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Mangaian Society



Though Gill uses the term "idol" throughout his works, he merely expressed the missionary attitude toward such carved representations. Best (1, p. 156) distinguishes between images and idols and says that though the Maori had a few images, "he possessed and worshiped no idols." The same remarks apply equally well to the Mangaians. The images were made in stone and wood.

Rongo was the only god carved in stone. Two images, a large and a small, stood permanently in the shore marae of Orongo. The large image was broken to pieces by the converts to Christianity, and the small image probably shared the same fate. The kind of stone of which the images were made is not recorded.

The principal gods of Mangaia, with the exception of Rongo, were carved in wood and kept in the national godhouse. The original godhouse with the contained gods was accidently burned while Rori was in exile. When Manaune surprised Rori on the beach, he called to him to remain and carve his god for him. The appeal to his craftsman's instincts led Rori to accept, and he ended his long exile by coming under the protection of Manaune. Besides carving Te-aio, the god of Manaune, Rori carved the other principal gods of Mangaia, with the exception of Rongo and his own god, Teipe. Teipe, however, was beautifully carved by Tapaivi, a friend of Rori (12, p. 333). The 12 wooden images or representations in the godhouse were those of Motoro, Tane-papa-kai, Tane-ngaki-au, Tane-i-te-utu, Tane-kio, Te-aio, Te-kuraaki, Utakea, Turanga, Teipe, Kereteki, and Tangiia.

The images carved by Rori were of ironwood and consisted of rude representations of the human form. The image of Motoro was decorated with the red feathers that Rori's grandfather had brought from Tahiti. Rori also obtained some hair from his aunt Mangaia to adorn the head of the image (12, p. 204). The images were wrapped with the special white bark cloth, as thick as cardboard, termed tikoru mataiapo (cloth of the first-born), which was manufactured by the priests of Turanga (12, p. 132). After the acceptance of Christianity, the gods were removed from the godhouse and the wrappings were stripped from the gods and thrown into the sea. The denuded images were handed over to Williams and Platt and were eventually deposited in the British Museum (12, p. 334).

In addition to the images of the principal gods in the national godhouse, extra images were kept by the priests in their houses. Keu, priest of Teipe, concealed his son-in-law Namu in the sacred inclosure in his house (12, P. 153).

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The deified Vaeruarau was also carved in wood by Rori and deposited in the national godhouse. When he was accused of causing sickness among his followers his image was expelled from the godhouse and hidden among the rocks in Ivirau by some who remained faithful. Secret visits were paid to it as late as 1824 (12, pp. 86-87).