Volume 100 1991 > Volume 100, No. 3 > Kavaonau and the Tongan chiefs, by Aletta Biersack, p 231 - 268
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The Tongan royal kava ceremony (taumafa kava) 1 centres on the preparation of an infusion from the root of the kava plant (Piper methysticum) and climaxes in distribution and consumption of the beverage. Traditionally the kava was chewed to produce the particles from which the infusion was made, but 19th-century missionaries insisted on the kava root being pounded rather than chewed, for reasons of sanitation. 2

Titleholders receive their title in the kava ceremony of the chief authorised to appoint them. The procedure is called hingoa fakanofo, ‘to cause the name to sit’. The officiating matāpule or ceremonial attendant calls the name of the title being assumed, and the heir receives a cup of kava for the first time in the kava ceremony of the appointing chief, his overlord. Subsequently, the heir has his villagers prepare a prestation consisting of cooked food or ngāue (literally, ‘work’), kava, and koloa or women's wealth (mats and tapa cloth for the appointing chief; and these prestations are made in the context of a festival called pongipongihingoaorpongipongi 'o e hingoa (literally, ‘name morning’), which entails a kava ceremony. When a king is appointed, the royal title is the first to be called and the first cup goes to the successor (Bott, “Questions about the Taumafa Kava”, BSP13/3/30). 3 To demonstrate their abiding allegiance, the major subdivisions of the society — bundles of chiefly titles called ha'a, along with the village governed by each chief — make pongipongi prestations on separate days (Bott 1982:126–7). On display in the kava ceremony is precisely this system of titles, seating order roughly reflecting title rank.

Integral to succession, the kava ceremony becomes central to any understanding of the Tongan polity. Thus, Elizabeth Bott (1972a, 1972b), Edmund Leach (1972), and Valerio Valeri (1989) all couple the myth of the origin of kava with the myth of the origin of Tu'i Tongaship or Tongan kingship in attempting to come to terms with the ceremony. The heroine of the first is Kava'onau; the hero of the second is 'Aho'eitu, the first Tu'i Tonga.

The 'Aho'eitu myth is a simple story of fraternal rivalry. The god Tangaloa 'Eitumatupu'a descends from the sky along a toa (casuarina or ironwood) tree, “by which means intercourse was held between this lower and that upper region” (Thomas MS 1879:230). On the island of Mata'aho (‘face of day’ [p.231]; Thomas MS n.d.), 'Eitumatupu'a discovers a beautiful woman named 'Ilaheva or Va'epopua, and he has intercourse with her. She conceives and bears him a son. 'Eitumatupu'a retreats to the sky, leaving 'Ilaheva to rear - 232 'Aho'eitu. The god provides 'Ilaheva with seed and good soil, giving his earth-wife “the first yam” (Thomas MS 1879:231). According to the Wesleyan missionary John Thomas, the yam and the “good soil” are “viewed as favours from the good of the sky” (p.231).

When 'Aho'eitu matures, he asks his mother who his father is and where he can find him. His mother tells him to climb the toa tree. Ascending “by way of the tree . . . his father had travelled” (p.231), 'Aho'eitu arrives in the sky (langi) and tells his father who he is. His father is delighted to meet him. Not so 'Aho'eitu's patrilateral half-brothers, who see him as a rival. Observing the praise his beauty draws (in some accounts 'Aho'eitu also exhibits extraordinary athletic skills as well), 'Aho'eitu's older brothers resent his claim to being their half-brother (p.232; Thomas MS n.d.). They tear him apart and cook and eat all of him except for his bones and his head, which is tossed into a hoi bush (Dioscorea bulbiferum [Churchward 1959:227]). “This caused one kind of hoi [wild yam (p.227)] to become bitter. There is another kind that is sweet. The bitter kind became so because Ahoeitu's head was thrown into it. That kind of hoi is not eaten because it is poisonous” (Gifford 1924:40).

Suspecting what they have done, the father summons his older sons and orders them to vomit into a kwnete (or large wooden) bowl. (Nowadays the kumete is used for lower status kava ceremonies.) The bones of the deceased boy and his head are added to this conglomeration, and water is poured in and special medicinal leaves are laid over the mixture. As time passes, the solids coagulate and the body reforms. 'Eitumatupu'a sends the reconstituted 'Aho'eitu back to earth as the first Tu'i Tonga who has descended 'from the sky' (mei langi; Gifford 1924:42). Whether because the older brothers cannot bear to part with 'Aho'eitu (Bott, “Discussions with Queen Sālote”, BSP 25/ 1/167, 1972a:228, 1982:90; Gifford 1924:41) or because their father wants to punish them (Bott, “Discussions with Queen Sālote”, BSP 25/1/167), or perhaps for both reasons, the older brothers are sent along with 'Aho'eitu but as his subordinates. Four of the brothers are made the Tu'i Tonga's matāpule or ceremonial attendants and are called Falefā or ‘Four Houses’ (Gifford 1929:63-5). The fifth and oldest brother is made the ‘King of the Second House’ (Tu'i Faleua) rather than a matāpule and is told that, because he has murdered his brother and is “evil”, he cannot become Tu'i Tonga unless 'Aho'eitu's line dies out (Thomas MS 1879:233). To 'Aho'eitu's brothers 'Eitumatupu'a says,

“. . . go you therefore to the world, and become the servants and obey the commands of Ahoeitu. He shall be Chief, and King, to govern, but both of you abide at his disposal and obey his commands” (Thomas MS n.d.). Two of these matāpule, Matakehe and Maliepo, are appointed to guard 'Aho'eitu; the other two, Tu'iloloko and Tu'ifolaha, are designated his undertakers or his governors (Bott1982:91; Gifford1924:42). Gifford adds that 'Eitumatupu'a told the Falefā that “‘the funeral of the Tui Tonga shall be as my own funeral’” (p.42).

On the surface, the myth of the origin of kava has little in common with the 'Aho'eitu myth. A core narrative informs all versions. A high chief visits an - 233 offshore island. In many versions, this chief is the Tu'i Tonga himself, though in others the chief is a man called Lo'au (Gifford 1929:161–2). (In some versions, Lo'au is said to accompany the Tu'i Tonga or himself to be the Tu'i Tonga.) Lo'au is an enigmatic figure who appears at different times in Tongan history but always during periods of innovation (Biersack 1990a:97-99; Bott 1972a:216, 1982:92). A couple living on the island would host the visiting chief except for the fact that the island is gripped by famine and they have no feast food. In the more detailed versions, the couple intend to honour their guest by serving him a large kape or ‘giant taro’ plant (Bott 1982:93), a valued food. But either the guest rests against the plant, placing it beyond reach, or the kape is considered insufficient. (The body of a superior is taboo (tapu); whatever comes into contact with it cannot be touched by an inferior; and food associated with a superior cannot pass into the hands of an inferior [Lātūkefu 1975:7].) Either to supplement the kape or as a substitute for it, the couple decide to kill their leprous daughter Kava'onau, and serve her to the visitor. When the visitor is presented with the corpse, he refuses to eat it— in one version, the Tu'i Tonga emphatically states that he is not a cannibal (kaitangata, literally a ‘man-eater,’ ‘man’ being used in the generic sense here) (Gifford 1924:75) — and the corpse is buried instead, at the instruction of either the Tu'i Tonga or Lo'au. Out of this buried corpse eventually grow the first kava plant and sugar-cane. 4 Both are served in the kava ceremony, the sugar-cane (tō) as fono or food, thought pigs and yams may be substituted for it. 5

In more complete versions, a rat nibbles these plants — first the kava, then the sugarcane. Now the rat falls down, now it rises and runs around. First it staggers and travels in circles; then, when it has eaten the sugar-cane, it straightens its course (Tchekhoff1981:63-4; see also Bott 1982:93). Though the Tongan text Gifford published is incomplete at precisely this point (Gifford 1924:72), the English translation he supplies for this part of the story contrasts a paralysed rat with one that has recovered and is running around (p.72).

Bott's interpretation is ostensibly psychoanalytical — hence the title of her paper, “Psychoanalysis and Ceremony”. Except for a passing casual suggestion that the incident of lopping off 'Aho'eitu's head symbolises castration (Bott 1972a:230) and equally glancing attention to possible tensions between father and son (p.230), Bott's principal psychoanalytical claim is that the ceremony's symbolism is condensed in the same way that dream symbolism is condensed, so as to “release and communicate dangerous thoughts and emotions; but at the same time they disguise and transform them so that the element of danger is contained and to some extent dealt with” (pp.205–6). Bringing together titleholders and rank-ordering them, the ritual arouses envy (just as'Aho'eitu's visit to the sky aroused envy). Representing the polity as pacific and united, the ritual denies this emotion on its surface, thus providing a safe outlet for antagonistic feelings (pp.205-6; see also Leach 1972:271-2). The myth's fratricidal episode is ritually re-enacted in the preparation of the kava. The kava-chewing (and, today, the kava-pounding) so central to the rite of - 234 installation “is a symbolic repetition of psychic cannibalism, representing a desire both to get possession of the qualities of the beautiful envied brother and son and destroy him” (Bott1972a:229). She points out that, in the ritual related to this myth “ . . . the people who used to chew and now help to pound the kava, stand in the relation of ‘child’ or ‘younger brother’ to the titleholders of the main circle” (p.230). The darkest of passions thus indulged, these are purged and “good feeling” awakens (p.229). Though jealousy continues to lurk under the surface, the ritual — by celebrating the possibility that “the forces of love can be made stronger than the forces of hate” (p.229) — represses these feelings.

In general, Valerio Valeri's recent paper on the two myths avoids psychoanalyical reasoning (but see Valeri 1989:217–23) and emphasises, instead, kingship in its phrasing and constitution. His main question is political. What do the two myths in combination, given their associations with the kava ceremony as an instrument of political installation, tell us about Tongan kingship? He argues that, since the kava ceremony is the context for royal coronation, the central component of the ceremony, the preparation of the kava, re-enacts the murder, mutilation, and reconstitution of 'Aho 'eitu, which resulted in the founding of the kingdom. Unlike Bott, who envisions the cannibalisation of Vs.ho 'eitu as an attempt of his jealous brothers to partake of 'Aho 'eitu's superior qualities (Bott 1972:229), Valeri relates symbolic cannibalism to the sacrificial theme 6 of humans acquiring divine qualities through divine encompassment — that is, by being eaten.

The dismembering, devouring, vomiting and rebirth of 'Aho'eitu must . . . be seen as the metaphor of his incorporation into the divine and of his restitution in the human realm in a transformed state. This transformed state is that of ‘divine’ king — mediator between divine and human realms (Valeri 1989:224).
The kava ritual recapitulates this “sacrificial tapping of divine powers by humans . . . “ (p.224). Succession re-enacts the entire 'Aho 'eitu drama. Kava is chewed by those who are politically junior, just as 'Atm 'eitu's brothers initially devoured and encompassed him. But the chewed root is spat out, just as 'Aho 'eitu's cannibalised remains were vomited; and the beverage prepared from the root is served as he who was encompassed (cannibalised) now encompasses, ascending as overlord (p.229). The kava ceremony is, thus, a “classical rite of passage in which the movement from one role to another is mediated by a stage of dissolution, of undifferentiation that makes transformation possible” (p.229). Valeri concludes that, taken together, the two myths seem to say that “actual cannibalism is incompatible with being chief . . . , but symbolic cannibalism is necessary for it” (p.228).
How, then, does the kava rite produce its effects? How it is able to give the men sitting in the upper circle the divine authority of their titles? By representing, I would argue, some of the basic mechanisms - 235 through which authority is constituted. At the most superficial level, the rite represents the title holders' (particularly the president's) encompassment of land and people. This encompassment is symbolised by the drinking of the kava which, as an offering from the people, is a ritual symbol of them, of their work to produce the plant, and also a symbol of the land where they grow it. In a sense, then, drinking the kava is equivalent to “eating” the people and the land, a frequent metaphor for having authority over them. The authority of the title-holders is thus constituted by the people's willing subordination to them, symbolised by their offering of kava plants (Valeri 1989:226-7).

