Friday, 9 January 2015

Creation Mythology: Polynesia - Part Two

Yesterday we looked at several creation myths from some of the islands of Polynesia – New Zealand, Nauru, and Tonga.  Today we will further explore the creation mythology of some more of these islands; namely Samoa, Hawaii and Tahiti.

Samoan Creation Mythology

People began to settle on Samoa in around 1000 BC.  Much of their creation myths are very similar with that found in Tonga.  The following creation story is an ex nihilo, or from nothing, myth.
Tangaloa-fa’atutupu’nu’u Creates Samoa

High in space Tangaloa-fa’atutupu-nu’u paced.  He was very much alone.  When he stood still, a rock began to grow.  Tangaloa commanded the rock to split and it did.  Soon other rocks formed.  These were the words and ideas of the Samoans.  Tanaloa-fa’atutupu-nu’u hit the first rock and it brought forth the Earth and the Sea.  The rocks began to speak to one another.  Tanagloa the Creator, however, spoke on many occasions with the first rock, which soon brought forth the sky, space, fresh water, maleness, femaleness, Man, Spirit, Heart, Will, and Thought.  It was then that Tangaloa told the rock that Spirit, Thought, Will, and Heart should combine within Man, and so they did.   Tangaloa decreed that Man would join with Earth to bring forth a couple, who were Fatu and ‘Ele-ele.  These two were to populate a particular part of the Earth.
'Chief-to-Prop-up-the-Sky,’ was commanded to hold the sky above the earth.  While, in the beginning he was unsuccessful, he soon learned to make posts to complete his task.  However, at this time only Immensity and Space existed.  It was Immensity and Space who made Night and Day, who were called Po and Ao.  These made the nine heavens.
After this Tangaloa-the-Creator created Tangaloa-the-Immovable, who was chief of the sky, and Tangaloa-the-Messenger, who acted as the Creator’s ambassador to the other heavens.
Night and Day lived in a lower heaven, where they brought forth Manu’a, Samoa, Sun, and Moon.  Night and Day, along with their offspring, were summoned by the Messenger to attend a council with the Creator and the Immovable.  Here they were told that Manu’a and Samoa were to descend where they would become chief of the descendants of Fatu and ‘Ele-ele.  The first lands upon the Earth were the Samoan, Fiji, and Tonga islands.  To populate these places with people, the Creator took worms found on harvested Fue, the ‘People-making plant’ and fashioned humans.

Another Samoan creation myth finds Tangaloa-Langi, the creator, in a cosmic egg, from which he hatches.  The pieces of the egg shell are said to have fallen into the ocean where they became the Samoan Islands.  A myth that stemmed from this is that of Tangaloa’s son, Tuli.  This is considered as a creation from chaos and an ex nihilo creation myth.  Some versions have the Creator drop a stone to create the earth; others have the Creator bring the stone up from beneath the primordial waters.

The Creation of Gods and Men

In the beginning, the High Rocks, Papatu, united with the Earth Rocks, Papa’ele, and from them the gods were born.  These included Saolevao, who was god of the earth and Saveasi’uleo, who was god of the underworld, or Pulutu.  It was in the seventh generation that Tangaloa, who became known as the Creator, came into being and he had a son, Tuli, a kind of plover bird.
One day, Tuli descended to the primordial waters but there was nowhere for him to land.  So Tuli returned to his father and asked for his help.  The Creator dropped a stone and the stone transformed into the earth.  Here Tuli landed, but he found the rock was constantly being submerged by the ocean.  So Tuli went again to his father and asked for help.  The Creator used a fish hook and raised the rock above the water.  Soon other rocks began to appear on the surface of the water and soon brought forth ‘fue’, which is a kind of grass.  But Tuli was still not satisfied, for there was no one to populate the rocks.  Again he asked for his father’s help. 
The Creator told Tuli to pull up some fue and to allow it to rot.  Tuli did as his father said and soon discovered two grubs on the rotting grass.  From the grubs, Tangaloa formed two male beings.  One day the two men went fishing, but something went wrong and one of them died from an injury caused by Io, a little fish.  Tuli flew back to his father and told him what had happened.  Tangaloa sent his messenger, Ngai-tosi, down to the earth to bring the man back to life.  However, before doing so, Tangaloa first changed the sex of the dead man into that of a female.  When the being was reanimated, it was a woman.  The two humans came together and became the parents of the entire human race.

