Also known as: Samoan; Tagata Samoa

Samoa is a group of large, volcanic islands in western Polynesia. In pre-Christian times, Samoans believed in a range of supernatural beings. Pan-Polynesian gods such as Tagaloa, conceived as the creator of the world in Samoa, were present. Beings called aitu, which had more local powers and, according to the interpretation of Cain (1971), were the spirits of miscarried or aborted children. Today, Samoans are overwhelmingly Christian, the largest denominations being Protestant.

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Traditional Culture(1805-1830)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Present, and a major focus of worship (Source)
Stair (1896), pp. 46-47
Turner (1884), pp. 16-77, 17-18, 21, 24-25
Nature god(s) Present, but not a major focus of worship (Source)
Stair (1896), pp. 46-47
Turner (1884), pp. 16-77, 21, 24-25
Marck (1996A), pp. 224
Ancestral spirits Present, but not a major focus of worship (Source)
Stair (1896), pp. 38-40
Turner (1884), pp. 16-77, 144-150
Deified ancestor(s) Present, and a major focus of worship (Source)
Stair (1896), pp. 36
Cain (1971), pp. 174
God(s) Present, and a major focus of worship (Source)
Stair (1896), pp. 37
Cain (1971), pp. 173, 174

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Stair (1896), pp. 42, 47

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife Actions while living do not affect the nature of one’s afterlife (Source)
Stair (1896), pp. 38
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife Actions of others after one has died do not affect nature of one’s afterlife (Source)
Stair (1896), pp. 38-40
Myth of humanity’s creation Present, and evolutionary (Source)
Craig (2004), pp. 46
Stair (1896), pp. 35-36
Primordial pair Present, and genealogically linked to humans now living (Source)
Craig (2004), pp. 45
Marck (1996A), pp. 224
Schoeffel (1978), pp. 70
Culture hero(es) Present, but not a major focus of worship (Source)
Craig (2004), pp. 88, 104, 114, 205
Stair (1896), pp. 36
Turner (1884), pp. 16-77
Cain (1971), pp. 174

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Stair (1896), pp. 56

Classes of Tapu

Kinship tapu Present (Source)
Cain (1971), pp. 176-178
Resource management tapu Present (Source)
Meleisea (1987), pp. 9
Social hierarchy tapu Present (Source)
Sahlins (1958), pp. 36-37

Mana

Mana as a personal quality Present (Source)
Schoeffel (1978), pp. 71
Keesing (1934), pp. 146
Mana linked to genealogy Present, linked to both paternal and maternal lines (Source)
Schoeffel (1978), pp. 70-71
Mana related to social influence or technical skill Present (Source)
Mana and social status Mana is closely linked to social status – only people with high social status can be mana or have mana. (Source)
Schoeffel (1978), pp. 70-71
Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Present (Source)
Schoeffel (1978), pp. 70-71
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Absent (Source)
Turner (1884), pp. 16-77, 189-197
Stair (1896)
Meleisea (1987), pp. 1-45
Costly sacrifices and offerings Present (Source)
Stair (1896), pp. 47-48
Size of largest ritual social group Larger than a local community, no larger than the largest political community in the culture (Source)
Gilson (1970), pp. 15
Stair (1896), pp. 37
Political and religious differentiation Some overlap (Source)
Hanson (1973), pp. 3

Rites

Piercing Absent from culture (Source)
Buck (1930), pp. 627-628
Turner (1884), pp. 78-104
Genital cutting Present in the culture as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Turner (1884), pp. 81
Scarification Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Buck (1930), pp. 658
Turner (1884), pp. 78-104
Tattooing Present in the culture as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Turner (1884), pp. 88-89
Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Turner (1884), pp. 78-104
Social Environment +
Population 60000 (Source)
Kirch (1984), pp. 19
Green (2007), pp. 203
Gilson (1970), pp. 6
Population of largest political community 10,000-99,999 (Source)
Kirch (1984), pp. 37
Keesing (1934), pp. 48-52
Importance of Patrilateral descent High (Source)
Bargatzky (1991), pp. 288
Importance of Matrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Bargatzky (1991), pp. 288
Kinship system Hawaiian (Source)
Bargatzky (1991), pp. 288
Polygamy Limited polygyny (Source)
Bargatzky (1991), pp. 288
Marital residence Patrilocal or virilocal - with husband's kin (Source)
Bargatzky (1991), pp. 288

