Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

An Introduction to Samoan Custom

CHAPTER XII — A Miscellany

page 159

A Miscellany

A book such as this, in which an endeavour is made to present within the compass of a few chapters an introduction to the more fundamental features of a subject as wide as that of Samoan custom, is likely, if the heading of each chapter is substantially adhered to, to leave undiscussed a number of minor and unrelated, but at the same time, interesting facts that are important and should properly be included. And so this chapter will be of a miscellaneous nature, a sort of pot-pourri, a method that may appear untidy but which one may hope will nevertheless prove informative.

There is probably a good deal of misconception about the nature of the tree and the process that produces bark cloth. At the stage of growth when used for this purpose, the cultivated tree is little more than a sapling without branches six to eight feet tall, and does not usually exceed an inch in diameter. Larger saplings are unsuitable as further growth renders the bark too tough. The bark is stripped off from the butt end and the bast or inner bark peeled away from its coarser outer covering. Water is poured over the bast which is then scraped and rasped to remove portions of outer bark or interfibrous material that may be adhering. The soft remaining material is smoothed and dried as far as possible by pressure, and in the next stage several folded strips in bundles are beaten evenly on an anvil with either a smooth or grooved wooden mallet. Each piece is then stretched and dried in the sun. The bark cloth at this stage of the process is dotted with holes and these have to be carefully patched with other pieces, natural glues like breadfruit or arrowroot being used for this purpose. Pieces are then joined by a similar process to produce the sizes required.

The cloth is dyed by dipping, painting by hand, or stencilling, and dyes of various colours and types, both vegetable and mineral, are employed.

page 160

Bark cloth was not commonly in use in the past as clothing, as is often erroneously supposed. The old dress was a kilt or girdle made of Cordyline leaves. Bark cloth was reserved for use by restricted groups like orators and taupou for ceremonial occasions, and it was only in the last century after the arrival of missionaries and before print materials were available in sufficient quantity that it became popular as an article of ordinary dress. Until comparatively recently, however, it was commonly used as mosquito protection for beds; but as it makes the air it encloses very stuffy, the European style of mosquito netting is now in universal use.

It is probable that the casual references made from time to time to the clothing of men and women present a picture that is far from complete or clear. Men wear a singlet and shirt or possibly only one of these, with drawers in many cases. A lavalava is wound round the waist, usually outside the shirt, and secured either with a tuck or a belt or both. The genuine lavalava is not merely a length of material but has a piece machined along the upper section for better fitting. In some cases it is very carefully fitted and pockets are inserted, this style having been introduced by Native Medical Practitioners returning from Suva. This garment is not buttoned or fastened down the front or sides but falls into its own natural folds. Ties and coats, either of white drill or of dark heavier material, may be donned for more formal wear. The feet are mostly bare but in a few cases shoes or sandals are worn; quite often home-made sandals of sections of motor tyre are popular with those who have adopted foot-gear.

Women may adopt either of two styles of dress, the European or the Samoan. The former, with the short frock, is usually accompanied by the usual European under-garments, those who favour this style being of the younger generation rather than the old. In the Samoan form of dress a slip may or may not be worn with the lavalava wound about the waist. An over-all garment is then drawn over the shoulders and reaches to the knees. In this mode of dress there is not the same need for European under-garments and they are often dispensed with. In both, the feet are bare and hats are worn only at church.

The Samoans are not lovers of the hot sun; they prefer to wear hats or use umbrellas to ward off its rays. People working in plantations, fishing in the lagoon or on the reef or rowing a boat wrap their heads with cloth or leaves or plaster their hair with coral lime. Walking-sticks are much page 161 in use by titled men; but it is a breach of custom for un-titled males to affect them.

Reference has been made in previous chapters to the division of labour as between the sexes, the organisation of social and economic activities into men's work and women's work. The subject may now be treated in a little further detail. The classification has been drawn into various groups but the lists that follow are not intended to be exhaustive. They are merely indicative of the spheres into which the work of the sexes is seen to fall.

