Old Samoa or Flotsam and Jetsam from the Pacific Ocean
Chapter VI — Amusements, Trades, and Employments of Samoa
Amusements, Trades, and Employments of Samoa
Of amusements indulged in by the Samoans none were more popular than the dances, of which there were five kinds. The greatest favourite was the Po-ula (night of play or pleasure) This was an obscene night dance, and a constant source of enjoyment, especially when any visitors were present to take part in it. As the evening set in, the spectators as well as dancers began to assemble, after much care had been bestowed upon their dresses and general make-up. The only covering of the males consisted of the titi, or girdle of leaves, often not more than seven or eight inches in width, and about the same in depth, whilst that of the females consisted of a white or red shaggy mat around the loins, the upper part of the body being uncovered. Both sexes paid great attention to their hair, that of the males being long and allowed to hang loosely over the shoulders, whilst the females, who wore their hair short, stiffened it with pulu, breadfruit pitch, or else dressed it with a pomade of a certain kind of light-coloured clay, which was afterwards washed off with lime water, thus dyeing the hair to a much-coveted brown colour. Arm-page 133lets , frontlets, or garlands of flowers, when procurable, with some large blue or other beads, completed the gala dress of both sexes, not omitting cocoanut and other scented oils with which the company profusely anointed themselves.
When all were assembled, the performance commenced with the Tafua-le-fala, which consisted of beating a roll of matting as a substitute for a drum. After this one of the performers commenced singing a song, the rest, of the company joining in the chorus. These songs varied as to the subject, but they usually contained figurative allusions to persons, things, or local matters, and their force is lost in translation. At the conclusion of this song the roll of matting was again beaten, but by another performer. Then two of the performers commenced another song, the whole assembly joining in chorus as before. These introductory songs being finished, dancing was commenced by children, who, after amusing the company for a little time, sat down. This was followed by another song from a fresh performer; after which five men stood up and commenced dancing; these being succeeded by five women, and after a short interval the whole number commenced dancing together, each sex forming distinct companies. Singing was continued the whole time to the same tune, but with different words, which was the case throughout the whole performance.
The last set dance was performed by a single individual, who might be either a woman of rank or a chief, the performance being introduced by two of the dancer's attendants. None but skilled dancers ventured to exhibit in this manner, as the slightest blunder or page 134failure was the occasion of lasting reproach, alike in joke or song.
When this skilled dance concluded, the males who had danced exchanged girdles, and commenced a variety of antics and buffoonery which formed a prelude to the closing saturnalia, of which a description is inadmissible here, but which was always received with shouts of laughter and approval from the onlookers. Regrets are often expressed at the manner in which these obscene dances have been discouraged by the missionaries; but such sentiments can be uttered only in ignorance or oblivion of the true character of the dances and their tendency. Even as late as 1839, Commodore Wilkes spoke in terms of strong condemnation of these dances, as witnessed by some of the officers of the expedition; but what they saw would convey no correct idea of the dance as conducted by the Samoans during the times so aptly described as 'the days of darkness.'
O le ao-siva, as its name implies, was a day dance, and much less objectionable than the Po-ula. This dance was practised exclusively by the higher ranks, and, unlike most of the other dances, consisted of a variety of graceful motions and gestures.
O le siva-a-ofe was very popular with the young people of the inland villages, each performer blowing a pipe or flute of bamboo whilst dancing. The action of dancing on all occasions, excepting the ao-siva, consisted of throwing the arms and legs into a variety of strange attitudes, leaping up and down, or turning round; but almost all the motions, especially those of the females, were of a lascivious character. Clapping of hands was a usual accompaniment to these amusements.page 135
Musical instruments were few and simple, consisting of a drum, a flute, and two or three kinds of pipes. The flute, O le fangufangu, made of bamboo, was a favourite instrument with the young, and from it they produced a variety of plaintive notes.
O le fa'aalii was a kind of pipe, similar to the Pandean pipe, but smaller. There were also four other simple descriptions of pipes, much used by children in their games, which were called O le-faa-alii-lau-ti, O lefa'a-ili-au-lauti, and O le pu-masoa.
Another instrument, O le fa'a-ili-niu-vao, was a pipe producing louder sounds than those before mentioned. It was formerly much used by parties of warriors on their march, or at their general musterings and reviews—aungāau.
O le pu (bull-mouth conch-shell) was much used for parade and show in times of peace, and also for signals or triumphs in war.
O le Nafa, the Samoan drum, or as it was called, O le fa a-alii, was formed by hollowing out a part of a log, leaving a narrow longitudinal mouth. It is now rarely seen, but is closely copied in the longo, an instrument derived from Tonga, excepting that the Tongan instrument is longer. When beaten, the Nafa was struck with two short sticks, the drum itself being laid on its side and bedded upon cocoanut-leaf mats, by which means contact with the ground was prevented, and a better sound produced. Formerly the use of the Nafa was restricted to seven families, viz. those of Malietoa, Ama, Ale, Asi-o-langi, Mata-afa, Lilomaiava, and Sa Peā.
O le pulotu, or O le fa'a-alii-la-iti, a small instrument page 136used to accompany a solo, was formed by fitting loosely a thin slip of board into a bed of close-grained wood. It was beaten with two small sticks, and although the sounds produced could not have been very pleasing, it was used exclusively by the higher chiefs, some of whom were considered to excel both in this instrument and in that of the Nafa.
The Samoans were fond of singing, many of them having good voices, but their singing was mostly in a minor key. O le vila was a favourite mode of song. This commenced with a solo, followed by a general chorus, all joining in clapping hands.
O le siva-ta-lalo was an amusement consisting of the performers continually striking the hand upon the mats on which the company might be seated.
