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Maori Religion and Mythology Part 2

Myths Pertaining to the Ocean

Myths Pertaining to the Ocean

The guardians appointed as controllers of the ocean, its bounds and currents, were Kiwa, Tangaroa-whakamau-tai and Kaukau. At the same time Kiwa, Te Ihorangi, Tawhirimatea, Mataaho and Whakaruaumoko are grouped together in Takitimu teachings as regulators and controllers of the ocean, of all waters, of rain, mist, frost, earthquakes and volcanic activity. We now see why the overturning of the Earth Mother is credited to Mataaho, one of the beings controlling earth movements and volcanic upheavals.

The ocean is known as the Moana nui a Kiwa, the Great Ocean of Kiwa, but is actually personified in Hinemoana, the Ocean Maid. In one recital we are told that Hinemoana, Kiwa, Timutahi, Hakoa-koa, Kekerewai, Kaukau and Takaurutau were atua concerned with the control of the ocean; the second, third, fifth, and sixth of these names are those of members of the primal offspring, children of Rangi and Papa. In one version of our story Hine-moana is said to have been a daughter of Hine-hau-one (whose first name was Hine-ahu-one). Her place was out on the great waste of waters, on tiritiri o te moana, the far spread ocean solitudes, and it was then that she was taken to wife by Kiwa. She is spoken of as the "parent" of certain fish, including the moki and maomao, also of shellfish and seaweed. (Na, ko Hinemoana ko tetahi tenei o nga tamahine a Hine-hau-one, i moe nei i a Tane-matua. Ko te mea tenei i makaia ki te apaapa i a Tawhirimatea ma hei tiaki i ta ratau tamahine. I te wa rea oti te maka i tenei o tona whanau ki waho, kiia ake nei, ka moea e Kiwa hei wahine; koia te matua o te moki, o te maomao, me era atu ika pera katoa te ahua.)

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Among the Matatua tribes one hears of Wainui as a personified form of the ocean, and she appears as the offspring of Sky and Earth.

family tree

Wainui here appears as one of a family of three and mates with Tangotango, who seems to have represented the Milky Way; their progeny are represented by the heavenly bodies, by phosphorescent light, and by Hine-rauamoa. A mythical genealogy collected at Turanga gives Wai-nui-atea as the second wife of Rangi the Sky Parent, their offspring being Moana-nui, the Great Ocean. The small river fish known as inanga are said to go to their mother Wainui in order to spawn, and Wainui is also spoken of as the mother of such water plants as the bulrush. Curiously enough Wainui is also said to be concerned with earthquakes, which, I have been informed, are caused by Wainui shaking her breasts; it is this shaking that marks, and apparently causes the seasonal changes.

There is ever a danger that land may be seriously injured by the encroachment of Hine-moana, the ocean; the bays and inlets we see have been formed by the ngaunga Hine-moana, as the Maori puts it, the "gnawing of Hine-moana" into the body of the Earth Mother. In this account it was that Rakahore, Hine-one, and Hine-tuakirikiri were appointed to protect Papa the Earth Mother from the attacks of the Ocean Maid. These three names represent the personified forms of rock, sand and gravel; these are the guardians who keep watch over the bounds of Hine-moana, nga tupaki o Hine-moana.

We have noted the word atea as attached to the name Wainui; this word denotes an open, clear expanse, and it is met with in the names of Tahora-nui-atea, Mahora-nui-atea and Marae-nui-atea, all of which denote a vast open expanse, and are employed to designate the ocean. Marae-roa is another term so applied to the ocean, while Tahuaroa seems to be applied to an expanse of either sea or land. The Moriori folk of the Chatham Islands applied the terms Hiku-watea and Raorao-nui-a-Watea to the ocean; the last is specially applicable; the vast plain of space; for Watea is the personified form of space.

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Parawhenuamea represents water; she was the first wife of Kiwa and produced water. In the very beginning there was no land according to Maori myth, all was water and light was not. It was water that fashioned the plains and fair lying lands we see around us, but Mataaho and Whakaruaumoko are disturbing agents and break up the fair lands.

Some authorities seem to have held that Parawhenuamea represented fresh water only, as shown in the following note: "Ko Parawhenuamea, ko te tuahine tera o te Putoto; na, ko tana Parawhenuamea koia te matua o te wai e kiia nei he wax maori." Both Para and Tuamatua, who represents rock and stones, were the offspring of Tane and the Mountain Maid, Hine-tupari-maunga.

The origin myth concerning ocean tides is the well known tale of Te Parata, a monster said to be a denizen of tiie ocean, and who causes high and low tide by swallowing vast quantities of the waters of the ocean, and then ejecting the same. The name of the Waha o te Parata, the mouth or entrance of the Parata, is said to be a great abyss or whirlpool far out on the ocean, the same being a place highly dangerous to navigators. It was in this dread gulf, we are told, that the Arawa vessel narrowly escaped disaster, being saved by the potent charms of Ngatoro. It is interesting to note that one version of this tale of the Waha o te Parata makes Te Parata and Tangaroa one and the same person, and also mentions Karihi as, apparently, another name for Te Parata or Tangaroa. This latter name, we are told, originated in the fact that he breathes but twice in twenty-four hours, he is a deep, or long breather, hence tonga roa. (Te take o nga tai he mea na Karihi, ara na te Parata, koia e horomi ana i tei wai o te moana, koia te tai timu, a tea puwhaina mai ono e ia, koia te tai pari. Tera atua, a te Parata, koia te tino atua o te moana, a ko Tangaroa tetahi o ona ingoa. Te takenga mai o tena ingoa he roa no tana tanga manawa i a ia e ha ana i te ha o tona kopu; e rua ano hanga ona i te ra, i te po; koia ra te take o taua ingoa.) In a brief note from Takitimu sources we are told that the Parata abides at the Tuahiwi o Hine-moana, and that his body and arms are ten fathoms in length. The tuahiwi alluded to is, in Maori belief, a form of water ridge in mid-ocean, a place where very rough seas are encountered, and from which the ocean falls or surges both ways.

When guardians were being appointed for the heavenly bodies then Rona, Te Ahurangi and Te Rangitaupiri were made guardians of the moon, they control that orb. Then Tane-matua page 255said: "Let the moon have control of the tides of Hine-moana." It was then that the Tuahiwi-nui-a-Hinemoana was arranged to serve, apparently, as a dividing line from which tidal surges flowed both ways.

A note that has a very unusual aspect makes Kiwa the offspring of the Po-tuangahuru, the tenth period of Chaos, at which remote time he took to wife Take-moana and by her had Te Moana (The Ocean).

In Maori mythology Watea is the personified form of space; when Watea appeared then Rangi and Papa, sky and earth, were separated, Rangi above and Papa below. It was also Watea who separated land from water. (I te putanga mai o Watea ka wehea a Rangi ki runga, ka waiho a Papa ki raw nei. Na Watea Hoki i wehea ai te wai kia puta ke he whenua.) The ocean is sometimes termed the marae o Hine-moana, the plaza of the Sea Maid, or the marae nui o Hine moana, the vast plaza of Hine-moana.

There existed some vague belief in mysterious beings who dwell far out in the great ocean spaces, and these denizens of the water deserts are said to have nurtured Maui and Uenuku-titi from infancy even unto maturity. The latter is said to have been so cared for by "the hordes of the Petipeti, of Waihekura, of Waihengana, of Waihematua", whoever they may be; when an explanation was sought by the writer he was simply informed that they were atua, sea-dwelling beings, possibly allied to the Tutumaiao and Turi-whekoi-rangi, but this did not make matters much clearer.