Volume 32 1923 > Volume 32, No. 126 > Maori personifications. Anthropogeny, solar myths and phallic symbolism: as exemplified in the demiurgic concepts of Tane and Tiki, by Elsdon Best, p 53-69
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Two aspects of Maori myths—Tane—Tiki—The phallic eel—Tuna and Hina—Ira—The true significance of Tiki—Tane the Fertiliser—The heitiki; its origin and meaning—The position of Tane—Progenitor of man—The Po, what it signifies—Origin of Light—Separation of sky and earth—Origin of the heavenly bodies—Rona and the moon—Personifications—Star lore—Tane as Light Bringer—Ascent of Tane to the Heavens—The three ‘baskets’ of knowledge—Tane versus Whiro is Light versus Darkness—The many names of Tane—Tane te Waiora—Te Waiora a Tane—The Manu i te ra—Whiro—The Maiki brethren—The House of Death—The Search for the Female Element—The creation of Woman—Advent of the ira tangata—The divine spark in man—Maori cosmogonic scheme—The Dawn Maid—The Dawn Maid descends to the underworld—The Path of Death—Whiro and the ex-Dawn Maid—Hine nui te po—The Ara whanui, or Spirit Path—Tane clothes the Sky Parent with Clouds—Tane as source of knowledge—Sun myths.


THERE are two aspects of many Maori myths, more particularly the superior myths pertaining to the origin of man and the spirit world wherein sojourn the souls of the dead. Of these two versions one is that conserved by the high class tohunga, who may be termed priests, and taught by them to a few carefully selected youths in a tapu school of learning, as a means of passing such knowledge on to future generations. Such versions would never be recited among the commoners, or ordinary people of a clan, who knew nothing of them; they were learned and transmitted orally, generation after generation, by these specially trained record keepers. The knowledge of them was confined to the chieftain class.

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The other version was that known to all the people and freely discussed by them. These may be called the common fireside stories, or, as the Maori puts it, stories told by the oven side, i.e., by cooking fires, in the vicinity of which no tapu matter might be related. Such common versions often differed widely from what may be termed the sacerdotal or classical version. The repositories of the high class lore listened to the people repeating the popular and incorrect versions, without, apparently, making any attempt to correct them. Like many other priesthoods, the tohunga maori were intensely conservative and kept all knowledge to themselves as much as possible.

The ordinary fireside account of Tane is that he was one of the offspring of Rangi and Papa, the Sky Parent and the Earth Mother. He, as a leader of the rebellious portion of that offspring, forced up the heavens, so that he and his brethren might have room to move about, and propped up the sky in the position in which we now see it. He produced trees and birds; he is the parent, guardian, or tutelary deity of forests. He is said to have been the progenitor of man, but this phase of his activities is interfered with by the common version of the myth concerning Tiki, who is said to have made the first man. Tane has many names, and, in fireside story, these are said to apply to different beings, which is denied by the higher teachings. All these manifestations are recited as the acts of an individual, and bear the impress of a somewhat puerile myth. Little can be gathered from them as to the true position of Tane, or the meaning of the actions and names assigned to him. In regard to the sacerdotal version of the myth, it is believed by the writer that a close study of the same will tend to throw much light on its meaning, such a light as Tane alone could emit. For we have, in Tane and his acts, an old, old sun myth of barbaric man.


We have now to deal with one of the most interesting of Maori myths, one of a phallic and anthropogenic nature. In some versions of the myth Tiki appears as a demiurgic being, the maker of the first man. In others he himself is said to have been the first man, created by Tane in one version, by Tu in another. It is quite in keeping with the double aspect of native myths that two members of the primal offspring, children of Rangi and Papa, Sky and Earth, should be credited with the creation of man.

We have another account that states that Tiki was the atua (supernormal being, god) who made the first man. The Tuhoe tribe make Tiki a supernatural dweller in the Po; he was not of this world, but he took to wife one Ea, a female of this world, the ao - 55 marama, the world of light and life. Their offspring was Kurawaka, a female, who was taken to wife by Tane, and became the mother of Hine-titama (The Dawn Maid; personified form of dawn). This by no means agrees with other tribal versions.

