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No. 48 (September 1964)
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The Story of the Rainbow

This account of the meaning of the rainbow is taken from Elsdon Best's book, ‘Tuhoe: the Children of the Mist’. Other tribes have other traditions concerning the rainbow; the traditions given here are those which the people of Tuhoe told to Elsdon Best sixty years ago.

Names for the Rainbow

The names for the rainbow are aniwaniwa, atua piko, tawhanawhana, kopere, Kahukura, Haere, and Uenuku. The first of these is the one in common use. The second means simply ‘a curved atua’ (‘atua’ is a god or demon, a supernatural being). The third name means curved, arched, bow-shaped. ‘Kopere’ is taken from the Maori version of the Bible, and the word seems to have the meaning of bow attached to it, though it does not appear to be a genuine Maori word used in that sense.

The last three names in the list, Kahukura, Haere and Uenuku, are the names of gods of the rainbow; depending upon its form, colouring and position, the rainbow may be a manifestation of any one of these three gods.


The rainbow known as Kahukura is a double arch, the upper bow being a male and the lower one a female. The upper, or male, is of darker shades than the lower, and is called Kahukura, sometimes Kahukura-pango or Kahukura-i-te-rangi. It embraces the lower bow, the female, whose name is Tuawhiorangi, though she is sometimes referred to as the ‘Atua wharoro mai te rangi’, and in some districts she is known by other names.

The task of Kahukura is to show that the rain has ceased, but if the bow is incomplete, it is taken to be a sign that the people are threatened by some ill fortune, which must be averted by means of incantations by the priests. It is also of much importance in foretelling the fortunes of war.

The child of the two bows of Kahukura is the whirlwind.


Haere, the second personification of the rainbow, seems to have been one of several brothers, all of whom could sometimes be seen in the form of a rainbow. An old myth tells how Haere and his brothers went forth to aveng the death of their father; on their first attempt they broke some rule of tapu and were defeated, but later, armed with potent incantations, they destroyed their enemy. In some old stories Moekahu, the dog god of Tuhoe, is spoken of as being their sister. But the meaning of these ancient myths is lost, and very little is known now concerning Haere.


The third rainbow god is Uenuku. It is Uenuku of whom it was said in the old days, ‘Ko Uenuku tawhana i te rangi: Uenuku, bow-like in the heavens’. Uenuku is a remote ancestor (as Kahukura and Haere may also have been). In his life he was a man, but after his death he became a rainbow.

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Here is the story of Uenuku, as told to Elsdon Best by Paitini Tapeka of Maungapohatu. The woman in this story, Tairi-a-kohu, is a supernatural being, the personification of the mist. ‘Tairi-a-kohu’ is the name by which the Mist Woman is known to Ngati Kahungunu; many of the people in the Wairoa district trace their descent from her union with Uenuku.

The song which Tairi-a-kohu sings before she leaves Uenuku is the same, though with some variations, as the song which a fairy woman sings in a somewhat different Ngapuhi version of the story. This Ngapuhi song appears as no. 37 in ‘Nga Moteatea’ part one, edited by Apirana Ngata and Pei Te Hurinui. The translation of the song given below is based on that in ‘Nga Moteatea’.

Uenuku Raua Ko

Ko tēnei wahine, ko Tāiri-a-kohu, he atua nō te rangi. Ko tōna take i heke iho ai, he kaukau i te wai o tēnei ao.

Ka noho te tangata rā, a Uenuku, ka haere, ka tae ki taua wai. Rokohanga atu e kaukau ana te wahine. Kātahi ka hoki mai te tangata, ka tae mai ki tōna kāinga. Kātahi ka whakaaro kia haere ia ki te hopu i taua wahine. Taua wahine, he wahine pai. Kātahi ka haere, ka tae ki te taha o te wai, ka noho. Kāore e tino roa e noho ana, kātahi ka tae mai taua wahine. Ko tōna ara i heke iho ai he kohu. Ka tau ki te taha o te wai, ka maunu ngā kākahu, kātahi ka rere ki te wai. Ka mutu tana kaukau, ka peke ki uta, kātahi ka kākahu i tōna kākahu. Kātahi ka whakatika atu te tangata rā ki te hopu, ka mau. Kātahi ka mauria ki tōna kāinga, ka moea e te tangata rā hai wahine māna. Ka hapū, kātahi ka hamumu te waha o te wahine rā, ‘Koi noho roa, koi whakaatu i a au ki tō iwi. Ki te mea ka whakaatu koe i a au, kāore au e noho i tēnei ao i a koe; ka hoki au ki tōku whenua. Engari kia whānau rawa taku tamaiti, kia koeke rawa, kātahi anō ka whakaatu i ahau.’

