Eastern Island – Myth

Hotu moved again, to Hare Moa Tataka, and Vakai followed. Another son was born, named Tuu Rano Kau.

After the last son was born, Hotu and Vakai moved to Te Ngao o Te Honu. Vakai died. Her corpse was carried to Akahanga and buried there. Hotu Matua moved here and there until finally settling at Akahanga.

After a year he moved to Rano Kau, where he lived on the south side of the crater, opposite Orongo. His last task was to fit two stones together. Then he went into his house and laid down.

His children came and received his final blessings. Then he arose and went to Orongo to announce his death.

He looked in the direction of his homeland, Hiva, and called out to his guardian spirits Kuihi and Kuaha: “Let the voice of the rooster of Ariana crow softly. The stem with many roots (i.e., himself) is entering!” Then he fell down and died.

His children carried him on a litter to Akahanga, where he was buried in Hare o Ava. Later his eldest son, Tuu Maheke, cut off the head, dried and cleaned it, painted it yellow, wrapped it in tapa, and hid it in a stone crevice. A man named Ure Honu found the skull while weeding his banana plantation.

A rat (Hotu Matua’s spirit) had led him to the hole where the skull was hidden.

When Ure Honu built a new house at Vai Mata, he hung the skull in it.

At the feast for the new house, King Tuu Ko Ihu saw the skull and exclaimed: “Here are the teeth that ate turtles and pigs in Hiva!” He stole the skull and buried it under a stone near his house.

Ure Honu discovered the theft; his foster son told him who had stolen it. Angry, Ure Honu gathered his men and went to the King’s house. They tore down a wall looking for the skull, but found nothing. They searched outside, digging up the ground.

The king was sitting on the stone under which the skull was buried. Ure Honu’s men lifted the king off the stone, looked under it, and found the skull.

Ure Honu was satisfied and took the skull back home.

1. Hau Maka had tattooed Hotu, and had “received from him in return a present of mother-of-pearl which had been given to Hotu’s father by an individual called Tuhu-patoea. Tuhu had seen that the men who went down to get pearls were eaten by a big fish, so he invented a net by which the precious shell could be obtained without risk, and the pearl so procured he had presented to his chief, Ko Riri.” (Routledge 277-8). Routledge gives a different reason for the migration: on Hiva, at the death of the chief Ko Riu-i-ka-atea, “a struggle for supremacy arose between his two sons, Ko Te Ira-kaatea and Hotu Matua, in which Hotu was defeated” (277).

2. During May, in the southern hemisphere winter, westerlies blow 32-33 percent of the time, allowing sailing canoes to travel in an easterly direction. (See Ben Finney’s “Voyaging and Isolation in Rapa Nui Prehistory.”)

3. According to Barthel, the ornaments may represent star bearings back to the homeland. Or the figures could be markings used for backsighting when leaving the islands; or markings used as alignments for safe entry into the bay (96).

4. These two groups later came into conflict; “the short ears,” descended from Hotu Matua and Vakai-a-hiva, settled the western end of the island; the long ears, descended from Hineriru and Ava Rei Pua, settled the eastern end of the island (Routledge 281).

5. This method of killing was reported in Hiva (the Marquesas) by E.S.C. Handy.

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