from notes archived at Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawai'i
When a person gets sick the people crowd around. Women go and look at patient. Men cook food. Custom called looking at the sick, io masa'i.
Elephantiasis. Fa la pu
In olden times Rotumans went to Vaitupu in the Ellice to be cured of elephantiasis of the testicles. This was a surgical operation and said to be successful as long as the man abstained from any sexual intercourse. Some men in Rotuma stretched the scrotum and cut it with an axe to let out the blood and water". This was done because of shame a for the sight of the swollen parts.
Pu = to have elephantiasis
Headache. The leaves of the 'am'ama tree are rubbed between the hands and the juice squeezed out. This is drunk and also rubbed over the head to cure the pain.
Constipation. The bark of the 'am'ama tree is pressed and the sap squeezed out. This is used primarily for children.
Yaws. Jona. An application of heated leaves are is put on the sores. The karere vine leaf is used (a white leaf). Also the gum of the dilo trees is heated and stuck over the sores.
Ringworm. Navi. The sore is washed and then the gum taken from green China bananas, or the white sap in the papaya tree trunk, is applied.
Elephantiasis. Ellice Island cure. The heated leaf of the sunfea plant (recently introduced from the Ellice) is applied to swollen testicles. The Ellice people did this, then cut the scrotum. Rotumans went to the Ellice in canoes to get this cure.
'am'ama = Glochidion ramiflorum Forst. f. "an indigenous tree common in disturbed and secondary forest." Whistler 1989.
The Rotuman doctors were called majau and inherited their position and knowledge from their fathers or mothers. In his family Jakopi only knows that his grandmother was a majau in Tuakai and that his father and mother gave him an oil which he uses in making cures of fractures and sprains. This is no more than coconut oil which is mixed with water when used. However this oil must be made by the majau himself.
When treating a sick person, the majau received a feast the first day, and was fed by the family every day while he attended the patient. The fifth day a real koua was given the majau and again on the tenth if the patient was not cured. When the patient was well he gave the majau another koua, called the re muri. If anyone should by accident knock over the cup of water or the "bottle" of oil of the majau, he must present him with a koua, called hapagsu.
Each majau had a god to whom he spoke before attempting to cure a person. This god was to give him help. The god was a family one, and not prayed to by other majau.
There was no feast or elaborate act of calling the god before a majau set to work, according to this informant.- In many ways he is very hazy about the former customs, as he has lived most of his life in Fiji and is a minister.
Broken bones. These were set by the majau, and then held firm by two splints made from the rib of a coconut frond. Then the arm was duly massaged with coconut oil.
Earache. The stopper of the container of oil was dipped in and then two or three circular passes were made over the bottle, and the stopper was put in the ear hole. When it was taken out, circular passes were made over the ear, and again over the bottle and the stopper was put back.
Fever. For fever the bark of the 'ura, 'am'ama, togoi, and rag'apua were ground up and put in ununu, the clothy bark that hangs from the coconut, and squeezed with water. This the patient drank. It also was rubbed on the body to relieve the fever. Children were often thought to have a fever, but they were ill from having a vertebrae out of place or a rib broken. By massaging it with oil the children were cured in 3-5 days.
Broken back. If a person with a broken back is brought to the majau the day of the accident he can be saved. The majau will feel for the break and by rubbing down the back he can set it in place and cure the man by constant rubbing.
Cough. The bark of the lekleki and hahia' tree are scraped into water and this is taken to cure a cough.
Consumption. Lua toto. When a patient is coughing up blood, the majau grinds up the stem of the ga'a vine and mixing it with water gives it to the patient to drink.
Constipation. The rau titogo - a grass with a round leaf is mixed and taken for relief.
Boils.The 'Ai pen ku leaf is squeezed so that the juice will fall on the boil, and then the leaf is put on. This will bring out the puss over night.
Pains. Mena is painted around the body or a limb to keep the pain from spreading up.
Pimples or skin rupture.Bad cases of this are painted with mena.
Deformation. A child after birth has the bridge of its nose rubbed up in the Tonga fashion to make it narrower. This may be derived from Tonga, for the people here with the high bridge noses that are common would not normally do this.
Elephantiasis. This was rubbed with the sap of a young parmea trunk and also the leaf of this tree. The parmea is a banana that grows with a triangular cross section.
lekleki = puzzle-nut tree (Xylocarpus granatum)
hahia' = Syzygium samarangense
Lua toto = To cough up blood
mena = turmeric
The nut of the hefau (dilo tree) was pressed into all which is used to rub on sores after one has been fishing in the water to prevent scabies. It is also good for rubbing on portions of the body that cause pain.
Lomi lomi [sarao] of Rotuma oil and young banana leaves. Fed with arrowroot and coconut juice mixed.
Rotuman men were known to go to Vaitupu in the Ellice Islands to get cured for elephantiasis of the testicles.
Sarao = therapeutic massage