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Libation and sacrifice in the Samoan ‘ava ceremony

This presentation is an analysis of Samoan oral stories connected to the ‘ava ceremony. These foundational stories have an important connection to the role blood sacrifice played in pre ‘ava and post ‘ava Samoa. Dr Refiti argues that the ‘ava ceremony replaced the actual killing of people in religious ceremonies that were required in former times to make sacred important communal spaces. This he shows relates to libation as an offering to the memories of the dead by spilling ‘ava on the ground as a sacrificial prayer or aso that mark and re-memorialise the past in honouring the bones of the dead and sacrificed victim. ‘Ava foundational stories also provide us with clues that the ‘ava plant was brought to Samoa by brothers from Fiti (Fiji) and later the ‘ava ceremony as we know it today was brought to Samoa by the Tagaloa clan which included the aumaga (kava chewers), the tauaga strainer and the use of the taupou (village maiden) as the stand-in for the old priest to distribute the ‘ava. The roles of the aumaga and taupou mirror that of the sacrificer and sacrificial victim. Sacrifice and the ‘ava ceremony, Dr Refiti I contends, was required to mark, command and bring the passage of time and space to a stop so that people and roles can be redistributed allowing the community to grow and extend (tupu). The main role of sacrifice, as Valeri states, is “the transformation of the community from a lesser state which is indexed by disorder and pollution to a higher more complete state associated with order and purity” (Valeri, V. (1985). Kingship and Sacrifice: Ritual and society in ancient Hawaii (P. Wissing, Trans.). Chicago, ILL: University of Chicago Press).
Type of thesis
Anthropology and Pacific Studies Seminar Series
Refiti, A.L. (2017). Libation and sacrifice in the Samoan ‘ava ceremony. Paper presented at the Kava: A workshop for kava researchers and enthusiasts, Anthropology and Pacific Studies Seminar Series, The University of Waikato, April 21.
The University of Waikato
© 2017 copyright with the presenter