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Mangaian Society

Inland High Priest

Inland High Priest

The High Priest of Rongo who officiated on the inland marae was termed the ariki-pa-uta (high-chief-guarding-the-interior). The term pa-uta applies to his supposed function of guarding (pa) the island, by means of chants, from evil spirits that approached from the east. The marae where he officiated was inland (uta), as contrasted with that of the other high priest, which was on the western shore (tai). The list of priests who held the office is given by Gill (12, pp. 315, 316) as follows:

1.Rangi: senior of first three Ngariki chiefs.
2.Te-akatauira ariki.
5.Rua-ika I: slain by Ngauta in battle.page 113
6.Rau-'ue: son of Vaeruarau the 5th shore high priest.
7.Poa-iti: contemporary of Ngarigati.
8.Te-ao I: contemporary of Mautara.
9.Rua-ika II: held office when Cook visited Mangaia (1777).
11.Te-ao II: deposed by Pangemiro, died 1829.
12.Nu-manga-tini: accepted Christianity.

The title of Inland High Priest commenced with Rangi at the beginning of settlement. The second priest was probably Rangi's brother. The third is said to have been another brother. If so, the title originally passed to three brothers and then descended in the Akatauira tribe, probably from father to son when possible.

The first priest, Rangi, must have installed himself. Later installations were made by the Temporal Lord of Mangaia, who seated the newly inducted priest on the sacred block of sandstone (ke'a) placed in the coastal marae of Orongo. The installation made the officeholder one of the two official priests of Rongo (pi'a atua no Rongo). In preparation for this office, the priest was taught the incantations (karakia) that had been originally given by Rongo to Te Akatauira. His main duties were in connection with the sacrifices to Rongo, which took their most complicated form in the sacrifice after a victory:

The conqueror consulted the Inland High Priest, who indicated the person to be sacrificed (akakite ko ai te ika) and girded the warriors with the sacred girdle of Rongo when they went out to secure the victim. As the paths to the valleys led over the central raised plateau, the girdle or girdles were put on when the war party reached the central mountain of Rangimotia. The sacrificial marae was Akaoro in the Keia district. The sacrifice (ika, "fish") was first brought to Akaoro, and the Inland High Priest performed the ritual and recited the appropriate incantations. The concluding part of the ceremony was performed at the shore marae of Orongo by his brother high priest. After the ceremony at Orongo, the Inland High Priest ordered the drum of peace to be sounded ('akatangi i te pa'u). Only the high priest could order the sounding of the official drum (pa'u) specially made for the occasion.

The observance of the proper ritual placated Rongo and made the reign of the Temporal Lord a successful one. The refusal of the high priest to conduct the ritual led to the venting of Rongo's anger upon the land. The slaying of people went on, the land was not legally redistributed, and famine followed. The power of the high priests was thus considerable. Gill (6, p. 293) states, "So sacred were their royal persons that no part of their bodies might be tattooed; they could not take part in dances or in actual warfare."

The sanctity of the high priest held so long as he restricted himself to his religious duties. If he interfered too much in temporal matters, he forfeited the immunity otherwise enjoyed. Rua-ika, the fifth high priest, was also ariki of the Akatauira tribe. He defeated the Tongaiti tribe under Tirango at the battle of Vaikakau but gave the temporal lordship to Tenau. He was page 114defeated at the battle of Taaonga by the Tongaiti under One, and again by the Tongaiti at Te-rua-kere-tonga and killed by Ngauta. His sanctity of office did not save his life.

The high priests were supposed to be neutral in the wars that took place and to be willing to perform the ritual to Rongo for the conqueror, no matter what his tribe. On occasion, however, they took political sides. The temporal power of a high priest was no more than that of an ordinary chief.

The high priest also officiated at the installation or raising ('ikianga) of the Ruler of Food.

Though the title of high priest ran in direct succession from father to son, the Temporal Lord acquired such power that he could influence the succession by having it bestowed upon some other member of the family. When Pangemiro deposed Te-ao, he bestowed the title on Numangatini, who at the time was holding the lesser title of Shore High Priest.

The high priest was rewarded for his services with liberal grants of land by the Temporal Lord. He also received official shares of food at public feasts, besides presents of food on ordinary occasions.