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Mangaian Society

Human Sacrifice

Human Sacrifice

Human sacrifice is said to have been inaugurated in the period of Rangi. On the completion of the Ivanui marae to Rongo, Rangi offered a rat on the marae. Rongo turned away his face in displeasure when Rangi visited him in the underworld and would not be satisfied with anything less than a human sacrifice. After the first battle fought on Mangaia against the Tongaiti, Vaioeve of that tribe was offered on the marae as the first human sacrifice to Rongo. The human sacrifice was metaphorically termed e ika no Rongo (a fish of Rongo). The following myth indicates that the Tongaiti tribe made some attempt to prevent their slain from being devoted to' sacrificial uses. I agree with Gill (6, p. 293) that it is an allegorical account of the theft from the marae of Rongo of a Tongaiti sacrifice by his own tribe and its recovery by members of the Ngariki.

Matarau (Turanga), god of the Tongaiti, heard that Rongo had two 'aku fish which were kept in a pool below Kaukau. One night Matarau stole the larger of the two fish and conveyed it back to his own marae, Aumoana. Missing the fish, Rongo sent two birds, one of which was the tanga'eo, to seek the fish at Aumoana. The messengers confirmed Rongo's suspicions but were unable, to recapture the fish owing to the vigilance of Matarau. After some other unsuccessful attempts, Rongo sent yellow butterflies (pepe rengwrenga), instructing them to settle on the upper surfaces of the sere leaves of a banyan tree that grew beside the marae. When in position, the moi'o (whirlwind) was sent to shake down the dead leaves of the banyan. These fell in a dense, swirling mass on the marae and blinded the eyes of Matarau. Under cover of the leaf barrage, the yellow butterflies, also swirling about like yellow leaves, descended and bore the fish away. As they flew away, they sang:

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E uru tupu ariki, te 'apai e te 'aku nei nga pepe. An observance magnifying high chieftains-ship, this 'aku fish is borne up by the butterflies.
E uru tupu ariki, e ika na Rongo. A high chiefly ritual, the fish of Rongo.
E 'apai, e takitaki 'aere. It is raised up, it is borne away.

The early victories of the Ngariki enabled them to continue offering human victims after battle. The Tongaiti, having furnished the first victim, were designated as a sacrifice-providing tribe (kopu ika) by the Ngariki, and all the defeated tribes were successively added to the list of kopu ika. Of these tribes, the Teipe was particularly drawn upon, especially the family of Maruata. The Ngariki maintained immunity on the grounds that Motoro would not permit his followers to be used as sacrifices. Consequently Motoro was called the i'o ora (god of the living) in distinction to the other tribal gods, who were i'o mate (god of the dead). Both the Ngati-Vara and the Manaune came into prominence after the kopu ika tribes had become designated, and their god Te-aio was not included in the i'o mate. The only chance a designated kopu ika tribe had of escaping its fate was to seize the temporal power and hold it. No Temporal Lord would consent to the killing of a member of his own tribe as a sacrifice to Rongo. The Teipe tribe were spared after defeat that they might breed and supply victims for future use.

From the early days of Rangi to the period of Mautara, only one human victim was required. The second victim in Mangaian history was Turuia, priest of Tane, who was slain by a war party on their way to attack a party of fishermen. After the battle, the body of Turuia was laid on Rongo's marae as a sacrifice. In the earlier decisive single battles, the victim was taken from the slain. Later, when the temporal power passed out of the hands of the Ngariki, the Ngariki priests of Rongo still had charge of the ritual. The human sacrifice demanded for the installation of the new Temporal Lord before the drum of peace could be sounded was termed the ika ta mangaia (the sacrifice killed for the rule), or the ika 'akatangi pa'u (the sacrifice enabling the drum of peace to be sounded). As the preparation of the installation ceremony that developed took some time, a fresh victim was not available from the last battlefield. A sacrifice had, therefore, to be selected from among the sacrifice-providing tribes. The selection was made by the victorious leader in consultation with the priests of Rongo.

