Stone interpretation of spirit circa 1968 Inarajan


Our Early Ancestors of the Land

Rudolph Villaverde. The taotaomonas (people before recorded time) are the ghostly apparitions of the ancient people of Guahan. The indigeneous people of Guahan have occupied the islands during the Early Prelatte Phase (prior to 1485 BC to 500 BC), the Intermediate Prelatte Phase (500 BC to AD1), the Transitional Period (AD 1 to AD500-1000) and the Latte Period (AD 1000 to AD 1521) [reference pg 48 Tiempon I Manmofo'na by Scott Russell]. The Spanish-Chamoru War between 1671 and July 1695 resulted in the deaths of thousands native inhabitants (a great percentage due to European pathogens). Included in the collateral deaths were the manmakahnas (ancient medicine healers later dubbed suruhanos and suruhanas by the Spanish)whose spiritual leadership had been replaced by the Spanish clergy. Many of today's ancient Latte Stone sites were once villages burned and destroyed by the Spanish soldiers during that war. The Chamorus believe that roaming and inhabiting the jungles and caves of the Marianas are ancestral spirits with unresolved but determined purpose.

Historian Benigno Palomo writes, "While it is often said that the ancient Chamorro had no organized priesthood, no temples and no defined religious creed, therefore, no rituals, according to Padre San Vitores 1669, the Chamorros venerated the spirits of their ancestors, called aniti.

The aniti were sacred and powerful spirits who could help them. When angered, however, they could do harm. As a result, the spirits and relics of the dead, especially of one's ancestors, were feared and respected. The chamorros had rituals which were not completely revealed to the Spanish." Rota Latte Mochom  Ancient village Site with potent metaphysical presence.

Guam's indigenous Chamorus believe that the twilight before sunrise and the twilight at sunset are the periods when the spirits begin to stir and move through the land at night. The taotaomona commonly assumes the form of a male physically large and robust. Other metaphysical forms taken may be white lady aparitions accompanied by scents of flowers or lemon, large men or 'small children called duendes hiding under mushrooms'. Some of the taotaomonas are described as headless and having deformed bodies. The Spanish era traditional depiction is that they were giants but monstrously ugly. This ancient concept of ghost is incongruous "to Christian beliefs and referred to as pagan ghostly forest-men" [pg 89, The Chamorro]. The modern contemporary view however is that the taotaomona are living ancestral spirits. Mavis Warner Van Peenan, "Chamorro Legends on the Island of Guam 1945" wrote, "Could that ugliness be the self-deprecation that the Chamorro felt was required of him under conquest?"

If a person gathers plants in a jungle, they must ask permission "gue'la yan gue'lo, kao sina yu' manule' tinanoum-mu ya yanggen matto hao gi tano'-hu fanule' ha sin mamaisen" in Chamorro. Mavis Warner Van Peenan writes, "The Taotaomona, being a strong man himself, disliked anyone weak. Therefore, a Chamorro talking to him, must disguise his present weakness, and talk loudly and boastfully. Thus his Taotaomona would be proud of him and never frighten him when he was walking along some dark night."

Reference to a taotaomona called Anufat is legion. He is described as very ugly with teeth six inches long. He also has a hole on each side of his head [allegorical for battle head wounds], with ferns [medicinal herb poltice] stuffed in each hole. There is a web link to the Tinian Island skull artifact from the Spanish Chamorro Wars, Taotao Taga, who survived a penetrating wound to the cheek bone. The book "The Chamorro by George Fritz 1904 pg 14" writes about Saipan's Kalabera Cave, "presumably this site is ... a mass grave prepared by the Spaniards. At the entrance, ... were about twelve skulls, several of them shattered at the left temple, possibly by sword thrust."

There is a story by the Manhamkos (elderly men and women), that if a person walks through an ancient burial site, they must always whistle so as not to disturb Anufat. If they donít whistle, Anufat may become startled and cause great harm.

The taotaomonas of Guahan are said to roam the jungles and are present around the ancient latte ruins, large basalt and coral boulders and caves, as well as amongst the thick dense hanging roots of the Banyan Trees. If you enter the jungles and disturb the taotaomonas, they may pinch you, leaving red marks or swellings on your body, or they may cause illnesses which are difficult to diagnose by conventional doctors.. The only treatment for this sickness is to visit a suruhana (Chamorro female traditional healer) or a suruhano (Chamorro male traditional healer). You may be given herbs or a massage as treatment but almost always you will be instructed to revisit the site where the illness began and ask forgiveness from the "guelotas and guelatas" or ancient grandparents for disturbing a burial site. The mindset of the Chamoru Culture is rooted on respect which is extended to those who have passed on beyond the world of the living. Those who enter the jungle, cave or an unexpected clearing under a large rooted tree without exhibiting proper respect will fall ill.


PLAQUE Honoring Guam's Ancestors at TOMHUM

Este na mangaige i tataotao i Guelota
yan Guelata siha ni' muna'i hit ni'
lana'la' yan espiritu para i
manatatatte na tataogue. Ta katga i
espiriton-niha gi ya hita pa'go yan i
Manmamailai' na tiempo. Nihi ta onra
guine na lugat i espiriton-niha ginen
i che'cho'ta pa'gu yan para todu i tiempo.

Here lie the remains of Chamorus from
times past, ancestors who have
bequeath life and spirit to those
who have followed them. We carry that
spirit with us now, and into times
yet to come. At this place let us
remember those who came before, honor
their remains, and resolve to honor
their spirit by our action now and
through the challenges of our future.

inarajan guam taotaomona interpretation circa 1968 When Chamorus exhibit strength bordering on the unnatural, the indigenous perspective assumes that that person actually believes he is empowered by and draws potency from the spiritual realm. The psychology of the supernatural is concomitant with physical strength.

In "Guam and its People" by Laura Thompson 1947 Pg 176, "An interesting development in this regard is the concept of taotaomona partners. A few modern natives are believed to have such partners (called ga'chong) who give them physically enhanced strength. These men are recognized by the unusual feats of strength they are able to perform. According to one informant:

"Some old people say that they have the power of taotaomona in them because their ancestors had taotaomona as partners. Such a partner can help you when you are alone but not in the presence of another person ... When the man dies his taotaomona partner tries to become attached to another member of the family and in this way causes illness in the family." The concept of taotaomona partners is a variation on the guardian spirit cult which has frequently been found in rapidly changing marginal cultures. It is one means by which individuals attempt to gain strength from their old culture and recapture its values in order to cope with the baffling problems presented by their changing environment ..." (thompson) Thompson states that the term maligna meaning "evil spirit" is taken from the Spanish. The Chamorus pronounce this as maknganiti designating a malignant being. Further note that the Spanish (Jun 15 1668-1898) designate the words "aniti or soul" as well as taotaomona (people before time) as evil spirits. The Indigenous Chamorus however refer to them as ancestors. Compiled by: Rudolph Villaverde

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