They are beautiful. Or at least this is what people say. And they can be quite frightening. They’re neither humans nor ghosts. They are the spirit women. And they wander the villages of Samoa. Yes, it’s time to take another journey into the world of Pasifika myths. So, shall we begin?
The women in question are known as Teine Sa. It is believed that every village in the Samoan Archipelago has its own lady, who guards and protects the area. Most of them are known only by local inhabitants, but you may have heard about Telesa – the Teine Sa from the village of Lepea, Saumaeafe from Saleimoa or Sinaleavele – the spirit of Alaoa and Tanugamanono.
They are all described as being stunningly attractive, with long hair and red hibiscuses tucked behind their ears, and… eager to seduce young men. Word on the street is, they can charm anyone they want. Such extraordinary beauty can be alluring. But guys, watch out! Falling in love with the Teine Sa may lead to your… death. Especially, if you pay attention to other girls.
The spirit women of Samoa are extremely jealous. They detest good-looking females. The ones that flaunt their physical appearance run a risk of… getting seriously harmed. So all you ladies, beware! Don’t brush your hair at night, don’t wear it down, don’t misbehave. Otherwise the Teine Sa will come after you.
Yes, it is obvious that those strong-willed women don’t like it when young people don’t respect the community, when they behave in an inappropriate way or fail to conform to social norms. It’s quite simple: try one of these, and you will be punished. Or: follow the rules, be demure and modest, set a good example, and you will never have any troubles. The choice is yours. But remember, it may not be just a myth…
Now, you may assume that the Teine Sa spirits are embodiments of evil. Well, such statement would definitely be an exaggeration. Those beautiful women, who apparently can hurt human beings so easily, are the protectors of not only Samoan land, but also indigenous traditions and beliefs.
In Pasifika, nature was always considered sacred. Forests, rivers, lagoons and even single plants were often declared tapu, just so people would respect them. The islands and the ocean were the sources of life: the homes of the ancestors, the ‘givers’ of food, the shelter and hope for future generations. Every single person was inseparably linked with Mother Earth.
This is how it looked in the past. Nowadays, things have changed. The trees and waters are no longer tapu. People care less and less about their surroundings. Well, modernity has arrived and everything has evolved: culture, customs, traditions and beliefs. It only seems like a natural cycle of life but… If you forget about your heritage, you start to lose your true identity. And the Teine Sa? They try to awaken those memories of the ancient times, when people actually listened to the great world of nature and took proper care of the place they called ‘home’. The spirits demand respect: for themselves, but most of all for Samoa.
The big question is: are the stories based on facts? It’s hard to say. Some elders claim they encountered the ghosts. They swear to God the Teine Sa are real. Others disagree. According to them, the legends were made up in order to frighten and discipline children and teenagers, so they would obey adults. Whatever the case is, the lore is deeply rooted in the Polynesian culture. It may not be as prevalent as it was in the old days, but it’s still there. Young Samoans insist they do not believe in the Teine Sa. But somehow they try very hard not to anger them. Who knows, maybe those beautiful women with red hibiscuses over their ears do exist… Roaming the sacred lands of the islands and connecting people to their past.
It is often said that legends are a mixture of fantasy and reality. This indeed may be true.