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An Introduction to Samoan Custom

CHAPTER X — Religion in Samoa

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Religion in Samoa

No review of contemporay Samoan society, however cursory it may be, can be considered adequate if it does not include some discussion of church life and activities, since these constitute an interest that extends into every phase of Samoan life. They are, indeed, part of the social organisation that might well have been included in an earlier chapter, but the place enjoyed in the consciousness of the people is such as to merit separate treatment. This chapter does not, however, include more than passing references to Mission activities. It is intended to be merely an examination of some elementary aspects of Samoan custom that have their basis in the religious lives of the people.

There must be few new fields in which Christianity has been more readily embraced and where missionaries have had to face less wide-spread and personally dangerous resistance than in Samoa. Stair,* one of the pioneers, considered that even before the coming of Christianity the local religious system had been subject to change. Just prior to the arrival in August, 1830, of the famous missionary John Williams, the assassination of the notorious tyrant Tamafaiga who had claimed demoniac or spiritual powers ushered in a period that was opportune for further innovation. The degree of opposition met expressed itself in attacks on converts rather than on missionary leaders, the respect felt for Samoan gods and the local priesthood attaching itself in some degree to these other “sailing gods” from over the horizon. Those who adhered to their old beliefs quickly became known to the converts as “devil men”, thus affording one further excuse for the internecine strife that was to continue for generations.

* Rev. John B. Stair, Old Samoa, London, 1897.

The old mode of hairdressing for males was to wear it long over the shoulders or twisted into knots of various shapes on the crown, front, back or sides of the head. Christian Samoans quickly adopted the style of cutting theirs short to distinguish themselves from the heathen. Females wore the hair short in various styles or shaved bare in certain places.

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The question of whether or not to adopt the new faith was discussed in fono in typical Samoan fashion, and although as a result there were whole villages and even districts that remained aloof for a time it soon began to spread rapidly; in less than a decade the greater part of the people were professed adherents. Within a few years the London Missionary Society, commencing their work with Tahitian teachers, had established mission stations and schools throughout the entire Group.* The arrival of other denominations allowed an outlet for the Samoan propensity for organisation into opposite camps and facilitated conversion on a large scale. Indeed so eager were the people to receive instruction in some form of Christianity that certain unscrupulous whites and even Samoans were able to pose as teachers of new doctrines, and extorted a comfortable living until exposed. Dumont d'Urville found Faleata not yet won over at the end of 1836 and no doubt there were other villages or districts in a similar state, but Krämer considered that the year 1840 marked the end of the old heathen Samoa. Pritchard, writing in the eighteen sixties, presumably of conditions as he had known them nearly a decade before, could say that although the effects of the old customs were still apparent, all Samoans were at that time nominally Christian.

Although the Samoans were probably just as religious as other Polynesians and religion had its definite place even in their social life, theology and ritual were clearly not so highly organised as a separate and distinct institution. The priesthood were not a powerful body deriving their authority solely from their priestly status; they held an acknowledged position in society which was based essentially on their rank as matai. Religion was merely one aspect of a highly developed social and political organisation with which it was closely identified, and the respect paid to the priesthood, although based on a wholesome enough fear of the element they represented, was in fact merely a part of a wider secular authority. Deprived of a power that had never been exclusively spiritual, their position as matai secured their places in family and village life, and they had only to embrace the new faith to become elders in the church and to regain a large measure of their former religious place in the community.

* The question of which mission was actually first in the Samoan field seems not yet to have been satisfactorily settled.

W, T. Pritchard, Polynesian Reminiscences, London, 1866.

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Christianity was therefore much less of a cultural shock in Samoa than it proved to be in other parts of the Pacific. It called for no significant changes in the social or political structure. Certainly it brought an entirely new doctrine; it introduced prohibitions some of which were good and some that were unfortunately destined to pave the way for certain of the evils of civilisation, but in the final analysis it changed amazingly little that was fundamental in Samoan society. It took away comparatively few things that it did not immediately replace with something equally if not more satisfying. This was due in part to the able handling of the situation by the misionaries, but not least to the Samoan genius for stamping something fresh with its own imprint. Respect for age and properly constituted authority, the recognition of Samoan pastors, even though untitled, as matai, the status of matai as elders of the church and leaders of evening prayer in their own households, together with the fact that the London Missionary Society, whose adherents have always far outnumbered those of any other denomination, quickly developed a system of control based on the old political organisation of villages, sub-districts and districts, all contributed to a situation in which the new was made as rapidly as possible to resemble the old in essential structure. Even the diversity of Christian sects provided an analogy with one aspect at least of the old beliefs: there was an opportunity for some choice or difference of opinion as to the details of what converts actually were to believe, and leading figures in many a village were early to be found in different religious camps.

