Volume 16 1907 > Volume 16, No. 2 > Tahitian astronomy, by Miss Teuira Henry, p 101-104
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- 101

[Recited in 1818 at Porapora, by Rua-nui (Great-pit), a clever old woman, then bent with age, and eyes dim. The stars were identified with their equivalents in English by the aid of Paora'i (cleft sky), Counsellor of Porapora, in 1822, and by the best authority in Tahiti, later from the MSS. of the Rev. J. M. Orsmond, Missionary of Tahiti.]


RUA-TUPUA-NUI (source-of-great-growth) was the origin; when he took to wife Atea-ta'o-nui (vast-expanse-of-great bidding), there were born his princes, Shooting-stars; then followed the Moon; then followed the Sun; then followed the Comets; then followed Fa'a-iti (Little-Valley, Perseus), Fa'a-nui (Great Valley, Auriga), and Fa'a-tapotupotu (Open Valley, Gemenii), in King Clear-open-sky, which constellations are all in the North.

Fa'a-nui (Auriga) dwelt with his wife Tahi-ari'i (Unique Sovereign, Capella in Auriga), and begat his prince Ta'urua (Great Festivity, Venus), who runs in the evening, and who heralds the night and the day, the stars, the moon, and the sun, as a compass to guide Hiro's ship at sea. And there followed Ta'ero (Bacchus or Mercury), by the sun.

Ta'urua (Great Venus) prepared his canoe, Mata-taui-noa (Continually-changing-face), and sailed along the west, to King South, and dwelt with his wife Rua-o-mere (cavern-of-parental-yearnings, Capricornus), the compass that stands on the southern side of the sky.

There was born his prince Maunu-'ura (fading-redness, Mars), who rises in the evening with two faces (two shades in its disc) a red star, the god that flies to offer oblations for thought in his season.

Maunu-'ura (Mars) prepared his canoe, it was Te-ao-nui-e-rere-i-te-ra'i (great-day-that-flies-through-the-sky), and he sailed south; Maunu-'ura (Mars) dwelt with his wife Apu-o-te-Ra'i (The-vault-of-Heaven), and begat his prince Ta'urua (Great Festivity, Fomalhaut), who steers the canoe of Atu-tahi (Single Bonito, Piscis-Australis), which stands south in its night.

Now let the nature of the sky of Atu-tahi (single Bonito) be produced. There were born Aro (Make-way), Ara'a (Clearness), Ara'aara'a - 102 (Brilliance), three stars of the third magnitude, and Ha'amaru (Softness, the five smallest stars). The canoe belongs to Atu-tahi (Single Bonito); it is a constellation in the clear, motless sky in the South, and Ta'urua-nui (Great-Fomalhaut) is the steersman.

Then was born Tau-hâ (cluster-of-four, the Southern Cross), and there followed Ta'urua-nui-o-te-hiti-apato'a (Great-Festivity-of-the-border-of-the-south, Canopus in Argo the ship). Atu-tahi (Single Bonito, Piscis-Australis) sailed to the West, and dwelt with his wife Tû-i-te-moana-'urifa (Stand-in-the-sea-of-rank-odour, Hydra), then were born Metua-'ai-papa (Parent-eater-of-rock, Corvus), Moana-'aere (Track-less Ocean, the clear sky under Hydra), Moana-'a'ano-huri-hara (Wide ocean-in-which-to-cast-crime, more sky), and Moana-'ohu-noa-'ei-ha'a-moe-hara (Vortex-ocean-in-which-to-lose-crime, Crater).

Metua-'ai-papa (Parent-eater-of-rock, Corvus) took to wife Te-ra'i-tû-roroa (Long-extended-sky, between Leo and Hydra), and begat his prince Fetu-tea (Pale-star, Saturn), a periodical friend that rises in his season.

Fetu-tea (Pale-star) was the king, he took to wife the dome of the sky and begat the stars that shine and obscure, the host of twinkling stars, the smallest stars named (eaten-into), and the phosphorescent stars (nebulæ).

There followed the Star-fishes and two Trigger-fishes that eat mist, and dwell in holes, vacant spots, in the Vai-ora-a-Tane (Living-water of Tane, Milky Way). The handsome shark Fa'arava-i-te-ra'i (sky-shade), is there in his pool (the long clear space), and close by is the Pira'e-tea (White Sea-Swallow of Tane, Deneb in Cygnus) in the living water of Tane.

The pillars of the sky 1 have become great twinkling stars in the heavens as follows:—

Anâ-mua (Front-aster, Antares in Scorpio) is the entrance pillar of the dome of the sky.

Anâ-muri (Behind-aster) weeping for Rio, god of bonito and albicore fishers (Aldebaran in Taurus), is the pillar to blacken or tattoo by.

Anâ-roto (Inner-aster, Spica in Virgo) is the pillar of perfect purity.

Anâ-tipû (Deviating-aster, Dubbhe in Ursa major) is the upper side pillar, the pillar to guard by.

Anâ-heuheu-pô (Aster-throwing-off-darkness, Al Ford or Cor Hydra) a red star that flies in the open space south, is the lower pillar, the pillar to debate by.

- 103

Anâ-Tahu'a-Ta'ata-Metua-te-tupu-mavae (Aster-the-fatherly-priest-of-man-who-grew-in-space, Arcturus in Bootis) is the pillar to stand by.

Anâ-tahu'a-vahine-o-toa-te-manava (Aster-the-priestess-of-brave-heart, Procyon in Canis minor) the pillar for elocution.

Anâ-varu (Aster-eighth, Betelguese in Orion) the pillar to sit by.

