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Maori Myth and Legends

Maori Myth and Legend By Margaret Orbell



Haarst Pass
South Island



Traditions from different parts of Aotearoa have a general similarity, despite their differences. Since everything in the world was alive, and all living things were related, there was no distinction of the kind found in Western thought between nature and culture. The natural world and human society were inseperable from the beginning because the sky, Rangi, is the first male and the earth, Papa, the first female. It follows that human males are like the sky and human females like the earth. These first parents have a number of children, who in most versions are all sons. One of the sons is always Tane(Male), who brings the world into existence by seperating his parents and afterwards-in most accounts-fathers human beings. The other sons often include Tangaroa, father of sea creatures; Tu, the first warrior; Rongo, father of the kumara; Haumia, father of fernroot; and Tawhirimatea, father of the winds. Sometimes there are others as well. In some regions, many of these are regarded as Tane's sons rather than his brothers, but this makes little difference; either way, humans and other life forms are bound by the indissoluble ties of kinship. Tane is often said to have fathered trees and birds before making a woman from the soil of Hawaiki and becoming the progenitor of human beings, and humans as a consequence are especially close to life forms that belong to the land. Between them, these earliest ancestors and their immediate descendants determine the characteristic behaviour (titanga) of natural phenomena, man and women, and other life forms. Some of them also satisfy human needs, as when the trickster hero Maui acquires fire and pulls up the fish that becomes Aotea (the North Island). Succeeding generations, who are exclusively human, become rather more specialised in their activities, introducing to the world such practithe genealogies we come to the men and women who leave their homes in Hawaiki to sail to Aotearoa and become ancestors of the peoples now living in different parts of the country. Traditions telling of such voyages exist in every region. Even those who trace descent in part from Aotearoa, acknowledge other ancestors of mana whose origin was in Hawaiki. These ancestors sailed on vessels such as Te Arawa, Tainui, Takitimu, Mamari, Horouta, Tokomaru, and many more. During the voyage they displayed remarkable powers, overcoming many dangers, and on thier arrival they introduced valuable resources such as the kumara and the karaka tree. They then explored the country, establishing territorial boundaries, placing in the hills and on the shore the mauri that ensured fertility, and creating landmarks. In the south, for instance, Rakaihaitu, captain of the Uruao, dug out a number of lakes that the country needed. In the north, the powerful tohunga Ngatoro-i-rangi introduced the volcanic fores still to be found there. In such cases the interaction of the tradition and the landmark reinforced belief: while the myth explained the existence of the landmark, the presence of this landmark confirmed the truth of the myth. The existence of the fiery crater in Ngauruhoe was explained by the story that Ngatoro-i-rangi, having reached the mountain's snowy summit, called to his sisters back in Hawaiki and told them to bring fire to warm him. At the same time, the fire on the mountain showed this tradition to be correct and was a most powerful sign of the mana of Ngatoro-i-rangi. Tapu landmarks often take the form of significantly shaped stones and rocky outcrops. Many are associated with the ancestors who sailed from Hawaiki and the waka in which they came, for it was believed that nearly all of these vessels afterwards turned to stone - becoming, usually reefs by the shore, unchanging presences that convey powerful messages concerning the people's origins and rights of possession. After telling of the voyage to Aotearoa and the definitive acts that occured subsequently, the traditions of each people trace through the geneologies the famous ancestors who founded descent groups, defended thei lands against out-siders, avenged defeats and, often, made politically significant marriages that ensured their people's wellbeing. There are, as well, plenty of accounts of men and women who stubbornly chose for themselves the lives they would lead. Some of these are love stories, and sometimes the end happily. These narratives concerning more recent times can generally be described as legends rather than myths, in that they contain much that is historically accurate. Certainly these ancestors, especially those belonging to the first generations to live in Aotearoa, are occasionally said to be giants, or to perform prodigious feats of one kind and another; but even so, their names and those of their relatives must generally have belonged to actual persons and many of the events with which they are associated must in fact have occured. Naturally enough, the traditions of neighbouring peoples are often at variance, as when they give differing accounts of the outcomes of battles in which the two sides had engaged, but there is much corroboration as well. A tremendous amount of historical information is available, especially for the last few centuries. While stories telling of encounters with supernatural beings such as taniwha, fairies (patupaiarehe) and giant reptiles are often set in the distant past, human involvement with them continued. Most taniwha had a relationship with one particular people, who made them offerings; fairies were seen on misty hills or in dreams, and again might have a relationship with humans; even reptiles, in the form of the small geckos that were so dreaded, might be employed in sorcery or made guardians of buried treasure. Tradtions relating to these beings were part of a complex body of belief and practice.


