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TEHAINGA’ATUA – The Chief of the sky gods in Bellona and Rennell (Bel-Ren) mythology. Tehainga’atua ruled the stars, which Bel-Ren astrologers read to determine when (they believed) the sky-god would command particular stars to unleash dangerous seas, rain and thunder storms plus hurricanes. Earthquakes would be unleashed on the two islands by Mahuike, another of Tehainga’atua’s subordinate deities.
Because this deity could dispense or withhold life-giving rains he was often appealed to in rituals. Like Kane/Tane in other Polynesian Islands, Tehainga’atua ruled over wild plant life. Gnetum costatum plants were considered to be “the hair of Tehainga’atua.”
Tehainga’atua’s parents were the goddess N’guatupu’a and the god Tepoutu’uingangi. In some traditions they are his grandparents instead. His wife (and sister) was the goddess Sikingimoemoe. His children included the god Tehu’aingabenga and other district or clan deities. Some traditions hold that those gods are instead his grandchildren.
In Bel-Ren myths it was often stated that Tehainga’atua “owned” the pair of islands, while Tehu’aingabenga “owned” the people of those islands. Tehainga’atua first fertilized Bellona when he planted his mythical staff called Ma’ungitehenua in the ground there. That staff was worshipped as the earthly “body” (tino) of the god.
The home of Tehainga’atua was the far-off land called Manukatu’u. In Bel-Ren beliefs that land was either just above the horizon or on some theoretical point equivalent to where the sky met the sea. The Chief sky god lived there with his wife and many lesser deities.
Manukatu’u was also the land where dwelled the souls (atas) of deceased members of all Clans but the Iho (Taupongi) Clan, one of the two remaining Clans from Bel-Ren’s traditional 8 original clans. Those souls had wings, bodies and claws like birds but their heads looked like the deceased had looked in life.
The dead ancestors of the Bel-Ren people were revered and would be prayed to in order to ask favors from or the protection of Tehainga’atua and the other gods. Those souls would fly between their graves and Manukatu’u regularly, especially to beg the gods to send children to Bel-Ren’ers.
(It was only within the past century that the Bel-Ren people came to acknowledge the link between pregnancy and the sex act. Prior to that it was believed that children came exclusively from the gods.)
Tehainga’atua’s dwelling on Manukatu’u was surrounded by all manner of fruits, vegetables and ponds full of fish. Bel-Ren temples were constructed and laid out to be earthly scale-models of the sky god’s house.
The notion of rewards or punishments after death was virtually unknown in Bel-Ren myths. Generally speaking the gods would punish or reward their worshippers in life. After death they would dwell with Tehainga’atua in Manukatu’u neither suffering nor filled with pleasure.
The lone exception was the canonized figure Tehugi. That figure was once a mortal man who made a point of cursing all the gods in the Bel-Ren pantheon. When Tehugi died and his soul went to Manukatu’u he was eternally punished by Tehainga’atua, who set Tehugi’s head on fire and used him as a literal human torch to light the big family meals the Chief deity had with his subordinates.
Souls did not spend eternity with Tehainga’atua. After varying lengths of time – years, decades or centuries, depending on how well-revered the dead person still was back in the world of the living – the soul would suffer “annihilation.”
The bird-like souls would stand on a perch in Tehainga’atua’s home – one perch for male souls and another for female souls. When the Chief deity so decreed, a soul would fall from the perch and eventually land in the lowest level of Poo’ungi, the subterranean land of the dead.
That lowest level was called Hakanauua (or, less frequently, Ngaanganga). Annihilated souls would lie there like rubbish, unthinking and uncaring, while surrounded by Apai (malicious unworshipped deities) as well as huge snakes, monstrous lizards, giant centipedes and the like.
FOR THE FULL LIST OF BELLONA & RENNELL GODS CLICK HERE
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