A brief description of the more significant features of the old beliefs will contribute to a better understanding of the present-day attitude to religion in Samoa and of the success achieved by the early missionaries in grafting Christianity on to the existing social, political and religious system. It will show that even a century ago the social element in religion was of great importance. No attempt is made here to set out any details of genesis or mythology. Readers desiring this information should consult the appropriate authorities.

The old system while similar in type to that in other parts of Polynesia and sharing a common acceptance of some of the traditional deities and more fundamental concepts, had yet developed local details and its own peculiar structure. The absence of a highly organised ritual and of a priesthood whose functions were exclusively religious, the absence too of some of the major gods of Polynesia and the page 129 appearance of others unknown further east, the importance of the malae as a social and political rather than a religious centre and the almost casual siting of temple buildings theron, the lack of a common national god or gods in the same sense as elsewhere in Polynesia, the importance of kava even in non-secular affairs, the adoption of the Melanesian Hades, and the respect and importance accorded the sister in life and death were all significant differences. As Sir Peter Buck has pointed out,* these were explicable in terms of the divergences following naturally from early separation from central Polynesia and proximity to Melanesia; but some at least were to prove vital in helping to ensure the survival of the existing social and political structure.

Although certain village temples housed venerated objects the Samoans appear never to have worshipped idols; such objects as they possessed were merely representations or abodes of the gods or spirits. Buck states that only one image is known in Samoa. So far as is known they did not adopt the practice of human sacrifice; their system seems to have been far from ever becoming so institutionalised. In spite of the absence of such primitive features, the people today feel diffidence about speaking freely of their pre-Christian beliefs even if they do not lack the detailed knowledge, and for such accounts as exist of the indigenous religion we are obliged to turn to the writings of early missionaries and other residents or visitors. Much of the following summary has been drawn from such sources. Material has been selected in order to present an outline rather than to include all details, as to which slight differences of opinion are evident.

The Samoans acknowledged several superior divinities, some of which they shared, under slightly different names, with others of the Polynesian peoples, and a much greater number of inferior deities of varying grades. They were accustomed also to deify the spirits of deceased chiefs of high rank, § and local tradition, with its miraculous claims

* P. H. Buck, Vikings of the Sunrise, New York, 1938.

Krämer illustrates an image on Page 207, Volume II, Die Samoa Inseln, Stuttgart, 1903. There is some doubt as to its origin.

§ This subject opens up a most interesting field for research. The stories surrounding Tamafaiga, reputed to be half human and half demon but an undoubted flesh and blood individual who terrorised Samoa in the early part of the last century, and the older traditions relating to the mysterious activities of Nafanua, goddess of war, in the sixteenth century enable us almost to be witnesses of the process of deification.

page 130 and significant stories of swimming or feats of exploration by progenitors who often returned with food gifts from the gods, is a good example of the change, over a long period, of history into mythology. Old Samoa entertained a respect amounting to veneration even for recent ancestors of outstanding distinction or personality, and this feeling was on occasion transferred to famous war-clubs that renowned warriors had wielded in battle. A few families* carried their regard to the length of practising the mummification of distinguished male members. In all cases the spirits of deceased ancestors were deemed to be powerful forces for good or evil and the proper steps were regularly taken to propitiate them.

It is not altogether unexpected that in a society like the Samoan there should be grades of deities and lesser spirits. In Stair's classification, which gives the clearest account but which differs slightly from others, there were four classes, those of prime importance being the atua, or original gods who dwelt in the heavens (lagi or Pulotu), the Samoan Elysium. They were responsible, either in person or through the medium of messengers or representatives not limited to those in human form, for the creation of the earth and its inhabitants. They were also the progenitors of certain lesser deities. Chief among this lordly group was the far-famed Tagaloa, who seems to have been the possessor of many attributes that were often represented as other selves under variations of his name.