Anâ-iva (Aster-ninth, Phaet in Columba) the pillar of exit.

Anâ-ni'a (Aster-above, Polaris or North Star) is the pillar to fish by, in the boundary of the sky.

All the heavenly bodies were to beautify the rugged house (star spangled sky), to pass before Ta'urua (Venus), the guiding star that rises in the evening, as a nation in the presence of Ta'ero-Aru (King Bacchus, Royal inebriate).

Anâ-heuheu-pô (Aster-throwing-off-darkness, Al Fard) prepared his canoe, Farau-a-marô (Dry-shed), and sailed to the numerous heavenly fishes (Pisces) and took to wife Tere-e-fa'aari'i-mai-i-te-Ra'i (Errand-to-create-majesty-in-heaven, the sky there), and begat his prince, Ta'urua-nui (Great festivity, Jupiter), who struck the zenith of the sky, the star that mounts upon the back of early dawn in his season.

Ta'urua-nui (Jupiter), who struck the zenith of the sky, made ready his canoe, Marae-oroua (Enchanted-temple) and went forth and suppressed the tail of the great storm. This was the diviation that caused Ta'urua-nui (Jupiter) to lose his balance against Bacchus (Mercury), whose eyes were closed by the sun, flying in the burning expanse of Vast Expanse.

Ta'urua-nui, who struck the zenith of the sky, took to wife Te-'ura-taui-e-pâ (Redness-exchanged-and-parted-with), and begat their princes Mata-ri'i, the constellations of Small eyes (Pleiades), Mere (Parental yearning, Orion's belt), and Te-uru-meremere (The-Forest-of-Parental-yearnings) all the rest of Orion. And there followed Ta'urua-nui-i-te-amo'aha (Great-Festivity-the-sinnet-carrier, Sirius in Canis Major).

Land appeared! Paro'o-i-to-pa'urâ (Noted for barrenness) was the land. It had a mountain named, A-fa'ateniteni (Be-boastful). It had a cape named, Rave-a-tau (Take-for-ages). It had a temple named Tui-hana (Obituaries). There was a pavement to the temple of Tui-hana (Obituaries). And there was a house in which to learn the obits.

Ta'urua-nui-amo-'aha (Sirius) prepared his canoe, Te-'iri-o-hatu (Fruitful bark), and sailed eastward, and took to wife Horo (Ava-lanch); then were born his princes Mahu-ni'a (Upper-Magellan) and Mahu-raro (Lower Magellan).

This, (Sirius) was the Ta'urua that created kings of the chiefs of earthly hosts on one side, and of the chiefs in the skies on the other side. All were royal personages in Fa'a-hiti (Bordering-valley), from the period of darkness, and they each had a star. They bear the - 104 names of those stars, and those names have been perpetuated in their temples in this world.

The boundaries for their stars are, Tahiti-nui-mare'are'a (Great-Tahiti-of-the-golden-haze), in the east; the temple named Nu'u-rua (Two-fleets, in Mo'orea); the temple Tahu-ea (Invocation-for-deliverance) in Ra'iatea; the temples of Ava-rau (Divers-passages) and Vai-'otaha (Water-of-the-Man-of-war-bird), in Porapora; and the temple of the cape Manunu-i-te-ra'i (Benumbed-of-the-sky), in Huahine.

Monarchs were invested with the yellow-feather girdle within the walls of the temple of Vai-'otaha (Water-of-the-Man-of-war-bird), in Porapora; and Monarchs were invested with the red-feather girdle within the walls of the temple of Taputapu-atea (Sacrifices-from-abroad), at Opoa in Ra'iatea. Within those walls were they created Sovereigns; hence arose the power of Fa'a-nui (Great-Valley) in Porapora, and hence arose the power of Opoa in Ra'iatea.

In old records Ta'urua is applied to a variety of stars, the explanatory word or phrase showing the one designated, as already partly shown.

Venus is further named Ta'urua-e-hiti-i-Matavai (Festivity-that-rises-over-Matavai), in Tahiti, and also Ta'urua-i-te-pati-feti'a (Festivity-that-leads-the-stars).

Fomalhaut is Ta'urua-i-te-i'a-o-te-no'o (Festivity-of-the-fiish-at-the helm).

Orion's belt is Ta'urua-o-Mere-ma-tû-tahi (Festivity-of-parental-yearnings-united).

Al Fard, or Cor Hydra, is Ta'urua-feufeu (Festivity-throwing off).

Betelguese in Orion is Ta'urua-nui-o-Mere (Great-festivity-in-parental-yearnings).

Canopus in Argo is Ta'urua-e-tupu-tai-nanu (Festivity-from-whence-comes-the-flux-of-the-sea), and also Ta'urua-nui-o-te-hiti-'apato'a (Great-Festivity-of-the-border-of-the south).

Deneb in Cygnus is Ta'urua-i-te-ha'apâ-ra'a-manu (Festivity-the-ascending-bird, or the White-Sea-Swallow of the god Tane).

Jupiter is Ta'urua-o-ra'i-taetae'a-o-Havai'i-i-te-tua (Festivity-of-confusion-in-the-sky-with-Havai'i-Ra'iatea-in-the-rear); and also Ta'u-rua-e-hiti-i-ara-o-te-anuanua (Festivity-that-rises-in-the-path-of-the-rainbow.

And Sirius is named Ta'urua-fau-papa (Festivity-of- original-high-chiefs), and also Ta'urua-e-hiti-i-te-tara-te-feiai (Festivity-who-rises-with-prayers-and-religious-ceremonies).

1  The sky is said to have been low down formerly, and propped up from the earth with pillars, in the order here given.