O le solo, a species of chanting, was much in use for some kinds of poetry; whilst O le faa-ngono, or story-telling, was a very popular amusement with all classes, and much practised. Their stories were always told impromptu, and many persons obtained much celebrity from the entertainment they afforded by their fictitious narratives.
Sports were common, such as boxing-matches, foot-races, wrestling, club-fights, sailing in canoes, and kicking-matches, in which latter sport the combatants endeavoured to kick each other down. Pulling, or trial of strength, was similar to the English tug of war, in which each side aimed to get possession of a pole held between them. There was also a game played by a given number of young men who chose sides, the game appearing to resemble the English game of prisoner's base.page 137
The club fights of the Samoans were very severe and even savage encounters, the combatants fighting with the large butt ends of cocoanut-leaves (lapalapa), large clubs in fact, which were very heavy and tough. Armed with these formidable weapons they made furious on-slaughts on each other, and broken heads and arms frequently followed as the result.
The game O le Tolonga consisted of throwing a heavy stick or staff, after the manner of a spear, to a considerable distance. It required much strength of arm as well as skill to be done effectually. A young cpcoanut-tree was cut down and planted, butt uppermost, in the ground to form, the target for the player. The sport consisted in throwing the staff on a curve, so that it should fall upright and remain sticking into the target. Whenever this was effected, a point was gained in the game. In this sport, as in most other games, the defeated party prepared an oven of food, of which all partook.
Annual feasts or revels were held in some districts in honour of their war-gods. One, celebrated in the district of A'ana, was called O le Tapu-o-A'ana-i-le-Fe'e (the dedication of A'ana to the Fe'e), the district wargod. This feast, which is more fully described in the chapter on mythology (Chap. IX), was accompanied with club and sham fights, boxing and wrestling-matches, dances, and the usual revels and obscenities, which followed each other in quick succession during the days the feast lasted. After a short interval the A'ana festival was followed by that of Atua, called O le amo-o-Atua-ia Tupua-le-ngase, the carrying of Atua to Tupua-le-ngase (Jupiter). This feast was similar to page 138that of A'ana, but differed from it in its being celebrated in two different malae in succession, one called Moamoa in Falefā, and the other Falepapa in Lufilufi.
Many games were practised by all ranks to while away their idle hours. Of these the most important was called O Lafongā-tupe, or throwing; at which none but chiefs were allowed to play. A large mat was spread, the players, four in number, seating themselves one at each corner, each player being provided with five round pieces of cocoa-nut shells nicely polished. One of the party placed a piece of shell on a small square mat which lay in the centre of the large mat, and the aim of each player was to strike off the shell placed there by the first player, and leave his own shell in its place.
O le Talinga Matua, also called O le Lupeinga, was a game of counting, played by two persons sitting opposite to each other. One of them held up his closed hand to his companion, and immediately after showed a certain number of fingers, quickly striking the back of his hand upon the mat, directly after. His companion was required to hold up a corresponding number of fingers immediately after, in default of which he lost a point in the game.
O Fuanga consisted in throwing up a number of oranges into the air, six, seven, or eight, and the object was to keep the whole number in motion at once, as the Chinese jugglers do their balls. O le Teaunga was also played with a number of oranges, but in this game they were thrown up backwards.
O le Tāngāti'a was played by many persons at once, each one endeavouring to propel a small light rod of page 139the Fu'afu'a, from which the bark had been peeled off as far as possible. The forefinger was placed upon the head of the stick, when it was thrown down and caused to glide over the ground to a distance of thirty or forty yards or more.
Hide-and-seek, with the English schoolboy's game of cat, but played in the water instead of on the land, completed the list of Samoan games.
Some curious sports or buffoonery were practised for about ten days after the burial of a person of rank, to while away the tedium of the night watches required during the time of mourning.
Of late years the English national game of cricket has been introduced into Samoa, as well as into various other groups, to which the natives have become much attached, and in which game many of them have attained great proficiency.
Amongst a people so much at home in the water as are the Samoans, aquatic sports will naturally be supposed to excite much interest. All classes were fond of them, and the perfect manner in which they had mastered the art of swimming enabled them to indulge in such pleasures with a fearless boldness quite surprising to Europeans. I have often been delighted to watch the joyous sporting of the natives amidst the wild billows on some parts of the islands where the coast is bold and rugged.
O le Turi-oso-ifo, or leaping quickly in succession from some bold rock or part of the coast into the deep sea beneath, is another favourite pastime with the young of both sexes. On these occasions they constantly leapt feet foremost into the dark waters below, keeping up page 140the amusement for hours together. At times their sport would be disturbed by an unwelcome intruder in the shape of a shark, but, unless it was the much-dreaded Tanifa, even this interruption failed to cause much alarm, but the cry of O 1e Tanifa was the signal for the whole party to beat a hasty retreat to the shore.
O le Fa'ase'enga, or causing to glide, was also a favourite canoe pastime. For this a small paopao or single fishing-canoe was used, and the sport consisted in paddling out to meet the smaller rollers formed by waves in their passage inshore, after they have spent their strength upon the reef. The stern of the canoe is turned towards the advancing surge, and immediately its contact is felt the steersman either briskly plies his paddle or simply steers his canoe, whilst it is rapidly carried forward upon the crest of the wave. Sometimes a fleet of half a dozen or more canoes may be seen manned by children, who shout at the top of their voices, and whirl their little paddles with delight as they glide swiftly along. A capsize is rewarded by shouts of derisive laughter, and many jokes upon the unskilfulness of the little sailor.
O le Folaulaunga, or sailing about, is an amusement practised by all ranks and ages, for which a stiff breeze is required, during which many canoes may be seen gliding over the lagoon. A party of young men and lads often club together and build a rude kind of double canoe or raft. It is provided with a very large mat sail, and often affords much amusement to the owners, who may be seen sailing over the lagoon for hours together, quite heedless of the scorching sun.
