele o lana mapu-sela na lagona mai i Pulotu, 1e ‘āiga o Nāfanua. ‘Ina ‘ua iloa mai_e Nāfanua ‘o se tasi o ana ‘aumea ‘ua pagātia, sā tonu loa i ā te ia’o le’ā malaga mai e laga 1e to’ilalo o ana uō mai 1en$i sāuāga tele.

Sā ia fa’atonu lana ositāulaga ‘o ‘Auva’a e alu ‘i ā Tonumaipe’a ma poloa’i e fa’asa’oloto nei tagata puapuagātia. Sā faia lava e pei ona fina- galo ai. Sā fa’asa’olotoina e Sauo’āiga tag^ta Faleālupo, ‘a ‘o Nāfanua lava sā ia maua taui lelei ‘uma.

‘0 le mea na tupu, pei ona ta’ua i luga, na pogai mai ai le muāgagana: “‘Ua logo i ā Pulotu le mapu a Tāi’i.”

‘Ona ‘o le fesoasoani a Nāfanua na tu’uina atu’i lenei fa ‘alavelave, ma isi fo’i fa’alavelave fa’apea, sS Seflalau loa le mālosi o Nāfanua, e matutua, e lāiti, maualuga ma 1e maualalo, sā lātou maofa ‘uma ’i ā te ia uatogi e lua sā ia ‘auina atu ‘i le taua, sā fiafia tele ‘i ai ma sā iay- iloa tele fo’i, ‘o igoa o ia lā’au’ ‘o Fa’auliulitō ma Fesilafa’i! Ua ola i fa1e_le lā’au a Nāfanua.” ‘E fa’apea le tala, ‘ina ‘uamae a ona gaosi nei la’au e Nāfanua, sā ia alu loa ‘i totonu o le fale o lana leofale o Matuna ma fasioti lana fānau e to’alua, ta’itasi ma le uatogi. ‘E foliga fo i i ai le alaga’upu e fai pe ‘5 maua ni i’a i se ’upega fou: “‘Ua ola le upega – ua lelei le ‘upega; ‘ua maua ai ni i’a.

Nafanua Goddess of War

There were, at the time, many war gods in Samoa, but most of them were venerated only in one or the other district. To make themselves visible each was thought to be incorporated in some animal, bird or fish.

Nafanua is the name of one of the gods in the village on the island of Upolu. Among her roles was to determine truth and to administer justice. On finding people who steal, the chiefs and the villagers would gather together and take turns to plead for punishment for each person who committed a crime or sin. If they all denied it and did not understand the testimony, they would beg for Nafanua’s mercy saying, ‘Oh Nafanua, have mercy on Matiu, reveal to us who has committed a crime, and bring the lipiola (punishment of sudden death) to him’.

She was the supreme goddess of war, as well, and of healing. While the warriors were preparing for battle, everyone waited until they were blessed (sprinkled) with Nafanua’s oil. If they would win, then it was a good blessing (sprinkling). But if they lost, they would think that they have not been well sprinkled. Those who confess their sins were sprinkled first, for this was a sign of forgiveness for their sins and purification. It was often observed that people moved at night and traveled around the village with brightly lit traditional torches made from foliage in tribute to Nafanua. The sick people are brought before the traditional healer to be treated. Those who brought fine mats (‘ietoga) will be cured quickly, but those with minimal gifts would suffer prolonged suffering.

Nafanua comes from place in the district in the western side of Savai’i (Falealupo). She was the daughter of the high god in Pulotu, whose name is Saveasi’uleo. She was hidden in the forest by her mother because she (the mother) was ashamed as she (Nafanua) was born out of wedlock. In another version, she is stillborn and discarded.  Nafanua came from Pulotu, a village where traditional Samoan ways are not adhered to (everything is forgotten).

In those days, the yoke of slavery was heavy for the people of Samoa because it was the time of the oppressive Tongan repression and enslavement. People in Samoa were forced to climb with their heads facing downwards while trying to collect coconuts using their toes. On day Nafanua happened to pass by, and there she saw a person who was very exhausted trying to climb with his feet pointing upwards. Nafanua yelled and sighed for the cruelty (abuse) done night and day. Nafanua told the person to come down, as she intended to going to free them from the occupyig armies. Hearing Nafanua’s words, the people came together and followed her into battle. The enemy was driven out, and Nafanua was the credited with freeing the district and restoring respect. She covered her chest so that all the warriors, both Samoan and Tongan, would not see that she was woman. The war ended and Nafanua had won. Then she commanded all of the people to tie coconut leaves onto the trees to identify that they are forbidden, reserved strictly for her. Even to this day, the custom of tying coconut leaves to the trees is still done. Fruits of these trees are seldomly picked, but are left until required for special occasions.

Talitonuga Anamua’s discussion of Nafanua is brief and, given her importance throughout the islands, mostly unsatisfying, especially where it minimizes her importance as a national god and also a female deity. We will elaborate, and also refer the reader to the Lafai edition version here:

Nafanua lived in Falealupo on Savai’i with her two priests, Auvaa and Tupai, who were always anxious to carry out her schemes and strategies. Unlike other local gods of war, Nafanua was a national war god, who had attained such status by her skill in forming winning coalitions and alliances. She is also famous for dressing as a male warrior when leading the unsuspecting army of men. Her female identity was first discovered when a victorious Nafanua was met with a strong breeze which lifted her shirt and exposed her breasts to the soldiers, including her own warriors, who are stunned and ashamed to be led by a woman who is victorious over the other men. Like contemporary women goddesses, she is an avenger, meting out justice, as shown in the story of the coconut trees.