Ka whānau te wahine rā, ka pukā te ngākau o te tāne ki te hiahia kia whakaaturia e ia tana wahine ki tōna iwi. Kāore i whakarongo ki ngā tohutohu a tana wahine. Ka moe i tō rāua whare, ka waenganui pō, ka whakatika te tangata rā, ka purupurua te whare, koi puta he mārama ki roto, kia mahara ai te wahine rā he pō tonu. Heoi anō, ka moe rāua, kua rere te rā, kua karanga te wahine rā, ‘Tukuna ake ahau kia haere.’ Ko te iwi o te tangata rā kua noho kai waho o te whare. Kātahi ka kī atu te tangata rā, ‘Kāore anō i awatea.’ Ka kï atu te wahine rā, ‘Kua awatea noa atu.’ Kātahi ka kī atu te tāne, ‘Tēnā! Tōia tō taua whare.’ Kātahi ka tōia e te wahine rā te tatau, tuwhera rawa ake, kua kapi a waho i te tangata. Heoi anō, ka


Uenuku and
The Mist Woman

This woman, Tairi-a-kohu, was a spirit who lived in the sky. The reason for her coming here below is that she wished to bathe in the waters of this world.

One day Uenuku happened to be near the water, and found Tairi-a-kohu swimming there. Then he went back to his home. But after thinking the matter over, he decided to return and capture her, for she was very beautiful. So he went and hid himself near the place where she came to bathe. He had not been there long when she arrived, having descended in the mists. She alighted by the side of the water, took off her clothes and leaped into the water. After her swim she came on to the shore and put on her clothes. Then Uenuku jumped out and caught her. He took her to his home and made her his wife.

When the time came that she was to have a child she said to him, ‘Do not reveal me to your people; for if you tell them of me, I will not remain with you in this world, but will return to my own land. But when my child is born and grows up, then you may tell your people about me.’

When his wife gave birth to her child, Uenuku burned with desire to show his wife to his people. He paid no attention to her advice. Again she came to him in his house, and in the middle of the night he got up and carefully closed every opening, so that no light could enter, and his wife would think that it was still night time. They slept until the sun rose. Then his wife said, ‘Let me depart.’ By this time all of Uenuku's people were waiting in front of his house. Then Uenuku said, ‘It is not yet dawn.’ The woman replied, ‘It is broad daylight.’ Her husband said, ‘Well then, open the door.’

Then she drew back the door and when it was opened, she saw that the space in front of the house was full of people. Then she wept, and sang this lament—

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tangi te wahine rā ko tana tangi anō, ko te waiata nei—

‘Tērā te komaru kia āta haramai
Kia āta hangaia taku nei titiro
He ao uru pea e tākiri atu rā
He puia mānuka ki te hoko a Tirangi
Maru tata rawa au te awa ki Nukupori
Ki a Te Heu rāia e moea iho nei.
Tomokia atu te whare i a Uenuku
Kia tia taku rangi te rau o te amokura
Tikapa o te hau o kotuku te rangi
Heoi nei anō aku rangi ki konei
He pakinga rā tahi ka whanatu ai au
Ara ka puta nei.'

Heoi anō, ko tōna pikinga ki te rangi.

Ko te tamaiti a Uenuku rāua ko Tāiri-a-kohu ko Te Heu, arā, ko Heheurangi tōna roanga, a, e mau nei taua ingoa i tētahi wahine o Tūhoe. Nō tēnei ao, nō te ao maori a Uenuku.