Canoe races were also very common during short page 141voyages, or on other occasions, and often afforded much amusement. It was seldom that two canoes could sail together without racing to test the speed of their respective canoes.
Catching pigeons and other birds was also a great source of pleasure to numbers, the various plans adopted being fully described in the chapter on Natural History, Chapter VIII.
The manufactures common to the Samoans were simple but various, some being common to all places and parties, whilst others were confined to certain localities, and practised by fraternities, who zealously guarded their privileges from any infringement. Some employments were restricted to females, others were practised by males only; whilst some, again, were followed by both sexes. Amongst these may be noticed the manufacture of nets, mats, siapo, cinet, and such like, whilst their trades consisted of house-building, canoebuilding, tattooing, and other occupations.
As it is interesting to glance at the progress made by such a people as the Samoans in their manufactures, trades, &c, before they had much contact with Europeans, I give a list of the various employments, trades, and manufactures practised by the Samoans in their heathen state, thirty in number, remarking that the prefix O le tufunga, or general name for workman, is always used before the name of each trade.page 142
|O le tufunga Fau fale.||House builder.|
|Fau va'a.||Canoe bailder.|
|Ta; va'a.||Maker of small canoes.|
|Ta umete||Wooden bowl maker.|
|Ta foe.||Paddle maker.|
|Olō pā.||Fishing-bait maker.|
|Fai puletaefe'e||Baits for catching cuttlefish.|
|Sui la||Sail maker.|
|Tanafa ma aulā||Drum maker.|
|Fai lenga||Preparer of turmeric.|
|Tutu lama||Preparer of lampblack.|
|Ta uatongi||Club maker.|
|Ta tao||Spear maker.|
|Fai fanga ofe||Maker of split bamboo fishing-pots.|
|Fai fanga ula||Maker of lobster-pots.|
|Tost au||Maker of tattooing instruments.|
|Olo tupe||Maker of tupe, used in games.|
|Fai mātau||Fish-hook maker.|
|Fai upenga||Fishing-net maker.|
|Fai matau||Stone hatchet maker.|
|Fai upenga||Net maker.|
|Langa te||Mat weaver, for wearing.|
|Langafala||Mat weaver, for house.|
|Fafine fai siapo||Siapo maker.|
|Fai masoa||Arrowroot maker.|
|Langa ili||Fan maker.|
|Ato Mamano||Basket weaver.|
|Pola mamano||Ornamental screen maker.|
|Eili afa||Plaiter of cinet.|
Each principal trade or employment had its presiding god; that of agriculturists being O le Sa, and those of tattooers, Taema and Tilafainga, both female deities.
The manufacture of nets was mostly confined to the inland villages of two divisions of Upolu, and two page 143places on Savaii. On Upolu the following villages were famous for their skill:—Solaua, Falevao, Lalomaunga, Satufa, Piu, Mata, Matalaoa, Vainafa, Tilo, and Etemuri. The nets of various sizes and kinds were beautifully made, and in much request along the seaboard, where they fetched good prices, being paid for in native property. Sometimes the nets were bespoken; at other times hawked about in the different villages. The twine from which they were made was manufactured from the bark of the fau, the fibres of which were lightly twisted into small parcels, and afterwards rolled to the required size and length upon the bare thigh by the hand. I obtained the names of twenty-seven different kinds of fishing-nets which were in constant use. Pigeon and other bird-nets were also made at these inland villages.
Native cloth was extensively manufactured by the females of the various villages, but as the process has been so often described it is needless to repeat it here. The Tahitfans differed from the Samoans in that they used the bark of the mati, a species of fig, and also that of the breadfruit in the manufacture of their siapo. Large quantities of siapo were formerly manufactured, but of late years the demand for it has much fallen off, European fabrics taking its place.
The manufacture of the different kinds of mats was also an important branch of female employment. These were made at all the different settlements, but some places and individuals were more celebrated than others. The fine mats were the most costly, and formed the principal medium of exchange, these mats being often of large size and of very fine plait, the general name page 144for such mats being ie Tonga. Special names were, however, given to different kinds.
Of these the most valued were the ie tana (renowned mats), and they might well be prized, since they often occupied five, six, nine, and even twelve months in their making. They were made from the lau ie, a large plant, whose leaves closely resembled those of the pandanus, but are larger. When plucked the prickly edges of the leaves were cut off with a shell, and the leaves then rolled up and baked in a native oven. This prepared them for a second process, which consisted of separating the inner or finer part of the leaf from the outer, the latter being laid aside for a coarser kind of mat. Even the stalk of this useful plant was valued, and made into corks for water-bottles. The finer portions of the leaf were next strung together, fastened to a bamboo pole, and placed in the sea. where they were allowed to remain until bleached, a process usually occupying from five to seven days, when they were rinsed in fresh water and placed in the sun to be further bleached, after which, when thoroughly dry, they were cut into little strips of various lengths and widths, according to the fineness of the plait required.
Upon the completion of one of these valuable mats a sort of 'American bee' was held. All the women familiar with the manufacture of these mats resident in the neighbourhood were summoned on a given day to bathe the mat. On the women assembling they proceeded to wash the mat in fresh water, and after well stretching it out to dry they adjourned to the house to partake of a feast, provided by the hostess to celebrate the completion of her mat.page 145
There were also at least thirteen other kinds of clothing, sleeping, and house-mats made by the Samoans.
Large quantities of afa (cinet) were plaited from the cocoa-nut fibre, this being the constant and favourite employment of the men, more especially of the older ones, who might constantly be seen busily engaged in this useful employment, whether occupied in conversation or in their public assemblies.
