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Wai Lotu

Date
27-Apr-2012
Description
Following the formal divisioning of island Timor between the Dutch and the Portuguese in 1859, in 1862 Governer Alfonso da Castro divided Portuguese Timor into 11 districts. While the formal administrative boundaries were new, according to Soares, the boundaries were drawn up in consultation with political and ritual leaders across the east of the island and largely followed the existing sacred border agreements between the kingdoms and sub-kingdoms. One such agreement was said to have occurred early in the colonial period between the houses of Loi Leki in Wailili and the emerging 'autonomous' kingdom of Vemasse. This story centers on a spring called Wai Lotu (which is today connected to the five branch houses of Loi Leki) and provides a local account of the arrival of Portuguese rule (in the form of a sceptre (rota) which they say they received from Vemasse in 1512). While both Wailili and Vemasse had received ruling sacra in the past from Luca, the people of Vemasse were now in possession of sacra (rota) given to them directly by the Portuguese in Lifao. As a result of these changing political dynamics, the Wailili rulers from the houses of Loi Leki house were called to the coast to make an agreement about the division of political authority under (symbolic) Portuguese rule. Following a ritual which proved the 'stupidity' of the indigenes of Loi Leki (and hence the political superiority of the rulers of Vemasse) the houses of Loi Leki carried the rota from Vemasse east to other kingdoms as far away as Baguia. This sacred oath created two new houses—Uma Meti (the ruling house of the sea) in Vemasse and Uma Lari (the secondary house of the mountains) in Wailili. As with the sacred oath made between the springs of Wai Husu-Wai Lewa and Wa Lili-Wai Wa (see chapter four), from this sacred agreement the people of the salty waters of Vemasse (ET: we masi(n)=salty water) and the spring of Wai Lotu (W: 'small water') in Wailili exchanged ritual names. Until this day certain houses from Vemasse are said by the elders of Loi Leki to have the rights to the fruits of the land around Wai Lotu and in the past to have come to offer annual sacrifices to the ancestors of the spring.
Type of spring
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