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The Coming of the Maori

The Esoteric Version

The Esoteric Version

The esoteric version of the gods postulates the existence of one supreme god named Io. Such a concept is a marked departure from the popular version of a number of co-equal gods, each possessing authority over independent departments of nature and human activities. This version was not known to the general public until comparatively recent times because it was held by an inner circle of priests who would not impart it to the uninitiated. Details of the cult of Io were made known by Te Matorohanga in the late 1850s and his lectures were written down by page 444two young men who had been educated at a Mission school. One of them, H. T. Whatahoro, spent years in making further recordings from Te Matorohanga and a learned confrere named Nepia Pohuhu. Whatahoro had the manuscript in his possession for 50 years and he made copies, one of which was deposited in the Dominion Museum. Both Percy Smith and Elsdon Best had access to the manuscript material and gave the new theory their enthusiastic support. For details, the reader is referred to their works, as only the main outline will be given here.

The cult of Io as the Supreme Being and Creator was confined to the highest order of priests who were termed tohunga ahurewa. The teaching was imparted in properly constituted houses of learning. Higher class people heard the ritual when it was employed over persons of importance on such occasions as birth, sickness, death, or exhumation. Best (15, p. 88) states that common people were apparently not allowed to attend such functions. The very name of Io was so sacred or secret that it was not mentioned under a roof but only out in the open between the initiated. These statements make a good reason for why the cult of Io was so little known.

The meaning of the name Io is given as "core", the same as iho, and it was probably for some such meaning that the name was selected for a supreme god who was to be the core or heart of all things. Following an established technique, Io was given a number of names by adding a qualifying term to denote his various attributes. From various references, I counted 27 different names. A few will suffice:

Io-matua: he is the parent of all things, natural phenomena, plants, animals, man, and gods.
Io-matua-kopre: he had no parents, "he was nothing but himself."
Io-te-pukenga: he is the source of thought, reflection, planning.
Io-te-wananga: he is the source of all knowledge.
Io-mata-ngaro: his face is hidden and unseen.
Io-te-waiora: he is the source and giver of life.

Io brought the world out of chaos, as already described in the section on cosmogony.

Various incidents in the popular version of the creation of the gods are retained, but elaborated with more detail and the introduction of more characters. The following passage (80, p. 117) concerning the confinement of their children between the bodies of the Sky-father and the Earth-mother is quoted to illustrate literary padding:

"Some were crawling, some were upright with the arms held up, some were lying with the knees partly drawn up, some lying on their sides, some were lying stretched out at full length, some on their backs, some were stooping, some with their heads bent down, some with their legs page 445drawn up, some embracing, some kicking out legs and arms, some kneeling, some standing, some inhaling deep breaths, some with exhausted breath, some crawling, some walking, some feeling about in the dark, some arising, some gazing, some sitting still, and in many other attitudes within the embrace of Ranginui and Papa."

The children of the primary parents are increased to the extraordinary number of 70, and all their names are given. The number, however, is deceptive for some well-known names are repeated with different attributes as follows (80, p. 20): Tane, 2; Tu, 5; Rongo, 2; Tawhiri, 2. Tangaroa, however, occurs but once, and the quite important Haumia of the popular version is left out. The first-born of the family is Urutengangana and Whirotetupua appears in the sequence of seniority before the gods mentioned above. Whakaruaumoko (Ruaumoko) appears as the last, for he was still at his mother's breast when the separation of the parents took place.

New elements are introduced into the period before the separation of the parents. Uepoto was carried out on the current of his mother's urine and found the outer prospect pleasant. He called out under the sides of his parents inviting the others to come out. Tane came out by finding one exit between the legs of his mother. The drawback, however, was the intense cold and this is given as the reason why Rangi and Papa continued in a close embrace in order to exclude the cold from their children. Urutengangana and his party followed later. Whiro and his party were the last to come out, and he was very angry with Tane for inducing them to leave the shelter of their parents and thereby suffer from the cold of space which was personified as Wero-i-te-ninihi, Wero-i-te-wawana, and Wero-i-te-kokota. In his anger, Whiro afflicted some of the gods with baldness, which explains how a common affliction originated.

