The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Polynesian Genesis

I got curious today about Polynesian mythology. Some of the myths look like ours, like the division of night and day from an original dark chaos. Watson's Great Divide mentioned this as a possible memory of the Toba eruption(!). Other myths look ... different.

Since I am wholly unfamiliar with Polynesian culture - I haven't seen so much as the Disney bastardisation, Moana, that's how ignint I is - this post is going to rely upon the Myths Encyclopedia page. I know that it is far from a primary source, maybe even worse than Disney. But the site seems not to have offended the Polynesians in its comments, mostly Maori.

In Polynesia, analogues to Adam and the Noah-story are all over the place. But they're not necessarily in the order or in the form a Westerner should expect. Which is understandable.

A core myth in Polynesia is the myth of *Kangaroa the sea-god, whose name has shifted to Tangaroa, except in Hawaii. Kangaroa wasn't always a water god. The reason Kangaroa took the sea for his portfolio is because his brother, the storm-god, expelled him thence.

Unlike in Christianity or Islam, Kangaroa doesn't waste time moping for his Paradise Lost. He is a god: sea, land, he doesn't care. Kangaroa does, however, express some empathy for landlubbers who, like him, find themselves expelled from their homes. In Samoa and Tonga, the Lost At Sea trope is embodied by a bird, Tuli, who - like Noah's bird - must find a place to land. For Tuli, Tangaloa has created islands. As a result, one assumes, Tuli's hatchlings were already on Samoa to chirp at the Polynesians when they first landed there. Or so the Polynesian humans tell us; the birds keep their own counsel.

Polynesian humans for their part revere a more human-centric hero, Maui. This one, a bit of a trickster, has pulled other islands out of the ocean floor with a hook. He is also noted as having slowed the sun, implying that his people had left the north (or New Zealand, less likely) where winter exists. Maui seems to have irked the gods, like our Prometheus and Loki, because he is considered still mortal.

Polynesians also tell myths that read as if passed by those left behind. Consider Hawaii - pretty much the End Of The Line as far as Polynesia goes. Kane (outside Hawaii, Tane) is a god of life, at least for humans. When humans sinned, this separated us from the gods - so far so Biblical. But in Hawaii, Kane didn't kick us out of Eden; Kane abandoned us in Eden, which thus has become the world as we know it. Further west, the story goes that Tane boffed his own daughter, who then fled, Persephone-like, to Hell. In this version Tane remains here, but his mana is diminished. I gather that Hawaiians consider their migrations as a move from one Eden to another, such that - for those left behind - their own expulsion from paradise makes less sense than an expulsion of others to the open sea.

So, the Polynesian Genesis: in which the Flood story comes first, for birds and not men, and in which man has thrown God out of Paradise.

posted by Zimri on 14:54 | link | 0 comments

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