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Ethnology of Tongareva

The Nights of the Moon

The Nights of the Moon

No explanatory details could be obtained, but the following list of the nights of the moon was collected:








Tahi no te Samia


E roto no te Samia


E hakaoti no te Samia


E tahi o te Tamatea


E roto o te Tamatea


E hakaoti o te Tamatea


















E tahi o te Rakau


E roto no te Rakau


E hakaoti o te Rakau


Te tahi o te Korekore


Te roto o te Korekore


Te hakaoti o te Korekore


Te tahi o te Tangaroa


Te roto o te Tangaroa


Te hakaoti o te Tangaroa









The outstanding feature of the Tongareva list is the consistent grouping of certain names in threes. Of these groupings, two are in the first half of the month and three in the second half. The groupings in twos, threes, and fours occur in other parts of Polynesia. In the Tongarevan groupings the qualifying terms used are tahi (first), roto (inner, middle), and hakaoti (last). A comparison with lists published by Best (2), Handy (9), Stim- page 217 son (26), and Williams (33) shows that a great similarity prevails from New Zealand to Hawaii, but in Samoa (21) the list is not only abbreviated, but no name coincides with any of those on lists from eastern Polynesia. The Tongarevan list coincides closely with that of Tahiti and with those of Rarotonga and New Zealand.

The first three nights, Tireo, Hiro, and Soata (Hoata) correspond in name and order with those of Tahiti (26) and Rarotonga. In New Zealand all three names occur with variations, but the order has been transposed, particularly with Whiro as the first and Tirea as the second night. It is significant that in the list of thirty tables presented by Williams (33) only two maintain the order with Tireo first, and that these two, which came from Tananaki and Wanganui, are the nearest to the Tongarevan list. From this distinction it can be inferred that Tongareva has kept the three names in their original order.

The 4th, 5th and 6th nights form the first group of three Samia. The three Tahitian lists by Stimson (26) give the same group as three Hamiama. His 3rd list keeps the same qualifying terms of tahi, roto, and fa'aoti, and the other two lists use mua, roto, and muri. For Rarotonga Williams (33, p. 356) gives Amiama for the 4th night and Akaoti for the 5th, which should be Amiama-akaoti, making a group of two. In the Marquesan list by Handy (9, p. 348) the 4th, 5th, and 6th nights are Maheama tuatahi, Maheama vaveka and Maheama hakapao, thus preserving the Tongarevan and Tahitian group of three. According to Williams (33, p. 355) Manga-reva has the first four nights as a Maema group of four, and neither New Zealand nor Hawaii shows any trace of a word resembling Hamiama, though Hawaii has a group of four qualifying terms for the 3rd to the 6th nights. The group name itself is omitted. On the whole, it appears that the Hamiama group was a later addition and has been abbreviated in Tongareva to Samia (Hamia) by dropping the final syllable ma.

The 7th, 8th, and 9th nights form the second group of three Tamatea. Here some confusion exists. Stimson's third Tahitian list, which follows the Tongarevan qualifying terms in the Hamiama group, gives two Ore'ore (Korekore) and one Tamatea for the same nights in that order. This is followed by another of the lists. Stimson's second list gives a group of three Tamatea, without any 'ore'ore. Marquesas follows up the Maheama group of three with three Koekoe (Korekore), which accounts for the 7th, 8th, and 9th nights and drops the Tamatea entirely. Hawaii has an Ole group of four starting from the 7th, and Mangareva has a Korekore group of four starting from the 5th. Neither Hawaii nor Mangareva has any Tamatea nights.

page 218

Rarotonga compromises by following up these two Amiama with two Tamatea and two Korekore, reversing the order that is maintained in Tahiti. The Maori lists show much confusion, but several of them start the series of the 4th to the 9th with a form of Uenuku, followed by Okoro and four Tamatea. One list gives Korekore-mua (6th), Korekore-muri (7th), and Tamatea (8th), with the Korekore nights thus coming definitely before the Tamatea. The wide distribution of the Korekore names indicates that it had a definite place in the first half of the month as well as in the second half. With Rarotonga as an exception, the Korekore evidently came before the Tamatea, which seems to have been increased in number in some areas with the effect of decreasing the number of Korekore. Thus, in New Zealand the Okoro night immediately precedes the Tamateas, and from its position, it probably represents the Korekore group, having reached its present form of Okoro through Okore. The position of the Tamatea group toward the end of the first quarter is emphasized in the Maori tradition of the Tainui canoe. Hoturoa, the chief of Tainui, proposed to set out from Hawaiki to the land in the south on the Orongonui (28th). He was advised by his elders, however, to wait until the following Tamateas were over, as the end of the first quarter was regarded as rough weather. Hoturoa's reply was, “I will meet the Tamateas on the open sea and we will fight it out there.” Tongareva, by this adoption of three Samia and three Tamateas, has eliminated the Korekore terminology.

