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Samoan Material Culture

Trolling Hooks

Trolling Hooks

The hooks dealt with come under the general name of matau, while pa denotes the specialized form which are trolled as "spinners." The pa is a true lure made to represent a small fish. It is drawn through the water without bait. The movement deceives fish into seizing it when they are caught by the point of the hook.

Classes. Samoans divide their pa hooks into four classes; pa tangi, pa'atu, pa ala, and pa seuseu. Each class is distinct in details of manufacture, method of use, and the fish angled for. Field work can supplement the museum study made by Beasley (1, pp. 22-25) and clear up some of the confusion the lack of native information caused him. The usual Samoan custom of using hook names to distinguish the fish caught, the color or kind of shell used, the size of the hook, and the method of fishing used is also conducive to confusion as to the actual number of types of hook used. The usual names are here tabulated with the class name in heavy type.

Class Fish Shell color Kind of shell Size Method of use
I. Pa tangi
II. Pa'atu Pa usi Patio Pa maunu
Pa laumilo Pa no'ono
Pa ulia
Pa sulu
Pa lautofe
III. Pa ulutoto Pa foafoa Pa ala
Pa lavelei
Pa laveuli
Pa ululalafi
Pa ala sina
IV. Pa seuseu
Pa aloalo
page 495

Parts of the hook. Hooks are regionally divided into the shank, bend and point. The point may be provided with a barb. Samoan trolling hooks are composite and consist of two pieces. One piece forms the shank, which is shaped to represent a fish and is termed the pa. Thus, the shank which is the characteristic feature of the hook as against the general matau came to represent the type. The other piece forms both the bend and the point and is called the manga (branch or fork). Churchill quoted by Beasley (1, p. 22) was in error in stating that maga (manga) is the pearl shell shank.

The second piece, though it forms the bend and the base lashed to the shank as well as the point, will hereafter be referred to as the point in preference to barb as used by Beasley. The barb is a special oblique projection backwards from the actual point made for the specific purpose of preventing the point from slipping out and becoming thus freed by the struggles of the fish after it has been pierced by the point. It is a distinct invention of some cultural importance and is not present in the Samoan trolling hooks so far examined. Their feature is that the points are without barbs.

The snood is the piece of cord or line attached directly to the hook which together with the lashing forms an essential part of the completed hook.

The hackle consists of something added in the form of fibre, feathers, or hair to represent the tail or fins of a fish and so adds to the efficiency of the lure.

Manufacture of hooks. The making of hooks was expert work and a master fisherman (tautai) was not always a good hook maker. A certain amount of ceremonial is observed in making bonito hooks. The craftsman works indoors seated on a raised pile of mats. When employed by a chief, the chief has to make a special oven of food and send him a basket of cooked food of good quality.

The materials required were shell for the shanks, turtle shell for the points, cord for the snood, fine threads for the lashings and feathers, and strips of fan songa for the hackle.

The tools were the drill (vili), rubbing stone (foanga), and cutting implements. In these days, a saw is used for cutting the shell and a foreign grindstone for rubbing down. In ancient times, stone flakes must have been used for cutting the shell. The Samoan type of drill (fig. 282) is still in common use but the point is steel instead of stone. The disc which acts as a balance is termed tateme, livaliva, or vinavina.

The drill is used by twirling the upright so as to wind up the cords supporting the handle. The winding raises the handle. The point of the drill is placed on the object. When downward pressure is exerted on the handle, the cords in unwinding cause the upright to revolve. Sufficient pressure is used to cause the upright to go on revolving after the cords are fully unwound, page 496and thus wind them up again in the opposite direction. The craftsman keeps his fingers over the handle and when it rises to the requisite height, he presses again. Practice enables the right amount of pressure to be judged. The upright thus revolves backwards and forwards alternately with each application of pressure to the handle. Some of the handles now consist of a wider piece of wood with a hole through the middle which is slipped down over the upright. The hole is large enough to allow it to work easily up and down on the upright. The detached handle is worked almost as easily for the
Figure 282.—Drill (auvili).

Figure 282.—Drill (auvili).

The drill of average size consists of an upright stick about 17 inches long and barely 0.5 inch in diameter. The stick (1) also receives the name of vili. A wooden disc (2) about 4 inches in diameter, perforated with a central hole, is run up on the stick to about 6 inches from its lower end and kept in position if necessary with wooden wedges. The lower end of the upright supports the boring point (3) which may consist of a stone flake and in some cases of a spine of the vana (Echinus). The point is thus called mata (point) or matavana or simply vana from the Echinus spine. The point is lashed to the upright with fine cord. The handle ('au) consists of a crossbar (4) of about the same thickness as the upright and about 7 inches long. A piece of sennit braid or twisted cord is tied by its middle round the upper end of the upright with a clove hitch (5). The two ends are then tied to the ends of the crossbar handle so that when the handle hangs down it is about an inch above the balance disc.

page 497 forefinger and middle finger extend across the handle on either side of the upright and slide up and down in this position to keep it straight.

The movement of the drill has been made the subject of many sayings. In them the credit is given to the point. The revolving balance is somewhat unjustly regarded as making a lot of movement or dancing (siva) and doing no work. "Ua tu le matavana i le fmgota 'ae siva le livaliva" (The point formed by the echinus stands up [to work] the balance dances).

Pratt (23, p. 128) gives the following: "Ua se temeteme" (Like the stick of a drill): "Applied to a restless, useless man who talks a great deal, but does nothing useful." The term temeteme is a variant of tateme.