The Art of Making Fires – Lighting Fires

O Le Si’agā Afi

I po o le vavau, e leai ni afi tusi po o ni afi ua maua pe a tāina se ma’a malo i se fasi u’amea i Samoa e tusa ai ma afi ua tatou masani ai i nei ona po. A’o afi sa masani ai Samoa, e si’aina i o latou lima. E lua la’au ua fa’aaogaina i le si’aga o le afi. E lapo’a le tasi, a e la’itiiti le tasi. O le la’au lapo’a, e ta’ua o le si’aga. A’o le la’au pu’upu’u e u’u i lima e lua, e ta’ua o le gatu. A si’aina malosi le si’aga i le gatu, ona mua’i maua lea o le oge la’au. E ola gofie lenei oge pe a oloina pea i le gatu. A fai ua fiamaua se afi e se tagata, ona tu’u lea i lalo o le si’aga e u i luga le matasi’a, a e taofi mau le la’au i ona vae. O le matasi’a o le mea omo lea ua i le ogatotonu o le si’aga. I le, ua fa’atū le tagata ma tago i le gatu ma matuā olo ai le si’aga i le mea o iai le matasi’a. A fai ua ia va’ai ifo ua tau uliuli le si’aga ma ua amata ona pusapusa a’e, ona fa’apea lea o ia; “Ua tū le afi.”

E faia lava le si’aga ma le gatu i le la’au lava e tasi, a e le fa’aaogaina se gatu o se isi la’au e si’a a’i le si’aga o le isi la’au. Auā e faigatā ona maua se afi pe a le tutusa la’au uma na e lua. Ma le tasi, e tatau ona matua mamago lelei le si’aga atoa ma le gatu. A e iai ni isi la’au ile mauga e le maua ai leafi, e mata ma e le fa’alaina. E iai fo’i ni isi la’au e le aogā, e le maua ai se afi.

O la’au e maua gofie ai le afi, o le fu’afu’a ma le fau, ona ua malū o la ua ‘a’ano. E o’o i teine, e mafai ona latou si’a ai a latou afi. A e iai fo’i ni isi la’au e si’agata lava. O lea la, e gata i taulele’a malolosi latou te lavatia, auā e maa’a le ‘a’ano o na la’au.

Art of Making Fires – Lightning Fires

Here is another version of the story of how Maui brought fire to Samoa (by wrestling the giant god Mafuie) which is much less violent and confrontational. It is important, in balance, because it illuminates the differences between the fire-teacher and the fire-finder. Here the fire teacher is highlighted. Elsewhere, throughout the Pacific, birds and volcanoes are prominent themes, but less so in the history of Samoa. Here, Maui engages in various trickster schemes to convince or seduce the fire Goddess (his grandmother), since fire is always stolen. It is a precious commodity, and therefore the Gods are always unwilling to relinquish their powers to own and ignite a fire, and thereby keep its wealth to themselves. Maui tricks his grandmother the fire goddess out of almost all her powers, by extinguishing all the embers she gives to him and going back for more, thus depleting her supply until it is scarcely nothing.

At the last possible moment, she realizes his intentions and his terrible betrayal. She throws all of the burning embers remaining to her which he has not stolen or kidnapped into the most suitable trees, especially the Banyan tree. But only she knows into which trees the embers have landed so, presumably, the secret is safe from further predation. She has bestowed a gift of great beauty, as well. The forest becomes thereafter an expanse of mysterious lights which are hidden but illuminate the night. There the embers remain, intermittently sparkling, perhaps like lightning or shooting stars, giving bursts of light to make the night alive. Since Maui knows only the secret of making fire, only he can teach the people of Samoa how to start one. But he does not teach everyone. This story sets forth the rules and understandings he about how to make a fire.

Maui’s lessons, outlined here, recommends which trees and sticks, one big, one small, how young or damp wood cannot be used, which plants to use and which method for creating the spark, how to transfer the spark to the medium, perhaps coconut fibres, where it ignites. Finally, the story advocates that, although women can spark a fire, only young men can bear the true difficulty, and that is why mostly men tend to fires, or so they say.

See especially, Bukova, Martina, “Variations of Myth Concerning the Origin of Fire in Eastern Polynesia,” J. Asian and African Studies, 18, 2009, 2, 324-323.

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