The animal world of the Mangaians
This thesis is an ethnozoological study concerned with
the role of animals in the life and worldview of a Polynesian
community. It describes the categoris&tion of animals. and
knowledge and be liefs concerning animals. among the people of
Mangaia. Southern Cook Islands. Introductory material concerning
theoretical approaches to animal classification and symbolism
and providing background Inf'orrna t Lon on natural environment,
history, and ethnography is followed by discussion of some
basic features of Mangaian talk liboutanimals, including the
applications of major category terms.
Four central chapters provide extended accounts of
11~angaiancategories of fish. marine invertebrates, birds and
land mammals, and terrestrial swall-life (principally lizards
and lesser arthropods). They also describe hwnan interactions
with animals of each group, giving brief accounts of the fishing.
hunting, and food-collecting practices of both men and women.
A subsequent chapter deals with the use of aniwals as food.
Consideration is also given to the role of animals in
spirit-omen beliefs. both in their attenuated modern form and
in relation to traditional religion - the r.iangaian
manifesta tion of Polynesian 'totemism'. A number of mythical
accounts concerning animals are demonstrated to reflect
aspects of traditional social structure.
The main theoretical interests, in the description of
classificatory structures and in the principles governing the
selection of 'totemic' or otherwise ritually important species.
are given fuller discussion in the final section. In the light
of the 1.:angaiandata, a critical assessment is made of strict
taxonomic models of folk classification with some consideration
of alternative conceptions, including, in respect of categorystorage
models, some recent approaches from cognitive psychology.
It is argued that the spirit-omen animals of Mangaia have never
formed a true totemic set and, the relevance of various approaches
to 'totemic selection' having been assessed. that the selection of
most is best understood in relation to the requirements for the
fulfilloent of the spirit-omen function.