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Mangaian Society

Dart Throwing

Dart Throwing

Darts were made from reeds (kaka'o) which grew in the valleys. The throwing ground was termed ta'ua, and weeds and grass were cleared off the part against which the darts were cast. The player took a short run and cast the dart in a slanting direction against the ground causing it to ricochet and rise on its flight through the air. The longest throw in each case by all the competitors gained a point (kai). In team playing, all the darts on one side that outdistanced the longest throw of the other side counted as points.

The general term for a dart was tao (spear) and the act of throwing in the particular underhand manner was termed teka, as illustrated by the following prayer of Tarauri to his father, the god Tangaroa:

'Omai taku tao, ei teka naku, Send my spear, for me to cast,
Ei teka ki te ta'ua. To cast on the throwing ground.
page 150

The general term tao became merged in the special term teka, and teka became both noun and verb.

The first dart throwers on record were Pinga and his seven dwarf sons, who were invisible. Gill (6, p. 118) gives the myth of a competition between these experts and the two fair-haired sons of Tangaroa by Ina-ani-vai.

The younger son Turi was defeated but was later avenged by Tarauri with a magic dart dropped from the skies by Tangaroa in answer to the prayer given above. In Gill's version, the sons of Pinga twice prevented Tarauri from throwing by crowding around him but, perceiving a space between the legs of one of his opponents, Tarauri cast his dart in that direction with unerring aim. The dart struck the ground and rose in the air, where it remained for eight days before it landed. Some of Gill's informants placed the competition in Ukapolu, another land conveniently placed in Avaiki; but the myth states that the magic dart landed at Areuna in the Veitatei district. It is to be presumed that Gill's version, owing to the period at which it was collected, is nearer the original story than the versions now told.

Tangitoru gave me a genealogy in which Turi is not the son of the god Tangaroa but of Oriko in the fifth generation from Tavarenga, who is said to have come in the first canoe named Maukoro-i-te-rangi. The Ngati-Tarauri were a tribe skilled in dart throwing, but they won by cheating.

Turi saw that the cheating by stamping (taka'i) and clapping hands (pokipoki) was possible because of the flat casting ground which enabled the disturbers to crowd round their opponents. Turi, therefore, built a narrow raised platform of coconut trunks eight deep in his territory and arranged a competition. The Ngati-Tarauri were short people and were well below the platform when Turi cast his dart. The casting ground (ta'ua) used by Turi was pointed out to me in the Tamarua district. Turi cast his dart named Vai-te-rangi, and it disappeared over the horizon in a southwesterly direction. Later Turi sailed in search of his dart in the canoe Rangi-matoru and so arrived at New Zealand.

That Turi is made the hero of this story, and Tarauri confused with the family of Pinga, I attribute to the attendance of Tangitoru and a party of Mangaians at the Christchurch exhibition in New Zealand in 1908, where they were in camp with a Maori tribe who were descended from an ancestor named Turi. They were later entertained in their own territory by another tribe descended from Turi. The Mangaian Turi and the New Zealand Turi were topics of conversation and formed a link between the two peoples. Both parties were courteously friendly toward each other and ready to believe that an ancestral link existed between them. The story of the New Zealand Turi was brought back to Mangaia and the local story adapted to fit the identification of two distinct characters who lived in different are as at different times.

In spite of the rationalization, parts of the older story were remembered—for example, the incantation used by the dwarf family of Pinga ('anau poto-poto a Pinga) when they obstructed their opponents:

Taka'ia te ta'ua Stamp on the casting ground
la ru te papa i Atea. To shake the foundations of Atea.
E ma'iti kura i te rangi tapai.
Ua re ta'i waka—ae, ae. One tribe has won—yes, yes.page 151
Ua tumatatenga—aitoa, aitoa. [Our opponents] are weak—serve them right, serve them right.
Maikiniti, maikiniti, Aitua raua. Misfortune assail those two [Turi and Tarauri].

Dart throwing was practised by both men and women, but each sex had its own matches which the other could attend but in which they could not take part.

Dart-throwing matches were held to commemorate the death of a favorite child or near relative and were thus a form of ceremonial mourning. After the dart throwing a play was acted, and a feast followed. Both the death drama described on page 196 and the dart throwing were enacted entirely by women. Though in the other Cook Islands girls may have thrown darts for amusement, Mangaia appears to be the only one in which women indulged in organized matches.