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

Lolo: Anointing Oil

Lolo (oil) for anointing the head and rubbing the body is mixed with sweet-smelling flowers. The method for making it is as follows:

After about 20 sprouting coconuts are grated into a bowl, the cream is squeezed out using shredded coconut fibres from the husk. The cream is then strained into another bowl containing petals of roses, fragrant brown flowers (such as ragkari [Aglaia sp], moskoi [Cananga odorata], honey-suckle, or gardenia) and mixed with a wooden spoon or spatula. The bowl is set out into the sun and the mixture is stirred now and then. The bowl should be covered with a leaf from an 'apea plant and brought into the house when it rains, and at night. This process continues for two more days until the cream changes to oil. People avoid touching it with their fingers because that spoils the smell. The first batch of oil, called potea, is poured into pirorogo (old-style gourd bottles) for use at functions, such as mamiag forau (anointing travellers; see Mamasa), or mamiag hafu (anointing headstone; see Höt'ak Hafu).

After another 20 sprouting coconuts are grated, the cream is squeezed out and strained, then added to the first bowl along with fresh flowers. It is placed back in the sun for several more days and stirred now and then. The last part of the oil is for daily use by the family to rub on the skin or for massage, or when mixed with turmeric, to smear on the skin, to tint the cheeks when dancing, for brides and mothers in childbirth, and to apply on cuts and skin diseases.

Today the oil is poured into clean, empty bottles and corked tightly with stoppers made from coconut husks or soft wood. Empty bottles for perfume, tomato sauce, and lemonade are commonly used as containers.

Lolo for cooking is clear oil without added flowers or herbs. Lol kapui (used for scabies or itchiness) is lolo to which ginger leaves have been added.

To Mena: Turmeric