A J Thompson | Andrew Thompson, Rockhampton Australia

Gods of Irukandji ~ History, myths, and legends from the Kingdom of Irukandji

Irukandji Ministry of Heritage and Culture

Gods of Irukandji

Like other nations in the South Pacific, Irukandji has deities that have been worshipped since time immemorial, however unlike Irukandji's neighbours, western religions never gained a foothold.

They are represented by monuments throughout the kingdom.

Materials & Techniques

Most statues and monuments in Irukandji are made from four mediums found locally in abundance; black marble, bleached coral, gold, and blue sapphire.

Gold, marble, and sapphire are used to accentuate finery, while the multi-coloured corals are ground then mixed with water and coconut oil to produce a paste similar to alabaster.

The paste is poured into moulds made in the sand to create the approximate shape required, and once dried, a pit of charcoal and green banana leaves are placed around the cast for several days.

The result is a hard marble-like material that comes in a wide variety of colours. The cast slabs are then carved and sanded by hand, and the pieces pinned together to create the finished monument.

TUNGATUNA ~ Goddess of the Sea

Goddess of the ocean, Tungatuna commands the water animals and tides. Her womb is bountiful and she is worshipped for keeping the seas full.

She despises her fellow deity, Notahapi for sending ill winds and storms to thwart her efforts.

She loves Hiahungi but cannot leave the sea to be with him.

NOTAHAPI ~ God of chaos

Notahapi commands the elements. He hates his fellow gods. He envies the love that mortals have for Hiahungi, and is enraged by Tungatuna's refusal to be his mate when he alone can live beneath the waves with her.

Each year when his fury becomes too great, he bleaches the corals to punish her, and sends cyclones and lightning to vent at Hiahungi.

As the god of chaos, he is worshipped by man with combat and tournaments to stay his destructive hand. All things violent and evil are attributed to him.

HIAHUNGI ~ God of fertility

Hiahungi is the god of fertility and dates back to the Aboyan tribes of south Irukandji 3000 years ago.

He is a warrior god and wears a helmet, spear, and shield, to defend against enemies who try to steal the women of the tribe.

Hiahungi is represented puffing his cheeks in warning and possessed of exaggerated genitals. Often, he is shown copulating with women, men, or animals, as he represents the fertility and passions of all living things.

In pre-colonial times, Hiahungi was interpreted differently by opposing tribes.

In the most extreme case, the natives of Nouvelle Kiribas determined life and death in his name. Any woman who had not given birth by her fifteenth year of life was thrown from the peaks of Mount Kiribati a hundred metres into the river below. Those who died were deemed guilty of withholding their bounty, while those who survived, were sentenced to a lifetime of celibacy and to look after the children of the tribe.

The neighbouring tribes of Tamita Island, revered Hiahungi as a protector and not a vengeful god. When Portuguese missionaries arrived on Nouvelle Kiribas, the Tamita elders feared that their neighbours had forged a new alliance with the white faced devils.

They responded by erecting a giant statue of Hiahungi on the bordering shore and began a month-long festival of feasting and fornication to celebrate his passion for life. Within months, the Nouvelle Kiribas natives died out.

Centuries later, western history would suggest that influenza brought by the missionaries caused the mass extinction of Tamita's foes, but not then. Hiahungi gained the credit, and throughout all the Irukandji islands, he was elevated to 'highest god'.

That season, Hiahungi brought cool rains, plentiful crops, and many births, and the tribes knew that he was flexing his muscles against Notahapi, for it was the god of chaos who had brought the missionaries to the islands to stir up trouble.

At a time of such high prosperity, the missionaries left, and the rise of western religion was thwarted. Additionally, by defeating the Kiribas natives, the Tamita elders were seen to possess the ability to harness the powers of Hiahungi.

Two centuries later when the British colonisers followed the path of the missionaries, the invaders actively sought out pagan idols and destroyed them. This destruction of local culture lay at the heart of the hundred year rebellion against the colonisers, which eventually forced the British to leave.

Since Irukandji's independence in 1979, Hiahungi is depicted with the Irukandji Star on his shield instead of earlier versions denoting each tribe.

Hiahungi has been returned to his rightful place, and is worshipped now as the god of fertility and the seasons, and protector of all living things. Regular festivals and orgies are performed in his honour, and the peoples of Irukandji prosper.

Recommended further reading:
Tales of Irukandji

Andrew Thompson a.k.a. Xay Tomsen


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