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The leaping point

Luke Rawalai
Monday, August 14, 2017

THERE are many stories as far as the iTaukei are concerned.

It ranges from the first arrival in Fiji to many other things, including certain rituals and beliefs.

While many people may just brush aside these stories, there are some who still believe in them.

Some of them also claim to be experiencing certain things which were passed down the generations by way of stories.

One such story is about the dead and what happens to their souls or spirits after death.

It maybe extraordinary and sends a chill down the spines of some people, but it is something that some people still believe in.

Today, The Fiji Times visits the place where some people claim the spirits of the dead take their final leap from.

BEING an educated iTaukei enlightened in the teachings of the Western world, I considered the stories shrouding Naicobocobo in Bua as just that.

However, after visiting the various places that I have heard of through stories down the generations, I was left wondering about the beliefs of my ancestors.

This particular one is the story of the place where the spirits of the dead are said to leap from a cliff at Bua in Vanua Levu as their final journey to the other world.

Before leaving for Naicobocobo, I checked on Wikipedia as advised by a family member residing in New Zealand, who told me that the Maori people had a similar place — a cliff where dead spirits supposedly jumped off into the nether world.

When I saw Nacadruta in Naicobocobo, the point where the iTaukei spirit are said to leap from, I was not surprised because it looked similar to Te Rerenga Wairua, which the Maori believe is the leaping point of the spirits of the dead.

I was left wondering about stories that all ancestors of Pacific people travelled in a big canoe and settled in the different islands in this single journey and whether geographical sites reminded them of their homes.

The long journey of the dead

The iTaukei believe when people die, their souls leave their bodies and journey into an underworld known as bulu.

It is said to journey to a few places in Viti Levu before heading to Balawaviriki in Udu Point and then to Naicobocobo.

Stories say in each of these places, the soul has specific tasks to undertake in order to progress to the next pit stop.

As part of this leg they enter Navunievu Village through a path that was once covered in jungle.

According to Navunievu Village elder, Meli Bulitogalevu, even to this day villagers still have to intervene with the spirits to remind them of the path to take as they journey to Naicobocobo.

"Even to this day, if we hear dogs howling and barking along the path, we know that a spirit is lost there," he said.

"When this happens our people would call out to them 'a sala e ho' o (here lies the path) and then the dogs will stop howling and barking.

"To this day it happens and even the small island children know about this so-called paranormal event.

"Then the soul journeys along the coast off Navunievu Village to Naicobocobo before finally leaping off at Nacadruta."

From the village the spirit's first stop is Tigaru where there is a place known as the i lokuloku ni vatu, according to villagers belief.

The three stones and the journey onward

The spirit of the dead is said to pick three stones from the i lokuloku ni vatu. Loku means to pick and vatu refers to the stone.

"After picking up the three stones the spirit then climbs a hill in the area where a balawa tree stands to this day," said Mr Bulitogalevu.

"There the spirit throws a stone at the balawa tree and if it hits the tree then that means that the spirit's spouse is soon to die and will follow the spirit immediately.

"From here the spirit climbs a hill to Delailago where lies a stone where the spirit performs the tama or the traditional cry of salutation.

"If the spirit is that of a man then it shouts, but if it is that of a woman then it wails out oilei as if in great pain."

Mr Bulitogalevu said the spirit then enters the village of Samu.

"According to elders, Samu is the keeper of the plantain tree," he said.

"If a plantain ripens then Samu will know that a spirit is about to approach his residence.

"In the same area lies a bamboo grove that the blind use as to assist them in their journey.

"The spirit then enters into Lilolilo where lies a pond."

Mr Bulitogalevu said at the pond, the spirit sees itself in the pool which is considered as a mirror for spirits.

"From there the spirit climbs up to Delai Nokonoko before it descends into Nacadruta," he said.

"Nacadruta is a cliff from where the spirits leap off into bulu, the spirit world.

"To date the path that the spirit takes from Nacadruta across the terrain to Balawaviriki in Udu is clear as a beaten path because it is tread by the dead every day.

"At a place near Nacadruta lies a hill that is said to be a point where the spirit rests before heading to Nacadruta.

"To this day the trees on the hill are like trimmed hedges and it is strange to see them."

Other pitstops of the spirits

According to Mr Bulitogalevu, there are other places that the spirit stops, but the story and link to the journey have been lost by the people of Navunievu.

Mr Bulitogalevu says the village of Samu, the plantain tree keeper, lies at Vatui a mountain peak along the shoreline of Naicobocobo.

Also on this mountain is said to reside Liku Sui, a lady of terror whose skirt is made of the bones of the dead.

"According to elders, her skirt is so full of bones that it is hard to make out the pattern of her wear. Single male and female spirits have their own abode along the shoreline where they stay after they are dead.

"Single females often smell the oil used by single men and wander out loud, 'isa ai boi ni lumi' (the smell of oil).

"There is a spot along the shoreline known as gone lutu dra where lies a mangrove patch that has remained to this day, not changing at all."

Mr Bulitogalevu said if a woman who aborted her baby passes by the place and if her abortion was unknown, then it would be revealed by the amount of mudskippers that land on her as she passes the place.

"Then there is vatu ni bulago where if people find the bones of the saqa fish on this rock, then it is sign that a high chief in Fiji is about to die," he said.

"In the waters off Nacadruta lies the rock of Nawanawa, a fearsome deity who is said to smash bachelor spirits on his rock.

"At Nacadruta the journey of the spirit ends and it is the leap of the chiefs that is different from all other spirits that jump from the cliff.

"When chiefs leap off the cliff, they make the biggest crashing sound which is followed by strong winds and a storm," said Mr Bulitogalevu.

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