Ritual and Song


Intricate and often surprising uses were made of myths in ritual, song, proverbial sayings (whakatauki) and oratory. The poles or props (toko), for instance, with which Tane, in the beginning, seperated Rangi and Papa the earth, were sometimes identified with small poles placed upright at the tuahu, the shrine where the tohunga communicated with the gods - so that by implication the tuahu became a microcosm, a miniature version of the world, and its poles safeguarded the order that Tane had brought to the world. Similarly, on the east coast the work song (tewha) sung by the sons of Rangi and Papa when seperating their parents, and the form of scaffolding they used - known as a toko-Rangi or 'prop up Rangi' - were employed by men building the palisade of a pa, hauling up its heavy posts. By re-enacting in this way the event that had brought the world into being, the workers put their own use the immense power (mana) possessed, because of their origin, by this chant and scaffolding. The workers identification with the sons of sky and earth - the first workmen - gave great dignity to their task. And the posts in the palisades that were to defend their stronghold acquired a special significance through their identification with the posts that supported the sky. On the west coast, a different chant was believed to have been used by Tane when he seperated Rangi and Papa, propping them apart with tall trees. This chant, known as a toko, was employed in ritual when a marriage had ended but the husband or wife was still suffering from love. In this context, a tohunga's performance of the chant re-enacting the first seperation and identified the husband with Rangi and the wife with Papa. The seperation of these two people became the seperation of sky and earth, and just as inevitable. Some such usages were ancient, while others came into existence as required. People responded to significant events with eloquent speech - ritual chants, songs and oratory - and in so doing they thought, for much of the time, in terms of images and events from the past. In songs known as oriori, sung over infants, the child's origin in Hawaiki might be celebrated and distinguished ancestors would be mentioned. In waiata tangi-passionate, allusive laments for the dead - the poets spoke of the early generations who had created precedents and shown what must be done. Faced with disaster, men and women looked to the past for explanations and took upon themselves the roles that had been established for them. Maui, Hine-nui-te-po or Whiro might be blamed for the existence of death. The wairua of the person who had died would be sung out of the body, sent on the journey northwards to Te Reinga or told to assume Tawhaki's role and rise up to the sky. For a death in battle there might be mention of Apakura, who wept constantly and urged revenge. Like Whakatau, to whom she had appealed, the warriors related to the fallen rangatira would accept this sacred duty. Nor were songs sung only in the circumstances that first occasioned them. Later they were sung whenever it was appropriate to express or contemplate the ideas they contained. In oratory, both songs and ritual chants were often adapted to new circumstances. Some songs were sung at night around fires, especially when their was a full moon. Old people, especially, used to sing during the night, or in the early morning before rising. Maori songs move rapidly from one allusion to another, usually with only brief passages of narration. The poets depended upon the understanding of highly informed listeners, and this they generally had. At the same time their songs played an important part in the preservation of tradition. Certain mythical figures, for instance, seem to have been known in many parts of the country only from brief references in songs. Miru, whose home is in the underworld, appears in myths on the west coast and in the far north of the North Island, but elsewhere is mentioned only in songs.


