Tuesday, September 4, 2012



What do we call, in Chamorro, the spirits of the ancient people of these islands?

It depends....

In Guam....we call them the taotaomo'na...the "people ahead," as in, "before us."

In Saipan....the usual word is birak.  And it doesn't apply just to the spirits of ancient Chamorros.  It can mean any ghost or spirit.  Although the word taotaomo'na is understood in Saipan, 99% of the time people there speak of the birak.

In my less frequent contact with Chamorros from Tinian and Luta, I find that those in Tinian, which is only several miles apart from Saipan, use birak more.  Those in Luta use taotaomo'na, but also birak, as well.

It's interesting that birak does not appear in some pre-war Chamorro dictionaries written on Guam, like Pale' Roman's and von Preissig's.

Very old Chamorros, a generation practically gone now, also know the word fantasma.  It is borrowed from the Spanish, and means any ghost or spirit apparition.

Our mañaina also spoke of demonic spirits, which are different.  But that's a different post.

No comments:

Post a Comment