The Samoan Islands

Doctrines In traditional Samoa religious practices centred on the family. In the absence of a highly-organized priesthood and structured forms of worship religious practices were largely localized. The head of the family acted as leader and filled the rols of chief, prophet, diviner and priest. Families and local areas gave allegiance to their own deities, and spirits were consulted to ensure the well-being of the people.
Known generally, however, was the Sky Father Tagaloa-a-lagi who, in the beginning, dwelt alone in the heavens overlooking the limitless unbroken ocean. Tagaloa threw into the water a boulder which became the island of Manu'a, then sent down a seawoman fashioned from another boulder, and a vine for shelter. Maggots on the rotting vine became the first people. Tagaloa was hailed as creator of lands, visitor of lands, master builder of the universe. Tu, the deity of war common throughout Polynesia, was also known in Samaoa.

History The islands of Samoa were settled approximately fifteen Centuries before the Common Era, having up to three thousand years for the culture to develop before it was to alter with the coming of Christian missions. The lack of a well-organized and centrally ordered system of religion allowed easly conversion to Christianity without general disruption. From 1830, former beliefs and practices were replaced by new, the result being the rise of an indigenous Christian church, though under several denominations - most prominent being the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa.
During the height of the changes an entirely Samoan movement, Siovili, arose and lasted for about forty years (c.1830-65). Its founder, Siovili, was a prophet who preached the imminent coming of God's son, Sisu, with judgment to follow. Meanwhile God spoke through Sisu by way of Siovili and other mediums, mainly women. The movement bridged old and new, and at its peak membership reached over five thousand, or twenty per cent of the population of Western Samoa.
Today most Samoans make regular Christian worship the basis of their life and culture.

Symbols It is fitting that the two most characteristic objects associated with Samoa symbolize old and new beliefs respectively.
The distinctive large wooden Kava bowl is still used today in social ceremonies that remember past practices when spirits were invoked to possess a medium in order to bridge the spiritual and earthly worlds. Kava, a drink made from the root of the plant piper methisticum, is a mild narcotic which in past times was poured onto the ground each day as a libation to the spirtis.
The most distinctive feature of the Samoan community today is the church, and villages usually have more than one, rpresenting different Christian denominations. Their architecture usually reflects the indigenous churches' origin in foreign missions rather than utilizing Pacific materials and styles. Sunday is regarded seriously as a day for church attendance and worship.
The pervading sense of the religious basis of society is seen in the motto of Western Samoa, "Faavae I le Ataua Samoa" (Samoa is founded on God).

Adherents Five Christian denominations claim the adherence of 94 percent of the 161,000 residents of Western Samoa (1991 census) - Congregationalist (68,651), Catholic (35,548), Methodist (27,190), Latter-day Saints (16,394), Seventh Day Adventist (4658).

Main Centre
 Religious denominations in Samoa are not usually confined to one area, but spread throughout.