The Shark God: Encounters with Ghosts and Ancestors in the South Pacific

The Shark God: Encounters with Ghosts and Ancestors in the South Pacific

Charles Montgomery

Language: English

Pages: 384

ISBN: 006076516X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


When Charles Montgomery was ten years old, he stumbled upon the memoirs of his great-grandfather, a seafaring missionary in the South Pacific. Twenty years later and a century after that journey, entranced by the world of black magic and savagery the bishop described, Montgomery set out for Melanesia in search of the very spirits and myths his great-grandfather had sought to destroy.  In The Shark God, he retraces his ancestor’s path through the far-flung islands, exploring the bond between faith and magic, the eerie persistence of the spirit world, and the heavy footprints of the British Empire.

In the South Pacific, he discovers a world of sorcery and shark worship, where Christian and pagan rituals coexist and an ordinary day is marked by confrontations with America-worshiping cult leaders and militants alike. A defiantly original blend of history and memoir, anthropology and travel writing, The Shark God is ultimately a tale of personal and political transformation.
 
The Shark God, a travel story as dark and twisted as one might ever wish to hear . . . reaches a superb climax with some apocalyptically page-turning scenes.”—Guardian
 
“A fascinating account of the drama of Melanesian life.”—Times Literary Supplement
 
“With exquisite writing, Montgomery lovingly captures the beauty and the horrors, the mysteries and the shams of the people and places he visits.”—Publishers Weekly
 
“A very real and memorable talent. . . . The endurance [Montgomery] displayed on his travels was admirable, the adventures he survived were tremendous, and the quality of his prose seems matched only by the wisdom of his observations.”—Simon Winchester, Globe and Mail (Toronto)

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was approached by a lad with red paint smeared across his face. He looked like one of the castaways from The Lord of the Flies. Snot oozed from his nostrils in vibrant shades of green and yellow. He cleared his nose and swallowed, then he handed me what I considered to be an unfairly large coconut shell that was close to overflowing with the muddy brew. “Just like the chief did,” said Stanley. “All in one go, and then you say your tamavha.” The kava looked like dirty dishwater, tasted of mud and

follow government. Don’t follow church. Don’t follow money. Follow kastom and peace. That’s what Jesus and John Frum say.” “But you don’t have peace here. You’ve abandoned Sulphur Bay. You are fighting your old neighbors. Stanley told me you are fighting with this man—this prophet—Fred.” “Fred is not a prophet. He is an evil man. He tells people he has the spirit of John Frum, but it’s a lie. I know where Fred’s power comes from. He is using the power of the black sea snake to trick us all.” The

the 70 The Shark God years after I abandoned my family’s church, I found that the universe spoke to me most loudly in the fullness of mountains, the endlessness of the sea, the fury of storms, the boom and crack of living physics . . . that’s when the world itself seemed to offer a voice and a breath that felt something like mana, and which begged to be given a name and a shape and a myth to explain it all. Tanna was a nexus of such signals. The landscape was as powerful, as crowded, as

their own minds: for decades, suqe and tamate rituals were simply delayed until the missionaries had sailed back to Norfolk Island after their annual visits. Not until 1900, when a white missionary was stationed permanently on Mota, was the truth about the societies revealed. H. V. Adams reported that George Sarawia’s church school was sparsely attended, while the tamate and the suqe were as strong as ever—and shockingly religious in their rituals. Sarawia had ascended to the grade of suqe

our food, we will cook for you. If you want our money, we will give it to you. We are generous with these things. But knowledge, that is our power, and there are some things only men should know. If you take the secrets that belong to us men, if you write them down or show them to women, you take our power away. And then we would have nothing. Sabina was cross first time I explained this to her. She cried for weeks. But this is our kastom, and she must accept it.” “But the men have told me all

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