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Mangaian Society


page 162


The gods of Mangaia consisted of the sons of Vatea and Papa, importations from Rarotonga, locally deified ancestors, and vaguely remembered gods from older myths. The god Rongo became the national god of all Mangaia, but each tribe had its own tribal god. In addition there were a number of supernatural beings who appear in song and myth but have no definite place in religious observances. The power of the gods varied directly with the temporal power of the group which acknowledged them.

Of the five sons of Vatea (pp. 15 to 18), Tangaroa, Rongo, and Tane were widely known in Polynesia; Tongaiti was known throughout the Cook Islands, Society Islands, and the Tuamotus; and Tangiia was confined to Rarotonga and Mangaia. Rongo and twelve tribal gods were represented in Mangaia in a national godhouse. Gill (6, p. 19) states that Tangaroa had one almost neglected marae on Mangaia on which the newly formed nuts of young coconut groves were offered. Neither the name nor the site of the marae could be ascertained at the time of my visit.

Rongo, who figures as the god of agriculture in other areas, was the god of war in Mangaia. A memory of the old concept is indicated in the myth (p. 16) in which Rongo's allocation of food was so great that it was trampled under foot. Retention of his original association with the fertility of the land is seen in that parts of the human sacrifice offered to him after a victory were taken to different districts in order that food might grow plenteously during the new reign.

Through the early continuity of the Ngariki supremacy, the offering of a human victim to Rongo by the Ngariki after a victory in battle became a national custom and established Rongo as a national god of war. When the Ngariki were conquered the new victors had to be installed as Temporal Lords on the maraes by the high priests of Rongo, who alone knew the correct ritual. Although Rongo displaced the war god Tu of other Polynesian pantheons, the association of Tu with war is retained in the myth of the combat between Tu-tavake and Tu-kai-taua (p. 20) and references in songs. There can be little doubt that the mythological allocation of material and immaterial property by Vatea (p. 17), when temporal power (ua mangaia) was given to Rongo, is a projection backward of the conventional installation of the victor on the marae of Rongo.

Rongo was a god dwelling in the underworld (atua po) at the spiritual Auau. After battles he sometimes visited the upper world to feast on the spirits of warriors recently slain, enticing them toward him with a bunch of bananas.

Rongo was first served on the Ivanui marae in the district of Ivanui, probably when Rangi was the sole High Priest before the movement of the Nga-page 163riki to the western part of the island led to the erection of the inland marae of Akaoro and the shore marae of Orongo, both in the Keia district, and the splitting of the High Priest's office. Rongo was represented by a triton shell trumpet in the godhouse near the inland marae and by two stone images on the shore marae. He does not seem to have had any incarnation. His Inland and Shore High Priests were drawn from his own descendants in the Ngariki tribe.

Rongo has been wrongly identified by Gill (11, p. 27) with Oro of Tahiti and the Leeward Society Islands. In that area Oro (Koro) and Roo (Rongo) are distinct gods.

Tane, under the name Tane-papa-kai (Tane-piler-up-of-food), appears in Mamae's version of the creation myth as the fourth son of Vatea, who gave him the oven (umu) and a godship (atua). He was not worshiped in Mangaia, however, until immigrants brought the worship of Tane from Tahiti.

The original god Tane has had many attributes attached to his name which in the course of time have come to be regarded as distinct gods. The following attributes of Tane are those given by Gill (12, p. 65):

Tane or Tane-papa-kai Tane-piler-up-[giver]-of-food
Tane-ngaki-au Tane-striving-for-power
Tane-kio or Tane-i-te-ata Tane-the-chirper or Tane-of-the-shadow
Tane-i-te-'utu Tane-of-the-Barringtonia-tree
Tane-i-te-ke'a Tane-of-the-sacred-sandstone
Tane-tuki-a-rangi Tane-the-heaven-striker
Tane-kai-aro Tane-the-man-eater
Tane-i-te-roa Tane-the-tall
Tane-maro-uka Tane-shearer-of-thatch [Tane-of-the-firm-loin-cloth]
Tane-mata-ariki Tane-of-the-regal-face
Tane-arua-moana Tane-guardian-of-the-ocean
Tane-ere-tue Tane-the-storm-wave
Tane-vaerua Tane-the-spirit
Tane-i-te-i'o Tane-at-the-core

Some of these names indicate that Tane had more power in Tahiti, the home of the Ngati-Tane, than he subsequently acquired at Mangaia. The name Tane-of-the-sacred-sandstone implies that Tane had to do with the installation of rulers, a function he did not attain in Mangaia. Of the fourteen recorded names, the following four were the only ones carved in iron-wood and kept in the national godhouse in Mangaia:

God Marae Incarnation
Tane, or Tane-papa-kai
Tane-ngaki-au Taumatini Birds (kau'a and kerearako)
Tane-i-te-utu Marae-teva Fish (sprats)
Tane-kio Maungaroa Sennit work Planets (Venus, Jupiter)
page 164

Tane-papa-kai was awarded the highest position of the four, probably for the sake of coincidence with the established Mangaian creation myth. Though an idol was carved to represent him, he had no marae and no incarnation. It appears that he was an academic admission, whereas the other three functioned among the people who brought them from Tahiti.

