Mythology of Easter Island

The mythology of Easter Island is unique and diverse. We introduce you here to some of the myths and beliefs that are part of the history and culture of this island.

Imagen: Felipe Cantillana

Easter Island is the most isolated of the Polynesian islands; this geographic distance and the same history of the place, inhabited by different tribes and beliefs, is the reason why the Rapa Nui people has this particular and unique cosmogony.

Here we present you some of the myths that make this place a magical and unique location in the world.


The Rapa Nui creation myth tells the story that once the earth was created, Make-Make the creation God, realized that something was missing and decided to populate the planet. He took a pumpkin full of water and could see his own reflection in it at the same time that a bird perched on his shoulder. By putting together the bird’s silhouette and his own, he gave life to his first son.
He continued with the feeling that he wanted to created someone similar to himself, that could talk and also think. He tried to impregnate the ocean, but fishes were born out of this. In a second try, he impregnated a big stone made of red earth, and this is how a man was born.
Glad with his creation, Make-Make realized that this man was alone and decided to create also a woman.
This is why Make-Make is not only considered to be the creator of the world, but he is also strongly tied to the idea of fertility and above all, to food abundance; which was and is still mainly based on sea products.

Hiva and Hau-Maka

According to Rapa Nui mythology, Hiva is the place or island where the mythical ancestors of Easter Island were originally born. The legend says that the wise Maorí were able to see into the future and anticipated the flooding and destruction of the island.
Hau-Maka, a wise man, a prophet and counselor of the Akiri (king) had a vision during a dream, in which Make-Make appeared to show him the way to Easter Island. This is how the Rapa Nui culture, guided by the stars and Hau-Maka, managed to arrive to their new home and survived the disappearance of their original land.

Tangata Manu

Best known as the legend of the bird man, the worship to Tangata Manu started around the 18th century, when the island was the stage of many battles between tribes that destroyed many moais and also a big part of the Rapa Nui culture.
The ceremony had as a main purpose to impersonate Make-Make on earth, through a competition between the tribes of the island. When spring arrived and the birds came back to nest near the islands, all the tribes prepared themselves by painting their bodies and choosing one person to represent the group and swim towards the islands. The first in getting the first egg from the manutara and bring it intact to the island, became the Tangata Manu of that year.
That way, the winning tribe could have more access to goods and specially food; aspect that was always relevant in the history of Easter Island.
Near the place where the ceremony used to take place, it is possible to find the highest concentration of petroglyphs that mostly represent Make-Make. Due to the arrival of missionaries, it is thought that the last ceremony was performed in 1867.

These are some of the myths, among many others, that are part a very rich and different culture as it is the Rapa Nui’s.