Tiki Mugs, Tiki and Polynesian Gods

tiki_mugThere is a mythology that says the first women is created by Tāne the god of Forests and Birds; he names the first women Hine-ahu-one. The Polynesian mythology varies from Island to Island, being a fan of Hawaii, I’m more inclined to listen to the Hawaiian traditions and mythologies that tell of four Tiki Gods: Ku, Kanaloa, Kane and Lono. Natives of the land have worshiped and feared the gods for centuries; many such gods were only familiar to Americans since the 1930s.

The Polynesian Islands and their gods have long sparked peoples imagination, sense of mystery and intrigue. How do the well-known Tiki statues play into the histories of these wild mythologies? Tiki typically refers to the large wooden humanoid statues found on the Polynesian Islands often used to mark boundaries of sacred sites. Some Tiki statues have been made in the likeness of the gods they represent and guard.

The islands have many minor deities to explain life on the islands in one form or another. These deities may have their own sacred sites or wooden guardians depending on which island and which culture you visit. One legend suggests that Captain James Cook arrived in the Hawaiian islands in the 1700’s and was thought to be the Tiki God Lono returning. Lono promised to return “by sea” on canoes much like the way James Cook arrived on the beach.

In the 1930s the United States would be fully introduced into the Tiki culture and décor with great tiki god masks, serving bowls and all the fixings of a Polynesian island. Donn Beach (1907-1989) would father the first tiki-themed restaurant and night club in Hollywood California and forever be known as “Don The Beachcomber.” Thanks to him, many Americans would get their first glimpse into the gods of Tiki in the form of rum-based fruit drinks such as The Zombie and Mai Tai cocktails.

Much like the original Polynesian mythology, our minds have become engulfed in symbolic history of the Tiki gods and their sacred guardian statues. Glass mugs and ceramic bowls filled with potent crazy concoctions have allowed us to pray to the “porcelain god” on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, many of the great crafted mugs are difficult to find or expensive to buy and ship to our homes. The mugs and glasses seem to be scarce these days, even in Polynesian restaurants we’re finding more Collins glasses and other easily accessible tumblers used in substitution of the Tiki glass.

Thanks to folks like Donn Beach and Victor Bergeron (“Trader Vic”), we’ve managed to grow a few restaurants out of the tiki mythology. Trader Vic’s is one of the best known chains and they believe it was Victor Bergeron that created the first Mai Tai cocktail recipe. Unfortunately both these legends have passed and left their own mythology on America and folks like ourselves in search of a place to forget our troubles with a blue Polynesian sky.

All is not lost, I’ve found a few places to buy cool Tiki mugs told hold great fruit juices and rums. The only missing object in my adventure for the Tiki is a tropical island. Ony can wish.


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