Roots of Taboo

Power & Taboo, British Museum

Gods inside, gods outside,
Gods above, gods below,
Gods oceanward, gods landward,
Gods incarnate, gods not incarnate,
Gods punishing sins, gods pardoning sins,
Gods devouring men, gods slaying warriors,
Gods saving men,
Gods of darkness and light, gods of the ten skies,

Can the gods all be counted?
The gods cannot all be counted!

The British Museum offers an online exhibit of the Pacific Islanders from the 1760 to 1800s period of first contact.

For the inhabitants of the Polynesian islands in the eastern Pacific, the gods were always present in the world. But, while their powers could be life-enhancing, they were also potentially dangerous and had to be contained. Godly power was controlled by means of the concept of tapu, from which the word taboo is derived.