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

The Creation of Woman and Vegetation

The Creation of Woman and Vegetation

Tane is specially prominent as the Fertilizer. It was he who fertilized the earth and caused it to produce trees and herbage. It was he also who took a portion of the body of the Earth Mother, vivified it, and so produced Woman. All this was the result of the search for the female element. When the offspring of the primal parents resolved to introduce man—that is, a non-supernatural race—to occupy the earth, then the difficulty was that no mortal female existed who might become the mother of mankind. All the said offspring were males, and all the female denizens of the twelve heavens were supernatural beings. It was impossible to derive ira tangata (human life—i.e., mortal man) from ira atua (supernatural life, or life as possessed by the gods). Hence it was necessary that the mortal female element be sought, and this became the great quest of the gods, on which the sons of the Sky Parent and Earth Mother were long engaged. Far and wide they wandered throughout the universe, ever seeking the female element, and ever failing to find it. Tane the Fertilizer encountered many beings whom he mistook for females who might possess the seed of man, but they produced only trees and plants. It was thus that the naked body of the Earth Mother became clothed with vegetation.

It was now known that the female element necessary to the introduction of man, of non-supernatural beings, did not exist, hence it was resolved that woman should be created. This important task was assigned to Tane the Fertilizer. He proceeded to form an image in human form page 39 from earth, a portion of the body of the Earth Mother. In this form he implanted the spirit and breath of life, obtained from Io, the Supreme Being. Even so the image of earth sneezed, opened its eyes, breathed, and arose—a woman!

We now see that Tane, who represents light and warmth, was not only the Fertilizer—he was also a demiurge, a creator. The woman so created was named Hine-ahu-one, the Earth-formed Maid, and with her originated the ira tangata, or human life—mortal life as pertaining to mankind. Hine-ahu-one may be termed the mother of the human race.

Tane himself took the first woman to wife, for to him was assigned the position of procreator; it was he who begat man. Their offspring were females, who appear to be personifications. Of these maids the most important was Hine-titama, she who divides night and day, she who is described as the most beautiful of all maids, for she personifies dawn, and heralds the coming of her sire; Hine-titama is the Dawn Maid. The myth of Tane and Hine-titama is one of considerable interest, for it gives us in allegorical form the passing of the dawn, the coming of the sun, and its passage through the heavens, the gradual retreat of the Dawn Maid before her night-dispelling sire, until they reach, in the far west, the entrance to the underworld, the realm of gloom and night. The Dawn Maid descends to that realm, there to abide for ever, and assumes the name of Hine-nui-te-po. Tane ever pursues her, but is turned back and compelled to return to this world, for his task is to beget other Dawn Maids. Hence, every day a Dawn Maid is born, fares westward to the realm of night pursued by Tane, who reappears the following morn as the rising sun.

The task of Hine in the underworld is the protection of the souls of the dead from dread Whiro, who ever strives to destroy them. Her ceaseless charge is the toiora (spiritual welfare) of her children, who are drawn down to the spirit-world by Rua-toia and Rua-kumea. Whiro and his evil band, the powers of darkness, of disease, of terrestrial convulsions, ever wage war against Hine, the ex Dawn Maid, who guards the spirits of the dead.