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Maori Religion and Mythology Part 2

[argument and introduction]

Polynesian origin myths illustrate the racial mentality. One god with many names. The twelve heavens. Whiro the malevolent. Origin of disease. Mataora and Niwa reka. Rukutia and Tutekoropanga. Cosmogonic myths. Origin of stones, of page 220greenstone. Tiki and Hineoi. Rakahore. Origin of fire. Origin of earthquakes. Cloud myths. Origin of mist. Of tides. Of shellfish. Of crayfish. Of fish. Of fishing nets. Of birds. Of insects. Of worms. Of lizards. Of rats. Of trees. Of cannibalism. Of peace. Of affection. Of death and burial. Of marriage and divorce. Of white people, baldness and feasts. Of the world. Of speech and echoes. Of day and night. Of lightning. Of wind and rain. Of snow and ice. Of seasons. Of hills, ochre and woman. Of evil. Of weaving and carving. Of the tiki neck pendant.

The number of myths that come under this heading is remarkable, for the Maori seems to have possessed a genius for evolving such stories. In many cases it is seen that attempts have been made to ascertain origins, in others, there being no evidence available, from the Maori point of view, an entirely mythical origin was conceived and taught; hence many fabulous lines of descent are noted, also innumerable personifications, "parents"; tutelary beings, etc. It may safely be said that the ancestors of the Maori were given to the study of causality, and that this predilection was responsible for many highly interesting myths. R. B. Dixon has, in his work on Oceanic Mythology, referred to this peculiarity of the Polynesian mind as follows: "…it is clear that the Polynesian mind had something of a philosophic turn, and that it groped about for a real cause or beginning, seeking to derive the concrete and tangible from the abstract and intangible" (p. 22). Illustrations of this faculty have already appeared in Dominion Museum Bulletin 10, wherein are recorded many examples of origin myths, including those of a cosmogonic and anthropogenic nature. Other such myths appear in other parts of both Bulletins 10 and 11, and also in other Bulletins of the Dominion Museum, while many more are now about to be presented.

Owing perhaps to long isolation within various tribal areas differences are often noted as between versions and teachings from different districts. This is observed when scanning origin myths, and an illustration of the fact now lies before me. In some recitals given by learned elders in past years we note the names of many gods, originating beings, etc., who were apparently viewed as separate and distinct beings; in other cases we find that one of these supernormal beings, demiurgic or otherwise, is credited with many names and many attributes. For instance, Tane seems to have had seventy names assigned to him, each of which shows him to represent or to have originated something. Among these many names, these titles, of Tane, we find names of beings that, in most recitals, seem to denote atua, personifications, etc., page 221having no connection whatever with Tane of the sun. Thus in the list of titles here given we find the names of Punaweko, Hurumanu, Tawhirimatea, Haepuru, Te Ihorangi, and Pukohurangi, all of which are usually given as beings quite distinct from Tane, or, in some cases, as descended from Tane.

Tane-nui-a-Rangi. Mahi i tepai. Author of beneficent actions, etc.

Tane-tikitiki-o-rangi. Mo te hiahia o te tane, o te wahine. Concerned with the desires of man and woman.

Tane-te-apu-o-tongo. Nga hau kino raw a; nga mate iputa mai i te hau. Represents the fierce southerly winds of Paraweranui and all afflictions caused thereby.

Tane-te-anurangi. Nona te mate matao. Origin of distressful conditions produced by cold.

Tane-te-waiora. Te ova o te tangata. Represents human welfare.

Tane-ahuarangi. Ka tohua te tangata. Represents conceptions and development of the human embryo.

Tane-punaweko. Nona te manu ngaherehere. His are the birds of the forest. Cf. Punaweko.

Tane-hurumanu. Nona te manu parae, te manu moana. His are the birds of open lands and those of the ocean. Cf. Hurumanu.

Tane-te-waotu. Nana te rakau. Origin of trees.

Tane-tawhirimatea. Nana nga awhiowhio. Author of the whirling winds of space. Cf. Tawhirimatea.

Tane-torokaha. Nana te kaha o nga tangata, o nga mea katoa. Origin of energy, strength, endurance in man and all other things.

Tane-tapurangi. Nana te tapu o nga atua. The tapu of the gods emanated from him.

Tane-haepuru. Nana i tutaki nga hau. He it was who controlled the winds. Cf. Haepuru.

Tane-uetika. Nana nga tohu or a o te tangata haere. He is concerned with the welfare of travellers.

Tane-te-kapua. Nana nga kapua, nga ua. Origin of clouds and rain.

Tane-te-ihorangi. Nana te hiko, te uira. The author of lightning. Cf. Te Ihorangi.

Tane-matakuka. Ka whew te rangi ka riri te tangata. Represents lurid appearance of heavens, anger and strife in Nature and man.

