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Maori Religion and Mythology Part 2

Divers Nature Myths

Divers Nature Myths

A gleaming red appearance of the sky, as seen in the evening, pertain to Oho, who was cooked, hence the faint appearance of the phenomenon. A similar aspect observed in the morning comes from Rauru who was subjected to intense heat, hence the deep red colour.

Clouds are personified in one Hine-kapua, the Cloud Maid, as a general thing, but there are many minor personifications representing, apparently, different forms of clouds. Tane is sometimes credited with having originated clouds, and in this character, he is spoken of as Tane-i-te-kapua. Clouds are said to represent the covering of Rangi the Sky Parent, even as the Earth Mother is said to be covered with trees and verdure to serve as a cloak for her, so were the naked bodies of the primal parents page 251clothed as with garments. The Kahui ao or Cloud Flock are, in local folk tales of Taranaki, said to be the offspring of Rangi and Te Mangemangerau. The apa or Cloud Maidens of the Vedas represent a Maori concept. The names of many of the minor personified forms of clouds include the word ao, denoting a cloud as seen in the list of personifications given elsewhere. One version of the origin of clouds is as follows:

'Tane observed that their parent Rangi had no covering for his body, that he was entirely naked, a lamentable condition. Hence he spoke to Tawhirimatea saying: "Go and procure the vapours emanating from the warm body of Papa, then ascend to upper regions and arrange them on the body of our parent Rangi-nui, to serve as a warm covering for him." Then Tawhirimatea (personified form of wind) went and procured the Ao-tu, Ao-hore, Ao-nui, Ao-roa, Ao-pouri, Ao-tutumaiao, Ao-kapua, Ao-tauhinga, Ao-parauri, and the Ao-whetuma, such are the names of vapour caused by the perspiration of Papa the Earth Mother, as produced by her ceaseless wailing and mourning for her husband, Rangi-nui. Those vapours so procured by Tawhirimatea and conveyed by him to the breast of the Sky Parent, truly are they the clouds we see above us.'

Two other beings connected with clouds are Tukapua and Te Mamaru, the former being one of the primal offspring. These are referred to by Nepia Pohuhu in one of his recitals as follows: "Now to Tawhirimatea (wind), Tukapua (cloud) and Te Ihorangi (rain) was assigned the realm of Tauruangi (the sixth heaven, counting upward)—Te Mamaru and Mawake-nui were assigned to the bounds of Rangi-nui (the heavens), as also was Te Ihorangi (rain). Their task was to control the clouds of the heavens so that they might form a screen between Rangi and Papa (sky and earth) and shelter their mother (Papa), for which purpose they called upon Hine-Moana (the Ocean Maid) and Hine-wai (fine mist-like rain), while Hine-makohurangi (the Mist Maid) was despatched to cover the body of their father (the Sky Parent), also to shelter Papa. Such are the clouds above, moist emanations from Hine-moana, Hine-wai and Tuanuku (Papa); such are the clouds, mist and rain."

A brief note from Te Mataorohanga tells us that the origin of the clouds floating in space is referred to Tama-nui-te-ra, the sun, who sympathised with Papa the Earth Mother in her nude condition. Even so was mist born of the warmth of Papa and assigned to the offspring of Tawhirimatea, and so the Mist Maid was brought from Hine-moana, the Ocean Maid, and from page 252Parawhenuamea (water), and employed wherewith to cover the body of Rangi the Sky Parent, suspended at the bounds of the heavens, and these vapours were called kapua, clouds. Another rendering of this version appears in the explanation of the origin of rain.

A popular fire-side myth explains that clouds and mist are love tokens sent up to the heavens by Papa the Earth Mother as a greeting to Rangi the Sky Parent, from whom she was separated in the days when the world was young. (Ko te ao nui, te ao roa, te ao pouri, te ao tamakurangi, te ao potango, te ao whekere, te ao kakauri, te ao kanapanapa, te ao takawe, koia nei nga ao a Papa i tuku nihi ai ki a Rangi e tu nei, he aroha to take.)