We are also told that Tane made Tiki, or, as another version has it, that Tane made Tiki-auaha; also that the first woman was made as a companion for Tiki-auaha, or Tiki the creator. In the first volume of White's “Ancient History of the Maori,” we find the statement “Man was formed by Tiki,” and also “The first man was formed by Tiki-ahua.” And again, “Then Tane bethought him of fashioning a woman as a companion for Tiki,” the name of the woman being Io-wahine. Again, in a Whanganui note given by Mr. White, we are told that Tiki was the first person in the world. Various tribal accounts state that it was Tiki that made man, or was the first man. It is clear that but few natives knew the real meaning of the Tiki myth. In Volume III. of the above work we find the following:— “Tiki was the ancestor of Tane …. there was no woman for him, so one was made by mixing up earth.”

Two other names of Tiki are Tiki-mumura and Tiki-hahana, the qualifying terms carrying the sense of reddened, glowing, heated. Another such title is Tiki-torokaha, strong or virile Tiki. The application of these terms will be seen anon. Yet another is Tiki-tohua, which carries a sense of conception, as Tiki-ahua conveys that of quickening.

A passage in Volume II. of White's work states that Tiki was formed by Io, the Supreme Being.

We have yet another version of the origin of Tiki, as given in Volume XIV. of “The Journal of the Polynesian Society,” pp. 125, 126, where it is shown that Tu, one of the offspring of the Sky Parent and Earth Mother, formed an image or figure of earth and endowed it with life; this being was Tiki. Further remarks made by the author of that paper, Colonel Gudgeon, show that he has been the only writer to note the real meaning of the Tiki myth, prior to the time when clear evidence came to hand. He remarks that he could never get any satisfactory reply from old natives as to who Tiki took to wife to produce man, and concludes that Tiki must represent the life principle, a shrewd conclusion to arrive at.

Two terms used to denote the ure tane, or male organ of generation, are koromatua and tangata matua, both of which carry the sense of “parent” or “elder.” They are euphemistic or semi-sacerdotal expressions, but the true sacerdotal term for the organ was tiki, and Tiki is the personified form thereof. Hence the term tiki-auwaha, synonymous with ure auwaha, employed to denote a fornicator. Tiki-auaha is also said to be one of the names of Tiki, as denoting one of his, or its, qualities. See ante. Herein we see the origin of - 56 the common version of the myth, viz., that Tiki was the first man, a version never taught by the superior priesthood, but only by lower grade teachers. The expression Te Aitanga a Tiki, (the progeny or descendants of Tiki) is an old term for mankind. Te kai a Tiki (the food of Tiki) is a phrase denoting sexual connection. These terms have a bearing on our subject.

A Taranaki version of the myth of Tiki, as related to the Rev. T. G. Hammond, has an Oriental aspect. The account was obtained from a member of the Ngati-Ruanui tribe; it is as follows:—

Tiki-te-po-mua was the first man. He found himself surrounded by all the living creatures of earth, and long sought a companion among them, but without success. Sorely he felt his lonely condition. One day he found himself beside a pool of clear water, and was delighted to see in it a being of his own form. He endeavoured to seize and secure the image, but the reflection eluded him. He long sought to secure a mate such as he had seen, but without avail. One day, during the act of micturition, a pit he had formed in the earth became filled, and, to his delight, he saw therein the being he had so long sought. He quickly procured earth and deposited it in the pit in order to confine the creature he had seen. That reflection developed into a female, a woman, who came forth and became the companion of Tiki.

Tiki and the woman born of reflection dwelt together for some time. Then, one day when the woman was bathing, an eel came round her body, and, with his tail, so excited the woman that there was awakened in her the sexual desire. She then went to seek Tiki, and succeeded in exciting him to an equal extent, hence there came to them the Knowledge. This act was viewed as a most serious hara (misdemeanour, sin), hence Tiki, knowing that the eel had caused the woman to lead him astray, resolved to take vengeance. He therefore slew the eel, and cut him into six pieces. From those six pieces sprang the six varieties of eels known to man.

It is an interesting fact that the Maori folk apply two very peculiar expressions to the tail of an eel. Those terms are tara puremu and hiku rekareka. The first of these is an epithet often applied to adulterous women, the second means “tickling tail.” Here, in a remote isle at the edge of the world, we encounter the Asiatic concept of the phallic eel. Let us examine this Asiatic-Polynesian parallel.

