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Ethnology of Manihiki and Rakahanga

The Priesthood

The Priesthood

No priests accompanied the first settlers, and consequently no specialized line of priests came down by descent. Functions of a priestly nature were discharged by the head of the group and probably were concentrated in the single line of ariki chiefs. In the 7th generation the introduction of gods necessitated the creation of a keeper of the gods. This office went to Ura or Patu-kare and probably descended in their line until the 11th generation, when the position passed to the dual ariki. The whakamaru also acted as the media of the minor gods. The acquisition of temporal power by the heads of the tribes certainly took away some of the temporal power from the dual ariki and forced them into the position of a senior priesthood. The establishment of the dual arikiship split the priestly powers exercised by the ariki so that one ariki exercised supernormal power in the air and the other on land and sea. This division of priestly power was symbolized by the words tira and papa.

The special function of the Whakaheo was to bring about good weather during the voyages between the two atolls and to control the wind and page 210 weather not only for voyaging but for fishing. The Whainga-aitu exercised his powers to induce productivity of the land and sea. If in good humor, it was said that he could invoke the sea so that fish came ashore (ka tarotaro i te moana kia haere mai te ika ki uta). On the other hand, if he were angered, he invoked his god so that the sea became rough and no fish or turtle could be procured. Both the Whakaheo and Whainga-aitu suffered from the lack of the hereditary background of scholarship that is the birthright of the established Polynesian priesthood.