The broadest classification is the division into types of work performed exclusively by men or by women. Men are builders of houses, household furniture, plank boats and dugout canoes and their gear, and makers of oars and sails. They make bowls and the various types of wooden drums and all kinds of tools, wooden combs, head-dresses and whale's teeth necklaces, and in the past practised medicine and manufactured the weapons such as knives, clubs,* spears and slings. Men practise the arts of circumcision and tattooing and make the required implements, as well also as the equipment necessary for fishing: nets, hooks, lures, spears, traps and pots. They are responsible for the final stages of manufacture of coconut sennit and in the old days ground patiently at stone adzes. Some of these occupations are superintended or undertaken only by titled males: for instance, the construction of the best types of houses and boats, and the making of sennit. When presented in the course of wedding celebrations, the things that men make are termed 'oloa. The boys do the cooking in the earth oven, although the girls must deputise for them when they are not available. Boys also constitute the general labour corps for work in the village and the plantations. They clear bush land, lay out plantations and plant taro and other crops, climb trees for nuts and husk them when these are required. They cut copra and bring it down in baskets from the plantations for drying. They cut the grass with the taivai, weed the taro and ta'amu and keep the banana patches clear from creepers and other growth. Youngsters bring salt water for the preparation of dishes like palusami and taufolo as described in a previous chapter.

Women make the things that are termed toga, including all classes of weaving such as fine mats, fau bast mats, sleeping mats, fans, modern types of baskets and house

* Stone was not employed in the manufacture of any part of a Samoan club. The material was heavy hardwood.

page 162 blinds, bark cloth, arrowroot, dyes, various kinds of Samoan oil, the old style of comb made from pieces of the coconut leaflet midrib, candle-nut soot and charcoal for heating the heavy imported irons. They look after the house, and make stiff brooms of coconut leaflet midribs* from materials collected by the boys, sweeping the floor, shaking the mats, sweeping the grass clean outside, making the beds or rolling away the piles of mats that have been in use for that purpose. They dismantle and put away the mosquito nets and raise the blinds of the houses, wash and iron clothes, tend the children, and fan the flies away from food when others are eating. They cook or help the boys with this work if their assistance is necessary. They tend the long, thin saplings and prepare the bark of the paper mulberry tree, but men make the implements for beating the bark and marking the patterns. Girls make flower and leaf decorations and necklaces, weed the grass on the house sites, carry fresh water for cooking or washing purposes and perform the restful administrations of massage (lomilomi).

Women also act as midwives and previously practised a number of specialised medical techniques. Another of their special provinces relates to the care of the dead. They perform the last personal services and lay out the bodies, some of the particular offices coming under the special duties of the relationship known as the feagaiga. Women attend to the grave after the burial ceremony and weed the cemetery area, and in the past in the few families concerned were responsible for the embalming operation and the care of the sun-dried mummies.

A further division of labour involves the performance both by men and women of similar types of work but with a restricted application of different methods. Fishing is a case in point. Men and boys are responsible for practically every form of fishing, including net and torch-light fishing on the reef at night. The women, however, fish for the small things of the sea and invertebrates (figota), going at low tide to the reef and the lagoon. This involves poking into holes in the rocks and coral with the bare hands or sticks, and some women become remarkably proficient at determining what is in a hole merely by touch. They also

* The distinction between the leaf and leaflet midribs should be noted. The former (lapalapa) is the heavy midrib of the complete leaf, large and solid enough to have served formerly in the sport of club fighting. The leaflet midrib (tuaniu) is only about two feet long and a tenth of an inch or less in thickness. It is the backbone of one pinnule of the coconut leaf.

page 163 collect all types of shell-fish. As mentioned in a previous chapter, both men and women catch the octopus, the women in shallow water with the aid of a stick, although not all of them attain the same high degree of proficiency, and the men in deep water alongside the reef in a canoe, using a special lure. They both, however, kill it with a quick bite in the region of the eyes. It should be noted particularly as an important distinction that women do not fish from a canoe in deep water; that is reserved for the men, although occasionally women may poke about with sticks from a canoe in shallow water. There is, however, one well-recognized exception to this rule noted in a later paragraph.

There are a few types of fishing that men and women and even those of the younger generation perform together. There are certain methods that require the co-operation of the entire village, notably that termed lau, in which a whole section of the lagoon is enclosed with nets or coconut leaf strips suspended from lines. The enclosure is then gradually reduced to a point where a long plaited bag prepared by the women receives the catch. Men perform the heavy work of handling the nets. The women stand behind the line of the net enclosure and beat the water to frighten the fish towards the trap; but any that jump the wall or succeed in making their escape through it and are caught by the women in hand nets or scoops may be treated by them as a personal catch. The principal haul, however, is divided between all the families participating.