The phallic eel is prominent in Oriental myth, and both eel and snake are connected with fertility. Ila, the eel god of Chaldea, is the Ira and Indra, the eel god of India, whose symbol is a linga surmounted by a lunar crescent. This is appropriate, for the moon is closely connected with fertility in Asiatic and Polynesian myth. In Persia, however, Indra is the serpent, and so we have here, in - 57 this Maori story, the old, old myth of the primal sin, as held in far off Babylonia or Sumeria. Here is the true, original version of the story of Eve and the serpent, of which a very euphemistic version has reached Europe. The forbidden fruit was tasted by the woman, she who had been tempted by Ira or India, the eel of India and the snake of Persia. She was the first to sin, though Tiki seems to have been a willing second sinner. The trail of this myth is seen in Maori and old world mythologies; it has affected the status and conditions of woman in many lands for many centuries. In the dark, sad centuries that lie behind, Christian priests taught that woman is but a vile creature sent by the devil into the world to tempt man. We are still learning and teaching very ancient pagan myths. How did the Maori acquire this myth anent the phallic eel? Did he carry it eastward from the land of Uru, his original homeland, to the hot land of Irihia, where the food product termed ari was known, thence away to the rising sun and the sea of ten thousand isles?

Now a more common version of the above myth makes Maui the hero, the husband of the woman who was tempted by Tuna, the eel—and here is the story thereof:—

Hina, the wife of Maui was interfered with by Tuna, the eel, and so Maui decided to slay him. His method of doing so was a singular one. He arranged a series of nine skids over which Tuna crawled as Maui recited a charm that runs as follows:—

“Mata Tuna ki te rango tuatahi,
Ko Ira i, ko Ira i, ko Ira i, tō rō wai.”

This was recited nine times, once for each skid (rango). This charm was communicated to me by old Pakauwera of Ngati-Kuia, who repeated it many times, and was very insistent that I should record it correctly. He certainly did not render the closing words as toro ai, as has been suggested, but as given above, tō rō wai, i.e., Ira belonging to the water. This statement that it is Ira of the waters occurs three times in each secondary line. The Maori uses the word tuna, the ordinary name of the eel in vernacular speech, to denote the personified form of eels, glibly termed the eel god by us. The Maori has preserved the myth of the phallic eel; has he also preserved the name of the Indian eel god Ira in the above couplet? We know of no ordinary meaning of this word ira that can be applied in this case. Hewitt tells us that Ila-putra, the son of Ila or Ira was a snake god, whose image was a linga with a lunar crescent on its head. Again, in Christian's work on the Caroline Islands, he writes as follows:—“The Mortlock Islanders call the eel Tiki-tol, and use it for the equivalent of the serpent in the garden of Eden.” Here we have the phallic eel in the North Pacific taking the place of the phallic serpent as it does in New Zealand. As to the name Tiki-tol, this l - 58 would be r in Maori; is it Tiki-toro (toro=to creep, to stretch forth, to extend)? Inasmuch as tiki is the old sacerdotal Polynesian name for the linga or phallus, which was the emblem of Ira the eel god of India, we have here an interesting series of coincidences; if they are such. Truly it looks like a wide distribution of myths from a central source in pre-historic times.

Hina of the above myth is apparently Hina the personified form of the moon, who is the tutelary being of women, and presides over childbirth. Do the nine “skids” arranged by Maui represent the nine months of gestation? The full name of Hina is Hine-te-iwa-iwa, the word iwa meaning “nine.” Hina is usually said to be the sister of Maui, in Maori myth; in Polynesia she appears as his mother, as his sister, as wife of Tiki, as wife of Tane. She is connected with fish and fishermen, and the heavens are “the bright land of Sina” (Hina).

In Tahitian myth Tiki was the first man. At Mangaia, Tuna makes love to Hina with curious results, and Hina is the moon. As Hina, Ina and Sina she represents the fructifying moon all over Polynesia, even as Sin, the moon god, did in Babylonia.

Tiki was invoked in childbirth among our Maori folk, as shown in Shortlands' “Maori Religion and Mythology.” At the Chatham Islands Tiki is said to have presided over certain peculiar rites pertaining to women.