Representations of Gods and Ancestors



Maori ritual sites were generally small and inconspicuous, hidden away in wild places. Often they were natural features in the landscape, as with the sacred spring or pool (wai tapu) near every village. Perhaps the most important were tuahu, where gods (atua) were invoked, offerings were made and many ceremonies performed. These shrines often took the form of a naturally occuring hillock or a small pile of stones, together with a fence, small upright poles and, sometimes, unworked upright stones that might represent certain gods. In other regions, the god (such as Maru) or early ancestor (Tane, Tangaroa, Tu, Tawhirimatea or Rongo) who had been summoned by the tohunga might enter a small wooden image (taumata atua) placed upright at the tuahu. Sacred stones, whether unworked or carved, were immutable and eternal presences. Very small stones, believed to have been brought from Hawaiki, were employed by tohunga. Mauri, which contained and guarded the vitality and man of a resource or other entity, often took the form of stones, sometimes quite small and either unworked or simple shaped. The existence in the landscape of extraodinaryily shaped rocks is often, as we have seen, explained by myths associating them with early ancestors. It is perhaps for this reason - because of the inherent powers possessed by significant stones - that stone figures, while possessing great expressive force, are sometimes only slightly carved. Treasured possessions of greenstones, such a tiki, were laboriously shaped and polished, along with stone adzes and chisels. But ancestors and other kin who conferred and guarded fertility, such as Horoirangi in the Rotorua district and Rongo and others who protected kumara gardens, needed only to have their powers made visible. Because of this they could be carved from materials that would otherwise have been difficult to work with the available technology. The situation was very different with wood-working, especially when greenstones chisels began to become available. For the houses and storehouses of rangatira, the gateways of pa, large waka, and numerous small objects such as treasured boxes (waka huia), the material mainly employed was totara wood. This could be readily split and worked, and would take fine detail. In the sculptural style that developed as a consequence, human figures are sometimes three-dimensional but are more often depicted in bas-relief, on the timbers of houses and other structures and on small objects. Figures are generally wide and shallow, defined largely by the exuberantly inventive patterns that swirl and circle on their surface. Body parts, especially the head, are freely interpreted - though some heads have features realistic enough to bear the patterns of facial tattoo (moko). Stylised heads and prifile heads proliferate, with smaller figures superimposed on larger figures, grasping one another, dissolving into pattern, forming highly sophisticated compositions. Most of these carved structures and objects were associated in one way or another with high ranking people or with the stauts of the community as a whole, so were tapu - sacred, under religious restriction - to a greater or lesser degree. Usually they were painted with red ochre, though some were polychrome. While detailed information about the figures' significance is often lacking, it is known that they generally represent ancestors. While some are early, such as Maui, most are the relatively recent ancestors who protect and advise (or when necessary, punish) their living descendents. Until the nineteenth century, the house of a ragatira ande his family was very small by present standards, with a low door and a single window alongside. These thick-walled houses were built to provide warmth in winter, and were typically about two metres high, two and a half to three metres in width and three to five metres in length. The interiors were used largely for sleeping, and then only on winter nights. During the day people often worked in the porch, and in hot weather they generally slept in the open or under light shelters. Since no food could be taken inside, meals were eaten in the open, or in the porch on wet days. Carved figures in these early houses were mostly on the outside timbers. They were not merely depictions of departed relatives; instead, in some sense, they were the relatives themselves, and their spledour revealed their power. On the facade and the porch walls they guarded their descendants and revealed these persons ancestry and mana. It was especially important for the threshold to be protected from sorcery (makutu), and this role they performed in carved lintels over the door, and often the window. Inside the house, an especially significant ancestor formed the lower part of the central pillar (pou-toko-manawa) that supported the ridgepole. Here as elsewhere the ancestor was part of the very structure of the building, sheltering its occupants. On storehouses and treasures boxes, in particular, carved ancestors are sometimes sexually joined. This is clearly appropriate for ancestors, to whose powers of fertility their descendant owe their existence. Their embraces speak of the abundance within, and at the same time they ensure that plentitude. For this reason, too, the bargeboards of many storehouses depicts stylised whales - these being symbolic of abundance.


The WiTcH’s Myst Awards

Maori Myth's and Legend's




Maori tradition is such a large and diverse field that even the narratives, the accounts of mythical and historical people, cannot be covered comprehensively. Every region has endless stories of its own, along with others that differ in subtle ways from those told elsewhere.

These are some of the Myths from Margaret Orbell's Maori Myth and Legends which have in Margarets words....."Left Aotearoa it's great heritage of tradition.



