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Mangaian Society

Upper Spirit Realm

page 205

Upper Spirit Realm

The widespread concept of ten upper superimposed spirit realms was held in Mangaia. Gill (6, p. 2) diagrammatically represents the first realm as bounded by the supposed orbit of the sun between its eastern and western openings into the lower world. A myth states that the sky once rested close to earth on the leaves of the pia (arrowroot) and teve, which were thus flattened out. Ru came up from Avaiki and propped the sky a little higher with strong wooden stakes set on the central plateau of Rangimotia. Maui, who was made son to Ru, quarreled with his father and threw both Ru and the sky to a tremendous height from which neither returned again. The boundaries between realms were skies (rangi), and an allusion to Ru shows that the number of skies was not necessarily restricted to ten, but was many: "Ru-tokotoko-i-te-rangi-tuatini." (Ru-propper-up-of-the-many-skies.) Tangaroa was supposed to live in a vague upper spirit realm after leaving his brother Rongo in the underworld.

The myth regarding Ngaru-tai shows that the upper realms were peopled by mythical creatures of much the same disposition as those inhabiting the lower realms. The principal character was the cannibal Amai-te-rangi, who let down an attractive-looking basket on a rope to entrap Ngaru (6, pp. 234-236). Ngaru ascended and by strategy and the aid of the lizard host of his grandfather Mokoroa overcame the demon. The demon killed his victims with a stone chisel and a mallet and was killed in turn by Ngaru with his own tools. The sky-demon was only an incident in a story and disappears without entering into permanent competition with Miru for the spirits of men. In the upper realm were tapairu (women of high rank), of whom the two principal ones were Ina and Matonga. From them Ngaru learned the game of juggling with balls so that eight were kept going at one time. Having vanquished his teachers in the game, Ngaru returned to earth.