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George Turner (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 189 pages of information about Samoa, A Hundred Years Ago And Long Before.

In their temples they had generally something for the eye to rest upon with superstitious veneration.  In one might be seen a conch shell, suspended from the roof in a basket made of cinnet network; and this the god was supposed to blow when he wished the people to rise to war.  In another, two stones were kept.  In another, something resembling the head of a man, with white streamers flying, was raised on a pole at the door of the temple, on the usual day of worship.  In another, a cocoa-nut shell drinking-cup was suspended from the roof, and before it prayers were addressed and offerings presented.  This cup was also used in oaths.  If they wished to find out a thief, the suspected parties were assembled before the chiefs, the cup sent for, and each would approach, lay his hand on it, and say, “With my hand on this cup, may the god look upon me, and send swift destruction, if I took the thing which has been stolen.”  The stones and the shells were used in a similar way.  Before this ordeal, the truth was rarely concealed.  They firmly believed that it would be death to touch the cup and tell a lie.

The priests in some cases were the chiefs of the place; but in general some one in a particular family claimed the privilege, and professed to declare the will of the god.  His office was hereditary.  He fixed the days for the annual feasts in honour of the deity, received the offerings, and thanked the people for them.  He decided also whether or not the people might go to war.

The offerings were principally cooked food.  The first cup was in honour of the god.  It was either poured out on the ground or waved towards the heavens.  The chiefs all drank a portion out of the same cup, according to rank; and after that the food brought as an offering was divided and eaten there before the god.  This feast was annual, and frequently about the month of May.  In some places it passed off quietly; in others it was associated with games, sham-fights, night-dances, etc., and lasted for days.  In time of war special feasts were ordered by the priests.  Of the offerings on war occasions women and children were forbidden to partake, as it was not their province to go to battle.  They supposed it would bring sickness and death on the party eating who did not go to the war, and hence were careful to bury or throw into the sea whatever food was over after the festival.  In some cases the feasts in honour of the god were regulated by the appearance in the settlement of the bird which was thought to be the incarnation of the god.  Whenever the bird was seen the priest would say that the god had come, and fix upon a day for his entertainment.

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