Ancestors - Source and substance of the world


Ancestors were regarded as the substance of their descendants, their very being. This was more than a close bond, it was a continuity of existence. On the one hand, it was believed that individuals had participated in the lives of their ancestors, so that their own lives went backward in time to early events. an orator describing an early event in his people's history might speak, quite explicily, as though he himself had been present at the scene. At the same time, it was taken for granted that people behave as they do because of the presence within them of their ancestors, both early and recent; that people owe their identity as well as their existence to the men and women who have preceded them. These two ideas were inseperable. People were present in their ancestors, and their ancestors were present in them. Everything in the world has life, and all are descended from the first parents, Rangi and the sky and Papa the earth. Because of this common descent all life forms belong to the one kinship group, and all can be spoken of as persons (tangata). Human beings are related to the trees and birds, and more distantly to other life forms such as sand on the beach and mist on the hills. The earliest ancestors make up the world (they are the sky, earth, ocean, plants and so on), yet some are human beings as well. Rangi and Papa are not only sky and earth they are the first man and woman, and accordingly they establish the basic natures of men and women, showing that men are like the sky and woman like the earth. Tane (Male), who gives the world its basic structure and fathers the birds, plants and humans, provides a further precedent for human males. The first of the ancestors who follow - women such as Hine-ahu-one and Hine-te-iwaiwa, men such as Maui and Tawhaki - are most of them, exclusively human. These people live, it is often said, in Hawaiki. Sometimes they shape and order the world in various ways. Always their activities provide precedents for human circumstances and behaviour. From these early generations the geneologists trace lines of descent down through the men and women who sail from Hawaiki to aoetearoa, explore the new land and make it ready for their descendants. When the recital continues to the present, forty or fifty ancestors may separate a living person from Rangi and Papa. Early ancestors whose descendants took the form of resources-food and materials-provided their human relatives with appropriate assistance, as when Tangaroa provided fish, Tane gave birds, and Rongo ensured good kumara harvests. Before, a resource was utilised it was necessary, therefore, that an offering should be made to the ancestor concerned. Because fish were Tangaroa, the first fish caught on a fishing expedition had its head bumped against the gunwale with the words, 'This is for you, Tangaroa' (Ki a koe, e Tangaroa). The first bird caught in the forest was laid at the foot of a tree with equivalent words addresses to Tane. On an especially significant occasion a longer ritual would be performed, as at a kumara harvest, or when a totara was to be felled. If this ritual were not carried out correstly there was bound to be misfortune of some kind. Early ancestors who had established patterns of behaviour, correct ways of doing things, also provided assistance within their sphere of action, as when Hine-te-iwaiwa helped women in childbirth and Tu and Whiro assisted warriors in battle. When a descendant was in need of assistance, a ritual chant (karakia) would name the ancestor concerned, in this way identifying ancestor and descendant and allowing the descendant to re-enact the events (the episode in a myth) which had established the prosedures to be followed on such an occassion. Sometimes this chant gained much of its mana by quoting a passage from a chant that had been recited intially by an ancestor during his adventures. Ancestors whose names occur rather later in the genealogies may also, in the accounts of their lives (in myths), establish precedents for later times and recite ritual chants which are employed by their decendants. This is especially important in the case of those who made the voyage the new land of Aotearoa. More recent ancestors had a rather different role. Belonging as they did to the same immediate kinship group as their descendants, these ancestors had a continuing interest in their behaviour and welfare. Since persons of mana had inherited their powers from them, they watched vigilantly to ensure that these descendants observed the restrictions as regards tapu which accopanied this status. They might also communicate with their relatives in various ways, and warn of coming danger. While they were generally spoken of as men and women (tangata, waihine) and as ancestors (tipuna or tupuna), when their wairua (souls) visited their descendants they were referred to as atua (spirits, gods).



