Word quickly spread to the village of Yaohnanen – part of a tropical rainforest on Tanna Island with irregular communications – after the news was broke on Saturday by an employee of the Vanuatu Cultural Center.
The Duke of Edinburgh died peacefully at his home in Windsor Castle, England on Friday at the age of 99 after a two-month illness for which he was hospitalized in February.
“People were very sad to learn of the death of this great man,” said Jean-Pascal Wahé, the worker responsible for driving four hours in the isolated area and delivering the sad message. “He was a very important man for all of us and it is a great loss.”
An estimated 700 natives join the so-called Prince Philip movement, believing that the British Queen’s husband was descended from a mountain deity who watches over their crops and welfare.
The dashing former naval officer made quite an impression on decades-long visits to the Vanuata archipelago – of which Tanna is an island – leading these locals to adopt him as a type of god.
Now that their idol is dead, followers should turn their attention to her eldest son, Prince Charles, who is the first to take the British throne.
First, however, they are preparing for an epic “day of mourning” Monday to celebrate and commemorate Prince Philip.
“They’re sending messages to neighboring villages so people can hear about the plans,” Wahé told The Post exclusively. “It is impossible to know yet exactly how many people will come, but we expect between 100 and 500”.
The event will include ritual lamentations, traditional dances and “spiritual” food prepared by the women of the sect. A famous narcotic drink known as Kava, made from a locally grown root, will be enjoyed by men.
Meanwhile, faded framed photos of the villagers’ idol (some donated by the Duke of Edinburgh) are set to be displayed as the British Union flag flies at mid-range.
“We will be sharing stories about the life of Prince Philip and there will be a lot of talk about the future of the sect,” Wahé added. “But, since Prince Charles is her son, he will henceforth be worshiped. “
The sect began in the early 1970s, much like the “cargo cults” that formed after World War II when natives linked deliveries of goods from more technologically advanced societies to certain rituals.
Former Buckingham Palace spokesman Dickie Arbiter spoke about how the Duke was revered during a visit to Vanuatu with Queen Elizabeth II in 1974.
“One of the rowers who took them ashore was a guy from Tanna called Chief Jack,” Arbiter said. “He thought Philip was a warrior from long ago who had come down from the mountains and gone to England in search of a bride. “
“The bride is Mrs. Queen, so Philip is the god,” he said. Sadly, Prince Philip was never able to set foot on Tanna Island himself, although he received a five-man delegation from Yaohnanen at Windsor Castle – the royal residence where he died – in 2007.
But, as anthropologist Kirk Huffman pointed out to the Post, cult members can take comfort in their belief that his soul will be “recycled.”
They also argue that while Prince Philip’s body will be buried in England, “his spirit may return to the island”.