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The Coming of the Maori

The Manufacture of Gods

The Manufacture of Gods

In the creation myth, the gods created man. Later, to meet the needs of an expanding population, man created gods in addition to those which had created him. However, as man had composed the creation myth, it page 512stands to reason that he had created all the gods. Early man knew that human beings were reproduced by the mating of male and female, but the production of the first human beings was a problem. It required some power beyond the human to produce the first of the human species. With the principle of human sex reproduction in mind, he supplied that superhuman power by personifying the sky as a male, the earth as a female, and then mating them. They produced offspring who were endowed by man with the miraculous powers which he desired but could not acquire. It was the easier, as well as more blessed, to give than to receive. Man's theoretical ignorance concerning the first sexual act was also transferred to the gods, and the dilemma it created among them has been a source of amusement to subsequent generations. Thus, according to the classical myths, the primary gods were created by the process of personification which paved the way for theoretic sexual reproduction.

In New Zealand, as well as in Polynesia, personification was a convenient process to apply to natural phenomena or the physical features of the country, and such personifications were also mated to produce other personifications. They were endowed with a spirit by the very fact of personification. However, most of them remained as abstract conceptions, and such tribal gods as have been deemed personifications were probably deified ancestors who were provided with a natural phenomenon as a symbol or aria. Thus, Kahukura was a deified ancestor in Rarotonga, and the god of the same name in New Zealand was probably imported. In New Zealand, the symbol allotted to him was the rainbow, the common name of which is aniwaniwa. However, when people regarded the appearance of a rainbow as the symbol of the god, they were likely to exclaim, "Ko Kahukura" (It is Kahukura). In time, kahukura and aniwaniwa would become synonyms. Thus, Kahukura was not a personified rainbow, but originally a deified ancestor who gave his name to his symbol. A similar argument applies to Uenuku, another deified ancestor with the rainbow symbol, and to Rongomai, with the comet symbol.

The process of mating the primary gods to reproduce other gods was not used much in New Zealand. Tane certainly had a variety of wives, Ruaumoko married Hinenuitepo, and Tangaroa had a son named Punga who produced fish and lizards. In Polynesia, particularly in the Society Islands, the primary gods usually had more than one wife. They produced a host of children, some of whom became important gods. In mythical marriages, however, an actual sexual union from the human standpoint was not always demanded. In a Tahitian myth (50, p. 356) in which Tumunui (Great-foundation) takes the place of Ranginui as the husband of Papa, the following occurred: "The eyes of Tumunui looked down upon Paparaharaha, the eyes of Paparaharaha looked up to the eyes of Tumunui, and there was born their prince, Te-fatu (The-lord)."

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Hence, the mere pairing of male and female personifications, which were without human form, was sufficient for mythical reproduction. When the gods mated with a human female, they probably took on a material human form. Another Tahitian myth (50, p. 375) states that Ta'aroa overshadowed (ha'amaruhia) a married woman at Opoa in Raiatea and 'Oro was born. A wife was conjured up (rahu) for him by Ta'aroa and she gave birth to four children. Later, 'Oro married a high chieftainess of Porapora and became the most powerful deity of the Society Islands.

Other processes of deification occur in connection with the concept of a supreme creator. When a god is credited with creating all things, there is no power to create himself, except himself. Neither Io of New Zealand nor Ta'aroa of Tahiti had a father or mother, so they had to create themselves by what might be termed auto-deification. Once they had created themselves, it was an easy matter for them to create or conjure forth other gods.

Io, as Iomatua, was said to be the father (matua) of all things and the life of all things. As he remained a confirmed bachelor in the twelfth sky, the term father is used in a figurative sense. As Io te Wananga he was said to be the root or origin (putake) of all things. However, beyond commanding darkness and light to become separate, the sky to be suspended, and the earth to appear, there are no processes described by which he created the other gods. It is simply asserted that he was the father and origin of all living things. Ta'aroa, the Tahitian creator, on the other hand, displayed a great deal of activity. First, he made (mahani) Tumunui and Paparaharaha as male and female. After they refused to come together to mate, Ta'aroa created the god Tu (50, p. 341) by calling out, "O Tu, come to be an artisan for me." Later, he conjured forth (rahu) a number of gods, whereas others he caused to be born (fa'afanau). The gods were created at night. Some nights were stated to be "a night for conjuring forth gods" (e po rahura'a atua) and others to be "a night on which gods were born" (e po fanaura'a atua). Each night produced its quota of named gods, many of whom were born without any mention of their parents. Thus, fanau in the mythical period does not necessarily mean birth through the agency of male and female parents. It simply means that the gods mentioned came into being and the credit was given to Ta'aroa.

