Customs

Rapa Nui Spiritual World

Moai en Rapa Nui

Contemporary Rapa Nui keep their rites, ceremonies and ancestral beliefs.

Some of their practices vary depending on this people's different stages since their prehistory. However, old concepts as Mana and Tapu prevailed.

Mana is the supernatural power or magic. It is in hands of the spirits and of some initiated.

This magic can be transmitted to any object, and so can be to those people living close to powerful men.

In what is known as the expansive stage, an unusual religious fervor toward the ancestors took place: 300 ceremonial altars and almost 600 moai were built. Priests were endowed with special power. Political crisis and starvation followed in what is known as the decline phase. The Rapa Nui were bound praying for food. Such is the origin of the fertility cult of the god Make Make.

Ceremonies

Ceremonial Rapa Nui. Foto de Silvia Valenzuela.

Every year, representatives of different lineage competed to obtain the first egg of the seagull known as Manutara, that nested on a small island, Motu Nui, located in front of Orongo.

Whoever brought the egg, unbroken and after a tough fight, was entitled as Tangata Manu. This meant that the winner was the reincarnation of the very Make Make god.

During the year, the Tangata Manu and his lineage enjoyed economical, political and religious privileges, giving place to a despotic and cruel rule exercised over those defeated who, during the following year, would try to get their revenge.

Cannibalism propagated in this period. Many petroglifs evoke the bird man, with a human body and a bird head, holding an egg in his hands.

Aringa ora o koro is the celebration of the indigenous new year. This is a time for celebrating the annual cycle of life. Fertility and productivity are celebrated. In Rapa Nui it takes place during the winter solstice.