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Maori Religion and Mythology Part 2

Origin of Trees, Etc

Origin of Trees, Etc.

As the procreator and personified form of trees Tane the Fertilizer is known as Tane-mahuta and Tane-te-waotu. The introduction of trees into the world was not a premeditated act on the part of Tane and his brethren, but was the result of ignorance on their part of the true nature of the female element. When Tane and his numerous brothers were searching for a female being who might produce the ira tangata (human life, mortal man) they sought her far and wide without avail. It was at that time that Tane cohabited with divers female powers or beings in the hope of begetting a female who might serve as a mother for the human race of the future. But Tane failed to produce the ira tangata in this way, inasmuch as those various female beings brought forth nought save trees. Thus when Tane took Mumuhanga to mate she produced the totara tree; he took Te Puwhakahara who brought forth the maire and puriri trees, while Tukapua became the mother of the tawai or beech, Tauwhare-kiokio of all tree ferns, Rerenoa of climbing and epiphytic plants, Apunga of many small plants, Tutoro-whenua of the bracken, Hinewaoriki of the kahika (one gave Hine-te-ngawari as the origin of the kahika or white pine) and matai trees, Mangonui of the tawa and hinau trees, Ruru-tangiakau of the ake and Kahikatoa trees, Punga of the kotukutuku and patate trees, also all insects. Rerenoa in another version has the rata tree assigned to her, while Hinemahanga was the origin of the tutu, Kakaho of the toetoe, Huna of the harakeke or so-called flax plant, Tawharanui of the kiekie, Hinerauamoa of the kiokio fern, and Pani-tinaku of the sweet potato. The last mentioned of these however is not attributed to Tane but to Rongomaui. The puahou tree (Panax arboretum) and the paonanga (Clematis) are said to have sprung from the union of two stars, Rehua (Antares) and Puanga (Rigel).

Another native informs us that Tane mated with Te Atatangirea, who brought forth the kahikatoa, akerautangi page 272mairekura and mairetea. Then Tane mated with Urukahikahika, who bore the kahikatea and korakotea. This last term is unknown to me as a tree name. Tane then took Mumuwhanga, whose first born was Totara, who is felled when a canoe is to be made. (Ko Tane i a Mumuwhango, ko Totara, ko tona tama matamua tena, ka tuaina, koia tapuae tahi o Tane ki te ara tauwhaiti.) The expression ara tauwhaiti denotes a canoe.

The origin of aka (climbing and creeping plants) has been given above, they sprang from Rerenoa according to one story, but in another from the hairs of the head of Tuna the phallic eel of Maori myth. But in a Wairarapa budget we find that they are attributed to Toro-i-waho who mated with one Paenoa and begat the twelve "aka children" as follows:

Aka tokai Aka rata
Aka kuku Aka rinoi
Aka tororaro Aka mangemange
Aka waekahu Aka matika
Aka pitau Aka pohue
Aka pukupuku Aka taratara (He aka tataramoa tenei).

These climbing and creeping plants were, we are told, produced to serve as material for making fish traps and lashing fences, etc. Another story, given by the same people, is that Te Ihorangi or Hine-te-ihorangi, the personified form of rain, had a belt named Ruruku o te rangi, which she laid on the body (puke = mons veneris) of the Earth Mother. When the Rain Maid went to recover her girdle she found that it had taken root and developed into an aka tororaro, and from that plant sprang all the different species of aka known to mankind.

A northern recital gives the various species of aka as being the "offspring of Rongo-ma-Tane." Not only the kumara (sweet potato) but also other food plants and vegetation originated with him, including the various aka, as the tawhiwhi, pikiarere pohuehue, taroa, tamau tahu, etc.

The pendant stems of climbing plants so often seen suspended from forest trees are said to represent the pendant way by which Whiro attempted to ascend to the heavens; it is compared to a swing. (Ko te ara i haere ai a Whiro-te-tipua kia eketia e ia nga rangi tuhaha ko te ara tiatia, ko te ara taepa, ko te ara moari rangi; kaore a Whiro i eke ki te Toi o nga rangi ka hoki iho. Ko te koiwio tenei ara o Whiro i te tarewa e tarewa noa na i te whanga i runga i te rakau na.) Some of the names in these origin myths seem to have been chosen as being specially suitable, such as Toro-i-waho page 273and Rerenoa, as connected with climbing and creeping plants (tow = to stretch forth, extend, as a creeping plant or climber does. Rere carries a similar meaning).

