The Gods of the Ancient Maori World
The Maori gods of pre-European times, and the stories of their deeds, are rather remote from us now. Yet much of the riches of our Maori literature can be appreciated only by studying the ancient Maori beliefs as to the nature and meaning of things.
Their view of the world was essentially a religious one. According to their beliefs the nature of the world and its inhabitants was primarily determined by the events that took place during its creation. These events were the work of the gods, each of whom was responsible for certain aspects of existence.
Accounts of the nature and activities of the gods are therefore a key to an understanding of the complexity and underlying unity of the ancient Maori vision of the world.
The account published here was written by a member of Ngati Hau tribe of Wanganui, and is among the manuscripts collected by John White which are in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. The manuscript reference is MS Papers 75, ‘Ancient History of the Maori’ vol. VIII (Maori) pp. 87–92. The translation is based upon White's one.
The writer refers to the separation of Rangi the Sky and Papa the Earth at the beginning of the world, but does not actually tell the story. The best-known and most vivid account of the separation of Rangi and Papa is in George Grey's classic collection, ‘Polynesian Mythology’.
Both the incantations given here are similar to others which have been recorded. The one for the separation of husbands and wives was recited when one of the partners wished the tohunga to take away his or her feelings of love and grief. In the incantation the husband and wife are identified with Rangi and Papa.
Nga Atua me Rangi
Ko ngā atua ngā mea kua noho ake i mua atu i te putanga mai o Rangi, ā, ko ngā atua ngā mea tautōhito mai o ngā mea katoa. Nō te Pō ngā atua, ā, ko ērā kua noho noa mai i te pōuri.
Nō muri mai ko ngā atua o te ao, ko Whatitiri mā, ko Maru mā, ko Tangaroa mā, ko ngā atua kikokiko hoki, ko ēnei e ngau kino nei i te tangata, ā, e kōngenge nei te tangata, ā, ka mate, ā, ko ngā atua pōtiki. Nō muri iho ēnei i te hanganga i te tangata, i a Rumoko mā, i a Uruta mā.
Kei ngā rangi i runga nei aua atua nei e noho ana, arā, ko ō rātou wāhi e noho ai i mua i te wā o te oroko hanganga o rātou i runga i ngā rangi ngahuru, arā i ngā rangi tuarea, i ngā rangi maha noa atu, ko ngā rangi e kīia nei he tuarea.
Ko te rangi tuatahi i runga ake i a tātou nei he rangi pīwata noa iho, kāore e pōuri; e mārama ana ki te titiro atu i raro nei, ā, kei raro mai o taua rangi tuatabi nei te ara o te rā me te marama e rere haere ai. A, te rangi i runga atu o taua rangi nei, ko te rangi
The Gods and Rangi
The gods were in existence before Rangi came forth; the gods were of old, before all things. Their origin was in the primal darkness; for a long time they existed in darkness.
After this there appeared the gods of light, the gods of this world: Whatiri, Maru, Tangaroa and their companions, and the gods who rule the flesh, those who attack and devour men so that they die of disease, also the gods which are the spirits of dead infants; these came into existence after man was created, and after Rumoko, Uruta and the other gods.
These gods dwell in the heavens above us, in the place where they were living before the time of the first creation, that is in the ten heavens, the many heavens, the multitude of heavens—those heavens above us which are spoken of as being a multitude.
The first of the heavens above us has many chinks and cracks and is not dark; when we look up from below here, we can see the light shining through the open spaces. Below this
tuarua, he rangi nō te ua, nō te kohu, nō te wai; ā, te rangi i runga atu, te rangi tuatoru, ko te rangi o te hau; ā, te rangi tuawhā, ko te rangi o ngā wairua, te rangi tuarima, ko te rangi o te ao mārama. A, ko ngā rangi i runga atu, ko ngā rangi o ngā atua nui o te rā, ā, ko te rangi tuangahuru ko te rangi o Rehua, ko te tino rangi pai taua rangi o ngā rangi katoa.
