Tiki God Mythology
The history behind tiki culture is in many ways even more interesting than the brief history of tiki style adopted in North America. Throughout the South Pacific, from Hawaii to Polynesia, Tiki culture and mythology has a long and rich heritage. Various myths and traditions come together to form the broad and diverse Tiki mythology.
The name “Tiki” is actually the name of the first man in Maori mythology, which originated off the coast of New Zealand. Within that tradition, the first human was actually a woman named Tane, who was the god of the forest. Depending on location in the South Pacific, Tane is said to have created the first man, Tiki – and yet in other traditions, Tiki is actually the penis of Tane. In the Cook Islands, which are another set of islands in the South Pacific, Tiki is the guardian to the entrance to the underworld and gifts were given to him on behalf of the dead.
Tiki mythology spans several islands throughout the South Pacific and in the more popular mythological system, there are 4 different gods. These gods are said to control nature and have power over good and bad. The four gods are Kane, Lono, Ku and Kanaloa.
Kane, the first of the gods within South Pacific mythology is said to have created the universe. Because of this association with creation, Kane is often associated with life and is also said to have given all the other gods their responsibilities.
Lono is most closely associated with plants and rain and is identified as the god of fertility. Beyond these duties, Lono is also said to be the deity for peace and also music. Each year a festival, called the Makahki festival was held in Lono’s honor Lono is also said to have the ability to transform into a man.
The third deity within Tiki mythology is Ku, which actually means “to stand” or “to strike”. It’s no surprise that with names like this, Ku is the god of war. No other god commands such respect and fear among Tiki mythology as Ku does. Many years ago, human sacrifices were made to Ku and locals still fear his name.
The last deity in Tiki mythology is Kanaloa, who is said to be the god of the sea. During ancient times natives feared the power of the sea. To counter his fierce characteristics, Kanaloa is often paired with Kane as a means of balancing out fear with the peace that Kane represents.
Throughout the South Pacific, these myths have been intertwined so that certain islands may have one god, but not another. It’s apparent that they all have very similar origins, but all are differentiated by different names for their deities and slightly different story lines compared to what might be believed on other islands in the same region.
Of course today we recognize Tiki mythology by the statues and totem poles that were carved from wood. Usually these were carved in the form of a god or a number of gods and often were said to have special powers. These sacred pieces may not have the same significance in North American culture today, but for many in the South Pacific islands, these artifacts still represent a culture that had been in existence for many, many years.