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Origin of the inhabitants of the South Sea Islands-Traditions-Legend of Taaoroa and Hina-Resemblance to Jewish history-Coincidences in language, mythology, &c. with the language, &c. of the Hindoos and Malays, Madagasse, and South Americans-Difficulty of reaching the islands from the west-Account of different native voyagesGeographical extent over which the Polynesian race and language prevail-Account of the introduction of animals-Predictions of their ancient prophets relating to the arrival of ships-Traditions of the deluge, corresponding with the accounts in sacred and profane writings.
THE origin of the inhabitants of the South Sea Islands, in common with other parts of Polynesia, is a subject perhaps of more interest and curiosity, than of importance and practical utility. The vast extent of geographical surface covered by the race of which they form an integral portion, the analogy in character, the identity in language, &c., the remote distance at which the different tribes are placed from each other, and the isolated spots and solitary clusters which they occupy in the vast expanse of surrounding water, render the source whence they were derived, one of the mysteries connected with the history of our species.
To a Missionary, the business of whose life is with the people among whom he is stationed, every thing relating to their history is, at least, interesting; and the origin of the islanders has often engaged our attention, and formed the subject of our inquiries. The early history of a people destitute of all records, and
remote from nations in whose annals contemporaneous events would be preserved, is necessarily involved in obscurity. The greater part of the traditions of this people are adapted to perplex rather than facilitate the investigation.
A very generally received Tahitian tradition is, that the first human pair were made by Taaroa, the principal deity formerly acknowledged by the nation. On more than one occasion, I have listened to the details of the people respecting his work of creation. They say, that after Taaroa had formed the world, he created man out of araea, red earth, which was also the food of man until bread-fruit was made. In connexion with this, some relate that Taaroa one day called for the man by name. When he came, he caused him to fall asleep, and that, while he slept, he took out one of his ivi, or bones, and with it made a woman, whom he gave to the man as his wife, and that they became the progenitors of mankind. This always appeared to me a mere recital of the Mosaic account of creation, which they had heard from some European, and I never placed any reliance on it, although they have repeatedly told me it was a tradition among them before any foreigner arrived. Some have also stated that the woman's name was Ivi, which would be by them pronounced as if written Eve. Ivi is an aboriginal word, and not only signifies a bone, but also a widow, and a victim slain in war. Notwithstanding the assertion of the natives, I am disposed to think that Ivi, or Eve, is the only aboriginal part of the story, as far as it respects the mother of the human race. Should more careful and minute inquiry confirm the truth of their declaration, and prove that this account was in existence among
them prior to their intercourse with Europeans, it will be the most remarkable and valuable oral tradition of the origin of the human race yet known.
Another extensive and popular tradition referred the origin of the people to Opoa, in the island of Raiatea, where the tiis, or spirits, formerly resided, who assumed of themselves, or received from the gods, human bodies, and became the progenitors of mankind. The name of one was Tii Maaraauta; Tii, branching or extending towards the land, or the interior; and of the other, Tii Maaraatai, Tii, branching or spreading towards the sea. It is supposed that prior to the period of Tii Maaraauta's existence, the islands were only resorted to by the gods or spiritual beings, but that these two, endowed with powers of procreation, produced the human species. They first resided at Opoa, whence they peopled the island of Raiatea, and subsequently spread themselves over the whole cluster. Others state, that Tii was not a spirit, but a human being, the first man made by the gods; that his wife was sometimes called Tii, and sometimes Hina; that when they died, their spirits were supposed to survive the dissolution of the body, and were still called by the same name, and hence the term tii was first applied to the spirits of the departed, a signification which it retained till idolatry was abolished.
In the Ladrone Islands, departed chiefs, or the spirits of such, are called aritis, and to them prayers were addressed. The tiis of Tahiti were also considered a kind of inferior deities, to whom, on several occasions, prayers were offered. The resemblance of this term to the dæmon or dii of the ancients, is singular, and might favour the conjecture that both were derived from the same source.
The origin of the islands, as well as their inhabitants, was generally attributed to Taaroa, or the joint agency of Taaroa and Hina, and although one of their traditions states that all the islands were formerly united in one fenua nui, or large continent, which the gods in anger destroyed, scattering in the ocean the fragments, of which Tahiti is one of the largest; yet others ascribe their formation to Taaroa, who is said to have laboured so hard in the work of creation, that the profuse perspiration induced thereby, filled up the hollows, and formed the sea; accounting, by this circumstance, for its transparency and saltness. Others attribute the origin of the world, the elements, the heavenly bodies, and the human species, to the procreative powers of their deities; and, according to their account, one of the descendants of Taaroa, and the son of the sun and moon, and, in reference to his descent, the Manco Capac of their mythology, embracing the sand on the sea shore, begat a son, who was called Tii, and a daughter, who was called Opiira. These two, according to their tradition, were the father and mother of mankind.
But the most circumstantial tradition, relative to the origin of mankind, is one for which, as well as for much valuable information on the mythology and worship of the idols of the South Sea Islanders, I am indebted to the researches of my esteemed friend and coadjutor, Mr. Barff. According to this legend, man was the fifth order of intelligent beings created by Taaroa and Hina, (of whom an account will hereafter be given,) and was called the Rahu taata i te ao ia Tii, "The class, or Hina is reported to be done, how shall
order of the world, of, or by, Tii." have said to Taaroa, "What shall
man be obtained? Behold, classed or fixed are gods of the po, or state of night, and there are no men.' Taaroa is said to have answered, "Go on the shore to the interior, to your brother." Hina answered, "I have been inland, and he is not." Taaroa then said, "Go to the sea, perhaps he is on the sea; or if on the land, he will be on the land." Hina said, "Who is at sea?" The god answered, "Tiimaaraatai." Who is Tiimaaraatia? is he a man?" "He is a man, and your brother," answered the god; "Go to the sea, and seek him." When the goddess had departed, Taaroa ruminated within himself as to the means by which man should be formed, and went to the land, where he assumed the appearance and substance which should constitute man. Hina returning from her unsuccessful search for Tiimaaraatai at sea, met him, but not knowing him, said, "Who are you?" "I am Tiimaaraatai,” he replied. "Where have you been?" said the goddess: "I have sought you here, and you were not; I went to the sea, to look for Tiimaaraatai, and he was not. "I have been here in my house, or abode," answered Tiimaaraatai," and behold you have arrived, my sister, come to me." Hina said, "So it is, you are my brother; let us live together." They became man and wife; and the son that Hina afterwards bore, they called Tii. He was the first-born of mankind. Afterwards Hina had a daughter, who was called Hinaereeremonoi; she became the wife of Tii, and bore to him a son, who was called Taata, the general name (with slight modification) for man throughout the Pacific. Hina, the daughter and wife of Taaroa, the grandmother of Taata, being transformed into a beautiful young woman, became the wife of Taata or Man, bore him a son and a daughter, called