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Maori Religion and Mythology Part 2

Celestial Visitors

Celestial Visitors

On the other hand we have in Maori myth various accounts of celestial beings visiting the earth, and such visitors to this world included both sexes. The majority of these super-normal visitants appear to have come down for one purpose, to seek mates in this lower world. Thus Uenuku-rangi, he who represents the rainbow, Tamaiwaho, and Tamarau, all these cohabited with women of this world; while Tairi-a-kohu, or Hine-pokohu, the Mist Maid, and Whaitiri or Hine-whaitiri, the Thunder Maid came down, apparently to seek male mates. Whaitiri asserted that such was her intention when she approached Kaitangata, but we are told that the Mist Maid came down in order to bathe in the waters of this world. I am somewhat dubious about this statement when noting how easily Uenuku seems to have persuaded her to abide with him.

The story of Whaitiri is a well known one; she heard, of one Kaitangata as a denizen of this realm, and seems to have believed that his name described his habits, that he was a confirmed cannibal, hence she appeared on earth and cohabited with him. He did not come up to her expectations as a cannibal, and so she soon returned to her celestial home. But more of this anon.

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The tale of Tamaiwaho, a godlike resident of the upper heavens, is of some interest. He came to earth and cohabited with Te Kura, wife of the famous Toi-kairakau of Whakatane, a man of parts who flourished some seven or eight centuries ago. The story of Te Kura was to the effect that she was visited at night by a strange being, that when he entered her hut a strange light and a fragrant perfume seemed to emanate from his person. It was decided to detain the intruder until daylight arrived so that he might be caught, and this was effected by means of closing all apertures of the hut walls that might admit light. Thus was it discovered that the nightly visitor was Tamaiwaho. The sudden admission of daylight so startled the celestial visitor that he bade the people to name the coming child Oho-mai-rangi to commemorate the fact (oho = startled). And we are told that the child Oho became the oponymic ancestor of the tribe called Nga-Oho. One version of the myth is to the effect that Tama, being a spirit, was, of course, not visible, he had no bodily form, and Te Kura explained that the spirit of some one had approached her, she had felt its presence although it was not visible and not a tangible form. It was then planned that the spiritual form should be captured, and this was done. Unfortunately the method of capture was not explained by the narrator, the capture of an incorporeal and invisible spirit must have demanded some ingenuity. The captured god was, however, not retained, for Hine-pokohu, the Mist Maid, came swiftly to earth and covered the place with a dense mist that caused some confusion, and so Tamaiwaho made his escape. An interesting recital of this tale, in the original Maori, as given by old Hamiora Pio of Te Teko, appears at pp. 906-7 of my work Tuhoe, the Children of the Mist.

Tamarau was another of these free-lance roving gods of yore; the full name of this hero was Tamarau-heketanga-rangi, and he became familiar with Rongoueroa, a daughter of Toi, who seems to have inherited the frailty of Te Kura. The child of this semi-divine union was named Awanui-hekei-iho-i-te-rangi, to commemorate the fact that his father had descended from the heavens. It appears that Tamarau came upon Rongoueroa when she was bathing, which reminds us of Uenuku's meeting with the Mist Maid. In Grey's version Tamarau is alluded to as a wairua or spirit, while the victim of the immaculate conception scheme is Rongoueroa, and the resultant child is Awanui-a-rangi. Rongo saw the reflection of Tamarau in the water, and, turning, saw him standing on the bank of the stream. It is not explained how it was that a spirit form could be so reflected, or how a spirit could beget page 401children, but these interesting little inconsistencies are by no means confined to barbaric man. In a version of the story of Whaitiri given on p. 77 of Mr White's first volume, Maori part, Awanui-a-rangi is said to have ascended to the heavens where he took one Ahiahi-o-tahu to wife, and a brief line of eight generations brings us to Porourangi and Tahupotiki, ancestors of Ngati-Porou and Ngai-tahu.

The tale of Uenuku's adventure with the Mist Maid is inserted elsewhere in this paper, and it is the most interesting story of the kind that we have collected. The Whanganui people mention an atua named Paerangi who descended from the heavens and is alluded to as 'Paerangi atua o Te Moungaroa', but I know not what pranks he played on earth. These stray gods seem to be a feckless lot. Uenuku's second adventure with the wife of Tamatea also comes under another heading.