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Maori Religion and Mythology Part 1

Whare-kura: The First House built on Earth

Whare-kura: The First House built on Earth

At a certain time Rua-i-te-pukenga came to earth in order to visit the offspring of Rangi-nui (Great Rangi, the Sky Parent). When he saw the conditions under which they were living he said to Tane, to Paia, Rongo, and Tawhiri-matea, "Your mode of living here is not well. Go up to Rangi-parauri [the third heaven], to Maraenui, and take a plan of Whera-kura, that you may construct a house here for yourselves."

So they went, ascending the sides of the heavens, and obtained a plan, with all measurements, of Whare-kura—of the posts, ridgepole, rafters, battens, and all particulars of its construction. All these were brought down to earth, and the services of Nuku-te-aio and Rua-i-te-hohonu were obtained to assist in the erection of a copy of Whare-kura at Rangitatau.

Now it was that Whare-kura was built in this world, the first house constructed on the body of the Earth Mother. That house possessed four entrance-doors, one of which faced the south, one the west, one the north, and one the ra ura (red sun), the east. The decorative designs on the timbers were painted ones. When completed, the tua rite was performed in connection with the new house.

Now, Tangaroa had slain Whiro, the son of Kewa and Huruhuru, who was named after Whiro-te-tipua, and buried his body at the base of the rearmost post of Whare-kura as a whatu, or sacrifice. That act led to trouble between Whiro-te-tipua and Tangaroa. The younger brothers of the Whiro who had been sacrificed are said to have been hairy when born—a boisterous, evil, dishonest breed; they were known by the clan-name of Ngati-Peketua, and are said to have been the origin of the morere, or giant-stride swing seen in the world. This statement apparently shows that Huruhuru, the mother of Whiro, was a member of that clan. The name Huruhuru signifies "hair" or "hairy." This clan-name is applied elsewhere to dark-skinned folk that occupied Irihia, the Maori homeland, and is also used in describing certain peoples of the Pacific isles.

The house Whare-kura, at Rangi-parauri, belonged to Nuku-te-aio and his folk—that is, to the company of supernatural beings of that page 99heaven. That home became the pattern for all houses constructed in this world. Its only variant feature was the series of four doors, the origin of which was the way in which the offspring had scattered over the body of their mother: some had gone to the south, some to the west, some to the north, and some to the east. Whiro and his companions had gone to the south, Uru-te-ngangana and his friends to the west, Rongo-maraeroa and his friends to the east, while Paia (alias Tupai) and his companions had made for the north. Tane and his companions had gone to the bounds of the heavens, to the various realms of the eleven heavens, and to the earth and the underworld. These companions of Tane were Tawhiri-matea, Roiho, Roake, Haepuru, and Haematua. They were the companions of all the celestial beings, and the controllers of the poutiriao, or tutelary beings.

In another recital we are told that Rua-i-te-pukenga was the son of Nuku-te-aio, to whom the Whare-kura in the heavens belonged. This Rua is one of several personified forms of thought, of mental powers, and of knowledge, of whom we shall have something to say further on. In this version also we note that Tane appeals to Tama-kaka, Tupai, Rongo, and Tawhiri-matea to accompany him to Rangi-tamaku (the second heaven) in order to obtain a plan of Whare-kura, that such a place might be constructed on earth to serve as a place in which the wananga, or esoteric knowledge of the twelve heavens, might be preserved.

Here follows a version of the story of the ascent of Tane to the twelfth heaven, in order to obtain the wananga, as given by Te Matorohanga, of Wai-rarapa:—

Tane ascends to the Uppermost Heaven

"Io, the Supreme Being, resolved that one of the offspring of the primal parents should ascend to his realm in the uppermost heaven in order to obtain the three baskets or receptacles of occult knowledge. Such sacerdotal and esoteric knowledge was to be sent down to earth as an important boon for the offspring, and for mankind, a possession that would preserve their welfare and enhance their mona for all time.

