Throughout the South Pacific, most Polynesian societies shares the legend of a mythical home island named Hawaiki. That name is the etymology of the 50th State of the United Sates of America, Hawai’i. The Maori people of the last Austronesian settled island, New Zealand, also attributes their ancestor Kahutia-te-rangi arriving to New Zealand with the assistance of Paikea (whales) from Hawaiki.
I’ve read today that the word Hawaiki derives from a reconstructed Austronesian root word for homeland, *sawaiki. French Polynesians refers to the afterworld as Avaiki. The Rapa Nui people of Easter island refers to their mythical home island as Hiva.
At the same time, most Taiwanese aboriginals have a flood origin story.
For example, the Altayal people’s origin legend had a pair of siblings being the sole survivors of the giant flood. After their life saving gourd landed on what used to be a peak of a mountain, they waited until the flood subsides. After a while the older sister realized they were the only two people alive. She told her brother that she has found another woman who is willing to marry him, and told him to meet her under a tree couple of days later. When the brother arrived to that tree, he found a well dressed woman with facial tattoos. Unable to recognize the older sister, the brother married the woman and became the ancestor of all others.
The Tafalong Pancah Amis’s legend has it that their ancestor was a god named Arapanapanayan, living somewhere in the south. After a while, a decedent of Arapanapanayan, named Tiyamacan, was so beautiful the ocean god became infatuated with her and wanted to force a marriage. To escape from this forced marriage, Tiyamacan and her family went into hiding. When the ocean god couldn’t find Tiyamacan, he became furious and caused a huge flood, which carried Tiyamacan into the ocean. A pair of Tiamacan’s brother and sister survived the flood while hiding inside a wooden mortar. Their mortar landed in Cilangasan. They were forced to married each other (notice similarity with the Altayal myth). The brothers and sisters tried to have children, but instead they gave birth to snakes, turtles, lizards and frogs. In their despair they prayed to the sun, and the sun blessed them, and they give birth to 3 normal girls and one son. They changed their familial name to Cidal (the sun).
The Saisiyat’s Walo’ tribal family’s myth has it their ancestors lived on flat land. When the ancient flood came, a pair of brother and sister from the Bo:ong (some say Titijun) family, the brother name ‘oepoeh, the sister named Maya’, survived the flood by riding on a hoko’ (a wooden cylinder for weaving). Their makeshift craft landed on Papak (Dabajianshan 大霸尖山). Not long after their arrived on the mountain, the sister passed away. ‘oepoeh was very sad and cried over the body of his last remaining family. When he proceeded with her burial, he chopped Maya’‘s body up into little pieces, wrapped them in leaves, and stuffed them into the hoko’ that saved them. He prayed for the gods to give him a companion and sank the hoko’ into a pond. The gods had mercy on him and turned the hoko’s and the body of Maya’ into a woman. 'oepoeh was overjoyed, and gave the woman a name called Tawnay, with the last name of Tawtawazay. 'oepoeh repeated the trick and created the rest of the Saisiyat ancestors.
Taotao is people in Austronesian languages. Notice this version avoided the uncomfortable incest. Another version (9years.mlc.edu.tw/9yearsFiles/9y … html1.html) of the Saisiyat origin myth is almost exactly the same with the Altayal one, where the sister deceived the brother by tattooing her face. They instead chopped up their first child, and threw his body into the flood, and created more people that way.
The Tsou’s flood myth had them landing on top of Jade mountain, no incest this time. The survivors tried to appease the gods by putting a dog’s head on a pike. They then put a monkey’s head on a pike, and the flood subsided. That’s when they get the idea that they should put people’s heads on pikes to appease the gods. This version explains the origin of head hunting.
Actually the Bunun and the Amis also have similar stories flood and origin of fire myth. The Bunun legend had a bird carry back the seed of fire, the others had some type of deer. I’ll tell Rukai’s version first.
The ancient flood came and Rukai’s ancestors fled up the mountain. When the rain stopped and the water stopped raising, the surviving people and animals were crammed atop the mountain. They desperately needed fire to warm themselves. They noticed a fire going on another peak over the water. So they sent a pig on a log across the water to get the fire. The pig failed because the distance was too large for it to swim across. The Rukai then sent a muntjac. They waited and waited, and when everyone lost faither and awaited their fate of freezing to death, the muntjac swam back, carrying a smoldering branch fire in its mouth.
ok, back to the Amis brothers and sisters and the point of this post.
After the brother Sera and sister Nakaw arrived at Cilangasan on their motar, they first looked for fire. For a while they used flint to start fires, but eventually they exhausted all the flint on Cilangasan. After the lost of fire, Sera and Nakaw and their children sent animals to Sanasay to retrieve fire. First they sent a sambar deer. The fire carried by the sambar deer was doused by a giant wave. They then sent a goat and was met with the same fate. Finally they sent the Formosan sika deer, and the sika deer carried the fire back safely. The people rushed to pet the sika deer, giving the deers their smooth coat.
The Amis legend mentioned this place called Sanasay. This Sanasai legend is shared by all Aboriginals that oncedlived in northern Taiwan. The Basay who once dominated Taipei and Kavalan who onced dominated Yilan placed special significance on Sanasai being where their ancestors lived. Different spellings of the mythical home island included Sunasai (Kaliawan), Shi-nasai (Torobiawan), Sainasai (Torobiawan), Sansai (Santiago 三貂角), Soansai (Kitaparri 金包里), Sansai (Kipataw 北投) and even Vasai (Central and Coastal Amis). Besides Sanasai, Takalis and Mariryan are either the second home island or the original home island. Another name for Kitaparri was Quimaurij (Dutch spelling for Kimauri), probably derived from Mariryan. In Japanese era surveys, Sanasai increasingly became the only home island as surveyor traveled North along the east coast.
In Dutch’s 1650 record of non-tributary tribes north of Puyuma, there were two tribes by the name of Basey and Takalis. The Dutch and the Spanish documented that Takalis in present day Hualien had gold. They sent Basay over to Takalis to retrieve gold. Many aboriginal tribal villages were named their legendary home, or their legendary ancestor. For example, Kavalan’s legendary ancestor is Avan, and they derived tribal name from Ki-Avan-an to Kavalan. Some linguist concludes Basay of Northern Taiwan got their name the same way from Sanasai. Because Sanaisai is probably fromed as Sa-vasay-an (Sa(instrumental case)-Vasay-an(Locative focus), or Na(of, or in the past)-savay-an(Locative focus), that means the name Basay is similar to Hawaiians naming the island Hawai’i. It’s a way of remembering their origin.
All that said, it makes me wonder about the relations between sanasai and *sawaiki. According to Generalization, Lexical Statistics, and Typologically Rare Systems, and some other journals that I once browsed, it is possible to have a *s>kʰ sound change in Austronesian languages. I am guessing s>c>kʰ. So maybe Sa-Vasay-an eventually became sawaiki. Perhaps there never was such an home island. The legend of the homeland and the great flood probably existed before the Austronesians reaching Taiwan. Perhaps the story came from one or many tsunamis, and rising sea levels during the last glacial period, where plains became the sea floor. It just lived on in oral traditions and evolved as Austronesians tried to make sense of their new surroundings as they explored the Pacific.
I don’t know what I’m talking about, and hopefully if you make it this far, you are as fascinated by legends and linguistics as I am…