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Maori Religion and Mythology Part 2

[argument and introduction]

page 328

So-called gods often personification of natural phonomena. The Maui myths. Tiki, Tuna and first woman. Woman evolved from reflection. Lunar myths. Hina and moon. Hina and Rongomotu. Ira the eel god. Rona. The Moon Maidens. Dogs of Celestial region. Celestial visitors. Tawhaki. Tamaiwhao and Kura. Tamarau and Rongoueroa. Deluge myths. Rain myths. Wind myths. Rainbow myths. Whaitiri and Kaitangata. Tawhaki and Hapai. Lightning myths. Story of Whakatau. Greenstone myths. Lizard myths. Mountain myths.

The culture stage in which the Maori lived is ever productive of many conceptions that come under the heading of Nature Myths. This seems to be an inevitable result of a combination of ignorance of natural laws and a close fellowship with Nature. The Maori ever lived the open life in close touch with his surroundings, he spent his days in the forest, in his plantations, or in fishing. The manifestations of Nature were ever before him; these had to be accounted for and explained, and so we have Polynesian mythology as the result. In treating of origin myths and personifications we have already scanned a considerable number of the concepts of barbaric man, but there are yet others to be presented ere we attain to a representative collection of Maori myths. In giving specimens of these myths we shall be dealing with such objects and phenomena as were under survey when describing origins and personifications. Notwithstanding repeated assertions to the effect that the numerous atua of the Maori were but deified ancestors, I must emphatically assert that a great number of them were assuredly personifications of natural phenomena, and of these a long list has been given; the proof of this statement lies clear before any enquirer who examines the evidence.

In order to break ground in this delving into the native myths of the Maori some account will now be given of the numerous stories pertaining to Maui, inasmuch as these are the best known of such recitals, and, moreover, were much appreciated by the Maori folk of past generations. Among a scriptless people story telling is ever a much favoured pastime, and the Maori had a rich budget of stories, myths, folk tales to draw on when long evenings or stormy weather caused him to indulge in such diversions. The remarkable memorising powers of Polynesian folk enabled them to retain a vast amount of such tales; their equally remarkable powers of declamation enabled them to hold the interest of an audience.