Another instance in which both sexes fish together is at the time of the annual palolo; and as the method is to gather up the swarming worm in scoops of mosquito netting or cheese cloth, the catch is taken from a canoe or other boat. Women in this case fish together with men from a canoe but the whole proceedings are rather in the nature of a picnic.

While on the subject of fishing it may be mentioned that most villages have a head fisherman (tautai) who may or may not be a titled person. His authority while controlling a communal fishing effort or distributing the catch which is first counted into heaps of ten is absolute and he receives implicit obedience. His considerable knowledge relating to tides, habits of fish and feeding grounds has probably been handed down from father to son for generations; and it is claimed that an able fisherman of this class can often state the nature of the catch many fathoms below the surface of the water merely by holding a line attached to a certain type of net sunk in the reef entrance. His judgment is based on the movements or struggles of the page 164 fish. His authority extends only to fishing excursions, and he does not sit with the chiefs and orators for other business unless or until he possesses a title.

There is another economic classification covering employment that is the occupation of women at one stage and men at another. The sugar cane for thatch is planted and tended and when mature and dry it is harvested by women; they take the leaves and fold them on to cane-like sticks of other wild plants (lafo or mautofu) to prepare the lau for attaching to the frame-work of the roof. The men, however, perform the actual work of thatching. Similarly, women prepare the materials for making coconut fibre sennit but the matai do the actual twisting, plaiting and coiling. Boys gather the coconut leaf material but women make the blinds and hang them in the houses.

Samoans are able to grow and cure their own tobacco and many prefer this to the imported article. Some villages even make a business of cultivating it in fairly large quantities for sale within the Territory. Women grow the plant inland in sheltered localities and when the leaves are picked they string them on sticks which are carefully placed under the thatches of houses for the drying and curing process.* This takes some weeks. When it is complete, bundles of leaves are twisted by the women into lengths called fili, and eight to ten of these twists, folded into sections of paogo leaf and bound tightly with fau fibre lashings, form a wrapping or container called a sai, rather similar in shape to a belaying-pin or a skittle. Men prepare the lashings and perform the task of binding, straining the lashing on tightly with one end usually tied to a post of the house. A man and his wife often co-operate to produce the finished article. Women may often be seen in the township of Apia selling it by the sai or the fili. For consumption, leaves are untwisted from the fili, dried over a match-flame or a glowing section of coconut husk and then rolled into cigarettes with strips of dried banana leaves (sului). The whole cigarette is called utufaga.

Many passages in previous chapters have included references to coconut fibre sennit. The process of manufacture is not a short one. Men or boys husk the special nuts of which there are a number of preferred varieties with long fibres, particularly the niu'afa, and then women soak the husks in fresh water to soften the interfibrous

* Surplus quantities of ripe oranges treated in the same way will remain sweet and juicy for months.

page 165 portion. The husks from mature nuts must be soaked from four to five weeks, or perhaps even longer, and very mature material is best soaked in salt water, but the green husk from a special variety is ready in four or five days. It is a fact worthy of mention that soaking is considered to improve rather than to deteriorate the fibre. Old men or women then beat the husk with a mallet on a wooden anvil to separate the fibres which, after a further washing to remove interfibrous material, are tied together in bundles and dried outside the thatch of a roof. When this stage is completed the fibres are handed to the matai for manufacture into sennit. He rolls together a few at a time into heavier strands on his bare thigh, and lays these aside as completed for later conversion into a three-ply plait that is the finished sennit. It is then coiled in bundles or wound tightly in very neat cylindrical rolls. As mentioned previously, this is a chiefly occupation that may be performed while listening to discussions in a fono, and on very rainy days it helps to pass the time away when little else can be done.

Before the advance of maturity defines the sexes too clearly and raises bars of conduct and behaviour, young people are accustomed to perform many of the more trifling tasks in common. They spread out cocoa or copra to dry in the sun or cut the grass before the guest houses or about the malae. They dance together, weave coconut leaf baskets for casual use (although it is the boys who cut down the green leaves from the palms), make 'aulama, or torches, from bundles of the dry leaflets for reef or lagoon fishing, or catch crabs on the beaches or in the swamps at night. The older grades of both sexes make kava as required.