Next in order of rank were the deified spirits of chiefs, tupua, including some of the rare embalmed bodies, but

* These were particularly the families of Mata'afa of Amaile and Leiufuga of Safotulafai. Turner states that it is possible that the practice may have dated from the time of Alei and Pata, said to have been the founders of the Aleipata district. They were very good-looking and left instructions that they were to be buried standing with their faces uncovered that their people might still be able to see them.

The embalming operation was performed by women. The viscera were removed and buried and the body was then annointed with repeated applications of oil and aromatic juices, the fluids being drawn off through numerous punctures with fine needles. Desiccation was complete in about two months and the abdominal cavity was then packed with bark cloth. The hair was removed before the operation commenced and later replaced carefully with resin.

Stair saw several mummies at Aleipata in 1841, and Turner describes four others in a remarkable state of preservation seen in the eighteen sixties; these he considered to have been embalmed for upwards of thirty years. They were laid on a platform raised on a double canoe in a house built for the purpose. Such remains were referred to respectfully as “sun-dried gods.”

page 131 more usually blocks of stone or coral or constellatios reputed by the local mythology once to have been ancestors. They were also supposed to dwell in Pulotu.

Perhaps the commonest and widest class of all were aitu, including many descendants of the original gods, although this term later covered a much wider field than its original connotation suggested. These were deities comprising war or district and family gods and the protectors of the various trades and employments, whose aid was invoked on special occasions or whose anger or vengeance might be denounced by the various classes of priesthood. Some of these were both war and family gods. Outstanding in this class were the famous Saveasi'uleo, Lord of Pulotu, and his daughter Nafanua, powerful goddess of war, both virtually of national significance and unknown further east in the Pacific, together with the infamous Nifoloa, a vindictive long-toothed demon whose bite caused death, and whose social influence is not yet a thing of the past. The spirits of war gods and others were supposed to manifest themselves through the priests representing them but they were reputed also to be able to take the forms of birds, fish, reptiles or of human beings. In time of war a keen watch was kept for any action of the bird or animal venerated that suggested a portent.

Some of these aitu inhabited Pulotu (the Melanesian Bulotu) and others the Fafā or Hades, or Sa-le-Fe'e, while one of the most famous, Mafui'e, from whom Samoa is reputed to have derived fire and the first cooked food, lived in the volcanic regions below.

Every family had its particular aitu which was supposed to inhabit some well-known or familiar object such as a tree, fish, bird, reptile or other animal. These were regarded with particular veneration by the family concerned who were prohibited from consuming them even if edible.* They could look on unmoved, however, while others to whom the object concerned was not sacred, consumed it. Regular intercessions including feasts, other food offerings and kava libations were made by the matai to their aitu to ensure protection from war, punishment, disease or death, but the object of these solicitations could expect to be roundly cursed and abused by the indignant priest if there

* Stuebel states that the penalty for a breach of this strict prohibition was the cooking of the offender in the same oven as that in which the object venerated had been prepared before eating. Other writers suggest that the cooking was merely symbolic.

page 132 was any failure to produce the desired results within a reasobable period. The place of even the family god in the affections of his people rested in the last analysis upon his usefulness.

Besides the ability to assume human form, aitu were also distinguished by other characteristics of mankind. They were social beings who sometimes travelled in parties. Their temperaments ranged from the mild and inoffensive through the playful and mischievous to the vindictive, malevolent or oppressive. The worst of the latter were sometimes guilty of acts of great violence, individuals being carried away and not seen again or even beaten to death on the spot. Such beliefs as these must often have cloaked personal rancour or vengeance.

There were certain localities, and indeed there still are, that were considered to be the traditional haunts of aitu of greater or less propensity for mischief or evil. These beings could, however, be propitiated with suitable shows of respect or offerings of food either by people who lived nearby or by malaga parties passing the spot. Their supernatural qualities also seemed to be subject to some limitations since their apparently average intelligence could be outwitted by ordinary human tricks. Nevertheless, any clearly expressed wish of an aitu was usually complied with if possible and if this had any relation to the use of coconuts, the girdling of one or more trunks with leaves of the palm was sufficient to ensure that the nuts, even when they fell, remained untouched. This form of prohibition is still effective against most people at the present day if it is desired to reserve crops for the use of particular individuals or for special purposes.

