Every culture seems to have its monsters. Samoa’s aitu/monsters are all ghosts, demons, or the devil itself. (At least as far as I know.) I have not yet heard about Bigfoot, the chupicabra, the Kraken, or any other fleshy beast. In America, with the help of a Ouija board, a séance, a psychomantium, crystal balls, or some incantations, ghosts can be contacted and communicated with (or so some say). In Samoa, it is much easier to bring the wrath of the aitu. The purpose of this post is to educate on how to avoid bringing out the angry ghosts here in Samoa. I will continue to update this post as I learn of new ways to anger the aitu.
1.Do NOT whistle at night. This is the sound of the aitu. You could be whistling the Samoan national anthem during the Rugby Sevens while Samoa is beating the All Blacks senseless, and the aitu will still come to get you. Not only will whistling at night bring the aitu to your door, but it will give your friends, family, and neighbors the heebie-jeebies, and score you a nice fine from the village mayor. A first time offence is forgivable by the mayor, but not the aitu. It seems as though they are always listening… at night.
2. Do NOT gather coconuts at night. Besides the darkness, the endless onslaught of mosquitoes, hidden rocks, branches, vau fefe, and the crushing weight of the coconuts on your shoulders, aitu wait in the coconuts at night. This means that if you drink the water from or eat the flesh of a coconut that was collected at night, you are the lucky winner of a possession – and the need for an exorcism. Exorcisms aren’t fun, nor are they free, so make sure you know when your coconuts were gathered. The last person I knew to be possessed is now dead. Her exorcism didn’t work.
3. Do NOT eat in front of a grave that is not in your family. Graves are not put in cemeteries here in Samoa. You loved the person in life, so why would you want to be removed from their rotting corpse? Your yard is a perfect place to erect a little tomb and bury them. So eating in front of a grave that is not in your family is quite easy. When you eat in front of a grave that is not part of your family, you are the winner of some old school voodoo pain. (minus the doll) You are at the mercy of that dead person who didn’t get to eat. Leaving food in front of the grave does nothing to save your tortured life. Remember if it is one of your family members, there is nothing to worry about. They like to watch you eat.
4. Do NOT chew gum at night. Though in life Samoans seem to have no issue with eating-related sounds, the aitu find it quite offensive… especially at night. So if you like to chew your gum with your mouth wide open so carelessly that you often let it fall out onto the floor and pick it back up and put it in your mouth as is common here, be careful at night. Once the sun goes down the aitu are on my side. It is unclear if this offense warrants a possession or just a haunting.
5. (NEW) Do NOT travel from Savai’i straight through Upolu to get to Tutuila without asking for safe passage from the aitu. If you do not, you will be eaten by the aitu! I am not sure how they would eat you, but that is what I have been told. Tutuila for all of you non Samoan people is the American Samoan island where the city of Pago Pago is located. There is no way to get from Savai’i to Tutuila without coming through Upolu. Unless you have your own boat that can make it that far without refueling… or a plane.
The best way to learn about this is to commit the offense firsthand. Luckily for me, I only committed the whistling offense, and have not noticed any haunting.
Since posting yesterday we heard a wonderful story. There is nothing we can do about this aitu, but it is interesting regardless.
Before cars, people had to walk everywhere. Our dirt road is the old auala sopo / walking road which leads to Apia. Apparently, you can still follow the road all the way there, though we have not verified that yet. The auala sopo was used to carry all manner of things from Apia to this part of the island including dead bodies. The auala sopo is said to be haunted by the spirits of those people who were carried along the road. Since roads have changed over time, a few houses have been built over the old auala sopo. Aitu however, do not care if there is a house on their road on not. The aitu will walk right through, which results in a haunting. It turns out that during training Karen’s host family’s house was built over the auala sopo (unlike our current house which is next to it.) Since Karen has left that house, no one sleeps in her old room, nor did anyone before her. They said that her room was the haunted room. A few Samoan people had tried sleeping in there, but always woke up feeling like they were being strangled. They all agreed that palagi / white people would not be effected because we didn’t believe. Nothing happened to Karen or I when we slept in that room. However, we did not know about this haunting. It would be interesting to spend another night there with our new found knowledge of the room.
We will also keep an eye out for strange things going on around our house and our auala galue / auala sopo!