E kī ana anō ia ētahi o ō mātou tohunga anō o tēnei iwi, o Ngāti Hau, ko te rangi tuatahi he rangi nō te hau, te rangi tuarua nō te ao kapua, ā, te tuatoru o ngā rangi ko tērā i Te Kikorangi, arā, i te takiwā o te ao nei. Te tuawhā o ngā rangi ko Papa, ko te take mai ia o te ao nei; ā, te rangi tuarima ko Te Roto, arā, ko te take mai ia o te ua, o te kohu, o ngā wai katoa i te ao nei. Te rangi tuaono, ko te rangi ia o ngā atua, ā, he pēnā katoa ngā rangi atu anō i reira. A, tae noa ki te tuarea, ki tō Rehua, ko te rangi pai atu ia o ngā rangi katoa nei.
A, ko Rangi i takoto hū i runga i a Papa, ā kāhore kau he pumahu o rāua e tupu ai te taru me te otaota, he taru anō ia i reira, he taru papa nei, he taru toro i roto i te wāhi mākū o rāua; koia te karakia e karakiatia nei mō te wahine me te tāne anō wehea rāua i a rāua:
Tutū te kiri, wewehe te kiri
Tātarāmoa te kiri, ongaonga te kiri,
Kei mihi ki te ipo, kei tangi ki te tau,
Tangaroa whatia, Tangaroa tarā,
Anga tonu koe ki tai e, ki tai e
Whati, ko koe kei mihi, ko koe kei aroha,
Kei mihi ki te ipo, kei tangi ki te tau.
A, me te karakia anō hoki i karakia ai a Tāwhaki i a ia i piki ki te rangi kia kite i tana kōtiro; ā, e karakiatia ana taua karakia hei mauri mō te tūroro, kia ora ake ai i tana mate tūroro, ā, nō aua rangi tuarea nei anō ngā kupu. Koia nei taua karakia:
Piki ake Tāwhaki i te rangi tuatahi
E rongo, te mahaki!
Piki ake Tāwhaki i te rangi tuarua
E rongo, te mahaki!
Piki ake Tāwhaki i te rangi tuawhā
E rongo, te mahaki!
Piki ake Tāwhaki i te rangi tuarima
E rongo, te mahaki!
Piki ake Tāwhaki i te rangi tuaono
E rongo, te mahaki!
Piki ake Tāwhaki i te rangi tuawhitu
E rongo, te mahaki!
Piki ake Tāwhaki i te rangi tuawaru
E rongo, te mahaki!
first heaven is the path along which travel the sun and the moon. The heaven above this first one, that is the second heaven, is the home of the rain, fog and water. Above this is the third heaven, where the winds live; the fourth heaven has the spirits of men (wairua), and the fifth heaven is that of the world of daylight. The heavens above these ones are those of the great gods of the sun. The tenth heaven is the heaven of Rehua, and is the most glorious of them all.
But some of our own priests of this tribe, Ngati Hau, say that the first heaven has the wind, the second heaven has the clouds, and the third heaven is the place where the blue sky is seen—that is, the region close to this world of ours. The fourth of the heavens is Papa, the origin of this world. The fifth heaven is known as ‘the lake’, for from it come the rain, the mist, and all of the waters of this world. The sixth heaven is the home of the gods, as are all those beyond it, even to that of Rehua, the most splendid of the heavens.
Now when Rangi rested upon Papa, there was no warmth to make the plants and bushes grow, yet there were some plants there; they were creeping plants which stretched out their tendrils into the damp places between them. Hence this spell which is chanted when wives and husbands are to be separated:
Let the skin arise, let the skin be divided.
Let the skin be like the brambles, like the
Do not grieve for your beloved, do not
weep for your dear one.
Tangaroa is put to flight, Tangaroa is
Turn steadfastly to the sea, the sea;
Take flight, do not grieve, do not yearn,
Do not grieve for your beloved, do not weep
for your dear one.
Here is another spell, which was chanted by Tawhaki as he ascended up to heaven in search of his daughter; this spell is also chanted to give life to an invalid, so that he may recover from the disease which is afflicting him. The words of the spell refer to this multitude of heavens. Here is that spell:
Climb up, Tawhaki, to the first heaven
Climb up, Tawhaki, to the second heaven
Climb up, Tawhaki, to the third heaven
Piki ake Tāwhaki i te rangi tuaiwa
E rongo, te mahaki!
Piki ake Tāwhaki i te rangi tuarea
E rongo, te mahaki!
Pipiri moko, pipiri moko,
Rarau moko, rarau moko,
Rarau ki tahatū o te rangi!