Atua - Unseen Powers


There are two main categories of beings, super natural ones (Atua) and poeple (tangata). People are not only the humans we know now, but also the earliest figures in the genealogies. Rangi, Papa and their first descendants (those who constitute the world, shape it, or act as role models for humans now) are all generally spoken of as persons. Humans, that is, are only one kind of people; there are others who are different. In the same way, there are different kinds of supernatural beings. This word atua can be translated as "god,spirit", though the word 'god' would be misleading if it led to the assumption that worship was involved. There was no worship of atua, no ceremonies simply to praise them. Maori had contact with their atua and made them offerings on occasions such as the presentation of first-fruits, and when they had a specific need for communication and assistance. Every family of rank had a relationship with the wairua of recent ancestors (and children who had died), who visited them as atua. One Pakeha inquirer was told that if you dream you see an atua hovering around or over you, then know that it is probably the wairua....of a dead relative, your father maybe, or your child, which has come to warn you of impending danger. That spirit has come to abide with you as an apa. It was explained further that "The apa hau was a company of spirits of the dead, which spirits were represented in the living world by some living relative, who was the medium....through which (they) communicated with, and acted as guardians of, their yet living relatives'. Offerings were made to these atua. Sometimes a small basket of food would be placed on the branch of a tree near the tapu grove that held the body of a deceased relative. If a small bird were seen eating this food, it would be known that the spirit had accepted the offering and would help his or her descendants. Since a person possessed of mana had inherited this quality from ancestors, the ancestrial spirits watched vigilantly to ensure that he or she respected the restrictions relating to tapu which this high status involved. If they broke these rules, even accidentally, the spirits, and the spirits of children who had lived with their family before death, were generally believed to cause only the milder forms of disease. The worst forms were caused by the spirits of dead infants (atua kahukahu), who had never known their relatives and so attacked them without compunction. Tohunga always had powerful huardian spirits; two such men are on record as explaining that their atua was located in their forehead. A tohunga's atua might take possession of him and speak through him, especially when predicting the future. Somtimes they might be seen to attack human beings, or other atua. Atua could enter a person's body because they themselves were generally bodiless. They might also pass into the body of a green gecko, a bird or an insect, or into the wind, a cloud, the sun's rays. In appropriate circumstances such manifestations revealed the presence of an atua, and ritual chants asking for assistance might be recited. People would seek perhaps a fovourable wind, fine weather, healing, or success in war. For large issues, especially success in war, there were also the atua who had been brought from Hawaiki: Uenuku, Maru, Kahukura and many others. Offerings were made to small figures of these gods, or other objects representing them. Since related peoples often had the same war god (who had been brought on their ancestral waka from Hawaiki), peoples who formed alliances in times of war would probably all acknowledge the one atua. Any inexplicable object or occurrence might be thought to indicate the presence of an atua; European watches and compasses were at first understood in this way. The word atua was also sometimes used of fairies (patupaiarehe), although unlike most atua these did have bodies. Taniwha, too, were occasionally spoken of as atua. The European missionaries chose to translate their word 'god' with this term atua. Perhaps as a consequence, early ancestors such as Tane and Tangaroa (whose descendants are birds, plants, fish and other life forms) are now often referred to as atua. In early Maori-language writings, however, this usage is very rare. Generally such figures were regarded as people (tangata).



The first born star


This is Canopus, second brightest of the visible stars. When Tane, creating the world, was about to throw his basket of stars into the sky, Atutahi clung to the outside of the basket so that he would be the first-born and could therefore, because of the tapu of high rank, stay aloof from the common horde. The basket of stars became Te Mango-roa (the milky way) and the Atutahi still hangs outside, remaining apart. Being the first-born, and so bright, he is the lord (ariki) of the stars of the year. He was one of the stars thought to make food plants fertile in the fields and forests, and ceremonial offerings of food were made to him. Other forms of his name are Autahi and Aotahi. In peotry and oratory, a man of rank might be honoured by being spoken of as Atutahi.



Earth - The Mother


The earth is female, as the sky is male, and while the sky is sacred (tapu), the earth in general is everyday, ordinary, profane (noa). She has to be, because this is where life goes on. Fertility and decay, life, death and more life are what the earth produces. And since people are part of the world, there is no essential difference between the fertility of the earth and that of the human women. The earth was understood in terms of human experience, and the experiences and roles of women were understood in terms of the earth. So the first woman, Papa, was the earth. When Tane decided to make a wife from the sand (some say soil) of Hawaiki, he went, it is often said, to 'the sands at Kurawaka' (te one i Kurawaka)-and this place is the mons veneris of Papa herself. So while it was Tane who created Hine-ahu-one, he achieved this by going to the source of Papa's fertility. Hawaiki, as the origin of life, is necessarily associated with Papa's life-giving powers. Later came Hine-nui-te-po (Great woman the night), who brought death into the world. In-evitably the main responsibilty for death is assigned in tradition to women, since life implies evential death, and they give life. And again the earth comes into this, because Hine-nui-te-po belongs with Night (Te Po), which is part of the earth, or perhaps beneath it (there is an ambiguity here). Yet the role of Hine-nui-te-po is complex and may be differently interpreted: she does after all care for her descendants at the ends of their lives. And while Papa has hidden within her the Night and those who are now down there, new life keeps coming from the earth and from human women.