"At a certain time Io the Great sent his messengers, Rehua, Ruatau, and Paoa, down to earth in order to observe and report on the condition and actions of the offspring of Rangi and Papa. Having received the report, Io remarked, To which of the children of Papa-tuanuku shall be assigned the task of ascending through the bespaced heavens, and to enter Tikitiki-o-rangi; to attain the position of pundit, of holder of tapu knowledge for the descendants page 100of the Earth Mother?' Said Ruatau and Paoa, 'Let Tane-nui-a-Rangi and Paia be selected.' But Io said, 'Let it be left to them to select one of their number to make the ascent.' He contined, 'Go to Tu-te-aniwaniwa, to Wharau-rangi, to Huaki-pouri [the "houses" of the offspring] and inquire as to which of them shall secure the prized wananga [esoteric knowledge] for Tu-te-aniwaniwa.' When the offspring were so asked, Whiro said that he would go and procure it. But those of Wharau-rangi said that Tane should be the one to obtain it, and, when the question was asked by Rehua at Huaki-pouri, Tane replied, 'I will ascend to the uppermost heaven to procure the wananga and the two sacred stones.' Rehua inquired, 'By what way will you ascend?' Tane replied, 'By way of the toi huarewa, the ara tiatia.' [These curious expressions are said to apply to the whirlwind, but are sacerdotal expressions, while other names for it are found in vernacular speech.] Said Rehua to Tane, 'Follow us, and ascend to the entrance to the uppermost heaven.' But Tane explained, 'Let us wait, the winds are violent, the bespaced heavens are disturbed. When the orongonui [summer] arrives I will traverse the heavens and the winds thereof.' Rehua and his companions now returned to the uppermost heaven."

The following account of the ascent of Tane to the heavens is a fairly literal translation of the original, which appears as Appendix III of the Addenda:—

"When summer came, then Tane said to Tawhiri-matea, 'Send thou hither our offspring, that they may convey me to the bespaced heavens to obtain the occult knowledge of heaven and earth, as also the whatu [supernatural stones].' Tawhiri-matea replied, 'It is well. Do you call upon their elder Huru-te-arangi, who will send them to you; they dwell upon the summit of Manono.'

"At a subsequent time they went—that is, Tane, Te Haeata, Tawhiri-matea, Uruao, Tukapua, Taka-wairangi, Ranga-ihi-matua, and others. Now, when the time came that the clouds were transferred to the threshold of the sides of the heavens, there to dwell in their own region, the Ahoaho-o-Tukapua [the Cloud House] was the dwelling of Hine-pukohu-rangi [Heavenly Mist Maid], of Tukapua, of Aoaonui, of Aoaoroa, of Uhirangi, and of Takerewai, for such were the names of that family occupying their appointed place [these be some of the Cloud Children]. For they feared Huru-mawake, Huru-atea, Huru-nuku, and Huru-rangi [personified forms of winds], and dreaded lest they be buffeted and driven to the bounds of the heavens at Tauru-rangi, and there be dispersed.

"Said Tane to Tawhiri-matea, 'Send hither our offspring to bear me to the heavens, that I may ascend to the uppermost of the be-page 101spaced heavens by way of the middle of space.' And Tawhiri-matea replied, 'It is well. Let us go with our relatives to Rangi-tamaku [the second of the twelve heavens].'

"To this Tane consented, and they went. On arriving at Rangi-tamaku the matter was explained to Huru-te-arangi, and agreed to by him. The offspring were sent for, and the following members arrived. [The twenty-three names given are those of different forms of manifestations of wind, squalls, &c.] There are yet others of that brood; a very numerous multitude are they. The resting-place whereat they had settled was on Tihi-o-Manono, at Rangi-naonao-ariki [the eleventh of the twelve heavens], where also their elder brothers were—viz., Huru-mawake, Huru-nukuatea, and Huru-nukurangi [personified forms of winds]—who were the origin of the wind called Paraweranui, which is a southerly wind; of Tahu-makaha-nui, the west wind; of Tahu-mawake-nui, the east wind; and the whakarua (north-east breeze), and the north wind, hau marangai or hau raro. The abodes in which dwelt these Wind Children were named Te Pu-mairekura, Rangi-tahua, Rangi-mawake, and Tu-te-wanawana-a-hau; these were their dwellings. The beings who sheltered these children were Tarapuhi, Tarapae, Tara-aorangi, and Tara-waihekura. Their plaza is known as Mara-enui, as Tahuaroa, and Mahora-nui-atea, whereat their employment is joyful gambolling and frolicking, roaming about, spinning tops, and joyous junketings among themselves. Their vantage-point from which they gazed down on the lower heavens was Paroro-rangi, which is situated in the third heaven, counting downwards from above, or the tenth of the heavens if counting upwards. The beings who dwell there are the multitudes of Matanginui and Mataruwai, whence the origin of their elder Huru-te-arangi. Here is the origin of light-coloured hair, of flaxen hair, of brown hair, and fair hair, which kind of hair betokens a high-born man or woman.

