Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 2).djvu/47

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33
SAMOAN MYTHS.

In the beliefs of Samoa (formerly called the Navigator's Islands, and discovered by a Dutch expedition in 1722) may be observed a most interesting moment in the development of religion and myth. In many regions it has been shown that animals are worshipped as totems, and that the gods are invested with the shape of animals. In the temples of higher civilisations will be found divine images still retaining in human form certain animal attributes, and a minor worship of various beasts will be shown to have grouped itself in Greece round the altars of Zeus, or Apollo, or Demeter. Now in Samoa we may trace the actual process of the "transition," as Mr. Tylor says, "from the spirit inhabiting an individual body to the deity presiding over all individuals of a kind." In other words, whereas in Australia or America each totem-kindred reveres each animal supposed to be of its own lineage—the "Cranes" revering all cranes, the "Kangaroos" all kangaroos—in Samoa the various clans exhibit the same faith, but combine it with the belief that one spiritual deity reveals itself in each separate animal, as in a kind of avatar. For example, the several Australian totem-kindreds do not conceive that Pund-jel incarnates himself in the emu for one stock, in the crow for another, in the cockatoo for a third, and they do not by these means attain a religious unity, transcending, and finally superseding, the diversity caused by the totemic institutions. In Samoa this kind of spiritual unity is actually reached by various stocks.

The Samoans were originally spoken of by travellers