Table of Contents
Part 1: Components of Ceremony
'Epa, Apei, and Päega: Ceremonial Mats
Death and Funerals
1: COMPONENTS OF CEREMONY
their very nature, ceremonies are repetitive. They are composed of ritual
elements that are particularly meaningful to people, and the most important
of these elements appear in a wide variety of ceremonial contexts. In
Rotuman custom, for example, certain material goods'epa
(mats), and particularly apei (fine white
mats); koua (food cooked in a earth oven);
'umefe (chiefly tables); tefui
(garlands); lolo (anointing oil); and mena
(turmeric)are, or once were (in the case of mena),
components of nearly every important ceremony performed on Rotuma. To
underscore their significance, I have chosen to describe their meaning
and/or the process of producing them separately. If readers are aware
of their importance in Rotuman culture, and the work that goes into
producing them, they will better appreciate the performance of the ceremonies
certain roles are key in nearly every ceremony, such as that of mafua
(knowledgeable elder), fumarä'e (village
ceremonial leader) and chief. Mafua act
as ritual leaders who guide ceremonies through their various stages;
fumarä'e take charge of major ceremonies
conducted in their village; and chiefs lend dignity to ceremonies by
their very presence. Chiefs are central to the fabric of Rotuman society,
and to give readers a better understanding of their importance in ceremonies,
I present a section on hierarchy in Rotuman culture.
aspects of Rotuman culture essential to the performance of ceremonies
include proper etiquette and the system of counting different items.
I have chosen to present them in this section because one needs this
kind of general knowledge to conduct ceremonies properly.
In some respects, the most important cultural information concerning Rotuman ceremonies is the role that spirits were once thought to play. Many of the rituals performed at kato'aga (festival gatherings) were originally communications with ancestral spirits or high gods. I have therefore decided to include, as an appendix, an essay on Rotuman spirituality that I prepared for the World Indigenous Peoples' Conference on Education in Hilo, Hawai'i, in August 1999.