In the MS. collection of Sir George Grey is a Maori story of Tiki under the name of Tiki-tawhito-ariki. The word tawhito was applied to the organs of generation by the Maori. It is employed to denote “origin, beginning, &c.,” in divers dialects of Polynesia, and as far west as the Santa Cruz Group. The above story speaks of Tiki as the originator of fornication and adultery. It is a long and very strange story of how Tiki took his own sister to wife. Shortland collected a version of the Tiki myth in which Tiki takes Hine-titama to wife. This confusion has doubtless arisen from the fact that Tiki and Tane really represent the same thing, the male procreative element.

In the myth anent the fertilising acts of Tane we see that he takes to wife many forms of the female element, and so produces many things, principally the different species of trees. One sentence reads—“I tu te tiki o Tane ki a Hine-tupari-maunga, a ka puta mai āna uri ki waho.” (“The tiki of Tane was directed against Hine-tupari-maunga, and his progeny came forth.”) This female was the Mountain Maid, the personified form of cliffs, ranges and mountains. She brought forth Parawhenua-mea, who is the personified form of the waters of the earth, the springs, rivulets and streams we see issuing forth from the form of the Mountain Maid. The latter also gave birth to Tuamatua, who took Takoto-wai (Lying in water) to - 59 wife and begat Rakahore and Rangahua (personified form of rock). These begat all forms of stones, gravel and sand.

In the myth of Tane and the Earth Formed Maid, the former is spoken of as Tane the Parent, for, by his union with that fair damosel, was produced the ira tangata, human life, mortal man. In the account of this union we have further clear proof as to what Tiki personifies. The following sentence in that account cannot be misunderstood:—“Ka tukua ki a Tane-matua kia hikaia a Tiki-ahua ki roto i te puta o Hine-ahu-one.” Nothing could be clearer than this statement as to what Tiki represents, and no person who examines the evidence can remain in doubt. In the ritual recited during the act, we note the following:—“Kia hahana i a Maunene i roto o Karihi katitohe, e Tiki - - e - - i.” After this comes the explanation:—“Ko tenei karakia he mea i te aroaro o Hine kia kaha te hiahia mai ki tona hoariri, ki a Tiki-ahua.” Other proofs of a similar nature are contained in these myths, and by them the true meaning of the personification known as Tiki is fixed beyond the reach of cavil or disproof.

In another formula recited over Tane and Hine-ahu-one occur the words:—

“Tiki, ka riri Tiki
Tiki, ka reka Tiki.”

Another one contains the following:—

“Tane-matua e!
I ahuahua mai Tiki-ahua, mai Tiki-nui, Tiki-roa
Ahua mai kia toro te ihiihi.
Te akaaka taikaha o Tiki …
Tenei to ara ko te pu o Hine-one
E Tiki - - e - - i.”

Then follows an account of the death of Tiki, i.e., the enfeeblement of the tiki:—“I konei ka toia atu e Karihi, ka toia atu ki runga i te paepae o Mauhi, o Maukati patu ai a Tiki-nui, a Tiki-roa. Ka mate i konei a Tiki.” After this who shall deny that the Maori possesses a veritable genius for personification.

In certain ritual recited over a person suffering from illness occurs the following:—

“E Tiki! E Pani E!
Kia ora tenei tangata.”

(O Tiki! O Pani! May this person recover.) Herein Tiki and Pani are called upon to succour the sufferer and restore him to health. Throughout Maori ritual we note the curious belief that the organs of generation are the saviours of human life in dire extremities. Of this belief some very curious illustrations might be given. Yet, on - 60 the other hand, the female organ, the tawhito, is destructive to human life under certain conditions, a belief equivalent to that of the sakti of the Hindoo.

The Rev. R. Taylor tells us in his “Te Ika a Maui,” that Tiki made man, but, like other writers, did not grasp the meaning of the myth. His remark that the heitiki pendant is an image or remembrance of Tiki, was a shrewd one, although he followed the wrong train of thought. His further remark that the new born infant is called a potiki because it is a gift of Tiki from the Po or Hades, is an unhappy one, as also is his reference to putiki. The Maori folk of Chatham Islands have preserved a knowledge of Tiki. See “Journal of the Polynesian Society,” Vol. III., pp. 127-128.