Various dyes were prepared from vegetables and roots of trees, A beautiful crimson was obtained by mixing the inner bark of the root of the nonufi'afi'a, Malay apple (Eugenia Malaccensis) with sea-water and lime. Yellow was prepared from turmeric and oil. It was also obtained from the bark of the nonu, previously mentioned. A fine purple was procured from the young shoots of the mountain plantain, soa'a; and a brown by mixing the inner bark of the pant with sea-water. A black colour was imparted to various articles by burying them in the soft mud of a taro-patch formed in a swamp1. These dyes were used in the preparation of various mats, native cloth, &c.
The art of canoe-building ranked high with the Samoans, and those devoted to it as a trade were regarded with much esteem. Savaii, from its extensive forests of the harder and more durable kinds of timber, was celebrated for its canoes, which were justly held in high esteem, and which without a doubt affords a strong clue to the constant mention of Savaii in connexion with many of the early Samoan voyages, and traditions still surviving respecting them. To such an extent has this been the case, that in the Maori page 146records of early Samoan voyages and settlements in New Zealand and elsewhere, the name of Savaii, as the starting-point of the several parties of voyagers and colonists, has been given such prominence that it seems to have in a great measure overshadowed the true starting-place, Samoa; and in very many cases to be spoken of as the fountain-head of such colonization rather than what it seems to have been in most cases, the last starting-place and port of call, as well as the home of the vessel;-Samoa itself, the fountain-head of the several expeditions, being almost, and in many cases quite, overlooked. So much has this been the case that great confusion has arisen in many of the various attempts to fix upon the true origin of the extensive Samoan voyages and settlements of the past.
The Samoans excelled in the build of their canoes, and a nicely finished one was indeed a beautiful specimen of their skill, especially when we consider the scanty stock of tools with which the work as accomplished; these were stone hatchets of various kinds, with a large nail or small round stone for punching holes for the lashings. Now the work is easier, since iron hatchets take the place of stone, and at times other tools are added, and are much prized. When well built, Samoan canoes are watertight and substantial in their construction, although not a single nail is used in their framework, the whole being sewn or lashed together with einet. They were also good sea-boats when under the skilful management of the natives, who made voyages in them which for difficulty and danger would often appal Europeans.
In the early days canoe-building was a very expen-page 147sive affair to all concerned except the builders. The amount of property paid, the large quantity of food consumed by the workmen and their attendants and relatives, together with the trouble occasioned whilst the work was in progress, rendered it a formidable task to undertake, except in the case of chiefs who were large holders of native property and had extensive family connexions. Still, a large number of canoes were built annually.
Upon the head of a family deciding to build a canoe, an additional quantity of taro was planted, and messengers were sent in various directions to beg or borrow as much native property as could be obtained. This being collected, and the crops of breadfruit and taro appearing satisfactory, the workmen were summoned. In effecting this, the negotiations required to be made with great care and tact, for the builders were a proud and independent set, ever ready to take offence and make exorbitant demands, especially if the head workman had obtained a name and renown. Generally speaking, the head of the family or some other influential member went to the place where the workmen were to be found, and proffered a valuable mat or good axe to the chief workman, and formally requested his attendance. This part of the business was always formal, being introduced by a set speech full of compliment and praise, at the close of which the property was tendered to the chief builder for his acceptance. The workman replied in a return set complimentary speech, and if he felt disposed to undertake the job he received the first instalment of the payment and appointed a day for commencing the work, after which page 148the visitors took their leave. Sometimes consent was not so easily given; the builders had so much work on hand that they had to refuse, in which case other builders were visited.
When the work was accepted, arrangements on both sides were made to commence. Shortly after a small party of workmen were sent to where the canoe was to be built to cut wood and get the fono or separate pieces roughly shaped out. After this the timber was left to season, and a definite period fixed to begin the work.
On the day appointed the canoe-builders presented themselves, master, assistants, and attendants, with a whole company of women and children, it being the custom for all the workmen to be accompanied by their families, the whole of the party being fed by the contracting party for a period of one, two, or three months, according to the time taken in the work. It is strange that such a custom should have been tolerated, but so it was, and as a consequence the builders often left a family so impoverished that it took them a long time to recover their position. Upon the arrival of the workmen they were received by the chief and his dependants with all due honour, and during their stay every effort was made to keep them in a good humour, so that the work might not be hindered. Prior to their arrival a quantity of wellplaited cinet, breadfruit pitch (pulu), and u'a (native cloth in an early stage of preparation) had been prepared in readiness for the work. This was now commenced in good earnest, a temporary shed having been erected for the work, and the spot where the page 149canoe was to be built formally tapued, so as to ensure quiet, and to compel all passers-by to make a detour and avoid the spot, thus doing homage to the work in progress. Persons of all ranks submitted to this exaction as long as required without murmuring. As the work proceeded, either the head of the family or some other influential member of his household daily seated himself with the workmen, watched the progress of the work, engaged in conversation with the workmen, saw that their wants were attended to, and prepared cinet for the work. An omission in this time-honoured custom, or any lax attention to the duties of host, was an insult to the builders not easily overlooked by them. Although destitute of other tools than stone hatchets of various sorts, the builders turned out their work neatly and satisfactorily. The joints were made and an accurate fit secured by covering one of the edges with turmeric, which, on the two edges being placed in contact, easily showed where alteration was needed. On the two joints being well fitted, a piece of native cloth covered with breadfruit pitch was placed between them, and the two securely sewn together on the inside with cinet, while the outer part remained flush.
