Birds are very often mentioned in Polynesian legend, either as spirits or as incarnations of deities. "The great Bird of Tāne, the Bird that goes round the heavens," should be compared with the Hawaiian legend of 'Ā'aia-nui-nūkea-a-kāne, by whom the first man and woman were driven from the paradise of the Taranga-i-Hauora. In New Zealand, Te-manu-huna-a-Tāne ("The hidden bird of Tāne") is the kiwi (Apteryx). The name of two gods at the gate of the courtyard of Lono (Rongo) was Manu.
In Mangaia (Hervey Islands), manu was used as "spirit": thus Ina was overshadowed or possessed by a manu, which impelled her to seek her god-husband, Tinirau. The Paumotans say that many restless spirits escape from heaven in the form of birds. In Tahiti, the god Manu-te-a'a was incarnate in the bird oovea, or arevareva, a kind of cuckoo; Rua-nu'u was incarnate in the otuu (kotuku), a species of heron; and Ra'a in the ruro, or kingfisher. In Samoa, the ve'a or rail was the visible sign of Ali'i Tū; Fanonga (or Destruction) was incarnate in the owl, lulu; the war-god of Manono took the shape of a heron; and Moso in the shape of a pigeon, called tu.
In Tahiti, a manuhoa, a bunch or red feathers, is tied to the middle finger of the right hand of a deceased person, to prevent the god from eating his soul in Pō.
- Tregear, Edward. (1891). Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Wellington: Government Printer, pp. 207, 208.
- White, John. (1887). Ancient History of the Maori. 6 vols. Wellington: G. Didsbury, Government Printer, p. 130.
This article incorporates text from Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary (1891) by Edward Tregear, which is in the public domain.