In a recent paper, George Marcus has developed the Hocartian distinction between a passive but sacred ruler and an active but less sacred one in ways that are especially applicable to Tonga. Tongan kings are “from the sky” or foreign points beyond the horizon and are therefore “stranger-kings” (Sahlins 1985:ch.3), “powerful aliens in their own society” (Marcus 1989:150). At the same time, they are people and not just gods (p.150). Ranging “ambivalently between kingly glory . . . and heroic populism . . . ” (p.155), a Polynesian chief is now “mystified symbol” (p.170), now exemplary person. Tongan kings are divine, and, in this, they are “honoured to the skies” and privileged. But they are also ideally moral and responsible human beings, benevolent despots, if despots at all (Biersack 1990a:91ff.; cf. Howard 1985:67ff., Howard 1986:23).

Because 'Aho'eitu is not merely a divine king, his legitimacy is complex. As his father's son, he is “most sacred”, but, through his mother, he is also human. This combination, and not divinity alone, earns him the title, Tu'i Tonga. After a series of incidents exposing the unsuitability of 'Aho'eitu's older and wholly divine brothers for kingship, with its moral constraints, 'Aho'eitu ascends to the Tu'i Tongaship not as oldest and most sacred brother but as youngest and also human son. In being appointed by 'Eitumatupu'a, 'Aho'eitu descends from the gods as the innocent king (cf. Valeri 1989:217, 221; 1990), the only one of his father's sons who has not violated the norms of kinship. The ‘King of the Second House’ is told explicitly that, even though he is the oldest son, he cannot be Tu'i Tonga unless 'Aho'eitu's line dies out because he did violate that law. Ideally, the king is virtuous as well as sacred, exemplary as a person and not merely divine (Marcus 1989).

Though Valeri touches upon this duality (Valeri 1989:237 ff.), he does not review the two myths in light of it. The key to relating the duality of Tongan kingship to the myths lies in exploring the theme of the rejection of cannibalism common to both. The high chief who is served Kava'onau's baked corpse refuses to eat it and either he or Lo'au tells her parents to bury it instead; and 'Aho'eitu's father rebukes his older sons for their murder, and he offers the Tu'i Tongaship to his youngest son and not to his oldest one. This rejection of cannibalism is preliminary either to the founding of the kingdom or to the establishment of the rite through which the kingdom represents and reproduces - 236 itself. The difference between actual cannibalism and its “symbolic” or “psychic” form is nothing less than the kingdom itself! The anticannibalistic motif is, therefore, crucial to understanding Tongan political values as these are symbolised in the rite through which the kingdom thus founded is reproduced.

My concerns are more mixed than those of Bott and Valeri. Here I am as much interested in the contractual relationship between the king and his people as I am in the rivalry within the elite, in the earthliness of the sanctified realm the king governs as in the divinity of the king, and in the limits of divine prerogatives and the moral entailments of kingship as in how authority is constituted. As a result, I focus upon the conditions of the god's instantiation as ruler— upon the descent of the god, as it were— and not just upon the means for divinising heirs, ascension to the throne. In the process I foreground the place of commoners in the Tongan polity (cf. Korn 1974) and the relationship between king and people through which the Tongan kingdom becomes cosmic in scope.

My principal task is to explicate why Kava'onau, a commoner and a woman, and not 'Aho'eitu dominates the kava myth and, as I shall argue, the kava ceremony. I begin with a brief recapitulation of the argument of “Tongan Exchange Structures” (Biersack 1982 [1974]), which will set the stage for my examination of the way in which the duality of kingship is embedded in the relationship between Kava'onau and the Tongan chiefs. (This argument is adumbrated in Valeri 1989:237ff.)


The complexities of the Tongan rule system have often been noted (Biersack 1982 [1974]; Bott 1981, 1982; Kaeppler 1971; Marcus 1980; Rogers 1977). In sum, there are two distinct, though complementary, status systems. One rank orders persons as persons and as they participate in kinship networks. The other orders titles within a system of titles.

Title rank is determined by order of historical emergence or precedence (Spillius, “The Fono and Other Political Assemblies”, chapter in an untitled doctoral thesis, BSP 4/4/19; on precedence, see Fox MS 1990): the more ancient the title, the more senior. Just as father outranks son and older brother outranks younger brother, “older brother” titles outrank “younger brother” titles and “father” titles outrank “son” titles (Biersack 1982:196; Bott1972a:211; Bott 1981:23–4). The word “ha'a” refers to ramifying titles and clusters of titles (Bott 1981:28–32). The history of ha'a formation — at least as 20th-century sources portray it — is represented in simplified form in Figure 1.

Since each title is associated with a block of land or tofi'a, the jurisdiction (pule or authority) of the titleholder is territorial, extending over villages, districts, islands, or the entire archipelago. Tongan chiefs exercise stewardship over land and people at varying levels of encompassment, the hierarchy culminating in a paramount (Sahlins 1958:ch. 8).

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FIGURE 1. A simplified representation of the Tongan title system (adapted from Biersack)

In this title system, the Tu'i Tonga or ‘[paramount] chief of Tonga’ has greatest precedence because he came ‘from the sky’ (mei langi). Myth anchors the title in a sky-earth axis, authority radiating out from the ‘summit’ (tumutumu) of a pyramidal system of positions. The Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua title (Figure 1) was created in the 15th century (or thereabouts; see discussion in Campbell 1982), when the Tu'i Tonga Kau'ulufonua I avenged the assassination of his father and separated “sacred” from “secular” rulership (Bott 1981:12; 1982:62–3; - 238 Collocott 1924:176–8; Gifford 1924:60–7, 1929:82–5; Kaeppler 1971:180; Valeri 1989:215–6). With this severance, the Tu'i Ha'atakalaua became the executive or administrative official, responsible in the first instance for overseeing agricultural production and guaranteeing a prestation of first-fruits tribute ('inasi; literally, ‘share, allotted portion’ [Churchward 1959:561]) to the Tu'i Tonga. The Tu'i Tonga in turn, as a purely religious figure, represented Hikule'o, the god or goddess6 of fertility and harvest (Gifford 1929:289, 345; Lātūkefu 1975:8, 1980:66) and mediated the human and the divine.

This diarchy of “working” and non-“working” chiefs (Biersack 1990a; Valeri 1989:232ff., 1990; cf. Valeri 1991) resulted in a division between Kauhala'uta (or group of titles associated with the bush side of the road) and Kauhalalalo (or group of titles associated with the lower side of the road), the one signifying the Tu'i Tonga and all the titles directly subordinate to him, the other, at least initially, the Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua and all the titles directly subordinate to him (Bott 1981:12, 1982:79–80, Kaeppler 1971:181–5). Below the “working” chief were other “working” chiefs — holders of “younger brother” and “son” titles — who owed tribute to their “older brother” or “father”; some of this tribute was then channelled upward as 'inasi tribute to the Tu'i Tonga (Bott 1982:113). This distinction between working and nonworking chief, the one less sacred than the other, parallels Hocart's distinction between a passive sacred ruler and an active but less sacred ruler (Hocart 1970:164; Valeri 1989:235).

The sixth Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua made one of his younger sons Tu'i Kanokupolu and sent him to the western end of the main island, Tongatapu (Bott 1981:13, 1982:113). The sons of the first Tu'i Kanokupolu eventually acquired their own titles, forming a new cluster or ha'a called the Ha'a Ngata Motu'a. Subordinate to the Tu'i Kanokupolu, these were responsible for helping the Tu'i Kanokupolu accumulate first-fruits tribute for the Tu'i Tonga; they also supported the Tu'i Kanokupolu in war and guarded and protected him at all other times. Their duties included regulating the Tu'i Kanokupolu's kava ceremony (Bott 1981:120–1), a fact which the following account substantiates in some detail. Eventually, the Tu'i Kanokupolu displaced the Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua as the principal “working chief” (pp.113–4, 117, 130ff.).

In the 19th century the Tu'i Kanokupolu Tāufa'āhau created a constitutional monarchy that blended foreign and indigenous forms, the tu'i of old becoming the nōipele of today (Marcus 1980). Founding the present royal dynasty, Tāufa'āhau became King George Tupou I, the first Tupou monarch. Until the present day, the Tupou dynasty has produced four monarchs, each of whom has also held the Tu'i Kanokupolu title. The last Tu'i Tonga died in 1865, and no successor has been named. Similarly, the Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua title has been vacant since 1799, when the last titleholder died (Campbell 1982). Today, other titles serve as surrogates for these. The Kalaniuvalu title appointed in 1875 is now the ranking title of the entire Kauhala'uta while the Tungī title (also created in 1875) represents the Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua title (Bott 1982:115; - 239 Kaeppler 1971:180; Marcus 1980:36) as the ‘head’ ('ulu) of the Ha'a Takalaua (Collocott 1927:25; see Fig. 1).

In contrast with this system of impersonal title rank through which chiefly pule or authority is hierarchically distributed, there is also a system of personal rank determined by sex. In this system of personal rank, and even though older brother and older brother's children outrank younger brother and younger brother's children, a sister outranks all brothers, the sister being 'eiki, high or ‘chiefly’, to the brother, who is tu'a or ‘low’. “Sisters have a right to be respected by their brothers and a right to ask them for food and support . . .” (Bott 1982:58). Though sisters do not exercise pule or authority over their brothers, they and their children are honoured in life-crises ceremonies involving their brothers and their brothers' children. In these ceremonies they receive the best portion of wealth and may also be the distributors of valuables (Biersack 1982:187–8; Bott 1981:17; Rogers 1977:162–8). Although sister's child ('ilamutu) may be called fahu, fahu is, strictly speaking, a ceremonial status, a “position of honour at funerals, weddings and first-year birthdays” (Bott 1981:18), and others can be fahu as well — the father's sister, for example, or a grandchild (Rogers 1977:167–8). The superiority of the fahu in just these contexts and the prerogative of the sister's child to request any of his or her mother's brother's or mother's brother's children's possessions (Kaeppler 1971:177) are familiar features of Tongan life. Additionally, the father's sister is thought to have special powers of life and death over her brothers' children (Rogers 1977:162–5).

Funerals are the occasions when the 'eiki-tu'a relationship between the sister and her children, on the one hand, and the brother and his children, on the other, is most strikingly displayed (Bott 1981:18).

Those who are ‘superior’ [or 'eiki] to the dead person exercise privileges either by sitting inside the house with the corpse or participating in the kava ring and being waited upon by those who are ‘inferior’ [or tu'a] to the dead. The latter group are called liongi, a role which is publicly demonstrated by gathering, preparing, and cooking food, and in the case of female kin who are closely related and liongi to the dead person, by letting out their long hair and wearing large, ragged mats (Rogers 1977:173; see also Bott 1982:58 and Kaeppler 1978:176).

In high chiefly funerals, where the chiefs undertaker (ha'atufunga) inters the deceased and manages mortuary celebrations, both the fahu and the undertaker prepare the corpse, the fahu being responsible for “closing the eyes, putting the limbs straight, and washing the body” (Kaeppler 1978:181). In this, the fahu, because of superior personal rank, breaches the taboo on touching the body, particularly the head, of the deceased (Rogers 1977:168); and his or her position of honour is at the head of the corpse. Liongi sit at the feet, instead (Gifford 1929:199, Kaeppler 1985:182).

At the apex of the society, the superiority of the sister and her child is - 240 expressed in the title of Tu'i Tonga Fefine or the “female paramount chief of Tonga” (Gifford 1929:79–80) and in the Tamahā or ‘sacred child’, a title conferred especially upon the oldest daughter of the Female Tu'i Tonga, fahu of the Tu'i Tonga (pp.80–2; Kaeppler 1971:183; see Fig. 1). Though the epithet “tu'i” or ‘titled chief’ was used in the case of the Tu'i Tonga's oldest sister, the Tu'i Tonga Fefine, like all sisters, exercised no pule or authority over her brother (Rogers 1977:168) but outranked him as a person. Accordingly, even though the Tu'i Tonga was the political paramount, he was obliged to show fraternal “respect” to her. “The Tui Tonga greeted the great fahu (the Tamahā) by placing her foot on his head or by touching his nose to her foot. In the presence of any of his fahu he must abstain from eating . . .” (Gifford 1929:75). He also shaved his head when the Tamahā died, to show his respect and grief (p.199).

