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An Introduction to Samoan Custom

CHAPTER IV — The Welcome Ceremony

page 35

The Welcome Ceremony

Visitors entering a village where they are expected will usually find the ali'i and faipule waiting for them either outside or within a house. If the occasion is a very formal one, the whole village may have assembled in its various groups, matai, Pastors of different denominations, Women's Committee in distinctive uniforms, schools and young men and women. In such a case, an arch of welcome will probably also have been constructed. The meeting house (fale fono) and other houses set aside for the accommodation of the party, are almost certain to have been painstakingly and beautifully decorated with leaves and flowers.

Samoans are inveterate hand-shakers and this form of greeting should receive attention before hosts and guests proceed to a house (fale) if the visitors have been received outside. If the party find chiefs and orators waiting for them on entering a house, the hosts may rise to receive them, but this is merely a concession to European custom; Samoan custom does not require it. Samoans receiving Samoans within a house will remain seated and will shake hands with the newcomers from that position, the latter taking their seats as quickly as possible. Europeans, therefore, who are seated in a Samoan house, need not rise to shake hands with newcomers, but may shake hands sitting. Generally speaking, on formal occasions, titled persons get or remain on their feet within a house as little as possible. On entering a house, one's seat in the proper part of the building should be taken as soon as possible, and once seated, one should rise as little as possible until on the point of leaving. If some article at a distance is required, it may be asked for; there will be plenty of attendants able and willing to perform this service.

Without going deeply into the niceties of Samoan distinctions, it may be stated briefly that the front of the page 36 house is for the accommodation of orators, the ends for the chiefs, and the back for the members of the family and all untitled people. Thus an interpreter or an orator accompanying a party and acting as official orator will sit rather to the side of the front part of the house as near as possible to those members of his party who rank as chiefs, leaving the true front portion for the local village orators, and the European members of the party will take their places near one of the ends, using some care generally not to sit against the principal end post or posts, which are reserved by custom for ranking chiefs of the village or district, and which position one would not improperly or unnecessarily arrogate to oneself, unless it were specifically indicated. The posts reserved for principal chiefs and orators, at the ends and in the front of the house respectively, may often be distinguished either as to size or by the elaborate nature of the coconut sennit design employed in the lashings; such places may even be indicated by double posts. There is another single post, without distinctive marking or appearance, counted fourth from the central post in front towards that end of the house that is occupied by the visitors. The central post is the place of the leading orator. The fourth post referred to is designated the stranger's post and may be claimed by any unexpected titled visitor to functions such as weddings, deaths, election ceremonies to titles and the feasts associated with any of these gatherings. Apart from such special places as these, there is no detailed precedence to be observed in seating, so long as the principles already indicated are applied. A stranger would not usually break into a welcome ceremony but would wait respectfully in another house before joining the assembly for any later function. The front of the house is that part facing the malae, or the open ceremonial area of the village. If there are two principal lines of houses in a village with the malae in between, then the fronts of the houses in such a case face inward.

The seating is arranged in a circle, each person present taking his place as far as possible against or between the posts of the house. But if the house is crowded, certain of those present will have to sit forward away from the posts.

Untitled people or young men may take up positions at the back of the house in the rear of the kava party, but if the assembly is a large one, all available space may be in use by chiefs and orators, in which case other people will have to seat themselves on the pavement or terraced foundations in the rear of the house. Dogs and chickens page 37 usually enjoy a certain amount of freedom in Samoan houses, but those that intrude in any formal gathering will be driven out with a blow or threatening gesture of a fly-whisk or a handful of coral fragments picked up from the floor.

It is correct for titled visitors or Europeans to enter or leave a house by the front, not the back, which is for the use of untitled people and members of the family.

Chairs will generally be provided for the use of Europeans, especially if the visit is expected, since Samoan courtesy is prompt to recognise that any other form of seating for such guests becomes very uncomfortable in a short time. The chairs in such a case will be placed in the position where the visitor is expected to sit. In case of doubt, the interpreter will indicate the proper place.

If no chairs are available, as can happen if the visit is not expected, one must sit in the Samoan fashion, cross-legged on Samoan mats, which will be placed in readiness if the approach of the party is observed. If the visit is unexpected and no mats are in position, there will be a scurry to procure some when the visitors are seen or announced, and there should be a tactful pause outside to enable this to be done. This obviates standing inside the house.

