Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Fijians: A Study of the Decay of Custom



The shark-god is the tutelar divinity of numerous tribes who are not tauvu with one another, unless they call him by the same name. Waterhouse gives the following list of names under which the shark is invoked: Ndakuwanka, (Outside-the-canoe), Circumnavigator-of-Yandua, Feeder-of-fish, Lover-of-canoe-spars, Waylayer, Rover-of-the-man-groves, Expectant-follower, Ready-for-action, Sail-cleaner, Lord-Shark-that-calls, Tabu-white, Tooth-for-raw-flesh. The tribes that invoke Ndakuwanka are tauvu, but the Soro people who worship Ndakuwanka recognize no tie with the Yandua tribe, who invoke the Circumnavigator-of-Yandua. Each of these names covers a distinct cult, and the fact that a number of unrelated tribes should have agreed in choosing the shark for their god needs explanation. That shark-worship is pure totemism is shown by the beneficence of the shark to his worshippers, and the obligation that lay upon them not to eat their divinity. Mana, a Soro native, capsized in the open sea, called upon Ndakuwanka to save him, and a shark rose near him and towed him safe to land by his back fin. The same god jumped athwart a Soro canoe in the invasion of Natewa in 1848, turned over to show the tattooing on his belly, and leapt back into the sea to lead his votaries to the attack. In 1840 a tabu shark was eaten at Navukeilangi in the island of Ngau, and all who had eaten of it died. But there the usual features of totemism stop. The spirits of the dead do not pass into the totem; men never assume the shark form; the shark-totem does not necessarily intermarry with any other totem. Totemism in Fiji does not affect the social page 116system in any Way. It is an accident rather than a design in the religious system; an anthropomorphic divinity would have served as well. Nor is it totemism in decay, as some have suggested, for with the cult of the totem so active and vigorous some survival of its attendant customs in the marriage laws or in the beliefs of the future state would assuredly have been found. The mental attitude of primitive races in all parts of the world to worship a species of living animal or plant taught the Fijians where to look for their tutelary divinity, and the shark being to a people seafaring in frail craft the most dreaded and implacable of all the animal kingdom, a number of diverse tribes chose to propitiate the shark independently.

The sharks, though the commonest, is not the only totem. The hawk, the eel, the lizard, the fresh-water prawn, and man himself have their adherents. The man-totem were perhaps the only tribe who never practised cannibalism, the flesh of their totem being forbidden to them.

Totemism, in this limited form, was perfectly consistent with ancestor-worship. Except in the ease of the shark—a malevolent being claiming constant propitiation from fishermen—the totem had not often a temple or a priest. Saumaki, the river-shark, was remembered as a piece of tribal tradition, but his totem worshipped other gods. They were sometimes tauvu through gods independent of their totem. Lasakau and Sawaieke, Nayau and Notho were tauvu through their shark-totem, but Rewa and Verata were tauvu through an ancestor-god, Ko-mai-na-ndundu-ki-langi, or Ko-Tavealangi (Reclining-on-the-sky), and greeted one another in the formula, "Nonku Vuniyavu" (Foundation of my house). Many tribes have either forgotten or have never had a totem, and the greater number of those who have preserve the tradition as a piece of family history, and refer to it with a smile, which is apt to fade when they survey the ruin of their property on the morrow of a visit from a devastating horde of their tauvu kin.