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The Maori As He Was : A Brief Account of Maori Life as it was in Pre-European Days

The Origin of Light

The Origin of Light

Those members of the primal offspring who remained in this upper world were sore oppressed by the gloomy light that here obtained. It was Tane who introduced the clear, bright light we know, he who set on high the whanau marama, the light-giving family, the Children of Light, the heavenly bodies. These Shining Ones were arranged on the breast of Rangi, the Sky Parent, by Tane-te-waiora, and to each member was assigned the path he must traverse. So the sun, moon, and stars appeared, and so the maramatanga taiahoaho (clear enduring light) entered the world.

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Tane-te-waiora is one of the many names applied to Tane, each of which denotes some function of his. The peculiar expression te waiora a Tane, so often mistranslated by us, really denotes sunlight, and Tane-te-waiora is the personified form of sunlight. As Tane-te-hiringa and Tane-te-wananga he represents occult knowledge; as Tane-mahuta he represents trees, and so on.

At first there was no night; the sun ever shone fiercely upon the naked body of the Earth Mother, and she and her children were in sad distress. Hence the sun was moved, and to him was assigned the day, while night was allotted to the moon and the ra ririki (little suns—i.e., stars). So day and night became known.

The expression waiora denotes life, welfare, and similar conditions, evidently the same word as vaiora (= to survive) of the Paumotu dialect. Cf. Maori waiora (= the blank, unmarked spaces between lines of tattoo). In both the Paumotu and Tahitian dialects we find vai (= to be, to exist), and this is evidently the basis of the expression waiora or vaiora. It is also probably the wai of such words as waimarie, wairuhi, maimate, &c. The waiora a Tane, according to popular belief, is the old, old quest of mankind, the Fountain of Youth, sought by many men of many lands, from neolithic man to Ponce de Leon. A popular Maori myth is to the effect that the waning moon is restored to youth and beauty by bathing in the waiora a Tane, and this curious concept is known from here to the Sandwich Islands. But the famed waiora of Tane is sunlight, not the revivifying waters of the popular myth.