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Oceanic Mythology, Roslyn Poignant

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Oceanic Mythology, Roslyn Poignant
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This is an excellent, if somewhat dated, book about the myths, legends and religions of the South Pacific. The introduction gives an overview of the various peoples and culture groups of Oceania, including the Australian aborigines (the indigenous people of Australia), the Melanesians (darker skinned people of New Guinea and other parts of the western Pacific), the Micronesians (the native people of the small islands in the north west Pacific just east of the Philippines) and the Polynesians (the fair skinned people native to most of Oceania, including New Zealand, Hawaii, Easter Island, Samoa and so forth). These distinctions aren't always accurate and aren't quite PC, but they do give a good idea of the general range that is covered, and allow the author to focus on common themes in specific areas. Theres also a wonderful map that shows the culture area and (in the case of New Guinea) goes into tribal territories.
From there, it goes on to focus on myths by area, starting off with the Polynesians. It gives a nice overview of the highly organized and structured society that the Polynesians lived in (until the coming of the Europeans that is), and the important social positions of the ali'i (chiefs), kahunas (shaman/priests), arioi (entertaines) and so forth held. Mixed in with the creation stories and tales of Gods and Heroes like Tu, Tane, Rongo, Tangaroa, Pele, Hina and Maui, we are given a wealth of illustrations and photos. There are excellent examples of hei-tikis, featherwork, the stone heads of Easter Island, Maori carvings and designs, and numerous other Polynesian crafts. Following this we go into a brief exploration of the Chamorro and other peoples of Micronesia. Here the main focus was on trickster heroes like Olifat, Motikitik and Nareau. Again, there are some great pictures, including wooden boats from New Ireland, navigation charts, boars tusks and stone disks from the Yap Islanders and such. More material is available in the next chapter, which covers the Melanesians. The introduction does a good job of pointing out just how diverse Melanesian society is. Various common themes, such as snakes, hero twins, culture heros and the fate of the souls after death (the Melanesians have a complex theology with multiple souls and both reincarnation and afterlifes) are explored. Some wonderful example of Melanesian art, including some pieces from the Sepik River region, are shown. And finally the book closes out with Aboriginal myths and talks about the sacred male-dominated rites of the Koori, the importance of the Dreamtime, totemism, initations, and numerous myths. I'm somewhat mixed about depicting sacred rites, sites and objects (that is somewhat demeaning), but the dot art is really wonderful.
Overall, this is a pretty good book and I would recommend it to you, but you should be aware a more recent revision was issued in the 80s, with some expanded material. Eiter one is nice enough, assuming that you can get your hands on it. Its a nice introduction to Huna, the Dreamtime and other aspects of Pacific Islander religion and mythology.

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