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Maori Religion and Mythology Part 2

Miscellaneous Origin Myths

Miscellaneous Origin Myths

The beings appointed as guardians and promoters of the welfare and fertility of forests were Tane te hokahoka, Tangaiwaho and Rongo-maraeroa. Another name mentioned in this connection is that of Tane-te-kapurangi. (Ko Tane-te-kapurangi i a ia nga kakano o nga mea katoa e tupu ana i te ao nei e whakahaere ana.)

A singular but brief note collected by White runs as follows: Te Rarataungarere-o-Matiti-rangi was the name of the place where all trees originated, they were brought hither from that place by Tane, to Hawaiki, and even unto Aotea. This seems interesting, Tane, offspring of the heavens above and of the old Earth Mother, deigns to visit New Zealand in order to institute the first afforestration measures in this region. This must, naturally, have occurred prior to Tasman's so-called discovery of Aotea, for the Maori of that period was already using canoes and cooking Dutch cutlets when procurable, two activities for which timber was highly essential. This startling information was contributed by the Ngai-Tahu folk of the South Island.

The task of Rehua was the cooking of berries (ta Rehua mahi he tao i nga hua rakau), which means that Rehua represents the heat of summer that ripens all fruits. When man feels languid on hot summer days, when leaves droop and vegetation is dried up, these are the effect of the power of Rehua, and it is said "Ko Rehua kai te patu", Rehua is affecting them.

Many quaint beliefs, fancies, superstitions, sayings pertain to the forest and to birds. Thus the famous huia bird is said to have been the mokai, pet or protegé, of one Tautu, who placed it on the Tararua range, hence we have the following ditty:

Te huia i Tararua, e, te toroa i te moana
Kia pai atu koe te haere hei powhiri mai kei o matua.

Should a man be fond of proclaiming his own importance, some persons might quote an old saying: "E hoa! He hakuwai te page 277manu e karanga tonu ana i tona ingoa" (O friend! The hakuwai is the bird that is ever calling out its own name). This hakuwai is a mythical bird that we shall meet with again when discussing fables.

Peace and the arts of peace originated with Rongo, Haumia, Ioio-whenua and Putehue of the Heketanga-rangi or offspring of Rangi and Papa, that is according to Ngati-Awa, but the third and fourth names are not widely known, though Rongo is universally known as representing peace. In vernacular speech rongo denotes peace, hohou rongo = to make peace, rongo aio = calm peacefulness.

My worthy friend Pio once informed me that the first known instances of affection were, (1) the affection displayed by the Earth Mother for her rebellious offspring, and (2) the kindly feeling for each other noted among the heavenly bodies. Occasionally the sun embraces its young relative, the moon, and then the moon is lost to sight, and sun and moon are greeting each other. Ere long the sun tells the moon to return to its own place and to their younger relatives, the shining stars, adding: "Let us ever show kindness to our young relatives." Such was the origin of affection, of kindly feeling, as observed in this world. The sun, moon, stars and hinatore (phosphorescent light) are people who conduct themselves with decorum, never do they quarrel, evil is unknown among them. Ever do they cultivate kindly feelings, while death as known in this world never approaches them. (Ko te marama i wehe ke i tona tuakana, i te ra, no to raua piringa kua haere tahi raua, he nui to raua aroha. Kua awhitia e te ra tonu taina, kei roto i tona tuakana, i te ra, kei te tangi haere tonu raua kia raua; pena tonu i nga tau katoa e haere nei i te ao nei. Kaore i roa ka ki te ra ki te marama: "Me haere ano koe ki tau takiwa, koutou ko o taua taina; kia aroha tonua taua ki o taua taina." Koia teputake o te aroha e mau haere nei i te ao. Ko te ra, ko te marama, ko nga whetu, ko pinatore, ko te iwi tenei kei te haere tika tonu, kaore he pakanga, kaore he kino i a ratau. Te mea nui kei a ratau he aroha, e kore e mutu. Kaore e tata te mate penei me te matemate o te ao nei, e mate nei nga uri i te ao.)

