In the 1300’s there was a chief in the village of Gatavake named Raekeno. Raekeno was an evil man.
Raekeno had a sister named Tara and she married a chief of ‘Akamaru named Te-Kahu-o-te-Ragi (The clothing of the sky). She bore him a son named Kirikura who was raised as a chief.
The fame of this boy spread through Mangareva to his uncle’s village. His uncle, Raekeno, feared that his nephew may compete with him.
One day the mother of this boy, Tara, contacted her brother, Raekeno, to tell him that her son was going to pay him a visit. When this nephew came from ‘Akamaru he stopped his canoe at a spot near the village of Rikitea below the marae of Te Tehito. This spot was reserved for the chief to land their canoes and so it was right for this nephew, Kirikura, to stop his canoe there.
The nephew was greeted by an uncle of his named ‘Akatagi-te-ua-toto (Cry for the blood rain). This uncle was acting on behalf of Raekeno whose plan was to kill his nephew. The uncle cut his nephews long hair, removed his whale tooth ornament necklace, took his chief’s staff, replaced his tapa cloth kilt with a kilt of banana leaves. These things that were taken from Kirikura were all things that represented his status as a chief. Part of Raekeno’s plan to kill his nephew consisted of making his nephew appear as a commoner.
The nephew was led along the beach to a place where commoners beached their canoes. This was also part of Raekeno’s plan to make his nephew appear as a commoner. Because this boy was a chief he should have been led over the ridge by a path named Manukahu. But he was led over the ridge that separates the village of Rikitea and Gatavake by a path that was reserved for commoners.
When the nephew Kirikura came to Gatavake, he came dressed as a commoner, by the path of commoners, after beaching his canoe at a place for commoners.
His uncle Raekeno was fully aware that this was truly his nephew Kirikura. But he said, “This is a pig of the Anua-Iti that has come to kill me.” A brother of Raekeno, Tamiro, argued that the nephew was indeed Tara’s son, Kirikura. But Raekeno argued, “If he was Tara’s son, then where is his chief’s staff, his tapa cloth kilt, his whale tooth ornament, his long hair? If he was Tara’s son why did he not disembark below the marae Te Tehito? Why did he not cross the ridge on the path named Manukahu?”
Then Raekeno killed his nephew and roasted him.
When Tara found out that her son was dead she traveled to Rikitea and she ascended the ridge overlooking Gatavake and she called down to her brother, “Where is my son?” Raekeno replied, “He was going to kill me so I killed him.” Tara yelled, “Were we not born on the same night? What a waste!” Then Tara descended into Gatavake and collected the portions of her son that had not yet been eaten and she returned to her home in Akamaru.
Raekeno had gotten away with murder. But the story is not yet over.
The daughter Raekeno was named Guia-iti. She married a man named Te Avaga and she gave birth to a boy named Te-ariki-o-tea. She became pregnant again and was living in a tapu house in which she was not allowed to have visitors. Her grandfather Tahuaga came to visit her in the house. In doing this he broke a tapu.
When Raekeno found out that Tahuaga was visiting Guia he mortally wounded Tahuaga. As Tahuaga lay dying he said to his granddaughter, “When the time comes to avenge my death go to your uncle Tapau-Nui.”
The body of Tahuaga was taken and cast into the sea according to the burial custom of Magareva. The next day the body washed onto the shore. It was again thrown back in, but it washed up again. Three times the body was cast into the sea, three times it washed back up. On the third time, the granddaughter, Guia-iti, stood over the body and called out, “Why do you keep washing onto the shore? If you want revenge, deprive the land of its crops, dry up the rain, kill the fish.”
The body was thrown again into the sea. The next morning, when they went to look to see if the body had washed up again, they found that it had not.
Guia-iti climbed up the ridge between Gatavake and Rikitea to sing songs with the other women as part of the funeral services for the death of her grandfather. When she was there her uncle Tapau-nui came and called to her, “Before Tahuaga died, did he give you any instructions?” Guia replied, “He told me to go and marry you.” Tapau-nui said, “I can’t marry you, we are too closely related. But go to Rikitea and marry your other uncle Kakaho-kura: he is not as closely related to you as I so he may marry you.”
Guia descended back down into her home village of Gatavake. A dry wind came and dried up the crops. The four springs in Gatavake dried up. The fish fled the heat by swimming into deeper water. Famine had come to Gatavake.
Guia then crossed over the ridge to Rikitea and she married Kakaho- kura. Her new husband, Kakaho-kura was the enemy of her home village Gatavake. Sometimes he would attack them. The famine which had come to Gatavake was only in Gatavake and not in the other parts of Magareva.
The son of Guia by her first husband, Te Ariki-o-tea, was driven by hunger to visit his mother in Rikitea. She feared that her new husband would kill her son because he was from Gatavake so she fed her son secretly at night. Her husband, Kakaho-kura, noticed that more food was being eaten so he asked his wife where the food was going. She denied knowledge about the consumption of the extra food.
So Kakaho-kura pretended to sleep one night while he watched to see where the food was going. In the night a hand reached through the thatch of the house and Guia put food into the hand. Kakaho-kura grabbed the hand and pulled his wife’s son into the house. Although the son, Te Ariki-o-tea, was from Gatavake, Kakaho-kura made allowance for his wife’s love for her son so he did not harm the lad.
Kakaho-kura questioned the son why he was sneaking over into Rikitea at night to steal food. Te Ariki-o-tea told Kakaho-kura about the famine in Gatavake. He said, “Many have died of starvation. The old men who are not yet dead spend all their time in the community house reciting chants.”
Kakaho-kura gathered the warriors of Rikitea and they climbed over the ridge and descended into the village of Gatavake and conquered the village. Then Kakaho-kura installed his wife’s son, Te Ariki- o-tea, as the chief. This boy was the great grandson of Tahuaga, the old man whose death was being avenged by the famine. As soon as Te Ariki-o-tea was installed as chief of Gatavake, it started to rain in Gatavake. The famine was over.
During the famine, Raekeno, the chief who had killed Tahuaga and murdered his nephew, went to live with his sister, Tara, in Akamaru. In his hunger, he presumed that she would ignore the fact that he had killed her son. Tara fed Raekeno disgusting food. She mixed her menstrual blood in it. Without knowing what was in the food Raekeno ate it. In doing so he broke a very serious tapu so the gods killed him and that was the end of Raekeno, the man who got away with murdering his nephew.
One of the messages in this story is key to Polynesian culture: mana is a greater force than physical strength. Tahuaga was an old man who was killed by a chief who was presumably a warrior. What can an old man do? Well, even though he was dead, his mana deprived the land of its crops, dried up the rain and killed the fish. That led to the downfall of Raekeno.
I see pictures of muscular warriors holding clubs on t-shirts. It is a way to show pride in Polynesian culture. I think that they should also make t-shirts with pictures of little old men with mana. That would also be a good way to show pride in Polynesian culture.
Raekeno died because he ate food contaminated with his sister’s menstrual blood. The fact that women have mentsrual periods has been symbolic in the minds of some men to show that men are superior to women. In this case, the symbol of Tara’s inferiority in the eyes of some men, was the symbol of her power over her brother.
What goes around comes around. This man Raekeno, he killed his nephew and he got away with it. If he had stopped with killing his nephew he would have lived a long time on the island of Magareva. But if he was the sort of person to kill his twin sister’s son, he was also the sort of person who would kill an old man like Tahuaga. And that is what eventually got him into trouble. Goes around/comes around!
from Ethnology of Mangareva by Te Rangi Hiroa [Peter H. Buck].
Revised: March 26, 1997
Copyright © 1996 Daniel (Taniera) Longstaff