Though the Polynesian schools of thought had provided a well-stocked pantheon to meet the requirements of the mythical age, they found the need for more gods during the development of the people in the historical period. However, they were no longer forced to personify ideas or natural phenomena and endow them with a spiritual essence, because they could now draw upon a host of spirits already created. These were the spirits of human ancestors who resided in the homes which had been provided for page 514them. With such a selection available, there was no need to invent an origin or coin a name. All that was needed was to approach the spirit of the selected ancestor by means of some ritual formula and offerings. When contact was established by a human medium, the spirit of the ancestor was thereby installed as an ancestral god. Some symbol was associated with him as his aria, and the priestly medium composed the correct ritual. The aria given to the god was sometimes associated with an event or events which had occurred in the history of the ancestors. Thus, in Mangaia, Te A'ia was killed in a stream and an eel drank the blood-stained water. When Te A'ia was later deified, the eel became his aria. However, the same eel went out to sea and was swallowed by a shark. Thus the shark also became an aria of the Te A'ia who had the privilege of a double aria. As nobody could have seen the actual swallowing of the eel, it is evident that incidents could be readily manufactured to suit the occasion. Ancestors deified in New Zealand were usually for the purpose of serving as tribal war gods. Exceptions occurred, as when Rakeiora was deified as a fertility god to promote the productiveness of the sweet potato.

The deification of ancestors was a common practice throughout Polynesia. The Polynesians respected their ancestors and were proud of their lineages, but they did not worship them all. Different families selected a specific ancestor, and deified him. The deified ancestor was maintained as a god through the services of some member of the family who acted as a medium. On the other hand, an individual might announce that the spirit of a particular ancestor had taken possession of him and thus selected him as a medium. Noted ancestors who had been leaders in this life were selected in the conviction that they would continue their guidance and help with even greater power as a family or tribal god. Motoro, the first-born son of the great Rarotongan chief Tangiia, was deified in Mangaia. Tangiia himself was deified in Rarotonga and his followers have credited him with a unique form of deification.

The spirit of Tangiia, loath to desert its corpse, hovered in the air above Mount 'Ikurangi. The gods Tonga'iti and Tangaroa joined it; and after some consultation, each god, in turn, swallowed and spat out Tangiia. On their invitation he did likewise with them. They went to the house of Rongomatane, where Tangiia was served as a relish ('ono) with the kava drink of the assembled gods. After all the gods present had sampled and ejected Tangiia, he was invited to partake of them in turn. Evidently the process of reciprocal swallowing conferred divinity upon Tangiia, for Rongomatane directed Tonga'iti and Tangaroa to take him away and find a human medium (purapura) for him. They placed ('akauru) the spirit of Tangiia in a man named Ruru. So Tangiia became a god, with Ruru as his first human medium. The technique of reciprocal swallowing page 515was certainly a departure from the orthodox method, and Ruru, or whoever told the tale, was gifted with some imagination.

The manner in which inferior gods or family spirits were derived from abortions and the spirits of near relatives has been described.

In Mangareva, an abortion was sometimes collected by the spirit of some dead relative of the family and taken to the Underworld (Po) where it was raised to maturity. The individuals so raised were endowed with both human and spiritual qualities and, as the heroes of numerous folk-tales, had adventures in the Underworld and in this world. Though possessing magical powers, they never became gods and were never malignant. The Maori version of the origin of Maui from a discarded abortion is similar in principle to the above.

In Hawaii, two types of gods were created, the unihipili and the aumakua. The unihipili (54, p. 158) was called up or created by a priest or a layman by incantations and offerings to take up its residence in an image or a bundle of bones. It was endowed with malignant power by the process of creation, which was termed ho'omanamana (to give mana). The creator of the unihipili was termed its kahu (caretaker), and he served as its medium. The god served his medium so long as offerings were made to it, but if they ceased the god was likely to slay its neglectful medium before it also ceased to exist.

The aumakua (54, p. 157) was a deified ancestor whose service was handed down from father to son. The major gods, Ku, Kane, Lono, and Kanaloa were aumakua. New aumakua, however, were created from time to time by deifying high chiefs soon after death (54, p. 142). The bones were cleaned and arranged in a sitting position in the shrine (mua) of the deceased chief's house. The priests addressed the bones in ritual terms and thus deified them. They were then placed in a network receptacle of sennit and kept in a new house built for the purpose. The deceased chief was thus made an aumakua god and received worship from the family and people. A man might have several aumakua. If one was busy, he could consult another who was disengaged.

The process of creating gods continued in operation throughout the period of occupation in Polynesia and New Zealand and ceased only after European advent led to a change in religion. The gods who were known only in individual islands or groups were created in those islands after they were settled. Such gods, if deified ancestors, may be checked on the local genealogies; and the origin of some may be mentioned in local traditional history. The gods who were shared by different island groups were created at an earlier period at some common centre before emigration took place. The major gods—Tane, Tu, Rongo, and Tangaroa—belong to this earlier period, but whether they were created in the Society Islands or were brought into that group by early settlers, it is difficult to determine.

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Though the Maori myth makes them the sons of Rangi and Papa, myths and folk-tales were composed around events which had already occurred. Thus Tane, Tu, Rongo, and Tangaroa were already created as gods before the Sky-father and Earth-mother myth was used to bring them together in a popular story. It is possible or even probable that they were created by deifying ancestors who may have lived in the Society Islands or farther back in time and space somewhere along the route to Polynesia.