The origin of the custom of avenging slain friends is said to date back to the mythical hero Tawhaki, he who ascended to the heavens in order to procure assistance in the task of avenging his father's death. The first act of treachery is said to have been the slaying of Tutunui by Kae, who is known as Kau-niho-haha to the Ngati-Awa folk. But others refer it to the act of Maui, when he destroyed the Fire Children of Mahuika. The origin of the custom page 278of lamenting the dead is naturally assigned to the period when true death was introduced, and that was in the days of Maui. Pio maintained that Tane was the cause of death assailing mankind, that his errors committed when he mated with Hine-ahuone brought death to man. (Me he mea kaua e raweke a Tane i te whare o runga kaore e tata he mate, ka man tonu te ora ki te tangata.) Tane sought and found the true mortal female element, which ever disseminates misfortune and death. Man born of woman shall know death.

Yet another pundit traces death back to the overturning of the Earth Mother, but this is explained by the fact that her youngest child, Ruaumoko, accompanied her, and joined Whiro in assailing and destroying mankind. We are told that permanent death was introduced in the time of Maui, when he failed to render the mate a marama or "moon like death" permanent, hence the mate a one or mate whenua, permanent death with burial of the body has ever since prevailed. So it is that man is greeted and bewailed when he passes away, so it is that we farewell our friends to the spirit world. For of old it was said: "By tears and lamentation alone may the blows of Aitua be avenged"—and Aitua represents death and misfortune, all calamities that afflict mankind.

The origin of burial of the dead is referred by the Matatua folk to the misty past, to the time when the sons of Sky and Earth knew death. Why those atua, supernatural beings as they were, should have died is not explained. Ngati-Awa put it in this wise: When the sons of Sky and Earth passed away Rangi the Sky Parent said to Papa the Earth Mother: "Let us absorb our offspring." But Papa the steadfast replied: "Leave them to me, let them re-enter my body: I brought them forth to the world of life, let them return to me when Aitua assails them, let them abide with me as a band of spirits in our presence. As to those who abandoned us, let them go their ways; enough for me is the company of the dead, let that band of the dead abide within me." Even so we see that, when man dies, he is buried in the body of the Earth Mother, she who said of her immediate offspring: "Though they have rebelled against us yet are they still my children; mine be the care of the dead."

The origin of marriage is traced back to remote times, ere man had appeared. In many cases such origin is assigned to the mating of Rangi and Papa, the Sky Parent and Earth Mother, but others push it still further back, and maintain that the beings or page 279cosmogonic forces that existed before sky and earth appeared were also endowed with sex. Thus Te Pu mated with Te More and begat Te Weu and Te Aka, male and female; these two mated and produced Te Rea and Te Waonui; these mated and begat Te Kune and Te Whe, who begat Rangi and Papa. In one case an old native of Ngati-Awa explained that those remote beings were bi-sexual, but apparently this belief was not commonly held. The origin of divorce is always traced to the separation of Rangi and Papa, and ritual formulae pertaining to divorce was based upon that employed when Tane and others forcibly separated their parents.

With regard to the origin of disease I have been informed that all such afflictions may be traced to the whare o aitua, that is to the female sex. Man born of woman is born to endure trouble, pain, sickness and death, all may be traced back to the inferior male element that brought mortality to mankind.

Something unique in the way of origin myths was divulged to me by Hamiora Pio aforementioned, perchance he himself evolved it. It appears that, in the mist-laden past Tangaroa took Marama the moon to wife and begat one Heta, from who the Pakeha (European) folk are descended. This name of Heta may represent Seth of Biblical fame. All fair haired and light skinned folk are connected with Tangaroa and the moon in Maori and Polynesian myths. All the Moon Maidens were fair haired, and urukehu are alluded to as Nga Uri a Rua-korako, the offspring of Rua-korako. This urukehu or fair strain is also attributed to the Wind Children whose home is in the third heaven, the folk known as Tini o Matangi nui and Tini o Mataruwai.

