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The Astronomical Knowledge of the Maori, Genuine and Empirical



The ordinary words used to denote a cloud are ao and kaupa, while au seems to include the sense of mistiness. Aorere is scud, and kekeao a dark cloud. There are also a number of names page 62 for personified forms of clouds, and these phenomena, like most others, find a place in the mythopoetical concepts of the Maori.

The expression matahauariki denotes layers of cloud—several strata, as it were—that are said to appear just before the south wind known as tutaka-ngahau springs up, to subside later into the gentler wind called hau matariki. A horzontal bank of clouds in the west illuminated by the setting sun is termed the tatua o Te Kahu (girdle of Te Kahu). A bank or layer of cloud that runs out into a point is said to forewarn men of a wind that will soon spring up from the quarter to which the cloud points. Small clumps, detached fragments of cloud, are purei ao, a term also applied to the Magellan Clouds. The cloud aspect known as “mare's tails” is described by the word iorangi. Ka ihiihi te kapua, he tohu hau (When a cloud is sharp-pointed it is a wind-sign). The phrases rangi taupuru, rangi tamaru, and rangi tukupu denote a cloudy, overcast sky; kikorangi, the clear, blue sky. Tahupokai defines a reddened sky, and tahu-kotea a paler red. Tahurangi also means a red aspect of the heavens; and the red blankets brough hither by early traders and other were named tahurangi by the natives. The phrase ka whakatutumaiao te kapua seems to mean that masses of comulus are in evidence. Kaiwaka is a star-name, and is also, apparently, applied to some form of cloud; Williams says “threatening clouds,” while natives differ in their explanations. Some say it is applied to a cloud reddened by the setting sun. The star Kaiwaka is said to be a harbinger of the new year.

The manawa rangi is a pakeao, a clump or tuft of reddened cloud; while a kohoka is a long, narrow strip of cloud like a spit, which is the signification of the word. Omens are derived from these cloud aspects.

Pipipi, or the pipipi o te rangi, is yet another cloud aspect; Williams says “cirro-stratus clouds.” A native says that such clouds have long-drawn-out points, a sign of coming wind. Thus we hear the phrse E tuhi ana te pipipi o te rangi; or Kei te tuhi te pipipi o te rangi, he marohi (The pipipi of the heavens indicates rough weather). A Whanganui native says, “Another person who sends signs to the Maori folk is Te Pipipi-o-te-rangi.” With this tribe various omens seem to have been derived from the form of such clouds. An East Coast native delivered the following oration on the subject; “Ki te tuhi nga ihi o nga kapua, he hau tena. Ki te hoka te pipipi o te rangi, ko te wahi i hoka ai kei reira te uru o te hau e ahu ana mai. Ki te mea he tahurangi te pipipi, he hau, he ua. Ki te mea he ma te pipipi, he hau anake. Ki te mea he pua kowhai te ahua o te pipipi, he hau tamaru, he paki tahuaroa, ara he pai. Na, ki te whakatu-tumaiao te kapua, ko te wahi e kite atu ai koe i te kapua e tutumaio ana, e hoka ana ranei, kei reira te marangai e ahu ana mai, a ki te mea e tairanga ana ki runga te hoka a te kapua, he koma, he marangai ahua roa ka puta mai ai. Ki te pango te kapua, he marangai tuku tata tena.” (“If clouds have sharply defined points wind ensues. If the pipipi of the heavens projects out, then from the quarter to which it points the wind will come. If the pipipi is of a red appearance wind and rain follow. If page 63 the pipipi be of a pale hue it means wind only; if it is yellow it portends a gentle wind and fine settled weather. If the cloud has a tutumaiao aspect, then from wherever you see it of that form, or projecting out, the storm will come. If the cloud projects upwards, and is of a pale appearance, then a somewhat prolonged storm follows. If the cloud is dark-coloured the storm is near at hand.”)

We will now discuss the origin of clouds, the tupuni, or covering, as they are termed, of Rangi, the Sky Parent. Tane said to Tawhirimatea (origin and personified form of winds). “Go forth and procure the moist emanations from the body of our mother, Papa-tuanuku. Then ascend and arrange them on the body of our father, Rangi-nui, as a covering to protect him.” Even so Tawhirimatea procured the following: Te Ao-tu, Te Ao-hore, Te Ao-nui, Te Ao-roa, Te Ao-pouri, Te Ao-tutumaiao, Te Ao-kapua, Te Ao-tauhinga, Te Ao-parauri, Te Ao-whetuma—all cloud-names, some at least being personified forms of clouds.

Such are the names of the emanations from Papa, produced by her sorrow over her separation from Rangi and by keenness of her lamenting him with voice and tears. Such are the clouds standing above us; and so the body of the Sky Parent became clothed.

One Tu-kapua is viewed as the principal personified form of clouds; he was one of the offspring of the primal parents, Sky and Earth. Although he is looked upon as the origin of clouds in one way, yet the mythopoetic mind of the Maori prompted him also to trace the origin of clouds to the warm and moist vapours emanating from the body of the Earth Mother, and from her copious flow of tears.

The clouds are said to dwell in the abode known as the Ahoaho-o-Tukapua, wherein abide Tukapua, Aoaonui, Aoaoroa, and Uhirangi (personified forms of clouds), also Takere-wai and Hine-pukohu-rangi (personified forms of mist). For ever this family, the Cloud Children, dread Huru-mawake, Huru-atea, Huru-nuku, and Huru-rangi (personified forms of the four winds), who are wont to assail and harry them, and drive them to the very bounds of Rangi-nui (the heavens).

In another account we are told that Tukapua, Te Ihorangi, Tawhirimatea, and Tawhiri-rangi (personified forms of clouds, rain, and wind) dwell in the sixth heaven (Tauru-rangi), where the clouds are seen. Te Ihorangi (personified form of rain), Te Mamaru, and Mawake-nui were stationed at the bounds of the heavens. Their task is to control and direct the clouds, so that they form a screen between Sky and Earth, and form a sheltering shade for the Earth Mother. They ever call on Hine-moana (the Ocean Maid) and Hinewai to send Hine-makohu-rangi (personified form of mist) as a covering for the body of the Sky Parent and as a shade for the Earth Mother. Such are the clouds above; they are warm exudations from Hinemoana, Hinewai, and Tuanuku (the ocean, fresh waters, and the earth), and hence are fogs, clouds, and rain.

Another old sage remarked: “Water is the life of all things, in conjunction with the sun and stars. Clouds and fog are page 64 vapour and steam from the body of the Earth Mother; for all things possess warmth and cold, each after the manner of its kind.”

Hine-kapua, the Cloud Maid, one of the personified forms of clouds, was a daughter of Tane (the sun), which carries the mind to far-off India and its Apas, or Cloud Maidens.

Many simple rites and charms were employed by the Maori of yore in order to cause clouds to appear, to clear the sky and bring fine weather, to prevent frost, and to stop rain, &c. In several cases the performer takes a firebrand to the mianga of the village, and there waves it to and fro as he repeats the charm. Curiously enough, a similar act for the same purpose was formerly performed in Ireland.

White has a passage on the origin of clouds, but shows no connection between them and the beings mentioned. One Marikoriko (Glimmering Phantasm) was the offspring of Arohirohi (Shimmering Heat), or had been formed by that personification from Sun-reek and Echo. She was taken to wife by Tiki, and their offspring was Hine-kauataata, and then clouds appeared between Sky and Earth. They were Ao-tu, Ao-rere, Ao-pouri, Ao-potango, and Ao-whekere. These are personified forms of different kinds of cloud.