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Mangaian Society



Bathing in fresh water to remove perspiration and dirt from labor on land and salt from fishing in lagoon or sea was part of the personal routine of the population. For those who came into close association with the gods, ablutions of a purificatory nature formed part of the religious routine. In the ordinary avocations of life, the individual was noa, or free from a special state of religious tapu. During religious ritual, the people on the marae were impregnated with the tapu of the marae. The officiating priest was particularly tapu because the god entered his body. On the marae of Orongo, the Temporal Lord of Mangaia approached the high priest of Rongo on all fours, but, off the marae, he might have him killed.

Theoretically the passage from the state of noa to that of tapu was accomplished by ablutions which removed material taint. This applied particularly to the priests, but evidently it was sufficient for the others to change their clothes. Each tribal marae had its ablution pool or spring which was regarded as tapu for the use of the tribal priests. Each of the national maraes of Rongo had its pool; that connected with Orongo was the fresh-water stream of Vairorongo and that with Akaoro was Marua. Although it is probable that the high priests bathed in these pools before changing their clothes on all ritual occasions, the purificatory ablutions were particularly necessary before the installations of the new high priests.

Theoretically again, the passage from the state of tapu to that of noa was accomplished by ablutions to remove the tapu of the marae and the close association with the gods in order that individuals could mix with their fellows and resume the ordinary conditions of life. In Tongareva (25, p. 90) the ablutions after the marae ceremony were a fixed part of the ritual. In Mangaia, it was evidently enough for the majority to resume their ordinary clothes. The association of the sacred priests with the gods had been so intimate, however, that ablutions were necessary. This is referred to in a chant concerning the Orongo marae (6, p. 31):

Mariu te tapu o Motoro, Remove the tapu of Motoro,
Te taka ra i Vairorongo [By] bathing in Vairorongo stream,
I te koukouanga vai ē. In the fresh-water bathing place.

Note: Gill translates the last line, "'Twas there his spirit landed," but koukouanga is a poetical form of kaukauanga (a bathing place), and vai always means "fresh water" as contrasted with tai, "salt water."

A form of religious ablution was used in adult adoption by the mother's tribe for politic reasons. The adopted person bathed in the sacred pool of his mother's tribe to purify him from the taint of his father's god and tribe.

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