Nafanua’s Prophecy

Nafanua’s Prophecy

With the appointment of Vaiinupo, there began the next wars of succession. Officially in 1802, upon the funeral procession of King I’amafana, throughout Upolu and Savaii. Vague prophetic references began at the same time that the decline of the former gods of war would continue until replacement by a new dynasty (see p. 196) of gods ruling over all of Samoa. The Goddess of War Nafanua did not agree at all, and took a predominant role in the civil wars that ensued.

Malietoa Accepts John Williams’ Mission: It was towards the end of (this) most cruel and disastrous war in the history of Samoa, that the eminent missionary John Williams landed at Sapapalii, (1830) the very place where Malietoa Vaiinupo regularly resided. When Malietoa, who happened to be on the warpath in A’ana, was notified of the arrival of the missionaries, he looked upon it as a singular coincidence and a confirmation of the prophecy that had been uttered by the old Manono taulaitu. He, then and there, resolved to receive the missionary and to accept his teachings, for he felt convinced that an alliance with the “ali’i papalagi” (the European chief) would further his ambitious aim.

There is another interesting story which refers to this particular event. It shows how anxious Malietoa was to secure the four titles that constitute kingship and also why John Williams was received in such a friendly way.

When Malietoa heard of the mysterious prophecy already mentioned, he addressed himself to Nafanua, the renowned goddess of war, in order to inquire about the strange utterance of the venerable priest, and also to find out if there was any chance for him to become king of Samoa.

Nafanua’s Mystical Answer: “Talofa, ua e sau, a ua ave le ao o Malo. Ae ui i lea, o le a tali i le lagi sou malo e te fai malo i ai.”

“Alas, you have come, but the ruling title is gone. Nevertheless, you will receive a kingdom from Heaven and you will be its ruler.”

A week or so after this, the ship of John Williams arrived in Sapapalii to bring the “Good News” (“Christian religion”) to Feagaimaleata at Mataniu (residence of Malietoa). Then Malietoa said to himself, “No doubt this is the kingdom Nafanua referred to when she said, ‘Your kingdom will come from heaven.’ Therefore, it must be received.”

Thus prepared by the above oracles, Malietoa hastened to Sapapalii, where he gave to the alii papalagi, [the white chiefs come from Heaven], the heartiest welcome. All the details of this extraordinary reception by a people [who still regarded and considered Samoans to be savages] are given by the great missionary himself in his book, “Missionary Enterprises” (pp. 87-93). I record here only a few more lines from that book, for they show the beginning of the alliances between the Malietoa and the L.M.S. (London Missionary Society) This covenant has been faithfully observed by both parties up to the present time and many have been the mutual advantages derived therefrom:

In the course of conversation Malietoa said, “This is the happiest day of my life and I rejoice that I have lived to see it. In future I shall consider ourselves and you (J. Williams and his Mission) as an ‘aiga e tasi‘ (one family) and hope you will do the same.” (pp. 90)

This first meeting between Malietoa and the Rev. John Williams, however, did not take place until 1830, when Malietoa was already about 65 years old (v. J. Williams. p. 81).

As Brother Fred Henry himself observes: As there is much more to be said about this chieftain later on, let us first see what happened during the 20 years just previous to the introduction of Christianity.

His review of the prior period is not summarized here and the reader is referred to the original text. Suffice it to say that Brother Fred Henry rejoices that:

“At this time, when the introduction of Christianity so wonderfully coincided with the accession of the first Malietoa to the throne, we may say that the History of ‘old’ Samoa came to a close. For, with the arrival of the new civilization, many of the ancient customs disappeared and new ones took their place. This social evolution started between 1830 and 1840 and has since continued.”(p 214.)

[Editor’s note:  Needless to say, the purpose of this entire American Samoa BOE project to return the language to Samoan children and to thereby increase and share knowledge and respect for the customs of Samoan people – for fa’a Samoa-  would respectfully disagree with Brother Fred Henry conclusions about the arrival of a new civilization for Samoa imposed by white European Christians.  Nevertheless, Brother Fred relied heavily on a predecessor George Turner,  and is an invaluable chronicler the the outlines of his time in Samoa.]

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