Also known as: Lifuan; Lifou; Lifouan

Lifou is one of the Loyalty Islands north of New Caledonia. Information on the indigenous religion of the island comes from missionaries. Lifouan religion was apparently based around ancestral spirits and culture heroes believed to have lived in the distant past. Magic, centred around objects called "hazes" was also important.

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Traditional Culture(1841)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Hadfield (1920), pp. 143-167
Nature god(s) Absent (Source)
Hadfield (1920), pp. 143-167
Ray (1917)
Deified ancestor(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Ray (1917), pp. 154-156

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Hadfield (1920), pp. 152-153

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife Absent (Source)
Ray (1917)
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife One factor in determining one's afterlife (Source)
Ray (1917)

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Ray (1917)

Classes of Tapu

Social hierarchy tapu Present (Source)
Ray (1917)
Resource management tapu Present (Source)
Hadfield (1920), pp. 65-66
Kinship tapu Present (Source)
Hadfield (1920), pp. 201


Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Absent (Source)
Blust (2007)
Keesing (1984)
Blevins (2008), pp. 255
Mana as a personal quality Absent (Source)
Blust (2007)
Keesing (1984)
Blevins (2008), pp. 255
Mana related to social influence or technical skill Absent (Source)
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Absent (Source)
Ray (1917)
Costly sacrifices and offerings Present (Source)
Hadfield (1920), pp. 162
Political and religious differentiation Some overlap (Source)
Guiart (1963), pp. 351-345


Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Ray (1917), pp. 254
Hadfield (1920), pp. 175-222
Scarification Absent from culture (Source)
Ray (1917), pp. 254
Piercing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Ray (1917), pp. 254
Hadfield (1920), pp. 175-222
Tattooing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Ray (1917), pp. 254
Hadfield (1920), pp. 175-222
Genital cutting Absent from culture (Source)
Ray (1917), pp. 254
Social Environment +
Population 6000 (Source)
Howe (1977), pp. 155-158
Population of largest political community 1,000-9,999 (Source)
Howe (1977), pp. 35, 155-158
Importance of Patrilateral descent High (Source)
Howe (1977), pp. 9-10
Importance of Matrilateral descent Low (Source)
Howe (1977), pp. 9-10
Polygamy Full polygyny (Source)
Ray (1917), pp. 287
Marital residence Neolocal - separate from kin (Source)
Ray (1917), pp. 286


(No) external warfare Rare or never (Source)
Ray (1917)
(No) internal warfare Frequent, occurring at least yearly (Source)
Ray (1917)
Howe (1974)
Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Frequent, through trade, warfare, travel, etc. (Source)
Howe (1977), pp. 6
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 47.6 (Source)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Distance to nearest continent 1515.0 (Source)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Pre-Austronesian population Absent: No evidence of human occupation prior to Austronesian settlement (Source)
Bellwood (1995), pp. 109
Hindu / Buddhist influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.21
Islamic influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.23
Christian influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence but in a region where contact is likely (Source)
Howe (1977), pp. 13
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Minor (Source)
Ray (1917)
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Minor (Source)
Ray (1917)
Land-based gathering Medium (Source)
Hadfield (1920), pp. 48-50
Land-based hunting performed by one or more groups Minor (Source)
Ray (1917)
Agriculture / Horticulture Principal (Source)
Ray (1917)

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Medium (Source)
Ray (1917)
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Medium (Source)
Ray (1917)
Water-based gathering Medium (Source)
Ray (1917)

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Medium (Source)
Hadfield (1920), pp. 67-103
Metalworking Absent (Source)
Hadfield (1920), pp. 67-103
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture One (Source)
Ray (1917)
Google Maps (2014)

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Atoll (Source)
Howe (1977), pp. 3
Island Size (km²) 1150.0 (Source)
Clark & Bedford (2008), pp. 65
Maximum elevation (meters) 85.0 (Source)
Clark & Bedford (2008)


Latitude -21.0 (Source)
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude 167.2 (Source)
Google Maps (2014)
Post Contact History(1841-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +


Role of social status in conversion process Primarily a top-down process. (Source)
Howe (1977), pp. 36-45
Use of force in conversion Low (Source)
Howe (1977), pp. 36-45
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Howe (1977), pp. 44-45
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from Austronesian societies only (Source)
Howe (1977), pp. 35-45