The mist comes down so slowly
That I am exposed for all eyes to see.
Perhaps it is the dark mist
From the manuka shelters of my home at Tirangi
Where soon I will return,
Following the watery way to Nukupori.
Only in dreams will I see you now, Te Heu'
Enter then the house of Uenuku,
That I may adorn my head with the plume of the amokura.
The wind rises, the heavens descend.
A last farewell before I leave—
Now I go.

After this she rose up to the sky.

The child of Uenuku and Tairi-a-kohu was Te Heu, sometimes known as Heheurangi (the ‘Sky Clearer’). Heheurangi is a name still given to women in the Tuhoe district. Uenuku was not a supernatural being; he was a man of this world.

Another Version of the Story

Here is another version of the story of Uenuku and the Mist Woman. In this story, told by Tamarau Waiari of Ngati Koura, the Mist Woman is referred to by her Tuhoe name of Hine-pukohurangi. (‘Kohu’ and ‘pukohu’ are, of course, two Maori words for ‘mist’.) The people of Tuhoe trace their descent from Hine-pukohurangi; hence the name, ‘The Children of the Mist’, by which they are sometimes known. No-one who has visited the mountainous Urewera district, and seen the white mist which lies in those dark mossy forests, can doubt the appropriateness of this expression.

In the following version of the story of Uenuku and the Mist Woman no child is mentioned, for unlike Ngati Kahungunu the Tuhoe do not claim Uenuku as their father, but Te Maunga, ‘the Mountain’. However this second version includes some details not given in the first account. Hinewai, mentioned in this story, is the personification of the light misty rain which falls in the mountains.

Uenuku Raua Ko

He kōrero tēnei mō Hinepūkohurangi rāua ko tōna teina, ko Hinewai. Ka heke iho ngā wāhine rā i te pō. Ka karanga atu a Hine-pūkohurangi ki a Hinewai, ‘E noho koe i konei, kia haere au ki a Uenuku.’ Na, ka whakaae te taina. Na, ka tapoko a Hine-pūkohurangi ki roto ki te whare o Uenuku, ka noho rāua, ka mōhio a Uenuku ehara i reira nei taua wahine. Ka pātai a Uenuku, ‘Nō hea koe?’ Ka mea mai te wahine rā, ‘Nō Rangiroa au, nō Rangimamao, tōku ingoa ko Hine-pūkohurangi.’ Na, ka moe rāua.

Na, kua tae mai te hihi a te awatea ki a Hinewai, kātahi ia ka karanga, ‘Hine-pūkohurangi, e! Ka awatea.’ Ka puta a Hine-pūkohu, ka kake rāua ki te rangi, tō rāua ara he kohu. Oho rawa ake a Uenuku, kua ngaro. Na, ka noho i te pō, ka weto te ahi, ka tae iho. Ka


Uenuku and
The Mist Woman

This story is about Hine-pukohurangi and her younger sister Hinewai. These women came down to earth at night time. Hine-pukohurangi said to Hinewai, ‘You stay here while I go to visit Uenuku’. Her younger sister agreed to this. Then Hine-pukohurangi went into Uenuku's house and she and Uenuku spent the night together. Uenuku knew that she did not belong to those parts, and he asked her, ‘From where do you come?’ His wife replied, ‘I am from Rangiroa, from Rangimamao [These are two names for Rangi, the sky father]; my name is Hine-pukohurangi.’ And so these two slept together.

Now when Hinewai saw the first rays of dawn, she called out, ‘O Hine-pukohurangi! It is dawn!’ Then Hine-pukohurangi came out of the house, and the two of them went up to

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noho a Hinewai ki tōna nohoanga, ka haere anō a Hine-pūkohurangi, ka moe rāua. Na, kātahi ka whai kupu a Hine-pūkohurangi ki a Uenuku, ka kï atu ki a Uenuku, ‘Koi kōrero koe i a au. Kia whānau rawa he tamaiti mā tāua, kātahi koe ka kōrero i a au. Mehemea ka kōhuru koe i a au, kāore au e noho, arā, te kōhuru he kōrero ki te tokomaha.’