The origin of baldness in man is also traced back to remote times. The causes were twain; in the first place comes the ruthless act of Whiro, who scalped Uruao in order to provide himself with a seemly maro or apron; after which Punaweko denuded the head of Hurumanu (personified form of sea birds) of its feathers which served as a covering growth for the puke (mons veneris) of Hine-ahuone.

It has been stated that the term hakari, now employed to denote any feast or entertainment, was originally applied only to ceremonial feasts and functions of a sacerdotal nature. This statement is borne out by certain old recitals and also by a remark made to me by a learned Maori, who said: "Te takenga mai o te hakari he whakahere ki te atua ki roto i te whare wananga. "This remark tells us that the hakari was originally what we must call a religious function, a conciliation of the gods within the tapu page 280building known as the whare wananga or school of learning. No material offering was really made at this function, but a formula of the whakaepa class was recited over a tapu stone kept within the house, and the invocation plus the sacred stone represented the whakahere (propitiatory offering) alluded to above. As my informant put it: "Ko taua kohatu hai whakahere ki te atua kia homai e te atua he mana. Ko taua kohatu tonu te whakahere, tae noaki te karakia." After this ceremony was over there followed the hakari kai or ceremonial feast. Of the tapu mountain of Irihia, in the old racial homeland, we are told that hakari, functions connected with the gods, were conducted on its summit, and the summit was only attained by two days climbing.

The origin of the world, remarked a sage of Ngati-Awa, was with the Pu and the More, who were brother and sister, and existed in the time of the Wherikoriko (pu = origin, source, root, base, etc.; more = cause, tap-root; wheriko = dimly seen), who seems to personify the nebulous conditions of primeval time. The first karakia or ritual formula ever used was one that pertained to that mist-laden era. ("Te Wherikoriko, naumai, haere koe i mua ra. Te Rangi-matinitini naumai, haere koe i mua ra ki o taua uri. Haere i tua, haere i waho; torohei.")

The same authority traces the faculty of speech back to Rangi, Papa and Wainui, the personified forms of sky, earth and water. "It was in those remote times that speech was acquired, man was enabled to speak, but not to understand any speech save his own, ever he knows the speech of his ancestors down through the changing generations."

The term pari karangaranga is used by the Maori to denote an echo, a phenomenon dating back to the time when sky and earth were separated. When Kewa and Whitiwhiti-karaua went to the forest at Manganui-o-tawa in order to procure props wherewith to support the heavens, they found themselves shrouded in darkness, on account of not having respected the tapu of that forest. Then came Tupai and Tahumakaka to search for Kewa and his companion, and, as they fared on through the forest they called out: "O Kewa! Where are you two?" A voice seemed to answer them: "O Kewa! Where are you two?" Then Tupai and Tahu proceeded to the place whence the answering cry had come, and again called: "O Kewa! Where are you two?" Then they heard the cry repeated from the place where they had first cried out, hence they were much disturbed. Now this phenomenon is still known in this world, and it is what we call an echo.

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A South Island myth collected by H. Beattie traces the origin of echoes back to Rona (connected with the moon), who, strange to say, appears in this version as a man. Rona took to wife one Hine-aroaro-te-pari, who evidently personifies cliffs (pari), she was the Cliff Maid. When Rona was away at sea engaged in fishing a being named Hoka would descend from the heavens and visit his wife, the Cliff Maid. When Rona found this out he sent his wife out fishing and, when Hoka arrived, he slew him and cooked certain parts of his body which he gave to his wife to eat when she returned from her fishing. When she found that she had eaten the flesh of her celestial lover she was enraged and so attacked Rona, who at once fled with his children. So hard pressed was he that he concealed his children in a cliff and then ascended to the heavens and took refuge in the moon, where he can still be seen with his calabash or gourd vessel before him. His deserted children awaited his return in vain, and so became spirits imprisoned within the cliffs, where they have ever since remained. And when any persons cry out in the vicinity then such cries are repeated by the spirits of the children of Rona and the Cliff Maid, who are known as "The Children of Hine-aroaro-te-pari". Such are the Echo Children, who lurk in lone places, and, by their cries, confuse or terrify people.

