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Samoan Religion

Legends deified Tagaloa in Samoa. Legends also described not only one, but several heavens as the "holy habitation" of the deity. The ancient Samoans also believed in family and village gods, and worshipped images, stones, birds, fishes, insects and beasts. There are also undisputed stories of cave giants who lived on human flesh. Sickness and death were always traced to a displeased god. Families usually get together to discuss the possible cause of such of such death and plead with their god for forgiveness. If a family god was an owl, for instance, and it flew low across the road in front of a walking member of the family, while there was a sick person in the family at the time, they would take the incident as warning that death was coming to the family. The people were very superstitious. An unkind deed to anyone while living was said to have been paid back in revenge, when the offended or displeased person died. It was a common belief that the dead people always follow the living in spirit. Should several members in a family die at close intervals to each other, they would pray to their family god or go to the grave of the possible displeased member and plead over it for forgiveness. Evil spirits are believed to enter at will into a human being. Special herbs are pulverized and rubbed on the person afflicted to drive away the Aitu (Ghost).

Family gods, if found dead anywhere, are given an honourable burial. In case of a death at sea of any member of the family, and if the body is not found, the family would go to the beach and spread a tapa or mat above the high water mark, and then pray. Should a crab, snail or an insect crawl on the spread, they would fold it in the spread and give it an honourable burial in the family burial ground. It was believed that the spirit of the member who died in the sea turned to a crab, or whatever they had buried. Even death feasts are given by the family for the whole village, after the "spirit funeral" was held. Taulaitus (sorcerers), like the kahunas of Hawaii, are sought for cure and advise on evil spirits, as well as for solution of all family problems. Sermons by the ministers of different denominations in the islands have not as yet completely converted Samoa against the practice. Several still believe that the taulaitus are vested with power by which they can dispel evil spirits.

Modern religion, however, has taken a firm stand in the islands. It is said that the Samoans are one hundred ;per cent religious. The London Missionary Society was introduced to Samoa in 1830 by John Williams and Charles Barff with the help of Tahitian teachers. In honour of the teachers the natives called the first church Lotu Taiti (Tahitian Church). Just recently, a few pastors and members of the London Missionary Society disassociated themselves from the mother church. They organized in Samoa a branch of the Congregational Church (Lotu Faapotopotoga).

The Roman Catholic priests arrived in Savaii from Uea in 1846. The people of Lealatele Village were converted. The church there was their largest branch for many years. Father Gavet was the priest in charge of the Society of Mary. They soon spread and their headquarters are now in Moamoa, Upolu. In honour of the Pope the natives named the church Lotu Pope.

Wesleyan Methodist missionaries arrived in Samoa by way of Tonga in 1828. This date is disputed as their actual organization was said to have been at a later date. Hence the London Missionary Society is widely known and credited as the first missionaries to arrive in Samoa in the first group of Methodist missionaries were a number of Tongan preachers because of this and in honour of their cousins, the Tongs, the Samoans named the church Lotu Tonga (Church of Tonga). They are also known at present as Lotu Metotisi (Methodist Church). Their central school and headquarters are at Lufilufi, Upolu.

The first missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints arrived in Samoa in 1888. After visiting Tutuila they established their headquarters at Fagalii, Upolu. It has been changed to Pesega, Apia, where they now have a large school. They also established large intermediate schools in Sauniaitu, Upolu and at Vaiola, Savaii. In Mapusaga, American Samoa, they have established a junior college. Because their first missionaries brought with them the Book of Mormon, they were called by the natives Lotu Mamona (Mormon Church).

The Seventh Day Adventists first missionaries arrived in Apia, Upolu, during the German Administration. They started in Leifiifi, Apia, and later moved to Fusi, Salualata, where they established their headquarters and a school.

Recently, Evangelists ;paid several visits to Samoa. But for reasons known only by them, their preachers returned to Hawaii and the United States from whence they came. The chief councils of Samoa gave the churches their full support. As a result, attendance on Sunday services in the villages is almost one hundred per cent. Chiefs of each family rule that all must go to church on Sunday. Because of this, the fine surfing beaches of Samoa are not crowded with a display of the latest style of bathing suits, fancy, coloured automobiles and hundreds of the so-called pleasure-seekers basking themselves on the sand for hours just to get a "temporary tan." The children of Samoa are trained in the village to keep the Sabbath Day holy.

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