The Creation Myths of Hawaii
Wondering minds and wandering keels
When space turned around, the earth heated
When space turned over, the sky reversed
When the sun appeared standing in shadows
To cause light to make bright the moon,
When the Pleiades are small eyes in the night,
From the source in the slime was the earth formed
From the source in the dark was darkness formed
From the source in the night was the night formed
From the depths of the darkness, darkness so deep
Darkness of day, darkness of night
Of night alone
Did night give birth
Born was Kumulipo in the night, a male
Born was Ko’ele in the night, a female.
                                A Kumulipo chant from 18th century Hawaii

Beginning from Darkness by Zesuri
The following creation myth comes from the Polynesian natives of Hawaii and can be found in a sacred poem called the Kumulipo.  The Kumulipo ‘is a genealogical creation chant’ which was composed in the 18th century for the chief, Ka-‘l-i-mamao.  The story contains animistic and emergence elements and was once chanted at the births of royal children.  This signified a new beginning and the relationship between the child and the plants and animals of the first creation.

Creation According to the Kumulipo

First out of the very nothing, there was born Kumulipo, who was male and the essence of darkness, and Po’ele, who was female and the darkness itself.  They gave birth to the children of darkness, shellfish, and the plants that grow from the dark earth.  Soon many kinds of creatures of this kind existed and a bit of light appeared in the world.  The god Kane-i-ka-wai-ola watered the plants.
Then deep darkness (male) and darkness with a little light (female) came into being and bore the fish of the sea, which multiplied.  Still, there was little light to be seen in the world.  Then Po’el’ele (who was dark night and male) was born along with Pohahha, who was female: night becoming dawn.
In this very dim light, Popanopano and Polalowehi came about and gave rise to the animals like turtles that come to the land from the sea.  Next, another male and female pair of beings was born and they gave rise to the pig, Kamapua’a, dark and beautiful.  His people, the pigs, began to root around and cultivate the islands that were now flourishing in the dim light.
Yet another pair gave rise to Pilo’i the rat, and this was a mistake.  For the rat people scratched and ate and began to damage the land.  Next, a male and female pair arose whose names meant ‘night leaving’ and ‘night pregnant.’  They gave birth to dawn, as well as wind… and the dog.  It was Po-kini and Po’he’enalu who gave birth to the time when humans came into the world, and into this time La’ila’a, the woman, and Ki’I, the man, were born.  It was daytime in our world.

Kane by Print Logic Inc.
Kane was known as the leading god to those of Hawaii when missionaries began to arrive.  He was considered the god of procreation and, according to the Kumuhonua legend, he formed the three worlds: the upper heaven of the gods, the lower heaven above the earth, and the earth itself.  This was done with the help of the powerful gods Ku and Lono.

Kane Creates the Earth and Man

Ever so long before the memories of mankind, the great gods, Kane, Kanaloa, Ku, and Lono came forth out of the night and created the Earth.  The sea, however, had always been.
Kane, God of Creation, picked up a vast calabash floating in the sea, and tossed it high into the air.  Its top flew off and became the curved bowl, sky.  Two great pieces of the calabash broke away; one became the sun, the other the moon.  The seeds scattered and became stars.  The remainder became the earth and fell back into the sea.
The great God of Creation Kane told the others, ‘I shall make a chief to rule over this earth.  Let us together provide for all of his needs.
Kanaloa, god of the forever endless seas, said, ‘I will fill the waters with living things, creatures of the sea for the chief’s use and delight.’
Pono Passage, Kanaloa, by Linda Kanani Johnston

Born was the coral,
Born was the starfish,
Born was the conch shell;
Born was the fish,
Born was the porpoise,
Born was the shark in the oceans there swimming.

Ku, god of forests, said, ‘I shall make trees grow, trees to provide wood for the chief.’

Ku, by Keith Tuehen
Thick grew the forests:
The koa and candlenut;
Thick grew the forests:
Hau, wiliwili and sandalwood.
Koa for paddles,
Hau for lashings,
Soft wiliwili for outrigger floats;
Woods for the chief’s canoe, swift as an arrow.
Candlenut torches, to light the chief’s way.
Sandalwood to make a fragrance to rest around the chief’s heart.

Lono, god of growing things, said, ‘I will make food plants to grow food for the chief with flowers to beautify and please him.’

Green blades came sprouting:
Coconut, breadfruit, sweet potato, sugar cane,
Taro, banana, arrowroot, yam.
Colourful and fragrant blossoms came sprouting:
Kiele, lehua, ie’ie, maile, iini, tiere, ginger, orchid, Hibiscus, hala, plumeria.