The priest of Rongo provided a sacred belt to be worn by the warrior selected to slay the victim. The form of the belt is not recorded. Eventually it became established that the victim would not be acceptable to Rongo unless the slayer was invested with the sacred girdle. Just before the advent of Christianity, it appears that the great power of the Ngariki priests of Rongo was encroached upon. The last Temporal Lord, Pangemiro, con-page 181sulted the priest of his own tribal god regarding the selection of victims for his two installations. Probably this was one of the factors that led the high priest Te-ao to refuse to invest him regularly.

The "peace" victim (ika 'akatangi pa'u was distinct from the ordinary victim (ika motu) that was sacrificed to bring about success in battle. In the Mangaian language, the victim killed before the battle was e ika kia motu te 'au (a fish to sever the rule), whereas the peace victim was e ika ta inangaia (a fish to confirm the rule). It was not necessary to consult the high priests of Rongo in the selection of victims before a war, and the slayers of such victims were not usually provided with the sacred belt. Williamson's statement 28, vol. 2, p. 348) that the power of the priests of Rongo was so great that war could not be commenced without their consent is in error because he did not distinguish between the ordinary propitiatory sacrifice and the "peace" victim.

After Mautara's reign, there was a tendency to increase the number of human sacrifices. Makitaka, even for his installation, demanded two victims instead of one; one as food for Papa (ei ika aua no Papa), and the other to sound the peace drum (ei ika 'akatangi pa'u).

The warrior selected to secure the victim was named at the meeting which nominated the "peace" victim. As he was rewarded with an extra grant of land after the installation, the position was much sought after. He was usually accompanied by a party of warriors who were anxious to pierce the body of the victim with their weapons and thus lay claim to a liberal share in the distribution of lands.

The right of the slayers to a reward in land was so established that the Manaune tribe held a secret meeting to appoint the slayers of Te-ata from among themselves in order that their Ngati-Tane allies would not share in the slaying. Arokapiti of the Ngati-Tane heard of the meeting and, by being present at the slaying, insured for themselves a special allotment of land.

A member of a defeated tribe treacherously slew a woman of the sacrificial family of Maruata to form the official "peace" victim in the hope that the new government to be installed would reward him by allowing him to keep his lands, which were forfeit to the victors. The sacrifice was rejected because the slayer had not been invested with the sacred girdle.

The word tauma'a, meaning "food" in some Polynesian dialects, became a ritual expression used in connection with providing the human sacrifice in Mangaia.

As the slayer struck the victim he gave a shout of exultation termed a tauma'a, from the use of the word in the phrase, "Tauma'a te ika na Rongo!" (Taumaa the fish of Rongo!) Some warriors used a cry drawing attention to themselves or their families, as in the cry of Ararua as he pierced the body of Te-ata: "Tauma'a o to pare kaute!" (Taumaa of the hibiscus wreath!) Mauria thrust the second spear into the body with a cry referring to Tumu-te-ove, a minor god of his tribe, the Manaune: "Tauma'a rava koe no Tumu-te-'ove!" (You are indeed Taumaa to Tumu-te-ove!)

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A decoy (ve'ive'i or ve'i) assisted the warriors in locating the sacrifice selected.

A number of the decoys were maternal nephews of the victims. They themselves were safe as they belonged to their father's tribe, and they seem to have had little hesitation in delivering their mother's brother to death for the sake of reward. It was usually through a tama va'ine relative that men were decoyed away from protection to an ambush. On other occasions, the informer ingratiated himself with the unsuspecting victim and sat up with him at night, eating, drinking, and singing to keep his mind away from fear of danger. He kept the victim awake as long as possible so that when he did succumb the sleep was sound. The decoy then went out and brought the slayers to their victim.

As the slayers often had difficulty in finding the nominated victim, it became an established custom to reward the decoy with a share of land. This led to treacherous conduct on the part of friends or relations of prospective victims (12, pp. 36-44).