Tane-ngaki-au was introduced by the first Tahitian immigrants, and his name (Tane-striving-for-power) evidently reflected the attitude of his followers, both in Tahiti and after the arrival in Mangaia.

Tane-i-te-utu was worshiped at Marae-teva in the Tavaenga district. It is probable that a large Barringtonia tree grew beside this marae, and the name of Tane-i-te-utu thus indicated the particular marae and the group of Ngati-Tane who erected it. A further distinction followed when Tane-i-te-utu was given a separate incarnation which led to the carving of his image as a separate form.

Tane-kio (Tane-the-chirper) was expelled from Tahiti. (See p. 168.) It is evident that he was added to the Tane group in Mangaia. His worship was continued on the Maungaroa marae which his priest, Ue, had erected. Another name for Tane-kio was Tane-i-te-ata (Tane-in-the-morning), because the morning star, Anui (Venus or Jupiter), was regarded as the eye of Tane.

Tane-mata-ariki, though he had no idol in the godhouse, was represented by an elaborately lashed ceremonial adz.

Tane, though a major god in other areas, was in Mangaia only a tribal god worshiped primarily by the Ngati-Tane. Exactly how far he was worshiped by the Ngati-Vara is uncertain. Some lines from a death chant composed by Tuka of the Ngati-Vara concerning the priest Ue and Tane-kio run as follows (12, p. 66):

Te-rau 'oki to tama ra rire Te-rau also was thy son,
I ravea'i e Tane nei, Adopted by [the tribe of] Tane,
Ei ko'atu i Maunga-roa na Ue, To be a prop at Maunga-roa [built] by Ue,
No Vara nei te pi'a. The priesthood came through Vara.

Though I reject the association of Papaaunuku with Tane, it is evident that his grandson, Te-rau, was acceptable to the Ngati-Tane, who wished to secure him as a support or prop (ko'atu, "stone") to their marae, Maungaroa. The priest hood (pi'a) was that of Motoro, to which Te-rau succeeded through his father Vara. Mautara, though officiating as priest of Motoro, worshiped Tane; but his son Te Uanuku could not be murdered by Raei because they were both worshipers of Motoro (p. 63). Rautoa, a prominent chief of the Ngati-Vara, was a worshiper of Tane. Evidently when the Ngati-Vara grew into a tribe some sections continued to worship Tane, but others went over to Te-aio. Both Tane and Te-aio were worshiped on the Ngati-Vara marae of Taku in the Veitatei district.

Gill (6, pp. 107-114) records a myth dealing with Tane's adventures in search of a wife in Ukupolu. In this, the widespread story of Kui-matapo (Kui-the-blind) has been associated with Tane. That Tane marries Ina-who-rivals-the-dawn is reminiscent of the Maori version in which Tane page 165marries Hine-titama (the Dawn-maiden), but the setting and accessory circumstances differ considerably.

Tongaiti appears as the third son of Vatea in myth and as a tribe in history. The god of the Tongaiti tribe was Turanga, with the alternative name of Matarau. It is evident that a certain idea of identification between the god and the tribe existed. Gill (6, p. 10) states that the visible form of Ton-gaiti, son of Vatea, was the white and black spotted lizard, and this form of lizard is also the incarnation of Turanga or Matarau.

Tangiia appears as a son of Vatea in Mangaia only. In spite of Gill's warning (6, p. 24) to distinguish the Mangaian mythical Tangiia from the Rarotongan ancestor of the same name, I consider that the early Mangaian myth composers have taken their Tangiia from the deified Rarotongan ancestor. When Motoro, the son of Tangiia, was deified by the Ngariki, the myth revisers remembered that Tangiia the god belonged to an earlier period than Motoro and conveniently made him a son of Vatea, an obvious misplacement. Tangiia became the tribal god of the Tangiia or Kanae tribe, which became exterminated or absorbed. He was worshiped on the Rangi-taua marae near Lake Tiriara and was represented by a wooden idol in the national godhouse, but had no incarnation.

Turanga, or Matarau, was not known as an ancestor but appeared ready-created with the advent of the Tongaiti tribe. The name Matarau (Two-hundred-eyes) was taken from the lizard incarnation, which was credited figuratively with an abnormal number of eyes from which nothing could be hidden. The official marae was Au-moana near the present village of Ta-marua. A few yards from the marae, in the base of the makatea cliff, was a small cave in which the lizard incarnation dwelt.