The Configuration

In the royal kava ceremony or taumafa kava all participants are seated according to rank and function. The configuration is organised rather like a figure-8. A superior circle peaks where the ranking titleholder sits. In the royal taumafa kava, this seat is called the olovaha. An inferior circle or tou'a forms behind the kava-making personnel — the kava-maker (taukava) and his two assistants (angai-kava), who sit at the right and left of him. 7 Together with the kava bowl, these form the joint between the two circles (Fig. 2). 8

To the right and left of the olovaha are the two matāpule or ceremonial attendants, each of whom occupies a position called 'apa'apa. Only one of these officiates, the right-hand (from the perspective of the person in the olovaha position) matāpule officiating if the title is still held and the left-hand matāpule officiating after the incumbent has died and throughout the interregnum period. The undertaker matāpule is joined on the left-hand side of the superior circle by toutai or ‘navigator’ matāpule, who officiate for the first three days after the king has arrived in outlying districts such as Ha'apai or Vava'u.

This pairing of matāpule occurs at all levels of the chiefly hierarchy, and each chief in the superior circle is flanked by matāpule. “At no part of the ring do two chiefs sit together. Every chief is accompanied by his matāpule” (Collocott 1927:24). Ve'ehala described this alternating pattern of chief and matāpule in terms of figure and ground, saying that matāpule make their chiefs ‘appear’ () in the public eye.

The polarity established by the olovaha-tou'a axis distinguishes levels of status. The person who occupies the olovaha position — namely, the king, the ‘summit’ of the pyramid — is in a class by himself. Just below him are those who hold subordinate ‘younger brother’ or ‘son’ titles. The upper end of the superior circle is called the 'alofi. Divided by the olovaha, the 'alofi consists of right (to'omata'u) and left (to'ohema) sides. At the lower end of the hierarchy, the circle bends in towards the kava bowl: initially at the fasi 'alofi,

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FIGURE 2. The kava ceremony configuration (adapted from Bott 1972a:209).
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then at the fasi tapu, and finally at the fasi tou'a near the kava bowl (fasi means ‘bend’ or ‘break’ [Churchward 1959:142]) (Fig. 2). With some important exceptions shortly to be discussed, rank continues to descend as the circle approaches the kava bowl.

In contrast with the articulated positions of the upper circle, the tou'a is relatively undifferentiated. Presumably to reflect the lower status of those in it, positions in the tou'a are aggregated. Tou'a participants may hold a title, but the title is usually inferior—a ‘younger brother’ (tehina) or ‘son’ (foha) title—to the titles represented in the superior circle. Untitled tou'a participants may be junior relatives of those who sit in the superior circle, agnates but not heirs. Some tou'a positions, however, are highly articulated and marked for distinction. These include the high chiefly positions of Vaea, Kalaniuvalu (representing the Kauhala'uta [Fig. 1]), and (until the present king's installation) Tungī (representing the Tu'i Ha'atakalaua [Fig. 1]). “Chiefly”, these positions are disaggregated, set apart from the rest of the tou'a, where they garner honour (see Bott 1972a:221). Though most people sitting in the tou'a are politically inferior to those sitting in the superior circle, some are socially superior—fahu and ‘chiefly grandchildren’ (kaumokopuna 'eiki) who are able to break the taboos that otherwise obtain, and claim the food (fono) distributed to those in the superior circle. “In theory anyone can sit in the outer group . . . ” (Bott 1972a:211); and, in very large ceremonies, the tou'a may accommodate as many as 4,000 people (Spillius, “The Fono and Other Political Assemblies”, chapter in an untitled doctoral thesis, BSP 4/4/17) — in fact, “all the people of Tonga”, as Ve'ehala put it. Ve'ehala referred to those in the tou'a as ‘the people’ (kakai).

The tou'a is a “working” component of the ceremony, its members performing the tasks the officiating matāpule commands to be done. In preparation for the ceremony, tou'a participants arrive with baskets filled with the necessary utensils: coconut cups; the special cup for the king; coconut buckets filled with water; stones for pounding the kava; the mat in which the pounded kava particles are collected; and the kava strainer or fau (made from the bark of the hibiscus tree) used to remove the particles from the beverage. No person sitting in the tou'a is exempt from the obligation to participate in equipping the tou'a.

Relatively formless, the tou'a is minimally organised by its two paths, the one bringing kava-servers and others into the left side of the upper circle (from the perspective of the ranking chief) and called the ‘road of work’ (hala ngāue) or the ‘road of command’ (hala fekau) and the other, far less used, facilitating movement from the right side of the upper circle into the tou'a during the serving of the kava and called the hala tapu or ‘sacred road’.

The task of preserving the integrity of the ceremony falls to certain titles—in particular, to Ve'ehala in the left-hand fasi 'alofi and to Ata in the left-hand fasi tapu (Fig. 2) (Gifford 1929:165-6). Ata is the ranking title in the Ha'a Ngata Motu'a (p.132); and Vaea (Ha'a Havea [Fig. 1]) and Ve'ehala (Ha'a Ngata Motu'a) are Ata's inferiors. Ve'ehala and Ata (both of the Ha'a Ngata - 243 Motu'a) are both called le'o kava or ‘guardian of the kava’ — an apt designation, for they oversee the performance in all its particulars. Ata serves as guardian when the royal kava ceremony is held on Tongatapu and otherwise has the pule 'a e fonua or pule fonua, the ‘governance of the land’, assuming responsibility for “all things pertaining to the welfare of the king” (Collocott 1927:25; cf. Gifford 1929:165). Ve'ehala has the pule 'a e folau or pule folau, the ‘governance of the journey’ (Bott 1982:124), and he is the guardian of the kava when the ceremony is held abroad. These guardians oversee seating arrangements in the superior circle, and they also place the tou'a under surveillance, a labour which Vaea, the ‘tou'a chief’ (tou'a 'eiki), shares. In the right-hand fasi tapu sits Vaha'i, a title that, though originally associated with another ha'a, now belongs to the Ha'a Ngata Motu'a (Collocott 1927:25; Gifford 1929:166, 167). If a mistake is made, either Ata or Ve'ehala (whichever is the guardian of the kava for the occasion) signals Vaha'i, who orders the error to be corrected (Ve 'ehala, personal communication). In these functions, Ata and Ve'ehala, along with their messenger Vaha'i, represent the pule or authority of the king as much as the officiating matāpule (‘the face of authority’) does.

The ceremony is organised simply around the commands of the officiating matāpule and the responses to these by members of the tou'a as well as by the kava-maker and the angai-kava. The initial command asks that ‘someone come forward’ (taka tu'u mai) out of the tou'a. Then the person who has stepped forward is ordered to perform a task. When the command is carried out, either the officiating matāpule, the respondent, or the angai-kava says “It is done” (“Kuo lava”); and another command is given. People seated in the tou'a volunteer to assume the ‘duties’ (fatongia) thus assigned by stepping forward. The angai-kava and the kava-maker also respond to command, but these remain seated in performing their tasks.

In effect, the chiefs of the Ha'a Ngata Motu'a — Ve'ehala, Ata, and Vaha'i — together with Vaea, the tou'a chief, guarantee the olovaha-tou'a axis. In assuming this assignment, they also choose some of the principal ceremonial personnel. The kava-maker and angai-kava are either from the Ha'a Ngata Motu'a or are chosen by the Ha'a Ngata Motu'a (Queen Sālote, “Ko e Kava”, in “Ko e Ngaahi Me'a mei he Tohi 'a 'Ene 'Afio”, BSP 11/6/35); the tou'a is fringed with people from the Ha'a Ngata Motu'a (Bott, “Taumafa Kava on the Occasion of the Pongipongi of Valu and Tongotea, for Filming”, BSP 13/6/13; see Kaeppler 1985:97); and the tehina and foha titles of the Kauhalalalo, in particular, fill the tou'a (Bott 1982:124). The Ha'a Ngata Motu'a also names the six or seven kava-servers. 9

Synopsis of the Ceremony

In all formal kava ceremonies, presentations of kava and fono or food (possibly sugar-cane; alternatively, cooked food, roasted pigs and earth-ovens ['umu] of food presented in baskets) are made. The donors are the chiefs - 244 themselves, conduits (today as in the past) of the surpluses generated by villagers on behalf of their superiors. These prestations are made before the olovaha position is occupied, parties of workers arriving with yams, pigs, kava roots, and/or sugar-cane. As these offerings are brought in, those in the upper circle take their seats under the surveillance of the officiating matāpule and the kava guardians, who make sure that people sit where they should. Although some may already have sat in the tou'a during this period, the tou'a has not yet fully formed, and many tou'a participants linger in the shade as long as they can. A person never takes shelter from the rain or the sun in the presence of a superior, and, once the ceremony begins, only the olovaha position will be fully shaded. In this preliminary stage, the ngāue or cooked food and kava are brought in; “. . . the ceremony does not appear to be taboo . . . . The Queen [Queen Sālote, the third Tupou] has not yet taken her seat” (Bott, “Questions about the Taumafa Kava”, BSP 13/3/20). However, once the olovaha has been occupied, movement within the inner circle becomes restricted. Then the first commands are issued.

The opening commands ask that the prestations be ordered, lifted, displayed to the king, and counted (Collocott 1927:26). After each category of gift is counted (in a large kava ceremony, many different kinds of kava, pigs, and baskets will be given), the officiating matāpule chants “fakafeta'i” “thank you” (using the high-chiefly language), a sentiment all of the matāpule on the officiator's side echo. Then the nonofficiating matāpule chants “ fakafeta'i” and, likewise, is echoed by the matāpule on his side of the circle. After the fono is presented, counted, and cleared, it is time to prepare the kava; and at this point the officiating matāpule orders the tou'a to be ‘made good’ (fakalelei) (p.26). Tou'a participants who have remained outside, enjoying their last bit of shade, now sit in the tou'a.

The officiating matāpule orders a kava root to be placed before the kavamaker. He then requests that someone come out of the tou'a (“Taka tu'u mai”) to cut the kava root. Only the middle section is prepared (Ve'ehala, personal communication). This is called the tu'ungauho, tu'unga meaning “position [fig.], status, rank, or standard; foundation, basis, or [fig.] reason, ground, justification” (Churchward 1959:520) and uho meaning ‘pith’, ‘core’, or ‘navel cord’ (p.524). The two side sections (konga or ‘fragment’ [p.272]) are reserved and distributed later. The tu'ungauho is then broken down and pounded using a large flat stone and small, round pounding stones — equipment that had been placed in the tou'a before the ceremony began. According to Ve'ehala, the kava-maker and the two angai-kava pound the root, the first slowly and gracefully and the other two with unstylised movements (see Kaeppler 1985:99).

Pails of water and coconut-buckets have also been placed in the tou'a, and filled coconut-buckets are now passed forward to the two angai-kava. In this, as in most parts of the ceremony, speech and action are minimal. Collocott's description of this segment of the ceremony suggests something of the austerity - 245 of the ceremony as a whole.

The bowl is three-legged . . . . The mixer grasps two legs of the bowl and tilts it forward toward the [officiating] matapule, so that he may see its contents, at the same time saying, Koe kava e na'e holo, There is the kava that has been broken. Motu'apuaka [the king's righthand matāpule responds, Kuo holo; tuku atu; tu'umalie pe, kae palu. It is broken up; let go (i.e., let the bowl down on to its legs again); it is all right, knead. And at the same time he says to two men who are sitting facing him, one on either side of the bowl, Tafokikimoua, 'o'ai ha'amo vai, You two turn, and put in your water. These two men then turn inwards toward the bowl, and call for water,merely uttering the one word Vai. Water is brought and these two keep dipping it into the bowl, whilst the mixer thoroughly kneads and mixes kava and water. When the matapule sees that almost enough water has been poured in he calls Vai taha, One water, and one man ceases pouring in the water. The other goes on till he sees that there is sufficient water in the bowl, and then, whilst still allowing a trickle to run in, he turns toward the matapule, who understands the hint, and says Taofi 'ae vai; 'ai mai 'ae fau, Stop the water; put hither the strainer (Collocott 1927:27-8).

