Weekly Deity: Tangata-Manu

Tangata-Manu was a god of Easter Island and the Rapanui people.  His name means “Bird-Man” and he was supposed to be the earthly ambassador of Make-Make, the main god and Creator god.  Tangata-Manu was also a little bit of a trickster god.


Tangata-Manu was often drawn as a vaguely man-like figure with a bird’s head and beak.  Sometimes he appears to be dancing, much in the same way that a Kokopelli figure appears to be dancing.  He is usually shown holding or looking at an egg as well.

Mythology and Worship

The Bird Man was worshiped in a cult, but there don’t seem to be any recorded myths about Tangata-Manu.  Because of his association with the egg and his enjoyment of causing a bit of fun, the cult worshiped him in part through an egg hunt.  The egg hunt was a yearly sporting event in which young men and strong boys would run all over the island (which was a dangerous thing to do, the terrain is hazardous) to look for the first egg of the season.  Whoever found and returned with the egg safely was crowned Bird Man for the next year.

Light and Dark Sides

Keep in mind that some of this is speculation, since there is very little to tell us about this god.  He seems to be in part a creator or fertility god.  His association with the egg, a symbol of fertility, and with Make-Make, the main creator god, point to this and put Tangata-Manu on the Light side.  Although there is nothing explained about his trickery, Tangata-Manu is also supposed to be a trickster god, which would put him further on the Dark spectrum except that from what has been described of him, his tricks would seem to be light-hearted in nature rather than mean spirited.  Overall he seems like a kinder god involved with fertility and creation but also a god who likes a bit of humor and fun now and then.

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