Some care should be exercised when Europeans are obliged to sit cross-legged in the Samoan fashion. A lady finding it difficult or impossible to sit correctly could tuck her legs under her to one side without offending Samoan custom, but this is not a desirable attitude for a male. If it is found impossible to adopt a correct or nearly correct cross-legged attitude, one may sit with the knees drawn up closely, probably with the arms clasped round the knees or legs for greater comfort or balance. This is a concession to Samoan custom and will not give offence, the important point being that the legs should not be thrust out forward along the ground, and in particular pointing towards anyone else in the house. If the correct or any variation of the correct sitting attitude becomes too uncomfortable during a protracted discussion, then as a final resort, the legs may be stretched forward, and a mat placed over the offending limbs and feet. One may perform that service for oneself as quickly as possible, and a few words of apology will not be out of place. These will generally be received with a smile, for Samoans realise that the correct attitude soon becomes uncomfortable or painful for Europeans, and the outstretched legs, decently covered, are by a polite a fiction regarded for the time being as having ceased to exist. Even so, they should page 38 as far as possible never be pointed at anyone else in the fale, especially a speaker. So also, if one is resting in a fale before resuming a journey and it is desired to lie down, the feet and body should be stretched out in a direction away from other occupants of the fale. One should not even recline in such a manner that the feet point towards the interior of the house. A breach of custom may therefore most safely be avoided by reclining with the head towards the interior and the feet pointing towards some unoccupied wall post. One would not, of course, lie down in a house filled with people except in a case of sickness, but if it appears or is announced after the completion of business or a meal that a travelling party wish to lie down and rest before resuming a journey, most of the people in the house will politely disperse, and pillows for the comfort of the guests will shortly afterwards make their appearance.

Visitors may be gratified to find that sitting cross-legged in the Samoan fashion is very easy when the muscles are relaxed after a long walk, but too long a maintenance of this posture, however easy and convenient it may appear at the time, may result in a painful stiffening or cramp when the time comes to resume walking.

There are two positions for sitting in the Samoan fashion. The first, the familiar cross-legged attitude with a foot tucked under each knee, offers no particular difficulty for Europeans, at least for short periods. The second is extremely difficult and in most cases even impossible for adult Europeans to assume; it requires the training and exercising of the muscles and tendons affected from a very early age. In that form, the legs are crossed, with one folded above and resting entirely along the top of the other, so that one foot rests above a knee and the other beneath the opposite knee. This is a favourite relaxing position for Samoans; an orator making a speech must not be seated in this manner.

It will be convenient at this stage to describe the kava ceremony, which sets a seal on all occasions of a formal and many of an informal chracter. There are two types of kava,* the ordinary kava ceremony and King's kava. The latter, however, is seen only on the occasion of and as a special mark of respect to very high ranking Samoan chiefs or important Polynesian or European visitors, and we need

* Kava is now the European form; the Samoan word is 'ava, in which the initial “break,” similar to the Arabic hamza, has replaced the original Samoan “k.”

page 39 not further concern ourselves with it here. The form in which it is presented differs a great deal in different districts, although certain principles are common to each form. Not all districts are entitled to prepare it.

Kava is always taken inside a house and only by titled people, a term which, by the courtesy of Samoan custom, includes pastors of any denomination and Native Medical Practitioners, even though they may not hold the rank of matai. It follows logically that being taken inside a house, it is not good manners to take it standing on any formal occasion. It may sometimes be handed round simply as a beverage to a party of chiefs and orators working in the sun, but there is then no formality in the serving, and the act has no ceremonial significance. It may in such a case be drunk standing. Although it can be used merely as a beverage, and numbers of Samoans and Europeans become addicted to it, its principal function is ceremonial, and one can take part quite correctly in a kava ceremony without drinking at all. Kava is not intoxicating and is not a fermented drink. It is a strained mixture in cold water of the powdered, sun-dried root of the kava plant (Piper Methysticum) and a few hours after preparation it becomes stale and unpalatable. Although it is not an intoxicant, some individuals notice a peculiar effect on the head and eyes or even on the legs; it has certain diuretic properties recognised by the medical profession but over-indulgence during a long period is claimed by some to affected the eye-sight. It is sometimes prepared in a peppery form by adding the juice of fresh chilli pods.

