drawing of ta a roa
Illustration of the Tahitian God of creation, Taʻaroa. (Photo credit: Jean-Luc Bousquet)

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge is hosting a weekly series of virtual seminars that highlight stark similarities within Polynesian mythology. Professor Lilikalā Kameʻeleihiwa organized the Kamakakūokalani Brandt Webinar Series on Polynesian Ancestral Knowledge that features scholars from parts of Polynesia including Aotearoa (New Zealand), Tonga, Marquesas and Rapa Nui.

“I want to expand the imagination of the people, and empower Hawaiian and Polynesian identity,” Kameʻeleihiwa said.

Hawaiians refer to Earth Mother as Papahānaumoku or Haumea, and Sky Father as Wākea or Orion. In Aotearoa, Earth Mother is Papatūānuku and Sky Father, Rangiātea. Each week discussions will focus on various similarities and fascinating differences.

Episodes will air every Wednesday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. HST on Zoom, Facebook Live, or on ʻŌiwi TV: Channel 326. The first section, Atua: Polynesian Ancestors, Stars and Temples, will compare ancestral knowledge differences and parallels such as star constellations Polynesians used to predict weather.

Polynesian Triangle map
Polynesian Triangle

“I want to reach all of the Native Hawaiians who are outside of university, and all those who have been forced to leave Hawaiʻi to join us. Likewise in French Polynesia, there are many Native Tahitians, Marquesans, Tuamotuans and Austral Islanders who are not in university. We want them to join the show too,” said Kameʻeleihiwa.

The virtual series kicked off in June and the next episode, Tahiti Creation: Taʻaroa Makes the World, will air on Wednesday, July 8 and features temple expert Moʻohono Niva and cultural expert Hironui Bouit. Taʻaroa is a Tahitian deity that is respected in many Polynesian cultures as the creator of the Universe. Interestingly, Hawaiian deity Kanaloa and Māori deity Tangaroa are recognized as the Ocean God. The presenters will dive deeper into the variations.

A scholar from Aotearoa is scheduled to present Māori creation mythology elements on July 15.

Click here for more on past episodes.

—By Moanikeʻala Nabarro