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Samoan Material Culture



Man lures fish to their destruction by deceiving them with actual food or some imitation of food. Food, when it encloses a gorge or hook or is itself enclosed in a trap, is a true bait for it forms a connected part of the apparatus which secures the fish. Baits used with the sea eel snare and the shark noose are true lures for the fish are drawn into the nooses by the baits which are moved and are not attached to the noose part of the apparatus. The wooden float and the pa'o'o dried heads are used only as lures. The coconut rattle imitates the sound of food in the form of splashing fish and thus lures the shark to its vicinity.

The shell hooks for bonito and other fish which are trolled are really lures for they are made to imitate small fish and thus lead to larger fish swallowing them. As, however, they have definite points connected with them, they come directly under the heading of hooks. In a certain form of a trap, a black stone is used to lure the fish into the trap. The above lures are all used (except the shell hook) in connection with something else. The appliance, however, used in catching squid has neither hook nor bait and constitutes a true lure.

Squid lure. The squid lure (pule ta'i fe'e) is made of a dark basaltic stone shaped like a spinning top (ma'a ta'i fe'e) with two plates of a marine page 435shell (Cypraea tigris) fitted to one side and a long strip of coconut root bearing pieces of coconut leaflet attached to the other. The lure is dangled and jerked about in the water from the end of a line and attracts the squid. The name of the shell is pule, the squid, fe'e, and to attract is ta'i. The compound name of the lure, pule ta'i fe'e, thus means the shell which attracts the squid. For the technique see figure 257.

Figure 257.—Technique of squid lure (pule ta'i fee):

Figure 257.—Technique of squid lure (pule ta'i fee):

a, first piece of shell (pule fao): cut to shape, 56 mm. across front widest part and 54 mm. from front to back; b, the second piece of shell (pule fafa), 48 mm. wide at front edge and 55 mm. from front to back, with hole drilled through in mesial line; c, the stone (1) shaped like a spinning top 85 mm. long is laid horizontally, the base which forms the front is not quite circular with a shorter vertical diameter of 40 mm. and a wider transverse diameter of 49 mm., the pule fao shell (2) is placed above with its concave edge slightly overlapping the upper circumference edge of the base of the stone; a piece of coconut root (3), 217 mm. in length, called the tuasivi (backbone) is placed longitudinally under the stone with one end projecting slightly beyond the base; a piece of braid about 6 feet long is tied with a running noose (fa'amata sele) around the short front end of the stick (4). Holding the shell, stone and stick together with the left hand, the right hand brings the braid vertically up the middle line (5) of the base of the stone and over the shell to pass along the middle line towards the point of the stone. Before reaching the point, the braid turns off to one side (6) and makes a complete turn (7) around the stick below the point of the stone. The braid is brought up on the other side of the point to rejoin the first part of its course and retrace its way back along the middle line over the shell and down the base of the stone to take a turn around the front of the stick (4). The course to the point of the stone and back is repeated. d, Under surface. The braid now makes a horizontal turn (8) under the stone by passing from the front end of the stick (4) along one side of it to the point of the stone where it passes transversely over the stick (9) and behind the previous turns (7) around the stick. It returns on the other side of the stick (10) to the front where it crosses above the projecting end. Two further turns are made on the under surface but they cross diagonally (11, 12) over the stick. e, The next step is to page 436tighten up the braid turns with the assistance of a flat wooden (tina) wedge with a laterally spread blunt point. The wedge (13) is inserted transversely under the turns (5) on the base of the stone to lift them up sufficiently to allow the end of the braid to pass under. f, The braid is passed under the vertical strands (5) and close wrapped turns or seizing (14) are commenced from below. The wrapping technique is termed a'ao loloa. g, Side view. When the seizing (14) reaches the edge of the shell (15), the braid is run outwards along the front edge and along its side edge to reach the back angle of the shell (17) where it passes over the two dorsal longitudinal turns which were diverged to the right side (c, 6). It passes around the two strands (6) and pulling them back to the angle of the shell (17), it retraces its course back to the vertical strands at 15. The braid takes a turn around the vertical strands and then repeats the lateral turns on the other side. The original dorsal turns are thus braced from the sides and further diverged from the mesial line; the side braces are termed a'ao sa'o. h, Upper surface. The mesial seizing (a'ao loloa) is continued over the edge of the shell and continued down the mesial dorsal line to brace the divergent pairs (6) back into the middle line. The pule fao shell is lashed immovably to the upper part of the stone and the stick below without any chance of slipping. The point (18) where the seizing stops is determined by fitting the second pule fafa shell with its narrow back edge resting on the stone near its point when the seizing stops at the front edge of the second shell. k, Under surface. The second shell has been fixed with a hinge joint by passing the braid through its hole from above and bringing it back beneath the shell to the right side of the mesial seized braid. It passes under the mesial braid to the left, back over the shell, down through the hole and back under it to the left side of the mesial braid. One or two more similar turns may be taken through the shell hole and after a couple of turns around the mesial braid, the lashing is fixed with a half hitch. A neater finish is made by a few seizing turns around the longitudinal turns on the upper surface of the second shell and then fixing with a half hitch; the lure is complete except for the leaflet attachment to the stick. A long thread or sennit fibre is attached to the front of the stick (4) and four strips of coconut leaflet (1-4) are laid across the stick on the under surface of the stone as shown, the middle two being crossed diagonally. The thread is passed backwards and forwards over the stick behind the stone point (10) and the front end (4) in a series of diagonal and longitudinal turns (11) to keep the leaflet strips in position. The thread is wound with a loose spiral around the projecting rear end of the stick and the leaflet strips (5-8) are fastened in the positions indicated by two crossed turns. At the end of the stick, two long leaflet strips (9) about 6 inches long are attached by a few transverse turns ending in half hitches. The leaflet strips are 0.2 inches wide and project for 2 inches on either side of the stick. The strips receive names from the positions in which they are lashed as follows: 1, head lashing (fausanga ulu); 2 and 3, inside lashing (fausanga loto); 4, tail lashing (fausanga i'u); the strips on the stick alone are termed companions (angai) of the previous lashing's but (5, 6) being crossed is the companion of the middle crossed pair (2, 3), while the far away strip (8) is the companion of the head lashing (1) and the remaining strip (7) is the companion of the tail lashing (4). The last tail piece (9) is termed si'u si'u.

