I. Prologue: A Seer's Dream (Excerpt from a short story)

The etua and kuhane visited me again last night as I slept.

In the dream, I was alone in a small vaka filled with warm sand, rocking gently in the tide. Tana-oa sang to me, and his voice was the sound of a thousand distant roaring waves: “Metani to ahu a / E tiu to ahu a.” His winds beckoned my vaka onward to the north, far away from the crumbling trees of my village. I asked him where he was taking me, and the tai grew so silent and still that it seemed as though it had merged with the open ani. I thought of Papa una and Papa a'o from the vavana I often heard as a tama. Gazing around the endless blue, I was startled to find a trail of vaka behind me stretching back toward the horizon—each with a single person inside. I recognized the figures in the eight nearest me as those we lost in yesterday's storm, and when I looked at them they smiled and waved. The rest were too far for me to make out, but I knew them nonetheless. Was I really dreaming, or had the storm taken me as well?

I leaned over the hue tana to see if the tai was still beneath me, and was surprised to find a layer of oil encircling the vaka. And in its reflection I noticed a cloud high above me which seemed to be growing larger and larger... my heart leapt as I realized that it was falling toward me. With fright, I grabbed a hoe and paddled uselessly as the formation's massive shadow changed the entire ani to a star-filled po. Surrendering myself to the looming impact, I dropped the hoe and turned up to face my fate. But as I took in the form's shape, I felt immense relief... joy, even, to realize that I was looking up at my smiling tupuna vehine. Suddenly, I was a tama again, rocking in her warm arms. She sang, “E mao ae Tana-oa / I no te aiai / E vii vii atu Tana-oa / I no te one one,” and as the song continued, Atea's children appeared and swirled around us. In their divine light, I realized that her body was made of sand. “E maohi ae Tana-oa / I te putuki o to ia vaka. / Tapa tapa i vaka / I na vaka nui. / E Tana-oa, Tana-oa, / Tana-ukaki.”

When her song ended, she laid me gently back down into my vaka and returned to the ani. Just then, the tai and tiu began to stir again. And high above me, I heard the call of a bird coming from where my tupuna vehine had vanished. The koevaeva? Or...

I awoke abruptly to the sound of our storm-worn vaka's creaking hue tana and a deep purple-blue sky—tata hoata te ma'ania.


Marquesan Terminology

Atea – god / force of creation ani – sky etua – gods hoe – paddle hue tana – sideboards koevaeva – a bird which presaged death kuhane – spirits Papa a’o & Havai'i – lower spirit worlds Papa una – upper spirit world po – night sky tai – sea tama – child Tana-oa – god of the wind and sea tata hoata te ma'ania – the light is near breaking tiu – north wind tupuna vehine – grandmother vaka – canoe vavana – sacred chant

Chants

Metani to ahu a / E tiu to ahu a.

My robe is the wind / The northeast wind is my robe

E mao ae Tana-oa / I no te aiai / E vii vii atu Tana-oa / I no te one one

Tana-oa stands erect / On the gleaming billows / Tana-oa glides along / Over the sands

E maohi ae Tana-oa / I te putuki o to ia vaka. / Tapa tapa i vaka / I na vaka nui. / E Tana-oa, Tana-oa, / Tana-ukaki.

Tana-oa seizes / The tenon of his canoe. / Chanting to his canoe, / To the many canoes. / Oh Tana-oa, Tana-oa, / Tana-ukaki.

References