Samoans in their heathen state firmly believed themselves to be surrounded with potentially dangerous influences and agencies. Sickness and pain were deemed to be due to the power or the actual presence of aitu and certain old Samoan medical treatments were based on this belief. Even in these days of universally accepted Christianity the belief in the existence of aitu is very widely held. They are not family gods, of course, as they were in the past, and naturally no active intercession is made for their good-will. Actually, the present-day connotation is a little different from what it was for this class of being in the past.*

* It is of interest to note that the Masonic Lodge, whose nature is not understood by the Samoans, is referred to as the “Lotu Aitu.” Lotu means church.

page 133 Nowadays, aitu are generally malevolent beings to be avoided, and if one does not in these Christian times concede them their old status by actively seeking their goodwill, there are many who would not go out of their way to arouse an active resentment, since even Christianity admits the concept of an ever-present and hard-working devil. Politeness costs nothing and there is nothing to lose by taking reasonable precautions. There are not a few Europeans who think along the same lines.*

The last class of sauali'i, scarcely to be differentiated from aitu, except that Stair states that the former appear not to have been represented by any class of priesthood or to have had any special dwellings sacred to them, included ghosts and apparitions, an inferior order of spirits, who apparently favoured some at least of the mischievous propensities of certain kinds of aitu.

Pritchard's classification is, if anything, rather too simple. He groups the various deities as personal, family, village, district and national. The personal aitu was decided upon by repeating names from a list and choosing the deity whose mention coincided with the moment of birth. Turner says that personal gods were supposed to appear in a visible incarnation which then became an object of veneration with the usual prohibitions as to harming or eating to the person concerned. He lists a large number of local gods.§

Old Samoa believed in a soul or disembodied spirit (agaga). In Stair's opinion the three abodes of spirits, Pulotu, Fafā and Sa-le-Fe'e, seemed to have something in common, or at least the distinctions, like so many others in Samoan custom, were not clear-cut. Fafā was apparently the entrance both to Sa-le-Fe'e, the lower regions or place of punishment, and to Pulotu, the Samoan Elysium or abode of the blest. Spirits of the dead were supposed to retain the identical images of their former selves and to commence at once a journey westwards towards the Fafā. Some at least of the human limitations persisted, the spirits having to walk across all intervening land and swim from island to

* Incidentally, an interesting paper could be written on the subject of ghosts and ghostly manifestations in Samoa, strangely enough in many cases on the authority of European witnesses, who, without attempting to explain a number of curious incidents, will vouch firmly for the facts as they relate them.

Pratt states this is a respectful term for aitu.

§ G. Turner, Samoa a Hundred Years Ago and Long Before, London, 1884.

page 134 island before reaching the final jumping-off place at the western end of Savai'i known as Fatu-osofia. Here the last long swim was undertaken to the Fafā.

Stuebel* states that the Fafā was a hole; that is what the word itself suggests. He adds that there seems to have been some difference of opinion amongst the people themselves as to whether there was only one underworld or two, one for chiefs and another for the common people. Churchward tells us that the spirit leaped from a stone into a circular pool, the entrance to Hades or Pulotu, while Krämer has recorded that the site was reputed to be on a small, low, rocky headland between Falealupo and Tufutafoe at the western end of Savai'i.

The spirits of those who had died natural deaths were tranquil and proceeded at once on their journey to the Fafā, but those who came to a violent end were believed often to frequent the places of death. This habit which was much feared because of its potential danger, applied particularly to those beheaded in war. Relatives therefore went to great trouble to endeavour to recover the heads in order to bury them with the bodies, lest the dead man should become a source of trouble or danger to the living by reason of his restless endeavours to perform this service for himself. There were various small rites or methods to lay such ghosts.

The war clubs of renowned warriors were regarded with superstitious reverence and were the objects of special rites and ceremonies before being used in battle.

There were various classes of priests (taulaitu) who performed functions of a differentiated character. The most important were those who invoked the assistance of the leading war-gods, chief among these being Auva'a and Tupa'i of Falealupo, representatives of the powerful goddess Nafanua. There were other war-gods and priestly representatives in other districts.

Another class of priest was charged with the care of symbols of the war-gods, particularly those venerated by districts that maintained fleets. Such objects assumed a number of different forms, perhaps a drum, mast-head pennant, conch shell, chest, box or even a broom tied to the mast-head. The office of village priest was often hereditary in the sense that it was vested in a certain title or titles.