The kava ceremon itself may be conveniently described in conjunction with the welcome ceremony, or fesilafa'iga, of which it forms an essential part.

When the visitors are properly seated within the house, all titled people receiving them utter a few formal words of welcome. The visitors may before this have come forward and shaken hands and exchanged a courtesy in the nature of “good day” or a similar greeting. Such a salutation, however, has no formal significance, and visitors must await the ceremonial words of welcome, and recognition before they can properly be regarded as being socially present. The rule, therefore, is that a person entering a house does not speak until he is spoken to, and when the formal words of recognition have been uttered, he replies in similar terms. Such ceremonial forms are used only between titled people. Untitled men or women enter a house by the back and sit quietly until they are noticed and addressed, if they have page 40 come wishing to speak to titled occupants. It may be mentioned that the courtesies of Samoan rank are extended to Europeans.

The visitors await the formal greetings and then it is the turn of the orator to reply in similar terms on behalf of Europeans, who, if they know enough of the ceremonial requirements of the language, may also join in the greetings if they wish. A short explanation must be inserted here as to the significance and form of the opening greetings. The acknowledgment or recognition of social position is one of the prime psychological needs of the Samoan; this is carried to the length where every person of dignity or position is deemed to know everyone else of similar status, and it is very bad indeed to enquire as to the title or status of any person in his hearing. It is therefore a social necessity for the orator or interpreter attached to a malaga party to inform himself fully as to the formula of greeting applicable to each village which will be visited. This formula recites in set terms the titles of or respectful references to all those who constitute the leading individuals or families of the village, together with traditional allusions which become intelligible only with special study of the formula in each case. In some instances, recital of this formula (fa'alupega)* may be considered as a much condensed summary of some at least of the local social, political and historical events of previous centuries. It will thus be clear to the reader that although this part of the welcome ceremony falls into a regular pattern, the details necessarily differ in respect of each village or district. A chief or orator whose title appears in the fa'alupega may be considered an important person in his village and one whose family history can probably be traced back to the time of the foundation of the village.

If the occasion is a formal one, the hosts will make a ceremonial presentation of one or more club-like kava roots (tugase) or a bundle of the stringy feeder roots (uso), which will be placed before an orator among the visitors by a young man or a girl. If it is intended to present a large number of roots, a mat will be drawn round in front of the hosts, each of whom will deposit his kava upon it. The orator before whom the kava is placed will formally acknowledge the presentation and after appropriate words and

* The Malua Press of the London Missionary Society in Samoa have published the ceremonial forms of address for every village in a booklet entitled, O le Tusi Fa'alupega o Samoa.

page 41 gestures to which the visitors themselves may add a word of thanks, will hand back the root to be taken outside by a boy and there pounded with a stone on a specially placed hollow rock into a state suitable for mixing in the kava bowl.* It may happen that when the root is offered for that purpose the hosts may thank the orator politely and return it, stating that kava has already been prepared, or that another root has been pounded in readiness. If there is more than one root, he will hand back one for pounding and apportion the remainder among members of his own party, each man having his kava root laid at his feet and acknowledging it politely. If there should be a large number of roots presented, and on certain occasions the number may reach fifty or sixty, it will be polite for the visiting orator to include certain of his hosts in the distribution, say the ranking chief of the village, the Faipule, if present, and the Pastor or Pastors in a group if more than one, and at the conclusion of this part of the ceremony there will be a chorus of thanks and appreciation to the orator for the respect shown to all groups present.
An interesting and important instance of Samoan ceremonial usually precedes the commencement of the speech of welcome on formal occasions. This is the domestic ceremony of fa'atau, a period of discussion in the presence of the guests but confined to the orators or orator groups amongst the hosts as to who shall be the one to speak in welcome. This little interlude has a twofold social purpose. On the one hand, it conveys a delicate compliment to the guests by suggesting that the honour of speaking in welcome to them is one for which the orator hosts are eager to contend and a privilege which one or the other will not yield lightly. On the other hand, it has also a much wider social and even political significance. Where only one village has gathered to receive a malaga party, the question for discussion and decision is as to which of the orator families present shall have the distinction of representing the village and making the formal speech of the day. Such decisions are not taken as a matter of course in Samoan custom. An individual or family that neglects its privileges may find itself in danger