The necessary payments were made according to the progress of the work, and always with much ceremony. A curious custom prevailed as to the payment of the builders. No formal agreement was made as to the amount to be paid, but payments were tendered at five different stages of the work, and in the event of the workmen being dissatisfied with the first two or three instalments, they very unceremoniously abandoned page 150the work until the employer apologized or came to terms; no other party of workmen daring to finish an abandoned canoe upon pain of bringing upon themselves the wrath of the whole fraternity of canoe-builders, in which case the offending parties would have their tools taken from them, be expelled their clan, and prohibited from exercising their calling during the pleasure of the fraternity. This was surely trades unionism rampant!
The five separate payments were made as follow:—(1) O le taunga, given upon the first interview with the principal workman; (2) O le oloa, given on laying the keel; (3) O le tao fanonga; (4) O le sa, given on the completion of the sides. This last instalment consisted of five portions, each having a different name referring to the different stages of the work, viz. O afŭ-i-vao (covering in the bush), referring to the time the workmen were occupied in cutting timber for the canoe; O le solinga (the cutting); O le afu o-le-tufunga (the covering of the principal workman); O le-afu-o-le-ava (covering for the wife); O le si'itanga-o-le-taumua (the lifting up of the prow); and O le salusalunga-o le taele (the adzing smooth of the keel)—a mat or mats being set apart for each of these several payments, and each lot announced with much ceremony. The fifth and last instalment was given upon the final completion of the canoe, and was called O le umusānga (completion of the work).
This was a critical and difficult time, and during the payment strange scenes often occurred. On such occasions the builders seated themselves in a body in the open space in front of the house in which the payment page 151was placed, the chief with his family remaining inside the house, where a consultation was carried on as to the quantity and quality of the mats to be given in payment. When this point had been finally settled, the female members of the family arrayed themselves in the mats and walked forth in procession, an orator taking up his position in front of the house, and as each female came to deposit her mat the orator announced with much ceremony the name, pedigree, and description of each mat, after which it was taken to the workmen and placed before them. If the builders were satisfied, all passed off well. The workmen took their leave, and the company broke up with much expressed satisfaction; but if otherwise, strange scenes occurred; the builders abused, flattered, or coaxed by turns, as they endeavoured to obtain a larger amount of payment. The workmen were usually well aware of the number and quality of mats possessed by a chief or landholder, and if they found that he had kept back some particular mat they coveted, they spared no pains to obtain it.
Sometimes the paymaster pleaded poverty, but in vain. Such a plea was promptly met by the workmen asking him, if such were the ease, what he meant by summoning workmen whom he was unable to pay, thus exposing his name to ridicule and derision in every direction; whilst sometimes they would wind up by telling him that he was a poor, mean, poverty-stricken fellow. If the builders succeeded in getting more property than had at first been offered, they were loud in their praises of the chief. He was a noble fellow, and his name would be celebrated in every direction. If otherwise, the builders departed, making the best of page 152their bargain, but heaping abuse upon the so-called miserly chief wherever they went.
After their departure the young men of the family proceeded to Olo le va'a (polish the canoe), which they did by rubbing it at first with coral and sand, and then afterwards with ana, a soft kind of coral used as pumice-stone. When all was complete the canoe was proudly taken for a trial trip, and shown far and near.
The Samoans had four kinds of canoes. The O le paopao was a small fishing-canoe made from a single log; the O le va'a-alo, a small fishing-canoe. The large single canoes, termed respectively la'au lima (five-barred), or six or seven-barred, as the case might be, were canoes varying in length from thirty, fifty, sixty, and even seventy feet, as required. They were balanced by an outrigger firmly lashed to the canoe on the left side at a distance of three feet if meant for pulling, but of five or six feet if required for sailing. The single canoes have a light and pretty appearance, the prow and stern being slightly curved upwards, so that merely the bosom or centrepart of an unloaded canoe rests upon the water.
The double canoe, alia, at present in use is not the original Samoan double canoe, but an adaptation of the Tongan double canoe. The original Samoan double canoe, O le va'a-tele (the big canoe), was much larger, and consisted of two canoes, one longer than the other, lashed together with cross-bars amidships, and having the thatched shed or cabin built upon a stage that projected over the stern, instead of in midships, as in the Tonga canoes. It was much larger than this canoe, but more difficult to manage, yet able to carry one or two va'a-alo, or small fishing-canoes, on deck as required. page 153These large double canoes have now quite gone out of use, and appear to have given place to the smaller double canoes.
House-building was also a very important trade, so that the Tufunga fau fale, or fraternity of house-builders, were numerous and influential. Their services were always required in the erection of all but the commonest of houses, and they were paid liberally, in addition to the large quantities of food provided for them and their families throughout the whole time of their engagement. The roofs of the best description of houses were always made of breadfruit, and were much valued, the erection of a breadfruit house of even ordinary dimensions being a very formidable affair. As in the case of canoe-building, the plantations were enlarged and well stocked, native property collected, and the builders summoned in the usual formal manner. At the time appointed the workmen and their belongings made their appearance, and were received with a formal welcome. The party usually consisted of a head builder with four or five assistants, who received regular proportions of the whole proceeds of their joint labour. At times their numbers were increased by one or two learners, and the married portion of the company were always accompanied by their wives and children, who from their roving habits were often a great nuisance, the children being pert and mischievous, and presuming much upon the estimation in which their parents were held.