When the order to put in the fau or strainer is issued, the strainer is passed up to the kava-maker by tou'a participants; and the officiating matāpule orders the kava-maker to “Mix and squeeze” (“Palu pea fakatatau”). In very formal kava ceremonies, the process of straining the kava, highly elaborated, is itself a performance (Kaeppler 1985:99). Depending upon which kind of kava root has been chosen for the occasion, the performance is either the ‘ancient’ (tupu'a) milolua (‘double twist’) associated with the Tu'i Tonga or the more recent fakamuifonua (‘in the manner of land's tip’) associated with the Tu'i Kanokupolu (Collocott 1927:38; Gifford 1929:163). In either case, movements are slow, elegant, and quasi-balletic, like Tongan seated dances (Kaeppler 1985:108-9; Mariner 1981:336-7).

Placement of the strainer in the bowl is a signal for the formal speeches to begin. These always open with a fakataputapu prelude acknowledging the presence of important titles to honour them and, in particular, to honour the ranking chief (fakalāngilangi; see Shumway 1977). Fakataputapu are highly formulaic, and require skill and knowledge (for samples, see Collocott 1927:32-3 and Gifford 1929:40-3).

After all the speeches have been given (and possibly while the kava is still being strained), a pig and basket that have been selected from the food prestations (or a bundle of sugar-cane) are distributed very quietly to those in the superior circle (Collocott 1927:28-30; Kaeppler 1985:100; Mariner 1981:338). First, the officiating matāpule distributes to the king. Then each matāpule distributes to his own side of the circle. Whereas the matāpule cries out the names of the titles in the kava distribution, the names of most titles are never used in the distribution of fono, 10 the name of the title's right-or left-hand - 246 matāpule being called out instead. The principal chiefs of the Kauhalalalo receive fono together (Collocott 1927:29), suggesting (as their co-operation in safeguarding their “older brother's” kava ceremony also suggests) their solidarity. 11 After the fono has been distributed, those having the privilege of eating it, the kau kai fono (‘food eaters’), step forward (but without being summoned to do so) and claim the fono as theirs.

Next, the residual “fragments” of kava root are distributed (Ve'ehala, personal communication). If the right-hand matāpule is officiating, these are designated the “kava of Lauaki” or the kava of the left-hand matāpule and the pieces are distributed to a navigator matāpule (in the left-hand 'alofi) and to a representative of the Tu'i Tonga. 12 If a navigator matāpule is officiating, Motu'apuaka (the right-hand matāpule) receives one konga and a representative of the Falefā the other. If Lauaki (the left-hand matāpule ) is officiating, presumably these two receive also.

After the kava-maker has finished straining the kava, the angai-kava sitting on either the kava-maker's left (if the right-hand matāpule is officiating) or on his right (if the left-hand matāpule is officiating) side calls out to the officiating matāpule that the kava is ‘clear’ (ma'a, ‘free from dirt or impurity’ [Churchward 1959:348]). The officiating matāpule then orders the remaining kava and food to be removed. Together, these are designated the “kava of Lauaki” (or the “kava of Motu'apuaka” if Lauaki is officiating) — that is, for the nonofficiating matāpule to distribute.

The moment for distributing the kava has arrived. In response to the officiating matāpule's command, servers step out of the tou'a and stand by the kava bowl so that the kava-maker can wring the kava-drenched strainer into their cups. The cup is then carried to the location of the last named titleholder. According to Mariner (Martin 1981:332), the order of service is a more reliable index of relative rank than seating position. The king is nowadays served first and the Tu'i Pelehake second. Each of these receives his own cup, and no one else can be served with these cups. With the exception of the Tu'i Pelehake, all chiefs, including the king, clap just once, receive their cup with both hands, drain it, and place it on the ground for the server to recover.

The Taboos and Sanctity

The taboos make the kava ceremony sacred, Ve'ehala told me. “You can't move around freely; you have to move according to this or that; there are regulations.” He illustrated the severity of the taboos with an anecdote about a person who had suffered a heart attack during a royal kava ceremony. So as not to disrupt the ceremony, someone sitting in the tou'a a travelled inconspicuously outside the superior circle, where no taboos obtain, to the stricken man and took him to the hospital.

Except for the officiating matāpule, participants in the ceremony continue to sit unless they stand to respond to a command. Their fakata'ane position — - 247 “knees widely extended, flat on ground, feet folded beneath legs, body inclined forward, elbows across upper legs, hands near laps, left hand taking care of lower garment ...” (Gifford 1929:158)—dramatises the participants' political posture as subjects. In a village meeting or kava ceremony, “a commoner could be killed for shifting to the slightest degree from this position” (p.158). Proud of the sacrifice entailed, Ve'ehala emphasised the hardship of sitting in this position for any length of time, particularly over the several hours' duration of a royal kava ceremony. “It's very hard to sit cross-legged that long.”

Speaking is also regulated. The kava and fono or food are presented in a festive mood, work-chants being sung (tau 'a'alo; see Kaeppler 1985:95-6). However, once the ceremony starts, the only sound, apart from the speechmakers' voices, is that of the officiating matāpule's voice and occasionally the voice of someone at the tou'a end indicating the completion of a command. The kavamaker signals to the olovaha through stylised movements and by lifting the kava bowl and displaying the contents; those presenting food tilt the baskets and pigs towards the olovaha in silence. The same is true of the chiefs, who (unless they give a speech) make but a single noise, the sound of the clap that summons the kava-server to their place. The kava ceremony is stylistically austere, the script skeletal. Whatever the embellishments — the chiefs' speeches, for example, or the kava-maker's performance in straining the kava — these function to honour the ranking chief; they are not ornamentation for ornamentation's sake.

The more taboos, the greater the constraints upon action and speech, the more sacred the ceremony. The Tu'i Tonga's kava ceremony, the ‘most sacred’ (toputapu) of all, was supposed to have been slower, while that of the Tu'i Kanokupolu's was faster. Moreover, whereas punishing a breach of taboos in the Tu'i Kanokupolu's ceremony was permitted, it was prohibited in the Tu'i Tonga's kava ceremony, where there were no “hard” movements (Ve'ehala, personal communication; see Gifford 1929:161). Though round, the tāno'a or kava bowl has two distinct sides. On the one side is a raised, perforated block called the taunga (p.161). When the bowl is not in use, it is suspended from the ceiling by a rope (kafa) that passes through the hole. In the Tu'i Tonga's kava ceremony, the side to which the rope is attached faced the position the Tu'i Tonga occupied, the outstretched rope bifurcating the circle along the ritual's principal axis. 13 Since there is a taboo on walking across this rope, kava-servers must restrict their movement to the right- or left-hand side. In the Tu'i Tonga kava circle, there were two kava-servers only, one for each side of the upper circle (p.160). By contrast, in the Tu'i Kanokupolu's kava ritual (as well as in all other chiefly kava circles), the opposite side of the bowl is turned towards the presiding chief, the rope is not drawn out, and movement across right and left halves of the superior circle is allowed. But, then, the king's kava ceremony is not as sacred. Speech, too, is regulated, and there is precious little of it. In the Tu'i Tonga's kava ceremony, the Tu'i Tonga's name was not called out before a cup was delivered to him and he received the cup without - 248 clapping (Collocott 1927:41).

Kava's effect as a narcotic no doubt bears on the ritual's fetishisation of immobility. Kava's potency was even greater in the precontact era, when it was chewed. The resulting infusion created “a soporific effect. and [induced] sleep . . . . In case of overindulgence, a lack of coordination of leg muscles, tending to impede walking, was said to have occurred” (Ferndon 1987:52, see also pp.53-4; Brunton 1990:5-6). During a royal kava ceremony today, the country itself is crippled. Just as planes may fly neither in nor out of Tonga on Sunday, today's taboo day par excellence, roads are closed during a taumafakava until the ceremony has drawn to a close. “All of Tonga” is immobilised.

'A ho 'eitu's Brothers

The fraternal rivalry that is thematic to the 'Aho'eitu myth is a regular feature of Tongan social and political life; and Tongan history is in large measure a chronicle of it. As Bott has written:

In the traditional system there was a strong ideology that brothers could support older brothers. In fact, sons of the same father and patrilateral parallel cousins were often in competition for political power. This rivalry was particularly strong when brothers of the same father had different mothers [as in the myth of the first Tu'i Tonga above]. . . . As [Garth] Rogers notes, brothers who had the same father but different mothers were called uho tau, literally “fighting brothers” (uho meaning “umbilical cord” and tau meaning “fight”), whereas brothers who had the same mother but different fathers were called uho taha, “of one cord”, and were unlikely to compete with each other directly for titles and political power (Bott 1981:17, see also p.12; Rogers 1977:171-3).

Queen Sālote's Motu'apuaka, the right-hand matāpule, explained the meaning of the word pangai, the ceremonial ground on which the taumafakava is held, in this way. Pangai, he wrote, refers to shields that are standing facing each other (Motu 'apuaka, “The Tu'i Kanokupolus. Ngata”, in 'Tohi 'a Motu 'apuaka”, BSP 12/1/7). The configuration of the upper circle signifies the support and protection the chiefs seated in it afford the monarch and their “true fellowship” (BSP 12/1/7). The pairing principle so evident in the kava circle—from the two 'apa'apa positions flanking the olovaha to the association of the kava guardian on one side of the circle with Vaha'i on the other to the two angai-kava a flanking the kava-maker (Fig. 2)—represents a predisposition towards martial partnership, an alliance against a common enemy in the name of a shared leader (the presiding chief) and, by the same token, a rejection of sedition and usurpation, even (as sometimes has been the case in Tongan history) assassination (Biersack 1990). Tongan protocol requires sitting in the presence of a superior, lest the head of an inferior rise above that of a superior. The olovaha position is occupied last because only the person in it can stand - 249 in the presence of the rest of those assembled. Thus, “No chief came to the kava party of an inferior, or, if any extraordinary circumstance was to make this necessary, the inferior would be obliged to retire to his own exterior circle, and the superior visitor would preside” (Mariner 1981:341). Sitting in an upper circle before the olovaha is filled — indeed, sitting anywhere within the configuration other than the olovaha—is an act of obeisance. Subordination to an overlord is dramatised especially at installation, when receiving a cup implies recognition of the right to appoint. As a system of positions representing titles in an overarching ha'a scheme, the upper circle of the kava ceremony is an icon of agnatic solidarity. Pairing (partnership) constructs the upper circle as an agnatic totality of left and right.

Valeri asks, “ . . . what does the rite represent for the junior relatives of the chief . . . ?” (1989:230); and he answers, “The rite is . . . an act of allegiance to their seniors, all the more eloquent because it takes the form of a renunciation of acquiring that authority for themselves” (p.230). This is essentially the commitment the murderous “King of the Second House” was asked to make in descending to earth as 'Aho'eitu's subaltern despite his seniority. All chiefs — whether in the 'alofi, the fasi, or the tou'a—are reformed instantiations of their forebears. Kava is the antidote to the poison which 'Aho'eitu's decapitated head, tossed into the hoi bush, spawned: the poison of jealousy and fratricidal intent (Bott 1972a:230-1; Leach 1972:261, 271; Valeri 1989:230-1).

Contract and the Rejection of Cannibalism

Discussing the kava ritual with Bott, Queen Sālote insisted upon the wide-ranging significance of the sacrificial motif. “When the late Queen was reflecting on this myth she said it expressed the mutual sacrifice and understanding between ruler and subjects that was essential to keep Tonga united and strong. It was this mutual sacrifice and understanding the kava ceremony was commemorating” (Bott 1972a:226).

