Polynesian idea devices emphasized animism, a perspective in which all things, animate and inanimate, were believed to be endowed to a greater or lesser level via spiritual superherbal power. That power, recognized among Polynesians as mana, could be nullified by assorted humale actions, and many kind of of the region’s tapu (“prohibitions” or “taboos”) were intfinished to prevent such behaviours.

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As is typical of animist societies, religious concerns permeated all elements of life. Polynesian chiefs had actually excellent mana—so great, in reality, that in some cultures, if a commoner touched the chief’s shadow, just that person’s death could compensate for the injury to the chief’s mana. In much of Polynesia it is still taken into consideration to be in exceptionally bad taste to action over a person’s legs, pass one’s hand also over a person’s head, or stand also through one’s head better than that of a person of high rank, because these actions are thought to sap a person’s mana.

Women had actually excellent mana, the evidence of which was their ability to redevelop. Many type of tapu were produced to ensure the mutual protection of women’s mana and also the mana of other human being and objects. In the Marquesas, for instance, a tapu prohibited woguys from entering canoes under normal problems because their mana and also that of the canoe would complete. Men had lesser mana and necessary to safeguard it carefully; in many type of cultures, males preparing for war or other hazardous or demanding undertaqueens had to go through a duration of purification—eating only specific foods and also frequently going right into seclusion to protect their powers from defilement. Some chants and songs were so spiritual that eincredibly syllable had to be pronounced effectively. The penalty for significant violations of these tapu was regularly death.

Mana was possessed not only by human being but likewise by buildings, stones, devices, and all various other points. Certain groves, trees, holy places, and tracts of land were thought about spiritual and could not be gone into by plain world because they were pervaded by the mana of a high-condition perkid or god. If anyone inadvertently stepped over a tool left on the ground, it was thus rendered profane and also would frequently be discarded. Violations of these and various other lesser tapu were thought to result in superorganic punishment, materialized in poor luck or some create of illness.

Mana and tapu were not the just forces that Polynesians had to be wary of, yet. The universe was thought to be peopled with spiritual beings of assorted types, many kind of of whom were malevolent. In addition, a hold of gods of differing degrees of prestige existed. These ranged from the great gods of the Polynesian pantheon, such as Tangaroa, Tu, and Lono, to strictly neighborhood gods who were worshiped priests or chiefs of excellent renown. All of these spirit-beings had actually to be venerated in their own means. Praise of the gods associated sacrifices (including human), chants and recitations, feasting (frequently with great prodigality), ritual sex (to promote fertility), and other elaborate techniques, regularly preceded by long fasting and abstinence.

Magic flourished in Polynesian society; everyone involved in actions to encertain success in love, battle, planting, or fishing or to lug misfortune to rivals. Magical specialists could be consulted when the problem at hand also was as well good or facility to be addressed by simple magic. Some magical practices have survived in Polynesian cultures to the present time.


Polynesian performance art was very developed and also, prefer the region’s indigenous languperiods and literary works, took pleasure in a renewal in the late 20th century. Of sculpture, painting, textiles, and also many type of other freestanding art forms, little bit of what when existed has survived to the existing day. This is mainly due to the perishability of a lot of the product (e.g., hardwood, tapa cloth, baskeattempt, and also featherwork) and the dispersion that took location throughout the era of European call, when such items were traded for firearms, liquor, iron devices, and also trinkets.


Each Polynesian culture arisen its very own particular area of imaginative endeavour—monumental stone sculpture on Easter Island also and also the Marquesas; wooden carvings in New Zealand, the Marquesas, and also Hawaii; very decorated bark cloth in Samoa, Tonga, and Hawaii; fine mats in Samoa and also Tonga; and feather cloaks in New Zealand and Hawaii. In this breakthrough, a vocabulary of art motifs, formats, and also creative ethics was elaborated, which differs rather from society to culture. Certain types of motifs nevertheless are commonly dispersed in Polynesia. For example, a variety of small geometric decorative aspects, such as a toothed pattern or units of diagonally sloping lines, are found in many societies and in many type of media, including tattoos. Stylized floral and also pet facets are also extensively dispersed. In eastern Polynesia, an anthropomorphic figure and also an anthropomorphic face through bulging eyes and protruding tongue are prominent in all types of sculpture.

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Architecture was very emerged virtually everywhere in Polynesia, but only the ruined rock structures of the eastern Polynesian islands remain to bear witness to the Polynesians’ considerable architectural skill. The stone holy places of Easter Island, the Society Islands, and the Marquesas, also in their ruined state, display striking prosections and also design; clever before usage of stones of different colours, forms, and also textures; and also the proof of sound combicountry of valuable engineering through imaginative objectives. For more-in-depth treatment of the arts of Polynesia, see Oceanic art and also architecture; Oceanic music and also dance; Oceanic literary works.