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Arioi

Today's look at an Arts & Culture card from Conquest of Paradise features a favorite topic, dancing girls. We have looked at Hula Dancing in a previous card; today's card is the Arioi card.

The Arioi cult, active on Tahiti at European contact, was dedicated to the worship of the Polynesian god of war, 'Oro. Every high god had several different personalities, and the aspect specifically worshipped by the Arioi was 'Oro-of-the-laid-down-spear. That is, the war ending, peace making aspect of 'Oro was celebrated by the Arioi.

Membership in the cult was divided into local chapters distributed throughout the island. Members were limited to only the most well-formed and unblemished men and women (although males outnumbered female members by about five to one). Physical perfection was a hallmark of Arioi-hood, along with other aspects of youthfulness, such as skill and ardor in dancing, singing, and sex, and freedom from the burdens of parenthood.

Membership in this society gave talented men and women the opportunity to short-circuit the rigid social divisions of Tahiti's society. There were eight grades of Arioi, each with a distinctive dress and tattoo pattern, and members could advance through successive grades, whatever their social origin.

Full participation in the cult's activities was dependent upon a person's having no living offspring. Constraints were not, as mentioned, placed on copulation; in fact, active Arioi were notoriously avid and promiscuous. The rule was against allowing a member's progeny to survive, which was achieved by means of primitive abortion attempts and infanticide.

A troop of Arioi would travel from place to place, performing ceremonies and entertainment in exchange for lavish hospitality. Very little is known about their performances; the first European witnesses were so shocked by what they regarded as their licentiousness that they recorded no details. Dressed in distinctive costumes, the Arioi would approach their destination in canoes with great commotion, proceed to the temple dedicated to 'Oro, pay their respects, and then settle down to a week of dancing, theater performing, feasting, and sampling the sexual services of their hostesses and hosts.

All fighting would cease at any place where Arioi performances were taking place; the members themselves were immune to attack. A weeklong visit by a crowd of Arioi drained the host community's food supplies and, undoubtedly, was a strain on many marital relationships. The visits were, however, regarded by most as a pleasurable break in the ordinary day-to-day routine.

In game terms, the Arioi card provides its owner with one Victory Point. It also provides a one-time bonus. When the card is revealed, its owner may stop any one attack in its tracks. Although it can only be used once in a game, it can often have a powerful impact.


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