Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Maori Religion and Mythology Part 2

Origin of Insects

Origin of Insects

When, after the defeat of the emmissaries of Whiro, Tane brought certain birds down to earth, he also brought the following: the waeroa or mosquito, the namu-poto or sandfly, the naonao or midge, the ro or stick insect, the weta, the pepe or moth, the rango or fly, and the kowhitiwhiti or grasshopper.

The word ngarara is employed as a generic term to denote insects and reptiles, but is often taken as meaning simply "lizard". The word manumanu, employed in eastern Polynesia to signify insects may have been used here to some extent, but the evidence is slight. Insects are alluded to in Maori myths as the whanau a Torohuka or offspring of Torohuka. We are told that, after the return of Tane from the heavens, the seas and fresh waters of the earth were stocked with living creatures, also trees page 268and vegetation generally were brought into being as a means of covering the naked body of the Earth Mother, after which insects were produced, and these were viewed as the kutukutu or vermin infesting the body of the Earth Mother. "Then Ruatau and Rehua of the uppermost heaven said to Tane: "Treat kindly the offspring of Torohua and Muhumuhu that they may serve as companions for you all." Those offspring are of different natures, some are desirable while others are not. That remark of the whatukura was in reference to insects and reptiles, which preceeded other things."

Tunuiarangi of Wairarapa once contributed a curious note on the origin of certain insects, etc., including the whe or stick insect, the ant and the kekerewai. In the Bay of Plenty district the small green beetle seen on manuka brush is known as kekerewai. Tunui tells us that Tuwhaipapa (the offspring of Tuwhaitara ki te rangi), Ratorua and Kuranui-hipa were the origin of the kekerewai that is found near water, the whe that is seen on manuka, and the ant (rororo) that dwells within the earth. Many creatures sprang from Tuwhaipapa, but, at the same time, we are told that Tuwhaipapa and Kekerewai are both names for the same creature, possibly the former is employed as a personification term. The title of Tini o te Ponauwe is applied to some of these insect hordes, possibly to the multitudes of the green beetle; and these are under the sway of Hine-takohu-rangi the celestial Mist Maid, the personified form of mist, called elsewhere Hine-makohu and Hine-pukohu. She comes down during the night to feed her folk, apparently the above insects, and, in the morning, when a land breeze rises, she ceases to provide sustenance for the multitude called the Tini o Ponauwe.

The name of Ponauwe given above closely resembles that of Ponaua mentioned in the story of Tawhaki as that of one of the tribes concerned in the slaying of Wahieroa. (Ko te iwi i patua e Tawhaki mo te matenga o tona papa, o Whaieroa, ko Tini o Ponaua, ko Tini o Patuare, ko Tini o Awakati. Herein the name of Tawhaki should, presumably, be replaced by that of Rata, or that of Wahieroa be replaced by Hema, for Tawhaki destroyed the Ponaturi folk in order to recover the bones of his father, Hema.)

The Awa people of Whakatane tell us that the mosquito and sandfly are the offspring of Hekapona and Monehu, that the moth sprang from Putehue, the cicada from Hikawaru, and spiders from Katipo, who is an expert at 'house' building and decorative designs. Flies originated with Moenganui, and Iroiro page 269(maggot) represents their offspring; earthworms originated with Panewharu, whose younger relatives were Mokoroa, Whiti and Tea, the enemy of these folk being Tangaroa (i.e., fish are the enemies, consumers of earthworms). The anuhe (a large caterpillar) sprang from Nuhe (? Anuhe), who, when he saw the decorative markings on the offspring of Tangaroa (i.e., on fish such as the mackerel or tawatawa), filched them for his own offspring, hence the saying—he anuhe tawatawa.

Monehu above represents the common fern, bracken, and Pu-te-hue the gourd, while katipo is the name of a species of spider. Panewharu recalls wham, a species of earthworm, and whiti, and tea are other worm names, while mokoroa is a grub.

In another of these dissertations I was informed that spiders, including the pernicious katipo, were the offspring of Tu-te-wehi-wehi and descendants of Pari-kio-kio. Katipo is spoken of as an evil minded "person" who lurks within pu taihinu (shrubs, Pomaderris) in order to assail man. When man is bitten by that venomous creature he should be placed in a stream for some time, also placed in the smoke of a wood fire.

When Tane-matua cohabited with Hine-tu-pari-maunga the latter gave birth to Putoto, Tuamatua and Para-whenuamea. We have seen that Tuamatua was the origin of rock, stones and sand, and that Para-whenuamea is the mother of the far spread waters of the earth. Putoto cohabited with Takaaho and begat Tuarangaranga, Tu-te-ahuru and Takoto-wai, the first of whom became the forbear of all taniwha and tipua, all monsters, uncanny creatures and objects possessing strange powers. Takoto-wai cohabited with Tuamatua and produced the aforesaid stony offspring. Tu-te-ahuru took to wife one Hinepeke who produced the following:

Kopuwai Puku-oneone
Tara-mamanga Arai-ara
Moko-huruhuru Te Wanawana Te Ngarara-whakawai Moko-nui
Kopeke Te Ihiihi
Koropuku Pukepekerau
Torotoro-uru Tu-te-hurutea
Torotoro-huka Tu-te-ihorangi
Tarahuru Torohu
Tipaera Ngarara-huarau
Te Autaa Pukupuku

These, and others not here enumerated, were the origin of all forms of insects, etc., seen by us—"and of some others we have page 270never seen!" This list was given by a Wairarapa pundit, who also stated that another mythical being, one Ahorangi, mated with Mata-kupenga and begat the various kinds of spiders known as—

Katipo Topaparangi
Papanui Kahuwai
Torohuka Papangu
Tukutuku Papa-pango
Kapohuru Tokorakau

Our Ngati-awa folk of the Bay of Plenty tell us that the kutu or louse sprang from Ruaeo. Pio of Awa makes this matter quite clear: "Ko te kutu na Ruaeo:

  • Tane-awhiowhio
  • Tane-ruaki
  • Tane-ruaha
  • Ruaeo = Eo—puta mai ko te kutu". (and so vermin were produced).