There is another item of interest connected with the word tiki. We know that in Eastern Polynesia it was applied to images made in human form, as it also was in New Zealand, but here more particularly applied to cenotaphs. The Maori of New Zealand also applied it to the grotesque neck pendant made in human form, with head awry and bowed legs. It is also styled heitiki and tautiki, but the two prefixes hei and tau merely imply “pendant,” the latter (tau) being a generic term, while hei signifies a suspension from the neck. This curious and unlovely figure was in most cases fashioned from nephrite, the most highly prized of all stones in Maoriland. Properly this pendant was worn only by women, and there has been much speculation as to the import of the tiki. It may be stated that, according to Maori myth, the first tiki was made for Hina-te-iwaiwa, and she is the goddess who presides over childbirth. The tiki is nothing less than a phallic symbol. Though named after the phallus, it is not fashioned in the form thereof, but in the cramped, doubled up form of the human embryo. It was worn by women because it was believed to possess a fertilising effect, a fructifying influence. Thus we see the connection between Tiki, the maker of the first man; Tiki, the personified form of the male organ; tiki, the sacerdotal name of the same, and the tiki pendant worn by women. The latter was made in the form of the human embryo in the womb in order to connect the active agent with the passive agent and its fruit, thus following the same lines of reasoning as induced the Maori to practice sympathic magic to such a pronounced extent.

In Vol. XIX. of the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,” Mr. Blyth, in a paper on the “Whence of the Maori,” makes some remarks on the heitiki and Tiki, but had not grasped the meaning of - 61 the latter, though he recognises the former as a representation of the human fœtus.

It is clear that the tiki neck pendant or heitiki represents a very ancient myth and ancient cult. The ideas connected with it are such as are evolved by folk of a somewhat primitive form of culture, but endowed with the vivid imagination and faith in inanimate mediums often found among such people. No writer on the Maori has, apparently, made a close study of this matter, in one case only has any writer made a near approach to the true explanation of the Tiki myth and the tiki pendant. Others are wide of the mark, and their writings show that they have made no searching enquiry. Unfortunately some of these quaint theories have appeared in scientific works, a fact that is much to be deplored. The evidence referred to above is on record in printed works known to all students of Maori lore. The translation is certainly of a euphemistic nature, but the keen student, the genuine enquirer, does not utilise translations when the matter is also given in the original. To understand the Maori, his mentality and his concepts, his beliefs, superstitions and usages, it is absolutely necessary to know his language.

References to Tiki are not infrequent in Maori song. The following is an extract from a waiata mate kanehe, a form of love song:—

“Nga ure a Tiki, te hahana a Tiki
Te mumura a Tiki-torokaha
Ka rawe ra au i konei.”

(The organs of Tiki, the redness of Tiki, the glow of virile Tiki, etc.)

The small wooden images, in human form utilised as temporary shrines or abiding places for the spirit gods, were called tiki in some districts. They were so called because they were fashioned in human form, we are told. Any image made in human form may be styled a tiki, because, as we are told in popular myth, that was the name of the first person created by the gods. The superior teachings recognise that Tiki was no real person.

Tiki-auaha. Tiki the creator.
Tiki-auwaha. Tiki the meddler.
Tiki te po mua.  
Tiki-ahua or Tiki i ahua.  
Tiki-tohua. Signifies the conceiver.
Tiki-hahana Reddened, glowing, or heated Tiki.
Tiki-torokaha. Virile Tiki.
Tiki i apoa.  
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Tiki-whakaringaringa. Tiki the arm former
Tiki-whakawaewae. Tiki the leg former
Tiki te pou roto.  
Tiki-nui. Great Tiki.
Tiki-roa. Long Tiki.
Tiki-whaoa. Inserted Tiki.
Tiki-whatai. Projecting Tiki.

We must now proceed with the story of Tane. This is the name of one of the principal gods of the Polynesian pantheon. He belongs to the departmental gods, who, after the supreme being Io, may be said to have been the principal gods of the Maori of New Zealand and his kindred in far spread Polynesia. The four chief deities of this great island system may be said to have been Tane, Tu, Tangaroa, and Rongo, all of whom were children of the primal parents Rangi and Papa, the Sky Parent and the Earth Mother. Tane held a high position in the Society Group, as he did in New Zealand, while Rongo (Lono) seems to have been viewed as superior to him in the Hawaiian Isles. At some islands Tangaroa was looked upon as being the most important. In New Zealand Tane was held to have been the progenitor of man, of trees, and of birds, as also of many other things, some of which have been referred to. He here occupied a more important position than did Tu, who represents war, and Rongo, who personifies peace and the arts of peace, such as agriculture.