Children, particularly girls, have even more important responsibilities where there are younger children in the family; this is how the Samoans solve what local problems there are in regard to the care of large families. There are few girls who have not at some early period of their lives been responsible for a younger member of the family, as soon, probably, as they were strong enough to carry an infant. The method of carrying is characteristic. The youngster is held about the waist and then supported sideways on the elder child's hip, the former learning very quickly to curl his little legs tightly about the other's body. It is one of the duties of children who are older to keep the young quiet by any reasonable means, especially within the hearing of gatherings of adult people. A complaining child who cannot be quieted must quickly be taken elsewhere. page 166 Thus in a country where there is no such thing as poverty and no real problems associated with the care or rearing of many children, each addition to the family is welcomed both for itself and as a potential social and economic advantage.

Men and women adopt different methods of carrying loads. Wherever possible boys will so arrange their burdens as to enable them to be supported at both ends of a carrying pole (amo) slung across the shoulders, the load itself being termed amoga. This method is not employed by women. They carry loads either in baskets in the hands, under the arms or in bundles slung across the back or supported on a hip, as girls carry children. There need be no dependence on twine or coconut sennit for tying materials for either method. Strips of coconut leaf are quite suitable, or further up in the bush or plantations strips of fau or other sapling bark are well-known for their great tensile strength. A thin branch or sapling is cut off short and strips of the fresh bark started with the teeth. Fau bark is so strong that it suffices for the lashings of the scaffolding erected in the course of constructing Samoan houses.

The place assumed by fine mats in the social and economic life of the Samoan people is such as to warrant a much fuller description than has appeared in previous chapters. Actually the name “fine mat” is a misnomer, as the true use of this article is for ceremonial clothing. It is never used on the floor of a house, but at the present day is frequently draped over tables and chairs as a mark of respect to distinguished visitors. In the old form of Samoan marriage it was the only article of dress worn by the bride.

The weaving material is carefully prepared from one of the smaller varieties of the pandanus termed lau'ie which is specially grown and cultivated for the purpose. The leaf of this type of pandanus is armed with serrated edges and there are spines along the under-surface of the midrib. Average leaves are about five feet long and approximately three inches wide. The serrated edges and spines are first removed, and the duller under-surface of the leaf is peeled off. In order to bleach it the portion that remains is exposed to strong sunlight for several days and it is then cooked in a Samoan oven, but protected from actual contact with the hot stones, for approximately half an hour. The shiny upper skin layer is then very carefully peeled off, separating easily from the remainder after the sunning and page 167 cooking processes. This layer which constitutes the weaving material is soaked for a fortnight in sea water to bleach it further, and it is then dried in the sun.

The next stage in the process is to divide the leaves longitudinally and the duller inside surfaces of each portion are then scraped with shells to remove unwanted material. Finally, the pieces are very carefully split into the thin strips that are used for the actual weaving operation itself; these may vary from a twentieth to a tenth of an inch or more in width. The degree of softness of the finished mat depends, of course, upon the fineness of the weaving strands. In the past mats were known of such fine material and expert technique that complimentary references compared the thinness of the strips to the hair of the head. The plaiting or weaving material is always used double with the dull surfaces facing together, as this technique ensures that the smooth shiny outer surface of the leaf always shows to the outside on both sides of the finished mat.

The process of weaving a single mat is one that in the majority of cases occupies many years of careful and pains-taking effort, and it is only the most skilful girls and women who are able to work with the finest materials. When a girl reaches the age of puberty she commences a fine mat or may continue work on one already started by her mother or other members of the family some time after her birth. The weaving is completed along the borders by a careful finishing technique that leaves an unwoven fringe, and the lower border is finally ornamented with a strip of the red feathers of the Fijian parrakeet. These feathers were originally brought from Fiji, but at a later stage the Samoans imported the birds themselves and kept them in captivity, plucking the feathers for use as required. They are not seen nowadays. The strip of red feathers should be without gaps, but as they are now difficult to get, one often sees mats in which the line of feathers is discontinuous; there are some, indeed, with a strip of red material in place of the feathers.

Fine mats have often been referred to as Samoan currency, and this is a correct use of the term to the extent that although they commenced merely as indicating ceremonial rank, their special value for this purpose resulted in their becoming adopted as a general standard of value for use on other occasions. Gradually wealth and social position came to be indicated by the possession of these articles, and the development of the system of political marriages and the natural desire of orator groups to acquire page 168 as many mats as possible added further impetus to this tendency.

