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Te Pito Te Henua, or Easter Island, by William J. Thompson, [1891], at


Like most savage nations, the Easter Islanders had numerous superstitions and resorted to charms, prayers, incantations, and amulets to bring good luck and ward off evil. A thorough delineation of these superstitions might be instructive in the light of showing the real depth of the religious feeling of those who now profess, Christianity as well as the capacity of the native mind for entertaining a higher form of civilization; but, unfortunately, our brief stay on the island did not afford time to thoroughly investigate the subject.

The belief in a future state was a prominent feature in the religion. After death the soul was supposed to depart to the "place of departed spirits" to be rewarded by the gods or tormented by the demons. With this idea in view a small hole was invariably built in the wall the top of all tombs, cairns, and other receptacles, for the dead, by which the spirit of the deceased was supposed to find egress. Deified spirits were believed to be constantly wandering about the earth and to have more or less influence over the human affairs. Spirits were supposed to appear to sleeping persons and to communicate with them through visions or dreams.

p. 470

Gnomes, ghouls, and goblins were believed to inhabit inaccessible caves and niches in the rock and to have the power of prowling about after dark. The small wooden and stone images known as "household gods," were made to represent certain spirits and belong to a different order from the gods, though accredited with many of the same attributes. They occupied a prominent place in every dwelling and were regarded as the medium through which communications might be made with the spirits, but were never worshiped. The Great Spirit Meke-Meke is represented by a bird-like animal as referred to in the description of sculptured rocks and paintings at Orongo.

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