A tribe in the remote island nation of Vanuatu who revered Prince Philip as a god has begun a weeks-long formal mourning period, BBC reports.
The Duke of Edinburgh and also the longest-serving consort in British history died last Friday, only months away from his 100th birthday in June.
Based in villages on the island of Tanna, the group believed Prince Philip to be a reincarnation of an ancient warrior who left the island to fight a war, according to the Associated Press.
Chief Yapa of Ikunala village, Tanna, said:
“The connection between the people on the Island of Tanna and the English people is very strong.”
A ceremony was organised on Monday to remember the Duke of Edinburgh.
Anthropologist Kirk Huffman, who has studied the tribe, told the BBC that villagers will meet to conduct rites for the Duke for the next few weeks. They will likely hold a procession, display memorabilia of Prince Philip and conduct ceremonial dancing.
An expert told the Associated Press that the tribe will mourn his death with ritual wailing.
Prince Philip’s veneration is believed to have started in the 1960s when Vanuatu was an Anglo-French colony. Villagers at the time likely saw portraits of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at government offices and police stations before he visited the island in 1974, according to Reuters.
Former Buckingham Palace spokesman Dickie Arbiter told the New York Post that one of the oarsmen “taking them ashore was a chap from Tanna called Chief Jack.”
He said that the oarsman thought Prince Philip was a warrior from a long time ago who had come down from the mountains and gone to England in search of a bride.
Five members from a village on Tanna met the Duke in 2007 when they travelled to England to be part of a documentary. They met Prince Philip at Windsor Castle and took photos with him.
The mourning period will likely culminate with a gathering and there will be an elaborate feast, Vanuatu-based journalist Dan McGarry told BBC. He said this will include yams, kava plants and pigs.
It is now expected that the South Pacific tribe will likely turn to worship Prince Charles, who visited the island in 2018 and was appointed an honorary high chief in Vanuatu. He also took a sip of special kava which was last consumed when Prince Philip visited the island in 1974.