* Sir Peter Buck (Te Rangi Hiroa), in Samoan Material Culture, has pointed out that in most cases these hollow stones were originally used for, and worn concave by, the grinding of stone adzes. They have been transported from the edges of streams where they were formerly used because of their nearness to water, which was essential to the grinding process. Adzes have not, of course, been ground in Samoa for over a century.

page 42 of losing them. Still less is a decision of this character regarded as a matter of course when an entire district is assembled. In such a case, the leading orator of each village will represent his own group and capably put forward their claims to have the speaker chosen from his particular village. Others will reply and gradually drop out one by one. Some will occasionally content themselves with announcing at once that they are satisfied to leave the decision to the remainder, but the important point is that they have taken part in the discussion and kept alive their right to participate in deliberations of this nature. Social and political precedence and recognition are dear to the heart of every Samoan, and no opportunity is lost for claims to status to be put forward or demonstrated, even though in the case of the fa'atau it may have been decided before the arrival of the visitors who actually is to have the honour of speaking.

While the fa'atau is proceeding, the visitors wait quietly and enjoy the exchange of delicate courtesy and adroit self-advertisement, each orator's task being to pay due respect to the dignity of adjoining villages and yet to sacrifice nothing of their own social claims. Brevity is not the essence either of Samoan ceremonial or conversation. Titled people do things with dignified deliberation and an absence of haste; the impressive delivery of well-turned phrases alive with traditional or mythical allusion is more to be admired than that European succinctness that operates with one eye on the clock. The writer has known an Administrator to wait three quarters of an hour while this form of Samoan honour was satisfied.

Even on less formal occasions when the full fa'atau is dispensed with, an orator in a group will rarely speak on their behalf without a short, whispered exchange or perhaps merely a glance of interrogation to secure the consent of others of his party. Even where an orator may properly be classed as the leading orator of a village with an undoubted traditional right to speak on important occasions on behalf of the village, he will generally make a courteous display of consulting the others.

A village may have decided to receive visitors in traditional ceremonial costume, and both chiefs and orators may be found attired in bark-cloth (siapo), their bodies oiled, and with necklets ('ula) decked about them. It is good manners for an orator so attired to remove his necklet before he commences speaking in a welcome ceremony.

Visitors will perhaps observe that throughout the welcome ceremony certain chiefs and orators are busy rolling page 43 together the fibres of coconut husk on their bare thighs to form heavier composite threads. Others may be plaiting the composite threads into Samoan coconut twine ('afa) which is much used for a variety of purposes including the lashings of canoes and houses; the construction of a single house of the better type requires some miles of this twine. This, although a long and tedious operation, is a chiefly occupation frequently performed by those whose chief part in a ceremony is merely to sit and listen, and where a village is accustomed to have many meetings there is likely to be no dearth of 'afa. It would of course be highly improper for an orator to busy himself thus while engaged in making a speech. Actually his hands will generally be occupied with his orator's fly-whisk, or fue, which is composed of strands of plaited sennit, affixed to a wooden handle. Two forms of the fue are in general use, a small form and a large. The small fue is usually used by an orator speaking in a house while sitting, and the large one is more often seen in use by an orator making a speech while standing on the malae.

A matai, entering the meeting or fono late after ceremonial greetings have been exchanged, must be greeted personally by the others and reply in the proper form. It is wise and polite for him so to arrange his entrance that he does not interrupt a speech, because if he does so the speech must stop temporarily while greetings are exchanged, since he is not socially present until that has been done. An important orator thus interrupted, especially if he is rising to an effective climax, is likely to be gravely displeased by such an ill-timed entrance.

An untitled person, wishing to speak on a private matter to a matai attending a formal gathering, will not enter the house at all. He will crouch down on the pavement or terrace outside behind the matai with whom he wishes to speak, quietly attract his attention, deliver his message, and depart unostentatiously.

