In the evening we have long and often very grave conversations in bed.
As chance has come she has given me a complete course in Tahitian theology. In return I have tried to explain to her some of the phenomena of nature in accordance with European knowledge.
The stars interest her much. She asks me for the French name of the morning-star, the evening-star, and the other stars. It is difficult for her to understand that the earth turns around the sun. . . .
She gave birth to her king, the sun, then to the dusk, and then to the night.
Then Roüa cast off this woman.
Roüa — great is his beginning — slept with the woman called "Grande Réunion."
She gave birth to the queens of the heaven, the stars, and then to the star Tahiti, the evening-star.
The king of the golden skies, the only king, slept with his wife Fanoüi.
Of her is born the star Taüroüa (Venus), the morning-star, the king Taüroüa, who gives laws to the night and the day, to the other stars, to the moon, to the sun, and serves as a guide to mariners.
Taüroüa sailed at the left toward the north, where he slept with his wife, and begat the Red Star, the star which shines in the evening under two faces.
The Red Star, flying in the East, made ready his pirogue, the pirogue of the full day, and steered toward the skies. At the rise of the sun he sailed away.
Rehoüa now arises in the wideness of space. He sleeps with his wife, Oüra Taneïpa.
Of them are born the Twin-kings, the Pleiades.
These Twin-kings are surely identical with our Castor and Pollux.
This first version of the Polynesian genesis is complicated with variations which are perhaps only developments.
Taaroa slept with the woman who calls herself Goddess of the Without (or of the sea).
Of them are born the white clouds, the black clouds, and the rain.
Taaroa slept with woman who calls herself Goddess of the Within (or of the earth).
Of them is born the first germ.
Is born in turn all that grows upon the surface of the earth.
Is born in turn the mist of the mountains. Is born in turn he who calls himself the Strong.
Is born in turn she who calls herself the Beautiful, or the one Adorned-in-order-to-Please.
And this line, which he holds in his hand, and this hook, he lets fall down into the depths of the universe in order to fish for the great fish (the earth) .
The hook has caught.
Already the axes show, already the God feels the enormous weight of the world.
Tefatou (the God of the earth and the earth itself) caught by the hook, emerges out of the night, still suspended in the immensity of space.
Mahoüi has caught the great fish which swims in space, and he can now direct it according to his will.
He holds it in his hand.
Mahoüi rules also the course of the sun, in such a way that day and night are of equal duration.
I asked Tehura to name the Gods for me.
Taaroa slept with the woman Ohina, the Goddess of the air.
Of them is born the rainbow, the moonlight, then, the red clouds and the red rain.
Taaroa slept with the woman Ohina, Goddess of the bosom of the earth.
Of them is born Tefatou, the spirit who animates the earth, and who manifests himself in subterranean noises.
Taaroa slept with the woman called Beyond-the-Earth.
Of them are born the Gods Teirü and Roüanoüa.
Then in turn Roo who sprang from the flank of his mother's body.
And of the same woman were also born Wrath and the Tempest, the Furious Winds, and also the Peace which follows these.
And the source of these spirits is in the place whence the Messengers are sent.
But Tehura admits that these relations are contested.
The most orthodox classification is this. The Gods are divided into Atuas and Oromatuas.
The superior Atuas are all sons and grandsons of Taaroa.
They dwell in the heavens. — There are seven heavens.
Taaroa and his wife Feii Feii Maïteraï had as sons: Oro (the first of the gods after his father, and who himself had two sons (Tetaï Mati and Oüroü Tetefa), Raa (father of Tetoüa Oüroü Oüroü, Feoïto, Teheme, Roa Roa, Tehu Raï Tia Hotoü, Temoüria), Tane (father of Peüroürai, Piata Hoüa, Piatia Roroa, Parara Iti Matai, Patia Taüra, Tane Haeriraï), Roo, Tieri, Tefatou, Roüa Noüa, Toma Hora, Roüa Otia, Moë, Toüpa, Panoüa, Tefatou Tire, Tefatou Toutaü, Peuraï, Mahoüi, Harana, Paümoüri, Hiro, Roüi, Fanoüra, Fatoühoüi, Rii.
Each of these gods has his particular attributes.
We already know the works of Mahoüi and Tefatou. ...
Tané has the seventh heaven for his mouth, and this signifies that the mouth of this god, who has given his name to man, is the farthest end of the heavens whence the light begins to illume the earth.