Sione Lātūkefu lists duty (fatongia) as a core Tongan value:

Good citizenship was marked by the way one performed one's fatongia ‘obligations.’ Members of each social class knew his or her fatongia to other members of his class and to the members of other classes, particularly those of higher status. The fatongia involved obedience and, at times, sacrifices. . . . the people performed their fatongia to [the chief] by working his garden, providing him with the best of everything they produced or possessed and attending to whatever he might want them to do (1980:65).

In responding to the commands that emanate from the olovaha, the members of the tou'a are performing their ‘duties’ to an overlord. Participants may even call attention to their readiness to serve, as suggested by the account of water-fetching which Collocott provides: - 250

The water was brought from a tank, or other supply, at a little distance; and presently there was a crowd of runners, going and coming, between the water supply and the kava-bowl. None brought much at a time. Anyone who had a large container contrived to spill a considerable amount of the water he was carrying before he reached the bowl. . . .
The explanation given of this custom is that it is to show how large a number of people are eager to fly in the service of the king (Collocott 1927:40).

Yet chiefs, too, have their obligations. “The chief's obligations were to protect the group from outside interference or attack, to settle their disputes and to provide conditions under which his people would work and enjoy peace and prosperity”. Subordinate chiefs have the “second fatongia”(BSP 11/2/1). They supervise agriculture by instructing villagers when and how much to sow and reap of various crops (Bott 1982:71).

The chief told his people what to plant and when. He informed them when contributions of food were needed, when a tapu was to be placed on certain foods so that they would have time to mature, when he needed labour for building his house or helping a senior chief or the king from whom his title and position were derived. He gave his orders in the fono ‘meeting’ in which he addressed his people. There was no discussion in the fono; the people sat with bowed heads listening to what their duties [fatongia] would be (Bott1982:71; see also Gifford 1929:98).

Chiefs are mandated to look after ‘the people’ (kakai) and the ‘land’ (kelekele) (Ve'ehala, personal communication). Some of the surpluses thus generated were sent up as tribute. Finally, at the “third” level of ‘duty’, ‘the people’ cultivate the soil, acknowledging their dependency and gratitude for resources, “judicial services” (Lātūkefu 1975:9) and protection in times of both war and peace when it comes. Whether as 'inasi tributes to the Tu'i Tonga or as polopolo tributes to secondary chiefs and today the king, ‘the people’ offer the ‘fruits of their hands’ (fua 'o honau nima) (Tupou Posesi Fanua, personal communication), participating in projects organised at the familial, village, and national levels.

But for Queen Sālote the “first” duty was the monarch's:

According to custom, the fatongia of the King is to supervise, administer, lead [angi] and to exhort the people to work the land. . . To discuss and invent methods to protect the people in times of war. . . . He looks after the people (Queen Sālote, “Ko e Ngaahi Fatongia Kehekehe”, in “Ko e Ngaahi Me'amei he Tohi 'a 'Ene 'Afio”, BSP 11/2/1; see also Bott 1982:71).

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The theme of regal or chiefly duty as sacrifice was central to Her Majesty's understanding of public life. In the material she prepared for, with, and through Bott from 1958 to 1960, Queen Sālote returned to this theme again and again. The thought that chiefs in effect, at least the good ones, give their lives to serve ‘the people’ was never far from her mind. Often in this context, Her Majesty would allude to elite cross-cousin marriage—a marrying for reasons of ‘duty’ (fatongia) rather than romance (Gifford 1929:189)—through which the “sides” of the ha'a system were integrated and chiefly relationships rendered amicable. Thus were “the bodies and the blood of the chiefs” sacrificed for the common good (Queen Sālote, “Ko e Ngaahi Ha'a'o Tonga”, in “Ko e Ngaahi Me'amei he Tohi 'a 'Ene 'Afio”, BSP 11/2/1).

Lātūkefu summarises the fatongia system, top to bottom, in the following terms:

At its best the whole fatongia relationship was governed by the principle of reciprocity. The royal dynasties had similar fatongia to the whole country, the chiefs had to their own groups, and the chiefs and people brought tribute to the royalty (pp.65-6).

The Kava'onau myth explicitly links the obligation to serve a superior with the reciprocal responsibilities of chiefly paternalism. The word for ‘loyalty’, mateaki, means ‘to be loyal’ but also ‘to be ready to die (if need be) for one's leader or party’ (Churchward 1959:344); and, along with fatongia, Lātūkefu lists mateaki or loyalty as a core Tongan value (1980:66). Kava'onau and her parents made the supreme sacrifice. To honour the illustrious visitor, Kava'onau's parents transformed a beloved daughter into an edible corpse. “The parents had to honour the Tu'i Tonga and they had nothing other than the girl to give him to eat”, Ve'ehala explained. “So they sacrificed their daughter to show the king that they were aware of their obligations to him. Life was sacrificed to fulfill obligations” (see also Māhina 1986:50-8). But that is not all: “. . . deeply touched by this show of loyalty” (Helu MS n.d.), the high chief refused to eat the body of his subject.

The rejection of cannibalism is the principal narrative device in the two myths for representing the contractual foundations of the Tongan polity. In the Kava'onau myth, the king refuses to exercise the prerogatives that are his by divine right and, instead, expresses remorse when his people tender him a too-costly gift. In refusing to cannibalise his subject, the king or high chief of the Kava'onau myth acknowledges moral limits to divine right, transforming “the human blood of the woman, given in sacrifice to the king”, as the matāpule Mafi Malanga put it to me, “into a sacrifice for the people” (emphasis added). Private pleasures are benevolently renounced in the name of a general good. When the king is installed, Ve'ehala said, “He is no longer a private citizen that can please himself . . . . Just as Kava'onau's life was sacrificed to start the top ceremony of Tonga, a chief's life is sacrificed to lead the people.”

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The Tongan polity centres on a pact of mutual sacrifice between leader and led in which each party relinquishes self-seeking in the name of a life of interdependency and co-operation. In exchange for Kava'onau's sacrifice, chiefs should be servants of their people (Bott, “Discussions with Queen Sālote”, BSP 25/2/286); they should ongo'i—“hear, . . . perceive . . .; be aware . . . of . . .; . . . feel for, sympathize with” (Churchward 1959:395)—their people (Ve'ehala, personal communication). Chiefs surrender their own will and their own life in taking up office. All chiefs are putative kin of their people — a chief's villagers are his kāinga or kinspeople — and vice versa (Bott 1981:89). If cannibalism symbolises boundless parasitical and ultimately homicidal privilege, the rejection of cannibalism affirms kinship's law as a law of kingship. The difference between actual cannibalism and the psychic or symbolic cannibalism of which Bott and Valeri write is the contract of mutual service and beneficence that is the moral foundation of the Tongan polity.

Since titles stand in the relationship of older and younger brother, father and son (Biersack 1982), and chiefs are, in any case, relatives of one another, both as persons and as titleholders, chiefs are also kinsmen. In the 'Aho'eitu myth, kinship is enunciated as a law of kingship twice over. 'Aho'eitu's divine father, 'Eitumatupu'a, whose voice is the authoritative one, rejects fratricide and cannibalism and insists upon the undoing of these heinous acts. The brothers are made to vomit up 'Aho'eitu's remains, and 'Aho'eitu himself is chosen as their leader. Kingship and the kingdom are founded as the older brothers take up their positions in the world below as the younger brother's loyal guardians, not his murderers. 'Aho'eitu ascends as the only brother who did not violate the canons of kinship. He also ascends as the son of an earth woman, fahu and kin of the residents of the land.

In the ongoing processes of Tongan society, kava is the pre-eminent token of peace. It may be presented as a sign of friendship and hospitality to strangers, and Captain Cook was so greeted (Williamson 1937/1975:71). A tonic for tension, kava quells anger and makes people ‘happy’ (fiefia) with one another (Ve'ehala, personal communication). Disputing parties settle their differences over a kava bowl, abstaining from drinking until an amicable solution is reached (Spillius MS n.d.:30); and a kava prestation is made when seeking forgiveness for wrongdoing (Gifford 1929:124-5). The Tongan educator, Futa Helu, observes that kava

has come to represent what is noble and peace-loving in Tongan society. If a feud between two families has been disrupting the peace and harmony of a particular locality or village, if some disagreement has soured the relationships holding between two people, the traditional and best way to end it is for one party to take some kava and go to the other party's house, present it, seek peace and heal the rift over a kava party (Helu MS n.d.:1).

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Suffused with kinship values, the kava ceremony depicts the peace and harmony of the order established when 'Aho'eitu's sky-brothers denounced fratricide and the first Tu'i Tonga assumed his regal responsibilities as kinsman of his chiefs and people. “. . . during the ceremony there is a strong feeling of being at harmony together in a group. As Tongans put it, ‘You do not drink kava with an enemy.’ In brief, the ceremony says, ‘We are all united’ . . .” (Bott 1972a:225).

Death and Transfiguration

Growing out of a corpse, kava signifies a transcendent (posthumous) mode of existence, one in which pule or authority is vested (cf. Sahlins 1985:96-97; Valeri 1989:217-8). The theme of death and transfiguration is figured spatially and temporally in the act of succession. When an incumbent dies, the left-hand matāpule officiates as the heir apparent assumes the position of honour before actually being installed. When a king dies, several kava ceremonies occur. These memorialise the deceased and betoken allegiance to the heir (Kaeppler 1978:187). The left-hand matāpule continues to officiate until mourning ends, when the placement of small, volcanic stones (kilikili) on the grave finalises burial (Gifford 1929:168-70; Kaeppler 1978:191-2). The end of the left-hand matāpule's service is thereby signalled, and the ceremony is reoriented towards the other side (Gifford 1929:168; Kaeppler 1985:191-2) as the right-hand matāpule officiates at the royal installation.

Even while the titleholder is still alive, the left-hand side has a passive presence as the suppressed side. One of the kava root fragments is distributed to a matāpule on the left-hand side; the fragments, along with all unused kava and food, are distributed to the nonofficiating matāpule to dispense with as he pleases and by way of acknowledging his services at other moments of the kava cycle (Ve'ehala, personal communication); and the nonofficiating matāpule receives one of the first cups (Bott, “Interview with the King 2.3.67”, BSP 1/8/2). This presence of the left-hand side is given recognition at the outset in a set argument (tālanga) concerning which of the two matāpule has the right to officiate (Motu'apuaka, “The Tu'i Kanokupolus. Ngata”, in “Tohi 'a Motu'apuaka”, BSP 12/1/12). In the Tu'i Tonga's kava ceremony, the presence of the nonofficiating side was underscored by the kava bowl rope, which, when extended towards the Tu'i Tonga, bifurcated the superior circle.

Since “the inferior ring is generally composed of the sons of those chiefs and matabooles . . . who are persons situated in the superior or true ring . . .” (Mariner 1981:333), succession involves a transposition not only from left to right but also from the inferior to the superior circle. The polarities of left and right, tou'a and olovaha, thus, define the rhythmic boundaries of a single cycle: incumbency, death, burial, and succession as a regeneration and politicisation of life. Viewed cyclically, the kava ritual enacts death as renewed life by embedding one cycle — the life cycle — within another — the cycle of succession. Signifying this embedding, interment, not cannibalism, is the - 254 condition of receiving divine powers. Thus, the Tu'i Tonga's tomb was called langi (Gifford1929:77), as was the Tu'i Tonga himself (p.77); and 'Eitumatupu'a told the Falefā that “‘the funeral of the Tui Tonga shall be as my own funeral’” (Gifford 1924:42), presumably a funeral commemorating and creating divine immortality. Bodies or body parts that are not interred — Kava'onau's live body, for example, or the head of the cannibalised 'Aho'eitu — are diseased or diseasing, malignant rather than benign. Arguably, the rat's cycle — first nibbling kava and losing motor control or consciousness, then chewing sugarcane and reviving — reflects the same death-and-transfiguration cycle through which natural, mortal life is embedded within political, transcendent life. In this regard, even though the symbolism of death and interment is common to both the “classic” rite (Turner 1967) and the kava cycle, the ceremony departs from the “classic” rite of passage in effecting a transition across cycles rather than within a single cycle.

