The Birdman mythology (also Pascuense mythology) originates with the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island. The Rapa Nui are the aboriginal Polynesian inhabitants of Easter Island, located in the south eastern Pacific Ocean.

Spirit World in the seaEdit

The monolithic moai represent deified ancestors, who are of the spirit world in the sea. 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.[1]

Birdman cultEdit

The bird-man cult, known as Tangata manu, succeeded the island's Moai era as warfare erupted over dwindling natural resources. The Birdman cult was suppressed by Christian missionaries in the 1860s. Thus, crafting of the statues had ended.[2] Though the cult declined after the island population adopted Catholicism, the birdman popularity and memory is still present in the decoration of the island's church.[3] The origin of the cult and the time thereof are uncertain.[4]

The bird-man cult is comprised of the following eight deities:

  • Make-make, the chief deity, and his servant
  • Hawa-tuu-take-take (Chief of the eggs), and his servant
  • Vie Hoa, wife of Hawa-tuu-take-take, and her servant
  • Vie Kanatea, and her servant

The names of all eight are chanted by contestants during various rituals of the Tangata manu competition, preceding an egg hunt that involved a dangerous swim to Motu Nui from the main island.


  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. Scoresby-Routledge, Katherine (1919). The Mystery of Easter Island. London: Hazell, Watson & Viney. ISBN 0-932813-48-8. 
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