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Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

Ra, a Primeval Sun-deity from the North

Ra, a Primeval Sun-deity from the North

(7) But the most undisguised sun-god is Ra. For the name is still used throughout the whole of Polynesia as a common noun, meaning the sun. He is a god in most groups, and, though uncreated, takes a subordinate place in their mythology and worship. In fact, it is difficult to find traces of this deity. Mr. E. Tregear, in his "Maori Race," gives an extremely interesting account of his worship, as collected by Mr. Nelson, of Whakarewarewa. His festival was annual; the heaps of food were arranged in a heptagon, with fires at each angle round a central fire, that was meant for the sun, and in this latter human sacrifice was burnt. That this is the "first published description of the sun-feast" shows how obscure the festival and the worship were. In Maori mythology Ra is son of Haronga and sister to Marama, the moon, and in winter he lives in the ocean with Hine-takurua, or Winter, and in summer on land with Raumati, or Summer.

(8) A curious light is thrown upon his origin and his festival by a reference in Tregear's "Maori Race" to the stone circle at Kerikeri, Bay of Islands. He says these stones were "anciently used in sun-worship"; "they were used as posts, around which pyramids of food were piled at the ancient feast of Ra, the Sun." It seems to confirm Sir Norman Lockyer's theory of the use of these megalithic monuments, as developed in some articles on Stonehenge recently published in "Nature." These colossal stones were originally mortuary in their purpose; but they were in many places afterwards used and even built as altars or temples. And he seems to prove from the position page 131of the various solitary stones in Stonehenge that the worship was solar. If, then, one wave of population came the northern route into Polynesia, as the colossal-stone monuments seem to indicate, this is no insignificant confirmation of the theory, and seems to imply that the Ra worship came from the north, with the megalithic people.