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Stories From Kiribati


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The Mystery Ladies of Marakei

Posted by Amota Eromanga on September 15, 2013 at 5:55 AM

Marakei is a beautiful atoll in Kiribati. It is a perfect Pacific island atoll, an almost complete circle of land with a shallow lagoon in the middle. The people of Marakei are happy and love to sing and dance. They are blessed with rich land and many fish from the lagoon and the ocean.

The legend of the four ghosts of Marakei claims to give the reason for all of the good things found on the island. Each of these ghosts has the name of a woman. They are sometimes called goddesses.

Anyone visiting Marakei for the first time, arriving by boat or plane, must respect the custom of visiting each mystery lady. This custom is compulsory for all visitors who come to Marakei. During the tour around the island, a visitor is expected to make a small offering to the goddess of each shrine. The offering can be in a form of tobacco or money.

There is a special way of touring around the island to these shrines. The legend tells that a king arrived on Marakei to claim it as his own. To explore the island, he sent one of his warriors to the right to walk anticlockwise around the island. He also sent another warrior to the left to walk clockwise. The two were to meet and then tell the king what they found.

When the two warriors met each other, the one who had travelled left or clockwise, fell dead on the spot while the other, who went right or anticlockwise did not die. To this day, anyone visiting Marakei for the first time must tour around the island in an anticlockwise direction.

Another story says that long ago there were two brothers on Marakei who wanted to see who could run faster. For this, they decided to have a race. One brother ran off on the road to the left, and the other on the road to the right. They ran as fast as they could, but when they met, the brother who had run to the left fell down and died. The brother who had gone to the right did not die.

You must go along the road to the right to have good luck in your life and stay on Marakei. Don’t go to the left or you will have bad luck. As you travel to each shrine, you will see that the land is fertile and with about 1700 mm of rain each year, plants grow well. Marakei is known for growing the sweetest bwabwai (taro) in all of Kiribati. Chiya, bananas, breadfruits and pawpaw give the people of Marakei much of the local food they like and need.

The four shrines of the goddesses are located on the north, east, south and west sections of the island. At the north end, near the airport and the village of Rawannawi, is the goddess called Nei Nantekimam. She brings good luck and prosperity. She watches the seas for any visitors and summons the appropriate spirit to greet everybody. Fish from the sea, land crabs hunted during the daytime or night and the lagoon marine life all help to make the fishermen prosperous with fish to eat and sell.

On the east side, near the village of Norauea, the goddess Tangaangau provides protection from those who would attack the island. She is the spirit who guards the island. The people of Marakei have lived in peace for many years.

Near where the village of Teraereke used to be located, stands the shrine for the goddess Nei Rotebenua. That village has been gone for a long time. Rotebenua is the goddess of good health. Her spirit of abundance will help you catch a lot of fish or crabs.

The last one is Nei Reei, near the village of Tekarakan. This goddess on the west side of the island, is the well wisher - the spirit of good luck. She assures good crops as well. Besides the other plants that give food, the coconut trees give much to the people of Marakei. The men and boys of Marakei are known to be amongst the best toddy cutters in Kiribati.

As you leave some money or tobacco at each shrine, it is quickly taken by a child who then hands it over to the unimwane (old man) where it will benefit the village. Of course, your presence will be known by everyone on Marakei and you will have an enjoyable visit. You have paid your respect to the mystery ladies of Marakei. Your visit will be blessed by good health, luck and prosperity.

We should preserve these legends to keep our heritage special!

Legend from Marakei - written by Tebania Tebakabo


Categories: Legends & Myths

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Reply Amota Eromanga
9:07 PM on July 3, 2018 
Terengantaake Teebua says...
The story of Marakei is very interesting..... and yes of-cause, preserving our legend and cultures is the most important things........
anyway thanks for sharing this story............

Thanks Terengantaake for your comment. What you said is true.
Reply Terengantaake Teebua
6:38 PM on July 2, 2018 
The story of Marakei is very interesting..... and yes of-cause, preserving our legend and cultures is the most important things........
anyway thanks for sharing this story............