"On the arrival of the Wind Children, Tane, Te Haeata, and Taka-wairangi proceeded to Tiritiri-o-Matangi [the second of the twelve heavens, counting from above], the eleventh heaven, from which region Taka-wairangi and Te Haeata turned back.

"It was on a prior occasion that they had reached Rangi-naonao-ariki [the tenth heaven, counting upwards], to which place Te Haeata had gone first in order to announce that Tane and Taka-wairangi were ascending. Kautu and Tapuhikura proceeded to the beam of the latrine of Taururangi, where they and Tonganui-kaea took up their positions. When Tane and Taka-wairangi arrived they went direct to the turuma [latrine], where the pure rite was performed over them, after which they were caused to bite the beam of the turuma, page 102when they were conveyed within Taururangi and freed from tapu pertaining to Papa-tuanuku [the earth]. For this purpose they took their stand on the ahumairangi, or the ahurewa, as it is also called, and after this tapu-lifting ceremony they were conducted to water and immersed therein, and then Tapuhikura and Kautu said, 'Now go forth, and touch neither food nor drink before returning to this very place to have the tapu of the upper realm lifted from you, then you may partake of food and drink.'

"Tama-i-waho now went to conduct Tane to the entrance of Tikitiki-o-rangi [the uppermost heaven], but on passing the threshold of Rangi-naonao-ariki Tane was attacked by the hordes of Pepetua, which was the name of those hostile, unruly ones [see names in original denoting many kinds of insects, birds, &c.], as also others of that clan, insects and birds. It was Whiro-te-tipua who had commanded that Tane be followed and slain, or wounded, so that he, Whiro, might obtain his blood; but never did the assailants approach near to Tane, by reason of the action of the offspring of Tawhiri-matea [the winds], who whirled like a double-ended top gyrating; hence the assailants could never approach to attack, and thus was that contest known by the name of Kopara-kore, though some adepts know it as Te Haemata. Even so were the hordes of Whiro defeated by the Wind Children.

"On arriving at the entrance to the uppermost heaven, Tane found there Ruatau, Pawa, Rehua, Puhaorangi, Ohomairangi, and the hordes of Houeretu, Houere-tau, of Houere-nuku, as also other such names. Their place of abode was Tawhiri-rangi; the door in the middle of the house was Te Pumotomoto, and it gave on the way down to the eleven lower heavens and to the earth. The doorway by which to pass to the uppermost heaven was Tahurangi. When Tane entered within Tawhiri-rangi, then Tama-i-waho and the Wind Children returned to Tiritiri-o-Matangi, there to await the return of Tane.

"When Tane entered the house Tawhiri-rangi, an aperture was made under the ridgepole of that house as a passage by which Tane might enter the uppermost heaven. When Tane so entered the topmost heaven he was conducted by the whatukura [male denizens of that region] to the Moana-i-Orongo [Sea at Orongo], there to be immersed, after which the pure rite was performed over him by Ohomairangi, Puhaorangi, Ruatau, and others of the whatukura. Then he was conducted to Matangi-i-reia, at which place Io [the Supreme Being] was dwelling. Io inquired, 'Are you alone?' Tane replied, 'My elder brother, Whiro-te-tipua, is ascending by way of the side of the heavens.' Io remarked, 'Your brother will not succeed, page 103for the winds of Tiritiri-o-Matangi are fierce.' Then Io inquired 'What is the reason of your being seen here?' Tane replied, That I may obtain the baskets of occult knowledge and the sacred stones of Rangi-nui and Papatuanuku.' Said Io to Tane, 'Let us enter the Rauroha, where the whatukura and mareikura [male and female denizens of the uppermost heaven] are.'

"On their arrival at that place Tane was conducted to the ahurewa [a place whereat religious ceremonies were performed], where the pure rite was again performed over him. The following names were assigned to Tane when he was subjected to the pure by Ohomairangi Puhaorangi at the Moana-i-Orongo, and also within Te Rauroha, on which occasions he received his complete list of names: Tane-nui-a-Rangi, Tane-matua, Tane-te-waiora, Tane-te-wananga, Tane-toro-kaha, Tane-uetika, Tane-te-whawhanga, and the other many names of Tane-matua. These numerous names of his I myself will recite to you at some other time.

