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Atea is a deity in several polynesian cultures, including Tuamotu, New Zealand and Marquesas Islands.[1][2][3]

Marquesas Islands[edit]

In the mythology of the Marquesas Islands, Atea is the giver of light. In one legend Atea and Tāne are brothers, the sons of Toho. Another tradition relates that Atea (as light) evolved himself, and then brought forth Ono. Joining forces, they broke up the boundless darkness of the underworld (Po), where Tanaoa, lord of darkness, and Mutu-hei (silence) had lived for eternity.[4] Atea and Ono made war on Tanaoa and Mutu-hei, and defeated them. They confined the gods of night within set boundaries. Out of the struggle came forth Atanua, the dawn. Atea then married Atanua, and their children include the lesser gods and humankind (Tregear 1891:29).[5][6]

Tuamotu Islands[edit]

In the mythology of the Tuamotu islands, Atea is killed by Tāne, his second son (Meletinsky 2000:421). Their first son, Tahu, dies of starvation and the two gods switch sexes. Later, Atea tries to kidnap Tane, but Tane escapes to earth and eventually becomes so hungry that he eats a man, thus becoming the first cannibal. Tane declares war on Atea and kills him with the lightning bolts of Fatu-tiri, his ancestor).[5][7]


Friedrich Ratzel in The History of Mankind (1896)[8] related the Māori belief that creation commenced with the night then, after untold periods, desire awoke, then longing, then feeling. Thought followed upon the first pulse of life, or the first breath drawn; and upon thought, mental activity. Then sprang up the wish, directed to the sacred mystery or great riddle of life. Later, from the material procreative power of love develops the clinging to existence, permeated by a joyous sense of pleasure. Lastly, Atea, the universe, floated in space, divided by the difference of sex into Rangi and Papa, Heaven and Earth; and individual creations then began.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tregear, Edward. The Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Lyon and Blair, 1891.
  2. ^ Gunson, Niel. "Great families of Polynesia: Inter‐island links and marriage patterns." The Journal of Pacific History 32.2 (1997): 139-179.
  3. ^ BUCKOVÁ, Martina. "THE PHENOMENON OF THE CULTURE HERO IN POLYNESIAN MYTHOLOGICAL SYSTEMS." Asian & African Studies (13351257) 21.2 (2012).
  4. ^ Johannes Andersen (13 December 2013). Myths & Legends of the Polynesians. Tuttle Publishing. pp. 345–. ISBN 978-1-4629-0778-6. 
  5. ^ a b c E. R. Tregear, Māori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary (Lyon and Blair: Lambton Quay), 1891.
  6. ^ E. M. Meletinsky, The Poetics of Myth (Routledge: London), 2000.
  7. ^ David Eagleman (24 April 2009). Sum: Tales from the Afterlives. Canongate Books. pp. 97–. ISBN 978-1-84767-579-8. 
  8. ^ Ratzel, Friedrich. The History of Mankind. (London: MacMillan and Co., 1896, accessed 30 May 2010.