* O. Stuebel, Samoanische Texte.

W. B. Churchward, My Consulate in Samoa, London, 1887.

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The most numerous class were the family priests, the matai who interceded with the family gods in times of trouble or adversity. The god was supposed to enter into the priest who fell into a trance-like condition. These were the times when the priest, or head of the family, received what purported to be the commands of the god or his complaints relating to lack of proper treatment or respect; if he were pleased, he promised his protection and good-will. In such ways the work of the whole family could be commanded for the building of houses, canoes, the laying out of new plantations, or any other similar activity that called for a common effort. It also ensured a steady flow of food or other property for special occasions. The head of the family always appealed for assistance to the family god in the case of serious illness. Family support for such intercession frequently took the form of scenes of wild emotion and even self-inflicted wounds; but the god was not exempt from abuse if all measures failed to achieve the desired result.

A particular class of priest specialised in prophesies or curses, recovering stolen property or assisting with plans for vengeance. Sick people were frequently taken to them to discover whether or not the ailment was due to a curse imposed by a priest in the employ of some evilly disposed person. Their services, especially if successful, were very highly rewarded.

Some gods or spirits were deemed to reside in temples, but these were not of the striking appearance that use of this term might suggest. They have been described as being merely ordinary Samoan houses complete with blinds, often enough of poor or even mean workmanship,* or perhaps only trees of venerable appearance or areas of land set aside as sacred on which growth was allowed to proceed unchecked. Here were housed conch shells or such other sacred objects of wood or stone with head coverings or wrappings of bark cloth as the village possessed and to this place also repaired the priests concerned to make offerings of food, kava and sweet smelling things on the days appointed or when other special services were required. Such offerings were sometimes made by the community as a whole. Once a house was built or set aside as a temple, it was not used for any other purpose even if no sacred object were set up therein. They were usually but not exclusively

* If the illustration on page 227 of Stair's Old Samoa is an accurate guide, the temples were of unusual design and appearance.

page 136 on or near the malae and generally were built on a platform surrounded by a fence. One method of propitiating an angry god was to add to or re-build the platform.

The social aspect of the old Samoan religion found expression in regular festivals or feasts in honour of certain district gods. Religious forms had practically no place in these gatherings. One important annual gathering in honour of the war-god Fe'e, the octopus, lasting for several days and attended by people from all over the country, took place at Leulumoega in A'ana, followed then by two festivals in Atua, in honour of Tupualegase, at Falefa and Lufilufi respectively. The districts concerned contributed large quantities of fish, pigs, taro and other food, and the days were spent in club fights and other bouts, wrestling and night dancing. Teams and individual champions issued challenges and competed in trials of strength and skill. Manono celebrated similar festivities, and there were lesser gatherings elsewhere.

The adoption of a new faith called for a revision of certain aspects of the social code, and practices which appeared repugnant to European views quickly became an object of attack. Marriage customs were modified and much of the initial effort of the early missionaries, in days when there was no form of settled or responsible government, was directed to the preservation of life and property and the modification of any custom that endangered these things. Personal intercession was often required in particular cases. Apart from the insecurity inseparable from a state of intermittent war, some of the old forms of punishment for domestic or civil offences included death, shameful forms of assault and the destruction of houses, plantations and other property. There was also a system of trial or punishment by various forms of severe ordeal. The missions endeavoured to uphold the authority of the matai and village council as far as possible; but, while conceding the right to impose reasonable punishments, they discouraged unnecessary harshness involving death, assault or wanton destruction. Fines of valuable property such as fine mats and pigs were substituted and for lesser offences payment of the humbler forms of produce was prescribed. The innovation came quickly to have the authority of immemorial custom and although it now cuts rather sharply across the official system of administration of justice, it at least represents a substantial and voluntary advance on old methods. It is a pleasing instance of situation incompatible with Christian doctrine being handled with understanding and delicacy.

