22. ULAVAI—Fresh-water prawn, or crayfishes.
This was a household god in a family in one of the villages of Aana. A woman had been bathing and brought on a premature event which happens sometimes. When she told her friends they went to search for the child. Nothing could be seen, however, but an unusual number of prawns or crayfishes, into which they supposed the infant had been changed. And so they commenced to regard the crayfish as the incarnation of a new household god, gave it food, and offered prayers before it for family prosperity.
To these may be added the names of forty-six other gods, making in all one hundred and ten, but of whom I have little to say different from the descriptions of Samoa Zoolatry, etc., already given. A few more are referred to in the Cosmogony and other details, making up the number of Samoan deities of which I have heard to about a hundred and twenty, all claiming and receiving the two essentials of religion—something to be believed and something to be done.
THE PEOPLE—INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD.
At the birth of her child, the mother had a liberal share in the kind attentions of her friends. Her own mother was almost invariably la sage-femme; but, failing her, some other female friend. Her father was generally present on the occasion, and either he or her husband prayed to the household god, and promised to give any offering he might require, if he would only preserve mother and child in safety. A prayer was thus expressed: “O Moso, be propitious; let this my daughter be preserved alive! Be compassionate to us; save my daughter, and we will do anything you wish as our redemption price.” Offerings to the god, as we have already seen, were regulated by the caprice and covetousness of the cunning priest. Sometimes a canoe was demanded; at other times a house was to be built; and often fine mats or other valuable property was required. The household god of the family of the father was generally prayed to first; but, if the case was tedious or difficult, the god of the family of the mother was then invoked; and when the child was born, the mother would call out: “Who were you praying to?” and the god prayed to just before was carefully remembered and its incarnation duly acknowledged throughout the future life of the child. By way of respect to him the child was called his merda; and was actually named during infancy and childhood “merda of Tongo,” or “Satia,” or whatever other deity it might be. If the little stranger was a boy, the umbilical cord was cut on a club, that he might grow up to be brave in war. If of the other sex, it was done on the board on which they beat out the bark of which they make their native cloth. Cloth-making is the work of women; and their wish was that the little girl should grow up and prove useful to the family in her proper occupation.