Syncretic Movements

Syncretic religious movements Absent (Source)
Howe (1977), pp. 39-45
Paini (1998), pp. 171-206
Secular History +

Demographic and Social Changes

Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
Howe (1977), pp. 62
Immigration Absent (Source)
Haberkorn (2008), pp. 122
Language shift Medium (Source)
Eberhard (2020)
Foreign education systems High (Source)
Logan & Cole (2001), pp. 40

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence High (Source)
Ember & Ember (2001), pp. 1583-1589
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present and substantial (Source)
'Loyalty Islands' (2013)

Modern Infrastructure

Vehicles and roads Present and widely used (Source)
Logan & Cole (2001), pp. 228
Air travel Present, local only (Source)
Stanley (2007), pp. 874
Sea port Present (Source)
Logan & Cole (2001), pp. 228

Loss of Autonomy

Nature of loss of autonomy Partly voluntary (Source)
Howe (1977), pp. 57-59
Loss of political autonoomy High (Source)
Howe (1977), pp. 62
Central Intelligence Agency (New Caledonia) (2013)
Shineberg & Foster (2020)
Current Culture(2014)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
Angleviel & Levine (2008), pp. 52
External Links
Angleviel, F. & Levine, S. (Eds.) (2008). New Zealand-New Caledonia: Neighbours, Friends, Partners. Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University Press.

Bellwood, P. (1995). Austronesian Prehistory in Southeast Asia: Homeland, Expansion and Transformation. P. Bellwood, J.J. Fox, & D. Tryon (Eds.), The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (pp 113-114). Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Blevins, J. (2008). Some Comparative Notes on Proto-Oceanic *Mana: Inside and Outside the Austronesian Family. Oceanic Linguistics, 47 (2), 253-274. Retrieved from

Blust, R. (2007). Proto-Oceanic *Mana Revisited. Oceanic Linguistics, 46(2), 404-423. Retrieved from

Central Intelligence Agency (New Caledonia). (2013). The World Factbook: New Caledonia. Retrieved from

Clark, G.R. & Bedford, S. (2008). Friction Zones in Lapita Colonisation. In G.R. Clark, G.R, S. O'Connor & B.F. Leach, Islands of Inquiry: Colonisation, Seafaring and the Archaeology of Maritime Landscapes (pp 59-73). Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Cribb, R. (2000). Historical atlas of Indonesia. Surrey, UK: Curzon Press.

Daft Logic Distance Calculator. (2014).

Eberhard, D. M., Simons, G. F., & Fennig, C. D. (eds.). (2020). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (23rd ed.). Dallas, TX: SIL International. Retrieved from

Ember, C. R., & Ember, M. (Eds.) (2001). Countries and their Cultures Volume 1. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Google Maps (2014). Retrieved from

Guiart, J. (1963). Structure de la chefferie en Mélanésie de sud. Paris, France: Institut d’Ethnologie.

Haberkorn, G. (2008). Pacific Islands’ population and development : Facts, fictions and follies. New Zealand Population Review, 33, 95-127.

Hadfield, E. (1920). Among the natives of the Loyalty group. London: Macmillan and Co.

Howe, K. R. (1974). Firearms and indigenous warfare: A case study. The Journal of Pacific History, 9(1), 21-38. DOI: 10.1080/00223347408572242

Howe, K. R. (1977). The Loyalty Islands: A history of culture contacts 1840-1900. Honolulu, HI: The University Press of Hawaii

Keesing, R. M. (1984). Rethinking "mana". Journal of Anthropological Research, 40(1), 137-156,

Logan, L., & Cole, G. (2001). New Caledonia. London, UK: Lonely Planet

Loyalty Islands (2013). Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Retrieved from

Paini, A. (1998). 'Praying Samoa and Praying Oui-Oui': Making Christianity Local on Lifu (Loyalty Islands). In Keck, V. (Ed.), Common Worlds and Single Lives: Constituting Knowledge in Pacific Societies (pp. 171-206). New York, NY: Berg Publishing. DOI: 10.2307/2843343

Ray, S. H. (1917). The people and language of Lifu, Loyalty Islands. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 47, 239-322. DOI: 10.2307/2843343

Shineberg, D.L. and Foster, S. (2020). New Caledonia. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Retrieved from

Stanley, N. (2007). The future of indigenous museums : Perspectives from the southwest Pacific. New York, NY: Berghahn Books