The Astronomical Knowledge of the Maori, Genuine and Empirical
Thunder is personified in one Whaitiri, or Hine-whaitiri (the Thunder Maid), which is also a word of the veracular denoting thunder. This personification is a female, and she is also known as Whaitiri-papa, Whaititri-pakapaka, and Whaitiri-matakataka. The last three names seem to be applied to different kinds of thunderstorms—the first to one with quick, sharp explosions, the second to thunder unaccompanied by rain, and the third to crashing thunder. The abode of Whaitiri is said to be named Raparapa-te-uira, an expression denoting the flashing of lightning.
Other personifications of thunder much less frequently heard of are Tane-matau (a rainless strom); Takamaitu (one loud peal); Takamai-i-awhea (heard rumbling in several quarters); Takamai-te-ahurangi (two or three loud reports); Ku, Pueaea, Rautupu, Epa, and Aputahi-a-pawa (a single peal). Other names for thunder are ngaruru-mairangi, puoro-rangi, rangi-whakarara, whaititi-pao-rangi, rangaranga-tutumaiao, and some other. An old saying is—Whaitiri-papa, he tangala waha huka, as applied to a boastful, unveracious, talkative person.
The various personified forms of thunder are said to speak while the matatuhi (seers) listen: that is, the latter listen to the different sounds of thunder and intepret their meaning to the people. As an old friend said to me, “Our ancestors who dwell in the heavens ever send boons to the people of this world. Thus Pueaea, Whaitiri-papa, Ku, Whaitiri-pakapaka, and Marangai-areare send us rain and also fine weather.”
In the thunder-cave at Matahina was deposited a certain carved or inscribed gourd known as Tipoki-o-rangi. It was exceedingly tapu, and contained or represented thunder in some way. Persons of sufficient mana could cause it to release the thunder. This brings us to the oho rangi, a singular ceremonial performance of the tohunga or priestly adepts of yore. At certain important functions of a religious nature pertaining to the birth, sickness, or death, &c., of a person of rank these experts would perform the above act—that is, would cause thunder to resound. A successful performance had the effect of endowing the function with mana—i.e., rendered it effective. Natives firmly believe that their forbears were endowed with such powers. As Pio, of Awa, said to me, “My elder, Te Kaui, had control over all the winds and thunder, but I cannot cause thunder to sound; the old ceremonial is no longer effective.”
Rain was personified in Te Ihorangi, while there were names for different kinds of rain, as Maroi and Uhiara.
Tawhirimatea was the pricipal pesonified form of wind, but there are many others; the Whanau Puhi, or Wind Children, form a large family. There are also many ordinary wind-names.