Rarotonga is a high island in the southern Cook Islands. The islanders converted to Christianity in the 1820s and 1830s, and information on the indigenous religion is fragmentary. We do know that the Rarotongans worshipped some of the great Pan-Polynesian gods such as Rongo and Tangaroa, as well as more local deities such as the deified founding ancestor Tangiia. These gods were represented by enormous wooden images, which were destroyed during the conversion process.

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Traditional Culture(1785-1810)Expand All +
Belief +

Supernatural Beings

Nature Spirits Absent (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 10-14
Gill (1856), pp. 11-19
Gill (1892), pp. 20-24
Nature god(s) Present, but not a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 10-14
Gill (1856), pp. 11-19
Gill (1892), pp. 20-24
Marck (1996A), pp. 236
Ancestral spirits Present, but not a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 10-14
Gill (1856), pp. 11-19
Gill (1892), pp. 20-24
Lange (1986), pp. 30
Deified ancestor(s) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Sissons (1989), pp. 339, 342-343
Gill (1892), pp. 24
God(s) Present, and the principal focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 10-11
Sissons (1989), pp. 342

Supernatural Punishment

Supernatural punishment for impiety Present (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 12-13

Afterlife and Creation

One's actions while living can affect the nature of one's afterlife One factor in determining one's afterlife (Source)
Gill (1856), pp. 14, 18
Gill (1892), pp. 20, 22
The actions of others after one has died can affect the nature of one's afterlife One factor in determining one's afterlife (Source)
Gill (1892), pp. 16
Myth of humanity’s creation Present, and evolutionary (Source)
Marck (1996A), pp. 235-236
Primordial pair Present, and genealogically linked to humans now living (Source)
Marck (1996A), pp. 224, 235-236
Culture hero(es) Present, and a major focus of supernatural practice (Source)
Te Ariki-tara-are et al (1899A), pp. 64-68, 70-74
Te Ariki-tara-are et al (1899B), pp. 171-172
Williams (1837), pp. 51-52
Sissons (1989), pp. 338-339
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 10-11

General Features

Forces of nature are controlled by or imbued with the supernatural Present (Source)
Gill (1856), pp. 16-17
Te Ariki-tara-are et al (1899A), pp. 71

Classes of Tapu

Kinship tapu Present (Source)
Davis (1947), pp. 198
Resource management tapu Present (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 14
Social hierarchy tapu Present (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 14

Mana

Mana as a personal quality Present (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 12-13
Mana linked to genealogy Present, linked to both paternal and maternal lines (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 7-8, 12-13
Mana related to social influence or technical skill Present (Source)
Mana and social status Moderately associated (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 12-13
Mana as a spiritual or religious concept Present (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 12-13
Practice +

General Supernatural Practices

Headhunting Absent (Source)
Maretu & Crocombe (1983), pp. 25-28
Gill (1856), pp. 2-20
Gill (1892)
Costly sacrifices and offerings Present (Source)
Gill (1856), pp. 16
Size of largest ritual social group Larger than the largest political community in the culture (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 6
Political and religious differentiation Some overlap (Source)
Davis (1947), pp. 199

Rites

Piercing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Gill (1892), pp. 12
Genital cutting Present in the culture as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Gill (1892), pp. 4
Davis (1947), pp. 201
Scarification Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Mangos & Utaga (2011), pp. 65-68
Tattooing Present in culture, but not as a rite or feature of a rite (Source)
Mangos & Utaga (2011), pp. 51-52, 56, 57-58
Tooth pulling Absent from culture (Source)
Gill (1856)
Gill (1892)
Davis (1947)
Social Environment +
Population 7000 (Source)
McArthur (1967), pp. 164, 167
Population of largest political community 1,000-9,999 (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 6
Importance of Patrilateral descent High (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 7-8
Importance of Matrilateral descent Medium (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 7-8
Polygamy Limited polygyny (Source)
Crocombe & Crocombe (1991), pp. 41

Conflict

Conflict within communities Moderate (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 14
Conflict between communities of the culture Common, at least every five years (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 14-16
Conflict with other cultures Rare or never (Source)
Allen (1996), pp. 17
Cultural Isolation +
Contact with other cultures Occasional but not often (Source)
Allen (1996), pp. 16-18
Campbell (2002A), pp. 223-224, 224-225
Distance to closest landmass inhabited by a different culture (km) 203.6 (Source)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Distance to African or Asian mainland (km) 9086.3 (Source)
Daft Logic Distance Calculator (2014)
Pre-Austronesian population Absent: No evidence of human occupation prior to Austronesian settlement (Source)
Bellwood (1995), pp. 109
Hindu / Buddhist influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.21
Islamic influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Cribb (2000), pp. Map 2.23
Christian influence on supernatural belief No evidence of influence and not in region of known contact (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 20-21
Campbell (2002A), pp. 224-225
Subsistence and Economy +

