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Maori Religion and Mythology Part 1

The Origin of Light

page 89

The Origin of Light

As in most primitive cosmogonies, including that ancient Asiatic example borrowed by Christianity, we observe that, in Maori myth. darkness was the original condition of the universe. The only form of light known at the time the Earth Mother brought forth her offspring was the feeble glow emanating from the glow-worm. After the liberation or escape of the children of the Sky Parent and Earth Mother, stronger forms of light were, one after another, acquired, until at last Tane introduced the heavenly bodies and gave to the universe the strong and final phase of light, that of the sun. This is te maramatanga o te ao tu roa (the light of the enduring world.)

Maori myth shows that Light sprang from Darkness. Whiro, one of the seventy male offspring of the Sky Parent and Earth Mother, is the personified form of darkness, evil, and death, and in one version his son is Tongatonga, who takes to wife one Moeahuru and begets the sun, moon, and stars. Thus was Light born of Darkness.

The following phases or forms of light were communicated by Rihari Tohi, and are met with, together with some others, in Maori cosmogonic myths:—

(1.)Te maramatanga namunamu ki taiao.—This was the dim, feeble glimmer emanating from Moko-huruhuru, or Hine-huruhuru, the glow-worm. This was the very first phase of light known.
(2.)Te maramatanga taruaitu.—The faint light made known by Uepoto when he emerged from the body of the Earth Mother.
(3.)Te maramatanga kakarauri.—The form of light that obtained after the separation of the Sky Parent and the Earth Mother. A dim, dusky light.
(4.)Te maramatanga atarau.—The form of light known when the heavens were fixed on high, and the Earth Mother turned face down to Rarohenga, the lower world.
(5.)Te maramatanga aoao nui.—A wintry form of light.
(6.)Te maramatanga tuarea.—Cloudless light.
(7.)Te maramatanga taiahoaho.—Summer light.

Other names given for the light that obtained when earth and heaven were separated are tahora nui a Ruatau and te maramatanga rukuruku o taiao. When the heavenly bodies were arranged in the heavens, the light then known is called te ao marama o taiao.

The first phase of light mentioned above is sometimes alluded to as the maramatanga tuaiti, or dim condition of light, which is seen page 90in the feeble glimmer of phosphorescent light, and personified in Moko-huruhuru (the glow-worm), who was a subject of Kiwa, elder brother of Tane, and guardian of the ocean.