Na, nō tērā, ka hiahia a Uenuku ki te kōrero, kihai i manawanui ki te huna i te pai o taua wahine, kihai i rite ki ngā wāhine o te ao nei. Na, kātahi ka moe a Uenuku, oho rawa ake, kua ngaro. Kātahi ka tiakina te wā i haere ai. Na, i te wā i haere, i rongo ia ki te reo o Hinewai e karanga ana, ‘Hine-pūkohurangi, e! Ka awatea.’ Ka maranga te wahine rā, ka haere i te pō, ā, tata ana ki te awatea.

Na, i taua awatea, kātahi ka kōrero a Uenuku ki tana iwi: tana wahine, he wahine pai, kāore e rite ki ngā wāhine katoa e noho ki te ao. Ko tana wahine nō te rangi; na, ko tōna ingoa ko Hine-pūkohurangi. Kātahi ka kï mai te iwi katoa, ‘He pō te wā i haere ai?’ ‘Ae.’ ‘Purupurua te whare kia pōuri katoa.’ Kātahi ka purupurua e Uenuku, kātahi ka tiaki, ka tae iho tana wahine, ka moe rāua, ka tiaki anō i te reo o Hinewai. Ka pātai a Uenuku ki a Hine-pūkohurangi, ‘Ko wai tēnei e karanga nei i runga i te tāhū o te whare?’ ‘Ko taku taina, ko Hinewai, hai karanga ki a au ka awatea.’ Na, kātahi ia ka mōhio ko Hinewai te ingoa o taua wahine. Na, kua tae ki te wā e karanga iho nei a Hinewai, kua karanga, ‘Hine-pūkohurangi, e! Ka awatea.’ Kua ara kai runga, kua karanga a Uenuku, ‘Takoto! Kāore anō i awatea. Titiro ki te whare e pōuri tonu ana.’ Ka takoto te wahine rā, kua haere a Hinewai, ka whakarongo a Hine-pūkohurangi ki te tuarua o ngā karanga. Na, kua kore e karanga a Hinewai, kua mōhio te wahine rā e tika ana tā Uenuku, e pō tonu ana.

Nāwai, ā, kua rere te rā, a kua whakaemi te iwi rā ki te marae o te tangata rā. Kātahi ka huakina te whare, kua kite te wahine rā kua mate ia. Ko ōna kākahu ko ōna makawe. Kāore he kākahu o te wahine, ko ōna makawe te kākahu. Ka puta a Uenuku ki waho, ka noho i te paepae o waho. Ka tū te wahine ki runga, ki roto i te whare, i raro i te puta auahi, ka tataki te waiata. Ko te waiata tēnei—

‘Uenuku, e!
Tāria e whāki, kia rere ngā whetū o te ata,
Whiti mai hoki ko te rā i waho nā.


the sky in a mist. When Uenuku awoke they had disappeared. Then when night came and the fire had gone out, they arrived once more. Hinewai stayed at the place which they had agreed upon while Hine-pukohurangi again visited Uenuku. Then she spoke to Uenuku, saying to him, ‘Be careful not to speak of me. When a child has been born to us, then you may speak of me. But if before this you deceive me by speaking of me or showing me to your people, I will not remain with you.’

When he heard this, Uenuku began to wish to tell his people of his wife, for he was too impatient to be able to conceal the beauty of this woman, who was so unlike the women of this world. Now, once again Uenuku and his wife came together, but when he awoke, she had departed. So next time he watched to see when it was that she left him. When the time came for her to go, he heard the voice of Hinewai calling, ‘O Hine-pukohurangi! It is dawn!’ Then the woman rose and departed in the darkness, just before dawn.

Now, that day Uenuku spoke to his people, telling them that his wife was possessed of great beauty, and was quite unlike the women who live in this world. His wife came from the sky, and her name was Hine-pukohurangi. Then all the people asked, ‘Does she go away during the night?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Close up all of the openings in the house, so that it may remain dark inside.’ So Uenuku covered over all of the places where light could come in, then he waited.

His wife appeared again; they made love, and waited for the voice of Hinewai. Uenuku asked Hine-pukohurangi, ‘Who is it who calls out up on the ridgepole of the house?’ ‘It is my younger sister Hinewai, who calls to me when it is dawn.’ So then Uenuku knew that Hinewai was the name of this woman.