Mention has already been made of the use of fine mats on the occasion of marriages. They may be presented at the time of births and are also of the first importance to demonstrate relationship when deaths occur, particularly at a ceremony termed lagi that takes place in many families some time after the death. In the past the presentation of one or more fine mats formed an essential part of a ceremonial form of apology (ifoga) and they often figured in the imposition of fines or punishments. They may also change hands at the time of election to important titles, the building of houses, the construction of bonito canoes and the tattooing operation. Thus the fine mat in times before the introduction of a coined currency had reached the stage of setting a standard of value for certain transactions that involved the display of special skill, as well as indicating rank or changing hands regularly for purely ceremonial purposes.

When worn as clothing the mat is folded in two to display the fringes and feathers to advantage and is then secured about the waist with a fold or belt of bark cloth.

Krämer has recorded the names and histories of a number of very old fine mats that during the last century enjoyed a political rather than a mere social and economic significance. It is recorded that even wars were fought for some of them. Such mats as these bore distinguished names, and the family in whose possession they happened to be for the time being was always well-known. Even if they became brown and discoloured with age or fell into disrepair or a state of decay, their value did not grow any less with the passing years. They were highly prized and often typical Samoan tactics were employed to secure them. Although these mats were termed generally 'ie o le malo, or state mats, they were often presented to a king or head of a royal or distinguished family on special occasions like weddings, births or deaths. Such a gift demonstrated alike the dignity of the donors as well as the respect shown to the recipients. Many of these famous old mats still exist although their purely political use is now necessarily restricted.

Since it is not possible to repair a rent or hole in a mat with the same technique employed in weaving it, such repairs as are necessary at the present day are made with pieces of silk material or with silk thread. The material is carefully matched with the colour of the mat and repairs page 169 are difficult to detect at a little distance since the mats themselves have a silky sheen.

In a society organised on the basis of respect to age and the titled members of the community, it always strikes the newcomer as unexpected to hear children address their parents by their names or titles as the case requires. There are terms, of course, to designate mother and father, and there are precise differences of vocabulary for use in different circumstances, but these are not employed by a child addressing a parent. A matai bearing the name of Papali'i will be addressed as such by his child or other children, with the probable addition of a respectful prefix in the case of the latter.

References to “father” or “son” by Samoans can be misleading due to the custom of informal adoption or the assumption of a temporary relationship of service that has no basis in blood connection or even the acknowledged Samoan form of adoption. A boy serving a matai and living in the latter's family, whether related or not, will refer to the matai as his father, and the latter will term him his son. Where the details of a legal or quasi-legal enquiry turn upon blood relationship it is necessary to exercise care to ascertain whether the relationship is genuine in our own sense or merely one that is assumed in terms of Samoan custom.

A child may be known by different names at various periods of its existence, introducing possible complications so far as subsequent reference to the registration of the birth is concerned. The infant may be known for some time merely as pepe, meaning baby, until some chance remark or event, or an action of the child may suggest a name. In such cases, names are obviously not limited to regular names of the type normal in our own society. A child, for instance, picking up a coin may be known hence-forth as Pene or Seleni,* or an increase in salary scales may brand a newly born infant as the Samoan equivalent of “Pay” or “Allowance”.

Naming is carried beyond the human sphere. Pieces of land and often boundaries have names, this custom operating as a system of registration in a society that before the arrival of Europeans and the establishment of settled government had nothing formal in the nature of survey. Springs, caves, waterfalls, reef passages, and sometimes trees or other natural features are also named.

* Meaning penny or shilling.

page 170

The custom of referring to produce, fish or animals by a special local name in districts where a chief or orator bears a title in similar form has already been referred to. The whole question of names, titles or ceremonial references is one of considerable importance, as a chief of standing may be referred to in courteous terms by a designation that does not resemble his title at all but is based on tradition or some well-known historical occurrence. Similarly, the names even of food or animals may change for reference on formal occasions and a special vocabulary is usually employed in the ceremonial counting of such things.

When meeting chiefs and orators, the visitor must be careful to secure the names correctly if it is desired to repeat them, as the mis-pronunciation of a title may either give offence or cause amusement or embarrassment. Samoan is a language in which the greatest care must always be exercised in pronouncing words. Lack of care with vowels, for instance, and the language employs them largely, may convert an appropriate word into an inaccurate, unsuitable or even most indecent term.