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Reference has already been made to the fact that the chiefs and orators meet every Monday morning to discuss matters of common interest and to make whatever decisions are required. If any theft or other misdemeanour that affects the whole village has taken place during the previous week, the ceremony of tautoga, or the taking of an oath, is conducted in an attempt to discover the culprit. This custom is now Christian in form but it is much older in origin. Turner* and Churchward tell us that in the past the people would assemble and, each in turn touching or laying a handful of grass on the sacred object in the temple, would declare their innocence and invite swift punishment if they lied. The grass, shortly to wither, was symbolic of the dying out of the family and the ruin of their habitations. According to Stuebel, the chiefs and orators met for a kava ceremony and each when taking the cup called upon his particular family god to exercise his power by revealing the offender. Nothing further was done at the time if all disclaimed knowledge of the offence in this fashion; but an unexpected death or any other misfortune befalling an individual or family in the future was considered to be retribution exacted by an outraged god.

At the present day all oaths are taken on the Bible but some villages have a more formal or even dramatic ceremony. The tautoga is regarded as very important in Samoan custom and people who are unwilling for reasons of conscience or less worthy motives to take an oath incur the grave displeasure of their village.

Missionaries, pastors and catechists of all denominations occupy a most respected place in the community. Few graduates are fortunate enough to be offered work for the church in their own villages and when on completion of their training in the colleges and institutions maintained by the various missions an appointment takes them elsewhere, they are housed in good surroundings and pretentious dwellings made available by their congregations. Land is allotted to them for plantations either by a family or the village and regular offerings of cooked food are provided to assist in their sustenance. This takes various forms. A share of food reaches them from all village functions, and families who have a surfeit of crops or have experienced

* G. Turner, Samoa a Hundred Years Ago and Long Before, London, 1884.

Churchward states that in his time this oath was not effective in the case of theft if the despoiled person was a foreigner.

page 138 good fortune with their fishing always set aside a portion for their own pastor. In addition to these casual offerings the families of most congregations take turns in supplying a daily portion of cooked food from their own ovens. European missionaries living in or near villages are also the recipients at regular intervals of fish or fowl to mark the important or chiefly status they enjoy in the community.

In Samoan custom pastors are treated as matai even if they do not enjoy this status in their own right,* and special terms of respectful address are applied to them. In the assembly of the chiefs and orators they occupy a very special place, particularly if they are of mature years. As a matter of courtesy and good manners they would not interfere in the discussion of purely village affairs unless their opinion were asked or unless some question of morality or good conduct were involved. Their order of precedence in a kava ceremony is high, and in certain villages where there is only one church denomination the pastor may be served his kava first.

It is the custom of the village pastor or catechist to dress formally and visit members of his congregation in their own homes some time on Saturday. This gives him an opportunity to get to know his people personally, and allows them to discuss privately any small troubles by which they may be embarrassed. If he is offered anything in the nature of food, this will be conveyed to his house by some young member of the family. He generally offers up a prayer before departure, especially if the family is in trouble.

Samoans are punctilious in their recognition of the Sabbath and all unnecessary activities are suspended. The day is devoted to church observances, congregations arraying themselves in their best, including hats in the case of the ladies. No journeys are undertaken except in cases of emergency, and Europeans are expected also to conform to this rule. Government patrols or malaga parties rest in a village over Sunday, unless there is some special reason for wishing to proceed. Even if other visitors do not understand the Samoan language, their courtesy in attending

* The London Missionary Society and the Methodist and Catholic Missions require their pastors and catechists to resign if they wish to take titles. The Seventh Day Adventist Mission does not.

According to Churchward, women used to struggle into shoes and stockings for church services, but this practice has now been abandoned.

page 139 either the morning or the afternoon village service is always greatly appreciated.

After the Sunday morning and afternoon church services, special meals called to'ona'i are taken in groups. The chiefs and orators, the women and later the young people meet in central houses, each with their basket of cooked food including perhaps some special delicacy purchased from a store. This is set out on leaf platters and consumed together in a pleasant atmosphere of gossip and relaxation.

For some time after the introduction of Christianity care was taken to prepare food for Sunday on the Saturday evening, thus giving rise to the name for Saturday, aso to'ona'i, the day on which food is cooked for the morrow, but it is now the more general practice for the boys to rise early on Sunday morning and do the cooking then. The first stage of this development was a rule that no smoke should actually be seen on the Sabbath, the heating of the oven stones having in these circumstances to be completed before daybreak; but now even this requirement is often dispensed with.

