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Maori Religion and Mythology Part 2

Origin of Birds

Origin of Birds

Tane is usually credited with being the origin of birds but an examination of this origin myth shows that several other beings are held responsible for some species. At the same time there is a modicum of evidence in favour of the view that the different names do but represent different manifestations of the powers of the original Tane-nui-a-Rangi. Among the Tuhoe folk Tane-mataahi represents birds, either as a personification thereof or as the parent or origin, while Tane-mahuta represents trees. Notes collected from the so-called Takitimu tribes give the names of three bird-producing beings, Tane-te-hokahoka, Punaweko and Hurumanu. The first of these is usually mentioned as the origin of birds generally, but the other two have different spheres, Punaweko being the origin of land birds and Hurumanu that of sea birds. When various kinds of animal life were being produced it was noticed that reptiles were oviparous, and, inasmuch as this was deemed unsuitable, it was resolved that they should be viviparous in future. One Peketua then fashioned an egg from clay; he took it to Tane and asked him what he should do with it, and Tane replied: "Me whakaira tangata, " thus telling him to endow it with life, such life as is possessed by mortal beings. This was done, and that egg produced the tuatara (Sphenodon punctatum), a large form of lizard. Punaweko and Hurumanu then fashioned each a clay egg, and these also were vivified, the first producing land birds, while that of Hurumanu brought forth sea birds. These "eggs" are termed anga (shell) in the recital.

Among the Aotea folk Tiki-tohua seems to be known as the begetter of birds, Tiki-kapakapa as the origin of fish, and Tiki-auaha as the progenitor of man. All these names personify generative powers and organs.

"Ko Tane-te-hokahoka nana te manu" is an old saying that tells us that birds sprang from Tane-te-hokahoka. Another brief note states that Punaweko, Tane-te-hokahoka and Hurumanu are the origin of all birds on earth and in the heavens, and act as their guardians and sustainers. (Na, ko Punaweko, ko Tane-te-hokahoka, ko Hurumanu, ko enei nga putake mai o te manu, ahakoa i te rangi, i te whenua nei ranei, ko ratau nga pou o enei.) page 264In a list of originating beings, however, we find, "Ko Tane-te-hokahoka nana nga manu ririki" which limits his demiurgic or procreating powers to small species of birds. Yet another note states that one Hokahoka was the origin of the kahu (hawk), the karearea (Sparrow-hawk) and "such like birds". This last note also says "Ko Punaweko te putake o te manu o te wao", i.e., Punaweko is the origin of the birds of the forest. It is interesting to see that another native contributor places the name of Tane before those of Punaweko and Hurumanu as: "Ko Tane-punaweko nona te manu ngaherehere; ko Tane-hurumanu nona te manu parae, te manu moana" Of the first we are told "his are the forest birds", and of the second "his are the birds of the open country and of the ocean".

In the primal myths of the Maori we are told that Punaweko, Parauri and Tiwhaia were appointed by Tane as guardians, etc., of the forests, of Manganui-a-tawa, of Porinui-te-ra; it is they who preserve the welfare of the offspring of Punaweko and others. Also the names of Punaweko, Hurumanu, Hokahoka, Tane-te-hokahoka, Peketua and Parauri are those of members of the primal offspring, the children of Rangi, and Papa, Sky Parent and Earth Mother.

Among the Takitimu tribes Punaweko is well known as representing land birds, and we meet with many such references as the following in song and story:

Te mata o taku tori toroa-a-ruru e hora ra i te moana
Homai ki uta nei kia whakataraia koe mo taku tao
Mo Punaweko i roto i te wao nui a Tane.

The Tuhoe folk speak of Tumataika as being the origin of the Kaka parrot (Nestor meridionalis)—"Kaore e rikarika te tama a Tumataika e rere nei." It is also well to explain that some of our birds were brought down from the heavens in the days when the world was young, while others were brought up from the underworld. When Mataora and Niwareka were returning to the upper world from Rarohenga they brought with them Popoia and Peka, the owl and bat, two night birds. When Tane-matua was returning to earth after his ascent to the supernal realm of Io, he was attacked by the emissaries of Whiro, hordes of insects and birds. These were defeated and driven off by the Whanau puhi, the Wind Children, but certain birds were captured and brought down to earth; these captives were Kahu the hawk, Karearea the sparrow-hawk, Matuku the bittern, Kea the mountain parrot, Kakapo the ground-parrot, Pekapeka the bat, Rum the owl, and Kakariki the parakeet. The reader will note discrepancies and page 265contradictions in these tales, the result of consulting different authorities in different districts.

Another account is to the effect that, when Tawhaki ascended to the heavens, he obtained certain birds that were in the care of Punga in Rangi-tamaku, the second of the twelve heavens, counting upward. The birds so obtained were the torea, karoro, toroa-a-ruru, tupuku, meho, weka, pakura, kaka, kakariki, mata, matuku, kautuku and huia; also, for some unknown reason, he introduced the koura or crayfish from the heavens.