Present-day kava bowls which are always cut from a solid section of the tree, have anything up to twenty-four legs, but the old Samoan bowls originally had only four. Samoan traditions relate that kava came to Samoa from Fiji; the Fijian bowls have only four legs also. Four-legged bowls may occasionally be seen even at present. The ancient kava bowl of the Tuiatua, presented by the Falealili district to a former Administrator and now preserved in the Native Office at Mulinu'u, has four legs and the characteristic shallow and wide section. If bowls of this old type page 44 are seen in a few outer villages it will be found that they are highly valued.

A peculiar, yellowish-green deposit (tane) may be noticed on the upper levels of the inner section of the kava bowl. This is due to long and continuous use of the bowl and good examples are not often seen. This appearance is not due to a stain or a true patina; it is a deposit or encrustation which dries and flakes off if the bowl is not used regularly, and the effect cannot be produced merely by leaving a mixture of kava to stand in a bowl for a long, undisturbed period. A serving cup that has been in use for years may be similarly marked.

The strainer (fau) is made from the prepared and teased-out, inner bark or bast of the fau tree, a member of the hibiscus family. It is a bunch of ribbony fibre which is drawn through the liquid and traps the solid particles of the kava root which are not consumed. It becomes worn and reduced in size by use, and has to be replaced from time to time.

An orator among the hosts now commences his speech of welcome, and while he is speaking the young man who has been pounding* the kava root outside will return with the pulverised kava generally wrapped in a breadfruit leaf. The kava bowl (tanoa) will have been placed in readiness at the back of the house, and behind it will be seated the taupou, possibly but not necessarily in festal attire. The kava bowl must be so arranged that the perforated lug by which it may be suspended when not in use is on the side nearest to the taupou. This girl is a chief's daughter, the ceremonial virgin of the village, who has specific duties on formal occasions and in connection with the reception of visitors. She is one of the few persons who are entitled by Samoan custom to wear the tuiga, the ceremonial head-dress of bleached human hair, although it is not often worn for an ordinary kava ceremony within a house. On the right side of her will usually be seated the attendant who will add the water to the bowl, together with the orator who has the task of distributing the kava when prepared, and on the other side there will perhaps be other matai who will take their places there in order to render symmetrical the line of the 'aumaga or agai-'ava, as this group is called, on either side of the taupou. If a taupou is not available, some other girl, or lacking any

* Until about the end of the last century, the kava root was cut into small pieces and chewed by young girls or boys instead of being pounded. Kava used also to be made from the green, undried root.

page 45 girl, a young man, takes her place. Other boys or girls may be seated in this line or in a line to the rear; they will later assist to serve the kava.

The pounded kava is now placed in the bowl with the strainer, and after the taupou has removed any necklace of flowers that she may be wearing, water is poured over her hands on to the ground by one of her attendants, who, if he is seated on her right, will be careful to use his right hand for that purpose. If seated on her left, he would pour the water with his left hand, the point being that the back of his hand should not be presented to the taupou during the performance of his duties. Water is added to the bowl by the attendant with the same care as to use of hands as before, and the taupou proceeds to knead the kava with both hands and wring out the strainer with the graceful gestures proper to the occasion. A young man from the rear line of the 'aumaga now takes his place outside at the back of the house in order to free the strainer of adhering particles of kava, which he does with a motion resembling the cracking of a whip. The taupou, after a glance backwards, throws the strainer, generally over her right shoulder, with some adroitness, and the young man must be most careful not to drop it when it comes in his direction or to allow it to drag along or touch the ground while he is performing his duties. When each stage of his work is completed he must toss the fau carefully forward to be caught by the taupou. This continues until all the larger particles have been removed; the later stages of the straining process are performed unassisted by the girl who turns to her right rear and disposes of the small remaining root fragments with light flicks or shakes of the fau.

The welcoming orator proceeds with his speech, usually starting in a low voice and gradually rising to his climax. By the time he finishes, his utterance is loud and rapid. On completion, others of his party murmur words of thanks for his capable expression of their sentiments, although his speech has generally followed an almost stereotyped form, including always praise to the Almighty for the safe arrival of the malaga party. There is a short pause, because nothing formal is done in a hurry by titled people, and then an orator of the visitors commences to speak in reply. This orator should not, if it can be avoided, be the person who spoke in acknowledgment of the presentation of the kava root, but if there is only one orator with the visitors, then he may do so.

