Rapa Nui mythology

Rapa Nui mythology, also known as Pascuense mythology or Easter Island mythology, refers to the native myths, legends, and beliefs of the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island in the south eastern Pacific Ocean.

Origin myth

According to Rapa Nui mythology Hotu Matu'a was the legendary first settler and ariki mau ("supreme chief" or "king") of Easter Island.[1] Hotu Matu'a and his two canoe (or one double hulled canoe) colonising party were Polynesians from the now unknown land of Hiva. They landed at Anakena beach and his people spread out across the island, sub-divided it between clans claiming descent from his sons, and lived for more than a thousand years in their isolated island home at the southeastern tip of the Polynesian Triangle until the arrival of Dutch captain Jacob Roggeveen, who arrived at the island in 1722.[2]

Ancestor cult

The most visible element in the culture was the production of massive statues called moai that represented deified ancestors. It was believed that the living had a symbiotic relationship with the dead where the dead provided everything that the living needed (health, fertility of land and animals, fortune etc.) and the living through offerings provided the dead with a better place in the spirit world. Most settlements were located on the coast and moai were erected along the coastline, watching over their descendants in the settlements before them, with their backs toward the spirit world in the sea.[3]

Tangata cult

The Tangata manu or bird-man cult succeeded the island's Moai era when warfare erupted over dwindling natural resources and construction of statues stopped.[4] The deity Make-make was the chief god of the birdman cult. The cult declined after the island population adopted Catholicism, though the birdman popularity and memory was not erased and it is still present in decoration of the island's church.[5]

Deities and heroes


  1. ^ Carlos Mordo, Easter Island (Willowdale, Ontario: Firefly Books Ltd., 2002)
  2. ^ Steven L. Danver (22 December 2010). Popular Controversies in World History: Investigating History's Intriguing Questions. ABC-CLIO. pp. 223–224. ISBN 978-1-59884-077-3. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  3. ^ Barbara A. West (2009). Encyclopedia of the peoples of Asia and Oceania. Infobase Publishing. pp. 683–684. ISBN 978-0-8160-7109-8. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  4. ^ Phil Cousineau (1 July 2003). Once and Future Myths: The Power of Ancient Stories in Our Lives. Conari Press. pp. 181–182. ISBN 978-1-57324-864-8. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  5. ^ Steven L. Danver (22 December 2010). Popular Controversies in World History: Investigating History's Intriguing Questions. ABC-CLIO. p. 225. ISBN 978-1-59884-077-3. Retrieved 10 January 2012.

Further reading

  • Kjellgren, Eric; et al. (2001). Splendid isolation: art of Easter Island. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 9781588390110.
  • Robert D. Craig. Dictionary of Polynesian mythology. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1989 ISBN 0-313-25890-2, ISBN 978-0-313-25890-9
  • Peggy Mann. Easter Island: land of mysteries. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976. ISBN 0-03-014056-0, ISBN 978-0-03-014056-3

External links


Atua-anua is a mother goddess in the mythology of Easter Island.

Chilean mythology

Chilean mythology includes the mythology, beliefs and folklore of the Chilean people.

Hanau epe

The Hanau epe (also, hanau eepe: supposed to mean "Long-ears") were a semi-legendary people who are said to have lived in Easter Island, where they came into conflict with another people known as the Hanau momoko or "short-ears". A decisive battle occurred which led to the defeat and extermination of the Hanau epe. According to the legend, these events are supposed to have happened at some point between the 16th and 18th centuries, probably in the late 17th century.

The historical facts, if any, behind this story are disputed. Since the victorious "Hanau momoko" are usually assumed to be the surviving Polynesian population, there has been much speculation about the identity of the vanished Hanau epe. Various theories have been put forward, most notably Thor Heyerdahl's claim that they were ancient migrants from Peru who were the original occupants of the island and the creators of its famous stone monuments.

Heyerdahl's theories have not received much support among modern scholars, many of whom doubt whether the events described in the story ever took place. It has also been argued that the traditional designations of "long ears" and "short ears" derive from a misinterpretation of similar-sounding words meaning "stocky" and "slim" peoples.


Hina-Oio is a goddess of the sea animals in the mythology of Easter Island. She was married to Atua-Metua and represented the mother of all animals of the sea.Hina is a divine figure common throughout the Polynesian narrative, with prominent variants also found in Māori mythology, Samoan mythology, and Hawaiian religion. The creation chant of the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island references Hina-Oio twice in the following passage:

This passage was sung from memory by an old man named Ure-vai-ko to William Thomson, an American on an 1886 Smithsonian expedition to Easter Island. The chant was written in Rongorongo on tablets, which Ure-vai-ko refused to read for religious reasons. However, under the influence of alcohol, he agreed to recite the stories and chants on the tablets from photographs of them which had been made by Thomson's expedition.


Hotu-iti (also, "Tongariki territory") is an area of southeastern Easter Island which derives its name from a local clan of the same name. Located in Rapa Nui National Park, it contains Rano Raraku crater, the Ahu Tongariki site, and a small bay. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Hotu-iti was one of two polities in Easter Island.

Hotu Matu'a

Hotu Matu'a was the legendary first settler and ariki mau ("supreme chief" or "king") of Easter Island and ancestor of the Rapa Nui people. Hotu Matu'a and his two canoe (or one double hulled canoe) colonising party were Polynesians from the now unknown land of Hiva (probably the Marquesas). They landed at Anakena beach and his people spread out across the island, sub-divided it between clans claiming descent from his sons, and lived for more than a thousand years in their isolated island home at the southeastern tip of the Polynesian Triangle.

