Maori Religion and Mythology Part 1
The Earth Mother and Her Children
The Earth Mother and Her Children
Mr. E. O. James has written: "The Greek legends suppose that in the beginning heaven and earth, regarded as husband and wife, were indissolubly united, and between them they begat gods, who never saw the light." This was the precise condition of the offspring of Rangi and Papa. They dwelt in darkness within the body of the Earth Mother in the first place, and after birth they abode in gloom between the bodies of Rangi and Papa, for dim light alone was known; the body of the Sky Parent lay upon the form of the Earth Mother. Their children clung to the sides of Papa and lay within her armpits, and the period of labour of Papa continued for six Po (nights or periods of time), named as follows:—
|Te Po-tamaku.||These three names differ in another and foregoing version.|
|Te Po-kakarauri||These three names differ in another and foregoing version.|
|Te Po-aoao-nui||These three names differ in another and foregoing version.|
Four of the six qualifying terms here applied to Po denote phases of gloom and darkness. Within the body of the Earth Mother the seventy young moved and assumed many attitudes and positions.
Such was the condition of the offspring as their parents embraced each other. There was no day and night to them, for all was darkness. Then, at a certain time, one Moko-huruhuru (some kind of phosphorescent worm) was the cause of the first sign of light being visible, a feeble glimmer of light known as the maramatanga tuaiti. That phase of light is represented in this world by the glow-worm seen at night.
The time now came when the children of the earth Mother were to emerge from her body into the light of day. Uepoto was the first to pass through the passage known as the ara namunamu ki taiao. He was delighted by the aspect of the outside world, where gentle breezes wafted to him the fragrance of the earth, So he crept back under the under the armpits of his parent and told his brothers of the desirable realm without. He said, "The pleasant region is without, where to my nostrils came the cool and gentle breeze." And now the movements made by the children to escape from the embrace of their parents became more strenuous, though some did not wish to leave the haven known as the ahuru (the womb is poetically termed the ahuru mowai, or calm haven). Their parents now firmly closed their armpits to prevent the escape of their offspring. The children saw faint rays of light, however, that appeared between the bodies of their parents, and said, one to page 81the other, "Behold, of a truth the report of Uepoto was accurate; the realm of beauty and desire lies without." The desire to escape now became strong within them.
It was about this time that Te Ihorangi (personified form of rain) left his girdle, named the ruruku o te rangi, on the body of the Earth Mother, and, on going to recover it, he found that it had taken root. Such was the origin of the growth of hair on the body of the Earth Mother, which is now represented by the aka tororaro and other forms of creeping-plants.
Papa the Earth Mother was now in grievous pain, caused by the restless movements and trampling of her offspring. Io-matua (Io the Parent) in the twelfth heaven dimly heard the moaning of the Earth Mother, and spake to Rehua and Ruatau (two of the whatu kura, or male attendants): "The voice of Tuanuku faintly reaches me; she moaneth; go ye two and question her." They descended and said to Papa-tuanuku, "The sound of your moaning and groans has been faintly heard by Io-matua." Said Papa, "I am in pain, caused by the restless actions of my offspring." Rehua and Ruatau remarked, "Suffer your offspring to come forth and move abroad, to clamber on to the back of their parent Rangi, and there freely roam." But Papa replied, "Not so, lest they be pierced by cold and discomfort." They then addressed Rangi, the Sky Parent: "Allow your offspring to come forth, to clamber on to your back, there to roam and dwell." Rangi-nui replied, "Let them bide within, lest they become dispersed, and so lost to us." Hence the twain returned to Tikitiki-o-rangi and related to Io-nui (Great Io) the remarks of Papa and of Rangi. And Io spake: "Trouble will come to the children."
The principal causes of the uneasiness of the offspring were the lure of the dim outer light, the report of Uepoto, the radiant light of the eyes of Rehua, and the objectionable effects of being between their embracing parents.
Now, the suffering of Tuanuku when visited by Rehua and Ruatau is represented in this world by our women when with child. The child moves and struggles until it is born. The mother feels the movements, experiences pain, and moans. Such was the condition of Papa.
(Readers will note the curious discrepancies that appear in recitals of Maori traditions and sacerdotal lore. Here the offspring of the primal parents are alluded to as lying between the bodies of their parents. In other passages they are shown to be still within the womb of the Earth Mother, and so yet unborn. Other such conflicting statements may be noted.)
The desire of Tane and Paia that they should emerge from the embrace of their parents now became fixed. Some of the children page 82consented to such a movement, others did not. Said Uepoto, "Let us pass through between the legs of our mother, and so emerge," To this proposal Tane and his companions agreed, and the following then came forth:—
|Te lhorangi.||Rongomai-tahanui.||Te Ikaroa.||Kewa.|
Then Whiro became deeply angered, and said to Te Paerangi, "I will never allow you to return hither."
On joining Uru and the others, Te Paerangi repeated the remarks of Whiro as to scalping his brothers. Uru-te-ngangana remarked, "What of it? Let him be, to come forth when so inclined."
As time wore on, Uru and Tane despatched Rangahua and Te Paerangi to call to Whiro to leave the embrace of their parents. They went so far as the armpits of their mother, and called out, "O Whiro! Come forth!" Whiro inquired, "Who are ye who thus call?" Rangahua replied, "It is I, Rangahua, and Paerangi." Whiro called up to them, "Mauri oho, mauri takina, Your heads will suffer ere long." Te Paerangi answered, "Remain there and be assailed by discomfort and cold."page 83
At this juncture Whiro became enraged, and came in pursuit of Rangahua and Te Paerangi. The latter escaped, but Whiro caught Rangahua and stripped the skin off the top of his head, to be used as an apron for himself, an act that gave deep offence to Uru and his younger brothers. Now, this scalping act of Whiro was the origin of baldness in man.