Tuesday, July 7, 2009

On Papetoai

‘In one of the visits which Mr. Nott made to the residence of Taaroarii, for the purpose of preaching to his people, he was followed by Patii, the priest of the temple in Papetoai, the district in which the missionaries resided. This individual appeared to listen most attentively to what was said; and after the conclusion of the service, he and Mr. Nott proceeded together along the beach towards the settlement.As they walked, Patii fully disclosed the feelings of his mind to Mr. Nott, and assured him that on the morrow, at a certain hour, he would bring out the idols under his care, and publicly burn them. […]
Patii, however, was punctual to his word. He, with his friends, had collected a quantity of fuel near the sea-beach; and, in the afternoon, the wood was split, and piled on a point of land in the western part of Papetoai, near the large national Marae, or temple, in which he had officiated. […]
A short time before sun-set, Patii appeared, and ordered his attendants to apply fire to the pile. This being done, he hastened to the sacred depository of the gods… When he approached the burning pile, he laid them down on the ground. They were small carved wooden images, rude imitations of the human figure; or shapeless logs of wood, covered with finely braided and curiously wrought cinet of cocoa-nut fibres, and ornamented with red feathers. […]
Patii tore off the sacred cloth in which they were enveloped, to be safe from the gaze of vulgar eyes; stripped them of their ornaments, which he cast into the fire; and then one by one threw the idols themselves into the crackling flames – sometimes pronouncing the name and pedigree of the idol, and expressing his own regret at having worshipped it – at others, calling upon the spectators to behold their inability even to help themselves. Thus were the idols which Patii, who was a powerful priest in Eimeo, had worshipped, publicly destroyed.’

Reverend William Ellis, Polynesian Researches, During a Residence of Nearly Six Years in the South Sea Islands (London, 1829)

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