Isles of Hiva: Religion

Photo right: Stone Tiki (Images) in Taipivai, Nukuhiva



photo of Stone Tiki (Images) in Taipivai, NukuhivaPapa'una (Upper stratum) and Papa'a'o were the primary parents of the universe. They gave birth to the gods in the dark, narrow space between them. The gods later rebelled and forced the two parents apart to make space and to let light into the world (Buc k 149).

The gods were called atua (Hawaiian akua). Handy notes that the gods were not as distinct from human beings as in Western culture: "Atua were simply beings with powers and qualities of the same kind as those of living men (enata), but greater. Some men an d women were atua in this life; most became atua after death (Handy Native Culture 244). The following gods are described in Handy (244-247; Hawaiian Names of Deities in Parentheses):

Atea (Wakea; husband) and Atanua (wife): the progenitors of all natives

Tu (Ku): patron of war

Tiki: "ancestor of men through union with a heap of sand which he piled up on the seashore"

Teuutoka, Teuuhua, and Tahitikaupelka: gods of the sky

Tonofiti (husband) and Hanau (wife): rulers of the underworld

Tana'oa (Kanaloa): god of wind and sea and patron of fishing.

Tane (Kane): associated with the sacred adz (Tane was not a major god in Hiva as he was elsewhere in Polynesia.)

'Ono or 'Ono-tapu (Lono), like Tane, was not a major god in Hiva. He was a legendary character who defeats the god Tohetika (Buck 150-1).

Numerous other gods were patrons of special activities or phenomena of nature such as plants or diseases. For example, Hopekoutoki and Motuhaiki (Hawaiian Mokuhali'i?) were patrons of canoe-building and woodworking; and Manatu ("Thought") and Pupuke ("Wel ling up of knowledge") were the patrons of chanting.

Ancestral spirits of chiefs and priests were re-presented by wooden or stone images and were worshipped in the me'ae (temples). Ancestral spirits belonging to families were worshipped at family shrines.

The most prominent names in oral narratives include Maui, Mahuike, Fai, Tana'oa, Tupa, Hahapo'a, Hu'uti, Ono, Tohetika, Tiki Tu Kae, Tuapu'u, Akaui, Tiu, Kena, Pohu, Putio, Puainanoa, Puhi, and Hina (Handy Native Culture 247). The stories are collected in Handy's Marquesan Legends and Landgridge's Von den Steinem's Marquesan Myths. (The story of Akaui are included in 1.0. "Polynesian Voyaging Traditions.")

Maui, as elswhere in Polynesia, is said to have "fished up various islands, obtained fire from his grandfather Mahuike in the lower regions, and snared the sun with a noose of human hair to delay his passage across the sky in order that Maui's laundry mig ht have time to dry" (Buck 153). The canoe building-god Motuhaiki is also said to have snared the sun, in order to give him time to finish a canoe (Handy Native Culture 155).