Balladeer’s Blog presents a look at the version of the Polynesian goddess Sina as reflected in the beliefs of Bellona and Rennell Islands. FOR OVER TWENTY MORE BELLONA AND RENNELL DEITIES CLICK HERE
SINA – The Bel-Ren counterpart to the Sina of the Hawaiian Islands (Hina) and the Samoan Islands (also called Sina). Like those figures she was the sister of Maui (Hawaiian) or Ti’i Ti’i (Samoan). However, this Sina was neither a moon goddess like her Hawaiian version nor a love and beauty goddess like her Samoan self.
Instead she fell under the Bel-Ren category called the Kakai. As the Atua were the major deities and the Apai were the unworshipped and/or mischievous deities the Kakai were classed as either pure Culture Gods or as the deities worshipped by the Hiti. The Hiti were the previous inhabitants of the Bel-Ren Islands and were all exterminated by the arriving Eight Clans.
(The Hiti lived on in Bel-Ren myths as impish, supernatural beings like the Menehune in Hawaii. They – like the exterminated Hiti – had once been the original inhabitants of their island group.)
Sina was featured in the myth explaining how the various birds who visited the Bel-Ren Islands got their coloring. The creative and artistically inclined Sina interacted with the birds on a regular basis and her intimacy with them enabled her to paint and craft their feathers, wings, claws, beaks and eyes to give each species its unique look.
A variation of that myth dates to the period after regular contact with foreign cultures. In that version Sina runs a marketplace which the birds visit to “buy” the coloring and accessories that gave each of them their unique appearance. Sina thus became the Bel-Ren goddess of both the arts AND commerce.
Another prominent myth about Sina bears similarities to stories from the other Polynesian Island groups in which the eel god Tetuna (or variants) tricks Sina/Hina into marrying him. The goddess’ revulsion on discovering the true form of her new spouse prompts her rescue by assorted male deities from the respective pantheons.
A woman who had a snake for a son wanted to marry that son off to the goddess Sina. To that end she introduced her son to Sina, but Sina – like the Bel-Ren people themselves – was disgusted by snakes and angrily refused to become its mate. She indignantly left the snake-mother’s home.
The mother was undeterred and chopped her son up into smaller pieces and placed the pieces in an enormous calabash. She added various other ingredients, performed her magic over the calabash and covered the open top with sugar-cane leaves.
After some time the son emerged, looking like a handsome humanoid male who took the name Tangatategautogo (“sugar cane leaf man”) from the leaves which had covered the calabash he had transformed in. Sina is attracted to the man, oblivious to his true identity.
Sina mentioned this attraction to her servant, the mouse goddess Ta’epakupaku – meaning “dry feces” for the color of her fur when she assumed her mouse form. (That puts me in mind of how one of the Samoan tattoo goddesses was named “pale feces” in their language) Ta’epakupaku informed the object of Sina’s affection and then introduced the two.
The two hit it off and were soon engaging in the Bel-Ren foreplay activity of delousing each other. The snake man did his best to hide his true nature by covering the scaly side of his face with his long hair. One night Sina’s curiousity got the better of her and while her mate slept she pushed his hair away from the serpent side of his face. Horrified, she abandoned him forever.
(Further muddying the waters is the way some versions claim the snake-man’s mother was Moesabengubengu, the goddess of medicinal herbs mentioned earlier. She had this son from an afffair with the snake deity Tehanonga. In this version the sugar-cane leaves that she throws in the calabash with her chopped-up son’s remains are actually the dismembered remains of her husband, the sugar-cane god. The resulting mix of their remains spawns the snake man.)
On another occassion a jealous Kakai murdered Sina’s then-husband at sea and took his form. The shrewd goddess saw through the ruse and sought out her slain husband in Poo’ungi, the Land of the Dead. With the help of her servant the mouse goddess she rescued him, in some versions with additional aid from her own father. In other versions this is the myth in which Sina and the mouse goddess first met.
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