Fish - Tangaaroa's Children


The early ancestor Tangaroa, whose realm is the sea, is the parent of fish and other sea creatures. In some traditions, though, certain fish are assigned other parents, as when sharks are regarded as the children of Punga (or some say Takaaho). Whales and other marine mammals are also often the children of Punga. Orators and poets spoke of many kinds of fish and other sea creatures as possessing distinctive qualities. Whales, especially sperm whales, were thought to be like rangatiro, so high-ranking men could be likened to them. As well, whales were associated with rich food and abundance, since those stranded on shore presented their finders with enormouse quantities of meat and oil. For this reason they were depicted in some parts of the country on the carved facades of storehouses. Warriors could be compared to sharks, also to the small yellow-eyed mullet that leap so vigoriously. Other creatures had more specialised roles in metaphor. In inland waters, for instance, some species of kokopu have beautiful markings, so an admired object might be described as 'mottled like a kokopu'. More generally, fish in Maori symbolic thought have the special role of being caught and put to use; this was the very reason for their existance. Because of this, people who had been defeated in warfare were frequently spoken of as fish. The land itself had been a fish, brought up from the depths by Maui and made a home for human beings. The much-treasured greenstone was another resource which had been a fish - and which had swum all the way from Hawaiki, followed by its owner Ngahue.



Ngahue's Fish


Greenstone, or jade, was obtainable only in the South Island, in a few remote, rugged places on the west coast and to a lesser extent in Fiordland and Central Otago. Being extremely hard and tough it was very difficult to work, until a new technique of abrasive cutting was developed some five hundred years ago. This was most laborious but gave workman precise control over their materials. From that time greenstone adzes and chisels were used extensively in woodworking, and much finer carving became possible. Pieces of greenstone were the most presious of trade commodities, carried over mountain passes to the east and north, taken across the dangerous waters of Ruakawa (Cook Strait), passed from one community to the next until they reached the most distant parts of the country. Greenstone was treasured for its beauty, hardness and indestructibility: though the generations came and went, it lasted forever. Pendants that had been worn by departed relatives were venerated because of their associations with the dead, and kinsfolk wept over them and sang laments. As well there were endless stories about the magickal properties of treasured pieces. Even on the west coast of the South Island, by the Arahura Valley, greenstone of high quality was most difficult to find. Boulders and pieces of stone lay hidden in riverbeds and along beaches, and it was said that they were caught like fish. If a man who sought greenstone dreamt he was sleeping with a beautiful woman, this was a sign that he would discover a fine piece. Next morning he would know where to go. At the right place he would enter the water, and the greenstone would be lying there. He would noose his fish and pull it to the shore, and afterwards it would turn to stone. For this reason the South Island is known as Te Wai Pounamu (The waters of greenstone). Several myths explain the origin of greenstone. In one of the best known, greenstone was a fish named Poutini that swam from Hawaiki to its present location in Aotearoa. This fish was the pet of a man named Ngahue.



Hakuturi - Guardians of the Forest


It was the task of the Multitude of the Kakuturi (te tini o te Hakuturi) to protect the forests in Hawaiki and avenge any desecration of their tapu. When Rata felled a tree without performing the proper ritual, the Hakuturi punished him by making the tree stand upright again. Afterwards, though, in a single night they adzed the tree into a waka for him. In carving the ship they were assisted by the spiders. Some say too that Rua (or Rua-te-pupuke), the first man to learn and teach woodcarving, was taught this art by the hakuturi. These forest Guardians seem generally to have been regarded as birds; one writer calls them the children of Tane. It seems that they could be thought, sometimes at least, to inhabit the forests of Aotearoa as well as Hawaiki. When the hull of 'Takitimu' had been adzed and its owners were hauling it down to the coast, they were certain kinds of birds such as pigeons, kaka and sadlebacks. Each kind had a rope of its own, so that all the pigeons, for instance, pulled on the same rope. When the ropes were cut by enemies, the birds flew on together. And that is why these kinds of birds still fly in flocks today.



Hau - Breath, wind, life


In traditional belief there are in a person's body two presences, a wairua and a hau, which can both be described as souls. The wairua leaves the body during sleep and also after death, though it continues to exist. The hau is always present in the living body, then disappears at death. This word hau is the usual term for breath, but since breath is life, it also has a more general significance. Furthermore, it was believed by extension that a hau was possessed by an entire people, and by such valued possessions and resources as a pa, a house, a forest, the ocean. In each case its hau was the life and vitality of the entity concerned. It was the life and vitality of the entity concerned. It was preserved and protected by being ritually located within a mauri, a highly tapu object that was carefully hidden from enermies who might wish to attack it. As well, hau is the standard term for wind. Again there was the concept of a living force; the wind was the counterpart of a human's breath. In some situations a wind represented, or foretokened, the presence of a person who was living in the direction from which it came. And a light breeze might be thought to indicate the presence of a spirit.



