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Luca

Description
The people of Luca, the once great kingdom of the east, also record their relations to eels, water and the sea in narrative verse. The verse below recounts in Eastern Tetum the words of a long ago ruler of Luca who says:

Hau naran Lu Leki meti oan hauI am Lu Leki, the son of the tides

Hau naran Lu Leki tasi oan hauI am Lu Leki, the son of the sea

Hau katak ba tasi, tasi sei nakduka nuu lor baI command the sea to recede, it obeys me 

Katak fali ba meti, meti sei nakduka nuu lor ba.I command the tide to recede, it obeys me.

Luca's rule of the sea is then juxtaposed with that of We Hali, the once great kingdom of western Timor, whose ruler is said to be both the son of and the commander of the sun and the moon. Meanwhile the eastern kingdom of Luca is divided according to the parts of a buffalo:

Isin lolon Rai LukaThe main body is in the land of Luca

Dere too Wai BoboIts head extends to Wai Bobo[i]

Dikur balu We Masi, balu We Soru. Its one horn is to We Masi, another is to We Soru.[ii]

Across the eastern part of Timor Leste, Luca's central political and ritual power is continually encoded in myth and narrative, many of which are connected to springs. Yet as with its paired ritual counterpart We Biku We Hali, it is important to stress the fact that this domain is as much a ritual-political concept or symbol as it is an actual political realm (Francillon 1967: 113). It was the ritual connections of the immobile centre of Luca to surrounding emissary sub-kingdoms which held the domain together. While, as with We Hali (ET: 'banyan tree water'), the political importance of Luca has long since declined, its symbolic meanings and its encoding in ritual form remain central to many mythic narratives across the region. In many of these narratives it is Luca's power to communicate with the sea (and through this its capacity to access the wealth of the underworld) which remains a recurring theme. As well as a once expansionary and pre-eminent political presence in the region, by virtue of its power to tame the sea, Luca is the preeminent communicator with 'rai seluk' (the other world). 

While there is much in the oral history record which links Luca to the expansion of the kingdom of We Biku We Hali, David Amaral the lia na'in ('custodian of the words') of the apical house of Uma Kan Lor in Luca relayed to me a narrative concerning seven siblings who emerged from the earth. These seven siblings commenced tilling the land (ET: fila rai) around Luca which had until then neither fields nor water. As a consequence the youngest of the siblings was continually beaten and sent to fetch water from the far west and the far east of the island. One day as the youngest sibling sat exhausted under a banyan tree he sobbed out loud that it would be best if he took his own life. Yet as he spoke these words, water started to gush out from beneath his feet. Later after a dog ran off to find the older brothers, they arrived to see that their youngest brother had morphed into water from the chest down. The boy, whose name was Nai Leki, told his older siblings that he had now transformed into the sacred spring of We Lolo. His head then transformed into a water bowl (we lolo) and lodged in the banyan tree now called Nai Leki. The spring water then flowed from We Lolo to sea passing through the sacred tidal lagoon of Luca called We Liurai (ET: 'ruler's water') at the coast. Luca became a kingdom of seven villages and a centre of power. Meanwhile these sacred origin waters of Luca are known metaphorically as we ai balun ('wooden safe water') as it is from these waters that the wealth of Luca has been distributed across the land.

In mythic narratives found across the region it is to Luca that people have long travelled to receive, or emerged from to decree, the power to rule. Following a ritual ceremony at the springs of Luca, emissaries would leave as the kingdom's 'arms and legs' (ain liman) and execute the authority of the ritual centre across the east. As a part of this process, as we have seen above, Luca's sacred waters would be carried across the reg
[i] A neighbouring kingdom to Ossu and east of Mundo Perdido.

[ii] The buffalo is being used here to explain, amongst other things, the territorial power of Luca as the main kingdom, whose head reaches (dere) Wai Bobo (symbolizing the East here), whose two horns symbolising the North and South. We Soru [ET: 'woven water'] is Vessoru and We Masi [ET: 'salty water'] is Vemasse.

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Label / Notes Owner Date Modified
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Lisa Palmer 17-Sep-2013 05-Jun-2015