Prince Philip death: Why does an obscure Pacific Ocean tribe worship the late Duke?

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But even some of the most obscure places have felt his passing – perhaps most bizarrely, a small tribe from an island far away from Buckingham Palace, in the Pacific Ocean. As many Britons mourn the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, they are joined by a tribal community on the Vanuatuan island of Tanna, in the South Pacific Ocean.

The Yaohnanen community on the remote island hold the late Duke in high regard, seeing him as a god.

The prince has had a relationship with the island’s people for more than 50 years.

Vanuatu islanders believed the Duke to be a reincarnation of an ancient warrior who left the archipelago to fight a war, and the spiritual believers believe the fighter would return with a powerful wife.

Prince Philip certainly fits the bill, having been married to Queen Elizabeth II for more than 70 years.

The exact origins of his godly status are unclear, however.

Tribe leader Chief Yapa told Reuters upon the Duke’s death: “The connection between the people on the island of Tanna and the English people is very strong.

“We are sending condolence messages to the Royal Family and the people of England.”

Anthropologists believe Philip became linked to the tribe’s legend when Vanuatu was an Anglo-French colony in the 1960s, then known as the New Hebrides.

The Duke of Edinburgh maintained a relationship with the tribespeople, sending letters and photographs of himself over the years.

The villagers’ interest in him meant they prayed for him daily in the hope he would bless their crops.

Kirk Huffman, an authority on what is known as the Prince Philip Movement, told the Telegraph: “I imagine there will be some ritual wailing, some special dances.

“There will be a focus on the men drinking kava (an infusion made from the root of a pepper plant) – it is the key to opening the door to the intangible world.

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“On Tanna it is not drunk as a means of getting drunk.

“It connects the material world with the non-material world.”

The Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen visited Vanuatu in 1974, apparently unaware of his deity status.

He later agreed to a request from the British resident commissioner in Vanuatu that an official photograph of himself be sent to the tribespeople.

They happily responded, sending him a traditional pig-killing club, and requesting he be photographed holding it.

The prince did as he was told – and was pictured holding the club in the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

Believers on Vanuatu are said to be in mourning for the Duke, who unfortunately did not fulfil the islander’s belief he would return with his powerful, rich wife.

Jean-Pascal Wahé of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre said: “They knew that Prince Philip was ill and that he was in hospital.

“But they were still very upset and emotional when they heard the news of his death. It was a shock for them.”

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