Meals.—The Samoans had a meal about 11 A.M., and their principal meal in the evening. At the evening meal every family was assembled; and men, women, and children all ate together. They had no tables, but seated themselves cross-legged round the circular house on mats. Each had his portion laid down before him on a bread-fruit leaf; and thus they partook, in primitive style, without knife, fork, or spoon. Should any strangers be present, due respect was shown to them by laying before them “a worthy portion.” After the meal, water to wash was handed round, and a rub on the post of the house was the usual table-napkin.
The head of the family, in taking his cup of ’ava at the commencement of the evening meal, would pour out a little of it on the ground, as a drink-offering to the gods, and, all being silent, he would utter aloud the following prayer:—
“Here is ’ava for you, O gods! Look kindly towards this family; let it prosper and increase; and let us all be kept in health. Let our plantations be productive; let fruit grow; and may there be abundance of food for us, your creatures.
“Here is ’ava
for you, our war gods! Let there be a strong and
numerous people for you in this land.
“Here is ’ava
for you, O sailing gods! Do not come on shore at
this place; but be pleased to depart along the ocean to some other
It was also very common to pray with an offering of “flaming fire,” just before the evening meal. Calling upon some one to blow up the fire and make it blaze, and begging all to be silent, a senior member of the family would pray aloud as follows:—
“This light is for you, O king and gods superior and inferior! If any of you are forgotten do not be angry, this light is for you all. Be propitious to this family; give life to all; and may your presence be prosperity. Let our children be blessed and multiplied. Remove far from us fines and sicknesses. Regard our poverty; and send us food to eat, and cloth to keep us warm. Drive away from us sailing gods, lest they come and cause disease and death. Protect this family by your presence, and may health and long life be given to us all.”
It is related of an old chief in Savaii, that one night at the evening meal he ordered a sea-crab to be reserved for his breakfast. In the night some lads of the family got up and ate it. Next morning the old man was in a great rage, rose, and said to his daughter that he was going off to commit suicide, he could bear no longer the unkindness of the family. He seized his staff and went off to the mountain, where there is a deep ravine. When he reached the edge of the precipice he called to his daughter, who had followed him, that he would jump over, and cause a storm to arise and destroy the place—and over he went. The daughter thought it was of no use to go home, and so she lay down on the edge of the ravine, and became a mountain to shut up the storm and save the people from the threatened wrath of her father.