Since it is Kava'onau's uneaten corpse that is interred, the condition of interment is the rejection of cannibalism whereby kinship values are politicised. The same is true of 'Aho'eitu, whose father punishes his older brothers for their fratricide and cannibalism by making 'Aho'eitu and not one of them the first Tu'i Tonga. 'Aho'eitu is symbolically buried — his flesh, bones, and head are assembled within a kava bowl — and re-membered as the inaugural king of a well-ordered, moral, and pacific kingdom founded upon a renunciation of violence and a corresponding avowal of kinship. Whether the body is 'Aho'eitu's or Kava'onau's, the transmuted corpse and the kava bowl with which each is associated — that is, masticated kava and not cannibalised flesh — become metonyms of the entire political system and its core values. Liquid and not solid, bitter but not poisonous, kava symbolises a general rejection of cannibalism and violence in the name of a pacific, albeit hierarchical, political order.

Tongans themselves oppose the impersonal rank of the title and the authority or pule associated with it, on the one hand, to personal rank, on the other, as ‘garland’ (kakala) to ‘blood’ (toto) or ‘body’ (sino) rank (Biersack in press; Bott 1981:38). ‘Blood’ or ‘body’ rank is essential, ‘garland’ or title rank is accidental (Bott 1981:38). ‘Garland’ rank “can be taken away whereas ‘blood’ (toto) is one's own for ever” (p.38; see also p.19). The one kind of rank is ephemeral, the other permanent. “All the many holders of the title Vaea [the ranking title of the Ha'a Havea; see Fig. 1], for example, are in a sense felt to be the same person. Hence we [together with James Spillius, Bott's then husband] heard such statements as ‘Yes, 1852. That was the year when I fought Taufa'ahau’” (Bott 1981:23; see also Bott 1982:67). “Men may come and go”, Ve'ehala told me, “but the title remains”. He added, “Bodies [sino] can be changed, but the title remains forever . . . . I'll die, but another person will hā, ‘appear’.” Shifting out of the tou'a into the olovaha, heirs are transmuted from one kind of existence to another: from a life that is private, personal, and mortal to a life that is public, impersonal, and immortal.

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All versions of the Kava'onau myth anchor kava in the corpse, implicitly explaining the physical appearance of the plant through its leprous origins. “Tongans say that the origin of the kava from the leprous girl explains some of its properties. The shoots of the kava plant grow, split, and become limey and grey like the skin of a leper” (Bott 1972a:216). Queen Sālote emphasised that it was this derivation of kava that made it toputapu or most sacred. “. . . the source of the sacredness of the kava is that it grew from the body of a human . . .” (Queen Sālote, “Ko e Kava”, in “Ko e Ngaahi Me'amei he Tohi 'a 'Ene 'Afio”, BSP 11/6/32). Since chiefly installation occurs in a kava ceremony, however, kava is symbolically associated with public life itself. In being chewed (and nowadays pounded), kava's original material form (Kava'onau's leprous body) is destroyed as the plant is pulverised and transformed into a distillate that, in its life-giving powers, is the very antithesis of the diseased and dead body out of which it grows. Through the elaborate choreography of the kava-maker's performance, one kind of life is symbolically transformed into another. The kava is made ‘clear’ or ‘pure’ (ma'a): free of the corpse-like dross of mere mortal existence (cf. Bott 1972a:213).

The two-sided kava bowl is a condensed symbol of this transformation. Ve'ehala told me that the olovaha is called fofongapo'uli or ‘blind eyes’ and is associated with Kava'onau and her death. Opposite the olovaha is the hanger from which the kava bowl is suspended when it is not in use. Queen Sālote explained the symbolism of the hanger by saying that the ‘land’ (fonua) ‘depended upon’ (tautau; Churchward 1959:468) the Tu'i Tonga, who was associated with the side from which the bowl was hung, the taunga (Queen Sālote, “Ko e Ngaahi Fatongia Kehekehe”, in “Ko e Ngaahi Me'a he Tohi 'a 'Ene 'Afio”, BSP 11/2). In the same vein, Ve'ehala said that the Tu'i Tonga was “the hanging place of the country” and thus claimed the taunga side of the bowl. It follows that, if the olovaha represents the death of the ‘body’ (sino), the taunga represents the transfigured, public life of the ‘garland’.


From the opening moments when prestations of kava and fono or food are made, ordered, displayed, and counted, to the ritual's middle section, where kava is made while food is distributed, to the grand finale, when kava is distributed after the remainder of the fono is cleared, the entirety of the ritual centres on a contrast between kava and fono or food (Bott 1972b:278-9). This opposition is amplified through every contrivance. Kava and fono are served and consumed by different people. Food-eaters (kaukai fono) cannot also serve kava because their hands are thought to be soiled by contacting food (Ve'ehala, personal communication); and they do not drink kava. Kava-servers consume neither kava nor fono, and they cannot touch the food. Those who drink the kava do not also consume the food. 14

The relationships activated through kava and food transactions differ. Kava is given from a political superior to a political inferior, from appointing - 256 chief to the appointee. Food is given from a social inferior to a social superior. While food-eaters are sometimes identified as fahu and at other times designated ‘chiefly grandchildren’ (kau 'eiki mokopuna), 15 all accounts stipulate them as being “above the taboo” (Biersack 1982:188). Children must observe a taboo on touching the food of their father, and subjects must avoid touching the person or food leavings of their chiefs (Mariner 1981:355; West 1865:2634). But grandchildren — especially if they are of high personal rank — are not so restricted, and neither is sister's child.

The king is too high in status to have anyone other than a foreigner take his fono, for “no Tongan can ‘please himself’ in regard to the King” (Kaeppler 1978:189); and the Tu'i Soso, the king's muli or foreigner, is said to be of Fijian origin (Collocott 1927:41). 16 The Tu'i Soso is a comic character who entertains through carnivalesque reversals that highlight the limits of the taboo system. Collocott describes the antics of the Tu'i Soso at the installation of Queen Sālote as follows:

As the Queen moved onto the mala'e [green] for her installation she was preceded by a man who ran ahead, brandishing a spear, crouching and looking around. His face was blackened, and he had the appearance of a scout or a guard; but in his performance was a strong element of burlesque. The most extraordinary part of his behaviour was during the actual kava ceremony. He was free of all tapu, and his conduct, in other circumstances, would have been shockingly offensive. He smoked, lounged, and walked close before and behind the Queen's person, and when the pig's liver was placed before her he impaled it on his spear, and ate it (pp.40-1).

In every stylistic particular, the Tu'i Soso's behaviour contrasts with the conservatism of those seated in the figure-8 configuration. Instead of being silent, the Tu'i Soso wears small nut shells around his waist and ankles that make a “musical tinkle” (Gifford 1929:94). Instead of moving slowly and in a dignified manner, he prances, darts, and lunges (p.94). Instead of keeping a respectful distance, he approaches, coming close enough to spear the monarch's fono, the pig's liver which the officiating matāpule orders to be delivered to him. And, instead of sitting before the monarch arrives, the Tu'i Soso histrionically precedes the monarch and never does take a seat but marches up and down behind the monarch and eats in his or her presence, violating all taboos restricting interaction between unequals.

Without the same theatricality, food-eaters take similar liberties. They approach their socially inferior (yet politically superior) titled relatives and take the food that has been placed before them in the fono distribution, standing in their presence; and they break the principal taboos of the ritual. “Although it is forbidden to cross into the kava circle, those taking the fono do so with impunity. Their movements are not formalised, they simply enter the circle, take the fono, and leave” (Kaeppler 1985:100). They also come forward without being - 257 summoned. They “please themselves”.

Since kava passes between titleholders in the ha'a system while fono is taken by those of superior social rank, the dichotomy of kava and fono marks the duality of status systems discussed at the outset — the one conferring differential authority or pule, the other differential personal rank (Biersack 1982:200). But it also arguably marks the duality of kingship itself. In its making and its distribution, kava is associated with the taboos that mark the sanctity of divine chiefs; fono, particularly in its distribution, is associated with a breach of these same taboos and the kinship value itself (cf. Valeri 1989:237). In this regard, it is of interest to note that the word for “kin” and “kindred”, kāinga, contains the word for “food” (kai) in it. Of the word, the queen said that it meant literally “‘the people you eat from’”; and she went on to explain that villagers are called the kāinga of their chief because they feed and support him (Bott, “Discussions with Queen Sālote”, BSP 25/1/66).

The duality of Tongan status systems rests on another: gender. Though personal rank is bilaterally determined (Bott 1981:19, Gifford 1929:113, Leach 1972:245), the blood of the mother is more important than the blood of the father; and sister and sister's children outrank brother and brother's children. Furthermore, inherited “‘chiefliness’ (sino'i 'eiki) depends on descent from kings and the sisters of kings, but particularly on descent from the Tu'i Tonga Fefine and the Tamahā” (Bott 1981: 36; see Rogers 1977:170-3). Whereas women and their children effectively dominate the contexts governed by personal rank (life crises ceremonies), “their ascendancy was supposed to be confined to the realm of rank” (Bott 1982:76). 17

The olovaha represents death because it is identified with Kava'onau. Ve'ehala pointed this out to me, even referring to the bowl as a “she” 18 because the kava root inside it symbolised a female's body. In response to my queries about this feminine association, Ve'ehala explained that “it is only from a lady's womb that something living comes; and the kava ceremony is a life-giving ceremony” (cf. Leach 1972:264). But the kava bowl has two sides and not just one. In addition to the feminine olovaha, there is the taunga. In the light of these associations, the sex of Kava'onau poses the issue of reproduction but by way of calling attention to a special masculine “fecundity”, men's ability to “cause [other men] to sit”, to make men “appear”, to rename—all accomplished through water rather than blood (cf. Sahlins 1985:97). The life that issues forth from a woman's womb is unconsecrated and it is also mortal. Only men immortalise through succession's “reproduction” of the title system (symbolised by the taunga rather than the olovaha).

The relationship between Kava'onau and the left-hand matāpule is the same as the relationship between the 'eiki or ‘chief’ of the funeral (often female) and the undertaker (always male, always [in the case of deceased titleholders] a lefthand matāpule). Stationed at the head of the corpse to signal her evasion of the taboos, the 'eiki safeguards the material remains; she douses them with perfume as high-status mourners approach and presides over the extinction of - 258 corporal life. (High-status women are important in other transitional moments of the life cycle as well [Biersack 1982].) But the 'eiki does not inter; neither does she install. The undertaker buries the corpse, embedding one kind of life in another, one cycle in another, and paving the way for the consecration of life through the regeneration of the ‘garland’ life through succession that the kava plant symbolises.

With the kava ceremony's reversion to the right-hand side at installation, the transition is complete. The kava ceremony transforms the feminine life of the body and blood into the masculine life of the title, and it does so under the aegis of the patriarch rather than the matriarch. In the ha'a system, reproduction is mediated by men, not by women: the matāpule who calls the title; the paramount who presides at the ceremony of installation; all other chiefs in the superior circle, who mediate the relationship between olovaha and tou'a; the kava-maker and his two assistants, who pound the kava root, transforming it from a representation of physical life (Kava'onau's diseased body) into a symbol of official life, the mild narcotic that immobilises and “causes [men] to sit” (cf. pp.95-7). Fahu:tapu :: rank : authority :: “body” : “garland”: :fono:kava :: female:male.

Kingdom and Cosmos

Turning on the olovaha-tou'a axis, the kava ceremony is fully initiated only with the ordering of that axis, through which all ritual tasks are performed. The occupation of the olovaha immediately formalises the ceremony. This shift is registered vocally in the greater formality of the thanksgivings of the matāpule; though thanks are initially offered without flourish, once the olovaha is occupied thanks are chanted rather than spoken. But the ceremony is not solemnised until the complementary tou'a has been ‘made good’ or ‘ordered’ (fakalelei) and the kava-maker and his two angai-kava take their seats at the kava bowl, the tou'a grouping behind them and the two roads forming.

