Kato'aga: Rotuman Ceremonies

by Elizabeth K. Inia

Table of Contents


Part 1: Components of Ceremony

'Epa, Apei, and Päega: Ceremonial Mats
Koua: Earth Ovens
'Umefe: Chiefly Tables
Tefui: Garlands
Lolo: Anointing Oil
Mena: Turmeric
Mafua: Knowledgeable Elders
Fumarä'e: The Man in Charge
Etiquette and Manners
Numbers and Measurements

Part 2: Ceremonies

Death and Funerals
Birth Rituals
First Birthday
Hapagsu: Recurrence Prevention
Majau: The Power to Heal
Ag Forau: Farewell to Travellers
Mamasa: Welcoming Ceremonies
Installation of a Chief
Homage to Chiefs
Koua Puha
Ancient Marriage Rituals
Modern Marriage Customs

Rotuman Indigenous Spirituality

First Birthday

The first birthday of a baby has long been celebrated in a ceremony in which the parents prepared a päega and koua. If the child was born out of wedlock and not acknowledged by the father, the mother's parents prepared the feast. The child and an adult were seated on the päega to partake in the feast. The adult could be either a man or woman, and was usually a chief or distinguished visitor who was given the honour. Parents, grandparents, and close relatives of the child were not considered appropriate for this role, although the child's namesake (sigoa) could take the role on occasion. The child and the adult holding him or her were both presented with tefui and sprayed with perfume in the usual manner, although if the child rejected the tefui it was placed by his or her side.

The first fono was presented to the child, who was seated on the adult's lap, followed by the fono that went to the chiefs, who took their positions on either side of the päega. The mafua announced the name of the koua: "Ran fa'i te' . . ." The kava ceremony was performed, but the first cup, announced for the child, was drunk by the adult holding the child. The food prepared by the young woman serving the päega was given to the child to taste. After this, the mother or grandmother usually took the child away so the person who had been holding the child could enjoy his or her meal. As at other feasts, the chiefs present made speeches; others, such as the child's grandparents, could also speak and express their thanks to those in attendance as well as their joy at the occasion.

[Nowadays a first birthday party may include a birthday cake with a candle that the child is encouraged to blow out (usually with the adult's assistance) and western songs (such as "Happy Birthday to You") may be sung to honour the child.]

To Hapagsu: Recurrence Prevention