Domain of the Gods: an editorial essay
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She [the earth] belongs to men as the sky belongs to God.
–Plinius Secondus, Natural History
Each year in the Fijian village of Matacawlevu on the island of the same name, the people hold a festival to celebrate the planting of crops. There is food, music and no shortage of kava. But the most important part of the festival is a church service where the local minister leads the village in prayers for good weather and a strong harvest. According to Fijian religious tradition, a mix of Methodism and animism typical of the South Pacific, proper prayer assures that the rains will come. In the event of a drought, people blame either each other for not being devout, or blame the minister for failing to properly deliver the people’s message. The tradition of the planting festival masks a sophisticated system of land management that has sustained indigenous people in Fiji and across many islands in Polynesia and Melanesia for centuries. In Matacawalevu, the Chief’s decision to sanction planting is based upon years of experience and the advice of a villager trained in agronomy. Crops are rotated and selected land is left fallow to maintain soil fertility. The village’s agricultural practices follow directly from a deeply held belief that people exert control over land. The weather, however, is up to God.
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