Prince Philip worshippers say his ‘spirit lives on’ but may not deify Charles

A remote Pacific tribe who worshipped Prince Philip says his spirit will "live on", but they're reluctant to transfer their religious fervour to one of his descendants.

Villagers in Yakel, a settlement on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu, believe the late Duke of Edinburgh was the son of a mountain god.

Locals have prayed to him daily for blessings on food crops since the 1960s, and proudly display several photos of him.

In the days since Philip's death at Windsor Castle at the age of 99, there has been much speculation about what will happen to the villagers' belief system now their god is no more.

Anthropologist Kirk Huffman, who has studied the Prince Philip Movement, told the Telegraph he suspects "the beliefs of the islanders will continue with Prince Charles".

Philip's eldest son did pay a visit to Tanna in 2018 during his Commonwealth Games tour, but the new village chief says there's no guarantee they'll deify Charles in place of the Duke.

"The spirit of Prince Philip has left his body, but it lives on – it is too soon to say where it will reside," the chief, known as Albi, said over the weekend.

Tribal elders gathered at Younanen, another village on Tanna that has made headlines for worshipping Philip, on Monday where a Union Jack was flown at half-mast.

Chiefs took turns to discuss what his death means for believers, although a formal resolution is still some days away.

They also sent a "confidential message" to the mourning Royal Family, presumably one of condolences.

Tanna locals began worshipping Philip in the 1960s after seeing pictures of him and the Queen.

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They linked the couple to a Vanuatu legend of a pale-skinned son of the mountain god, who travelled across the seas to find a rich and powerful woman to marry.

The island was treated to a visit from their god in 1974, when Philip and the Queen travelled to Vanuatu on a state visit back when it was partially owned by the UK and known as the New Hebrides.

"Prince Philip is important to us because our ancestors told us that part of our custom is in England," Younanen chief Jack Malia told Reuters in 2017, when Philip announced his retirement from public duties.

The end of the Duke's royal engagements was met with dismay by the islanders, where villagers had been hoping for a second visit from the man they believed had divine powers.

"If he comes one day the people will not be poor, there will be no sickness, no debt and the garden will be growing very well," Malia explained.

"Prince Philip has said one day he will come and visit us. We still believe that he will come but if he doesn't come, the pictures that I am holding… it means nothing."

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