According to Samoan custom, such speeches are made page 46 always by orators, the chiefs merely listening and signifying their approval. When a welcome is being extended to Europeans, however, the hosts usually expect that a European shall speak in reply. Officers on regular Government patrol, who are well known in the villages through which they pass, may speak in reply; but it would not be improper for such an officer, if he has nothing to say apart from his ordinary duties, which will come later, to delegate to an orator of his party the task of making a formal reply to a speech of welcome.

The visiting orator completes his reply, which will also tend to follow a set form, being careful not to do so before he sees that the kava is ready, a stage that is indicated by the taupou, who raises the strainer on high and allows the liquid to run back into the bowl. This action also enables those making the kava to judge whether the mixture is so strong as to require the addition of more water. There is a little chorus of thanks when the orator finishes his speech, and then another orator seated by the bowl recites loudly the short ceremonial forms of address of all groups present, and announces that the kava is ready and that he will preside over its distribution. All titled persons in the house clap their hands in slow, deliberate fashion on this announcement and the distribution proceeds. No person receives kava unless he holds a title, is a male European, or is a Pastor or Native Medical Practitioner and unless or until his special kava title or his name is called by the presiding orator, who has the delicate task of deciding the order of precedence in which those present are to be served. Women do not take kava except in the rare cases where they have titles; European ladies offered kava may accept it but they are not usually included in such a ceremony even if present and they should not expect it. We now see demonstrated part of the significance of the kava ceremony; it not only formalises an assembly and the accompanying business, besides being the initial form that hospitality assumes even on informal occasions, but it affords a public opportunity of indicating and recognising social precedence and status, a social need that is dear not only to the heart of every titled Samoan but also to the untitled members of his family.

A word may now be said relating to kava titles, which are special names or terms used to indicate a chief or an orator only for the purposes of the kava ceremony. Not every chief or orator has a kava title; generally, however, most chiefs enjoy this distinction, although it is rare for orators other than orator chiefs to possess them, and even page 47 they prefer in most cases to take their kava as orators without kava titles outside their own districts. Such titles may have been bestowed in previous generations, sometimes centuries ago by a High Chief or King, an important family, or by political groups of orators who in the old days controlled the ceremonial and political activities of the country. If a chief or orator has no kava title, his ordinary name-title is called, but in such a manner as to indicate his status. Thus, the distributing orator will in the case of a chief call out, “This is the cup (or drink) of ———,” while for an orator without a kava title the call will be, “This is the kava of ———.”

A common misconception calls for correction at this stage. It appears to be often thought that a kava title is the title of a person. That is not so. Actually a kava title is the name of a cup, and for chiefs who have traditional kava titles associated with their matai names or district titles, it is the name of their cup that is called when their kava is served.

The boy or girl serving the kava must be careful to show the appropriate respect and indicate status with the proper gestures. In serving a chief, the cup is held as high as the server's head, in the right hand, the left being placed behind the back; then the hand with the cup is carried down low near the ground with a sweeping motion from the server's right side to the drinker. It follows that the palm of the hand and the inside of the forearm of the server are presented to the drinker. One finger may be clipped round the lip of the cup in presenting or in accepting it or it may be cupped in the hand. In serving an orator, the cup is held low near the left breast and served at that level from the left. In this case, the back of the hand and the forearm are presented to the drinker. An orator wishing to show respect to chiefs will accept the cup with the hand furthest away from the chiefs concerned, or if there are important people on both sides of him, he may accept the cup with both hands. If the server wishes to indicate that the cup is full, it may be served with the cupped hands, or an aged person may have to accept the cup with both hands for reasons of infirmity. A matai afflicted with palsy to a degree that endangers the cup may have it steadied to his lips by the server who will be careful to stand over the seated person as little as possible.

The cup from which kava is consumed is a polished half shell of a coconut, either wide and shallow, or smaller and deeper in section, depending upon the size and type of page 48 nut from which it is cut; it may be filled from the kava bowl either by being dipped by the server or by the taupou raising the strainer on high and allowing the liquid to run down. For a large gathering there may be more than one young person serving, but the second or any other server will not commence his duties until after all the most important people, to whom it is desired to show special respect, have been served.