Rii separated the heavens and the earth.
Roüi stirred up the waters of the ocean; he broke the solid mass of the terrestrial continent, and divided it into innumerable parts which are the present islands.
Fanoüra, whose head touches the clouds and whose feet touch the bottom of the sea, and Fatoühoüi, another giant, descended together upon Eïva — an unknown land — in order to combat and destroy the monstrous hog which devoured human beings.
Hiro, the god of thieves, dug holes in the rocks with his fingers. He liberated a virgin whom the giants held captive in an enchanted place. With one hand he snatched up the trees which during the day concealed the prison of the virgin, and the charm was broken. ...
The inferior Atuas are particularly occupied with the life and work of men, but they do not abide in their dwelling-places.
They are: the Atuas Maho (god-sharks), guardian spirits of mariners; the Peho, gods and goddesses of the valleys, guardian spirits of husbandry; the No Te Oüpas Oüpas, guardian spirits of singers, of comedians, and of dancers; the Raaoü Pava Maïs, guardian spirits of physicians; the No Apas, gods to whom offerings are made after they have protected one from witchcraft and enchantment; the O Tanoü, guardian spirits of laborers; the Tane Ite Haas, guardian spirits of carpenters and builders; the Minias and the Papeas, guardian spirits of the roofers; the Matatinis, guardian spirits of makers of nets.
The Oromatuas are household gods, the Lares.
There are Oromatuas properly so called, and Genii.
The Oromatuas punish the fomenters of strife, and preserve peace in the families. They are: the Varna Taatas, the souls of the men and women of each family who have died; the Eriorios, the souls of the children, who have died at an early age of a natural death; the Poüaras, the souls of the children, who have been killed at birth, and who have returned into the body of grasshoppers.
The Genii are conjectural divinities, or rather consciously created by man. Without apparent motive, except that of his own choice, he attributes divine qualities to some animal or to some object, as, for example, a tree, and then he consults it in all important circumstances. There is in this, perhaps, a trace of Indian metempsychosis with which the Maoris very probably were acquainted. Their historical songs and legends abound in fables in which the great gods assume the form of animals and plants.
In the last rank of the celestial hierarchy, after the Atuas and the Oromatuas, come the Tiis.
In the Maori cosmogomy, they are spirits, inferior to the gods and strangers to men. They are intermediate between organic beings and inorganic beings and defend the rights and prerogatives of the latter against the usurpations of the former.
Their origin is this:
Taaroa slept with Hina, and of them was born Tii.
Of them in turn were born: Tii of the within who watches over animals and plants; Tii of the without who guards the beings and things of the sea; Tii of the sands, and Tii of the sea-shores, and Tii of the loose earth; Tii of the rocks and Tii of the solid earth.
Still later were born: the happenings of the night, the happenings of the day, going and coming, flux and reflux, the giving and receiving of pleasure.
The images of the Tiis were placed at the farthest ends of the maraës (temples), and formed the limit which circumscribed the sacred places. They are seen on the rocks and on the sea-shores. These idols have the mission of marking the boundaries between the earth and the sea, of maintaining the balance between the two elements, and of restraining their reciprocal encroachments. Even modern travelers have seen a few statues of Tiis on the Ile-de-Pâques. They are colossal outlines partaking of human and animal forms, and bear witness to a special conception of beauty and a genuine skill in the art of working in stones, for they are architecturally constructed of superimposed blocks with original and ingenious combinations of color.
The European invasion and monotheism have destroyed these vestiges of a civilization which had its own grandeur. When the Tahitians to-day raise monuments, they achieve miracles of bad taste — as, for example, the tomb of Pomare. They had been richly endowed with an instinctive feeling for the harmony necessary between human creations and the animal and plant life which formed the setting and decoration of their existence, but this has now been lost. In contact with us, with our school, they have truly become "savages," in the sense which the Latin occident has given this word. They themselves have remained beautiful as masterpieces, but morally and physically (owing to us) they have become unfruitful.
This appears clearly in the dialogue between Hina and Tefatou.
Such texts would offer beautiful material for exegists, if the Oceanian Bible could be found as a subject for commentary. They would see there first of all the principles of a religion based on the worship of the forces of nature — a characteristic common to all primitive religions. The greater number of Maori gods are in effect personifications of different elements. But an attentive glance, if not misled or depraved by a desire to demonstrate the superiority of our philosophy over that of these "tribes," would soon discover interesting and singular characteristics in these legends.
