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Mangaian Society



In addition to the inanimate representations, living things were entered by the gods and became their incarnations. Rongo, Tane-papa-kai, Tangaroa, Tangiia, and Kereteki had no incarnations. The incarnations of the other prin-cipal gods are here summarized.

God Incarnation
Motoro mo'o (blackbird)
Tane-ngaki-au kau'a and kerearako (birds)
Tane-i-te-utu sprats (fish)
Tane-kio Venus, Jupiter (planets)
Te-aio eels, shark
Turanga black and white-spotted lizards
Teipe veri (centipede)
Te-kuraaki tatanga'eo (woodpecker)
Utakea tatanga'eo (woodpecker)

Though the ancestral pattern is to provide each principal god with one or more incarnations, some of the omissions can be explained. Rongo was a god in the underworld, and the Ngariki tribe took Motoro as their god in the upper world. Tane-papa-kai was the academic Tane, and the Ngati-Tane looked to Tane-ngaki-au, Tane-i-te-utu, and Tane-kio for practical guidance. Tangaroa was also academic and had no actual worshipers. Both Tangiia and Kereteki had no living followers on the arrival of the missionaries, and the absence of incarnations is probably owing to a break in the records.

The primary connection between the god and the incarnation is sometimes recorded in a myth. Stories of the more recently created gods are usually retained. When Te-aio was killed, his blood flowed into a stream and was drunk by an eel. The spirit of Te-aio entered the eel, which, after Te-aio was deified, became his incarnation. The eel went out to sea, came in contact with a shark, and the spirit of Te-aio passed over to the shark. The shark also became an incarnation. This is the mechanism followed in New Zealand, where any fish, reptile, bird, or animal which touches or drinks the blood of an ancestor may become the incarnation of that deified ancestor. Probably primary connections between the other gods and their incarnations existed but have been forgotten.

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The incarnation having the power of movement was respected because of its potentiality of information to the followers of the god when the god willed or the followers sought it. Sometimes an individual member of the incarnation species was selected for attention. The lizard in the cave at Au-moana, which became the specific incarnation of Turanga or Matarau, was consulted and its actions and movements interpreted if omens were required. Interpretations were familiar to the worshipers of the god, especially the priests. The natives also respected the fact that the god might be angered by ill-treatment meted out to his incarnation by his followers.

Incarnations, particularly birds, voluntarily conveyed warnings to the follower of the god when his life was in danger. Itieve, a worshiper of Tane-ngaki-au, was being led into an ambuscade by a treacherous companion, Kei-keia, when a kau'a bird flew above him and screeched. Itieve disregarded the warning and two subsequent ones and was killed. The incident is recorded in song:

Itieve 'oki 'akatopa ake i to atua, Itieve, answer up to your god,
"O Tane koe e karanga nei?" "Art thou Tane, now calling?"
Na vaerua i te rangi e, Spirits in the sky,
Ua tangi e te kau'a. The kaua has screeched.
O te amo e, te mate kimi'ia e.— Ah, the lie and the sought death.

Note. The lie was that of Keikeia, who had invited Itieve to go to the seashore with him. Under ordinary circumstances, Itieve would have accepted the warning, but he had just committed a sin and was blinded. In the killing of Kanune, high priest of Rongo, a drop of blood had fallen upon a coconut. Itieve had foolishly wiped the blood off and eaten the coconut. In spite of the removal, he had figuratively eaten Kanune's blood (kua kai i te ioto o Kanune). Owing to the high priest's personal tapu, Itieve was doomed to destruction. His mind was dulled and he could not appreciate the warning of his god's incarnation.