Polynesian Mythology

The Gods and Spirits of Polynesia


Rapa Nui Tutelary God

Also known as Bird-Man, Tangatamanu

Picture of the Polynesian Tutelary God Tangata-manu from our Polynesian mythology image library. Illustration by Chas Saunders.

The famous Bird-Man deity of Easter Island

He is the Earthly representative of Makemake.

A thousand years ago, the Rapanui people were quite content to worship their ancestors, pay homage to Makemake and build rather a lot of huge Moai statues. But due to greed and a complete lack of ecological savvy, the flourishing forests were destroyed, the land was over-farmed, and Easter Island became a pretty tough place to live.

There were two factions at the time, the Fat Ones and the Thin Ones. No-one knows for sure, but it seems that the Fat Ones owned all the juicy bits of land while the Thin Ones toiled and scratched. Result: revolution.

The Thin Ones rose up, slaughtered their rivals, threw down the Moai, and adopted a brand new deity. The cult of Tangata-manu was born and statue-building was abandoned overnight, leaving a graveyard of unfinished Moai to puzzle future archeologists.

Tangata-manu the Bird-Man was supposed to be Makemake’s Earthly ambassador, but he didn’t object to a bit of devout fun. Thus began the Great Easter Island Egg Hunt, a yearly sporting event in which daring lads would scramble over cliffs and rocks in search of the first egg of the season. This was quite a dangerous mission, and whoever found and returned the egg safely was showered with praise and crowned Bird Man of the Year.

Tangata-manu himself is somewhat elusive. There are many carvings of him bending over an egg and looking at it in a rather perplexed manner. We don’t know what to make of it either.

Tangata-manu Facts and Figures

Name: Tangata-manu
Pronunciation: Coming soon
Alternative names: Bird-Man, Tangatamanu

Gender: Male
Type: God
Area or people: Rapa Nui people of Easter Island, Polynesia
Celebration or Feast Day: Unknown at present

In charge of: Patronage
Area of expertise: Tutelary, Patronage

Good/Evil Rating: NEUTRAL, may not care
Popularity index: 11279

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Article last revised on April 29, 2019 by the Godchecker data dwarves.
Editors: Peter J. Allen, Chas Saunders

References: Coming soon.

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