Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Mangaian Society

The Shore High Priest

The Shore High Priest

The second priest of Rongo received the title of ariki pa tai. He was the defence on the coast (pa tai) from the spirits that came from the west. The list of Shore High Priests is given by Gill (12, pp. 316, 317) as follows:

1.Tui: from Rarotonga.
2.Tamatapu: son of Tui (some say that Te-pa held the office).
3.Vari, f.: a female, sister of Te-pa.
4.Puanga, f.: a female.
5.Vaeruarau: son of Puanga; killed by order of Ngauta; deified; his son Rau-ue was made Inland High Priest.
6.Ito: slain and eaten by hereditary foes in Mautara's time.
7.Kaiau-paku: son of Ito.
8.Te-nio-pakari: son of Ito.
9.Kanune: son of Te-nio-pakari, slain by Raumea.
10.Te-akatauira: son of Kanune.
11.Te-ivirau: drowned at sea.
12.Kaiau II.
13.Numangatini: grandson of Te-ivirau.

The first holder, Tui, was from Rarotonga. Some strong reason must have caused Rangi to give the second priestly office of the Ngariki tribe to an outsider. Tui married a woman of the Tui-kura tribe. He was evidently an isolated person without a tribe, for his son Tamatapu, who succeeded him, went to his mother's tribe to avenge an insult offered him. The Rarotongan succession ended with Tamatapu, for the office evidently went to Te-pa who belonged to the Ngariki. The office was apparently in a somewhat unstable condition, for it passed next to a female in the person of Vari, a sister of page 115Te-pa, and later to another female, Puanga, who probably belonged to the family of Te-pa. It is difficult to reconcile a woman with the position of high priest. Gill confuses the issue in his account of the installation of Vaeruarau. Through the constant fighting in Ngauta's younger days, the priestly family had become exterminated with the exception of Puanga and her infant son, Vaeruarau. At the cessation of war, it was decided to install Vaeruarau and celebrate the occasion with a great feast. Gill (12, p. 86) states:

Every preparation for the feast was completed; all the great men of the time were waiting; but who should perform the necessary karakia or "prayers"? Buanga [Puanga], the mother of the infant king, could not, being disqualified by her sex, though well versed in these "prayers". The baby king Vaeruarau was too young to learn. Not a creature else on the island was eligible to perform such sacred functions. What was to be done? A happy thought struck the mother. Though her child, high priest of the gods, was too young to perform the accustomed prayers, he was not too young to cry! She therefore gave the young king a smart blow on the back, causing him to cry lustily. This was enough; the royal voice had sounded in the hearing of the gods, although not quite in the right way! It was to be accepted in the place of the "prayers" of "grace"; and of course the feast was immediately proceeded with to the satisfaction of all parties.

Puanga has been put in the list of succession as the fourth high priest. Yet in the installation of her son, she could not recite the ritual on the marae because of her sex. Evidently neither Puanga nor Vari could have officiated on the marate of Rongo as high priestesses. They have been included in the list of succession by the native historians because the succession came through them and they had had the correct ritual taught them in order to transmit it. The teaching of sacred ritual to women shows one of the methods a family took to safeguard its immaterial property. Matrilineal succession of Vaeruarau was caused by the fact that all other male members of Puanga's family had been killed. It is not stated what relation Ito, the sixth priest, held to his predecessor, but after him the succession went in the male line:

Te-nio-pakari succeeded his elder brother, probably because his elder brother's son, if he had one, was too young to succeed his father. The reason for this supposition is that Mautara instructed his two eldest sons to select Kanune as a high priest to sound the drum of Rongo after their future victories. If Kaiau-paku had had no children Kanune would have been the page 116rightful successor and Mautara would not have needed to use such selective power.

The relationship of Te-ivirau to his predecessor is not clear, but his pedigree on the Ngati-Vara side is as follows:

On his mother's side, Te-ivirau belonged to Ngati-Vara, so that the office of high priest came through his father, Areturu. The twelfth high priest, Kaiau II, was probably the Pai who seized the temporal lordship from his brother, Kirikovi. After his death the office reverted to the family of Teivirau and went to his daughter's son, Numangatini. I do not know why it did not go to his sons or their families, but it is probable that Pangemiro, the Temporal Lord of that time, used his selective powers. Gill (12, p. 315) states that some of the shore kings were natural sons of great interior kings, but gives no examples. On the other hand, Rauue, the sixth Inland High Priest, was the son of Vaeruarau, the fifth Shore High Priest.

The Shore High Priest officiated on the great marae of Orongo on the coast:

The human sacrifice was brought to Orongo after being exposed at Akaoro, and the Shore High Priest completed the ceremonial. He cut off the ears and nose of the victim and divided them into pieces for distribution among the new officials created by the victory which the ceremony celebrated.

He seems also to have assisted the Temporal Lord on occasions.

Vaeruarau lived inland near Ngauta and had his own small marae named Ariana where he kept his shell trumpet. On a night when Ngauta decided to destroy a party of fishermen for an insult offered to one of his tribe, Vaeruarau summoned the warriors by blowing his shell trumpet. He then accompanied Ngauta and on the central hill of Rangimoto adjusted on each warrior the girdle sacred to Rongo.

The Shore High Priest ranked second to the Inland High Priest. While exercising his office, his person was extremely sacred. Gill (12, p. 317) records that on the sacred marae of Orongo, "even 'the Temporal Lord of page 117Mangaia' approached him, after his attendants had deposited his offering, crawling on all fours !" When war broke out, however, the power of the warrior became supreme, and the sacred nature of his office did not protect the Shore High Priest's life if he interfered in temporal matters.

Though Vaeruarau was useful to the Temporal Lord Ngauta in his early days, later Ngauta ordered his death. His successor, Ito, was not only slain but was eaten by his hereditary foes. Kanune entered into politics when he assisted Mautara's sons in killing the Temporal Lord, Akatara, and his party at a feast. Kanune boasted of his prowess to Raumea, and later Raumea killed him because he recognized that Kanune was likely to become a source of trouble in temporal affairs. The gods avenged his death but seem to have taken no notice of the deaths of Vaeruarau and Ito.

The Shore High Priest was rewarded with gifts of subdistricts of land which were confirmed or added to by the various Temporal Lords in recognition of the priests' services on the marae of Orongo in connection with their accession to power. The Shore High Priest was also recognized as having a special right over all turtles caught, and he received the special portion including the head and neck termed te ua 0 te 'onu. This right dated back to early times as shown by the story of Tamatapu, the second priest, who caused a whole party of Ngati-Tane fishermen to be annihilated because he heard two turtle-bearers speak disparagingly of him.

Gill (12, p. 379) gives the story of Numangatini's installation as Shore High Priest in about 1814, as follows:

The morning star had just appeared, when the loud call E tama—"O sir!" aroused him. Coming outside he found Tamaine and Vaipo, deputed by "the Lord of Mangaia" as representing the victors. Two curiously plaited coconut leaves were placed on the ground; he was desired to plant his feet on them. His legs were then carefully anointed with scented coconut oil. Then the sacred girdle (maro aitu) was adjusted by them on his person. Six stout white garments (tikoru), beaten out from the inner bark of the Broussonetia papyrifera, were next placed on his shoulders. Finally these vestments were removed and hidden in a sacred cave. This was the secret ceremony. The public installation of the new king took place a day or two later. He was on this occasion formally seated by the Temporal Lord, in the presence of the leading under-chiefs, upon "the sacred sandstone" in Rongo's marae on the seashore, facing the setting sun.