Volume 24 1915 > Volume 24, No.95 > Legends of the Niua Islands, by B. G. Mahony, p 116-117
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- 116
LEGENDS OF THE NIUA ISLANDS.

ABOUT one hundred and forty miles north of Vavau, in the Tonga Group, lie the two islands of Tafahi and Niuatobutabu.

The latter of these is a low-lying coral-reefed island with a double knoll about three hundred feet high in the centre. In it live the 700 or 800 of the natives under their hereditary chief Maafu. In the waters around here lives also the familiar demon of the family of Maafu, “Sekatoa” by name.

Sekatoa is the last apparently of the active devils of Tonga. He still can be called forth by any of the family of Maafu; but more particularly by Maafu himself, or by a very aged aunt of his. The ceremony is as follows:—One of the two chief Matabule of the island, clad in his taovala or Matabule's mat, goes out with a piece of scraped kava which he throws into the sea as maukava to Sekatoa. If the piece of kava is of sufficient size and quality, and is thrown in with the respect due to one of the rank of Sekatoa, then two small fish of the remora (or Sucking fish) species appear and vanish with the kava. These are the Matabules of Sekatoa, and all is well. Next appears a fish, apparently a dogfish about three or four feet in length. This disappears and a number of sharks appear in turn, each bigger than the last, till finally a huge fish appears and remains on the surface awaiting the pleasure of Maafu. These fish, after the two first had gone, were all Sekatoa himself appearing in successive guises, till finally appearing as a monster shark. Sekatoa then acts as a sort of Delphic oracle.

Some years ago, Maafu, while under the influence of a quantity of gin, called up Sekatoa, and apparently quarrelled with him, for he fired a shot into the sea after his devil. The latter went off in a huff, and was next heard of as having taken up his quarters at the other island of Niua—Niuafo'ou, about one hundred and four miles W. by N. of Niuatobutabu. It was not till the people of the latter island under Maafu, sailed in the schooner “Koe Bamu” to Niuafo'ou, and went through various ceremonies in penance that Sekatoa's injured feelings were sufficiently soothed to allow him to return to his old home with them. Niuafo'ou is about five miles across, the centre being occupied by a deep lake in a crater about three miles in diameter. The walls rise in some places six hundred feet sheer from the water. Near Niuatobutabu is the volcanic cone of Tafahi or Boscawen Island, rising a sheer two thousand feet above the sea.

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Tafahi was originally the centre part of Niuafo'ou, but by way of a joke, some of the Otua Pau'u or imps of Samoa stole it one night and, leaving a large crater in its place, started to carry it home. On their way to Samoa they passed near Niuatobutabu. Sekatoa seeing them flying past recognised the piece of Niuafo'ou they had stolen and immediately went to the rescue. He sent out a minor devil to crow like a cock. The Samoan devils hearing this redoubled their efforts to get their spoil home before daylight. A second and a third crow only increased their efforts, so Sekatoa, seeing the urgency of the case, arranged for an impromptu sunrise. At the first appearance of the sun the Samoan Imps dropped their spoil in the sea and fled homewards. The island Tafahi has remained there ever since as a monument to the ingenuity of Sekatoa, for the Samoan devils were so ridiculed by all the world for their simplicity that they were ashamed to try again. In their hurry to escape they had not noticed that the sun was rising not over the horizon, but out of the sea close by. It was the head of Sekatoa.

This legend is interesting in that it shows that even Polynesian devils were amenable to the law that when the cock crowed to signal the dawn, all ghosts must flee. The legend, as it stands, is of undoubted antiquity in the Niuas, and there can be no doubt as to this point, for the island is so remote that it has had little intercourse with whites other than traders, who took little interest in such matters.