Rakamaomao is said to have been the origin of all tapu birds. This Raka is connected with wind, and is evidently the same as La'amaomao, the originator of winds in Hawaiian myth. The tapu birds referred to are given as the hakuwai, taputurangi, korekerangi, kura-a-rangi, kaukaurangi, takahikare, amokura, kotuku, koekoea and huia. The hakuwai is apparently a mythical bird, the next four are said to pertain to the old homeland of Hawaiki, then come the storm petrel, tropic bird, white heron, long-tailed cuckoo and huia. These are birds that provided highly prized feathers used as decorative plumes, etc. The first, second, third, seventh, eighth and tenth, of the birds of the above list are said in one account to have sprung from Huru-te-arangi, a forbear of the Wind Children, he and his daughter Paraweranui, and Hine-takutai used their plumes as adornments, as also did the mareikura maidens and other denizens of the heavens. A few other birds were looked upon as being tapu for the other reasons.

When Tane visited Rehua the latter wished to provide food for his quest, and so he loosened his hair and shook it, so liberating the koko birds that were feeding upon the vermin of the head of Rehua that is to say upon the berries of the forest. Another account has it that Rupe or Maui-mua was the being who visited Rehua. The kopara or bell-bird is also said to have originated with Rehua.

Another note, from a Ngati-Porou source, tells us that the koko and bellbird originated with Rehua, as also did the moki, maomao, mullet, flounder, and the kind of eel called matamoe. These birds are described as being the vermin of the head of Rehua, and when visitors reached his home he shook these creatures out of his hair to serve as food for his guests.

The porete or kakariki (parakeet) is said by the Matatua tribes to be personified in one Hine-porete, who is also spoken of as the parent or origin of that bird; her descendants are the porete birds, whose cry is "Torete! KaurekeF" It was Hine-porete who destroyed the kumara (sweet potato) crop that Tutuni had page 266planted upon her land. One Wairua-kokako, or Hine-wairua-kokako was parent, progenitor, and, apparently, personified form of the pakura (pukeko, swamp hen); she is also said to represen the kokako or crow. When swamp hens invaded a sweet potato garden in order to pull up and consume the tubers, then some person would proceed to drive them out and order them to return to Hine-wairua-kokako in such words as: "Hie! Hie! Haere ki te huhi; haere ki te repo; haere ki a Hine-wairua-kokako. Hie! Hie!" (Be off! Be off! Depart to the swamp, go to Hine-wairua-kokako. Be off! Be off!).

It will be noted that the Maori gives one or several primary beings as the progenitors of birds, but he also enumerates a number of matua (parents), or originating beings of different species, and these names are often employed as representing personifications of such species. The weka or woodhen claims great Tane as its progenitor at least so say the Awa people of Whakatane. When engaged in his search for the female element that might produce man, Tane mated with many female beings who thwarted his desire. When he so mated with one Haere-awaawa, she brought forth the weka; her name may be rendered as "valley traverse", and so describes the prowling habits of the woodhen. In one Moe-tahuna or Sandbank sleeper, we have the parent of the parera or grey duck, who is much given to indulging in a siesta on such places. Rukuruku or Diver was the origin of the weweia or little grebe, and Noho-tumutumu the Stump-percher was the forbear of the cormorant, a bird that is much given to occupying such positions. A fireside folk tale of the Whakatane district is to the effect that birds and insects are traced back to Tangaroa, but such terms as uri (offspring, descendant) and mokopuna (descendant, grandchild) are used in a very loose manner by the Maori. Thus in one account old Hamiora Pio of Te Teko speaks of birds as being the "descendants" of the sun. When the sun leaves Hine-raumati, the Summer Maid, and fares seaward to join his winter wife, Hine-takurua, the Winter Maid, he finds many of his "descendants" out on the waste of waters: "Now, observe; when the sun returns seaward to his fishing wife, he finds many of his descendants out there on the ocean, such as Hine-karoro (sea-gull) and Hine-ta ra (tern), Hine-tore and Punga. From Punga sprang Haere-nui and Noho—tumutumu (cormorant) also Moe-tahuna (grey duck) while after Punga came Matuku (bittern). Now let me tell you about this person Matuku (bittern) and his voice; this anal voice of the bittern carries two meanings, it means that it is calling upon its forbears, and it also page 267gives signs pertaining to the seasons, so that people may know of such matters. The sound emitted resembles that of thunder, such is the sound that proceeds from the fundament of that bittern. As many as seven of such booming sounds are heard, when they cease, they convey certain signs concerning the various months. They are heard during the eleventh month and onward to the sixth; such are the warning signs conveyed by the sound of the fundament of that person. When the bittern is prowling about a swamp and sees the opening of a hole, then it thrusts its beak into that hole, the food within which is an eel. Its head disappears below and it seizes the eel, whereupon the fundament resounds, its voice is heard; when the bittern is out of breath its fundament resounds and that sound resembles resounding thunder."

Two beliefs concerning the cuckoo are held by the Matatua folk. One of these is that the bird is the offspring of the species of lizard known as the ngarara papa; the other is that these birds bury themselves in the mud in the autumn to reappear in the spring.

The term Tini o te Hakuturi (Multitude of the Hakuturi) is applied to certain hordes of forest dwelling spirits often mentioned in Maori folk tales; these were the beings who re-erected the tree felled by Rata, and who, in some versions, fashioned his canoe for him. Some narrators have plainly stated that these Hakuturi were the forest birds. Tutakangahau of Tuhoe gave the same application of the term Tini o te Mahoihoi; but this name may have originally been derived from mahoi, a spirit.