The first care of the builders was to procure a quantity of breadfruit timber, the soft part of which was adzed off and the logs cut into lengths of three or four feet, and carried down to the beach or where the work-page 154shed was erected. Before the introduction of iron hatchets felling the timber was a very difficult undertaking, the workmen having only stone hatchets to work with. To procure this wood a party of workmen went into the bush early in the morning, taking with them six or seven stone hatchets, with which they continued chopping, or rather dubbing, at a tree the whole day before they could fell it, even if of only moderate size. At all events, such day's work was quite sufficient to render all the hatchets used in the work of no further use until fresh edges had been given to the battered tools by hard and laborious rubbing, in which employment the next day was usually spent. Having procured sufficient lengths of breadfruit timber and carried them down to the workshed, some of the less skilful workmen each took one of the short junks of wood, and having seated themselves behind it, commenced cutting a groove about an inch deep along its whole length. He next cut another groove at about an inch in its rear to an equal depth, and then chopped out the intermediate strip, thus proceeding to take off strip after strip from the round log until he had stripped an entire layer of about an inch in thickness, when another groove was sunk, and a second layer taken off in a similar manner until the whole log had been cut up. Each detached strip was about an inch square, and these were passed to more skilled workmen who chopped them tolerably found, after which a joint was prepared at each end, so that the different pieces could be fitted and tied together until they formed lengths of from twenty to thirty feet, as might be required.
In building a Samoan house the first thing was to page 155erect the centre-posts and stage connected with them. Hence, the rafters being prepared, a party was sent to search for logs of lasting timber suitable for centreposts, and to cut down the scaffolding. The posts usually gave a great deal of trouble, as they were got in the mountains, and had to be dragged a long distance through the jungle to the coast. These posts, however, having been found and dragged to the site of the building, the fata manu, or the staging of birds, was erected, this being done in such a manner as to form a wide stage and ladder combined. The three centre-posts were next raised and placed in position, and the ridge-pole lashed to the top. The small pieces of breadfruit which had been joined together so as to form rafters were ranged along each side of the ridge-pole at about an inch and a quarter apart, and tied securely, so as to be kept in their places by being lashed to round pieces of breadfruit made to do duty for purlins, and placed in such a manner as to be ornamental as well as useful, these being kept in position by temporary posts. The sides of the house were completed first, and as soon as they were finished they were thatched, so that the breadfruit-wood rafters and purlins might retain their fresh colour. The thatch was made from the leaves of the sugar-cane twisted over pieces of rattan-cane cut into lengths of three or four feet. The workmen commenced thatching from the bottom, working upwards, and in a well-thatched house each lau, or set of leaves, overlaps the one before it about an inch, being fastened in several places to the rafters. If well put on, the thatch lasted for three or four years, the whole presenting a very neat appearance. The round ends of the house are next. page 156added; and it is here that the master-workman exhibited his skill in the preparation of the fau purlins, or rounded pieces of breadfruit timber of various sizes, so as to allow of their tapering off at each end. Many of these pieces in the centre are four and even six inches in diameter, and taper off towards each end so as to form elegant curves, which give an appearance of taste and finish to the roof.
As in canoe-building, payments were made at different times and under different designations, (1) O le taunga. the first payment, was made on summoning the workmen. (2) O le oloa was paid when the centre-post, ridge-pole, &c., were erected, and usually consisted of two mats, the one valuable, the other inferior. (3) O le sa was given when the sides were finished, and was divided into seven portions, each having a distinctive name, which, as they illustrate a curious custom in house-building may be given in full. One portion was given for measuring, O le fuafuatanga. A second for digging holes in which to place the centre-posts, O le elengā pou. A third was for placing in position the ridge-pole, O le fa aeetanga-o-le-auau. A fourth for preparing the Fa-tunga, O le tau fatunga. A fifth for cutting the rafters straight along the eaves, O le vaenga-o-le-tulutulunga. A sixth as a covering or garment for the workmen, in payment for the time spent in cutting timber in the bush. A seventh for lashing the rafters and cross-pieces together, O le sununga-o-so'a. (4) The fourth distinct payment was given when the house was quite finished and the workmen about to leave. This was the great payment of all, and frequently several hundred mats were paid by chiefs in this final payment, besides page 157the large bundles of native cloth, to say nothing of the vast quantities of food consumed by the workmen and their families during the progress of the work.
From the foregoing, as in the case of the canoe-builders, it will be seen how completely the employers were at the mercy of the workmen, whether of house or canoe-builders-organizations which were all-powerful and fully alive to their importance, as well as ever ready to assert their dignity. No formal agreement was ever made as to the price to be paid for the work, but at intervals the remuneration was given, and if the earlier payments were not satisfactory to the workmen, they at once left the work, took their tools and their belongings with them, and went to commence work elsewhere, leaving the unfortunate owner with his house half finished, and under a ban it was impossible to remove, as no other builders dared undertake the work thus left. I have often seen houses standing unfinished a long time pending submission to the builder's demands, from which there was no escape. Such were the olden customs amongst the builders of Samoa fifty years ago, and such the effects of what may well be termed the trades unionism of those early days.
O le ta Tatau (tattooing) was once in high repute with the Samoans, and may well be noticed as a trade or profession, once very thriving and highly paid. It is still practised. I believe, but not to anything like the extent of former days. The fraternity of tattooers were an influential and important body, presided over by two female deities, Taema and Tilafainga, whose patronage was regarded as most important to the success of the fraternity. The operation of tattooing, page 158although most painful, was submitted to by all male on attaining the age of twelve to fifteen and upwards since it was looked upon as an initiation into the state of manhood, to shun which would be a disgrace. Women especially regarded the omission of the custom with disfavour, and freely expressed their contempt for those who failed to comply with this time-honoured custom and observance. Hence it was looked upon as an important period of life, and when a young chief was to be tattooed great preparations were made for the ceremony, and often costly presents were given to the operators. A curious custom prevailed in connexion with the initiation of a young chief to this ceremony. It was customary for a number of young lads, sons of the various Tulafale of the district in which he lived, to be operated upon with him at the same time, in order that they might share the sufferings of their chief (Tale-i-lona-tingd). These lads were not only tattooed gratis at the cost of the chief's family, but, after the distribution of property to the operators had been completed, each young lad was presented with a mat. from the young chief's family, in recognition of the sufferings he had shared with his young master during the operation. This mode of tattooing was, however, rather looked down upon and spoken of contemptuously, being called O le ta Tulafale, and the markings were often carelessly done.