Conflict

Conflict within communities Low (Source)
Keesing (1934), pp. 59
Conflict between communities of the culture Common, at least every five years (Source)
Bargatzky (1991), pp. 288
Keesing (1934), pp. 60-61
Conflict with other cultures Common, at least every five years (Source)
Gunson (1990), pp. 176-177, 179
Keesing (1934), pp. 60
Cultural Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Frequent, through trade, warfare, travel, etc. (Source)
Gunson (1990), pp. 179
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 366.7 (Source)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Distance to African or Asian mainland (km) 7758.8 (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 Hindu / Buddhist influence on supernatural belief, and culture is unlikely to have had contact with Hindu or Buddhist societies at or prior to to the time focus in question. (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.21
Islamic influence on supernatural belief No evidence of Islamic influence on supernatural belief, and culture is unlikely to have had contact with Islamic societies at or prior to the time focus in question. (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.23
Christian influence on supernatural belief No evidence of Christian influence on supernatural belief, but culture is known to have had (Source)
Bargatzky (1991), pp. 286-287
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Medium (Source)
Buck (1930), pp. 119, 127
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Medium (Source)
Buck (1930), pp. 119, 127, 523-544
Land-based gathering Minor (Source)
Buck (1930), pp. 127-128, 546-551, 546
Land-based hunting performed by one or more groups Medium (Source)
Buck (1930), pp. 119, 127, 523-544
Agriculture / Horticulture Principal (Source)
Buck (1930), pp. 127-128
Bargatzky (1991), pp. 287

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Major (Source)
Buck (1930), pp. 418-522
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Major (Source)
Buck (1930), pp. 119, 127, 418
Water-based gathering Medium (Source)
Buck (1930), pp. 119, 127, 136, 418

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Absent (Source)
Bargatzky (1991), pp. 287
Metalworking Absent (Source)
Buck (1930)
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture Four or more (Source)
Keesing (1934), pp. 19

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Latitude -13.9 (Source)
Google Maps (2014)
Keesing (1934), pp. 19
Longitude -171.8 (Source)
Google Maps (2014)
Keesing (1934), pp. 19
Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Volcanic high island (Source)
Bargatzky (1991), pp. 286
Island Size (km²) 1091.0 (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Upolu) (2014)
Maximum elevation (meters) 1100.0 (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Upolu) (2014)
Post Contact History(1830-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +

Conversion

Role of social status in conversion process Primarily a top-down process. (Source)
Gilson (1970), pp. 74-76
Use of force in conversion Low (Source)
Gilson (1970), pp. 69-114
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from non-Austronesian societies (Source)
Bargatzky (1991), pp. 287
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Bargatzky (1991), pp. 287-288

Syncretic Movements

Syncretic religious movements Present, but did not survive to the present-day (Source)
Freeman (1958), pp. 4-13, 19, 21-22
Central Intelligence Agency (Samoa) (2014)
Central Intelligence Agency (American Samoa) (2014)
Secular History +

Demographic and Social Changes

Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (American Samoa) (2014)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Samoa) (2014)
Central Intelligence Agency (Samoa) (2014)
Meleisea (1987)
Immigration Absent (Source)
Meleisea (1987), pp. 31, 43, 106-107, 120-121, 129, 150, 156-170
Central Intelligence Agency (American Samoa) (2014)
Central Intelligence Agency (Samoa) (2014)
Language shift Low (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (American Samoa) (2014)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Samoa) (2014)
Foreign education systems High (Source)
Central Intelligence Agency (American Samoa) (2014)
Central Intelligence Agency (Samoa) (2014)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (American Samoa) (2014)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Samoa) (2014)

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence Medium (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (American Samoa) (2014)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Samoa) (2014)
Keighley (2006), pp. 113
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present and substantial (Source)
Bargatzky (1991), pp. 287
Encyclopaedia Britannica (American Samoa) (2014)

Modern Infrastructure

Vehicles and roads Present and widely used (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Samoa) (2014)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (American Samoa) (2014)
Air travel Present and long-distance (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Samoa) (2014)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (American Samoa) (2014)
Sea port Present (Source)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Samoa) (2014)
Encyclopaedia Britannica (American Samoa) (2014)

Loss of Autonomy

Nature of loss of autonomy Largely voluntary (Source)
Meleisea (1987), pp. 42, 64-88
Loss of political autonoomy High (Source)
Bargatzky (1991), pp. 287
Current Culture(2014)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Institutional religious syncretism Medium (Source)
Va'ai (2012), pp. 79-80
Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
Central Intelligence Agency (American Samoa) (2014)
Central Intelligence Agency (Samoa) (2014)
External Links
References
Bargatzky, T. (1991). Samoa. IEncyclopaedia of World Cultures (Vol. II, pp 286-289). New York, NY: G.K. Hall & Co.