Kings of Easter Island

Easter Island was traditionally ruled by a monarchy, with a king as its leader.

List of Chile-related topics

The following is an outline of topics related to the Republic of Chile.

Makemake (deity)

Makemake (also written as Make-make or MakeMake; pronounced [ˈmakeˈmake] in Rapa Nui) in the Rapa Nui mythology of Easter Island, is the creator of humanity, the god of fertility and the chief god of the "Tangata manu" or bird-man cult (this cult succeeded the island's more famous Moai era).

He is a frequent subject of the Rapa Nui's petroglyphs.

Makemake is featured in the 2000 BBC documentary The Lost Gods of Easter Island hosted by David Attenborough, where he embarks on a personal quest to uncover the history of a strange wooden figurine carving which turned up in an auction room in New York during the 1980s.

Manana Take

Manana Take was a goddess in the Rapa Nui mythology, the original religion on Easter island. She was the consort of Era Nuku, the god of the feathers and farming.

Manana Take lived in sky. The Manana once visited earth in the shape of a fish, which was given to the king because of its size and beauty. Recognising the divinity in the fish, all monarchs were thereafter forbidden to swim in the sea.


Moai (listen), or mo‘ai, are monolithic human figures carved by the Rapa Nui people on Easter Island in eastern Polynesia between the years 1250 and 1500. Nearly half are still at Rano Raraku, the main moai quarry, but hundreds were transported from there and set on stone platforms called ahu around the island's perimeter. Almost all moai have overly large heads three-eighths the size of the whole statue. The moai are chiefly the living faces (aringa ora) of deified ancestors (aringa ora ata tepuna). The statues still gazed inland across their clan lands when Europeans first visited the island in 1722, but all of them had fallen by the latter part of the 19th century.The production and transportation of the more than 900 statues is considered a remarkable creative and physical feat. The tallest moai erected, called Paro, was almost 10 metres (33 ft) high and weighed 82 tonnes (90.4 short tons). The heaviest moai erected was a shorter but squatter moai at Ahu Tongariki, weighing 86 tonnes. One unfinished sculpture, if completed, would have been approximately 21 m (69 ft) tall, with a weight of about 145-165 tons (160-182 metric tons). The moai were toppled in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, possibly as a result of European contact or internecine tribal wars.


Orongo is a stone village and ceremonial center at the southwestern tip of Rapa Nui (Easter Island). It consists of a collection of low, sod-covered, windowless, round-walled buildings with even lower doors positioned on the high south-westerly tip of the large volcanic caldera called Rano Kau. Below Orongo on one side a 300-meter barren cliff face drops down to the ocean; on the other, a more-gentle but still very steep grassy slope leads down to a freshwater marsh inside the high caldera.

The first half of the ceremonial village's 53 stone masonry houses was investigated and restored in 1974, with the remainder completed in 1976 and subsequently investigated in 1985 and again in 1995. Orongo now has World Heritage status as part of the Rapa Nui National Park.

Polynesian narrative

The Polynesian narrative or Polynesian mythology encompasses the oral traditions of the people of Polynesia, a grouping of Central and South Pacific Ocean island archipelagos in the Polynesian Triangle together with the scattered cultures known as the Polynesian outliers. Polynesians speak languages that descend from a language reconstructed as Proto-Polynesian that was probably spoken in the Tonga - Samoa area around 1000 BC.

Rapa Nui (disambiguation)

Rapa Nui is the native name for Easter Island.

Rapa Nui can also refer to:

Rapa Nui language, the indigenous language of Easter Island

Rapa Nui mythology, the mythology of the indigenous inhabitants of Easter Island

Rapa Nui people, the native Polynesian inhabitants of Easter Island

Rapa Nui National Park the Chilean National Park which incorporates most of Easter Island

Rapa-Nui (film), 1994

Rapanui Rock, also known as Shag Rock, a sea stack near Sumner, New Zealand

CF Rapa Nui, Chilean association football team representing Easter Island

Rapa Nui people

The Rapa Nui are the aboriginal Polynesian inhabitants of Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean. The easternmost Polynesian culture, the descendants of the original people of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) make up about 60% of the current Rapa Nui population and have a significant portion of their population residing in mainland Chile. They speak both the traditional Rapa Nui language and the primary language of Chile, Spanish. At the 2002 census there were 3,304 island inhabitants—almost all living in the village of Hanga Roa on the sheltered west coast.

As of 2011, Rapa Nui's main source of income derived from tourism, which focuses on the giant sculptures called moai.

Rapa Nui activists have been fighting for their right of self-determination and possession of the island. Protests in 2010 and 2011 by the indigenous Rapa Nui on Easter Island objecting the creation of a marine park and reserve, have led to clashes with Chilean police.


Riri-tuna-rai is the goddess of the coconut in the mythology of Easter Island. She is married to Atua-metua.

Tangata manu

The Tangata manu ("bird-man," from tangata "human beings" + manu "bird") was the winner of a traditional competition on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). The ritual was an annual competition to collect the first sooty tern (manu tara) egg of the season from the islet of Motu Nui, swim back to Rapa Nui and climb the sea cliff of Rano Kau to the clifftop village of Orongo.


Uoke is a tectonic and destroyer deity in the Rapa Nui mythology.

Geography and geology
Broad culture

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