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Mangaian Society

Material Representations

Material Representations

The object selected or created to represent a god acquired a certain amount of tapu from its association in idea and ritual with the god. The material object itself, however, was not worshiped.

Rongo was represented in the national godhouse by a triton shell trumpet which was used by the Inland High Priest of Rongo. The sound of the trumpet was figuratively the voice of Rongo calling the people to some ritual connected with his service.

Tane-kio and Motoro were each represented by a particular form of sennit work originally decided upon by the priests. Tane-kio was represented by finely plaited sennit braid. When he became unpopular in Tahiti his priest Ue hid the sennit braid representation in an empty coconut shell, plugged the aperture securely, and set the vessel adrift in the sea. The vessel landed at Mangaia and Ue followed it there. From the size of a coconut shell opening, it would seem that the representation was merely a piece of braid and not one of the small figures made of sennit braid that are characteristic of some of the Tahitian gods. What form of sennit work represented Motoro is not now known. Motoro was also represented by the oronga plant, but the form is not recorded.

Mokoiro was represented on the fishing canoes by a charm made of the end of a coconut leaf. Gill (12, pp. 149, 150) states that the palm frond was secured with finely plaited sennit tied in a bow, one of which he has deposited in the British Museum. In another place (12, p. 31), he states that in the cave of To-uri "is still hidden the god Mokoiro, consisting merely of a small roll of sennit! It had no human likeness whatever, and therefore found no place in the king's idol house." Aiteina stated that the Ruler of Food placed small twisted cones of bark cloth (autea) in his own canoe before the fishing fleet set out but gave the coconut leaf representations to the other canoes.

Ruaatu, the fisherman's god, was represented by a rock which served as a shrine for offerings.

Tane-mata-ariki was represented by finely lashed adzes on special carved handles which are unique to Mangaia. Because of the size and shape of the hafts, the hafted adzes could not be used in practical woodwork. They have usually been termed "peace axes," yet they never figured in the peace cere-page 169monials conducted on the two maraes of Rongo when a new government was installed in office. The present inhabitants are strangely lacking in detailed information regarding their use. Pareina of Tamarua thought they were used ceremonially in connection with the god Tane, as the Ngati-Tane tribe was skilled in making fine sennit braid and the complicated lashings which form a feature of the adzes. In Tahiti Tane was regarded as the god of woodcraft, and fine sennit braid and adzes were associated with him. Gill, in referring to one of the Mangaian forms of Tane, Tane-mata-ariki, states (6, p. 275; 9, p. 224):

Tane-of-royal-face is the name of the ax god, identified with the clever Mangaian method of securing ordinary stone axes to wooden handles. This valuable knowledge was introduced by Una from Tahiti (or Iti).

A famous god, named Tane-mataariki, i.e., Tane-of-royal-face, was considered to be enshrined in a sacred triple ax, which symbolized the three priestly families on the island, without whose aid the gods could not be acceptably worshiped. Tane-of-royal-face was one of the few much-respected gods not surrendered to missionaries, but hidden in caves. All trace of this interesting relic of heathen antiquity is now lost. The shape of a god-adz differed at the back from those used by artisans in being rounded underneath.

Stolpe (21, p. 106) records that a Mangaian adz in the museum at Chambéry bore an account on the label that the stone itself had belonged to a chief of Tahiti in Cook's time and that "it was, after the owner's death, shafted in this manner that it might be preserved by his family as a remembrance." The cut of a part of the carving (21, p. 146) shows an adz definitely Man-gaian, as Stolpe recognized. Yet he accepted the statement on the label and put forth the theory that the adzes were especially connected with ancestor worship and that they were probably the very symbols under which the worship was performed. Motoro, Te-aio, and Vaeruarau were the only human ancestors who were deified in Mangaia. Each was worshiped under his own name and had his own marae, image, and material representation. None of the material representations were hafted adzes. Stolpe's theory is not supported by Mangaian evidence.

Songs and traditions connect the ceremonial adzes with the worship of Tane-mata-ariki and record the introduction from Tahiti of adzes associated with Tane by the Ngati-Tane immigrants, among whom Mataroi (12, p. 58) figured as a maker of adzes and Ue, the priest of Tane-kio, used fine sennit as the symbol of his god, Later Una, the craftsman, came from Tahiti, and his knowledge of carving and of a superior form of lashing was applied to the decoration of adzes used ceremonially as the symbol of Tane. Una married a woman of Mangaia, and their son Rongo-ariki was a worshiper of Teipe. As Teipe was a local god not known in Tahiti, it seems probable that Rongo-ariki was dedicated to his mother's god. His son Rori carved all the gods in the Mangaian godhouse except his own god Teipe. Evidently the fact that page 170Rori was not a Ngati-Tane did not prevent him from using his craft in the services of Tane.