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An Account of Samoan History up to 1918

A Fine Mat Malaga on the occasion of a Wedding

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A Fine Mat Malaga on the occasion of a Wedding.

The father of the Taupo will explain to his family and relations and the people of his village that a collection of fine mats will be made for his daughter's wedding. The family and friends and orators and chiefs of the village then bring along their fine mats. The family must show due respect to the people who bring these mats. The father of the Taupo and his family will give back to those bringing mats another mat of greater value and this mat is called “Nea Sa” or sacred mat. Each man bringing a mat receives one in exchange. When this ceremony is completed the village then journeys to the village of the chief to whom the Taupo is to be married. Several hundreds of people go with this marriage party which convey gifts. Orators, chiefs, women, young men and girls and the female servants of the Taupo - all make the trip. They may take with them as many as 100 fine mats and 1000 tapa cloths as well as many ordinary mats. The people of the village of the chief wait in readiness to receive the Taupo's party. When the party arrives it does so in the form of a long procession and all the members are decked out in fine mats, necklets etc. As the procession enters the village the members of the village of the chief dance and sing and call out praises for the fine mats and other presents brought. The two parties meet with pleasant exclamations and the visitors are conducted to the chiefs houses wherein they will remain during the ceremonies. Great feasts are prepared and the visitors are all cared for by the Chief's people or the people of his district for the ensuing week or so. Huge quantities of taro, yams etc and great numbers of pigs are prepared for these feasts. Much food is also procured from the stores and large debts are incurred. The amount and kinds of food to be served each day are decided upon and each day has a different name. The food for the first day is called “talifaufau” (reception feast.) This food is divided on the malae and apportioned to each house. The second day “aso o le aiga”, the food is similarly divided but is provided by the family of the chief only. The third day the same thing happens except that the food is provided by the Orators. On the last day of the stay of the visitors each matai of the chief's village brings some food and all march in a procession to the malae. This presentation of food is called Taalolo. The food is deposited on the ground and the donors sit on the page 4 opposite of the malae. An orator then arises and calls out to the assembly the amount and kinds of foodstuffs given by each matai. This calling out is called “O 'ava taeao” (morning meal.)

Not only food but also money is provided by the family of the chief. After the finish of the food ceremonies on the last day a part the money is brought by the chief who married the Taupo and/handed to the father of the Taupo and varying amounts to the orators of the Taupo's party who are present. The money handed to the Orators is called “Lafo o Tulafale.” (passing to Orators.) During the evenings when the ceremonies are in progress much singing and dancing takes place. In former times the marriage was consumated on the malae in public on a day arranged between the parties. The defloration ceremony was usually performed by an Orator who wrapped a piece of clean tapa cloth round his first two fingers and took the signs of virginity. If frequently happened that the Taupo was not a virgin but to let this be publicly known would call down the wrath of the interested parties. The Chief was therefore acquainted with the condition of the lady and he called in the services of the orator who sometimes cut his hand and smeared the blood therefrom on the cloth which act apparently was done without the onlookers seeing it and everybody seemed to be satisfied. The blood or a fowl or a pig was sometimes used for a like purpose. Should the Taupo not disclose her condition to those in charge and it so happen that it was evident to all that she had failed to retain her virginity, she would probably be set on by the women of the village and soundly beaten. This, however, did not often happen as it was of prime importance that the fact that she was not a virgin should be hidden from the vulgar gaze. It also happened sometimes that the Taupo was an unwilling party to the whole proceedings from start to finish but the authority of the Orators and pressure brought to bear on her by interested parties would force her into submission. In at least one instance known to me, the Taupo went so far as to run away to Tonga but was brought back to Samoa by the Orators and when she refused to allow the Chief to who she had been married to consumate the marriage she was held on the ground by orators and raped. (This happened to the wire of the present Leaupepe of Fasitoouta who is a Faipule.)

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The last day of the ceremonies is given over to food presentations and compimentary speeches and division of the fine mats. The orators of both parties give long speeches and in past times fighting often took place on account of these speeches. The two parties face each other on the nalae and an orator of the Chief's party stands up and explains how such noney has been collected for such things as the wedding ring clothing, umbrellas, boxes and mosquito neus etc. Some of the money is handed to the father and mother of the Taupo. The amount of money handed to the parents of the girl may very from L200 to L1.000 together with boats and other valuable assets.

When this transaction has been completed the orator of the Taupe's party will stand up and display the fine mats brought by his party. The first fine mat presented is given to the orator of the Chiefls party who made the last speech and it is called “Toga o le Malae” (mat of the malae.) The other mats are then shared out and are called by various names. Tapa cloths, ordinary mats and other things are also given, When the fine mats of the marriage ceremony have been preseted, the mats to reward those who have cared for the party are then distributed. The visiting party then returns to their own village and on the way rests at the different villages through which at passed. This may take two or three weeks. The chief who has been married remains in his village and divides the mats. The division of the money, mats etc provided for the marriage causes a lot of trouble. Some of the recipients are satisfied and some dissatisfied and there is much murmuring. Some receive a reward for having done nothing whilst others who have worked hard receive nothing. It is seldom that a marriage such as described does not result in quarreling, and often serious trouble arises resulting in fighting. So much for Samoan Custom.

E.R. 15-6-32.