Hawaiki-rangi - The House with four doors


In the southernmost regions of the North Island, there was a belief that after death a person's wairua often makes its way to a distant place, Te Hono-i-wairua (The meeting of wairua), which is located in the far land of Irihia. There, it was sometimes said, the wairua enters a house, Hawaiki-rangi (Sky Hawaiki), which stands on the summit of a mountain. Its four doors face east, west, south and north. According to a Whaganui poet of the early eighteenth century, three of these doors lead down to Night. Down there are the regions known as Te Muriwaihou and Rarohenga, and Hine-titama (whose other name is Hine-nui-te-po) is there, the woman who receives her descendants at the end of their lives. Night is the destination of many wairua.

E toru te tatau ki Te Po-kakarauri
Ki Te Po-tiwhatiwha, Ki Te Po-ka-wheau-atu
Ki Te Muriwaihou, ki Rarohenga,
Ki a Hine-titama, e putiki mai ra
He kapunipuni a nga wairua

Three doors lead to Dark-night
Black-night, Night forever
To Te Muriwaihou and Rarohenga
And Hine-tiama, who brings the wairua together
In their gathering-place.

But the forth door leads upwards to the sky. In the earliest times the great Tane passed through that door, climbed the raised-up centre, and reached the highest of the skies. It was believed that some wairua could follow him. In a late account associated with beliefs about the high god Io, the wairua approached the house from the direction in which they lived during their lives: when people die 'they each return by their own wind, to their own door'. Another name for the house is Hawaiki-nui (Great Hawaiki). In some traditions there is no house, and all the wairua go down Taheke-roa (Long descent) to Te Muriwaihou and Rarohenga. SOmetimes they are taken below by the evil Whiro, who lost a battle with Tane and now lives down there with Rauaumoko and others.



Hautapu - A meeting with a fairy


Hunting takahe with his dog on the heights of Mount Takitimu in the far south, Hautapu met a beautiful woman named Kaiheraki. When asked about her people, she said she had no relatives. Her mother was the mountains on which she lived. Hautapu knew then that she was a fairy (patupaiarehe), and that if he took her as his wife she might keep him on the mountain for ever. But he was a tohunga, with a knowledge of the rituals by which this danger could be averted. A sacred fire had to be kindled, and a small portion of food cooked in a special oven. This food would destroy Kaiheraki's tapu and make it safe to marry her. The ritual kindling of fire required the presence of a man and a woman; while the man rapidly twirled the upper part of the fire-plough, the woman placed her foot upon the lower part. So Hautapu now showed Kaiheraki what to do. He turned his stick vigorously in the groove, the dust began to smoke, and soon there was a little flame. Then a spark fell on her foot and it started to bleed, because this is what fire does to those people. She ran, he caught her, and again they began to make fire together. Then for a moment his attention was diverted and she fled into the forest. The mist came down and he knew he would never find her. But Kaiheaki is still on her mountain, and on misty days her giant figure can be seen striding along the ridges.



Hine-korako - A female taniwha


The original inhabitants of Te Reinga on the Wairoa River, and rugges Mount Whakapunake nearby, were a race of taniwha, Hine-korako, fell in love with a human man, Tane-kino. They married and had a son, whom they named Taurenga, but Hine-korako abandoned her husband and child when some of his relatives made insulting remarks about her ancestry. She went to live under the spectacular Te Reinga waterfall, and she is still there today. Two present-day peoples in the Te Reinga region, Ngati Hinehika and Ngati Pohatu, trace their decent from Tane-kino and Hine-korako. And their taniwha ancestor assits them when they appeal to her. On one occassion the river was in flood and some people in a waka were being swept towards the falls. An old man called aloud to Hine-korako, and just in time the waka stood still. Then it began to move slowly upstream and the people were saved. The name Hine-korako belongs in Takitimu tradition to the lunar rainbow and in the present story there seems to be an association with the rainbow visible at Te Reinga Falls.