Ngā uri tuatahi o Rangi rāua ko Papa, ko Rongo-mā-tāne, ā, ko te kūmara, i puta tēnei i te mata o Rangi i te mea hoki he wāhi pumahu mahana, arā pumahu tērā, ā, he taru hoki te kūmara e kore e tupu i te wāhi kōpeke; mā te āhuru tonu e tupu ai tērā kai.
Muri iho i te kūmara ko Haumia, arā, ko te roi, arā, ko te aruhe; i tupu tēnei i te tua, arā i te tuarā o Rangi. He taru tupu kaha te taru nei, te rarauhe, ā, e tupu noa ana i ngā wāhi e wekua ana e te rangi paroro, ā, e kore e kūī noa te tupu i te rā kore e whiti ki a ia.
Muri iho ko Tāne-mahuta, ko te atua, arā, ko te take mai me te matua o te rākau, me ngā manu, me ngā pepe o te ao nei. Muri mai ko Tangaroa, ko te pūtake mai o ngā ika katoa, me ngā tuatara me te kaweau, me ngā mokomoko, ā, ko te mutunga ko Tūmata-uenga, ko te take mai ia o te tangata.
Tētahi kōrero anō a ngā tohunga o mua e kī ana ko Tiki tētahi o ngā atua o te oroko hanganga o aua atua, ā, i puta mai te tangata i a Tiki, iNā hoki ko te wahine a Tiki ko Marikoriko, kīhai a ia i puta mai i te whaea, otirā i puta i a Arohirohi i te pumahu o te ao nei; ā, kia puta i a Tiki rāua ko Marikoriko ko tā rāua tamāhine ko Kauataata.
A, ko Tū-te-nganahau tētahi o ngā atua o mua o te tīmatanga, ko te take hoki a ia o te kino, o te hē, o te aituā, o te mate ki te ao nei, ko rāua ko Tū-mata-uenga he kino anake ā rāua mahi; ko tēnei, he atua a ia Nō te riri pakanga, ā, ko ia hoki te take o ngā parekura o te ao nei.
Ko Tahu tētahi o ngā atua o mua o te
Climb up, Tawhaki, to the fourth heaven
Climb up, Tawhaki, to the fifth heaven
Climb up, Tawhaki, to the sixth heaven
Climb up, Tawhaki, to the seventh heaven
Climb up, Tawhaki, to the eighth heaven
Climb up, Tawhaki, to the ninth heaven
Climb up, Tawhaki, to the multitude of
Keep close, keep close like the lizard,
Cling, cling like the lizard,
Cling to the edge of the sky!
The first-born of Rangi and Papa was Rongo-ma-tane, that is the kumara, which originated from the face of Rangi, for that part was warm and damp, and the kumara is a plant which will not grow in cold places; it grows in warm, sheltered spots.
After the kumara there appeared Haumia. the fern root; this grew on the other side, on the back of Rangi. The fern is a plant that grows abundantly, and flourishes on places which are swept by storms; it does not become stunted through lack of sunshine.
After this came Tane-mahuta, the god who is the origin and parent of the trees, birds, moths and butterflies in this world of ours. Then came Tangaroa, the ancestor of all the fish, and of the tuatara and other kinds of lizards. The last to appear was Tu-matauenga, the origin of mankind.
Another thing the experts of the former times say is that Tiki was one of the gods of the first creation, and man came from Tiki; for Tiki's wife Marikoriko was not born of a mother in the usual way, but was formed by Arohirohi from the warmth and dampness of this world. The daughter of Tiki and Marikoriko was Kauataata.
Tu-te-nganahau was one of the gods of the first creation. It is he who is the source of the evil, wrongdoing, misfortune and death in the world; he and Tu-mata-uenga both perform only evil acts. As for Tu-mata-uenga, he is the god of quarrelling and fighting, and is the origin of all the battles in this world.
Tahu is another of the gods of the first creation; he is the god of good things, of life and well-being, of joyful hearts. It is because
tīmatanga, he atua a ia nō te pai, nō te ora, nō te ngākau koa, ko ia hoki te take o te pai o te tāne ki tana hoa me ana whānau, ā, ko ia hoki te take o te pai e ātawhai nei te whaea ki tana whānau, me tana tāne.