"When the pure performance of Tane was finished he was conducted within Rangiatea, that being the house in which were deposited the wananga of the twelve heavens, of the suns, of the moons, of the stars of each division of each heaven, each having its own aspect. Such was the origin of the many names of Io and of Tane, as also of others, whatukura and mareikura.

"Tane was again purea at the ahurewa of the house Rangiatea at the time when the wananga and sacred stones were produced. Here are the names of the wananga and of the treasured stones: (1) The kete tuauri; (2) the kete tuatea; (3) the kete aronui. These are the baskets [receptacles] of the wananga given to Tane-wananga.

"The kete tuauri is the basket of ritual chants pertaining to the conduct of all matters connected with Rangi-nui and Papa-tuanuka, as also of the control of all things desired to be performed by the offspring of Papa-tuanuku.

"The kete tuatea is the basket of evil, of all things evil, no matter what it be. All evil things are found in this basket, all things practised by the offspring, or by Rangi-nui, or by Papa-tuanuku, by the sun, by the moon, by the stars, by the wind, by the rain, by water, by trees, by stones, by all things. That is the basket exposing their evil acts, dissensions, strife among men and gods, all are found there.

"The kete aronui is the basket of love, sympathy, compassion, of peace-making, of the condition known as permanent peace, and of all actions pertaining to the knowledge of arts by means of which are benefited men, land, trees, water, earth, herbage, food-supplies, animals, birds, fish, insects, and all other things seen by man.

page 104

"Now, the prized stones spoken of were tapu stones. They stand within the house, the situation of both being in the central space of the house, one standing on the eastern side of the rear post of the house, the other on the western side. These stones possessed innate powers, and when a person underwent the pure ritual he would seat himself on one of those stones; also, when the teaching of a person was concluded, he performed the whakangau ceremonial act on that stone, after which it was said that that person had passed through the course of teaching, and the powers which it had been agreed should be acquired by him became permanent. Those stones possessed great inherent powers. Priestly adepts would place kara or huka-a-tai stones against them so that they might acquire some of their powers [mana], whereupon they passed into the possession of scholars who had passed through the school of learning. Now, that was the reason why, when a person built a house, a stone, lizard, bird, fish, or a person was slain and deposited as a whatu for his house, albeit it was man who carried it to that extent, for it was not the custom in the time of Tane-matua.

"The whatukura [male denizens of the uppermost heaven] came to escort Tane-te-wananga, the prized wananga, and two sacred stones in their descent. On arriving at Tiritiri-o-Matangi they were joined by the offspring of Tawhiri-matea [i.e., winds], and on reaching Rangi-naonao-ariki [the tenth heaven, counting upwards] they were attacked by the forces of Whiro-te-tipua. This was the second time that that force attacked Tane-te-waiora in order to slay him. Then the primal offspring of Huru-te-arangi were summoned by Rehua, their names being Haupuhi [blowing wind], Huka-tarapuhi, and Hukarere [snow], to whom were added the boisterous wind offspring of Tawhiri-matea and Paraweranui. That hostile force was here defeated; some were captured by Tane and brought down to dwell on Papa-tuanuku [the earth], and these were—Bat, Owl, Mountain-parrot, Brown Parrot, Sparrow-hawk, Night-parrot, Parrakeet, Green Lizard, Mosquito, Sandfly, Midge, Butterfly, Mantis, Moth, Fly, Weta,* and Kerekengu,* as also others of that force of Whiro-te-tipua. The names by which those defeats were known, the former one and this, was Tawhiri-rangi, also Tawhiri-nuku, which names apply to the first affray in which the force of Whiro-te-tipua was defeated; and Te Rangi-kaupapa was the name of the battle during the return of Tane-te-wananga. Very well, this is now clear.

* Two repulsive creatures—insects.

