The Bird-Man (Easter Island)
Every spring, a huge celebration took place. It consisted of a competition in which every competitor had to reach an egg.
This event was followed by a religious ceremony to worship the Bird-Man.
This was the Tangata Manu. The purpose of this celebration was to appoint the king of the island for a year. The participants (important people) were represented by servants (the Hopu). The latter went down the Orongo cliff together with the other competitors and swam to the Bird-Man island, which is the farthest (approximately 2 kilometers from the coast). They had to take the first egg (sea swallow or Manutara in the local language) incubated in the Moto Nui islet. For that, they had to climb a steep cliff of 180m high and bring the egg on their heads without breaking it. During the competition, the people watched from the slope in front of the islet, waiting the winner and checking the rules were respected. The Orongo cliff is located in the crest of the Rano Kao volcano which dominates the high black cliffs. On these cliffs, there is a town with canoe-shaped houses made of stone.
The competitor that brought the egg to his master would be named as the Bird-Man (Tangata Manu in the local language) who embodies in the Earth the god Maké Maké: the Creator of the Universe.
The master would win the power for a year: he became the second king of the island or was named “military chief” (the importance of this name can be better perceived when we learn that those tribes used to fight regularly).
This competition was carried out until the end of the 19th century when it disappeared due to the lack of native inhabitants. As the years went by, the traditions were lost.
After the celebration, the warrior that had the egg had his head shaved and had to stay during a year (until the following celebration) inside a cave. Very few people had the monks. He was subject to strict prohibitions due to his sacred status.
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