The SOCIETY ISLANDS (French : Îles de la Société or officially
Archipel de la Société; Tahitian : Tōtaiete mā) includes a group
of islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It is, politically and legally,
French Polynesia . The archipelago is believed to have been
named by Captain
James Cook during his first voyage in 1769,
supposedly in honour of the
* 1 Geography * 2 History * 3 Transport * 4 References * 5 External links
The islands are divided, both geographically and administratively, into two groups:
* Windward Islands (Îles du Vent) (listed from east to west)
* Leeward Islands (Îles Sous-le-Vent)
The islands became a French protectorate in 1843 and a colony in 1880. They have a population of 235,295 inhabitants (as of 2012 ). They cover a land area of 1,590 square kilometres (610 sq mi).
The islanders explain their origins in term of a myth. The feathered god Ta'aroa lay in his shell. He called out but no-one answered, so he went back into his shell, where he stayed for aeons. When he came out he changed his body into the multi-layered dome of the sky. Other parts of his body he transformed into Papa-fenua, the earth. Other parts he made into Te Tuma, the ata, or shadow of his phallus. Ta'aroa said, "Cast your eyes on my phallus. Gaze upon it and insert it in the earth." He came down to earth at "Opoa in Havai'i" (now Ra'iatea), one of the most sacred places in the Society Islands. Other gods were created, and these ran directly into the time of the people. The high chiefs or ari'i rahi were descendants from the gods, reckoned to be forty generation previously. In their presence commoners showed respect by stripping to the waist. The high chiefs erected marae as places of worship. HMS Resolution and Discovery in Huahine, commanded by James Cook
In the generations before Europeans arrived, a cult called 'Oro-maro-'ura developed: the cult of the red-feathered girdle. This became a tangible symbol of the chief's power. Key followers of the 'Oro cult were the 'arioi, who lived separately from the common people. They wore scented flowers and adorned themselves with scents and scarlet-dyed cloth. The head of each 'arioi group was heavily tattooed from ankle to thigh and known as a blackleg. Both male and female blacklegs were a privileged group but they were forbidden to have children. Their babies were all killed at birth. They received and gave lavish presents. They had a wide range of artistic skills and could be priests, navigators and lore specialists. Only good-looking men or women could become 'arioi. They played a crucial role in ceremonies associated with birth, deaths and marriage.
The first European explorers arrived in 1722.
Jacob Roggeveen 's
Dutch West Indian Expedition was shipwrecked on Takapoto. Survivors
managed to row to another small island and islanders were killed with
muskets. In 1765
John Byron 's two British ships, including HMS
Dolphin , briefly visited the area. In 1767 HMS Dolphin returned, now
Europeans quickly found that the islanders were desperate to obtain iron. The sailors found that young women and girls were eager to exchange sex for a nail, which was used for woodworking and as fish-hooks. Traditionally young women had offered themselves to ancestor gods in the form of chiefs or other high status individuals. Some rituals involved chiefs having sex with virgins in public view, and this was offered to some European captains and officers, who declined.
Louis de Bougainville
Each of the
* ^ A B "Population". Institut de la statistique de la Polynésie française (in French). Retrieved 11 January 2015. * ^ Horwitz, Tony . Oct. 2003, Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before, Bloomsbury, ISBN 0-7475-6455-8 * ^ Salmond, Anne; Aphrodite's Island. The European Discovery of Tahiti, Penguin/North Shore, 2009, pp. 23-28 * ^ Salmond, pp. 39-47 * ^ Salmond, pp. 67-68 * ^ Bougainville, Voyage autour du Monde * ^ Salmond, pp. 90-96