New Polynesian Religions

Doctrines As their inspiration was in response to the teachings of the Christian missions, new religious movements in Polynesia picked up on different aspects of the gospel and related them to their own culture in ways appropriate to the time and place. They could be positively or negatively oriented towards Christianity.
Tahiti's Mamaia movement reflected millennial feelings of the 1800s. Its popular message rejected restrictive missionary regulations on the instruction of voices and visions received from the leaders apparently from Christian figures such as Jesus Christ, Mary, some saints, and traditional Tahitian deities.
Samao's Siovili was a charismatic prophet who preached the imminent coming to the island of Savai'I of God's son, known as Sisu Alaisa (Jesus Christ), with judgement to follow. Meanwhile God spoke through Sisu by way of Siovili and other mediums, mainly women. Though containing much Christian inspiration, the movement rejected some Christian doctrines, and retained some traditional ideas.

History In Polynesia overall, from Hawaii in the north to New Zealand in the south, new religious movements arose during the 1800s in response to the coming of Christian missionaries. Though these movements varied in their characteristics and effect, together they were attempts to relate the old and new teachings. Almost all were short-lived - only in New Zealand did they adapt and endure to the present time.
The two-best known in the islands of central polynesia were Mamaia of Tahiti and Siovili in Samoa.
The Mamaia movement (1826-41) was led by local prophets who preached the early coming of Christ and allowed freedom of sexual conduct and other social rules, the movement combined elements of the new teachings with aspects of the former culture.
The Samona movement arose at the height of the cultural changes and lasted for up to forty years (c. 1830-65). Its founder, Siovili, visited the Society Islands in the 1820s, and possibly also travelled to Australia. Because of these experiences he gained prestige on his return home, and preached a message which appealed to the people as an indigenous form of the religion brought by the missionaries.

Symbols The Mamaia movement modelled a number of their symbols and practices on those of Christianity but freely adapted them to suit their anti-mission purpose. The Christian idea of a coming millennial period became their main teaching though this was imaged as a time of no evil and therefore no laws.
Siovili recognised in the scriptures of the missionaries the power of knowledge, symbolized in the written word. That marks on paper could impart information seemed magical to the pre-literate society, and any books were used as symbols of esoteric knowledge. In Mamaia, as part of a rejection of Christianity, books were not valued.
With Siovili the traditional symbol of the new moon took on new significance in relation to teachings on the Christian sabbath. The sabbath was observed once a month - at new moon - the ceremonies being patterned on mission services but the content being traditional.

Adherents At its most active, the Mamaia movement was so widespread that missionaries feared it would dominate all Polynesia and destroy the Christian mission.
The Siovili movement at its peak membership reached over five thousand, or twenty per cent of Western Samoa.
Neither movement survives today.

Main Centre
 The Mamaia movement was centred on Tahiti in the Society Islands.
Siovili was a native of the Samoan island of Savai'i and it was to here that Christ was to come, walking across the Pacific on the surface of the ocean.