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No. 45 (December 1963)
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This painting of the separation of Rangi and Papa is by Para Matchitt.

The Story of Rangi and Papa

Rangi is the sky, the father of all things; Papa is the earth, the mother of all things. In the beginning there was darkness, and these two, the earth and the sky, lay together. They had many children, who lay between them. It was dark for many ages; there was as yet no world with its bright light.

Then their children began to wonder what kind of thing the light could be. They wearied of the narrow space to which they were confined, and wished to separate their parents, so that there could be light. Then they came together to decide whether it would be better to kill their parents or to tear them apart. The fiercest of the children of Rangi and Papa is Tu, the god of war. It was Tu who spoke first, and he said, ‘Let us kill our parents!’

Then Tane, the god and father of forests and of all things that live in them, or that are made from trees, said, ‘No, we will not kill them. It is better to drag them apart, and let the sky be far above us, and the earth lie beneath our feet. In this way the sky will become a stranger to us, but the earth will stay close to us as a mother.’

All the brothers agreed to this except for Tawhiri, the father of winds and storms; and he, being afraid that his kingdom was about to be overthrown, was angry at the thought of the separation of his parents.

It is from this happening that there comes the saying found in the ancient prayers, ‘Darkness, darkness, light, light, the seeking, the searching, in chaos, in chaos’; this tells of the way in which the children of the sky and earth sought for some way of dealing with their parents, so that human beings could increase and live.

When at last they had agreed to this plan,

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Rongo, the god and father of the cultivated food of man, stood up to tear apart the earth and sky; he struggled, but he could not part them. Then Tangaroa, the god and father of fish and reptiles, stood up to try his strength; he also struggled; but he could not part them. Then Haumia, the god and father of the food of man which grows without cultivation, stood up and struggled; but he also failed. Next, Tu, the god and father of warriors, stood up and struggled; but in vain.

Then at last Tane, the god and father of forests, slowly stood up, and he struggled with his parents; but he could not part them with his hands. So for a moment he stopped, and he placed his head on his mother the earth, and rested his feet against his father the sky. He strained his back in a mighty effort, and he tore apart his parents; they shrieked and groaned as they cried out, ‘Why are you parting us thus? Why do you commit such a terrible crime as to tear your parents apart?’ But Tane did not stop, he did not listen to them; far, far beneath him he pressed the earth; far, far above him he thrust the sky. It is because of this that there is the saying in the ancient prayers, ‘It was the fierce thrusting of Tane which tore the sky from the earth, so that they were dragged apart, and darkness became known, and so did the light’.

As soon as the sky was torn from the earth there was light in the world, and crowds of human beings were discovered who were the children of Rangi and Papa, and who had been hidden until now between the bodies of their parents.

Then Tawhiri, the god and father of hurricanes and storms, was angry with his brothers, because against his wishes they had torn apart Rangi and Papa, and he was afraid that the world would now be too pleasant and beautiful. Because of this he followed his father Rangi to the sky above; and from there he sends the earth mighty winds, dense clouds, dark thick clouds, fiery red clouds, clouds of thunder storms, and clouds swiftly flying. In the midst of these Tawhiri himself sweeps wildly on, and makes war against the creatures that live on the earth.

But in spite of the evil rage of Tawhiri, the human beings who had been hidden between Rangi and Papa increased in number now, and flourished upon the earth; and it is from these first men that we are all descended.

And through all this time the vast sky has not ceased to mourn the loss of his wife the earth. Often in the long nights he weeps, and drops upon her breast those tears which men call dew. And often the loving sighs of Papa go up towards the sky; and when men see these, they call them mists.


Mr John Waititi, who is well known for his work with Maori people in Auckland, has been seconded for two years to the position of assistant to the officer for Maori education, Mr D. M. Jillett. He is at present Maori language officer to the Education Department.

Mr Waititi's new duties will be concerned with Maori education generally throughout New Zealand, with special emphasis on the teaching of the Maori language. He will be based in Auckland.


Mr Hamana Mahuika of Ruatoria has received the O.B.E. in the Queen's Birthday Honours this year.

Mr Mahuika has given long service to the education and welfare of his people. He is a member of the Ngata College Committee of Management, being the representative of the Horouta Tribal Executive.


T. Ormeby (Waitomo) won the New Zealand Maori golf championship at Rotorua last September when he beat C. Hurihanganui, Springfield, Rotorua, 2 and 1.

Ormsby, who plays No. 3 in the Waikato team, was in top form. Hurihanganui could not match his long hitting off the tees but was sound on and around the greens.


We would very much like to be able to print more news in ‘Te Ao Hou’, and would be grateful for more contributions from readers—accounts of meetings, weddings, obituaries, photographs, and anything else of interest. They don't have to be long, and they don't have to be very carefully worded; you can leave this to the Editor, if you wish. We are always glad to receive stories, articles and poems, also. All contributions published are paid for.