Mithology

 

 

 



Strictly speaking, the Hervey Islanders had no conception of a creator, as the islands were believed to be dragged up out of the depths of Avaiki, or Nether-World, otherwise called Po, or Night. These islands are merely the gross outward form, or body; whilst their still remains behind in the obscurity of Nether-World the ethereal essence or spirit. The primary conception of the Hervey Islanders as to existence is a point; then something pulsating-, next, something greater—everlasting.

The universe is to be conceived of as the hollow of a vast coco-nut shell, the interior of which is named Avaiki. At the very bottom of this supposed coco-nut shell is a thick stem, gradually tapering to a point, which represents the very beginning of all things. This point is a spirit named The-root-of-all-existence. Above this extreme point is another demon, named Breatliing, or Life, stouter and stronger than the former one. The thickest part of the stem is The-long-lived. These three stationary, sentient spirits constitute the foundation, and insure the permanence and well-being of all the rest of the universe.

In the interior of the supposed coco-nut shell, in the lowest depths of Avaiki, lives a woman, or demon, of flesh and blood, named Vari-ma-te-takere (shortened into Vari)—The-v ery-beginning. At various times Vari plucked off three bits from each side, and moulded them into human shape. These six are the primary gods of the universe. Yet no " marae " or image was ever sacred to them, nor was any offering ever made to them.

The first of the six primary gods is Avatea or Vatea (Noon), half man and half fish, whose eyes are the sun and moon.* Evidently we have in Avatea, or Vatea, the god of light. The second primary god is Tinirau (Innumerable), the lord of all fish. The third is Tango (Support). The fourth is Echo (Tumuteanaoa), regarded as a female dwelling in hollow rocks. The fifth, Raka, or Trouble, presides over winds. At the edge of the horizon are a number of wind-holes. To each child is allotted one of these apertures, through which he blows at pleasure. The sixth and last of the primary gods is a female, Tu-metua, or Tu-papa, who dwells with the Great Mother, " Vari." at the very bottom of Avaiki, in the Silent-land, the only langunge of which is that of signs and smiles, to comfort her. Tut (short for Tu-metua or Tu-papa) was the tutelar goddess of the island of Moorea. To her the fourteenth night in every moon was sacred.

In his dreams, Vatea, the eldest of the primary gods, saw a woman, Papa (Foundation), whom he afterwards succeeded in making his wife. Now Papa was the daughter of Timatekore (Nothing-more). Tangaroa and BongoJ were the twin children of Vatea and Papa. They were the first beings of perfect human farm in the universe, and possessed no second shape. Thi*ee other sons (Tonga-iti, Tangiia, and Tane-papa-kai) were born to Vatea and Papa. These are the principal deities of the Hervey Islanders and (and with numerous variations and additions) of Eastern Polynesia. To the children of Vatea and Papa belong the maraes and idols ; they received the offerings and listened to the prayers of mankind.

The tutelar god^.of Mangaia is Kongo, whose wife Taka bore him a daughter named Tavake. The boast of the three original tribes on Mangaia is that they are the descendants of Tavake by her own father Eongo, i.e., that they are of divine origin,

Now, Kongo was likewise the dread deity of Tahiti and the Leeward Islands, under the slightly modified designation of " Oro." The original marae of " Ord " in Eastern Polynesia was Opoa, on the island of Raiatea, whence the worship spread to all the neighbouring islands.

At the shrine of this deity, on the island of Tahiti alone, fifty reeking heads were offered in a single generation. To Kongo, Oro, Kono, or Orono (as he is variously named), no offering was acceptable but a bleeding human sacrifice, specially selected, males being always preferred to females. At Tahiti females were ineligible, being regarded as "noa" (common); whereas males where "tapu" (sacred), and therefore suitable for sacrifice.

Tangaroa was specially honoured at Karotonga, Aitutaki, Samoa,, and the Society Islands. In the Tahitian and Society Groups, Ta'aroa was regarded as the originator of the world, and the parent of gods and men. At Samoa, TaDgaloa was regarded as the great creator. The gods were divided into two orders, "dwellers in day," and "dwellers in the shades, or night." The former busied themselves with the affairs of

mortals, moving, though unseen, in their midst; and yet often descending to Nether-World, the true home of the major-gods. The latter frequently ascend to-day to take part in the affairs of mankind,but prefer to dwell in spirit-land (night). A few were supposed to remain permanently in the obscurity of Avaiki.

Many of the deities worshipped in the Hervey Group and other islands of the Eastern Pacific were canonised priests, kings, and warriors, whose spirits were supposed to enter into various birds, fish, reptiles, insects, &c, &c Strangely enough, they were regarded as being in no respect inferior to the original divinities.

The gods first spake to man through the small land birds; but their utterances proved to be too indistinct to guide the actions of mankind. The gods were thus led to communicate with mankind through the medium of a human priesthood. Whenever the priest was consulted, a present of the best food, accompanied by a bowl of intoxicating "piper methysticum," was indispensable. The offerer, in a stentorian voice, said, "Ka uru Motoro"—Enter (i.e., inspire), Motoro !# At these words the priest would fall into convulsions, the god Motoro having inspired (literally, "entered") him, and the oracle would be delivered. » Prom the oracle thus delivered no appeal whatever lay. The best kinds of food were sacred to the priests and chiefs.

Although unsuited for the delivery of oracles, birds were ever the special messengers of the gods to warn individuals of impending danger, each tribe having its own feathered guardians. The great Polynesian word (Atua) for "Grod" means strictly the pith core, or life of man. This is evident from its constant equivalent, "ara io," shortened sometimes into " io," which literally signifies " pathway of the pith," or " pith." What the pith is to the tree, the god is to the man, i.e., its life.

The greater gods alone had carved images for the convenience of worshippers ; the lesser were countless, each individual possessing

 

 

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