Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Maori Religion and Mythology Part 2

Trees and Forests

Trees and Forests


Rehua represents forests, as shown in certain very old myths and tales, and, in olden times lehua = rehua was employed as a term to denote the forest, in northern Polynesia. When Tane ascended to Taketake-nui-o-Rangi and interviewed Rehua, the latter offered him food procured from his own head; this food consisted of birds procured from the heads of forest trees, where they obtained their food. Tane wished to bring back some birds to his mother (the Earth Mother), but Rehua remarked that there were no trees on earth to provide food for birds, that he would do better to take some trees down to earth and there plant them, and this was done. Rehua is said to be one of the whatukura of the uppermost heaven, but another story makes him a denizen of the one below it, Tiritiri-o-matangi; his "house" was Te Uruuru-rangi, situated at Te Putahi-o-rongo, his turuma was Tokoahurangi. The star Rehua is one of the many star children of Ikaroa (the Galaxy) and Ikanui; it is Rehua who cooks, i.e., ripens the hua rakau or tree fruit, "such is the task of this person", as my informant put it. The name Rehua is connected with stars, with summer, with forests, with fish, birds, and lightning. Rehua is given in some recitals as one of the offspring of Rangi and Papa, the primal offspring. Birds are said to subsist on the vermin of the head of Rehua, the vermin being the fruit of forest trees. The clematis and puahou (Nothopanax arboreum) are alluded to as the children of Rehua, as also are several birds. We have already seen that Rehua represents the heat of summer.

page 321
Tane-mahuta Tane-i-te-wao

These three titles of Tane proclaim him as the personified form of the forest (wao) trees, and tutelary being of the forest. As we have seen Tane himself produced many species of trees during his strenuous endeavour to procreate mortal man. There are also personified forms of different species of trees, and these personifications are often one and the same as the originating beings already given.

Mumuhanga Represents the totara tree (Podocarpus totara).
Puwhakahara Represents the maire and puriri (Olea spp. and Vitex lucens).
Tukapua Represents the tawai (Nothofagus spp.).
Hine-waoriki Represents Kahikatea (Podocarpus dacrydioides) also the matai (Podocarpus spicatus).

In the story of Mahu the white pine is said to be the offspring of Hine-te-ngawari and Puwhenua, which offspring was slain by Mahu, i.e., blasted by means of magic.

Mangonui Represents the tawa (Beilschmiedia tawa) and hinau (Elaeocarpus dentatus).
Rurutangiakau Represents the ake (Dodonaea viscosa) and kahikatoa (Leptospennum scoparium).

From both these timbers weapons were fashioned. Observe how personification terms were employed in Maori recitals, the following is from the story of Rata the voyager. "Rata proceeded to Tahataharoa, where the party of Rurutangiakau was dwelling. Those folk were slain to serve as weapons wherewith to attack Matuku. Now perished Ake-rautangi, who was fashioned into weapons by Rata." These people go and slay trees to furnish themselves with wooden weapons. The ordinary name of the tree, ake-rautangi, is used as a personal name, in addition to the personificatory term of Rurutangiakau.

Tauwhare-kiokio Represents tree ferns, a numerous family.
Hine-kaikomako Represents the kaikomako (Pennantia corymbosa).
Rerenoa Represents the rata tree (Metrosideros robusta) and climbing plants.
Toro-i-waho Represents the climbing plants (One Toro-i-waho is credited with being the origin of the smaller insects and reptiles).
Tawharanui Represents the kiekie (Freycinetia banksii).
Hine-mahanga Represents the tutu (Conaria ruscifolia).
Punga Represents the kotukutuku (Fuchsia excorticata) and patate (Schefflera digitata).page 322
Kakaho Represents the toetoe (Arundo conspicua).
Huna Represents the harakeke (Phormium tenax).
Poananga Represents the Clematis.
Puahou Represents the parapara (Nothopanax arboreum).
Apunga Represents small plants.
Tutoro-whenua Represents the common bracken (Pteris aquilina).
Haumia Represents the rhizome of Pteris aquilina.
Hine-Kotau-ariki Represents young fronds, or roots from which they spring, of Pteris.
Pu-te-hue Represents the gourd (Lagenaria vulgaris).

Poananga Puahou and Tahumate are said to have been children of Rehua, Puahou was born before Poananga, he is a winter child, but Poananga was not born until the time of Mahuru (spring); these remarks refer to the time of flowering of these plant "children". The rhizome of the bracken was personified because it was the most important of local esculent plants.

Hine-kotau-ariki appears in song as follows:

Ka noho Rarotimu i a Karotake, ka puta ki waho ra ko Pukupuku te rangi
Nahana te aruhe i runga i te tuara nui o Rangi e awhi ara
No te tokonga a Tane ka now ki raw ki te tahataha o Rawwhena nei tu ai
Na Nukuanoa i kohi mai, na Toi i whakakite ki te ao
Na Te Atorua i pokapoka, i kautititia hei kaupeka mo Haumia
Ka tow te pitau ki te ao ko Hine-katau-ariki … e … i.

Apparently this is the personified form of the fertility and productiveness of forests, as explained under the head of Origin myths.

A lone note tells me that one Kura was the origin of the hinau tree and that "te whatu turei a Kura" is an expression applied to the fruit of that tree. I know nought of this Kura, and the saying, as we know it, is "te whatu turei a Rua" said to denote the heavy meal obtained from the berries of the hinau, though its original application is said to have been something very different.


This much quoted name is that of the personified form of procreative energy. Tiki is usually described as the progenitor of the human race, as the maker of the first man, or as being himself the first man. Tiki bears a great number of names, inasmuch as he represents the male organ of generation, and such names describe its conditions and activities. A perusal of the evidence to hand shows clearly why mankind is termed the Aitanga a Tiki, the progeny of Tiki. At pp. 130-133 of part 1 of this study (Dominion Museum Bulletin 10, 1976 reprint) will be found some further data concerning Tiki.