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Anthropology and Religion


page 59


In addition, however, to changes in and additions to the old pattern, there is evidence that an esoteric school arose in some part of New Zealand, probably in the Wairarapa district of the North Island. Like the religious seminary at Taputapu-atea, the New Zealand school created a creator but gave him the name of Io. Like Ta'aroa, Io had no parents but simply came into being. He was then made responsible for the creation of the already existing pattern of religion, but certain additions were made. Two more skies were added to the older count of ten, and Io went into residence in the twelfth, or topmost, sky. A house was provided for him, named Rangiatea, and the assembly place before it was named Te Rauroha. A staff of Celestial Maids (Mareikura) was provided, and Guardians (Poutiriao) were appointed to the series of sky levels which were given individual names. Messengers were engaged to carry on communication between Io and the major gods who were not interfered with in the new reorganization. As Io was regarded as the source of all knowledge, a new incident was added in Tane's ascending to the topmost heaven to obtain the three baskets of knowledge from Io. An old incident was introduced when Whiro tried to oppose Tane's mis-page 60sion but Tane was eventually victorious. It will be seen that the New Zealand revision was much more smoothly accomplished than that at Taputapu-atea. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the Maori school attempted to proselytize other tribes. The cult of Io seems to have been an intellectual effort confined to the higher priesthood and to have a limited distribution. Except for the element of predating a creator, there is no similarity in the details of the cults of Io and Ta'aroa. Io steps into the picture as a new individual with a higher prestige than the major gods, but the religion of the people remained polytheistic.

A third center of religious activity resulting in drastic changes appears in the Tuamotu atolls. From native informants and from his translations of various chants, J. F. Stimson has come to the belief that the Tuamotuans also had a creator named Kiho or Kio. Kio fights with Atea and others for supremacy and conquers them. It is tempting to see a similarity between Kio and Io, but, as the Maoris do not drop the consonant k, they seem to be distinct words. Furthermore, an analysis of the details of the Tuamotuan and New Zealand myths show nothing in common beyond the promotion of an individual above his fellows. Here again the religion remained polytheistic.

There has been a tendency to regard these sporadic occurrences of a creator as evidence that the Poly-page 61nesians originally had a monotheistic religion which was later changed to polytheism. From the pattern of Polynesian society, which in turn influenced the religious pattern, we see that the dominant features are the distribution and sharing of food and material goods and the budding off into family groups ruled by their own chiefs. The offerings of food and the division of power among a number of gods follow the human pattern. At the same time, there was a constant struggle for supreme power among the chiefs, and this struggle was reflected in the various island groups in the wars of the gods for supremacy. I believe that Polynesian religion has always been polytheistic but that intellectuals among the priesthood have in some localities elevated a particular god to supremacy among his fellows by making him a creator. I regard these versions of a creator as late sporadic efforts that took place after the general dispersal and not as the remnants of an ancient general monotheism.