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Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

In Ancestor-Worship and Maritime Demigods there is — the same General Resemblance

In Ancestor-Worship and Maritime Demigods there is
the same General Resemblance

(15) There is a similar medley of elements and stages in what one might call the literary or imaginative side of Maori page 120religionthe myths and personified religious thoughts. No people has so manifestly indulged the imagination in its treatment of ancestral tradition as the Maori. Their genealogies alone would prove this; they have no shamefacedness in yoking up their aristocratic families by means of definite names and generations to the great gods that are clearly in their origin the sublimer phenomena of the cosmos. The line is as unambiguous and decided in its baldness as those supplied by the Heralds' College for new-made families. There is as little hesitation in the early links that bind together gods and men as in those of grandfather and grandson, where memory is guide. Little wonder that chiefs like Te Heuheu of Taupo should claim to be themselves gods whilst still living.

(16) It is this ancestral deification that is responsible for so much that is refreshingly human in the annals of Olympus, especially amongst the European divisions of the Aryan race. All races and nations indulge in it; but the Teutons, the Celts, the Greeks, and the Polynesians excel in its use. For amongst them no great imperial unity forced into the background the god-forming right and duty of every locality and clan. The necessity of national defence or offence in war obscures, if it does not obliterate, the old ancestral worship of the household, and at the same time the myth-making faculty that produces a pantheon of demigods.

(17) The Polynesian demigods have most resemblance in their lives and deeds to those of Scandinavia. Although Tawhaki, with other later humanised editions of him, has a hint of Endymion visited by the moon in the story of the heavenly maiden's visit to him, his character as a perfect and beautiful hero has more likeness to that of the northern hero Baldur. So Maui, though, like Prometheus, he brings fire to men from the other world, and tries to snatch immortality for them, and though he goes through a series, of labours, page 121like Hercules, has in his nature far more of the northern Loki; he is full of a wicked humour, if not wit, that never ceases playing mischievous tricks on both gods and men; moreover, Loki, Scotch lowe, is in origin, like Maui, a firegod or sungod. Further, the demigod voyagers that abound in Polynesian traditions and genealogies, Whiro, Kupe, Turi, Ui-te-Rangiora, Tangiia, and a dozen others remind us far more of the half-mythical Scandinavian vikings who sailed to Iceland and Greenland and Vinland, and many places that are not identifiable by modern geography, than of the wanderings of Ulysses narrated in the "Odyssey." Yet there is a likeness and kinship in all three types that seem to indicate some primeval proximity in the peoples that evolved them. Of course, they have each local colour that differentiates them, and the affinity may be due to the similarity of the regions and circumstances in which they were evolved. But there are other maritime peoples in similar conditions, like the Phoenicians, the Arabs, the Carthaginians, the Malays and the Japanese, that have not developed a similar series of heroic voyagers.