Beautiful, mysterious, frightening and alluring; since the first European laid eyes on a Tiki statue they have become a recognized symbol of Polynesian culture around the world. Original Tiki Statues found throughout the Pacific dates back thousands of years. Tiki Statues were hand-carved over a period of days or even weeks depending on size and design.
These often scary statues represent a wide array of Gods and lesser Deities. Primarily used in elaborate ceremonies honoring their ancestors, they also were used as sentries to guard the boundaries of sacred soil. They were also highly regarded as talismans that could ward off evil and bring good luck to those who worshiped and adored them.
Tiki statues carry a great deal of significance to all Polynesians. These giant wooden statues could loom as tall as 10 feet or more into the air! It was believed that the bigger the totem the better received by the God it would be. Of course there were also smaller Tiki statues as well that were worn as body adornments to help the worshipper gain the favor of the Gods.
Depending on the God, meaning represented by it can vary greatly. Some more common themes revolve around matters of fertility, strength or health, as well as a full range of other meanings. Typically, they are carved to represent one of four powerful Gods in Polynesian culture.
Kane, Ku, Lono and Kanaloa are the most powerful Gods in the Polynesian culture. Each one symbolizing it’s own significance:
Kane is the ruler of all the things in the natural world. He is arguably one of the most powerful of the four due to the fact that he also is considered the creator of the universe.
Ku is the God of chaos and war. His power lies in bringing strength and bravery to those that idolize him. Tiki statue design is crafted to represent Ku often shows this fearsome God with his mouth wide open, in preparation of devouring his enemies.
In ancient times it was not uncommon for human sacrifices to be made in Ku’s name.
Kanaloa is the God of the Sea. His image was carved into a Tiki to help protect sailors and fisherman. He is also believed to symbolize the bounty of the sea, helping fisherman to haul in nets full of fish. Kanaloa is also known as the protector of the island. Keeping the island and it’s people safe from harm.
Lono is the God of fertility and music. Lono, also recognized as the God of Peace is identified with the sky and the earth. The great Makahiki festivals of Hawaii, whereby war and unnecessary work are forbidden, arose in honor of this deity.
Today these ancient and fascinating gems of the Pacific adorn the walkways of fancy resorts and hotels around the world. They have also made their way into homes, offices and landscapes designed to imitate that authentic Polynesian feel only Tiki art can delivery. Even the replicas that are widely sold throughout the world today are a testament to how powerful and endearing this art truly is.