A, ko Tāne hoki tētahi atua o te tīmatanga. Ko taua atua nei te take o te tāne tangata, me te toa kurī, me te toa manu; Nō Tāne anake ō rātou ingoa, me te take mai o taua ingoa, nō te mea hoki ko Tāne te mana me te kaha e puta ai he uri ki te ao nei.
A, nō Tāne i mahi he pai ki a Rangi, nāna ngā whetū me ngā kapua i whakanoho ki te rangi; i pai atu ai te titiro o Papa ki a Rangi, koia hoki te take mai o te pai o te wahine ki te tāne; nō Tāne i pūtake mai, a, koia hoki te Rangi i kīia ai, ‘Ko te whare o Tāne’.
A, nā Tāne i pūtakea ai te ‘wai ora a Tāne’, arā te roto e kau ai anō te marama, e ora mai ai anō te marama i te mate, e hou tonu nei a ia i ia marama, i ia marama. Koia taua roto me tōna wai i kīia ai, ‘Ko te wai ora a Tāne’.
Ko Tane hoki te matua o ngā manu, ā, nāna anō hoki ngā rākau i tupu ai. He mea hua āna ingoa ki āna tini mahi, koia i kīia ai ko Tāne-tūturi, mōna i tūturi nei ana waewae i te wā ōna i hūpeke nei kia mawhera a Rangi i a Papa.
Ko Tāne-pēpeke, mōna i pēpeke nei ana waewae i a ia e whārōrō rā ana waewae kia peia te rangi ki runga, kia peia kētia atu te rangi i a Papa.
Ko Tāne-ua-tika, he haere mārōrō nō tāna tū, arā, he tika nō tana ua, ā, koia hoki e tū tika nei te rākau e tupu nei.
Ko Tāne-te-wai-ora, nōna e ora nei te marama i te kaunga i te roto i mahia nei e Tāne; ā, no te rākau, me te taru, me ngā manu, me ngā kurī, me te ngārara o te ao e ora nei i te mea e inu nei i te wai māori.
Ko Tāne-mahuta te take o te waka e hoea nei, ā, e eke nei te tangata, arā, rere i te moana, he mahuta mō te tangata ki te waka, ā, mahuta ai anō ki uta, tae pai noa atu ki tērā wāhi, ki tērā wāhi, kāore e mākū i te wai, me te mea nei e mahuta noa atu ana te ara whāriki, ā, whiti mākū-kore i te moana. A, he mea hoki nō Tāne, nō te rākau o te ngahere te waka, koia te waka i kīia ai ko te ‘Riu o Tāne’.
Nā Tū-wai-rora ngā rākau pai hei waka, arā te tōtara me te kauri. Koia te waka i kīia ai anō e te whakataukī, ‘Ko te ara tau whāiti a Tāne’, ‘Ko te tamatama a Tāne’; ā, te wha-
of him that husbands love and care for their wives and children, and wives love and care for their children and husbands.
Another of the gods of the first creation is Tane. This god is the origin of the male principle, and from him come all males—men, animals and birds. It is for this reason that the word ‘tane’ means ‘male’; Tane alone is the source of the mana and strength which causes offspring to be born into the world. It was Tane who did Rangi the service of placing the stars and clouds in the heavens, thus pleasing Papa, who looked with kindness at Rangi. This is why women like men, and treat them well; it is Tane who is the cause. It is for this reason also that the heavens are known as ‘the house of Tane’.
Tane also brought into existence ‘the living waters of Tane’, the lake in which the moon bathes and is given new life after it has died; in this way it is each month restored to life. Hence that lake and its waters are known as ‘the living water of Tane’.
Tane is also the ancestor of the birds, and it is he who caused the trees to grow. He has many names, which refer to his various tasks; thus he is known as Tane-tuturi (Tane with the bent knees) after the time when he lay with bent knees, in order to thrust apart Rangi and Papa.
He is known as Tane-pepeke (Tane with his limbs drawn up), for he lay with his limbs drawn up as he made ready to stretch his legs to their full length, thereby thrusting Rangi up above, and forcing him to live apart from Papa.
He is also called Tane-ua-tika (Tane with the straight backbone), because he is so erect, standing upright and strong. It is because his backbone is straight that trees grow straight upwards.
His name Tane-te-wai-ora refers to the moon's gaining new life by bathing in the lake created by Tane; trees, plants, birds, animals, lizards and insects also gain life by drinking fresh water.