Tane-te-ahumairangi. Nana nga mea katoa. All things are his.

Tane-matua. Nana te kohatu, te kirikiri, ena mea katoa. Origin of stone, gravel, and all such things.

page 222

Tane-te-maikirangi. Nana te mate e mate nei nga mea katoa o te ao. All forms of sickness and disease (whereby all things perish) emanate from him. Cf. Maike-nui, Maiki-roa.

Tane-i-te-wananga-a-rangi. Nana nga mahi karakia me era mahi mohio katoa. The knowledge of ritual performances and similar things emanated from him.

Tane-te-ikaroa. I a ia te ra, te marama, nga whetu, era mea katoa. From him are the sun, the moon, the stars, all such things. (Te Ikaroa is a name for the Milky Way.)

Tane-tuhaha. I a ia nga matapou karakia, e kore e tau ki raw, e haere, e aha. From him comes the knowledge of magic arts that render things immovable.

Tane-te-kapurangi. I a ia nga kakano o nga mea katoa e tupu ana i te ao nei e whakahaere ana. He controls the fertility, the productiveness of all things growing upon the earth.

Tane-pukohurangi. I a ia te ua, te kohu, te hukapapa, te hukarere. He is the author of rain, mist, ice and snow. Cf. Hinepukohu rangi.

Tane-tahunui-a-rangi. I a ia te raumati, nga rangi pai. Represents summer time and fine weather.

Tane-muriwai. Kei a ia te tikanga o nga wai maori o raw nei. He controls the fresh waters of the earth.

Tane-te-muriwaihoe [? hou]. Ia ia te waipuke, te moana hei whaka-ngaro i te whenua. He represents flood waters and deluges that cover the earth.

Tane-irawaru. I a ia nga karere [?] me nga ngarara katoa o ia ahua o ia ahua i te ano. Represents karere [?] and every sort of reptile and insect in the world.

Tane-pukupuku-rangi. Nana te aruhe. The origin of fern root, the edible rhisome of the bracken fern.

Here we have what looks like the old Oriental concept of one god with many names, and yet the Maori speaks of these names as though they pertained to so many different beings. The man who recited the above list concluded his address with the following remarks: "There are yet more of these gods, it is said that there are seventy in all. These gods abide in the second heaven [counting downwards]; some of them are allowed to visit the first [uppermost] heaven, while others of them were not allowed to do so."

Many more names or titles of Tane have been collected, but no explanation concerning them is to hand, hence they are not given. See also Dominion Museum Bulletin 10, 1976 reprint, p. 117. As in the foregoing list some of them contain the names of atua, etc., page 223that I have not elsewhere seen preceeded by the name of Tane, e.g., Tane-rangahua, Tane-paia, Tane-roiho, Tane-whakaruaumoko.

After reciting the list of names given above, the expert (whose name I have failed to ascertain) proceeded to give some interesting matter that has not so far seen the light, and some that differs from published versions. The recital also contains some origin myths, hence it is included here.

Now this god Io was the supreme deity of all the gods of the heavens and of this world, he was the supreme power of the twelve heavens, and the numberless other realms. There are twelve divisions [ao ] of this world, and also twelve divisions of each of the twelve heavens.

The gods of this world were distributed among the different heavens, but malevolent demons, whether of the heavens or this world, might not enter the uppermost of the heavens. Now the names of the twelve heavens are:

1.Te Ihirangi
4.Te Ihorangi

(Here we have, in almost every case, names assigned to the twelve heavens that differ from those given at p. 73 of Bulletin 10, 1976 reprint. The two series would pertain to two different schools of learning.)

Te Ihirangi the uppermost of the twelve heavens, is the abode of Io and Ruhua, together with Tane-nui-a-Rangi and Whiro, all four of whom were spirit gods; these were the only permanent occupants of the uppermost heaven.

The second heaven, counting downward, was assigned to Whiro and his younger brother, Tane-nui-a-Rangi; these were the sole beings of this region. Whiro remarked to their elders, Io and Rehua, that he would not consent to this region being assigned to Tane, and himself, but would agree to it being set apart for himself, only whereupon Io and Rehua said: "Do not act in that manner toward your younger brother." This disagreement developed into the active hostility of Whiro toward his elder and younger brothers. So they strove against each other, and in that strife Whiro and his hordes of the Puwaitaha, Kura-te-au and Mokomokouri were worsted; and so Whiro and his fellow page 224migrants were expelled and settled down at the Muriwai-hou, at which time the name of Whiro-tipua-te-manatu was first heard. There accompanied him the beings known as the Tini or hosts of Puwaitaha, Kura-te-au, Moko-mokouri, and Tahatu-o-te-rangi, also many other clans, all came and settled at the Muriwai-hou. Other hosts that joined Whiro were the Tini or multitudes of Ponaua, Hakuturi and Whakaruaumoko; these are malevolent demons of this world and of the underworld; they appear in this world in the form of Turehu, Patupaearehe and Arawaru. They dwell in the region of Whitianaunau, at the villages of Ruakipouri, Taitawaro, Paengaroa and Matai-whetu; there are also other villages of the peoples of Whiro-tipua-te-manatu. The principal gods under the sway of Whiro are these:

Tau-te-ariki, from whom emanates leprosy, and all such complaints that come within the province of Whiro. This being has companions to assist him in his fell work.

