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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 53

The Maori Cosmogony

The Maori Cosmogony.

We do not wish to extend a paper which has already passed its intended limits, by multiplying instances of misapprehensions by men who write with confidence and authority. But one blunder committed by Sir John Lubbock, who would be quoted as an authority by any author, tells the story of many a learned theory built upon the unsound footing of defective knowledge. In that celebrated and oft quoted work, "The Origin of Civilisation," he tells his readers that the New Zealander had no idea of a creation.* Let us examine this statement by the light of the interesting little work on "Maori Religion and Mythology," lately published by Dr Shortland. We therein find that though the Maoris had no clear tradition of a creation, they did possess a well-defined and exceedingly curious cosmogony; "The great mysterions cause of all things existing in the Cosmos was, as the Maori conceived it, the Generative Power. Commencing with a primitive state of Darkness, he collceived Po (Night) as a person capable of begetting a race of beings resembling itself. After a succession of several generations the race of Po Te Ata (Morn) was given birth to. Then

* "Origin of Civilisation," Sir John Lubbock.

page 16 followed certain beings existing when Cosmos was without form and void. Afterwards come Rangi (Heaven), Papa (Earth) the winds and other sky powers, as are recorded in the genealogical traditions preserved to the present time." "The first woman in the Maori mythology drags down her offspring to Po (Night), meaning death." Dr. Shortland is struck with the many points of similarity between the Greek and Maori mythologies.*

* "Maori Religion and Mythology," by Shortland, M.A., M.R.C.P., late Native Secretary, New Zealand.