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Maori Religion and Mythology Part 1



In this being we have what may be termed the head of the wind department, the tutelary being and personified form of winds. In addition, however, to this main personification, there are many others, as we shall see anon.

Tawhiri-matea was one of the seventy offspring of the primal parents, and with him is associated Tawhiri-rangi, another member of that numerous family. Tribal versions of old myths differ to some extent, as we have seen, and this aspect extends to the departmental gods. In the Arawa version, as preserved in Sir George Grey's Polynesian Mythology, when the above offspring resolved to separate their parents, Tawhiri-matea was the only one who objected to the act of violence. Then Rongo, Tangaroa, Haumia, and Tu all strove to force the Sky Parent upward, but failed. Then Tane performed the strenuous task. Tawhiri-matea now resolved to attack his brothers and so punish them for their acts of violence toward their parents. Hence the offspring of Tawhiri-matea, the many winds, were begotten, nurtured, and fostered until they became numerous. They were then despatched north, east, south, and west, at which places they were stationed. Then Tawhiri-matea and all the Wind Children furiously assailed Tane (as represented by trees), and Tane was overcome, broken, thrown to earth with broken limbs. They attacked Tangaroa (as represented by fish), and he fled and took refuge in the waters. A few of the children of Tangaroa found a refuge on land; these were Tu-te-wehiwehi (also known as Tu-te-page 184wanawana)—that is to say, the tuatara and all species of lizards. These are the aitanga a Punga, the repulsive ones—offspring of Punga, son of Tangaroa. Tane sheltered these repulsive ones within his forests, and this led to a feud between Tangaroa and Tane. With net, hook, and spear did Tane slay the offspring of Tangaroa, while the furious Tangaroa destroyed canoes, his floods engulfed land, trees, and houses. So Tangaroa attacked Papa-tuanuku; the waters ate into the land, even that it might be destroyed.

Now, Tawhiri-matea assailed Rongo-na-tane and Haumia-tikitiki (representing the kumara and fern-root, or cultivated and wild food products), and these two were sheltered by the Earth Mother. They took shelter within her, and, when man desires to obtain either, he is compelled to delve into the body of the Earth Mother.

Tu alone was a doughty antagonist; he stood boldly forth, and the contest between Tu and Tangaroa was truly long and severe. In this version Tu is looked upon as the progenitor of man. He made nets and destroyed the progeny of Tangaroa; he formed snares and captured the offspring of Tane (birds); he fashioned implements wherewith he dug up Rongo and Haumia, whom he ate. So dread Tu-mata-whaiti, or Tu-whakaheke-tangata, the destroyer of man, overcame his brethren—all save Tawhiri-matea; he alone remained vigorous and unharmed, as he does to this day. Hence we see Tawhiri-matea still assailing man, as winds, storms, hurricanes, afflict and endeavour to destroy him.

Though Tawhiri-matea is the personified form of winds in general, yet every wind has also its personified form, and there are many names among the Wind Children, as we shall see when we come to deal with secondary myths.