By the same token, the ceremony is brought to a close with the dissolution of the olovaha-tou'a axis. Though the presiding matāpule receives his cup somewhere in the middle of the ceremony, he does not drain it until the very end, when the kava-maker himself receives and drains the last cup. (His cup is called the kava ta'ofi, the ‘restrained kava’, for that reason [Ve'ehala, personal communication].) The kava-maker, located at the juncture of the two circles, and the presiding matāpule, located towards the apex of the superior circle and representing the presiding chief, mark the two poles of the ceremony. Drinking the last of the kava together, the two symbolically extinguish the organising axis. Then the order to retire the tou'a (“Hiki e tou'a”) is given and the tou'a is disbanded and the kava bowl removed (Bott, “Editing Script for David Attenborough for Taumafa Kava Dec., 1959”, BSP 13/7/21).

As a female, Kava'onau represents the domain of blood, body, mortality, and kinship rank; and she does so over against the masculine world of authority, title, immortality, and ha'a rank. Positioned at one pole of the ceremony, - 259 Kava'onau totalises the kava configuration. This totality is activated ritually through the officiating matāpule, who, as the ‘face of authority’, issues the ranking chief's commands to the tou'a. In ordinary village settings, however, the totality is activated through subordinate chiefs, who represent the paramount's wishes to their villagers. Since the structure is hierarchical, the entire edifice depends upon the strength of its middle or ‘younger brother’ level. Thus, the Ha'a Ngata Motu'a — consisting of ‘younger brother’ (Bott, “Notes on the Pongipongi of Tu'i Vakanō”, BSP 13/4/15; 1982:121) or ‘son’ (Ve'ehala, personal communication) titles to the king — dominate the tou'a, which is crowded with their ‘children’; and they choose all elective key personnel. When a king is installed, “each ha'a puts in a fau ‘bark wisp strainer’, thus showing their connection with [and by implication their support of] the king” (Bott 1982:125; see also Gifford 1929:97).

Ata, as the kava guardian when the kava ceremony is performed on the main island of Tongatapu, “has the right to ha'i 'ae alofi, bind the alofi . . .” (Collocott 1927:25). This means that, “if he comes late to a kava-ring in which there is no room for him he sits apart; whereupon the chiefs stand up and spread out a little to make a place for him” (p.25). Presumably, the same is true of Ve'ehala when he is the kava guardian. Extending the metaphor, it could be said that the kava guardian ‘binds’ the hierarchy to its keystone, the olovaha, by way of guaranteeing the olovaha-tou'a axis. If the paramount can be likened to “the central rafter of a house [taufatungamotu'a] to which all the people and the land are tied” (“Ko e Ngaahi Fatongia Kehekehe”, in “Ko e Ngaahi Me'a he Tohi'a 'ene 'Afio”, BSP 11/2/1), if he takes his place in the olovaha, capping a pyramidal polity, then it is because of the supports girding his position there. Implicitly, every chief in the superior circle binds this axis, for those in the tou'a are immediately subordinate to the secondary and tertiary chiefs of the 'alofi and fasi (cf. Shore 1989:151ff.).

Viewed from one perspective, the kava ceremony celebrates the sanctity of kingship and its privileges. The king himself is the passive recipient of the highest honours; and stringent taboos are observed in the name of his divinity. But were divinity and privilege the only value celebrated in the kava ceremony, the king would not rule to begin with but would remain a remote and absent god (Biersack 1990). Not merely a god, the king is the ‘summit’ (tumutumu) of a pyramidal structure, the apex of a temporal and spatial order, overlord of the land to which he descends and ‘the people’ of the tou'a, its residents and his matrikin. In receiving a cup of kava, the king shifts from zone to zone, from tou'a to olovaha, across the kava bowl and all it signifies. In so doing, he renounces chiefly predation, fratricide, sedition, and self-seeking at the same time he becomes sanctified. Implicitly, the king is the sign of the irreducible dualism that the olovaha-tou'a axis also represents. He signifies a complex and cosmic reality; he mediates and binds sky and earth. By the same token, the tofi'a estates of chiefs, through whom royal sanctity irradiates (Fig. 1), are cosmic divisions. Binding the circle, the kava guardians and the chiefs seated - 260 in the upper circle yoke the land and all its events to the will of the sky as the god descends and becomes positionally placed within a realm that is thereby sanctified. Turning on a distinction between an immobile and divine paramount and a mobile and profane ‘working’ component — a distinction that is given succinct expression in the contrast between the halangāue (‘road of work’), on the one hand, the hala tapu [‘sacred road’] or hala fekau [‘road of command’], on the other hand [Fig. 2]) — the kava configuration is a microcosm of the kingdom-as-cosmos.

Within this kingdom-as-cosmos is unleashed a plenitude of power. Even natural events are subject to political and social causation. Out of Kava'onau's uneaten and interred corpse the first kava plant and sugar-cane grow; and 'Aho'eitu's decapitated head spawns the poisonous hoi plant. Like pule or authority, prosperity emanates ultimately from the sky. The god with whom the Tu'i Tonga was most closely associated, Hikule'o, was a god or goddess of fertility and the harvest (Gifford 1929:289, 345; Lātūkefu 1975:8, 1980:66). The myth of 'Aho'eitu attributes if not the land then its good, yam-growing soil, along with the yam itself, to the benevolence of a skyward father. 19 In appointing 'Aho'eitu as the first Tu'i Tonga, 'Eitumatupu'a accords 'Aho'eitu overlordship of the land and its people. Dividing this land, the paramount chief apportions divine gifts, “favours from the good of the sky” (Thomas MS 1879:231). In the Tu'i Tonga era it was believed that all blessings (tapuaki) were channelled through the Tu'i Tonga from an ‘invisible’ (ta'e hā mai) power (Ve'ehala, personal communication), and that these blessings consisted in the ‘fruits of the hand’, products of land and sea.

The microcosmic character of the kava ceremony is most evident in its functioning. Those in the tou'a have cultivated the kava and fono that is given in tribute at the opening of the kava ceremony. The tribute is a return on the land the king, through his chiefs, hasmade available to the workers. Ceremonialised in the give-and-take of this flow is the essential pact: not to poison but to support, not to cannibalise but to drink kava, to substitute love for hatred, benevolence for malevolence, and caring for insouciance (cf. Leach 1972:261, 271). The productivity of the land, kava and fono, depends upon the god's renunciation of divine prerogatives (the rejection of cannibalism) and his assumption of leadership responsibilities below (cf. Howard 1985:67ff.); but it also depends upon the ‘work’ of ‘the people’. The tribute rendered at the opening of the ceremony encapsulates the politicisation of nature implicit in this joining of king-as-source and subject-as-instrument whereby the very rhythms of nature become a political pulse. The olovaha-tou'a axis is the axis mundi 'Eitumatupu'a first descended along when he impregnated 'Aho'eitu's mother, the same casuarina tree 'Aho'eitu climbed in first ascending to the sky, then descending to be installed as political head. In its functioning, the olovaha-tou'a axis signifies the same instantiation of the god-as-king in the land that the “portion” or 'inasi that was rendered to the Tu'i Tonga signified. In its unadorned dialogue of command and response, the kava ceremony - 261 celebrates and re-enacts that instantiation as the founding of the kingdom (cf. Sahlins 1985:80).


In the condensed and cosmic symbolism of the Tongan royal kava ceremony, gender functions to oppose land and sky, personal and official life, the mundane and the transcendent. This is true of the distinction between commoner (tu'a) and chief ('eiki) as well. Since the contrast between ‘body’ and ‘garland’, private and public life, opposes the mortal and finite, on the one hand, the immortal and infinite, on the other, the temporal and changing is implicitly opposed to the timeless and static. (The association of food, kinship, femininity, temporality, and death require further exegesis.) This paradigm not withstanding, the royal kava ceremony ultimately represents a historical reality. The very detail of the contemporary taumafa kava tells us so.

If a title associated with the nonofficiating side receives one of the kava fragments, a representative of the Tu'i Tonga or Kauhala'uta side receives the other, the cup being delivered with a flourish reminiscent of the stylistics of the Tu'i Tonga's taumafa kava (Ve'ehala, personal communication). The last Tu'i Tonga surrendered his kava privileges to Tāufa'āhau, the first Tupou monarch (Bott 1972b:279). But, wanting to rule as a “working” rather than as a sacred chief, Tāufa'āhau rejected these privileges and bestowed them upon the Tu'i Pelehake or ‘King of the Second House’, instead. Today the Tu'i Pelehake sits opposite the taunga and the kafa string is pulled out towards him, restricting movement within the superior circle all the more; the kava root faces towards rather than away from him, as in the king's kava ceremony; 20 he receives the second cup, as the Tu'i Tonga once did, and he does so in silence, without his name being called out and without his clapping. The mythical injunction that the ‘King of the Second House’ supplant the Tu'i Tonga once his line dies out is fulfilled.

With brilliant attention to mythic and ritual detail, the contemporary kava ceremony proclaims the Tupou titleholders as successors to 'Aho'eitu. The king's undertaker, for example, is said to be a descendant of the Tu'i Tonga's undertaker (Gifford 1929:37-8, 64). “From the sky” (p.196), Lauaki was transferred from the Tu'i Ha'a Takalau'a to the Tu'i Kanokupolu (Gifford 1929:149-50, 196). The funeral ceremonies of the present king parallel (without duplicating) the funeral arrangements of the Tu'i Tonga. (The period of mourning for a deceased king, for example, is the 100 nights required for the Tu'i Tonga's funeral [Kaeppler1978:179].) Even though the Tupou titleholders have refused to appropriate the Tu'i Tonga's kava privileges, they have incorporated the principal emblem of chiefly power: the “fecundity” of chiefly succession figured in the duality of the ritual configuration and the cycle it inscribes.

Though every opportunity to systematise the relationship between the Kauhala'uta and the Kauhalalalo sides has been seized upon, the contemporary - 262 kava ritual all but flaunts the fact that the ceremony totalises the deposits of history and not structure as such (cf. Sahlins 1981). Today's paramount faces the olovaha, not the taunga; the axis has been “rotated” or ‘turned’ (fuli). Also, the Kalaniuvalu title, which represents the Kauhala'uta, is seated in the inferior rather than the superior circle, where Vaea, a Ha'a Havea chief, takes his seat (Fig. 2); the present holder of the Tungī title is the king; and the Tu'i Pelehake is the king's younger brother. 21 When a title representing the Tu'i Tonga is given one of the two kava fragments, the fragment is delivered with a flourish acknowledging that “theirs was once all the glory” (Ve'ehala, personal communication). The Tu'i Tonga line is “honoured” but as a mere relic.

Tupou informants blame the ‘King of the Second House’ for treason in the Tu'i Tonga era (Bott 1958-9, vol. 1:64, 147, 167, 1972a:229, 1982:91; Gifford 1929:53; Valeri 1989:219); and they criticise the Tu'i Tongas for having abdicated their responsibilities in delegating effective (‘working’) leadership to their subordinates. It has been said again and again that the Tu'i Tonga received the second rather than the first cup because he feared being poisoned (Bott 1982:25, “Interview with the King 2.3.67, BSP 1/8/2; Williamson 1939/ 75:81-82). In sum, these claims disparage the Tu'i Tonga titleholders for having failed to change “poisonous feelings into feelings of tranquillity and harmony” (Bott 1972a:230), thereby securing 'Aho'eitu's kingdom. With pride, Queen Sālote attributed the fact that the Tupou titleholders receive the first rather than the second cup 22 to the loyalty of their ‘younger brother’ Ha'a Ngata and the protection against assassination which they afforded (Bott, “Interview with the King 2.3.67”, BSP 1/8/2; “Notes on Collocott 1927”, BSP 1/1/4). The shield imagery of the pangai formation is replicated in the Tupou coat of arms. In the lower right-hand corner three intersecting swords represent the leadership of the three historical lines — the Tu'i Tonga, the Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua, and the Tu'i Kanokupolu (Fig. 1) — now collaborators rather than enemies (Bain 1954:70). The facing dove in the left-hand corner and the myrtle leaf it holds in its beak “represent Christian peace and unity, the troubled days of the past being over” (p.71).