It is well to bear in mind that the word tane, in the vernacular speech means “male,” also “husband.”

Tane was one of the seventy offspring of Rangi and Papa. The heavens are alluded to as the house or domain of Tane. He was not the first born, for Uru-te-ngangana held that position. According to the Tuhoe version the heavenly offspring were born in batches, but they speak of the various names of Tane as belonging to different individuals, which is quite wrong according to what may be termed the higher teachings.

A peculiarity of the numerous offspring was that they were all males, not one female was born of the Earth Mother. The reason for this seems to have been that any female born of the primal parents must necessarily be a super-natural being, as all the sons were, and the offspring of gods and goddesses must also be of a - 63 supernatural nature. Thus, in order to produce mortal man it was necessary to discover a female of common origin, a non-supernatural woman.

Now, when these children of the Earth Mother were born, earth and sky were not separated as they now are, but lay close together, the Sky Parent embracing the Earth Mother. Light was not, darkness prevailed, no glimmer of light reached the children of Papa, and this condition of primal darkness is known as the Po. This period of darkness was divided into twelve lesser periods or Po, and during the first six of these occurred the conception of the Earth Mother, and the attainment of form by her offspring. The second series of six Po represents the period of labour of the Earth Mother, during which her young sought to pass out into the world. In the vernacular po signifies night. The names of the first six Po are:—

The Po The period of darkness.
The Po nui The great Po.
The Po roa The long Po.
The Po uriuri The dark Po.
The Po kerekere The intensely dark Po.
The Po tiwha The gloom laden Po.

The second series are styled:—

The Po te kitea Signifies unseen Po.
The Po tangotango Signifies changing.
The Po whawha Signifies feeling or questing.
The Po namunamu ki taiao Refers to the narrow passage to this world.
The Po tahuri atu Signifies turning, movement.
The Po tahuri mai ki taiao Signifies turning to this world.

These last two Po (nights or periods) represent the efforts made by the offspring of Papa to seek a passage into this world. Upon this series is based the period of labour with women of this world.

Much confusion has arisen over the frequent use of this term Po in Maori myth. As po=night, it is always taken as meaning darkness. Applied to the spirit world, it is translated as “realm of darkness” or some similar expression. The writer contends that the word as used in myth, does not necessarily mean “eternal night,” or even darkness, but is often employed in order to express the unknown, such is the darkness it often implies, the darkness of ignorance, a state of things man cannot grasp or comprehend. In like manner do we use such expressions as “all is dark before me.”

In scanning Maori myths we note that, not only is the term Po applied to the spirit world to which the soul of man goes at death, but it is also applied to the period of time prior to the appearance of - 64 man on the earth, or before the offspring of the primal parents escaped from the embrace of the Earth Mother. The names pertaining to that period have already been given.

Albeit the words uriuri, kerekere, and tiwha imply darkness, yet these expressions seem to refer to the unknown conditions of these periods rather than ordinary darkness. The offspring of Rangi and Papa were in darkness because they were within the body of the Earth Mother; as soon as they came forth, they found light in the world, not the bright light of Tane, but a subdued light.

We also note that the spirit world is known as the Po, the underworld to which the soul of man goes after death. The expressions Po tangotango, Po whawha and Po tiwha are applied to this land of spirits, apparently a land of gloom, according to some of the expressions applied to it. And yet the teachings of the Maori tend to show that it is by no means a gloomy realm, but a desirable place where the troubles of this world are unknown. Observe the advice of the denizens of the spirit world to Mataora, the only man who ever returned from that realm:—“O Mataora! Abandon the upper world, the home of evil. All the denizens of that world eventually come here. They are slain and perish through evil ways, and (their spirits) all come hither. Let us remain below; separate the upper world and its evil ways from the lower world and its goodly life. Observe, the upper world is as a Po with its acts and customs, a thing apart from the lower world, which is a realm of light and life, with goodly usages.”

Hence it is that, of all souls of the dead, even from the time of Hine-ahu-one down to our own time, not one has ever returned to dwell in the upper world. And the saying of old is, “Ko te Po tē hokia a taiao.” The Po from which none return to this world.

We cannot associate this spirit world with the ideas of gloom or darkness. It is the Po because it is the Unknown to us denizens of the upper world, a shadowy realm, unseen, unattainable by living man.

