Rituals Tokelau

Rituals Tokelau were very light and almost entirely confined to an annual ceremony to the supreme deity. Communication took place with the ancestral spirits. Nature spirits abounded in the woods and the sea.

Tokelauan rituals

In May each year, the high priest of Fakaofu set aside four weeks for the worship of Tui Tokelau and appointed emissaries to announce the time to the other islands. The time was determined by the rising of the full moon in June, which also determined the time of Tangaloa worship in Samoa. After the announcement, all belongings were repaired and put away. Houses were thatched and swept, canoes repaired and new clothes woven. 

Gangs of youths picked up the debris of the village malae and threw it into the sea. When the households and the land were in order, the village council declared that the next two weeks should be devoted to collecting food. For seven days, all active men and women picked coconuts and fala pandanus fruits from their plantations. The next seven days are devoted to fishing and all the canoes of the village go to sea. 

The men at home fished with their nets and the women combed the reefs in search of squid and shells. In the kitchens, young men and old women made simple coconut and fala pandanus puddings, and grilled and dried fish in the sun.

Many new mats, mother-of-pearl pendants, unused halves of shells made into bonito shanks, pandanus malo and coconut leaf skirts, and sennit braids were made and collected to be sent to Fakaofu as offerings. Food was collected for the crew of the canoe carrying the offerings and as gifts to the high priest.

The journey of the canoe carrying these offerings was a sacred mission and a heavy tapu was placed on the captain. It was believed that any disorder among her crew would cause the canoe to veer off course. Many other canoes accompanied this ship to join the party. However, disaster would befall them immediately if they entered Fakaofu Pass before the sacred canoe. 

Vaovela, a son of Tonuia of Atafu, broke this tapu; crossing a reef, a wave knocked him over and the hull of the canoe crushed his son's foot against the coral. When the ships approached Fakaofu, the carpets to be presented were hung on the mast and displayed.

Burrows believes these offerings represented a tribute to the overlordship of Fakaofu, but they were so sacred that it is unlikely they were taken by the Fakaofu people as gifts.

A tapu was placed on any activity at the end of the seven days of fishing and the worship ceremony in Tui Tokelau began. Religious ceremonies took place on the first days and were followed by a long period of dancing and feasting. No one could leave the village; when not on the malae, people had to stay at home. Prayers and dancing were held late into the night by the light of large torches burned in honor of Tui Tokelau.

The ceremony began by removing rotten clothes and gifts from the previous year from the Tui Tokelau coral slab and replacing them with new offerings. The ancient offerings were said to have been burned, but Turner reports that they were set aside and left to decay, being too sacred for anyone to touch. Lister describes the ceremony as follows:

When they [the travellers] landed, the mats were wrapped around the stone [of Tui Tokelau] to remain until they rotted, and the pearl shells were placed along the eaves of the sacred house for the gods, close at hand. The stone was anointed with flower-scented coconut oil; then the king was carried before the stone, seated in his chair, with the emblem of kingship in coconut leaves around his neck, and a black line of charcoal drawn on his forehead, the people following in procession with cries of Tu-tu and general rejoicing.

So the high chief, as a priest of Tui Tokelau, began his prayer for good weather and an abundant supply of fruit and fish. This was followed by a dance in which the women first, then the men took part.

Tokelau rituals: prayer at Tui Tokelau

Tulou, tulou, tulou, tulou..u..u
Fanake the ki to langi.
He tai6 ua,
Il tai malino,
He tai malama,
Fanaifo7 ki in ulufenua,
He taume you,
He tai singano,
Fanaifo ki at uluulu.
He tai manini,
He you,
Fanaiko ki to moana.
He melted you,
He ate you,
Fanaifo ki to namo.
He tai fasua,
He tai tifa,
He tai paikea,
He you.

Tulou (an excuse word often used today as "apology" or "pardon").
Go up there to the heavens.
Let there be a lot of rain,
Let there be a lot of calm,
Let there be a lot of light,
Bring down the plantations.
Lots of (sheaths of) coconut flowers,
Lots of young hala pandanus fruits,
Send to the reef.
Lots of manini (small fish),
Let there be many,
Send to the high seas.
Lots of turtles,
A lot of bonito,
Send to the lagoon.
Lots of Tridacna shells,
Lots of mother-of-pearl shell,
many verses,
Let there be many.

Smith gives a similar prayer in Rarotongan asking for plentiful food and "addressed to those evil spirits". He adds:

After the incantation has been recited, the food is shared by the chiefs and priests, after which the food is distributed to all the people and a feast is held.

The following description of the ceremony at Atafu is taken from the notes of Dr. Andrew Thomson, former director of the Apia Observatory, Samoa, who was in Tokelau in 1928.

The ceremony took place in June on the evening of the full moon. In the early afternoon, people would lay their offerings 40 or 50 feet in front of the god's house. These were large mats measuring 12 feet by 6 feet, intended to serve as clothing (malo) for the stone column of Tui Tokelau.

The ceremony began in the early evening before moonrise. The priest, appointed to Atafu from Fakaofu, began with a long prayer during which he looked at the sky and asked that the sun continue to shine and that the rain would be abundant, then he looked at the sea and asked that the fish be numerous during the year, and finally he looked at the earth and asked for the coconuts to grow in large quantities. 

All the while, people were staring at the sky. The men stood within 15 or 20 feet of the god's house during the ceremony, but the women and children remained several hundred feet away.

After the prayer, the priest brought the offerings of mats to the inner chamber of the house of the god and divided them into two parts, one for the immediate ceremony and the other for the ceremony at Fakaofu. He brought outside the mats to be rolled up on the Atafu slab of Tui Tokelau and removed the rotten mats with which the slab had been covered the previous year.

He placed them in the stone enclosure next to the god's house. Ten chosen men assisted the priest in rolling up 8 new mats. This concluded the ritual after which there was a feast which continued until the middle of the night.

Rituals Tokelau: the land of the dead

It was believed that the spirits of the dead (nganga) traveled to Tualiku, where the god Te Sesema ruled. Tualiku has not been located, but the meaning of the name, "the bottom of the sea", suggests that it was on the edge of the horizon. It was a veritable paradise of the Polynesian imagination, where the blessed danced and ate all day and all night and wore flowers in their ears, and mother-of-pearl ornaments (lei) around their necks, forbidden to all men. ordinary in life. 

In Tualiku there was also a purgatory where the souls of men damned for never having been circumcised during their lifetime (ngatino seki faeloa) passed through eternity with large discs of stone like millstones on their backs.

The natives believed that their spirits could choose their residence for the afterlife. As death neared, a man told his friends that he was going to the moon or some part of the heavens where he could be seen by his friends. A soul can also choose to remain on earth in the grave, according to Turner, who adds:

They believed, moreover, that there were certain evil spirits always lying in wait for human beings, and that if caught, their souls were dragged through the universe forever, as the slaves of such evil spirits. demons, and never found rest. square. That's why it was a common saying in Tokelau: “Take care of the soul. He lives forever. Never mind the body, it rots in the grave!