Hine-nui-te-po - The woman who brought death


Although they told different stories about her, nearly everyone knew Hine-nui-te-po (Great woman the night) as the woman who brought death into the world. In some regions it was believed that after Tane married his daughter Hine-titama and she discovered her father's identity, she was greatly shamed and rushed down to the underworld. There, it was often said, her name changed to Hine-nui-te-po. Tane followed and begged her to return, but she told him to go back to the world and rear up their offspring. She would remain below to receive them when they died. It was also believed that the trickster heor Maui, after performing many marvellous deeds, determined to overcome death by conjuring Hine-nui-te-po. Although warned not to do so, he approached her as she lay sleeping, intending to enter her body by the path through which children enter this world. But the little birds that accompanied him laughed when they saw Maui's head and shoulders disappear inside the great woman's vagina, and their laughter woke her. She brought her legs together, and Maui was crushed to death. The details vary. Sometimes Maui, fishing up the land, angers Hine-nui-te-po when his hook catches in the bargeboard of her house under the ocean, and draws her house up too. In a Mataatua tradition, Maui discovers that Hine-nui-te-po has taken tuna (eel) as a lover, so he kills Tuna. In retaliation, Hine-nui-te-po sends the mosquito against him; the mosquito takes a drop of blood from Maui's forehead, and Hine-nui-te-po's sorcery, performed over the blood, destroys him. In a west coast tradition, Hine-nui-te-po has within her the power of the renewal of life. Maui noticed that the sun and moon always come back to life because they bathe in Tane's waters of life (te wai-ora a Tane). He decided to do the same and enter the womb of Hine-nui-te-po - for that is the underworld, where the waters of life are situated. Hine-nui-te-po draws all into her womb, but permits none to return. Maui determined to try, trusting to his great powers, but the fantail laughed, the woman awoke, and Maui was cut in two. If the fantail had not laughed, Maui would have drunk from the waters of life and human beings would have lived forever. Yet while Hine-nui-te-po is the cause of death, she is also a mother who cares for her children after their death. On the west coast her darkness was associated not only with death but with the beginning of the world; she is the most important of the gods of the night who were there in the beginning, before the gods of the light, and she is therefore the ancestor of all who followed. From this region it is recorded further (by Richard Taylor, in a manuscript) that Hine-nui-te-po 'is the goddess of dreams, and all revelations made to men in dreams proceeded from her, prayers were regularly said to her every night as the great guardian of night and the giver of rest'.



Hine-pukohu-rangi - Woman of the mist


In the Urewera Mountains, Hine-pukohu-rangi (sky mist woman) is the mist and her younger sister, Hine-wai(water woman), is the light rain that falls in foggy weather. These woman are fairies (turehu). One night they came down from the sky so that Hine-pukohu-rangi could visit a human man, Uenuku. At dawn Hine-wai called a warning, and the mist took them back up. When Uenuku awoke, his woman was gone. After this, Hine-pukohu-rangi visited Uenuku every night when the fire had gone out. She told him, 'You mustn't say anything about me until we have a child. If you deceive me, I won't stay with you.' But Uenuku did tell, because he couldnt keep silent about his wife's beauty, which was so different from that of the woman of this world. His people advised him to stop up the chinks around the door and window so that the house would stay dark. That night Hine-pukohu-rangi came as usual. At dawn Hine-wai called out her warning, but Uenuku said, 'lie down, it isn't daylight yet. See how dark the house is still.' So the woman lay down, and Hine-wai alone went back to the sky. Meanwhile the people were gathering in front of the house. When the sun was high they slid the door across, and the woman saw she had been decieved. She stood under the hole where the smoke went up, her long hair her only garment, she sang a song of farewell, then she flew up to the sky. Uenuku searched for her until he died. Then at last he did find her, because after his death he became the rainbow, which accompanies mist. In another tradition, Hine-pukohu-rangi married Te Maunga (The Mountain), who came from the skies - or some say Hawaiki. In the Ruatahuna Valley, a tapu flax bush used to mark the place where their union occured. Their son Potiki is one of the main ancestors from whom the people to Tuhoe trace their descent, and it is for this reason that Tuhoe are known as the children of the mist. Others say it was Tairi-a-kohu (Suspended like mist) who visited Uenuku, then deserted him when he decieved her.



Hine-ruru - An Owl Guardian


Families and larger kinship groups recognised the existence of ancestral guardians (kaitiaki) that took the form of animals of different kinds. The guardians that warn of death are often owls (moreporks). They have different names. In Northland, owl guardians are sometimes known as hine-ruru (owl woman). This bird has the power to protect, warn and advise. As well as appearing at night when aomeone is about to die, she may announce the imminent arrival of visitors. If she is seen flying ahead or walking along the road, she is usually there as a protector at a time of danger. If she flies straight in front of your path something is wrong. A high piercing call is bad news; an ordinary owl call is good news. Sometimes when there is death she will appear at a window, insistently beating her wings against the glass. Although owl guardians are not encountered as often as they once were, some people do still see them.


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