Land-based means of subsistence

Animal husbandry as a source of food Minor (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 15-16
Land-based hunting performed by individuals Minor (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 15
Land-based gathering Medium (Source)
Campbell (2003), pp. 13, 14
Land-based hunting performed by one or more groups Minor (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 15
Agriculture / Horticulture Principal (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 15-16

Water-based means of subsistence

Fishing and water-based hunting performed by one or more groups Major (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 15
Buck (1928), pp. 57
Mokoroa (1981), pp. 268
Fishing and water-based hunting performed by individuals Medium (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 15
Mokoroa (1981), pp. 268
Water-based gathering Major (Source)
Mokoroa (1981), pp. 268
Tiraa-Passfield (1997), pp. 16

Commercial Activity

Trade / wage labour as a source of food Absent (Source)
Campbell (2003), pp. 12-13
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 15-16
Physical Environment +

Geographical Range of Culture

Number of islands inhabited by culture One (Source)
Campbell (2002B), pp. 148

Features of Island with Largest Culture Population

Latitude -21.2 (Source)
Google Maps (2014)
Longitude -159.8 (Source)
Google Maps (2014)
Island type (island with largest culture population or largest island if unknown) Volcanic high island (Source)
Campbell (2002B), pp. 148
Island Size (km²) 67.1 (Source)
Cook Islands Census (2011), pp. 7
Maximum elevation (meters) 653.0 (Source)
Campbell (2002B), pp. 148
Post Contact History(1810-2014)Expand All +
Religious History +

Conversion

Role of social status in conversion process Primarily a top-down process. (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 21-22, 24
Use of force in conversion Low (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 21-33
Resident missionary involvement in conversion process Present, and from non-Austronesian societies (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 20-21
Adoption of a world religion Present and predominant (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 20-22, 24, 75
Cook Islands Census (2011), pp. Table 2.4

Syncretic Movements

Syncretic religious movements Absent (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980)
Sissons (2007)
Secular History +

Demographic and Social Changes

Foreign government systems Present, and of high importance (Source)
Williams (2001), pp. 106
Immigration Low (Source)
Cook Islands Census (2011), pp. 11-12
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 78, 182
Language shift Medium (Source)
Cook Islands Census (2011), pp. Table 3.8
Ethnologue (Rarotonga) (2014)
Foreign education systems High (Source)
Cook Islands Census (2011), pp. 12

Economic Changes

Changes in means of subsistence High (Source)
Cook Islands Census (2011), pp. 16-19
Exportation of goods to other cultures Present and substantial (Source)
Central Intelligence Agency (Cook Islands) (2014)

Modern Infrastructure

Vehicles and roads Present and widely used (Source)
Cook Islands Census (2011), pp. Tables 1.1, 8.14
Air travel Present and long-distance (Source)
Cook Islands Census (2011), pp. 9
Sea port Present (Source)
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (2009), pp. 174

Loss of Autonomy

Nature of loss of autonomy Partly voluntary (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 59-60, 62-64, 104, 107, 111-112, 119-121
Loss of political autonoomy High (Source)
Gilson & Crocombe (1980), pp. 59-60, 62-64, 104, 107, 111-112
Scott (1991), pp. 285-286, 298
Current Culture(2014)Expand All +
Belief +

Religious Demographics

Dominant world religion Christianity (Source)
Cook Islands Census (2011), pp. 2.4
External Links
References
Allen, M.S. (1996). Patterns of Interaction in Southern Cook Island Prehistory. In Glover, I. C., and Bellwood, B. (Eds.), Indo-Pacific Prehistory: The Chiang Mai Papers (Volume 2) (pp 13-22). Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Bellwood, P. (1995). Austronesian Prehistory in Southeast Asia: Homeland, Expansion and Transformation. P. Bellwood, J.J. Fox, & D. Tryon (Eds.), The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (pp 113-114). Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Blust, R. (2007). Proto-Oceanic *Mana Revisited. Oceanic Linguistics, 46(2), 404-423. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20172322

Brunton, R. (1989). The Abandoned Narcotic: Kava and Cultural Instability in Melanesia. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Buck, P. (1928). Fishing Poisoning in Rarotonga, Hora. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 37 (1), 145, 57-66. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20702180.

