Futuna - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Traditionally, mana and tapu were Concepts that were widely observed. The main gods included Tagaloa, the sky god; Mafuike, who brought fire to the islands; Sina and the demigod Maui; and ancestral gods and spirits of animals such as Feke (octopus), Fonu (tortoise), and Tafolaa (whale). The Catholic faith has dominated the lives of Futunans for 150 years, and it has diminished though not completely replaced faith in the supernatural powers of the sau. Futunans today attend Mass and belong to various groups within the Catholic organization, though a few have expressed their dissatisfaction with the dominance that the church has over their lives. There is a church in each village, as well as several shrines, all of which are carefully tended with flowers each week. A significant though unknown proportion of people's income is donated to the church for general upkeep as well as for ideological causes.

Religious Practitioners. The Catholic priests on Futuna are both European and Wallisian, as are the nuns. Futunans train at the Pacific Theological College in Fiji to enter the priesthood.

Ceremonies. The church calendar dominates, with First Communion as well as Christmas and Easter as major social festivities. Bastille Day (14 July) and Armistice Day (11 November), as well as a day commemorating Father Chanel's beatification, are all celebrated.

Arts. Tapa making and mat weaving incorporate uniquely Futunan designs. The Futunans' fine black-ink etching on tapa is particularly distinctive. Men carve wooden staves and other objects with particular designs, mainly for sale.

Medicine. A central hospital is located in Leava, Sigave, with a clinic in Ono village and another in Poi. The medical service is staffed with a French doctor and local nursing staff. Many Futunan people also use their traditional doctors, who may be women or men. They massage and rub affected areas using local oils and leaves; they may also give medicines made of local ingredients. Pregnant women in particular visit the Futunan doctor in order to ensure a successful birth. Some love potions are also administered when requested.

Death and Afterlife. Futunans are buried according to Catholic ritual in cemeteries in the dead person's village. Every funeral is followed by a special Mass each evening for six days following the death. A large feast also marks the passing of each Futunan. Catholic beliefs in the afterlife, such as Heaven and Hell, are very much part of Futunan thinking, resembling traditional beliefs in an immortal spirit and in an afterlife in a place known as "Lagi" (meaning "sky") or "Pulotu," while "Fale Mate" (literally, "house of suffering") was a kind of hell

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