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Samoa: The Myth of Creation.

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In the beginning there was nothing in the Darkness and the Cleaving Together save one person. We know not how he grew nor whence he came. We know not his father or his mother, for there was only he. His name was Nareau te Moa-ni-bai (Sir Spider the First-of-things). He walked over the face of heaven, which was like hard rock that stuck to the earth. And heaven and earth were called the Darkness and the Cleaving Together.

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So Nareau walked over heaven alone: he trod it underfoot; he felt it with his hands; he went north, he went south, he went east, he went west, he fetched a compass about it; he tapped it with the end of his staff; he sat upon it and knocked upon it with his fingers. Lo, it sounded hollow as he knocked, for it was not sticking to the earth below.  It stood forth as the floor of a sleeping house stands over the ground. And none lived below in the hollow place, nay, not a soul, for there was only Nareau. So he entered beneath the rock that was heaven and stood below.

And  now is Nareau about to make men grow beneath that rock; he is about to command the Sand to lie with the Water, saying, "be ye fertile." They heard; they brought forth children, and these were the names: Na Atibu and Nei Teakea.

Then Nareau commanded Na Atibu and to lie with his sister Teakea. They heard; they brought forth children, and these were their names: Te Ikawai (the eldest), Nei Marena (the Woman Between), Te Nao (the wave), Na Kika (Sir Octopus), Riiki the Eel, and a multitude of others.  And the youngest child was Nareau the younger, namesake of Nareau te Moa-ni-bai. And Nareau the Younger was also called Te Kikinto (the Mischief Maker), for he made mischief among men.

So when these works were done, Nareau te Moa-ni-bai said in his heart, "It is enough. I go, never to return." So he spoke to Na Atibu, saying, "Na Atibu, here is thy dwelling-place; thy task is to make a world of men; and as for me, I go, never to return. Finish my work." And Na Atibu called his son Nareau the Younger; he told him the words of Nareau te Moa-ni-bai. Nareau answered, "Sir, what shall be done in this matter?" His father said, "Do that thou wilt do."

Nareau the Younger began his work; he looked upon the multitude of the children of Sand and Water. They lay, moving not, in their birthplaces. It was as if they were dead. He called aloud to them, "Sirs, what think ye?" Only his voice came back again. "Sirs, what think ye?" So he said in his heart, "these be mad folk," and he named them Baba ma Bono (Fools and Deaf Mutes). Then he stretched out his hand over the multitude. He stroked their bodies, they stirred; he bent their legs, they were supple; he loosed their tongues, they spoke; he touched their eyes, they saw; he opened their ears, they heard; he called them by name, they answered; and he said, "They are no longer fools, nor deaf, nor dumb; they are all in their right minds."

He went back to his father Na Atibu and said, "Sir, they are all in their right minds. What shall be done in this thing?" Na Atibu answered "Do that thou wilt do." So Nareau said to the children of Sand and Water. "Arise." They would have arisen, but behold, the heavens were not yet high; their foreheads smote the heavens. They fell back, crying, "Sir, how may we arise?"Then Nareau called to him Riiki that great Eel and said, "Sir, thou are long and taut: thou shalt lift the heavens on thy snout." Riiki answered, "It is well." So he coiled himself in the midst beneath the heavens. He raised his snout and heaved from below.  Lo, the heavens moved, and as they moved Nareau called aloud, saying,"Lift, lift." But Riiki answered, I can no more, for heaven cleaves to the underworld."

Then said Nareau to Na Kika (Sir Octopus), 'Strike forth with thine arms. Heaven cleaves to the underworld.' Na Kika answered, 'I strike, I strike.' He said again to Baka-uaaneku and Te-auanei (two String-rays), 'Slide sideways and cut. Heaven cleaves to the underworld.' They answered, 'We cut, we cut.'