Kane said, ‘I will fill the earth with living things, land creatures for the chief’s dominion and use.’

Lono by rvxen
Born was the caterpillar, the parent;
Out came the child, a butterfly and flew.
Born was the egg, the parent;
Out came its child, the bird and flew.
Land birds were born, birds that fly in a flock,
Shutting out the sun.

The sea crept up to the land,
Crept backward, crept forward,
Producing the family of crawlers:
The rough-backed turtles,
The sleek-skinned geckos,
Mud-dwellers and track-leavers.

All these things the gods did and it was so.
Once all was ready and the earth and seas had been filled with those things a chief would need, Kane said, ‘It is now the time to go forth and find what is needed to make a chief.’
Quickly, to the North, South, East, and West went the gods and the search began.  On the side of a hill near the sea, they found a mound of rich, red earth that shone brightly in the sunrise.  They took this to Kane to make the chief, the one who would rule the earth.
Namakaoaha’i by Linda Rowell Stevens
Now Nemakaokaha’i, a sea goddess, was not at all pleased that a chief should live on the land.  She felt that the one who ruled should be of the sea.  Yet no matter how she pleaded, Kane would not change his mind.
So it was from the red earth that the great Kane dormed the figure of a man and breathed life into it.  ‘I have shaped this dirt,’ said Kane.  ‘Live, live!’ responded Ku and Lono.  The man spoke, walked about, kneeled, and praised his creators.  They named him Ke-li’i-ku-honua, meaning made from the earth.  They gave him a delightful garden in which to live, this was called ‘Great Hawaii of the green back and mottled seas.  The gods were pleased.
That is all except Namakaoaha’i.  With the help of her sisters; Hi’iaka, goddess of Lightning, and Pele, goddess of Volcanoes;

Hi'iaka & Pele
and secretly Kanaloa, Namakaokaha’I stole away a piece of the rich, red earth that Kane used to make the chief.  She mixed it with the sands of the oceans taken from the very bottom of the endless sea.  With the combined strengths and powers of sea, lightning and volcano, Namakaokaha’I, Hi’iaka, and Pele brought forth light into the figure they had formed, the ruler of the sea… and, maybe, someday she would also rule the land.

The Creation Mythology of Tahiti

Tahiti is one of the French Polynesian islands and is at the centre of Polynesian culture.  Their creation myths have an animistic quality and, starting with the cosmic egg, have qualities of an ex nihilo creation myth.

The Great God Taaroa 

In the beginning of time, before the earth was formed, the great god Taaroa simply existed in space.  He became the universe and was the very start of life.  Taaroa is within, under, above and the universe is his shell.
It was said that Taaroa lived in an egg-like shell and that, when he broke free of the shell, he held up this shell to make Rumia, the dome-sky.  The earth he made of himself.  His spine was transformed into a range of mountains; his ribs became the hills; his fingernails transformed to become shells and scales, and his feathers became trees and plants.  The only thing the great god kept was his head.
Then Taaroa made the gods and many other things, an, d, just as the great god had a shell, so d all other things.  The sky is a shell, the earth is a shell for all that lives upon it, and woman is the shell for human beings, for we are all born of woman. 
And Taaroa soon brought a man out of the earth, which is to say out of himself, for Taaroa is the rock of the earth’s centre and the earth’s surface.  This man became known as Ti’i.  Taaroa also created the first woman and her name was Hina.  And Hina could see backwards and forwards and she was good, where Ti’I was bad, for he felt malice toward humans.
Soon war broke out amongst the gods in Heaven and amongst men on Earth, making both Taaroa and his assistant Tu furious.  The two cursed creation.  It was Hima who prevented the world’s destruction.  Now, when a storm forms in the sky, it is Hima who makes it disperse, and wwhen leaves fall from the trees, it is Hima who makes new leaves grow.

That’s all for today.  Next time we will begin to explore the creation mythology of Africa.
Useful Resources

Handbook of Polynesian Mythology by Robert D. Craig
Myths, Legends, and Folktales of America: An Anthology by David Leeming
The Pacific Islands: An Encyclopedia, Volume 1 edited by Brij V. Lal& Kate Fortune
A Hawai’i Anthology edited by Joseph Stanton
Tales of the Mermaids of Waiahuakua by Kohana Au
Hawaiian Myths of Earth, Sea, and Sky by Vivian Lauback Thompson
Dictionary of Polynesian Mythology by Robert D. Craig

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