Special respect to persons of high rank can be indicated if the server carries and presents the cup by the longest way round. Thus, if there is a central post to the house, it is more respectful for the server to walk right round the post, even if the person to be served is seated on the nearer side. When the chief or orator has accepted the cup, the server retires, walking backwards, to the centre of the house while the former drinks, as it is disrespectful to stand unnecessarily over a person who is seated. A similar type of respect is seen when a newcomer shakes hands with someone who is seated. The person standing stops at a little distance and bends from the waist, shaking hands in that position, so as not to tower over the one who is seated. Similarly, a person walking through a house or a room of seated people, will crouch or bend a little, and an untitled person speaking to a seated chief or orator will kneel or sit while doing so. Thus, a Samoan sitting down uninvited in one's presence does so out of respect; he does not show an improper assurance or a lack of respect as the uninformed European might imagine. If kava is served by a young man he should be stripped to the waist, unless he is a uniformed Government official when it is correct for him to wear his uniform. A boy stripped to the waist and wearing a necklace should remove that decoration before he commences his duty of serving kava.

An interesting point arises when two or more holders of the same title are present. The title or kava title as the case may be is called once only, one holder of the title is served, the cup returns to the bowl to be replenished, and is then brought to the other person with the same title without further announcement.

The server may not be acquainted with everyone present, or if he is, may not know their particular kava titles. If he feels any doubt as to who is next to be served, he may stand in the middle of the house with the cup raised on high and glance about him. The matai to be served will then indicate his position with a clap of the hands or a slap of one hand on a knee or thigh. Others may do so in any page 49 case to indicate appreciation of the fact that their turn for kava has been recognised.

The order of precedence in kava, as indicated by the orator presiding at the bowl, is a matter that calls both for tact and knowledge, as serious offence could easily be given by an inexpert person. Usually the highest chief of the visitors is served first, or if it is simply an assembly of one village, the highest chief of that village. Proper respect having been shown to the visitors, the next cup is served to one of the hosts, usually their ranking chief or perhaps the orator who has spoken, who in any case will receive his cup early in the ceremony as a recognition of his work in speaking. It is the custom in some villages where there is only one church denomination represented, to serve the Pastor his kava first as an indication of the respect in which his spiritual rank is held. Thereafter, the cup goes from one side to the other, the alternation of respect being an important feature of Samoan custom. There is no rigid rule, however, and the principal responsibility of the orator at the bowl is to exercise a sound judgment and to discharge his duty of showing respect where it is most required. His function at a really large and mixed assembly is one that calls for considerable skill, and a satisfactory demonstration of his knowledge and ability will always call forth a word of praise.

A word may be added on the subject of alternation of respect in relation to distribution of kava. The cups are not distributed in a strict order of precedence that aims at indicating exactly the comparative rank of all present. Such an attempt would not only be difficult or injudicious but might have the effect that all or most of, say, a group of visitors or others in an assembly would have to receive their kava first, a result that, except in unusual circumstances, would be definitely in conflict with Samoan custom. Rather the position is that one group receives one or more cups and the respect shown to that group suffices for the time being; the cup then passes to the representative of another group to show respect to them without regard to the fact that there may still be persons of higher rank in the first group who have not at that stage had their kava. Mutual respect and recognition are the motivating factors that influence the order of distribution, and the elasticity of Samoan custom, which is evidenced here as elsewhere, allows for a nice and discriminating judgment to be exercised by the orator directing that part of the ceremony. Provided that he applies the proper principles, the question is one for his decision alone although a member of the visiting party may sit page 50 beside him to give information relating to the kava titles of the guests. There is thus no rigid degree of precedence such as that recognised and applied by, say, the Royal College of Heralds.

It is not essential but it is graceful for a person highly placed in the order of precedence to murmur a word of thanks or other respectful acknowledgment when his title or kava title is called.

If the presiding orator feels some doubt as to where exactly to place some chief or orator in the ceremony, or if he has unfortunately overlooked someone at the proper stage, he may safely place that person right at the end of the distribution which is also a position of honour.