A small peculiarity of the language must be recognized at an early date by those employing Samoan servants who speak English, even if there is no intention to learn Samoan. The Samoan answer to a negative question to which a negative reply is expected in English is affirmative. An enquirer who asks a Samoan “Aren't you going to Apia to-day?” will receive the answer, “Yes,” meaning that the person addressed is not going. Samoan thinking in this respect is rather more precise than that of Europeans; the Samoan affirms the negative assumption inherent in the form of the question. If these points are noted carefully as they occur they afford valuable assistance in learning the language, as a peculiarity of English in the conversation of a Samoan frequently indicates the structure of a Samoan idiom.

Readers seriously interested in learning the language must refer to other publications for assistance in regard to that subject. In the minds of many people who do not speak it, however, there is a common misconception in regard to the language that may be corrected here as a matter of general interest. This has reference to the so-called “chiefs' language.” There is no such thing. There are not even any localised dialectical differences in Samoa although there are some local instances of specialised vocabularies, particularly in Manu'a and to a much less extent in Savai'i. Still less is it true to say, as a recent writer has page 171 done, that “there is one vocabularly of words for the chief and his family, and another for the same things applied to a common man.” There are occasions when this could be partly correct, but the statement as it stands is inaccurate and misleading and gives an entirely wrong picture of Samoan society. There are no separate languages or differences of structure but merely specialised vocabularies of courtesy and ceremony for use on appropriate occasions. This usage of courtesy and ceremony is not even equivalent to a court language; it has to be understood and regularly employed by the humblest members of society as a matter of ordinary good manners. There are specialised vocabularies for reference to different groups in society, special words for referring to the same things or conditions as applied to different persons, and often special terms, particularly for referring to death, in certain distinguished families. There are many misconceptions about this important and somewhat complicated subject.

One of the strictest rules in this matter is that which forbids the use by any person, however high in rank, of the language of courtesy in regard to himself or his own family; but it is properly and habitually employed in addressing or speaking of titled people or any others, however humble their status, to whom one wishes to show the forms of politeness. In certain circumstances custom requires the use of respectful terms or expressions in describing animate or inanimate things in the presence of chiefs or orators, and not merely in speaking to or of such people. Again there are words the apt choice of which define the rank or social group of the person or his wife who may be addressed or referred to, or a reference of personal or individual significance may involve an explanation reaching far back into the early traditions of the village or district.

The gesture of beckoning is different from that employed by Europeans; indeed, unless understood, it is likely to give a contrary impression to that intended. Our gesture is made with the arm extended, palm facing inwards with the fingers up, and the fingers and palm are then motioned inwards, perhaps also with a movement of the arm. The Samoan form might appear at first sight to be almost the reverse. The arm is extended with the palm outwards, and the fingers, palm and arm are then motioned downwards and backwards. After a warning, it is of course easy enough to recognize the Samoan variation for what it is intended to be; a more important point is to remember to do it oneself when the need arises. This form of the gesture page 172 is not, of course, peculiar to the Samoans. It is quite wide-spread.

Respect in accepting a present is indicated by placing the object lightly against the forehead if that is convenient. This is not obligatory; whether to do it or not depends a good deal upon the circumstances, but such a courteous acknowledgment and display of good manners is essential in accepting a fine mat, however exalted the rank of a distinguished guest may be.* In a formal ceremony in which a fine mat is presented to a person of high rank, it is usual for an orator representing the person honoured to take the mat, fully extended, into his hands. He will then, however, bring it to the recipient himself who should lean forward so that the mat may be placed for a moment lightly against his forehead. The orator then takes the mat aside and it is handed over later.

The subject of insult is of some importance in Samoan society but a full discussion could not be condensed into a very small compass. It is not proposed to treat it in detail here. Certain points, however, that enter into every-day life can be made clear very briefly. Any plant or tree belonging to one person, and deliberately and offensively damaged by another, is held to represent the actual body of the person so insulted. The removal without proper authority of a bunch of bananas from a growing plant is merely theft, and the simple cutting down of the plant in the customary manner adds nothing to the offence. But the lopping off of the crown or the hacking to pieces of the stem adds dire insult to injury. Similarly, the offence of theft of taro or ta'amu can be gravely aggravated if the growing heads are so carelessly or offensively removed as to render them useless for further propagation. In the past it was the practice on the death of an important chief to do ceremonial damage to valuable trees, particularly bread-fruit, as indicative of the calamity that had overtaken the family; but this custom is now far from common.