After a decisive battle the fugitives hid themselves until the drum of peace sounded. In addition to the tribe actually defeated, members of other tribes liable to human sacrifice and not actively allied with the victors, remained on the alert. At the slightest suspicion of danger, they hid themselves in the rocks. Those who had a powerful protector ('are rau maru, "well-thatched house that does not leak") took care to remain on their premises. A powerful chief named Vaangaru (9, p. 229) gave up his dependents and even a secondary wife to the slayers, which caused his old mother to say, "E pa kikau nga'enga'e koe, e ta'u ariki." (Thou art a defense of loosely thatched coconut leaves, O my chief.)

The slain victim was sometimes carried on the spears thrust through his body for a distance, but a wooden litter (amo) was usually provided. The body was carried to the Akaoro marae, where it remained on a scaffold of hala wood for some time. From the hala ('ara) scaffold, the dead victim was termed pange-'ara (cast on the hala). The Akaoro marae was referred to as te marae e poa ai te 'enua (the marae which causes a stench in the land). After the Inland High Priest of Rongo had performed the ceremonies, he caught up the victim in a sennit scoop net with large meshes, thus figuratively catching a fish. The victim was called an ika ka'a (fish caught in sennit). The "fish" was carried in the net to the Orongo marae on the coast. Here it was laid on the block of limestone before the stone image of Rongo. After the appropriate incantations, the ears were cut off, divided into slices, placed on leaves, and distributed among the district and subdistrict chiefs. The right ear was distributed among the chiefs on the right division of the island, and the left ear among the chiefs of the left division. In a death chant for Maruata of the Teipe tribe composed by Koroa, the following words occur:

Pikao rauti ra Wrapped in ti leaves,
I te taringa kotikoti The cut-up ears
O Maruata ia 'oto'ia. Of Mautara announce new possessions.

The nose was divided among the two High Priests of Rongo, the Ruler of Food, and the beater of the drum of peace.

After the drum of peace had been beaten around the island, the Shore High Priest, by means of the net, cast the decayed corpse into the bushes at page 183the back of the marae, there being no refuse pit within the precincts of the marae. The corpse was then termed te ika 'au'au na Papa (the decayed fish of Papa), in memory of the mythological account in which Papa, in order that she might have the surplus, procured the greater share of food to Rongo. The net was then wrapped around the larger stone image of Rongo and left there to decay. No more interest was taken in the corpse, and the skulls were not collected to decorate the marae as was the custom in Tahiti.

A third form of human sacrifice was termed the ika tea (white fish.) Its origin is attributed to the first historical battle in which a man from each of the divisions of Ngariki fell before victory was secured. This led to the idea that the blood of one of the party desiring victory must first be shed as a sacrifice to Rongo before victory could be gained.

Three outstanding examples of this supreme sacrifice, which involves the voluntary consent of the individual, are recorded in history. The first is that of Tiroa, priest of Tane, who, after being selected in conference, voluntarily went out among the enemy to be slain in order that Panako might gain supremacy (p. 49). The second was the Ngariki chief Kauate, who obeyed the will of Motoro as revealed by his priest Mautara, and sought death that his tribe might regain the supremacy from the Tongaiti (p. 52). The third and most striking was that of the warrior Arokapiti, who voluntarily took the place of his deserting brother, to turn the tide of battle which was going against his party.

The ika tea had to be some one of high rank. The selection was made by the chiefs of the party in council or by the priest of the tribal god. The person so dedicated to Rongo went out and was killed by the enemy, who were not aware of the significance of the killing. Like the other propitiatory sacrifice, the iku tea was intended to sever the existing rule (kia motu te 'au). It was made only under desperate conditions and such a stirring self-surrender provided the extra confidence that a desperate party needed.

Although a human sacrifice was always due to Rongo, apparently a similar sacrifice was not considered out-of-place to Motoro. Motoro decreed through Mautara that the first-born sons of the Ngariki families were to be offered in sacrifice to insure the favor of the tribal god. The mother of the Ngariki warrior Potai accounted for his failure to secure the temporal power thus: "Aru toa oti koe e ta'u ariki, 'are a'au 'angaingai ia Motoro." (Though you have sought success in battle, O my chief, yet you have never fed Motoro.)