Sacred Texts  Pacific  Index  Previous  Next 

Te Pito Te Henua, or Easter Island, by William J. Thompson, [1891], at


The natives reckoned their time, and in fact do so still by moons or months, commencing the year with August, which was, according to the traditions, the time when Hotu-Matua and his followers landed upon the island.

The following corresponds nearly to the English months set opposite:



Hora-iti (little summer)


Hora-nui (big summer)



part of November.


November and December.


December and January.









Vaitu-nui (big winter)


Vaitu-poto (short winter)


Maro or Temaro



The natives have recently divided the months into weeks, giving to the days the names of First day (Raa-po-tahi), Second day (Raa-po-rua), Third day (Raa-po-toru), etc. The week is commenced on Monday in order to bring the seventh day on Sunday.

The month is divided into two equal portions, the first beginning with the new moon, and the second with the full moon. The calendar at the time of our visit to the island ran about as follows, the new moon being full on November 26.

Kokore tahi (first Kokore)

November 27

Kokore rua (second Kokore)

November 28

Kokore toru (third Kokore)

November 29

Kokore hâ (fourth Kokore)

November 30

Kokore rima (fifth Kokore)

December 1

Kokore ono (sixth Kokore)

December 2

Maharu, first quarter

December 3


December 4


December 5


December 6


December 7


December 8

Ra Kau

December 9

Omotohi, full moon

December 10

Kokore tahi (first Kokore)

December 11

Kokore rua (second Kokore)

December 12

Kokore toru (third Kokore)

December 13,

Kokore hâ (fourth Kokore)

December 14

Kokore rima (fifth Kokore)

December 15


December 16


December 17

Orongo, first quarter

December 18

Orongo taane

December 19

Mauri nui

December 20

Marui Kero

December 21


December 22


December 23


December 24

Oari, new moon

December 25

Kokore tahi (first Kokore)

December 26

Etc., etc., etc.



The natives of Easter Island speak a dialect of the Malayo-Polynesian language, which is so widely spread in the South Sea and Malay Archipelago. Any one who will tike the trouble to compare the accompanying vocabulary with the same words used by the natives of New Zealand, Tahiti, Rorotonga, Samoa, and any of the islands of Polynesia, will see that many of the words are identically the same, and others show a slight variation.

Not only do the words resemble those spoken throughout the South Sea, but all the dialects possess, in common, the

p. 547

peculiarity of having a dual number of the personal pronouns in addition to the singular and plural. For example, he or she is, "Ko-ia," in the Maori it is, "ia;" they two, on this island is "rana-â," in the Maori, it is "rana;" they, in this dialect is "pouro," in the Maori, it is "ratou." Words are frequently reduplicated to denote the plural of collectives in nouns, the comparative, or superlative degree in adjectives, and repeated action in verbs. "Iti" signifies, little, "iti-iti," expresses very
little, and the word for small child is "poki iti-iti." Food, or to eat, is "Kai," to eat much or heartily is expressed by "kai-kai." The names of several of the colors are usually duplicated, as red, "mea-mea;" black, "uri-uri;" white "tea-tea;" vermillion "ura-ura."

An interesting feature of the language is the native name for pig, "Oru," which differs from the corresponding term in all of the other Polynesian dialects. It is probably derived from the grunting sound made by the animal. In nearly all of the kindred dialects the name for pig is "puaka," a word which is also applied by some of them to all quadrupeds except the rat. The Easter Islanders have given this name to cattle, calling a cow "puaka tamahine" (female, puaka), and a bull "puaka tamaroa" (male puaka). This tends to show that although pigs had probably been introduced on the islands from which the ancestors of the present inhabitants came, they took none with them in their migration, and only preserved the word puaka in a vague sense, as signifying a large animal with four legs. When cattle were introduced, they consequently applied the term to them, and coined the new one afterwards.

Fingers are called "manga-manga" and toes, "manga manga vae," or literally the fingers of the foot. "Kiri" means covering, and to express the wood shoe they say "Kiri vae," or covering, for the foot. "Ivi" is the name applied to both needle and bone, which probably indicates that the original needles were made of bone.

In the pronunciation of words of two syllables, the accent is on the first; in words of three syllables it is generally on the second, and in polysyllable words it is on the penultimate. Modern articles recently introduced on the island are called by their English names, or something that has a similar sound.

It is worthy of note that the word "Atua" is used to signify both god and devil.

Next: Vocabulary