Samoa at present is enjoying a wave of unprecedented prosperity, and natural substitutes for imported goods are not required. The time may come, however, when they will again be needed, as they so obviously were during the depression in the early nineteen thirties. Samoans in or

* Even His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester and more than one Governor-General of New Zealand have acknowledged such presentations in the traditional manner.

Printed in July, 1948.

page 173 near the municipal area prefer electric light and in the outer districts benzine or kerosene lamps, but if necessary they can light their houses by means of coconut oil or the candle-nut. The oil lamp is easily prepared. A mature nut is cracked in half across the middle section, one of the receptacles thus formed is filled with oil without removing the white meat and a wick of bark cloth twisted around a coconut leaflet midrib is inserted. It gives a good light, but the meat must be left intact to prevent the inflammable shell from bursting into flame. The candle-nuts are roasted, and the kernels are removed and then threaded on coconut leaflet midribs or other thin sticks driven into suitable bases. They burn with a clear, smokeless flame.

Traditions and genealogies of Samoa were in early times necessarily communicated by word of mouth, and the latter may in certain outstanding instances be deemed to be reasonably accurate as far back as 1000 A.D. The traditions, if one applies the necessary corrections and interprets them in the light of scientific understanding, suggest, however, a much greater antiquity for Samoan society than the date quoted above. Such oral methods explain why even today the older people can repeat with remarkable accuracy the details of a conversation years past. But a new method has made its appearance in recent years. Family record books are coming into greater popularity, especially amongst the younger generation, many of whom live either away from home or under conditions that do not encourage or facilitate the passing on of oral traditions and genealogies. Possibly the present practice is born of a determination not again to be set back in this matter by a national calamity of the nature of the epidemic of 1918; but even if it be regarded simply as an inevitable result of the development of literacy, it at least suggests a changing generation that is leaving behind the unhurried, dignified ways of the past. Many of the record books are remarkably complete and some deal with traditions and genealogies of national as well as family significance.

The special relationship which was usual in the past between brothers and sisters has yielded something to modern ideas, but a discussion of the old custom is of interest since there is one aspect which is still important. The original restriction was in force between those who thought of each other as brother and sister, whether this relationship was genuinely due to common birth or based merely on marriage or adoption. Krämer states that the restriction endured not only during youth but that it page 174 continued throughout the whole of the rest of life. Mead says that in Manu'a it remained in effect until those concerned were old and decrepit.*

The restriction was exceedingly wide in its scope. After relations of opposite sex had reached the age of 12 and upwards (Mead says upon reaching the age of 9 or 10), they could not touch each other or sit close or eat together. They were debarred from addressing each other familiarly; it was wrong for one to mention any salacious matter in the other's presence, to be guilty of an unseemly look, or even to discuss together their honest love for someone of the opposite sex. They could not walk or bathe in company or remain in any house other than their own unless there were many others present. Dancing or employment together in the same activities was also strictly forbidden, as was the use of each other's belongings. This explains why young men wishing to visit the aualuma of their own village had to be careful to ascertain first that none of their own relations would be present. Mead, speaking of Manu'a where the social organisation differs slightly from that in other parts of Samoa, says that these rules applied to all individuals of the opposite sex within five years above or below one's own age with whom one was reared or to whom one acknowledged relationship by blood or marriage; but elsewhere it appears that they applied to all such relations whatever the difference in ages.

Krämer explains this strictness as an endeavour of the parents to impress mutual respect on the children with a view to preventing inbreeding, which was held in particular abhorrence. He states that it applied even as between the children of brothers and sisters and suggests that it explains why the adoption of children was so much in vogue amongst the Samoans.

The position at the present time is that in some families the rule is still strictly enforced; in others much less regard is paid to it. Everywhere, however, it is still considered particularly improper for brothers and sisters to make doubtful remarks in each other's presence. This, although it may be said that personal standards in family relationships are now in many cases much more lax than they were formerly, is the only significant remaining aspect of this custom at the present day.

* Margaret Mead, Coming of Age in Samoa, London, 1929.