The origin of day and night has already been given in this veracious chronicle, and dates back to the period when, after divers experiments, the movements of the heavenly bodies were finally and satisfactorily arranged. Ngati-Awa of Te Teko tells us that Tangotango is the regulator of day and night, and Tangotango is represented in the heavens by the Milky Way. Te Ikaroa is one of the many names of the Milky Way, and Te Ikaroa was placed in charge of the younger folk, the Star Children, and yet these young folk occasionally quarrel and jostle each other, so that some fall from their places, these are the matakokiri or meteors we see.

In a list already given Tane-te-Ihorangi appears as the origin of lightning, and this title is a new one to me. Te Ihorangi or Hine-te-ihorangi, the Rain Maid, we know as the personified form of rain. Lightning is represented by two personified forms, Tama-te-uira and Hine-te-uira, the first a male, the second a female. Tama-te-uira, Tamatakaka and others were given charge of the wayward young lightning folk on account of their mischievous actions in injuring things of the earth, and in annoying other beings. The names of some of these turbulent young folk were as follows:

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Te Hiko-puawhe Te Hiko-hokiarangi
Te Hiko-punga Te Hiko-takaaho
Te Hiko-korakora Te Hiko-hopara
Te Hiko-tarawanawana Te Hiko-poutiriao
Te Hiko-tarapae Te Hiko-puaho
Te Hiko-ahipua Te Hiko-waineha [? wainehu]

These are the beings who retain the ahi tipua, the dread fire seen flashing from the heavens.

The origin of wind has already been traced to Huru-te-arangi and Tawhirimatea. The Wind Children are a numerous horde; their abode is at Tihi o Manono in Rangi-naonao-ariki, the tenth heaven, counting upward. There they dwell with their elder brothers, the Four Winds, who abide in the "houses" of Pumaire-kura, Rangi-tahua, Rangimawake and Tute-wanawana-a-hau. The nurturers of the Wind Children are Tarapuhi, Tarapae, Taraaorangi and Tarawai-hekura, and the vast plaza whereon the Wind Children ever roam and gambol is called Maraenui, and Tahuaroa, and Mahora-nui-atea. These three names denote the vast ocean spaces.

Rain is said to have originated as steam arising from the body of the Earth Mother and from Hinemoana (the ocean). But another story is that rain represents the tears of Rangi when he wept for his mate the Earth Mother, who had been torn from him. The task of Tane in separating them was a truly strenuous one, and induced a condition of bodily heat and perspiration that was the origin of the mist and dew that we now see. (Ka titiro a Rangi ki a Papa e tiraha ake ana te aroaro ka puta te aroha o Rangi, ka tangi ia, koia te ua e ua nei. He werawera no Tane i te wehenga i tona papa me tona koka te kohu me te hauto rua e kite nei tatau.)

In another version of the above we are told that clouds originated with Tama-nui-te-ra, the sun, who warmed the body of the Earth Mother, and so mists and vapour were born in one hine-mako-hu-rangi the Mist Maid. This Maid was conveyed by the offspring of Tawhiri-matea (wind) to the heavens and utilised as a covering for the body of the Sky Parent; she is seen at the bounds of the heavens and we of this world then say that there are clouds in the sky. It was at this juncture that Rangi the Sky Parent felt deeply for the Earth Mother who had been turned face down to the Muriwai hou. Said Rangi to Tama-nui-te-ra and Te Ihorangi: "I pity your mother, send down to her a boon on my behalf." Then Te Ihorangi sent down rain, Tawhirimatea sent frost, and Tama-nui-te-ra sent mist. Thus we see the light misty rain that is the love token of Rangi to Papa, and it is this that page 283binds the affection of these our parents, and is alluded to as an enduring and established condition of peace. So these conditions have become permanent boons for all things that abide on earth.