A real lizard was supposed to be served there by an appropriate caretaker (tangata tei tiaki). At certain times the caretaker went to see (karo) Matarau in the cave. He took with him a piece of white bark cloth (autea) and two taros cooked on the embers (tunu). The cloth was spread out in the cave before Matarau and the taro placed upon it. The caretaker, on retiring, did not turn his back (kare e 'oki tua) until he reached the mouth of the cave. This observance was carried on by a surviving family of the Tongaiti for some time after the acceptance of Christianity.

Turanga was the tribal god of the Tongaiti, but when two subtribes budded off from the main tribe they set up their own gods. Just as there was an early clash between the Ngariki and Tongaiti tribes, so there was a similar trouble between their gods, Rongo and Matarau (p. 179).

Presumably the gods represented by carved idols in the national godhouse were worshiped by considerable folio wings of people. Of the remaining six gods thus represented, Motoro, Te-aio, Teipe, and Te-kuraaki were tribal gods, and Utakea and Kereteki can not be located within any group.

Motoro was the tribal god of the Ngariki. The rule of the Ngariki dur-page 166ing the early period when customs were taking form firmly established Motoro as the greatest of the tribal gods. Motoro and his priests took precedence over all others except Rongo, and in the godhouse the idol of Motoro stood next to the shell trumpet of Rongo. Without doubt, Motoro is the deified son of Tangiia of Rarotonga. (See p. 31.) Motoros main marae was Araata in the Keia district. Motoro was known as the i'o ora (god of the living) because his followers could not be drawn upon as human sacrifices to Rongo. Motoro was represented by sennit work and the orongo plant. His incarnation was the mo'o (blackbird).

Te-aio, wrongly spelled "Tiaio" by Gill, was the Mangaian ancestor who defeated the Atiuans (p. 41) and became Temporal Lord. Later, in his pride, he wore some scarlet hibiscus flowers in his ears in the district of Keia where it was distasteful to the gods and consequently forbidden. A dispute took place near the marae of Motoro when Mouna, priest of Tane, slew Te-aio for his disrespect. The blood of Te-aio flowed into the neighboring stream and was drunk by a fresh-water eel. The Ngati-Vara, in later generations, adopted Te-aio as their tribal god. The marae of Mara, in the Keia district close to the place where Te-aio was killed, was built to his service. He was also served by the Ngati-Vara at the Taku marae in Veitatei. Manaune, the adopted son of Mautara, gave allegiance to Te-aio. The Manaune tribe adopted Te-aio as their tribal god. They served him at the Tangiia-rakoa marae in Karanga, Arangirea in Tavaenga, and probably others.

Teipe was the god of the Teipe subtribe of the Tongaiti. According to Gill (12, p. 333), he was worshiped at Vaiaua, but my informants stated that Vaiaua is the valley on the east side of the island in which the marae named Ruaiva is situated.

Te-kuraaki is another god of alleged Rarotongan origin introduced by Tui, the Rarotongan to whom Rangi gave the position of first Shore High Priest of Rongo. The god was adopted by the Tui-kura as their tribal god and, though the tribe became extinct, the carved image was preserved in the national godhouse. Gill (12, p. 332) brackets this god with Utakea as regards the marae and incarnation.

Utakea, also of Rarotongan origin, was alleged to be a brother of Motoro (p. 21). This relationship is not borne out by Rarotongan genealogies and must be regarded as fictitious. My informants held that both Te-kuraaki and Utakea were from Atiu, where the names were said to be known. As both of them were said to be worshiped on the marae of Nuvee and to be incarnated in the woodpecker (tatanga'eo), it is probable that Utakea was also worshiped by the Tui-kura tribe.

Kereteki, of Rarotongan origin, was another alleged brother of Motoro (p. 21). Gill (12, p. 332) states that he was worshiped at the maraes of page 167Araata and Tauangaitu. Araata is the main Motoro marae, and Tauangaitu could not be located. Kereteki had no incarnation. Kereteki can not now be associated with a particular tribe, but his idol was cared for in the national godhouse. Aiteina related the following tale to me:

A number of people paid court to a lady by playing their bamboo flutes outside her house. She had barred her door for the purpose of making her selection from the music without seeing the player beforehand. Kereteki appeared in human form and, by playing a tune totally different from the other, intrigued the lady, who opened her door to him.

In addition to the gods represented in the national godhouse, a deified Mangaian ancestor, Vaeruarau, obtained a following for a period. Vaeruarau was the fifth Shore High Priest of Rongo. He supported the Tongaiti Temporal Lord, Ngauta, who later had him killed on his marae, Ariana. Vaeruarau was deified, but because of sickness and death among his followers the god was accused of man-eating. He was deserted, except for a faithful few, some of whom worshiped him until after the advent of Christianity.