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 http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/ol/summary/v047/47.2.blevins.html

Blust, R. (2007). Proto-Oceanic *Mana Revisited. Oceanic Linguistics, 46(2), 404-423. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20172322

Buck, P. (1930). Samoan Material Culture. Honolulu, HI: Bernice P. Bishop Museum.

Cain, H. (1971). "The Sacred Child and the Origin of Spirits in Samoa". Anthropos, 66 (1-2), 173-181. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40457754

Central Intelligence Agency (American Samoa). (2014). The World Factbook: American Samoa. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/aq.html

Central Intelligence Agency (Samoa). (2014). The World Factbook: Samoa. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ws.html

Craig R. D. (2004). Handbook of Polynesian Mythology. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO-Inc.

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

Daft Logic Distance Calculator. (2014). http://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-distance-calculator.htm.

Encyclopaedia Britannica (American Samoa) (2014). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/20153/American-Samoa

Encyclopaedia Britannica (Samoa). (2014). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/520589/Samoa

Encyclopaedia Britannica (Upolu). (2014). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/618709/Upolu

Freeman, J.D. (1958). The Joe Gimlet, or Siovili Cult: An Episode in the Religious History of Early Samoa. Canberra, Australia: Australian National University.

Gilson, R.P. (1970). Samoa 1830-1900: The Politics of a Multi-Cultural Community. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.

Goldman, I. (1995) Status Rivalry and Cultural Evolution in Polynesia. American Anthropologist, 57 (4), 680-697. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/665319

Google Maps (2014). Retrieved from maps.google.com

Green, R.C. (2007). Protohistoric Samoan Population. In Kirch, P.V. & Rallu, J. (Eds.). The Growth and Collapse of Pacific Island Societies. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.

Gunson, N. (1990). The Tonga-Samoa Connection 1777-1845: Some Observations on the Nature of Tongan Imperialism. The Journal of Pacific History, 25 (2), 176-187. DOI: 10.1080/00223349008572634.

Hanson, F.A. (1973) Political Change in Tahiti and Samoa: An Exercise in Experimental Anthropology. Ethnology, 12 (1), 1-13. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3773093.

Keesing, F.M. (1934). Modern Samoa: Its Government and Changing Life. London, UK: Allen and Unwin Ltd. Retrieved from http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu/ehrafe/citation.do?method=citation&forward=browseCulturesFullContext&col=collection%28%27/eHRAF/ethnography/Oceania/OU08%27%29&docId=ou08-006&tocOffsetId=tocPubInfoP

Keesing, R. M. (1984). Rethinking "mana". Journal of Anthropological Research, 40(1), 137-156, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3629696.

Keighley, E.D.; McGarvey, E.D.; Turituri, P.; & Viali, S. (2006). Farming and Adiposity in Samoan Adults. American Journal of Human Biology, 18 (1), 112-122. DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.20469

Kirch, P.V. (1984). The Evolution of the Polynesian Chiefdoms. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Marck, J. (1996A). The First-Order Anthropomorphic Gods of Polynesia. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 105 (2), 217-258. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20706661

Meleisea, M. (1987). The Making of Modern Samoa. Suva, Fiji: University of the South Pacific.

Sahlins, M. D. (1958). Social stratification in Polynesia. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press

Schoeffel, P. (1978). "Gender, Status and Power in Samoa." Canberra Anthropology, 1 (2), 69-81. DOI: 10.1080/03149097809508656

Stair, J.B. (1896). Jottings on the Mythology and Spirit Lore of Old Samoa. The Journal of the Polynesian Society. 5(1[17]), 33-57. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20701406.

Turner, G. (1884). Samoa, a Hundred Years Ago and Long Before: Together with Notes on the Cults and Customs of Twenty-Three other Islands in the Pacific. London, UK: Macmillan and Co. Retrieved from http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu.ezproxy.auckland.ac.nz/ehrafe/citation.do?method=citation&forward=browseCulturesFullContext&col=collection%28%27/eHRAF/ethnography/Oceania/OU08%27%29&docId=ou08-016&tocOffsetId=tocPubInfoP

Turner, W.Y. (1878). The Ethnology of the Motu. The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 7, 470-499. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2841436

Va'ai, E.K. (2012). Religion. In Meleisea, L.M.; Meleisea, P.S.; & Meleisea, E. (Eds). Samoa's Journey 1962-2012: Aspects of History. Wellington, NZ: Victoria University Press.