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Polynesian/Oceanic religion that involves the worship of Oro, a Shark God (a giant, albino megalodon shark, to be precise. -ed.). The exact theology is murky, but involves human sacrifice on occasion, sometimes on a mass scale, which suggests Oro is a god that requires placating rather than love. Predominant in the South Pacific and Australia, notably in the nations Borang Bakufu and the Nanhai Wang'guo

The Oroist Primacy is known simply as the Primacy of Oro.



The Polynesian word for shark is i'oro, and the Maori for a great white shark is mangō-ururoa or mangō-tuatini. The shark was admired for fighting to the end.

'Oro was originally the war god of Tahiti, the ‘man slayer’ who pleasured in conflict and human sacrifice. A legend tells that when 'Oro came down to earth to find a mortal wife, he placed a rainbow so that one end was in the sky and the other touched the earth, and used it as his pathway. As he descended from the heavens, bits of color fell from the rainbow, mingled with moonlight, and fell into the lagoon as black pearls.

'Oro was a son of Tangaroa - the god of the sea - and Hina-Tu-A-Uta, the great woman of night - goddess of night and death. Oro has one son, Hoa-Tapu faithful friend and three daughters, Toi-Mata axe-eye, Ai-Tupuai head-eater, and Mahu-Fatu-Rau escape from a hundred stones.

Maori Proverbs

  • Kaua e mate moki, engari kia mate mangō-ururoa.
    Die not as does the moki fish, but rather like the shark.
  • He kainga no te ururoa, te moana. He kainga no te kereru, te ngahere.
    The ocean is the home of the shark, and the forest is the home of the wood pigeon.
  • Kia mate ururoa, kei mate wheke
    Die like a shark, not like a limp octopus.


The worship of Oro as the Shark God arose as a result of the influence of south-east Asian and Chinese Buddhism on the Polynesian and Oceanic cultures. The earliest contacts arose from the early Chinese voyagers in their search for the source of the purest green jade, which they found in New Guinea, Borneo and eventually as far south as Aotearoa.

The Maori revered Pounamu jade as one of the taonga – treasures of the land. It was worn as a talisman of protection against attack and illness or in remembrance of ancestors, and used in making the patu club used in war. They believed that pounamu had been fashioned within the belly of a shark and was both a fish and a god. There was a resonance between the Maori shark-god and the Chinese dragon-god, both associated with jade.

With trade came a diffusion of ideas, with elements of Buddhism and Daoism being added to the indigenous culture. The Maori were great navigators and travellers; with the example of the Chinese hai-po ch’uan they began to build ocean going ships themselves, ranging across the ocean both as traders and as warriors. The Maori now prized themselves as the jade-people – the shark-people with the shark as their totem – and the war gods were their favored deities.

Across the wide expanse of the sea the shark was revered both an eater of men and a provider, for the shark would be hunted, as a rite of passage and for food, drums could be made of its skin and weapons from its teeth.

On their voyages, the Maori encountered and conquered the Shinto Japanese who had colonised the Austral landmass to the west. Again, foreign ideas were adopted, with the rituals of the kami and another form of Buddhism influencing the Oceanic religion. Most significant was the concept of a venerated god-emperor leading to the rise of the Maori priest-kings. Very much later, the growing similarities between the theology of Oro and the practices of Shinto and Buddhists allowed many of Japanese descent to embrace Oroism. Just as Shintoism and Buddhism were followed by the Japanese of the home islands, Shintoism and Oroism were not contradictory.

Oro was originally the war god of Tahiti, the ‘man slayer’ who pleasured in conflict and human sacrifice; as the god adopted by the warrior elite he became merged with the shark totem. Influenced by Buddhism, the warriors gave rise to a priestly caste who formulated the theology of Oro the shark god. Over time the cult of Oro changed, emphasising his aspect Oro-i-Te-Tea-Moe, “Oro with the Spear Down”, the provider of the people, combined with the various shark gods such as Dakuwaqa, Kamohoali'i and Ukupanipo, gods of fishing and seafaring, and Kauhuhu the sender of storms.

As the supreme deity the shark god represents both the bounty of the sea and its dangers.

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