* Two repulsive creatures—insects.

page 105

"When Tane-matua reached Rangi-nui [the first heaven—the one nearest earth] he set the Haupipi of the heavens [a form of cloud] on high as a sign for the offspring of the Earth Mother. Tupai and Uruao saw the Pipipi-o-te-rangi gleaming in the heavens, and Tupai then knew that Tane-matua had obtained possession of the wananga. The two trumpets Taururangi and Te Rangiwhakarara were procured and sounded, the sound of those two trumpets reaching Tu-te-aniwaniwa, Wharau-rangi, and Huaki-pouri, whereupon it became known that Tane had secured the wananga. The whole family assembled at Taururangi to await the arrival of Tane-matua; when he arrived he proceeded direct to the turuma of Wharau-rangi, where he and the receptacles of the wananga and sacred stones underwent the pure ceremonial at the hands of the whatukura. Said Ruatau to Tupai, 'Convey the baskets of the wananga and the two precious stones within Whare-kura. You should enter within, as also one other whom you select as a companion for yourself. Remember, as there are twelve heavens, twelve divisions of the year, twelve companies of male denziens of the heavens, and twelve companies of female denizens of the twelve heavens, then let there be likewise twelve companions for you within Whare-kura. You and Tane-te-wananga should perform over them the pure ceremonial to fit them as guardians of Whare-kura, you two making the eleventh and twelfth.' When Ruatau concluded his remarks the whatukura returned to the uppermost heaven.

"Whiro-te-tipua proposed that he should have possession of the wananga and place it in Tu-te-aniwaniwa, but to this the offspring of Papa would not consent. Whiro strenuously persisted in claiming it, and Tane-matua was asked if he consented to such a disposal of the wananga, to which he replied that he would not consent, whereupon Whiro became angry. Quoth Tane, 'I will not agree to it, so much that is evil has already proceeded from you. In regard to Uru, you were the cause of this trouble; as to the Paerangi that misfortune was caused by you. Now, I have been pursued by you with murderous intent, and you have arranged our destruction on account of the separation of Rangi and Papa, the severing of their limbs, the slaying of Kaupeka, the occurrence of Tupai and I undergoing the pure on Maunganui, and the fact that I was the one to fetch the wananga, and hence you did not obtain it.' Whiro now returned to Tu-te-aniwaniwa, there to dwell.

"Uru-te-ngangana remarked to Tane, 'Allow the two stones to be deposited within Tu-te-aniwaniwa.' Tane-matua granted the request of his elder brother, inasmuch as that elder brother had been kindly disposed towards him, and indeed to all of them.

page 106

"Then set forth the party that had been selected as occupants of Whare-kura, comprising the following: Tupai, Raka-maomao, Tane, Tuamatua, Rua-taumata, Rongo-maraeroa, Punaweko, Rongo-whakaata, Rauru-matua, Tukapua, Te Mamaru. This was the company of whatukura that conveyed the basket containing the precious stones to Tu-te-aniwaniwa and there deposited them. Having arrived at the place and so deposited them, then Whiro called to the guardians of Whare-kura, 'O Tane and you all! Go, return, so that I may go and batter your heads with the patu tawaka' The patu tawaka is like this: it has four pewa [? knobs, projections], and its forward end is pointed. It is used as a striking-weapon, and also to stab a person in the side, or below the breast-bone. Only Whiro and his companions employed that weapon. Tu-matauenga introduced the onewa weapon, also the tokotoko with two points of whale's bone, or the tail of a sting-ray, the offspring of Te Arawaru. Te Arawaru and Raupara produced the ihe [garfish], the rerehau, the kaikapo, the whai [sting-ray], and other species. Kaikapo resembles a dog, but is large, and spends part of his time ashore, part at sea, and part in lakes. Kiri-tuarangi is another name of Kaikapo; his spike is at the end of his nose.

"Now, at this time Whiro took away the wife of his elder brother Iriiripua, a woman of supernatural attributes belonging to Rangi-tamaku, and this developed into a cause of dissention between Uru-te-ngangana and the family, which was intensified by his treacherous conduct at the Paerangi. This was the first act of adultery in the family. Uru then came to Wharau-rangi, the home of Tangaroa and the younger brothers, and the subject of Whiro-te-tipua being attacked was discussed. Some of the family proposed that it be left to Whiro to provoke hostilities, but Tane said, 'Let that proposal be abandoned until we have appointed the guardians [poutiriao] for the bounds of the realm of Rangi-nui and of far-spread Papa-tuanuku.' To this his elder brothers consented.