He said again to Tabakea (the Turtle), 'Heave with thy back.' He answered, 'I heave, I heave.' He said again to the Wave, his brother, 'Surge from beneath.' He answered, 'I surge, I surge.' And he said again to the children of Sand and Water, 'Push, thou,' 'Blow thou,' 'Roll, thou,' 'Let go, thou.' And all obeyed his word. So Riiki the Eel raised the heavens aloft and the earth sank under the sea. And as Riiki lifted, Nareau called to him, 'Tabekia riki, tabekia ri-iki' (Lift it more, lift it mo-ore'). Therefore his name is Riiki to this day, in memory of Nareau's word.

Then Nareau said to Riiki, 'Let it be, it is enough.' He answered, 'How may I let be? If I stand from beneath, the heavens will fall again.' So Nareau called four women and said to them, "These be your names: Make-north, Make-south, Make-east, Make-west. Go hold the four corners of heaven, for you are its supports.' They went, and their feet became roots, as it were the roots of mighty trees, so that they might not again be moved. So the heavens stood on high, and Nareau said to Riiki, 'Thy work is done.' Riiki answered, 'It is done,' And Nareau took hold upon his body and struck off his legs, which were many. He said to him, 'Go lie in thy place.' So Riiki lay across the heavens, and to this day his belly is seen to shine across heaven, even Naiabu (the Milky Way). As for his legs, they fell into the sea and became the great and the small eels that live therein.

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But beyond, the heavens and the sea were dark, for there was no light. And Nareau said in his heart, 'It is as though my work were of no avail, for it cannot be seen.' He went back to his father Na Atibu and said, 'Sir, what shall be done in this matter?' He answered, 'Do that thou wilt do.' So Nareau said, 'Na Atibu, thou shalt die. I shall get from thee a light for the world.' He answered, 'Do that thou wilt do.' So he slew his father. Then also with Na Atibu died Teakea, his sister and wife.

When that thing was done, Nareau called his brothers the Wave and the Octopus; he said, 'Let us mourn the dead.' They answered, 'We cannot, but do thou mourn him.' He said to them, 'Ye shall also mourn with me.' They said, 'Begin.' So he began:

How still, how still thou liest,
My father Na Atibu, with Teakea thy wife.  

And his brothers lifted up the song in answer:

There is no ghost in him,
He shall speed under the heavens to northward;
There, I ween, be no spirits, no men, no things.
He shall speed under the heavens to southward;
There, I ween, be no spirits, no men, no things.

And Nareau answered again:

(Yea, for) there shall lie with me a woman, the woman Aro-maiaki*
My seed shall spring from her, the breed of southern spirits; let them dwell in the south.
The breed of northern spirits let them dwell in the north.
The breed of eastern spirits; let them dwell in the east.
The breed of western spirits; let them dwell in the west.
The breed of spirits of heaven and the underworld; let them dwell on earth.

*Maiaki, the second half of this name, means south. Aro signifies manner, custom or habit. This may possibly be translated 'inhabitant' in this case.

And when Nareau had done, he took the right eye of Na Atibu and flung it to the Eastern sky. Behold, the sun! He took the left eye and flung it to the Western sky. Behold, the moon! He took the brain and crumbled it between his palms; he scattered it over the heavens. Behold the stars! He took the flesh and broke it in bits; he sowed it over the waters. Behold the rocks and stones. He took the bones and planted them on the first land, even the land of Samoa; and from the bones of Na Atibu grew the Tree of Samoa, The Ancestor.

This was the manner of the making of the land of Samoa. Nareau said in his heart, 'The heavens stand on high and the earth is under the water.' So he called his brothers, the Wave and Na Kika, saying, 'See how the children of Water and Sand are swimming in the sea.' He said again, 'Go, Octopus, drag together the sand and stones.' He said again, 'Go, Wave, wash the sand and stones; stick them together.' They heard. So at last the sand and stones rose above the sea, a great land. It was called Samoa. Thereon Nareau planted the bones of Na Atibu, and they grew into the 'Tree called Kai-n-tiku-aba, the Tree of Samoa.

When Samoa was finished, Nareau went north and made the land of Tarawa with its people.

(See Kiribati Genealogy)

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Jane Resture
(E-mail: -- Rev. 12th June 2003)