Since the relationship between king and country is contractual, based on a mutuality of sacrifices, the Tongan polity forms, and is perpetuated through, the events that test and reveal the virtue of particular leaders (Biersack 1990; cf. Marcus 1989). Any betrayal of the public trust weakens the olovaha-tou'a axis and threatens to topple the entire edifice. In receiving the first cup and in refusing the kava privileges of do-nothing kings, the Tupou titleholders deploy the kava ritual as a rhetorical device for manipulating public opinion, mobilising support, and commenting upon history. As 'Aho'eitu's heirs, these titleholders justify themselves on the basis of the course their line has historically chartered. The kava ceremony is more than a reflection of an existing order. Each performance is a structure-making event (cf. Kelly and Kaplan 1990, 1991; Valeri 1990b).

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1   There are three levels of kava formality. The highest is that of the taumafa kava, the regal term for the kava ceremony. The most informal is the faikava. Middle level chiefs have 'ilo kava ceremonies (Marcus 1980:30).
2   The following contribution to the study of Tongan political culture draws heavily on the materials Bott collected during 1958–60, when, as an employee of the Tonga Traditions Committee, she conducted research on the taumafa kava with the asistance of Queen Sālote herself (d.1965) (see Bott 1981:7 for an account of her work with Queen Sālote). Putting these materials together with oral descriptions and analyses I collected from May to July 1986, largely through interviews with the late Honourable Ve'ehala, I develop a reading of the kava ritual in light of the two myths by way of examining Tongan political culture. This paper is an expanded version of a paper called “'Aho'eitu and Tongan Kingship” given at the third Tongan History Conference, held in Ha'apai, tonga, in January 1989. It had its inception in a presentation I gave at the invitation of Jehanne Teilhet-Fisk in the Department of Visual Arts, University of California at San Diego, in February 19818. The research on which this essay is based was funded by a grant-in-aid from the American Council of Learned Societies (1986), a grant-in-aid from the Wenner-Gren foundation for Anthropological Research (1986), and a faculty research summer award from the University of Oregon. I thank Elizabeth Bott for granting me access to the Bott Spillius Papers in the New Zealand and Pacific Collection of The Library, Universityof Auckland; Mrs 'Eseta Fusitu'a for access to the Palace Office Archives, Nuku'alofa, Tonga; Mrs Tupou Posesi Fanua for our informative discussions; Valerio Valeri for allowing me to read “Death in Heaven” and other recent papers in prepublication form; and Futa Helu, Adrienne Kaeppler, Helen Kavapalu, 'Okusitino Māhina, Mafi Malanga, George Marcus, Andrew Pawley, Garth Rogers, Takapu, Tavi, and ‘Ofa Tulimaiau for their encouragement and assistance. I also thank Peter Bellwood and valerio Valeri for their readings of an earlier draft of the present essay. The essay is dedicated to the Honourable Ve'ehala, born Viliami Leilua Vi. Keeper of the Palace Records from 1948 to 1954, Secretary of the Tonga Traditins Committee from 1955 to 1968 (Koe Kalonika Tonga, Vol. 12, No. 26, November 28, 1986), and le'o kava, Ve'ehala assisted generations of researchers. This essay was written while I was a visiting fellow in the Department of Anthropology, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, participating in the Comparative Austronesian Project convened by Dr James J. Fox. Margaret Tyrie of that department prepared the artwork.
3   Information culled from the Bott Spillius Papers (BSP) at the University of Auckland are indexed according to box number, folder or volume number, and page number: for example, 1/1/1 indicates first box, first folder or volume, first page.
4   In one of Gifford's versions, only kava grows out of the corpse (Gifford 1924:74–5).
5   In his 1972 reply to Bott's “Psychoanalysis and Ceremony”, Leach anticipates Valeri's interpretation of the sacrificial character of the kava ceremony. Without committing himself to a particular definition of sacrifice, Leach implies that the theme is all-pervasive in the myth and in the rite and that it involves the mediation of opposites (for example, the divine and the human) through gift prestation (Leach 1972:266–9). Since he expressly designates Kava'onau as such a gift (p.268), Leach opens the door to widening the role of sacrifice beyond the function Valeri assigns it — namely, that of legitimating divine kingship. Leach also was the first to raise the question of Kava 'onau' s gender (p.264), a matter Valeri touches on briefly as well (Valeri 1989:227).
6   Hikule'o is sometimes portrayed as a female, sometimes as a male (Gifford 1924:153; see pp.153–75, Gifford 1929:291–2).
7   Mariner distinguishes three rather than two regions. The “superior circle” beings with the presiding chief and “advances onwards on either side, constituting about two thirds of the whole ring” and “consisting of a single row of individuals” (Mariner 1981:333). The “bottom” of the ring has two parts, one he calls the “inferior circle”, which he describes as “the front of the body of the people”, and the other the “exterior circle”, which consists of “the body of the people” itself (p.333). However, Bott's (1972a) and Collocott's (1927) scheme for a formal kava ceremony is the double-division scheme here presented. Valeri understands Mariner's description as triadic (Valeri 1989:225; see also Leach 1972:242). But the difference between Mariner's “inferior” and “exterior” circles is not at all clear; and the fact that they are both identified as “working” components — “those in the inferior and exterior circle” chew (Mariner 1981:334) and serve the kava (p.338) — encourages me to believe that these two circles are really one, the tou'a. Certainly, there is more than one way to interpret Mariner's scheme.
8   Kaeppler claims that the mixer is often associated with Vaha'i (Kaeppler 1985:97). Collocott reports, instead, that the kava pounders sit in the tou'a and come from the family of Ata (Collocott 1927:27), and, if non is available, then from the family of Vaha'i, though presumably when the kava ceremony is held abroad, the family of Ve'ehala would predominate. Also, Tolo, a junior member of the Ha'a Ngata, is stationed at the nadir point of the upper circle, the fakapotupotu'alofi, and indicated the hala ngāue to tou'a participants so that they will know where to enter the superior circle (Bott, “Interview with the King”, BSP 1/8/2). According to Her Majesty Queen Sālote,
. . . it was [the Ha'a Ngata's] duty make the kava and the working at the tou'a will depend on them, the actual mixing of the kava was done by the Ha'a Ngata Motu'a only and that was why they sat next to the tano'a . . . everything in the tou'a was referred to them (Queen Sālote, “The Pongipongi Faka Ha'a Ngata”, in Ko e Ngaahi Me'a mei he Tohi 'a'Ene 'A fio, BSP 11/2/7).
The Ha'a Ngatas look after the pangai. They straighten out anything that goes wrong and they discuss what is to be done. They oversee the traditions of the country and the duties of the matāpules. All the ha'as knew that the Ha'a Ngata had all the strength, and they were only there to from the 'alofi, but they did so under the supervision of the Ha'a Ngata” (Queen Sālote, “K o e Ngaahi Ha'a'o Tonga”, in “K o e Ngaahi Me'amei he Tohi 'a 'Ene 'Afio”, BSP 11/2/5).
9   According to Bott, “Nowadays [in the 1950s, and today in the 1980s as well] the sugar-cane is often omitted” (Bott 1972a:212). However, Ve'ehala told me that sugar-cane always takes precedence when it is included because the it was there ‘at the beginning’ (tupu'a).
10   Except for the title of Tu'i Pelehake, which is “honoured” in being called out to receive fono. Two other titles of an offshoot branch of the Ha'a Ngata Motu'a, the Ha'a Latu Hifo, are also called out.
11   Ma'afutukua'i'iaulahi, an important chief in the Ha'a Havea (Marcus 1980:54), also shares in this basket of food. He sits in the right-hand fasi 'alofi (Fig. 2).
12   Those receiving the two konga are Lutuipalelei, a navigator matāpule, and a representative of the Tu'i Tonga's Falefā, 'Ahio or 'Ahiohio, associated with the second Falefā, which was formed at the same time that the Tu'i Ha'a Takalaua title was created (Bott 1982:92; “Editing Script for David Attenborough for Taumafa Kava Dec. 1959”, BSP 13/7/18; Gifford 1929:66). Distributing the fragments to these acknowledges, in the case of the navigator matāpule, the service he performs when the kava ceremony is conducted abroad and, in the case of the Falefā, the entire Kauhala'uta, which is associated with the Tu'i Tonga (Fig. 1).
13   Presumably his position was called the taunga or fulitaunga, the ‘turned taunga’ [Bott, “Questions about the Taumafa Kava”, BSP 13/3/19]).
14   In the Tu'i Tonga's kava ceremony, the fono was kept by the titleholders themselves, a practice that is preserved in the present Tu'i Pelehake's kava ceremony (Bott 1972b:279). It may be speculated that, in this regard, the Tu'i Kanokupolu's kava ceremony rested upon a more refined reading of the symbolic themes of the two myths.
15   Bott glosses the term kau mokopuna 'eiki as ‘grandchildren of high rank’ (Bott 1972a:211) and defines this category as all those whose grandfather held one of the titles in the superior circle and who also have high personal rank (p.211). Rogers writes that “mokopuna are fahu (superior) to the title-holders” (Rogers 1975:283) but implies, nonetheless, that fahu is the more global term. Kaeppler preserves the distinction between children of a sister (especially the oldest female child) and a grandchild by higher rank, particularly the child of a son who has married well (Kaeppler 1985:100).
16   Kaeppler herself has served as the King's kai fono (personal communication).
17   While this scheme, its dualities and its complexities effectively emasculates women in the political arena, social and political rank, blood and garland, can and have become thoroughly intertwined in practice. As a result, high-ranking women sometimes did achieve political power (Herda 1987) and factionalism based on matrilateral ties became part and parcel of political dynamics (Biersack 1990b, n.d.;Bott1982:passim;Ellem 1981). The Tongan Constitution enjoins the succession of daughters if there are no sons. The third Tupou monarch was, thus, a woman, Queen Sālote (Ellem 1981).
18   Whenever the sex of Kava'onau is indicated, the child is said to be female. In his Tongan Myths and Tales, Gifford supplies four versions of the story. In the first and fourth of these, the sex of the child is not indicated (Gifford 1924:71-5). In the English translation of his first and longest text, Gifford indicates that the child is a daughter, though the Tongan parallel fails to gender the child, referring to it merely as tama, a gender-neutral term. Everyone I talked to, however, referred to Kava'onau as a female, and this seems also to have been true of Bott's research.
19   Tongan mythology explains dry land as the accomplishment of Tangaloa, who hauled the land up out of the sea (Mariner 1981:298). Valeri has summarised some of the mythology concerning the role of the gods in the origin of the land and its vegetation (Valeri 1989:212).
20   Gifford reports exactly the opposite arrangement, the root facing the olovaha and the branches facing the kava-maker (Gifford 1929:161).
21   Thus, while the Tu'i Pelehake is high by reasons of descent, he is low by reasons of kinship. The one status neutralises the other. Adrienne Kaeppler implies this neutralisation in her account of the order of service of the present king's inauguration: “. . . at the taumafa kava that validated the bestowal of the title of the present king, his new title was called and the first cup of kava was taken to him. Without being announced a second cup of kava was taken to the king's younger brother, Tu'i Pelehake. This was said to publicly proclaim that Tu'i Pelehake should be considered as the king's equal because he was exactly the same genealogy and according to the traditional reckoning, the Tu'i Pelehake title (of Tu'i Faleua) is more elevated than that of the Tu'i Kanokupolu” (1985:101).
22   In Gifford's and Collocott's time, the monarch was still receiving the third cup, presumably the cup of the Tu'i Kanokupolu received while the Tu'i Tonga was still being appointed (see Gifford 1929:159).