The word Kalougata
Kalougata means blessing and as I understand it there are three ways of translating the word. Ah Koy only looked at one meaning. I agree with Andrew Thornley in looking at the word more carefully. In the 1941 Fijian Dictionary the other meanings are ‘sharp’ or ‘pointy’, as a knife, or also as in addressing a god, Sa gata cavucavu na Kalou – the God speaks truly, has power to perform. This is like an Amen. It is good that Ah Koy questioned the meaning of ‘kalougata’ and making us think about it, but he did not go far enough to look at the theological dimension of this word. The word gata as serpent or snake is also mentioned in the Bible and as my teacher Alan Tippett said, sometimes we do Christianize something from a former tradition.
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert so the Son of Man must be lifted up.
Mevaka sa laveta cake na gata mai na veikau ko Mosese; sa laveti cake vakakina na Luve na Tamata.
From Fiji Daily Post on Saturday
KALOUGATA DEBATE - The origins of 'Kalougata'
Sydney, March 2009
FROM the very early days of the Christian era in Fiji, “Kalougata” was universally recognised as the word for “blessing”.
In 1839, four years after the European missionaries arrived in Fiji, Rev William Cross published the first translation of the book of Genesis.
In Chapter 1:22, for the phrase “God blessed them”, Cross used the Fijian, “Sa vakalougatataki ra na Kalou, ka vosa”.
This was later revised by the missionary scholar, Rev David Hazlewood in the 1864 Fijian Old Testament as “A sa vosavakalougatataki ira na Kalou”.
Hazlewood’s revision was later accepted by Rev Frederick Langham in the 1901 Old Testament Revision, which is the version in use today.
In the New Testament, the first use of the word “blessed” is in the Beatitudes: Matthew 5:3ff. In this case, Rev John Hunt, who was the first to translate the New Testament in full, used the phrase “Sa kalougata ko ira’ for “Blessed are”.
Hunt had the services of brilliant Fijian linguists such as the legendary Noa Koroinavuqona and the Viwa chief, Ratu Ravisa (Elijah Varani), as well as Adi Litia Vatea, relative of Cakobau. These people would have approved the use of this phrase.
The word “Kalou” in Hazlewood’s 1851 Dictionary is defined as “a god” and Hazlewood says that the word is used to denote anything superlative.
In the same Hazlewood dictionary, the word “kalougata” is defined as “a powerful or true god, a god that performs what he promises – hence blessed”.
The word “gata” in Hazlewood’s dictionary has a primary meaning of “sharp” and can also be used in descriptions of the land when referring to “hilly” or “many peaks”.
“Gata” is also used when addressing a traditional deity, in the sense of “so let it be” [viz: Amen].
This is expressive of the god’s power to perform. And so we have the Fijian phrase: “Sa gata cavucavu na kalou”, meaning: ‘The god speaks truly’. A literal rendering of this phrase in English would be ‘the god pronounces to the point or exactly’.
This sense of the word “gata” gives further depth to an understanding of “kalougata”.
Then there is the important idea of ‘functional substitution’, as used by Fijian missiologists like Rev Dr Alan Tippett. This is where something powerful from pre-Christian days is taken and given a sacred Christian use. The best known example in Fiji is Cakobau’s killing stone being now used as a baptismal font. So “kalougata” – a god performing what is promised – becomes “blessed”.
Let us also not forget that ‘gata’ in its meaning as snake has very positive attributes.
The great traditional Fijian deity Degei, of Nakauvadra fame, was imagined to be a gigantic snake, with significant creative powers attributed to it, as well as destructive powers (but then so has the Christian God).
Capell has made the debate somewhat more difficult by not having a separate entry for the word “kalougata” even though it appears countless times in the Fijian Bible.
far more convincing source is Hazlewood’s dictionary, not Capell’s.
* Dr Thornley is a former lecturer at Pacific Theological College and Davuilevu Theological College. He has published books on Fijian Methodism in its foundational years.
DR ANDREW THORNLEY