I should like to point out two, but I shall do no more than indicate them. The problem of verifying these hypotheses is a matter for savants.
It is above all the clearness with which the two only and universal principles of life are designated and distinguished and ultimately resolved into a supreme unity. The one, soul and intelligence, Taaroa, is the male; the other in a certain way matter and body of the same god, is the female, that is Hina. To her belongs all the love of men, to him their respect. Hina is not the name of the moon alone. There is also a Hina-of-the-air, a Hina-of-the-sea, a Hina-of-the-Within, but these two syllables characterize only the subordinate parts of matter. The sun and the sky, light and its empire, all the noble parts of matter, so to speak, or rather all the spiritual elements of matter are Taaroa. This is definitely formulated in more than one text, in which the definition of spirit and matter can be recognized. Or what, if we acquiesce in this definition, is the significance of the fundamental doctrine of the Maori genesis:
THE GREAT AND HOLY UNIVERSE IS ONLY THE SHELL OF TAAROA — ?
Does not this doctrine constitute a primitive belief in the unity of matter? Is there not in this definition and separation of spirit and matter an analysis of the twofold manifestations of a single and unique substance? However rare such a philosophical intention may be among primitives, it does not follow that one should decline to receive testimony. It is evident that the Oceanian theology had two ends in view in the actions of the god who created the world and conserves it: the generative cause and matter which has become fecund, the motive force and the object acted upon, spirit and matter. It also appears clearly that in the constant interaction between the luminous spirit and the perceptive matter which it vivifies — that is to say in the successive unions of Taaroa with the diverse manifestations of Hina — one should recognize the continual and ever-varying influence of the sun upon things. And in the fruits of these unions are to be seen the changes continually effected in these very elements by light and warmth. When once we have a clear view of this phenomenon out of which the two universal currents proceed, we see that in the fruit are united and mingled the generative cause and the matter which has become fecund, in movement, the motive force and the object acted upon, and in life, spirit and matter, and that the universe just created is only the shell of Taaroa.
In the second place it appears from the dialogue between Tefatou and Hina, that man and the earth shall perish, but that the moon and the race inhabiting it shall continue. If we recall that Hina represents matter, and that according to the scientific precept, "all things transform but nothing perishes," we must agree that the old Maori sage who invented the legend knew as much about the subject as we do. Matter does not perish, that is to say it does not lose the qualities which can be perceived by the senses. Spirit, on the contrary, and light, this "spiritual matter," are subject to transformation. There is night and there is death, when the eyes close, from which light seemed to radiate and to reflect. Spirit, or rather the highest actual manifestation of spirit, is man. "Man must die . . . he dies never to rise again. . . . And man should die." But even when man and the earth, these fruits of the union of Taaroa and Hina, have perished, Taaroa himself will remain eternal, and we are told that Hina, matter, will also continue to be. There will then necessarily be present throughout all eternity spirit and matter, light and the object which it strives to illumine. They will be urged on with a mutual desire for a new union from which will arise a new "state" in the infinite evolution of life.
Evolution! . . . The unity of matter! . . . Who would have thought to find such testimony of a high civilization in the conceptions of former cannibals? I can with good conscience say that I have added nothing to the truth.
It is true that Tehura had no doubts concerning these abstractions, but she persisted in regarding shooting stars as wandering tupapaüs and genii in distress. In the same spirit as her ancestors, who thought that the sky was Taaroa himself and that the Atuas descended from Taaroa were simultaneously gods and heavenly bodies, she ascribed human feelings to the stars. I do not know in how far these poetic imaginings impede the progress of the most positive science, neither do I know to what point the highest science would condemn them.
From other points of view it would be possible to give other interpretations to the dialogue between Tefatou and Hina: The counsel of the moon who is feminine might be the dangerous advice of blind pity and sentimental weakness. The moon and women, expressions in the Maori conception for matter, need not know that death alone guards the secrets of life. Tefatou's reply might be regarded as the stern, but far-sighted and disinterested, decree of supremest wisdom, which knows that the individual manifestations of actual life must give way before a higher being in order that it may come and must sacrifice themselves to it in order that it may triumph.
In earlier days this response would have had a much more far-reaching implication and the import of a national prophecy. A great spirit of ancient days would have studied and measured the vitality of his race; he would have foreseen the germs of death in its blood without the possibility of recovery or rebirth, and he would have said: