Tagaloa  

Posted by Stella Clark

Tagaloa Cover
Tagaloa (also known as Tagaloa-lagi or Tagaloa of the Heavens/Skies) is generally accepted as the supreme ruler, the creator of the universe, the chief of all gods and the progenitor of other gods and humans. Tagaloa dwelt in space and made the Heavens (lagi), the sky, the land, the seas, the fresh water, the trees and the people. Samoans believed Tagaloa created nine heavens (lagi tua iva). After Tagaloa made the islands, the humans developed from worms. The arrival of missionaries and Christianity in Samoa from 1830 saw the Samoan atua gods like Tagaloa, replaced by a Christian deity. In Hawaii he was known as the squid god Kanaloa. The Maoris say that Tangaroa fled for safety to the ocean when the storm god Tawhiri-ma-tea raged on behalf of Rangi, their father.

A story from the Tuamotu Archipelago, renowned for the archetypal quality of its legends, relates a struggle between Tangaroa, or Tagaroa, and Rogo-tumu-here, the demon octopus. Once Tagaroa sailed to the island of Faumea, a counterpart of the mysterious Hawaiian goddess Haumea. Faumea was a woman who had eels in her vagina which killed men, but she taught Tagaroa how to entice them outside. He slept with her and she bore Tu-nui-ka-rere and Turi-a-faumea. The latter married Hina-a-rauriki; the newly-weds took pleasure in surfing, but one day the demon octopus Rogo-tumu-here seized Hina-a-rauriki and dragged her down to the bottom of the ocean. So Tagaroa, Tu-nui-ka-rere, and Turi-a-faumea built a canoe. When Tagaroa recited a canoe-launching chant, Faumea withdrew the wind into the sweat of her armpit, and he had to utter a chant for its release. Tagaroa asked Faumea to hold onto Tu-nui-ka-rere, who slipped away into the sky and was lost. Only Turi-a-faumea and Tagaroa, therefore, sailed out to Rogo-tumu-here's lair. On a hook baited with sacred feathers did Tagaroa draw up the demon octopus to the surface. Tentacle after tentacle they hacked off until the monstrous head was within reach. Tagaroa cut that off and Hina-a-rauriki was drawn out from its mouth covered with slime.

According to the Maoris, the antagonism between Tangaroa and Tane-mahuta, father of the forests, dates from the time of the conflict with Tawhiri-ma-tea. Some of Tangaroa's children decided not to follow him to the ocean but, instead, they took refuge inland. Afterwards Tane-mahuta supplied the offspring of Tu-matauenga, the god of fierce human beings, with canoes, with spears, and with fish hooks made from his trees, and with nets woven from his fibrous plants, that they might destroy the offspring of Tangaroa. In revenge, Tangaroa enjoyed sinking canoes, flooding the land, and eating away the shore.

Legend:


“Tagaloa, the miracle working god of the Eighth Heaven, decided to spend some time on earth. In the sky world, he had been accustomed to drinking kava where it was the nectar of the gods, so he sent his attendants to obtain some. They returned with a bowl, strainer, and cup, along with a whole kava plant. Of this plant, Tagaloa threw away most, only using the root for his drink. Pava, a mortal, who saw all that was done, watching an opportunity, gathered up the pieces the god had rejected and planted them; they grew luxuriantly, and thenceforward men enjoyed the god-like drink.”

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