Campbell, M. (2002A). History from Prehistory: The Oral Traditions of the Rarotongan Land Court Records. The Journal of Pacific History, 37 (2), 22-238. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0022334022000006619

Campbell, M. (2002B). Ritual Landscape in Late Pre-contact Rarotonga: A Brief Reading. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 111 (2), 147-170. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20707059

Campbell, M. (2003). Productivity, Production and Settlement in Precontact Rarotonga, Cook Islands. Archaeology in Oceania, 28 (1), 9-22. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40387228

Central Intelligence Agency (Cook Islands). (2014). The World Factbook: The Cook Islands. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cw.html

Clerk, C. (1990). "That Isn't Really a Pig": Spirit Traditions in the Southern Cook Islands. Oral Tradition, 5 (2-3), 316-333.

Cribb, R. (2000). Historical atlas of Indonesia. Surrey, UK: Curzon Press.

Crocome, R & Crocombe, M. T. (1991). "Cook Islands". In T.E. Hays (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of World Cultures (Volume II: Oceania) (pp 40-42). New York, NY: G.K. Hall & Co.

Daft Logic Distance Calculator. (2014). http://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-distance-calculator.htm.

Davis, T.R.A. (1947). Rarotonga Today. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 56 (2), 197-218. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20703098

Encyclopaedia Britannica (Cook Islands). (2014). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com.ezproxy.auckland.ac.nz/EBchecked/topic/136057/Cook-Islands.

Ethnologue (Rarotonga). (2014). Rarotongan: A language of the Cook Islands. Ethnologue. Retrieved from http://www.ethnologue.com/language/rar.

Gill, W. (1856). Gems from the coral islands. Gisborne, New Zealand: Te Rau Herald Print

Gill, W. (1979). Cook Islands Customs. Suva, Fiji: Institute of Pacific Studies. (Originally Published in 1892).

Gilson, R. & Crocombe, R. (Ed). (1980). The Cook Islands 1820-1950. Wellington, NZ: Victoria University Press.

Google Maps (2014). Retrieved from maps.google.com

Hoffman, T.C. (2002). The Reimplementation of the Ra'ui: Coral Reef Management in Rarotonga, Cook Islands. Coastal Management, 30, 401-418. DOI: 10.1080 / 08920750290028 2

Lange, R. (1986). Changes in Rarotongan Attitudes Towards Health and Disease: Historical Factors in the Development of a Mid-Twentieth Century Understanding. Pacific Studies, 10 (1), 29-53.

Mangos, T. & Utanga, J. (2011). Patterns of the Past: Tattoo Revival in the Cook Islands. Auckland, NZ: Punarua Productions.

Marck, J. (1996A). The First-Order Anthropomorphic Gods of Polynesia. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 105 (2), 217-258. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20706661

Maretu, & Crocombe, M.T. (1983). Cannibals and Converts: Radical Change in the Cook Islands. Suva, Fiji: University of the South Pacific.

McArthur, N. (1967). Island Populations of the Pacific. Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

Mokoroa, P. (1981). Traditional Cook Islands Fishing Techniques. Journal de la Societe des Oceanistes, 37 (72-73), 267-270. DOI: 10.3406/jso.1981.3067.

NEED PROPER REFERENCE

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (2009). World Port Index Nineteenth Edition. Bethesda, MD: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Scott, R. (1991). The Years of the Pooh-Bah: a Cook Islands History. Auckland, NZ: Hodder and Stoughton.

Sissons, J. (1989). The Seasonality of Power: The Rarotongan Legend of Tangiia. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 98 (3), 331-347. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20706296

Sissons, J. (2007). From Post to Pillar: God-Houses and Social Fields in Nineteenth-Century Rarotonga. Journal of Material Culture, 12 (1), 47-63. DOI: 10.1177/1359183507074561

Te Ariki-tara-are; Smith, S.P. & Hutchin, J.J.K. (1899B). History and Traditions of Rarotonga, Part II. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 8 (3), 171-178. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20701541

Te Ariki-tara-are; Smith, S.P; & Hutchin, J.J.K. (1899). History and Traditions of Rarotonga. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 8 (2), 61-88. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20701531

Tiraa-Passfield, A. (1997). Harvesting of Rori (Sea Cucumbers) in Rarotonga, Cook Islands. SPC Traditional Marine Resource Management and Knowledge Information Bulletin, 8, 16-17.

Williams, A. (2001). Economic Marginalism and the Microstate, the Impact of Donor Conditionality Requirements in International Aid Programmes on a SHRM Training Project in the Cook Islands. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 12 (1), 99-108. DOI: 10.1080/09585190121754

Williams, J. (1998). A Narrative of Missionary Enterprises in the South Sea Islands. Rarotonga, Cook Islands: Cook Islands Library and General Society. (Originally Published in 1837).