Also known as: Mota;

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Traditional Culture(1863)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Codrington (1881), pp. 275-276
Ivens (1931), pp. 157-158
Nature god(s) Absent (Source)
Codrington (1881), pp. 266-288
Ivens (1931)
Ancestral spirits Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Codrington (1881), pp. 283-286
Ivens (1931), pp. 157, 161
Deified ancestor(s) Absent (Source)
Codrington (1881), pp. 266-288, 268, 285
Ivens (1931), pp. 157-166, 157-158, 161
God(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Codrington (1881), pp. 266-288, 267, 275
Ivens (1931), pp. 157-166, 157

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Codrington (1891), pp. 276-277

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife Principal determinant of one's afterlife (Source)
Codrington (1891), pp. 273-275
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife One factor in determining one's afterlife (Source)
Codrington (1891), pp. 275, 276-277
Myth of humanity’s creation Present, and creationist (Source)
Ivens (1931)
Codrington (1881)
Primordial pair Absent (Source)
Ivens (1931)
Codrington (1881)
Culture hero(es) Present, but not a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Codrington (1881), pp. 266-288, 267-268
Ivens (1930)

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Codrington (1881), pp. 267-268

Classes of Tapu

Social hierarchy tapu Present (Source)
Codrington (1891), pp. 215-216
Codrington (1881), pp. 288
Resource management tapu Present (Source)
Codrington (1891), pp. 215-216


Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Present (Source)
Keesing (1984), pp. 143
Codrington (1881), pp. 278-279
Mana linked to genealogy Absent (Source)
Codrington (1881), pp. 278-279
Mana and social status Moderately associated (Source)
Codrington (1881), pp. 278-279
Mana as a personal quality Present (Source)
Codrington (1881), pp. 278-279
Mana related to social influence or technical skill Present (Source)
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Absent (Source)
Codrington (1891), pp. 345
Costly sacrifices and offerings Present (Source)
Codrington (1881), pp. 277
Largest religious community Household or smaller (Source)
Codrington (1881)
Political and religious differentiation Considerable overlap between religious and political leaders (Source)
Codrington (1881), pp. 287


Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Codrington (1891), pp. 228-289
Piercing Present in the culture as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Codrington (1891), pp. 265
Tattooing Absent from culture (Source)
Codrington (1891), pp. 228-289
Genital cutting Absent from culture (Source)
Codrington (1891), pp. 234
Social Environment +
Population 1430 (Source)
Samson (2017)
Codrington & Palmer (1896), pp. v
Population of largest political community 100-999 (Source)
Codrington (1891), pp. 15, 54-56
Samson (2017)
Importance of Patrilateral descent Low (Source)
Codrington (1891), pp. 24-25
Importance of Matrilateral descent High (Source)
Codrington (1891), pp. 21, 24-25
Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Frequent, through trade, warfare, travel, etc. (Source)
Codrington (1891), pp. 11, 297-298
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 7.1 (Source)
Codrington (1881), pp. 266-267
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Distance to nearest continent 2000.0 (Source)
Codrington (1881), pp. 266-268
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 and not in region of known contact (Source)
Whiteman (1983), pp. 128-130
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Land-based gathering Medium (Source)
Codrington (1891), pp. 319-320
Agriculture / Horticulture Principal (Source)
Codrington (1891), pp. 303, 319-320
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture One (Source)
Codrington (1881), pp. 266-267

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Volcanic high island (Source)
'Banks Islands' (2019)
Codrington (1891), pp. 14-16
Island Size (km²) 10.5 (Source)
Codrington (1881), pp. 266-267
Daft Logic Area Calculator (2014)


Latitude -13.8 (Source)
Codrington (1881)
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude 167.7 (Source)
Codrington (1881)
Google Maps (2014)
Post Contact History(1863-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +


Role of social status in conversion process Primarily a top-down process, although inroads had already been made with the general population. (Source)
Whiteman (1983), pp. 129-137, 136-137
Use of force in conversion Low (Source)
Whiteman (1983), pp. 129-137, 136-137
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Whiteman (1983), pp. 128
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Absent (Source)
Whiteman (1983), pp. 129-137

Syncretic Movements

Syncretic religious movements Absent (Source)
Whiteman (1983), pp. 129-137
Secular History +

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence Low (Source)
Kolshus (2005), pp. 131
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present but minor (Source)
'Banks Islands' (2019)
Kolshus (2005), pp. 131

Modern Infrastructure

Vehicles and roads Absent (Source)
Google Maps (2014)
Air travel Present, local only (Source)
'Banks Islands' (2019)
Sea port Absent (Source)
Google Maps (2014)

Demographic and Social Changes

Immigration Absent (Source)
Adams & Foster (2021)
'Banks Islands' (2019)
Language shift Medium (Source)
Eberhard (2020)
Foreign education systems High (Source)
Adams & Foster (2021)
Eberhard (2020)

Loss of Autonomy

Loss of political autonoomy Medium (Source)
Adams & Foster (2021)
Kolshus (2005), pp. 156
Current Culture(2014)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Unofficial religious syncretism Medium (Source)
Kolshus (2005), pp. 153-171
Institutional religious syncretism Medium (Source)
Kolshus (2005), pp. 98-106, 141, 147, 155-156
Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
Kolshus (2005), pp. 96
External Links
Adams, R. & Foster, S. (2021). Vanuatu. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. .. Accessed 18 May 2021.

Banks Islands (2019). Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Retrieved from

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.

Churchill, W. (1916). Sissano: Movements of Migration Within and Through Melanesia. Washington, D.C.: The Carnegie Institute of Washington.

Codrington, R. H. & Palmer, J. (1896). A dictionary of the language of Mota, Sugarloaf Island, Banks Islands. London, U.K.: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

Codrington, R.H. (1881). Religious Beliefs and Practices in Melanesia. The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 10, 261-316. Retrieved from

Codrington, R.H. (1891). The Melanesians: Studies in their Anthropology and Folk-lore. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.

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

Daft Logic Area Calculator. (2014). Retrieved from:

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

Google Maps (2014). Retrieved from

Ivens, W. G. (1930). The Island Builders of the Pacific. London, UK: Seeley, Service & Co. Ltd.

Ivens, W.G. (1931). The Place of Vui and Tamate in the Religion of Mota. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 61, 157-166. .

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

Kolshus, T. S. (1999/ 2005). Purism, Syncretism, Symbiosis: Cohabiting Traditions on Mota, Banks Islands, Vanuatu. (Doctoral dissertation), Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo. Retrieved from

McArthur, N. (1981). New Hebrides Population, 1840-1967: A Re-Interpretation. Noumea, New Caledonia : South Pacific Commission.

Samson, J. (2017). The ‘Sleepiness’ of George Sarawia: The Impact of Disease on the Melanesian Mission at Mota, c. 1870–1900. The Journal of Pacific History, 52(2), 156-171.

Whiteman, D. L. (1983). Melanesians and Missionaries: an Ethnohistorical Study of Social and Religious Change in the Southwest Pacific. Pasadena, CA: W. Carey Library.