The materials of a Samoan church are usually cement mixed with burnt coral lime, with iron for the roofs and wooden columns, beams, ceilings and other interior furnishings and fittings. The congregation either seat themselves on mats on the floors, or if sufficient funds have been contributed, pews or forms may be provided. The young people of the village provide the choir and meet regularly for practice. They are hearty singers and this duty is not a burden.

It is significant of the respect shown to the church and the clergy that missionaries and pastors deliver their sermons from an eminence. The only other exception to the rule that there shall be no speaking from a level higher than that of the audience operates during sittings of the High Court where the bench is raised in accordance with the usual practice. A speaker other than a missionary, pastor or deacon addressing a church congregation generally speaks not from pulpit level but in front of and below it, although there are special occasions when lay addresses are delivered from the pulpit.

Under the old system of religious belief the matai acted as the family priest. He poured the libation to the family god when taking his kava and acted for his own people in the old form of tautoga. In these days he performs similar duties. He leads the family in evening prayers and from time to time takes office as a deacon of his church, delivering page 140 to the whole congregation the occasional sermon that this appointment requires or perhaps even conducting a service if this should be necessary in the absence or illness of the pastor. Deacons attend meetings or special services of the organisations that control church districts or subdistricts, and they may be appointed members of the delegations representing their groups to attend the annual central fono or synod that is organised along distinct lines for different Missions. There is, however, a growing habit of appointing untitled men as deacons if they are suitable.

Those attending an annual fono or synod are not limited to delegates or official representatives. Chiefs and orators are also present to listen, and women and young people go along to perform essential services. There are the usual dancing and entertainments but these are subject to certain restrictions. The Methodists prefer that there should be no dancing after about sunset and there is no night dancing in the compound of the London Missionary Society Theological College at Malua. Those who wish to dance move out in the evening to adjoining villages.

As hymns and prayers are usual in every Samoan family prior to the evening meal, the village pastor or pastors may make an appearance or send a message to the effect that they would be glad to conduct a short evening service for European visitors. This is a well-meant courtesy, and a return compliment in the shape of a request that the malaga party be remembered in the prayers of the village and the pastors after departure will be received with gratification.

There are no collections of offerings at Sunday services but it is customary for families to make a cash donation to the pastor once a month to constitute a personal fund from which he may purchase such things as cannot be provided easily from the land or the sea. In some villages this contribution is levied more frequently.

Samoan offerings to the funds of the missions or churches as organised institutions are contributed and collected in a different manner. Once a year European representatives of the London Missionary Society and Methodist Missions make a circuit (Me) of each island, conducting examinations, awarding prizes and collecting village contributions. These are termed taulaga and are on a purely voluntary basis but villages take a pride in making their offerings as substantial as possible. If there are large sums of money in circulation because of high prices for Samoan produce, the Samoans give accordingly. The page 141 Catholic Mission does not make collections in this fashion and the Seventh Day Adventist Mission operates on their usual system of tithes.

There is a growing practice amongst the Samoans to treat Christmas much in the same way as do Europeans, but the outstanding day in the year for Samoan children of the London Missionary Society and Methodist denominations is Children's Sunday. This custom dates back about sixty years in the case of the London Missionary Society and is celebrated by both missions on the second Sunday in October* but preparations must be put in hand some time beforehand. As soon as children are old enough to understand and even for a few years beyond the age of puberty they take part in the celebration. For weeks previously the pastor conducts special classes teaching them passages from the Scriptures which they are required to repeat in the presence of their parents at a special service on the day itself. The passages to be memorised are of course graded according to age, and at the time of the examination the parents take great pride in a well-dressed child who repeats his or her portion of Scripture without error. The children are presented by their parents with special gifts of new clothes worn at the service, in the course of which the children contribute to a collection. This money is then usually handed to the pastor but it may with the consent of the donors be devoted to some other special purpose. After the service there is a meal taken separately in families; at this time the children are served by their elders, significantly reversing the usual procedure. Special delicacies are provided and portions of these are of course set aside for the enjoument of the pastor who again assembles the children in his own house for the evening meal. The whole day is thus organised to express the appreciation of the elders for the services of the younger generation during the previous year and to demonstrate a recognition of their important place in the family and society.