The visitor may notice very occasionally in certain districts that kava is not served to the leading chief or orator chief in the cup from which others present take their kava. This could only occur where the status of the person so served is very high indeed, although his importance might be merely local and based only upon domestic traditions. In such a case, it generally happens that the common cup is filled as usual from the bowl and then poured into another cup in which it is served. This indicates an almost kingly status of the individual concerned in his own particular district and refers to a feature of the King's kava ceremony in which the kava is thus poured from one cup to another. When outside his own village or district, such a person would take kava in the customary manner.

Where the gathering is a very large one and the kava bowl is emptying rapidly, the orator presiding at the bowl will take care that everyone of primary importance has partaken. He will then announce that the bowl is empty and make some words of excuse and respect to those who have not participated. This action is correct, and no one who has not been served is properly entitled to object, provided the orator has been careful to include a member or members from every group and has not overlooked someone whose importance is such that he should not have been passed over in the earlier part of the ceremony. Under ordinary circumstances, of course, all matai present participate.

An interesting point connected with precedence may arise where visitors, for instance, may politely consider that they have been too highly honoured, or at least may make a show of saying so in order to indicate goodwill or to pay a compliment. A kava title may be called and the server proceed to offer it to the person indicated who will remonstrate page 51 politely and indicate to whom he considers the kava should properly have been served next. Either the orator or the matai concerned will gracefully acknowledge such a courteous remonstrance, and a pleasant exchange which has as its object a display of mutual respect will thereupon ensue, ending with a decision as to who shall drink. If the person originally offered the cup is to drink, he will murmur a word of thanks and proceed to do so. If he gains his point and someone else is to drink, the server will return to the bowl, re-charge the cup, the orator presiding will call the new title and the kava will be served. Then, however, the person who originally remonstrated to show respect will be offered a fresh cup of kava without his title being again called, the first call being sufficient.

The taking of the cup and the drinking of the kava must now be dealt with. The server bends low and offers the cup to the chief or orator who takes it in the manner alredy described. The matai drinking holds the cup before him or to one side and if he wishes may murmur either a prayer or a hope for the successful termination of the business, or some similar sentiment. If he prefers, he may simply say “manuia” or “soifua”, and the others present will respond in similar terms, answering “soifua” to the drinker's “manuia”, and vice versa. Whatever the word or words said, the drinker should pour out a few drops on to the ground as a libation. Although one may sometimes have to do so, it is good manners not to pour direct on to a mat if this can be avoided, either choosing a place where bare stones are showing or shifting the mat a little if that can conveniently be done. The kava is then consumed, the cup being placed to the lips only once, and the amount required being taken at one draught. The whole amount need not be drunk unless it is desired to do so, but the cup should not be replaced to the lips. The dregs or whatever remains may be poured or thrown out on to the stones outside the house and the cup returned to the server. If it is not convenient to empty the cup in this fashion, it may simply be handed back to the server.* Quite a number of Samoans do not drink kava, and many Europeans fail to acquire the taste also, but Samoan custom does not make it essential that the kava be actually consumed even in a formal ceremony. It is sufficient to pour the few drops as

* Until about the end of the last century the empty cup was spun back adroitly by the drinker across the fale to come to rest in front of the bowl. Thi is still done in Fiji.

page 52 a libation, murmur a word, and hand the cup back to the server. Some Samoans take a mouthful and, after returning the cup, turn in their places and dispose of the kava on to the stone pavement outside the house. It is not customary to thank or smile at the girl or youth handing the kava, although that European courtesy on the part of those who actually do so will not, of course, give offence.

When a Government party is visiting a village, the appropriate kava titles of Samoan officials present may not be employed. Kava is often in such cases served to them after the calling of their official designations.

Thus the kava ceremony proceeds and is brought to a close by the announcement of the orator who has been calling the titles. After the conclusion of the formal ceremony, the kava that remains in the bowl may be distributed informally amongst the titled members of the 'aumaga who did not participate at an earlier stage. Water is again poured over the hands of the taupou, and the untitled people who have been assisting at the ceremony may retire, or alternatively they may remain in order to render a similar service later in the proceedings.

The discussion of the business that has brought the assembly together follows upon the conclusion of the kava ceremony, or those present may disperse in order to permit the guests to take a meal or to retire to the house put at their disposal to bathe and change.