From the importance attached to this observance, the gatherings at the tattooing of a young chief were often large, and the occasion of much interest, not only to the family, but to the whole district. A number of operators were summoned, and crowds from all parts page 159flocked to witness the ceremony and take part in the feasts and sports usual on such occasions. Invitations were freely given in all directions, and whilst the visitors honoured the occasion with their presence, the family and district at whose expense they were entertained spared no trouble in their welcome.
As the day for the opening ceremony drew near the operators began to assemble, accompanied, as in the case of the canoe and house-builders, by their families and assistants, the principal operators bringing with them their cases of instruments, which, when complete, were called O le Tunuma, These were made from bones, either human or animal, the former, I think, being preferred. The bones were first rubbed or ground into thin, flat pieces, and then with wonderful care and skill cut so as to resemble a beautifully made small-tooth comb, the marvel being how the workmen, with no other tools than sea-shells, could accomplish such a feat, and it was wonderful to see how regular the teeth cut by such a simple process were. The combs were afterwards neatly fastened to a small reed handle, somewhat after the manner of a native adze. These combs were of various widths, from an eighth of an inch to an inch or an inch and a half or more, ten or twelve usually forming a set, which were highly prized by the owners. In addition to these instruments the operators, provided themselves with a short stick, used in striking the comb or instrument into the skin during the operation, as also some burnt candle-nut powder, to form the pigment used in the markings.
A large shed was usually erected in the malae in which the ceremony was to be performed, and when page 160all was ready the opening scene commenced, a kind of military parade or sham fight—which was followed by the first distribution of property to the operators, this first instalment consisting of seven or eight good mats and twenty pieces of siapo.
The young chief then advanced, and, having laid himself down, the tattooers gathered around him, some holding his arms, others straining tightly the skin upon the small of his back, on which part the most skilful operator commenced the first part of the design. The instrument selected was dipped into the pigment provided, and then struck sharply into the skin by a blow from the stick, the instrument being shifted for each blow. The punctures were made rapidly, and the incisions placed as close as possible together, so that the marking might be dark, depth of colour and every part being well covered forming the chief beauty in tattooing. The comb was dipped into the lampblack as often as required, and during the interval thus occasioned an assistant wiped the blood from the punctured parts, so that the operator might proceed with his work. The operation was continued as long as the patient was able to bear the pain, some continuing the operation for several days in succession, while others were compelled to allow days to intervene before the inflammation had subsided, so as to enable the operation to be resumed. The style of tattooing in the Samoan group differed much from that in use in most other islands, the hips and thighs being the principal parts marked in Samoa.
The next day the families of the lads who had been sharers of their chief's sufferings came to receive the payment allotted to them. Property was also distributed to those connected in any way with the family of the chief, and also in recognition of the large quantities of food they had supplied to the visitors during the ceremony. This, however, went but a little way towards indemnifying them, a sense of pride and the hope of being entertained in like manner themselves at other similar gatherings making up the deficiency.
The distribution of property having been completed, nothing remained but the important ceremony of O le Lulu'unga-o-le-tatau, the sprinkling of the tattooed. The evening before this all-important ceremony—or rite, as I almost think it may be considered—was performed, the operators and attendants provided themselves with lighted torches and proceeded to the malae, where they went through a variety of motions until, at a given signal, the torches were all extinguished simultaneously. A water-bottle was then brought out and dashed to pieces in front of the newly tattooed page 164party, after which the torches were relighted and strict search made for the cork of the broken bottle. Much anxiety was felt respecting this cork, or rather plug, since, if lost, it was thought to forebode the death of one of the tattooed party.
The next day these all underwent the ceremony of Lulu'u, or sprinkling, which was performed by one of the operators taking cocoanuts and sprinkling the water over each individual of their number. After this the workmen took their leave and the company separated to their homes. The bottle of water was only broken before a chief, but the ceremony of sprinkling was performed on each one of the tattooed, whatever their rank might be. This singular custom appears to have been used, as in other cases, to remove what was considered to be a kind of sacredness attaching to those newly tattooed.
Any notice of the employments of the old Samoans would be incomplete without some reference to their treatment of the sick and the remedies they used. Although they had much sickness their remedies were few, and for the most part unreliable, notwithstanding the fact that the flora of the group included many medicinal plants and herbs of much value. In case of sickness, where the family could afford it, recourse was had to sorcery. The Taulāaitu, or anchor of the god, was summoned that he might intercede with the particular deity he represented to help them in their calamity. Sometimes relief followed the incantation used or remedies applied, but in numbers of cases the sickness terminated fatally, when all sorts of excuses were made by the Taulāaitu to account for the failure. page 165Of native doctors, strictly speaking, the best obtainable were the Tongan doctors, many of whom were found on Samoa. These men had a much better knowledge of the native herbs and plants than the Samoans themselves. Still, there were many Samoans who followed this particular employment.