The social aspect of present-day religion is well demonstrated in a function that is favoured by all denominations. This is the tusigā-igoa or subscription list, literally the “writing of names.” It is a comparatively modern development, having achieved its greatest popularity during the last decade. Its pricipal purpose is to afford

* The Methodist Mission adopted the custom later and used to hold their celebration on the second Sunday in September. This practice was altered in 1941, and the functions in both Missions now coincide.

page 142 an opportunity to people in all parts of the country who are related to families in a particular congregation to contribute to the cost of building, re-building or repairing a church or providing or renewing its furnishings. An interesting feature is the fact that congregations of different denominations in the same or adjoining villages occasionally hold a combined function, the funds contributed by particular families being recorded separately and applied of course to work on their own church.

The first step is to advertise the proposed programme in the Government Gazette or a church publication.* This is sometimes done as long as a year in advance, in which case a reminder is published later. The notice recites the ceremonial form of address of the village or the more important members of the congregation and makes respectful references to their royal and other connections in the four corners of Samoa; it often ends on the significant note that true relatives will be known, and presumably remembered, by the appearance of their names on their names on the subscription list in due course. In the meantime the hosts address themselves to the task of planting taro and other crops; young pigs and chickens are collected for fattening and even cattle may be acquired. Nearer the day of the function the preparations rise to a climax of harvesting, fishing, and later, cooking.

The proceedings are divided into stages which extend over two or more days. On the first day the visitors meet and mingle with their own families, discussing their contributions and all assembling later for a church service. The evening is spent in singing and dancing in the course of which separate families present their own items, after which collections are taken up and the cash handed in to the secretary of the church to be carefully recorded to the credit of the family concerned. The following morning there is another combined service and then all assemble again in a large house like that of the pastor to hand in their contributions. The amounts are duly recorded and the totals announced. For a large gathering of this kind the grand total may exceed one thousand pounds. This evening is also devoted to entertainment in addition to farewell

* Publications in the vernacular are the Savali (Official Gazette), the Sulu (London Missionary Society), the Auauna (Catholic), the Fetu Ao (Methodist), the Tala Moni (Seventh Day Adventist) and the Malamalama (Congregational Church of Jesus). All are issued monthly except the Methodist paper which appears quarterly and the Congregational publication which is irregular.

page 143 speeches and prayers, and the guests begin to depart the following day.

The visitors are feasted royally during the entire period of their stay but there is a special distribution of food, generally at mid-day, on the day before departure. This is partly a show of respect and partly a quid pro quo for what has been contributed in cash, and the guests take the greater portion of it away. Occasionally families may even present fine mats to distinguished relations who have contributed handsomely. The food is not presented formally by means of a ta'alolo or laulautasi. It is merely assembled, either by separate families or as a joint offering of the village, and then shared out. The presence of an important family or well-known pastor or a group who have contributed liberally may receive recognition per medium of an exceptionally large share of food including the most respectful portions. Any carpenters present who have been employed on the building or repairs will not be overlooked.

Another ceremony, rather similar in its nature but earlier in origin, marks the completion and formal opening of the church. This is called a fa'aulufalega, or church opening. Cash is again contributed to pay off debts incurred during the period of construction. Due notice is given and all assemble as for a tusiga-igoa, except that the church services are of a rather more formal character and include the consecration of the new building by a competent authority. This is also an important day for the carpenters, especially if they are Samoan, for they then receive their final payment for many months or possibly years of work.

A tusiga-igoa is sometimes arranged for the purpose of collecting money for the establishment or repair of a village water supply.

It is a common practice of Samoan families to hold memorial services, or jubilees commemorating the commencement of such services, to mark their adoption of Christian beliefs. In some cases this has been done at intervals during the last sixty or more years. Such services afford an opportunity for a family with branches in many parts of the country to meet from time to time if other domestic business has not brought them together.

Although gatherings such as some of those mentioned above present their own peculiar problems, from the economic point of view at least they function with a smoothness uncommon in our own type of society. Socially-minded people with the family organisation of the Samoans page 144 derive a psychological satisfaction from, and actually welcome the opportunity for, family gatherings, and in any case the economic principles involved operate on a reciprocal basis. Assistance in proper cases is gladly forthcoming when donors can be sure that they have only to ask in their own time of need to receive the help they require; and the opportunity to proclaim relationship perhaps to some of the leading families in Samoa lends added zest to the proceedings.