In One Part of the World, Prince Philip Was Nearly a God

2 Vanuatu tribes are mourning the Duke of Edinburgh
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2021 10:33 AM CDT
In One Part of the World, Prince Philip Was Nearly a God
In this 2015 file photo, Albi Nagia poses with photographs of Prince Philip in Yakel, Tanna island, Vanuatu.   (AP Photo/Nick Perry, File)

Plenty of people in Britain are mourning the death of Prince Philip, but their sorrow may be trumped by that of some people across the globe. On the Vanuatuan island of Tanna, the tribespeople in two villages have considered the Duke of Edinburgh a "god-like spiritual figure" for decades, as the BBC puts it. An anthropologist explains that Prince Philip is thought to be the "recycled descendant of a very powerful spirit or god that lives on one of their mountains"; the AP says the people believed Philip to be "a reincarnation of an ancient warrior who left the island to fight a war." Extensive rituals will be performed during a mourning period observed in the villages of Yakel and Yaohnanen.

These will likely include ritualistic dance, ceremonial cava drinks, a procession, and a final "significant gathering" in which "great wealth" would be on display. One Vanuatu-based journalist says that will take the shape of yams, cava plants, and slaughtered pigs. The Guardian reports it's unclear exactly how this view of the duke came to be, but "ancient tales tell of the mountain spirit’s son travelling to a distant land, marrying a powerful lady and, in time, returning," as the paper puts it. It says a 1974 trip Prince Philip took, unawares, with the queen to Vanuatu only deepened their belief. He responded by way of a handful of letter and photos sent to the people over the years. The BBC reports the tribes now need to determine who will be the duke's successor; some believe they will likely select Charles due to the roles male descendants typically play within the tribe. (More Prince Philip stories.)

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