The usual name for doctor in Samoan is O le Fo-ma'i, the word fo meaning 'to doctor," to apply remedies,' &c. It is also used figuratively, for ceasing to be angry, allaying irritation, &c. Another meaning given to the word is 'to rub,' i. e. gently rubbing with the hand, as in the case of rubbing the grated arrowroot pulp when preparing it for washing, in which there would seem to have been a reference to a well-known remedy amongst them for easing pain, viz. that which was termed milimili (from mili, 'to rub gently with the finger'), and lomilomi—the first being a gentle rubbing of the head or other parts of the body with the tips of the fingers to ease pain; and the other, a slight pressure or kneading, something after the manner of what is now known as massage. When used skilfully and with a soft hand, either of these remedies was most effectual in relieving pain, whether in the muscles or nerves. The soothing influence of the milimili in the case of head or face-ache, or the lomilomi in the case of over-taxed muscles, was most comforting, and must be felt to be appreciated. Gentle friction with the hand and oil was also frequently resorted to with much success; indeed, I think that in many cases these simple remedies were more successful than their efforts with herbs and simples.
Samoan diseases were many. The moisture of the page 166climate, especially in some situations, and the usual mode of living common to the Samoans rendered them susceptible to much sickness, especially diseases of the chest and lungs, from which they suffered greatly. The open nature of their dwellings, added to their exposure to the heavy night dews and night air, with the all-pervading miasma arising from the constant decay of the rank vegetation, rendered their surroundings most unhealthy, and made them susceptible to consumption in its many forms; coughs, colds, inflammation of the chest and lungs, fevers, rheumatism, pleurisy, diarrhoea, lumbago, diseases of the spine, scrofula, and many other ailments afflicting them. Under the head of children's diseases, may be noticed prurient ophthalmia, thrush, hydrocephalus, &c., whilst diseases of the skin, especially a painful kind of wart, troubled them greatly.
In addition to the remedies already described, they had many others, but of these I am unable to speak with certainty. I have been informed of instances that have come under the observation of others in which very powerful and drastic herbs and plants have been used, apparently without any idea of their caustic nature. One case came under the notice of the Rev. Samuel Ella, on Upolu, which ended fatally, to the great surprise of the native doctor who had applied the drastic remedy.
If compelled to yield the pride of place as herbalists to the Tongan doctors, the Samoans were fearless and even daring in the use of the knife in disease; whilst in the treatment of broken limbs and wounds received in battle they were often most successful. At times they effected cures under the most unlikely circumstances. From their vegetable diet as well as the constant sea page 167bathing, their flesh seemed to heal more readily than that of others, so that they often survived treatment that would have proved fatal to Europeans. Bullet-wounds, severe contusions, and broken limbs seemed to trouble them but little, unless the wound was given by a blow from a slung stone, which was often very difficult to heal; but still, such cures were often effected, although the smashing of the bone by a stone was stated to be much more difficult to cope with than an ordinary bullet-wound. Their descriptions of how wounds were treated on the battlefield often surprised me. I well remember the case of a man, who had been speared in the chest by a jagged spear, which had broken off, leaving several inches in the wound. From the jagged teeth of the spearhead it was impossible to pull it back from the wound; the only alternative, as it appeared to those around, being to force the spear-head and part of the handle through the wound and pull it out on the opposite side. This my informant declared was done; and the man recovered!
A rude kind of post-mortem examination was very commonly practised amongst the Samoans upon their own account and responsibility, there being no official to take charge of such acts, which were determined upon by the family themselves, in hope of ascertaining the cause of death and the nature of the disease that had perplexed them; and in the event of any diseased organ or extraneous growth being discovered, it was at once burnt, in hope of checking the further spread of the disease.
In the hope of relieving pain, deep lancings or cuttings were sometimes made on various parts of the body, as page 168in the event of abscess or other deep-seated pain. This was a favourite remedy for such ailments with Samoan doctors, and often most thoughtlessly practised by them: hence veins were frequently cut, to cope with which they had no sufficient remedy, so that death often ensued. On one occasion a man was brought to me from a long distance who was dying from loss of blood. He had suffered greatly from pain in the head, and a native doctor had lanced the part and cut an artery, thus causing bleeding that could not be stopped. Death seemed imminent; his coffin was prepared, and the relatives summoned; but as a last resource they decided to take the man to me, a distance of several miles, hoping that I might be able to effect a cure. I had no proper instrument, but an improvised tourniquet fortunately enabled me to stop the bleeding, and the man returned home well, thus dispensing with his coffin for that occasion. The natives generally were greatly at a loss how to act in such cases, and many consequently bled to death.
One very remarkable remedy was common to the Samoans. As in the case of the derivation of the word fomai, or doctor, that of folau, to apply ointment or other external application to a wound or sore, is interesting. It takes its name from fola, to spread out, as mats on a floor, whence folau. The same word is used for going a voyage, and also for a ship. In the case of one application of this spreading out of a remedy, viz. that of O le folau alamea, we have an ingenious remedy, as also a singular illustration of an old time cure.
Among the. many diseases that afflict the Samoans, elephantiasis is one of the worst; arms, legs, and other parts of the body being affected by it, thus causing a great deal of suffering and inconvenience to page 170those afflicted with it, especially when it attacks the internal organs of the body. Its common Samoan name, O le vaetupa, is as suggestive to a Samoan as our name is to us; tupa being the name of a species of land crab, with very large claws; hence the name vaetupa, 'crab-claw leg.' Another name for it is O le fe'efe'e, but the first given is the most common. This disease is very common amongst the Samoans, and painful as well as unsightly, yet when fully developed, in either arm or leg, many natives pursue their ordinary vocation, although sadly hampered and distressed by their deformity. One whom I knew, Fa'atau-velo, was a renowned warrior, although one of his arms was swollen to an immense size. He was a great spearman, and could throw a spear with equal precision with either the whole or diseased arm; hence his name Fa'atau-velo or 'throw a spear equally well with either hand.' An old fisherman was constantly busy with his avocation, not-withstanding his deformity. As a rule natives only suffer from this disease, but I have known Europeans, both male and female, to be afflicted with it.
1 Jer. xiii. 4, 5.