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Maori Religion and Mythology Part 1

The Poutiriao, or Tutelary Beings

The Poutiriao, or Tutelary Beings

We now come to another important occurrence in the great task of setting the world in order—namely, the appointment of certain supernormal beings as guardians and controllers of the different realms of the earth, the heavens, and the ocean. These beings were so appointed by the command of Io, the Supreme Being, and Tane was given the task of carrying out the instructions. Inasmuch as all things contain the elements of both evil and good, it is necessary that there should be some control over everything, therefore the poutiriao were appointed in order that they might watch over page 107everything in all realms, and prevent all quarrels, all interferences, injustice, and wrongdoing of any nature. Theirs the task of confining each thing to its own proper activities and to preserve peace and prosperity in all spheres. This singular conception is evidently based on the belief in animatism, the attributing of life and personality to things, and also the quaint notion that all things are possessed by good and evil principles. To prevent these principles clashing, and to check all wayward and provocative action, was the duty of the poutiriao. At the same time the whatukura, attendants of Io in the uppermost heaven, had assigned to them the task of visiting and overseeing the poutiriao, and acting as supervisors or inspectors.

These poutiriao resemble somewhat the Daimones of the Greeks, but their functions and activities extend further, not being confined to man.

The following is a list of the names of the supernatural beings who were appointed as poutiriao, and of the different realms to which they were appointed. These are the guardians who were prepared by the pure ceremonial to protect and conduct the affairs pertaining to Rarohenga (spirit-world), to the spirits of the dead, whether they come by the south wind, the west, the east, or north winds. For the meeting-place of these four winds and of the spirits of the offspring of Rangi and Papa-tuanuku is the junction whereat separate the spirits whose desire is toward the bespaced heavens, and those who sympathize with the Earth Mother; these latter descend to Rarohenga:—

The Poutiriao, or Guardians

1. Te Kuwatawata, Hurumanu, and Tauru-rangi were the guardians appointed at the Hono-i-wairua (the place where souls of dead congregated), and this is the Hono-i-wairua so much spoken of. The more comprehensive name of that place is Hawaiki-rangi; another name is Hawaiki-nui; and yet another is Hawaiki-whaka-eroero; its common name being Poutere-rangi. The site where that house stood was Te Rake-pohutukawa, which is said by some to have been on the summit of Maungaharo, by others to have been on the Tihi-o-Manono. At this place the following took their positions: Rua-te-hohonu, Rua-te-wareware, Rua-momotu-herepi, Rua-aupo, Te Angi-tahimutu, Tahu-maikiroa, and Tahu-whakaeroero.

2. The guardians appointed for the forefront and back of Rangi-nui (the Sky Parent) were Uru-te-ngangana, Roiho, and Roake. With these were associated the ruddy sun, the moon, and the suspended stars of the realms of the bespaced heavens, of the eleven heavens, as also the supernatural beings of such heavens known as page 108whatukura, tahurangi, matanginui, rahuikura, rehuroa, poporokewa, rauroha, tarapuhi, tuakiaki, tahupara, tautangiao: these were the elders who suspended the heavenly bodies in all the heavens, together with the leading stars of the various realms and the stars of the Milky Way.

3. The guardians for the outlying bounds of Hine-moana, whose duty was to maintain the arrangement of all ocean currents and other things connected with the sea, were Kiwa, Tangaroa-whakamau-tai, and Kaukau. At a later time Takaaho and Te Pu-whakahara moved to that realm that they might assume authority over their offspring, the various species of shark known as paru, urerua, ururoa, takapane, makomako, tahapounamu, nihotara, and other species of sharks, also whales and porpoises, who it was arranged should occupy lakes, but to this they would not agree, but persisted in remaining out in the vast bounds of Hine-moana (personified form of the ocean).

4. The guardians who were sanctified in order to arrange and control the movements of the winds, of snow, of rain, of the clouds of mists, lightning, and thunder, lest they contend against each other or turn on the Earth Mother and work evil in this world, were Tukapua, Te Ihorangi, and Tama-te-uira (personified forms of clouds, rain, and lightning); these were all who controlled the prosperity of that realm of Rangi and Papa.

