Devotees of the late Prince Philip held a mourning ceremony in his honour on Monday on the South Pacific island of Tanna in Vanuatu.
Villagers held photographs of the late prince and spoke of “opening the road for his spirit to grow”, footage obtained by Reuters showed.
Philip, husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth who had been at her side throughout her 69-year reign, died at Windsor Castle on Friday, aged 99.
“We allow the kava to clear the way to allow for his spirit to come back and live with us. The same spirit will grow inside one of his family and one day we will reconnect the people of Tanna and England,” chief Jack Malia told the villagers, speaking of the traditional alcoholic drink of kava.
The late Philip maintained a respectful 50-year relationship with the group that venerated him based on their shared respect for tradition.
The villagers’ special interest in Philip took the form of daily prayers for his blessing of their banana and yam crops and placing photos of him in village homes, including one from 1980 where he is holding a club made for him and sent to London by the islanders.
The group’s worship of Philip is believed to stem from their legend of a pale-skinned son of a local mountain god who ventured across the seas to look for a rich and powerful woman to marry.
Local historians believe that villagers may have seen his picture along with the Queen’s on the walls of British colonial outposts when Vanuatu was still known as the New Hebrides, a colony administered jointly by Britain and France.
“It’s a hero’s journey, a man sets off on a quest and literally wins the princess and the kingdom,” said a local expert.
In 2007, several tribesmen met the duke in person. Flown to the UK for a reality television series, five tribal leaders had an off-screen meeting with the duke at Windsor Castle where they presented gifts and asked when he would return to Tanna.
His reply, as reported by the tribesmen later, was cryptic: “When it turns warm, I will send a message.” They appeared pleased by that.
While he now lies at rest in Windsor Castle, there is the belief that his soul is making its final journey across the Pacific Ocean to its spiritual home, the island of Tanna – to reside with those who have loved and revered him from afar all these years.