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Cosmogony Of The Taheiteans

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

It has been asserted more than once in some of your pages, that there is not the least resemblance in the mythologic traditions and Pagan superstition of the inhabitants of the South Seas to those of the old world. Cut off for many years from all intercourse with the Continent, bounded in their transactions by the group of islands in their own more immediate neighbourhood, it could not be expected that much primitive tradition would he preserved. If we further take into consideration the frequent occurrence of war, and the almost exterminating conduct with which it is carried on, astonishment will arise, not at the paucity of such indications, but that even the slightest trace should exist of former connection with the rest of the world.

I do not profess to be fully competent to the inquiry, my knowledge of the Australian language being very limited; but I doubt not with that intimate acquaintance with its different dialects which the missionaries have obtained, should anyone undertake such an investigation, the search would not be altogether fruitless. A long time has elapsed since the voyagers of the South Seas formed a part of my reading; as, however, the few memoranda on this subject, which I then made, may show that such an investigation would not be without encouragement, I transmit to you the following

Cosmogony of the Taheiteans.

Dr. Hawkesworth, in his relation of Cook's first voyage to the South Seas, observes: "Nothing is more obvious to a rational being, however ignorant or stupid, than that the universe and its various parts, as far as they fall under his notice, were produced by some agent inconceivably more powerful than himself; and nothing is more difficult to be conceived, even by the most sagacious and knowing, than the production of them from nothing; which among us is expressed by the word Creation. It is natural, therefore, as no Being apparently capable of producing the universe is to be seen, that he should be supposed to reside in some distant part of it, or to be in his nature invisible, and that he should have originally produced all that now exists in a manner similar to that in which Nature is renovated by the succession of one generation to another; but the idea of procreation includes in it that of two persons, and from the conjunction of two persons these people imagine everything in the universe either originally or derivatively to proceed."

Of the formation of the Universe, according to the ideas of the Taheiteans, we have the accounts of two priests : that most in detail was given by Manne-Manne, the chief-priest ; the other by Tupia, also a priest, and of great mystical learning. Neither of their statements, in the form in which we have them, can be considered as quite accurate ; Manne-Manne's being interpreted by an ignorant Swedish sailor in the English language, of which he could know little more than of that of O Taheite; and Sir Joseph Banks, to whom Tupia's information was given, observing that "the religious language is, in Otaheite as in China, different from that which is in common use ; so that Tupia, who took great pains to instruct us, having no words to express his meaning which we understood, gave us lectures to very little purpose."

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