"The Birdman Cult" Top 5 Page for this destination Easter Island Local Custom Tip by pure1942

Easter Island Local Customs: 30 reviews and 28 photos

  Stone Hut at Orongo Ceremonial Village
by pure1942

After the inter-tribal wars which marked the decline of the moai era, a new spiritual and political cult grew up in its place and operated between the 18th and 19th centuries . Developing from a warrior clan known as the matatoa, ?The Birdman Cult? grew as a replacement to the more traditional ancestor worship and moai based rituals of older generations. This spiritual worship evolved around the deities ?Haua? and ?Make-Make?, the half man, half bird spirit responsible for the coming and going of the seasons and birds. The culmination of the cult?s celebrations came about at the start of spring every year, when the locals came together at Orongo for the tangata-manu competition.
Without the moai culture and the traditions of the tribal kings or ?ariki? which had existed for the centuries before the civil unrest which brought about their downfall, the people of Rapa Nui needed a new system of leadership and authority. This need resulted in the tangata-manu competition which appointed a tribal leader as king of the island for a year. Each tribal leader chose one of his strongest and fittest young men (known as a Hopu) who would represent the whole tribe in the tangata-manu. This viciously competitive race involved each competitor scrambling down the steep cliffs under the Orongo Village before swimming the perilous stretch of shark infested water to Motu Nui. If lucky enough to reach the islet intact, the Hopu then had to wait for the arrival of the nesting birds and capture the first seasonal egg of the manutara (sooty tern) andthen return to Orongo with the egg. If successful the Hopu would present his chief with the egg and that particular chief would be declared the new king or ?tangata-manu? for the coming year. The tangata manu would then return to his tribal area from where he would rule the island for a year. The winning Hopu would be rewarded with a ?White Virgin? (see Poike Peninsula Tip) who had been kept ?safely? in a cave on the other sided of the island for months in preparation for her marriage to the successful Hopu athlete.
The last tangata-manu competition took place around 1867.

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  • Written Nov 2, 2011
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