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Maori Religion and Mythology Part 1



We have already seen that this being was the firstborn of the children of the primal parents, and that he is connected with the heavenly bodies—that is to say, with light. He is one of the three guardians of the heavens and of the heavenly bodies. This name, in less esoteric versions, often appears as "Uru," and "Ngana"—that is, as two names applied to two beings. In one Uru is said to have cohabited with Ngana and to have produced clouds, as personified in Ao-tu and Ao-hore:—

Ka noho Uru, ka noho i a Ngana
Puta mai ki waho ra, ko Te Ao-tu, ko Te Ao-hore.

Uru and Ngana were known to the Moriori folk of the Chatham Islands. Both in that group and in New Zealand these two names appear in cosmogonic genealogies, as though they were remote ancestors of man. Evidently the name, or names, represents some natural phenomenon or primordial condition. It appears as "Nanaulu" at the Hawaiian Isles, in one version; in another as "Ulu" page 189and "Nanaie." Ngana-i-te-tupua, of the Cook Group, may possibly have been a being of later times, a human being. In one of the cosmogonic genealogies given by Shortland, several beings, phases, or phenomena called "Ngana" appear, as Ngana-nui, Ngana-ruru, Ngana-mawake, &c. In another such given in White's Ancient History of the Maori, vol. 6, p. 168, both Uru and Ngangana are given. In vol. 1 of White's work, at p. 124, appears a curious incident concerning Uru and Ngangana that has apparently been taken from Wohlers (Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, vol. 7, p. 34). The passage referred to is omitted in Wohler's translation; he does not attempt to render it into English; whereby he displayed much sagacity. The meaning of it is effectually hidden. Uru and Ngangana were sent on high, presumably to the heavens, but did not return. The reference to them being engaged in consuming the fruit of trees is most obscure. Another singular myth concerning Ngangana is given in vol. 7 of the Journal of the Polynesian Society, pp. 62-63, wherein Ngangana is shown to have sailed away over the ocean, until "At sunset his canoe was lost to sight."

As a specimen of the peculiar archaic phraseology employed by the priestly experts of former generations when discoursing on sacerdotal matters the following sentence is inserted; it refers to Uru-te-ngangana: Ka riro i konei te ngangana, te wanawana, te ihiihi o nga mea katoa he ahua tona, he manawa ora ano tona, i nga rangi, i nga ao, i nga whetu, i te marama, i te ra, i te wai, riro katoa i a Io (At this juncture the ngangana, the wanawana, and the ihiihi of all things possessing form and the breath of life, in the heavens, the realms, the stars, the moon, the sun, the waters—all came under the sway of Io). It is difficult to say what meaning should be applied to the above three words in this case. Ihiihi denotes "rays" in some cases, also it is connected with fear. Wanawana bears the same meanings; while ngangana means "red" or "gleaming."

Dwelling within the uppermost of the twelve heavens are a few important supernatural beings, of whom the most important are Rehua and Tama-i-waho; others are Aitupawa, Puhaorangi, and Ruatau. These acted as intermediaries between Io and the supernatural offspring of the Primal parents, &c. The twain Roiho and Roake were not of this order, but sprang from Rangi and Papa; they are also known to Cook Islands myths.

Rangi himself, the Sky Parent, was viewed as an important atua. He was invoked in regard to the despatching of spirits of the dead to the spirit-world, and also matters pertaining to the body of man. He was regarded as a benign deity, as also were Rehua, Ruatau, and other denizens of the heavens.