Brother Fred Henry’s text from Lafai, pp. 68-70 is repeated here:

Nafanua The Goddess of War

As this famous goddess plays an important role in the following tribal wars, it will be well to know something more about her.

From the [geneological table] we see that Nafanua was the daughter of Savea Siuleo and an ancestor of Tonumaipea Sauoaiga, as has previously been mentioned. She lived in Falealupo where Auvaa of that place and Tupai, the son of Tonumaipea and his clan were only too anxious to oblige the dreaded goddess by promptly acting on her orders which were transmitted to them by Auvaa or Tupai.

There were at that time many war gods in Samoa, but most of them we venerated only in one or the other district. To make themselves visible they were thought to be incorporated in some animal, bird or fish. So was the Fe’e (octopus) the war god of A’ana and Vaimauga. Every year a great feast was organized by A’ana in honour of the Fe’e; it was called “o le tapu o Aana i le Fe’e”. The Vaimauga people had erected some 10 miles inland of Apia, on the banks of the Vaisigano, a stone temple in honour of the same deity. The ruins of this temple, the only one in Samoa, are still to be seen. It is known by the name of “Fale o le Fe’e”, the house of the octopus. The Matuu (heron) was the war god of Manono, the Tupualegase (Jupiter) was venerated in Atua. Like in A’ana, certain days of the year were set aside to worship this war god. The feast was called Ole amo o Atua i le Tupualegase,” the worship of Jupiter by this district of Atua.

These are only a few examples. In fact, every district and sub district had its own war god, but, as already stated, these gods were not recognized by the whole of Samoa.

Nafanua, on the contrary, was a national war god. Her fame as such originated in the assistance she had given to her friends in their local feuds. So, for instance, in the war between Salega and Falealupo, both on Savai’i, Salega had been victorious and according to the Samoan custom, they treated their vanquished enemies not only with contempt but heaped ridicule upon them by making them perform all kinds of foolish actions.

One day, they forced Tai’i, a talking chief of Falealupo, to climb up a coconut tree with his heels foremost. The poor fellow did his best to satisfy his tormentors, but while climbing up he was panting louder and louder. The sound of his panting was so loud, that it reached Pulotu, the home of Nafanua. Noticing that one of her friends was in difficulty, Nafanua there and then resolved to deliver the villagers from their cruel fate.

She told her priest Auva’a to go to Tonumaipea and order him to liberate the unlucky people. This he did. The Falealupo people were rescued by Sauoaiga, but Nafanua got the credit for it.

From the above event the orators derive the proverb: “Ua logo Pulotu le mapu a Tai’i” – the groaning of Tai’i reached Pulotu.

Because of the assistance Nafanua had given in this and similar cases, her fame spread far and so it is no wonder that young and old, high and low, stood in great awe of her. The two clubs, which she sent to the party favoured by her, were well known and called Faauliulito and Fesilafa’i.

Ua ola i fale le laau a Nafanua” – the club of Nafanua has become effective. ‘Ola’ – means to be alive, to become effective, useful. It is said that when Nafanua had these clubs made she wanted to test them, and so she first went with them into the dwelling of her housekeeper Matuna and killed her two children, one with each club. A similar phrase is used when the first fish have been caught in a new net: “Ua ola le Upega” – the net is good, it will serve its purpose.

When some young warriors got too anxious to start a fight the chiefs would say: Talisoa le i’a a Nafanua” – wait till Nafanua helps us in the war. I’a, fish, is also a euphemistic term for war. So, “Pe iai se i’a i lau ola?” means – “Whom have you killed?” The literal meaning is, “Is there a fish in your basket?” Talisoa is a contraction of “faatali ma fesoasoanii.e. – wait and help.

 

Note: Here, Brother Fred Henry refers to the wars of succession during 1500-1550 (1) The war in A’ana, (2) between Afega and Malie, (3) in Atua and (4) in Safata. As a result of victory in all four, Nafanua possessed the four titles to all of Samoa, establishing a hegemony in favor of Tamalelagi and the Tonumaipea.

She is also famous for her magnificent clubs, which are invariably deadly. Both Lafai and High Talking Chief Fofo Sunia referred to the gruesome manner by which she tested them. We will quote from the Fofo Sunia retelling of this story in “Samoan Legends of Love and Courtship”:

“91. Nafanua’s club found life at home. (Ua ola fale le la’au a Nafanua) “. . . Before Nafanua, the goddess of war, took her new weapons to war, she wanted to try them to see if they could kill. She swung the new clubs first on the children of her own servants, Matuna and Matuna, and killed the two young boys. She was then satisfied with the ability of the weapons. That was the origin of the saying, ‘Ua ola i fale le la’au a Nafanua.’” (pp. 262-263)

“Nafanua’s Prophecy” is considered the key to the acceptance of the white European missionaries as gods (“heavenly bursters and sailing gods”) in the person of Rev. John Williams who arrived at Savai’i in 1830. Many years before Malietoa had asked Nafanua if it was his time to rule, since Nafanua would know who would be victorious in the upcoming battle. She replied neither yes nor no, prophetically and enigmatically, “Ole a tali i le lagi sou malo.” (Await your Kingdom from Heaven.)” Malietoa decided the arrival of the white missionaries signaled “his time” and embraced them, thus igniting the rapid spread of Christianity throughout the islands.

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