5. The guardians sanctified for the purpose of controlling the ravages of Maiki-roa, Maiki-arohea, &c. (personified forms of disease, sickness, &c.), were Tu-matauenga, Tumatakaka, and Te Akaaka-matua; while the following were associated with them as associates: Tumata-rauwiri, Tumata-huki, and Uepoto; these were all in this Department.

6. The guardians sanctified as regulators of the seasons of summer and winter, lest either be prolonged so as to cause continual summer or continual winter, were Te Ikaroa, Rongomai-taharangi, and Rongomai-tahanui.

7. The guardians sanctified in order to control the contentions or violent actions of the offspring of Kiwa, of Tangaroa-whakamau-tai, and others were Rongomai-tu-waho, Tiwhanui, and Mauhi; these were the ones appointed for that branch of their task.

8. The guardians sanctified as preservers of all occult knowledge pertaining to the realms of heaven and earth, also to the descent to the underworld, and supervisors of the behaviour of the offspring of Rangi and Papa who had been appointed to their own particular realms, of their conduct of affairs, as also the well-being and the afflictions of all things, were Taka-urunga, Kekerewai, and Takatua; these were all assigned to that branch of their work.

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9. The guardians sanctified for the purpose of preserving peace and unity among themselves, to confine each to his own proper duties which were assigned to him, to prevent interference with the activities of others, lest the seeds of conceit and overbearing conduct should germinate among them, lest some attempt to grasp the portions of others, either in the heavens or on earth, or in the water, or Rarohenga (underworld)—these were Tane-matua, Ngangana-a-rangi, and Turamarama-a-nuku. These visited all the guardians appointed for the regions of heaven and earth, and the underworld, and also explained the actions of the various guardians in the presence of the whatukura of the uppermost heaven, who then made them known within Kautenganui in the presence of Io of the Hidden Face.

10. The guardians consecrated in order to preserve the welfare of all matters pertaining to Punihoniho-o-tau, lest trees, herbage, vegetation, lose its vitality, its fruitfulness, and deteriorate or decay, or become infertile, or incapable of assimilating nourishment, or seedless; lest the growth of trees and vegetation of land and water degenerate; lest fish, insects, and all things controlled in the world become infertile—these guardians were Tane-te-hokahoka, Tanga-i-waho, and Rongo-maraeroa, the beings appointed to that division of their labours.

11. The guardians consecrated for the purpose of protecting the powers of tapu in respect to places where religious ceremonies were performed, to gods connected with peace and its arts, to evil gods who attempt to nullify the administration of matters exercised by the various guardians of the realms of heaven and earth; also to protect and cherish all occult arts, all ritual pertaining to greeting, to boon-craving, to granting, declining, arranging, or supporting the attitude, acts, and position of all things as planned, or pertaining to the supernatural beings who enter the realms of heaven and earth—now those guardians were Tane-te-wananga, Tupai-whakarongo-wananga and Rongo-maraeroa.

An original version of the foregoing matter will be found in Part IV of the Addenda.

Of the first three poutiriao mentioned, Te Kuwatawata is the guardian of the entrance to the underworld. Hurumanu is the origin of all sea-birds. The various Rua personify mentality, knowledge and its acquirement. The various Tahu are personifications of disease and sickness. The next three poutiriao—viz., Uru, Roiho, and Roake—were all members of the primal progeny, as also were Tangaroa, Te Pu-whakahara, Kiwa, Tukapua, Tu-matauenga, Tumata-kaka, Te Akaaka-matua, Te Ikaroa, Uepoto, Mauhi, Taka-urunga, page 110Kekerewai, Tane, Tupai (alias Paia), Rongo, and probably Tiwhana. Hawaiki-nui is the meeting-place of the spirits of the dead. Tukapua personifies clouds, Te Ihorangi represents rain, and Tama-te-uira lightning. The various Maiki are identical with the various Tahu, as Tahu-maikiroa, noted above. Te Ikaroa is represented by the Milky Way. Rongomai-taharangi and Rongomai-tahanui are caretakers of the heavenly bodies; they are stationed on either side of the Milky Way. Rongomai-tu-waho seems to personify space. Ngana-ngana-a-rangi and Turamarama-a-nuku are of the offspring of Rangi and Tane-matua is one of the many names of Tane of the sun. Tane-te-hokahoka is one of the origins of birds.