Probably influenced by their precarious position on the exposed parts of Papa, Tane proposed that their father, Rangi, be separated from Papa; but Whiro entered a strong opposition. As in the popular version, Tangaroa and Tumatauenga supported Tane but Tawhirimatea changed his vote for he also agreed. No mention is made of how Rongo voted and, as already stated, Haumia had been omitted from the list of children. In the popular version, Tawhirimatea had led the opposition but in this account, he was supplanted by Whiro and any lingering claims to the leadership of the opposition were effectively disposed of by making Tawhirimatea a supporter of Tane. Tane's party prevailed, and Rangi was pushed up and kept in the position he now occupies by four props. Some difficulty was experienced, because Rangi and Papa held on to each other by their arms. Tane ordered Tumatauenga and another brother to sever their arms with adzes. The adzes were obtained from under the pillow of their eldest brother, Urutengangana, and they were sharpened and page 446hafted by Tuamatua. The unfilial act was accomplished and the separation of Earth and Sky was completed. The names of the adzes were Te Awhio-rangi and Te Whironui. The adze named Te Awhiorangi, now in the possession of the Ngarauru tribe, is stated by the Matorohanga school to be the original adze which figured in the above myth. However, this is obviously a later addition to the tale.

As Ranginui was being separated from his wife, Paia cut off the Ahitapu which hung from Rangi's neck and subsequently made fire with it. Percy Smith (80, p. 122) explains the statement by saying that the two fire-sticks used for making fire by the Polynesian method, were habitually carried suspended from the neck in front or at the back to keep them dry. Contact with the body made them tapu, hence the name Ahitapu (Sacred-fire). In the popular version Maui obtained fire from Mahuika at a much later period, but in this surprising myth, Paia obtained it from the Sky-father at a period when the gods did not know how to get warm.

In the detailed Tahitian version (50, p. 409), the sky of Rumia was held down to earth by the tentacles of the great octopus named Tumura'ifenua. It was not possible to raise the sky until the octopus was killed by a god named Ruatupuanui. Ru raised the sky on to the tops of the arrowroot leaves and then on to the peaks of the low mountains. However, he sprained his back and developed a hernia as a result of his exertions. Maui then took up the task and managed to push the sky up on to the peaks of some high mountains. He then gave up and sought aid from the god Tane. Then, as in the Maori version, Tane completed the task of elevating the sky to its present position.

The architecture of the skies also received extra attention by the addition of two more stories to the original 10-story structure of the popular version. In an ancient lament by Tuhotoariki (103, p. 44), the following reference occurs:

Ka eketia nga rangi …then were ascended
Ngahuru ma rua i kona. the twelve skies.

The names of the twelve skies are enumerated (80, p. 116), the topmost being Tikitiki o nga rangi or Te Toi o nga rangi and the lowest being Rangi nui a tamaku rangi. All these skies were inhabited by a new series of gods who were distinct from the sons of the Earth-mother and the Sky-father.

The gods who inhabited the twelve skies were graded as follows (80, pp. xiv, xv).

1.The Supreme God, Io, dwelt in the twelfth sky at Matangireia. His marae or plaza was Te Rauroha, and the sacred house in which the treasures of knowledge were kept was named Rangiatea. The entrance from the eleventh to the twelfth skies was named Pumotomoto and the page 447house guarding the entrance was Tawhirirangi. Five gods of the whatu-kuraclass, including Rehua, also dwelt on the topmost sky and their duty was to guard the treasures in Rangiatea.
2.The whatukura were male gods who dwelt in the various skies and they communicated between Io and the children of Papa and Rangi. They were the guardians of the particular skies to which they had been assigned.
3.The mareikura were the wives of the whatukura and they dwelt with their husbands. A list of the eleven skies below the topmost sky and the names of the male and female guardians of each is given by Smith (80, p. 123).
4.The apa were the male and female servitors of the whatukura. The term apa is sometimes prefixed to whatukura and mareikura, and such compounds must not be confused with the ordinary apa.
5.The poutiriao were the guardian spirits of all things in the sky and on earth. They were appointed by Io through Tane and were subservient to the whatukura. It is not clear where they lived.
6.The sixth class consisted of the 70 children of Rangi and Papa who are classified as the Whanau a Rangi (Children-of-the-Sky).

It is now evident why Rehua was omitted from the list of the children of Rangi. In the popular version, he was a brother of Tane and lived on the topmost of ten skies. In the Matorohanga version, he was promoted to the higher grade of whatukura and his topmost sky was raised two stories higher.

Having provided the superior gods with definite homes in the sky mansion, some attention was given to housing the sons of Rangi. They could not live in any of the twelve skies, because they were allowed there only on a direct invitation from Io. The houses that were built for them must, therefore, have been on the surface of the Earth-mother. Owing to the bad feeling which existed, the progeny of Rangi separated and the gods and houses mentioned are as follows (80, p. 123):

Whiro, Urutengangana, and others dwelt in Tuteaniwaniwa.
Tumatauenga, Rongo and others dwelt in Wharekura, which Percy Smith notes as the first earthly Wharewananga, or House of learning.
Tane, Paia and others dwelt in Huakipouri.