Roiho, who has the control of wasting disease and all similar complaints; he also has assistants.

Iro-whitika, who holds the power of causing insanity and all similar trouble; he also has assistants.

Kikiroki has control of all aspects of fever, and others assist him in his task.

Taupuru, he and his companions control such affections as fatigue, weariness, indolence, etc.

Tane-tahupo, he and his companions control blindness and all kindred affections.

Ruakopito controls all stomach complaints and allied troubles, and has companions to assist him.

Tawhaonui-kaupeka is the author of suppurating and scrofulous sores, boils, and all such ailments; he also has assistants.

Now Whiro has a great number of assistants in these tasks, but all these come under the control of Whiro himself. The gods named Tawiri-nuku, Tawiri-punui, Tawiri-wanawana, Tawiri-papatua, and Tawiri-tikoko-nuku were the cause of all strife, of jealousy, envy, of sudden outbreaks of anger, and malice, ill-treatment, and all such unpleasant things; they also had assistants in their work. Moko-tititoa controls the arts of theft and falsehood, and has assistants to help him in his labours.

All these activities of the beings named represent the efforts made by Whiro and his companions to avenge their defeat by Tane-nui-a-Rangi and others. And this strife still continues, ever Whiro wages war against mankind. All these beings were page 225associated with malevolent spirits, and some of them abide in this world. The beings engaged in the activities of Whiro as described above are arrayed against spirits serving under Io, Rehua, Tane-nui-a-Rangi and their companions, ever this contest continues. Now it is said that the demons serving with Whiro have asserted that their assaults and hostility will never cease. Such indeed was the tenor of the remark of Whiro when he was expelled from Tahatu-a-te-rangi. The hand of Whiro "clutched" toward his younger brother as he said: "Remain here, while I will hie me to the lower world there to await you all and our parents."

The above recital is one of unusual interest inasmuch as it contains certain data not hitherto recorded. Apparently it was not given by a person connected with the Takitimu schools of learning. Unfortunately, we do not know who supplied this information, or to what tribe the reciter belonged. The unusual statements commence with one to the effect that this world and each of the twelve heavens is composed of twelve different realms, another example of the Maori predilection for the number twelve. Then we come to what is to us a new series of names for the twelve heavens. Following this we have peculiar statements concerning Io and Rehua. In all our recorded data Rehua appears as an attendant of Io the Supreme Being, but in this recital he seems to appear as being almost on the same plane as Io. This aspect bears the appearance of being unorthodox, and altogether the recital does not occupy the high level that marks the teachings of such schools of learning as that of Rangi-te-auria at Maungawharau, and that of Te Poho-o-Hine-pae at Wairarapa. In this version also Whiro has assigned to him the heaven next the uppermost one; when driven down to the underworld he was accompanied by hosts of malevolent beings, among whom were included the Hakuturi and Turehu folk. These latter are certain elves and forest-dwelling creatures who are usually credited with somewhat mischievous proclivities, but are not spoken of as being malevolent, atua ngau tangata. The demons responsible for various diseases often appear under the generic name of Maiki, but in this recital we have quite a different lot of names given as pertaining to the authors of disease and other afflictions. Roiho usually appears as one of the attendants or messengers of Io. Moko-tititoa may be the Moko Titi mentioned in Taylor's Te Ika-a-Maui, 2nd ed., p. 137, but most of the names of these disease producing demons are new to us. It is explained that all diseases, etc., represent the means adopted by Whiro to avenge his defeat by Tane and others, ever these page 226personified forms of disease attack mankind, the offspring of Tane. The remarks concerning kikokiko or malevolent demons are by no means clear; these evil spirits are always explained as being atua ngau tangata or "man assailing demons". To associate these low-class spirit gods with Io, or even such beings as Rehua is something quite new to us. It appears to the present writer that the person who recited the above matter was not a first class authority and had got his data somewhat mixed.

In the story of Mataora, given below, we are entertained by an account of how the arts of tattooing by puncture and of weaving were acquired from denizens of the underworld of spirits, albeit those spirits seem to have been extremely gross and material with respect to their bodies and requirements. It is somewhat startling to find that these wairua residents of the realm of Rarohenga tattooed their bodies, cultivated food supplies, and built houses. The original text of the myths here given may be consulted in the Memoirs of the Polynesian Society, vol. 3, pp. 67-76.