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The people of Fiji believed in an epic journey for the souls of the deceased. That journey is even more detailed than the Soul’s Journey envisioned by the Tupari of Brazil.
I. For four days the spirit of the deceased lingers in the vicinity of its host body’s death. Then it begins the long and perilous journey to Mbulu, the land of the dead.
II. Upon reaching the headlands at Naithobokoboko the spirit encounters the goddess LEWALEVU. This deity tries to prevent the soul from proceeding unless she is propitiated by offerings of leaves.
III. If the deceased successfully passes Lewalevu it next encounters the sandalwood tree at Vuniyasikinikini. The spirit is required to pinch the bark of the Yasi/ sandalwood tree with its fingernails.
If the nails are long and sharp enough to sink into the bark it proves the person did not do much fighting or hard work in life. If its nails are short and dull it proves the deceased worked and fought hard in life and may continue their journey.
IV. Next awaits the goddess NANG-GA NANG-GA, the Devourer of Bachelors. Nang-ga Nang-ga sits on a black rock by the edge of the sea. On one side of her stone perch lap the ocean’s waves and on the other side steep jagged cliffs jut up to the skies.
The only passable route lies below Nang-ga Nang-ga’s black rock. Very, very few unmarried men prove stealthy enough to slip past this goddess. Most are detected by her and pursued along the beach until caught. Nang-ga Nang-ga then dashes the bachelor’s spirit against her black stone perch and feeds upon it.
V. The souls of married men bypass Nang-ga Nang-ga and proceed to a hill of red clay dotted with black boulders. After climbing that hill the weary spirit must continue on until they reach the summit of Takiveleyama. In order to even start the climb toward that summit the spirit must throw the whale’s tooth he was buried with at a ghostly pandanus tree. If he misses with his throw he must wait there until one of his wives dies and their spirit comes along to accompany him up Takiveleyama.
After pausing on Takiveleyama’s summit for rejoicing the soul(s) descends the other side of the hill until reaching the sea shore. It is there that the canoe of the god VAKALELEYALU (also called Thema and Taveta) arrives to transport the souls of the dead to the next stop on their journey: the Two Cities in One called NABANG-GATAI.
VI. One city of Nabang-gatai exists in the physical plain and is inhabited by the living. Its twin city exists in the ethereal plain and is uninhabited. As Vakaleleyalu’s canoe draws near the dual city of Nabang-gatai his parakeet emits one cry for each spiritual passenger on the god’s canoe. These cries let the people in the physical world’s Nabang-gatai know to leave all their doors open to accommodate the passage of the souls which disembark from Vakaleleyalu’s canoe.
VII. Lurking in the mangrove trees just outside the ethereal Nabang-gatai is the god SAMULAYO, the slayer of souls. If he chooses to challenge an advancing spirit he blocks its path with a ghostly reed. Samulayo then interrogates the soul and if a false answer is given he attacks with his war-club.
The spirit must defend itself with the war-club it was buried with. If none was provided at burial the soul is slain by Samulayo, suffering the Second Death and being reduced to nothingness. If the god decides that the soul put up a good enough fight it is permitted to pass. If not, Samulayo may inflict the Second Death upon it OR simply injure it enough that it must wander forever, never reaching the land of the dead.
VIII. Next the spirit climbs to the top of Naindelinde in the Kauvandra Mountains. There, at the edge of a cliff, the supreme deity NDENGEI sits in judgment. Ndengei asks the spirit “In what manner did you die? And what has your behavior been in the world of the living?”
When the subsequent interrogation is over Ndengei uses a large steering paddle to send the soul falling to the waters far below the cliff. The spirit sinks to wherever Ndengei has chosen for the deceased based upon their conduct in life and manner of death.
IX. The subaquatic realm of MURIMURIA, the outer region of Mbulu, is where punishment is meted out to those who have offended the gods.
The souls of those men who were not evil enough to deserve great punishment nor noble enough to deserve the paradise called Mburotu are bound face-down in the soil. There they slowly grow into dalo plants and are eventually harvested by the god LOTHIA.
This deity then eats the male souls, thus consigning them to annihilation in the Second Death. (See my look at Bel-Ren myths for a variant form of “annihilation” in the afterlife.) The female souls Lothia harvests he makes into bread to feed the gods and those souls experience the Second Death.
The souls of those men who were too cowardly or weak to ever have their ears pierced are condemned to forever support large logs on their shoulders. Spiteful female spirits pound bark-cloth on those logs while taunting and jeering at the suffering male soul.
The souls of those women who never had their faces tattooed in life are pursued by similar spiteful female spirits. When the un-tattooed souls are caught their faces are disfigured with sharp shells and they spend eternity beating bark-cloth on the logs borne by men with unpierced ears.
The most ignominious fate is reserved for those male souls who failed to ever kill a foe in battle. They must forever use their unbloodied war-clubs to beat upon piles of dung.
X. MBUROTU is the paradisal heart of Mbulu, the land of the dead. Mburotu is the realm of eternal life and light, with aromatic fruits growing on trees which provide ample shade for the souls of the dead. Cool running water is abundant and the dead feast on the same food consumed by the gods.
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