A six-foot length of twisted cord or five-ply sennit braid is attached to the lure by passing one end under the wrapped median braid on the upper surface of the first pule fao shell by means of the tina wedge and then tying an overhand knot at its end. This is the orthodox fixation and no matter how the lure is jerked, the knot will not slip out from under the median braid.

A float (uto) made of light wood, shaped like a playing top, is drilled longitudinally from the center of the base to the point. The other end of the cord or braid is passed through from the point end and tied with an over-page 437hand knot to prevent it from slipping back. The top-shaped float is 2 inches in diameter at the base and 3 inches long. (See Plate XLI, B.)

Lure fishing is used only by men, just as the stick method is used only by women. The women's method takes place at low tide and lure fishing inside the reef when the tide is in. The lure is used from the small paopao dugout canoes. The fisherman paddles backwards and forwards in the likely parts of the lagoon. Whilst fishing he keeps the canoe moving by paddling with the left hand while the right manages the line of the lure. The lure is lowered to just above the bottom which is clearly seen and kept in motion by constant jerking, which is the movement that first attracts the attention of the squid. When it is jerked violently about, the lure looks ridiculously like a rat in the convulsions of drowning. The sharp jerks also cause the loose second shell to click against the stone and is supposed to represent the squeaks of the rat. That the squeak is not really necessary is shown by the Hawiian lure which has no similar mechanism. The length of line is altered as the water shoals or deepens. Hence, the wooden float is never used as a hand grip.

When an octopus sees the moving lure, it reaches out one tentacle and rests it on the lure. The fisherman who watches his lure in the clear water, draws its steadily upwards. As it nears the surface, the octopus which follows it up still with only one tentacle on it, probably realizing from the increasing light, or lesser weight of the water that it stands a chance of losing whatever the lure represents to it, suddenly pounces on the lure, rests its body on it, and clasps its tentacles around it. This is the psychological moment when the fisherman draws it quickly out of the water and into the canoe. The octopus is seized by the body and bitten between the eyes, to kill it.

Small squids are called ano. A large octopus can best be managed from a canoe in deep water where it cannot rest some of its tentacles on the bottom. In shallow water they are dangerous as they can draw a canoe under. A skilled fisherman if he gets a large octopus on the lure will try and draw it out into deeper water and then pull it into the canoe when it is as susceptible to a bite between the eyes as the smaller ones. If he cannot get deep enough water, he drops his line. When the lure becomes motionless, the octopus leaves it. The fisherman recovers his line by means of the wooden float and thus saves his lure.

Pratt (23, p. 154) gives la'ei as a squid lure made of ti leaf. The lure is the same as that described, but ti leaf strips are used instead of coconut leaflets to decorate the under part with legs and tail. According to the Safune people (Savaii), the squid has a practical acquaintance with botany. Hence, when in season, green young leaves must be used, but in the fall, the older leaves take their place. They maintain that it is the leaf strips, especially the tail leaves (si'usi'u) which attract the squid.

page 438
Legend of the Fe'e and the Rat

The Tutuilan tale states that the unga (hermit crab), the ve'a (rail) and the isumu (rat) planned a visit to see the red earth cliffs, Lenga-a-Taema, near the western end of the island. The three friends lived between Aoloau and Fangamalo. Owing to the hermit crab being a poor pedestrian, they decided to journey by sea. The rat climbed a coconut tree, gnawed through the stem of a nut and dropped it to the ground. The crab husked it with his claws. Difficulty occurred with regard to splitting the nut open. The crab selected a tree leaning out over some rocks and climbing up with the nut dropped it on the rocks below. The nut split into two halves and the rat and the crab cleaned one of them out to provide the means of ocean transport. The craft was launched and the three comrades embarked. The rail spread out its wings as a sail whilst the crab and the rat kept the masts fixed by holding the rail's legs. With a fair breeze, they sailed merrily along towards Poloa, but between Fanga-lii and Poloa, they were struck by a hurricane (afa). As the craft foundered, the rail flew away to the land, the crab sunk to the bottom where it was quite at home, but the unfortunate rat was left swimming for its life. As it struggled with the waves, the rat lifted up its voice in lamentation as follows:

Ua lele le ve'a, e fai ona apa'au The rail has flown because he has wings,
Ae ngoto le unga i le a'au, a'o a'u nei ua 'au'au. The crab has sunk to the reef, but I, alas! have to swim.

The octopus (fe'e) hearing the rat's wailing, took pity and invited the rat to sit on his head whilst he conveyed him safely ashore. On the journey, the rat defaecated on the head of the fe'e without the latter knowing it. When safely ashore, the ungrateful rat taunted the octopus by drawing his attention to the insult. The enraged fe'e could not pursue the rat on land but vowed if ever he caught the rat in the water again, he would avenge the insult.

The hate of the fe'e has become hereditary and man his utilized it to his own advantage by shaping and decorating a lure to represent the rat. In the story from Savaii the tuli (plover) takes the place of the rail.