The name Tane-mahuta refers to the canoes in which men paddle; they go on board, then speed across the ocean. Then they land (‘mahuta’) from their canoe; they go ashore, joyfully arriving at whatsoever place they wish, and are not wet from the water. As though they were merely crossing a wide path, they travel dry-shod across the ocean. Now this is due to Tane, for canoes are made from the trees of the forest; it is for this reason
kataukī anō hoki mō te peha rākau e mahia nei hei papaki whare, ‘Ko Tū-te-nganahau, ko te kiri o te kahikātoa, hei whare e noho maru a Kahukura’. A, tētahi hoki, ‘Ko te ake ko te kahikātea, ngā uaua o Tū-mata-uenga,’ mō ngā patu nei, mō te tao, me te hani, me te wahaika.
A, tētahi, ko Tāne te matua o ngā manu, a nāna te koukou, koia te koukou i kīia ai, ‘Ko te manu huna a Tāne,’ ā, e pērātia ana anō hoki te kī mō te kiwi, ā, e kīia ana anō te kiwi ko te ‘manu huna a Tāne’.
A, ko ia hoki te matua o ngā rākau o te ngahere, i te mea hoki ka noho a Tāne i a Mumuwhango kia puta ko te tōtara, ka noho a Tāne i a Pūwhakahara ka puta ko te kāhikātoa me te akerautangi. Ka noho a ia i a Tūwairore, ka puta ko te kahikātea me te rimu. Ka noho a Tāne i a Atatangirea, ka puta ko te maireraunui.
Ka noho a Tāne i āna wāhine kē, e puta ai he uri kapekapetau i te ao nei, arā ka puta ana uri manu; ka noho a ia i a Parauri kia puta ko te tui, ā ka noho a Tāne i a Papa, kia puta ko te kiwi, ā, ka noho a ia i a Haereawaawa, kia puta ko te weka.
that canoes are known as ‘the trunk of Tane’.
Tu-wai-rora is the origin of the straight, tall trees from which canoes are made, that is the totara and the kauri trees. Here are more sayings about canoes: ‘the narrow path of Tane’, and ‘the daring of Tane’. This is a proverb used of the bark of trees which is used to thatch houses: ‘Tu-te-nganahau, the bark of the kahikatoa, makes a house fit to shelter Kahukura (god of the rainbow)’. Another proverb is this: ‘the ake and the kahikatea are the sinews of Tu-mata-uenga’. This refers to the spear, the taiaha and the wahaika.
Also, Tane is the ancestor of birds, and the owl is his bird; this is why the owl is known as ‘the hidden bird of Tane’. The same expression is used of the kiwi; it is also called ‘the hidden bird of Tane’.
Tane is also the ancestor of the trees of the forest, for he took Mumuwhango, and by her he had the totara tree; he took Puwhakahara, and by her he had the kahikatoa tree and the akerautangi tree; he took Tuwairore, and by her he had the kahikatea and the rimu; and he took Atatangirea, and by her he had the maire tree.
Tane had other wives also, whose descendants were the quick, fluttering creatures of this world, the birds. With Parauri he had the tui, with Papa he had the kiwi, and with Haereawaawa he had the weka.
written after reading
‘He Aroha Ranei to taku Iwi’
in the March issue of Te Ao Hou
is fed upon a stick
nor carried in chanting centipede canoes
slides shorewards on the seas' crescents.
in faceless silence
in an office unknown
down endless corridors
proliferates his being to where pen-poised
the little men consult the kingdom
while my impatient blood denies this progress.
We apologise for two translation errors in the article ‘The First Pakehas to Visit the Bay of Islands’ in the last issue. The passages concerned should have been as follows:
(Page 14) Te Kuta married Ngawa and had Patu…
(Page 17) the clothes which were stolen by Ngati Pou to give to Te Hikutu. to Te Kauri's people…
The women at isolated Te Tii, in the Bay of Islands, in three months raised £75 in funds for their new play centre. They did this by working together to make over 200 kits, which the district health nurse sold for them all over Northland.
Larry parr of raetihi is this year's holder of the £100 Apirana Ngata Memorial Scholarship awarded annually by the Maori Education Foundation. Larry, who is attending St. Stephen's College, hopes to become a chemist.