Now when the time came for Hinewai to call out, she did so: ‘O Hine-pukohurangi! It is dawn!’ But when she arose, Uenuku said, ‘Lie down! It is not yet dawn. Look and see how dark the house is still.’ So Hine-pukohurangi lay down, and waited for her sister to call again. When she did not do so, Hine-pukohurangi thought that Uenuku must be right and that it was not yet dawn.

After a while the sun rose. All of the people had gathered together in front of Uenuku's house. Then the door of the house was opened, and the woman saw that she had been deceived. Now, her hair was all that covered her. This woman had no garments; her hair

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kāore ki a Hinewai. Me tutoro taua ki te papa Kia whakaparure ko au nei anake te kurï pōrangi.
Tū ake hoki tāua ki runga rā—keho!'

Ka mutu, kua rere te wahine ki te rangi. Ka hopu te ringa o Uenuku, kāore e mau. Ka haere a Uenuku ki te whai i tana wahine, ā, mate atu, koinei e tāwhana nei i te rangi nei a Uenuku, he atua piko.


was her only garment.

Uenuku came out of the house and sat on the outer threshold. The woman stood up within the house, under the place where the smoke escapes, and there chanted a song. Here is that song.

O Uenuku!
You said that you would not betray me.
I should have gone at the time of the morning star
But now the sun shines outside
And Hinewai will not call again.
Let us pull aside the door
And reveal my shame.

When she had finished her song, the woman rose up to the sky. Uenuku stretched out his hands but could not catch her. He set off in pursuit of his wife and in the end, still searching, he died. After this Uenuku assumed the form of a curved being in the sky, a rainbow.

Maori Actors
In N.Z. Film

The film ‘Runaway’, at present being made in New Zealand, has four young Maoris in the cast.

Selwyn Muru (otherwise known as Fred Murupaenga), the artist whose photograph is on the cover of the last issue of ‘Te Ao Hou’, plays the part of Joe, a young man who, fed up with city life, heads back to Opononi determined never to leave home again. There he meets David, the central character in ‘Runaway’, a Pakeha (played by Colin Broadley from Whangarei) who is new to country life. Joe takes David around, introduces him to Maori life—and also introduces him to his sister, Isabel. (Isabel's part is played by the young Auckland singer Kiri Te Kanawa.) David falls in love with Isabel—but she is already in love with a Maori boy, Tana. (Tana is played by Sam Stevens from Opotiki, a teacher at Balmoral Intermediate School in Auckland.) The other Maori actor in the film is the entertainer Rim D. Paul from Rotorua. Rim plays the part of an entertainer who is Joe's brother; in the film Joe is always proudly telling people about his talented brother.

One Episode Filmed at Opononi

As well as these four actors, all with fair-sized speaking parts, many of the Maori people of Opononi took part in the film as extras; when the film company visited Opononi recently they were made very welcome, and the local people put on a dance, a hangi, and other events specially for the benefit of the cameramen.

‘Runaway’, one of the very few films so far made in this country, sounds as if it will be a most interesting production. The first public showing of the film is due to take place in Auckland next October.


Here is an encouraging educational statistic: from 1959 to 1963 the number of Maoris in Upper Sixth forms each year was round about 24. This year, according to figures supplied by the Education Department, there has been a sudden increase to 41. All these students have university entrance and a good many of them will probably go on to university.


Major Brian Mataura Poananga, m.b.e., is at present attending a course at the Joint Services Staff College in Britain. This college is designed to enable selected senior officers of all services to study together the techniques of combined operations. One New Zealand Army office is selected to attend approximately every two years; this is the first time that a Maori officer has been chosen for the course.

Major Poananga has had a distinguished military career, serving with the occupation forces in Japan at the end of World War II and later on active service in Korea and Malaya. He was awarded the M.B.E. for his services in Malaya. Major Poananga is accompanied overseas by his wife, who is English born.

An older brother, Major Bruce Poananga, is serving as a United Nations Military Observer in Palestine.