In another version of the procuring of the three receptacles of esoteric knowledge from Io, the names of the "baskets" differ. This word kete means "a basket," but it is also employed in other ways; thus the ocean and the forest are both spoken of as "food-baskets" by the Maori, because each furnish plentiful food-supplies. With this singular phrase employed by the Maori may be compared to that of the Buddhists, who used it in a similar way. Says J. E. Carpenter, in his Comparative Religion, "The Buddhist Scriptures were early grouped in three divisions under the title of the Three Baskets.' "

We are told that Tane and Tama-i-waho, when on this quest, ascended to the heavens in the orongonui, or summer season, and that season-name was so given on account of Tane having obtained at that time the two sacred stones and the three "baskets" of the wananga.

The account of the three baskets of occult knowledge given by Te Matorohanga, of Wai-rarapa, differs somewhat from the foregoing. He tells us that the two whatu kura, or sacred stones, were of the kinds of stone known as huka-a-tai and rehutai; that they were celestial stones, and served as whatu for the "baskets" of the wananga. They represented, in a way, the esoteric knowledge of those teachings and its mana. They were placed in the basket named Whaka-awhirangi, the threading-cord to close and secure that basket being named Aho-tiritiri. The "baskets" of knowledge were as follows:—

(1.)The Kete-uruuru-tipua: The uruuru tipua was the wananga; the basket was named Wahirangi, and the tying-cord Papawai.
(2.)The Kete-uruuru-tawhito: The uruuru tawhito was the wananga; the basket was Ruruku-o-te-rangi, and the tying-cord Te Whiwhinga-o-te-rangi.
(3.)The Kete-uruuru-matua: The uruuru matua was the wananga, the basket was Whanui.

The straps used in carrying the wananga and the sacred stones when they were brought down to earth were known as Whitirua page 111(Kawerau in some versions). According to the teachings of some priestly experts the names of the three baskets were the Kete-tua, the Kete-aro, and the Kete-matua. It was, however, decided at a meeting of the famous wananga council of Te Ra-wheoro at Uawa that these names are not authorized.

The uruuru tipua lore was connected with ritual matters, sacerdotal formulae and ceremonial. That of the uruuru tawhito was concerned with evil in all its phases and ramifications, as seen in the enduring world. The uruuru matua pertains to peace and the arts of peace, everything that serves to promote the welfare of man. In addition to these the uruuru rangi basket is that in which the huka-a-tai sacred stone was placed, while the rehutai stone was placed in another called the uruuru tau basket. These were the baskets of knowledge—that is to say, these represent the scope of the esoteric lore obtained from Io the Parent and conserved in Whare-kura for the benefit of man, the descendants of the Primal Parents.

Now, Whiro obtained the two sacred stones and deposited them in Tu-te-aniwaniwa. When, after he and his companions retreated from the battlefields of Te Paerangi, they descended Tahekeroa, the long descent to the underworld, the stones were left in Tu-te-aniwaniwa, whence they were conveyed by Tu-matauenga and Te Akaaka-matua to Wharekura, and there deposited. Shortly afterwards Takahuritea and Ruaroa (messengers of Whiro) arrived, having come to procure the stones. Subsequently the rehutai stone was delivered into the custody of the tutelary beings (poutiriao) of Hine-moana (personified form of the ocean)—that is, to Tangaroa and his companions—whereupon it received the name of the Whatu Kura of Tangaroa. The other stone, the huka-a-tai one, was handed over by Uru-te-ngangana to his younger brother Tane, and it was named the Whatu Kura of Tane. Thus was the wananga introduced into the world from Rangiatea, in the uppermost heaven, and deposited in Whare-kura, on earth, and afterwards in Rangitapu, a house that was situated at Kaupekanui, at Tawhiti-pamamao, in the land of Irihia. There were thus three different places at which the wananga was deposited.