From the 10th to the 15th a widespread series of names is used. Huna (10th) appears as the 10th in Tahiti, New Zealand, Chatham Island, Mangareva, and as the 11th in Hawaii, Marquesas, and some New Zealand lists.

The 11th, under the form of Hoari, is evidently Ari with a prefix ho. Ari appears in every Maori list, occurring 15 times on the 11th, 12 times on the 10th, and 3 times on the 9th. It appears as Oari on the 9th in Mangareva, as Ai (ari) on the 10th in the Marquesas, and as Vari in Rarotonga and Mangaia. In Tahiti it appears as Ari on the 11th, but with an alternate name of Rapu for the same night.

Hua (12th) is a day later and follows Maharu in Tahiti, New Zealand, Hawaii, Marquesas, and Rarotonga. In the Moriori (33, p. 355) and a few of the Maori lists Hua appears on the 12th and precedes Mawharu. Maharu (13th), as noted above, precedes Hua in most localities.

Atua (14th) is interesting, for in Tahiti and Rarotonga the 14th night is Maitu. The name, however, occurs on the 14th in Hawaii (Akua), Marquesas (Atua), Chatham Islands (Outua), also most New Zealand (Atua) lists, whereas it appears on the 13th in Mangareva (Oetua) and on the 15th in some Maori lists. Manihiki has an Atua mua on the 13th and an Atua-muri on the 14th. Distribution shows that Atua is the old name, page 219 whereas Maitu is a local name in Tahiti and Rarotonga. Hotu (15th) is well established as the 15th in Tahiti, Rarotonga, Hawaii, Marquesas, New Zealand, and Chatham Islands and appears as Ohotu on the 14th in Mangareva. Marangi (16th) appears as the 16th in Tahiti (marai), Manihiki, Rarotonga, and Hawaii (Malani). In New Zealand, Chatham Islands (maure), and Mangareva (Omaure, 15th), its place is taken by Maure, with variants. Turu (17th) appears as the 17th in Tahiti (Turutea), Rarotonga, Marquesas (Tu'u), Chatham Islands (Oturu), most New Zealand lists, and Hawaii (Kulu).

The 18th, 19th, and 20th form the group of three Rakau which corresponds exactly with Tahiti, Rarotonga, Manihiki, and Hawaii. The 21st, 22nd, and 23rd form the group of three Korekore of the second half and the 24th, 25th, and 26th form the group of three Tangaroa, again corresponding exactly with Tahiti, Rarotonga, Manihiki, and Hawaii. New Zealand, Chatham Islands, Marquesas, and Mangareva disagree slightly as to the numbers in the group, but they follow the order of Rakau, Korekore, and Tangaroa, though Mangareva uses Vehi instead of Tangaroa. The different areas usually finish up the group on the 26th, which leaves a fairly constant group of four nights. Tane (27th) appears as the 27th in Tahiti (Tane), Hawaii (Kane), Mangareva (Otane), and in 66 per cent of the New Zealand lists (Otane). In the remaining New Zealand lists the Otane is displaced to the 26th or 28th but always preserves its position as the first night after the last of the Tangaroa series. In Chatham Islands (Otane) it is also displaced to the 28th, but follows the last Tangaroa. In Marquesas (Tane) it occurs on the 28th but follows Vehi, which in Mangareva corresponds to the Tangaroa group. In Rarotonga and Manihiki Tane night occurs on the 28th, being so displaced by the transposition of the Rongonui night between the Tane and the last Tangaroa.

Mauri (28th) and Rongonui (29th). The Rongonui night follows the Tane in Tahiti (Ro'onui), Hawaii (Lono), Marquesas ('Ononui), Chatham Islands (Orongonui), and in all the New Zealand lists. The exceptions, as mentioned above, are Rarotonga and Manihiki, where it precedes the Tane, and Mangareva, which omits the Rongonui altogether. The Mauri night follows the Rongonui in Tahiti (Ro'o-mauri), Hawaii (Mauli), Chatham Islands (Orongomori), and New Zealand (Mauri and Mouri). In Rarotonga and Manihiki, as the result of the transposition, the Mauri follows Tane but occupies the same third position in the last group of four. From distribution, therefore, the Mauri and Rongonui have become transposed in the Tongareva list. Mutu (30th) is the last night in Tahiti, Rarotonga, Manihiki, Hawaii, Chatham Islands, and New Zealand; and the Marquesas and Mangareva, which show the most confusion of the lists examined, omit page 220 it. From distribution it is evident that the original names and order of the last group of four comprising the 27th to the 30th nights were Tane, Rongonui, Mauri, and Mutu.

The Tongarevan list of nights of the moon, therefore, standardizes the groupings into threes, especially in the first half, by omitting the Korekore nights and, except for the transposition of Hua and Maharu in the first half and Mauri and Rongonui in the second half, retaining what appear to be the original names in the old order.