Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Maori Religion and Mythology Part 2

Sky Father

Sky Father


The sky is generally indicated by one of these terms, but it is understood that the sky we see is the lowermost of twelve or ten heavens, each of which has a different name. This lowermost of the heavens is styled Rangi-nui-a-Tamaku in some lists, and as Rangi-whakataka or Rangi-takataka in others. Rangi was viewed as an atua (spirit) by the Maori, and was sometimes invoked in chanted formulae; he seems to have occupied much the same position as did Zeus originally. Whether the Maori believed in a series of twelve heavens, or only ten, he ever spoke of Rangi in the singular. The word rangi in vernacular speech carries the meaning of "lofty, elevated".

The names Rangi-tiketike and Rangi-pamamao, denoting loftiness and remoteness, are sometimes met with in old recitals.

page 298

It is the lowermost of the heavens that we hear so much about; the visible sky above us that took Papa the Earth Mother to wife; concerning the more distant heavens, the other eleven, we have but little data in Maori myth. Quite probably the old tohunga knew a good deal more about these matters than we know of, but little has been preserved. The following fragment was collected from one such expert, and seems to show that something definite was taught as to the mythical denizens of those mythical heavens.

family tree

Here we have Rangi-parauri, the third of the twelve heavens, counting upward, who mates with a female being and begets four others, the first of whom is Rangi-tamaku, the second of the twelve heavens, who takes Whanau to wife and has numerous progeny. Of these latter only the the first two names are familiar to us. Tawhaitari appears to be one and the same being as Tawhaitiri, who is a denizen of the underworld in South Island recitals, a companion of Tuapiko, and between whom spirits of the dead make hazardous passage. But both these names appear in a formula repeated by Tane in order to render forests fruitful, etc., as given elsewhere under Origin Myths. The Tuhoe folk have it that Tawhaitari is the name of a huge mythical bird. The second name in the above family is that of the lowermost of the heavens, so that the third heaven begat the second one, and the second begat the first or lowermost. The other members of the two families are denizens of the various heavens; they are all atua, supernormal beings.

Now Tapuhikura I in the above tale was the forebear of the Wind Children already alluded to:

family tree

page 299

Here we have that Huru-te-arangi who mated with Te Ihorangi and produced the personified forms of snow, ice and frost, and whose grandchildren are the Wind Folk. These offspring of Tapuhikura dwell in Rangi-naonao-ariki and Rangi-nui-ka-tika, the tenth and eighth heaven, counting upward. At the Chatham Islands one Rangi-tokoua is said to have been a being who separated Rangi and Papa, here possibly some confusion exists.

In some Maori recitals Rangi is credited with having taken two beings to wife, Papa and Wainui-atea, representing the earth and the ocean. A Matatua version makes Te Rangi-matinitini and Te Ao-matinitini the primal twain, and another mentions Te Rangi-puatea-te-rangi as the original being. The sky is alluded to by the Matatua folk as Rangi-nui-a-Tama, the Tama being Tamaiwhao, a denizen of the heavens. Other names applied to the heavens by the Matatua tribes are Rangi-roa, Rangi-pouri, Rangi-whatuma, Rangi-wharo, Rangi-whakere, Rangi-matua-tini and Rangi-potango.