At some time evidently after the building of the three houses already enumerated, Tane and some of his brethren visited Rangitamaku, the sky next to the lowest, to obtain the design of a house named Wharekura. From the way the narrative is worded, they appear to have gone without any invitation from Io. The house (80, p. 127) was said to be a matarua (two eyes), having two windows, one on each side of the door. On their return they built a similar house and also named it Wharekura. It was to page 448be a depository for the knowledge which they were to get later. Smith states that this was the first whare wananga built on earth. There is a discrepancy here, for the Wharekura built for Tumatauenga and Rongo is also stated to be the first house of learning built on earth.

Following the building of Wharekura with two windows, some other curious houses were built for the gods, and named as follows (80, p. 127):

Gods House Kind
Tamakaka and others Te Wharerangi A matahi with only one window on the right-hand side of the door.
Tupai Rangipukohu
Tane and Tangaroa Huiteananui A matawha with two windows in front and two behind; richly carved.
Tumatauenga Te Roroku o te rangi Very tapu, repository for weapons, war ritual.
Rongomaracroa Haowhenua Repository for agricultural implements.

There were evidently more, but the lecturer stated at this point that the above were all he could remember.

The house named Te Wharerangi was the orthodox type with one window on the right-hand side of the door, looking in. The door has to be on the left-hand side of the median ridge post and it is difficult to imagine any Maori housebuilder placing a second window to the left of the door to make a matarua like the house named Wharekura. However, the placing of two more in the back wall to make a matawha (four eyes), as in Huiteananui, is a departure from all rules of Maori housebuilding. Mention has already been made of the strong opposition which the Maori made against the Health Bylaws recommending back windows in meeting houses for the sake of ventilation. I believe that the houses with two windows and with four windows were inventions of the Matorohanga school to add new details to their story by simply departing from the orthodox.

The greatest adventure of this period (80, p. 128) was the visit of Tane to Io to obtain the wananga (knowledge). Io had sent messengers down to the sons of Rangi commanding them to select one of their number to visit him. Whiro objected to the selection of Tane on the grounds that he himself should go as he was senior in birth to Tane. However, Tane decided to go in spite of Whiro. Whiro tried to intercept Tane but missed him, so he sent a horde of insects termed the Tini o Poto to attack him and draw his blood. Tane, accompanied by some of his brothers, was page 449carried upwards by the family of whirlwinds, Titimatakake (Ascending-whirlwind) and others. Tane's companions returned at the tenth sky. The army of Whiro overtook Tane at the eleventh sky but the great gales whirled them away before they could get near him. Tane passed through the Pumotomoto entrance to the twelfth sky and entered the guard house, Tawhirirangi, where he was received by the whatukura dwelling in that sky. The names of seven are given which is an addition of two to the number previously given. He was taken to the Waters-of-Rongo and purified, after which he was conducted into the presence of Io in the palace of Matangireia. Io asked Tane the object of his visit and Tane replied that he wished to obtain the wananga. Io took him outside to the courtyard of Te Rauroha, and he was again purified. They entered the treasure house named Rangiatea, where the whatukura guardians gave Tane the three baskets of knowledge and two sacred stones.

The three baskets and their symbolic contents were as follows (80, p. 130):

1.The kete uruuru matua, of peace, goodness, and love.
2.The kete uruuru rangi, of prayers, incantations, and ritual.
3.The kete uruuru tau (or tawhito), of war, agriculture, woodwork, stone-work, and earth-work.

In the Tuhotoariki poem (103, p. 44), they are referred to as the kete tuauri, kete tuatea, and kete aronui.

The stones (whatu) were named Hukaatai (Sea-foam) and Rehutai (Sea-spray). They were white in colour and were used in the breaking up ceremony of the House of learning, when the graduates touched the stones with their lips.

Tane and his precious gifts were escorted down through the various skies by the whatukura residents. At the fourth heaven from the top, Tane was again attacked by the host of Whiro, but his attendant winds again defeated them. The lowest sky flashed a brilliant red to announce to the world below that Tane's quest had been successful. The baskets of knowledge were hung up on the back wall of the temple of Wharekura and the stones with them.

Whiro continued his war against Tane, and Smith (80, p. 134) lists 24 battles by name. The general inclusive term was Te Paerangi. After his final defeat, Whiro descended along the trail named Tahekeroa and lived, disgruntled, in the Underworld of Rarohenga.