A myth pertaining to the origin of trees of Polynesia, as collected in the Cook Group is given at p. 132 of vol. 21 of the Journal of the Polynesian Society. It closely resembles our Maori account of Tane mating with many weird female creatures, though the name of Tane is replaced by that of Te Atu (Te Whatu), one of the primal beings, the offspring of Atea and Papa (Earth Mother).

As to the origin of the fertility of trees, and of sex in trees, we have to again hark back to the time of Tane the Fertilizer. When the forest of Tane was first brought into being there was placed in it one male and one female of every species, from lordly forest trees down to the smallest plant. Then Tane waited for the fruiting of the trees of the forest, but he waited in vain, the trees blossomed but no fertile seeds resulted, no kernels, were formed. Then Tupai said: "O Tane! An error has been made in the conduct of the forest, it will be necessary to rely upon the Rarataungarere." This was done, and from that time, the fruitfulness of the forest of Tane has been an assured thing.

This name of Rarataungarere seems to denote the condition of the fertility and vigour of trees, etc., of the forest, or perhaps rather the source of such qualities; in some cases the term is used as though it was that of the personified form of fertility, in an old recital occurs the following: "Ko te Rarataungarere, ko te whare tera i whakatipuria mai ai te rakau, ona purapura katoa. Ko te Rarataungarere, ko Hukahukatea, nga whare tera i whata ai nga kakano rakau nei, na Tane i mau mai. "This is typically Maori in its vagueness; we are told that Rarataungarere was the "house" wherein trees originated, all forms of seeds. All such seeds, kernels, etc., were conserved in the "houses" Rarataungarere and Hukahukatea; it was Tane who procured such things there and brought them hither and so rendered forests fetile.

In another peculiar account, we are told that, when Tane mated with Hahu-parauri, their offspring were Koko, Kokako and Komako (parson-bird, crow and bell-bird), that these were fed with the parasites of the head of their ancestor Tunuku, but that they did not flourish, whereupon they were regaled upon those of the heads of the younger members, of Tutu, Mako, Toro, Maire, Matai, Miro, and Kahika (all forest trees the berries of which are eaten by birds), who belong to the forest of Tane. It was at this juncture that Tane set about reciting a charm over the page 274parasites of his first born (i.e., berries of trees), lest their relatives (birds) perish, and here is the charm that he employed:

Kai ana uru, kai ana tonga, kai ana hau, kai ana upa
Kai ana piko, kai ana ringa wharo
Kai ana Tawhaitari, kai ana te ihi matua, kai ana te pae matua
E kai kia whiu, e kai kia upa, e kai kia tina, e kai kia tonene
Ka mama ai te hanahana o Kahu-parauri … e … i.

It was then that Tane breathed upon the great forest and that forest became fertile, the vigour, productiveness and vitality of all trees was firmly established. Then the bird offspring of Tane, and Parauri, and Punaweko acquired a bountiful and ever recurring food supply. In another place we are told that Koko was first fed upon moths, a food that did not prove suitable. Then Turakihi procured the parasites of the head of Tunuku, which were flies, as food for Koko, but they also were not a fit food for Koko. Then Turakihi obtained the blossoms and berries of trees, as aforesaid.

One native authority spoke of Rarataungarere as an atua. who presided over all fruits, seeds, etc., of forest lands, he conserves the fruitfulness and productiveness of trees and forest lands. The following formula was repeated in order to render trees fruitful:

Rarataungarere te mata tini o te rangi
Mounu ma wawai te pahure o te rangi
Kopu nui, kopu roa, te kitea, te wherio to tini i te ata a kai
Ko mihi kai, ko anau kai, taepuru to tino i te ata a kai ki enei tama
Ki te kauwhanga nui o te wao a Tane.

It was then that fruits became matured.