One of the most well-known of the Samoan aitu, thought responsible for many spirit possessions, is Telesā.
Telesā is supposed to be active in Western Samoa, particularly on Upolu, and to take a number of forms, usually that of a beautiful girl with long, brown hair. Sometimes, however, she appears as a dog or an old lady. She is much feared by many uneducated Samoans and even by some educated ones.
Telesā is the daughter of F. T. She was not born an aitu. Many years ago she was a taupou. Perhaps because she was an extraordinarily beautiful taupou, a devil took her alive over 200 years ago. Now, if anything happens inside a family, everyone believes her to be the cause. If something happens, some families take the matter to X.
Telesā gets angry at people who say bad words, or at any girl who goes into the forest and puts down her hair. If a boy climbs a tree and calls the name of someone he sees far away, Telesā will get very angry. If you go to swim at the river at the village of L, and if after swimming you come up and try to comb your hair near the river, this will cause her to become angry. People who do not believe in her and who go there and do anything they like will be hit by her.
A person hit by Telesā will feel weak, and will go to X for help. Sometimes she does not hit many people. She gets particularly angry, though, at people who do not believe in her and who try to do something bad at her place. She gets angry at troublesome people and hits them in the mouth. The family of a person hit by Telesā will often take the person in front of X, who will face the window and who will talk outside, saying, “Please excuse the sick people who have come to the house and make them feel better again.”
Many people have seen Telesā. On a moonlit night, the people of the village see Telesā's hair moving around and across the malae. They know the night when the girl comes because everything is quiet. No dogs bark. There is no noise, and everyone sees her just walking around the malae, visiting. The only house she goes into is X's.
If the village collects money or fine mats, Telesā will have her share. In funds in which a certain number of families each contribute an amount, there will often appear an extra share which cannot be accounted for. This is Telesā's money. Telesā does not receive a fine mat from funerals. If the chiefs of the village take anything for X, this will include the share for Telesā, because Telesā is part of X's family and is by Samoan custom taken into account in this gift, just as a member of any other family would be taken into account in the giving of a gift to its matai.
All the land given to F (Telesā's father) is land over which she is the pule. The pool at Faleasi'u—there is a big stone near that river which belongs to her. If any person swims in that river and combs his hair, Telesā will hit him. That river is the boundary of her land. Tufulele is the name of the place where the river is.
There are two stones at the village of L. During the Second World War, soldiers tried to take them away. The stones were too heavy to be carried. Telesā kept the soldiers from taking the stones away. But if - a person wants to cut the grass, all he has to do is lift the stones and set them aside. The soldiers were American Marines here during the Second World War.
If you stay at L and you have a daughter with brown hair, you had better call X first before she grows up, or she may not live. This is true of both boys and girls. Telesā does not like people with brown hair. People from L do not need to call X about brown hair because L is Telesā's village. Telesā hits children of people who don't believe in her, children of visitors to L who don't call X.
There are many other aitu in Samoa, too. Sa'uma'iafi, who stays at Sale'imoa, is an aitu worse than Telesā. She is very bad. She hits people a lot more. She hits people who don't go to church. Unlike Telesā, she died before she became an aitu, and her spirit came out as an aitu. This aitu is a friend of Telesā. Although Sa'uma'iafi likes to hit everyone she can, Telesā protects people from her by telling her not to hit them. The person that the aitu Sa'uma'iafi came from died before the Holy Gospel came to Samoa.
Telesā and Sa'uma'iafi are said to be the only two aitu who take care of Upolu. In Savai'i there is said to be one aitu with lots of names. If Sa'uma'iafi goes to Savai'i, she changes her name. Unlike these other aitu, Telesā has only one name.