Tané has the seventh heaven as its mouth: that is to say, the mouth of this god, which gave its name to man, is the end of heaven by which light begins to illuminate the earth.– Gauguin, Noa-Noa, 1924
Mana is strength. The ancestral, universal force, the one that advances the world, winning battles, fertilizing women, ripening the fields, hunting wild animals, giving the strength to drink (much) and eating (too much, too). A sickness? The mana has dissipated. A death? The mana is gone, it blows into the body of another. You want to enter this sacred space? A priori, nothing prohibits it: no barrier, no sign, nothing forbidden? And yet, passing the two pillars that frame the entrance, your heart accelerates, you sweat big drops and you tremble with fear. It is the mana that reacts negatively: not one more step in this place, where you will be cursed. So if you venture into the valley where, in the caves of the dead, are gathered the skeletons whitened by time and wind.
And if you take the car at night, do not forget to roll your windows up to the top, because the tupapau are likely to hurt you: they are the wandering spirits, ghosts who laugh while doing evil. They are white as sickness and death, they prowl by flying without touching the ground. Those who cross their trajectory (their hair bleached during the night) are unable to describe them.
The Tiki are receptacles of mana: varied forms, sometimes smiling, sometimes severe, its large eyes fix the nothingness and the infinite, some draw tongue (like the divine Kali or the monstrous Gorgone) but never has anyone seen them. The Tiki are the house of souls, the gods come, live, stay there for as long as they wish. Their eyes are enormous: it is necessary to see the enemy to repel his attack and to protect the house. Their phallus were also enormous.
For the missionaries, as soon as they landed, returned to the sea after having loaded their ships with Tiki, and threw them into deep waters, those who were too big or unpopular, they punctured their eyes, decapitated them or cut off the erect rod that shaded their crucifix.
I ask the question: who are the savages?
Philippe Charlier, MD, PhD, LittD, is a forensic practitioner and anthropologist. He works on representations of the human bodies, and rituals related to diseases and death. He loves words, and more.