The first phase of light experienced by the children of Papa was that emitted by Moko-huruhuru (glow worm), which is known as the maramatanga tuaiti (dim light), and as the maramatanga namunamu ki taiao (dim light of the passage to this world), that feeble light is still seen, as emitted by the descendants of Moko-huruhuru. It may be as well to tabulate the different phases of Light, as explained in these myths:—

The maramatanga tuaiti Dim light of glow worm.
The maramatanga taruaitu The feeble light existing between Rangi and Papa prior to their separation.
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The maramatanga kakarauri The light that obtained in space after the separation of Rangi and Papa; known also as the maramatangarukuruku o taiao, and as Tahora nui a Ruatau.
The maramatanga atarau The phase of light known after Papa was turned over and Rangi was firmly established on high.
The maramatanga aoao nui The kind of light that prevails in winter.
The maramatanga tuarea Cloudless light.
The maramatanga taiahoaho The bright light of summer, the light experienced when the heavenly bodies were fixed. Also known as the ao marama o taiao.

But we are anticipating the higher phases of light, and must return to the birth of Tane and his brethren. When they appeared in the world they thought it a fine place, but soon discovered that it was occupied by Maeke, Kunawiri, Wero-i-te-ninihi, and others (personified forms of cold), hence they clung close to the sides of the Earth Mother. Whiro, who was one of the last born, was wrath with Tane for conducting them out to this cold region.


One of the first acts performed by the liberated children was the separation of the Sky Father and Earth Mother in order to gain space to move about, so cramped were they in the confined area. This forcible separation, in which Tane took the leading part, is often spoken of as a rebellion of the children against their parents. Tane, Tu, Tangaroa, Tawhiri-matea, and others performed this act, while Whiro and some others objected, and would have nothing to do with it. The story, which is a long one, explains how four poles were procured, and used as props to support the heavens when they had been thrust upward by Tane. The wise men of old were careful to explain that these four poles or props were the four winds, and were named after them:—

  • Toko Huru-mawake
  • Toko Huru-rangi
  • Toko Huru-atea
  • Toko Huru-nuku.

In these names toko signifits a pole or prop, while the other words - 66 are names of the personified forms of the four winds, north, south, east and west. The word toko also means a ray, as of light.

This separation of the primal parents was by no means an easy task, for they clung to each other closely, and so it was found necessary to cut off their arms ere they could be forced apart. Their blood ran and soaked into the body of the Earth Mother, whence her descendants ta he it in the form of red ochre. When a certain gleam of redness is seen in the heavens, that is caused by the blood of Rangi that flowed from his grievous wounds. The karakia (charm) that was employed in this separation has served as the basis of all divorce ritual among the human descendants of Rangi and Papa.

We are told that the two props supporting the head and legs of Rangi became bent by the weight, hence they received the secondary names of Rakau-tuke and Rakau-koke. The following sayings in regard to this unfilial act of Tane have endured unto this day:—

“Ko nga rangi i roherohea e Tane:” “The heavens to which Tane set bounds.”
“Ko nga rangi tuitui a Tane:” “The inaccessible heavens of Tane.”
“Ko nga rangi tokorau a Tane:” “The separated heavens of Tane.”

In regard to the four winds, it was these winds that brought vigour and the breath of life to man, animals, fish, birds, vegetation and soils; they were vitalising agents.

The following are other proper names for the four winds, which are the offspring of Huru-te-arangi and Tonganui-kaea:—

Hurunuku-atea North wind.
Pārāwera-nui South wind.
Tahu-mawake-nui East wind.
Tahu-makaka-nui West wind.

Several different progenitors of the sun are given in Maori myth, probably these are tribal differences—

Family Tree. Uru te ngangana=Hine te ahuru, Te Ra Kura (The red sun), Te Marama i whanake (The waxing moon)

In this version Uru, elder brother of Tane, and Hine te ahuru beget the Ra-kura (honorific name of the sun) and the Marama-i-whanake (waxing moon).

Family Tree. Uru=Hine-turama, The Stars.
- 67

Then Uru and Hine-turama produce the stars. Lady Turama is not identified, but apparently represents some form of light, being the daughter of Tane. Rama signifies a torch; tirama, to light with a torch; turama, to give light to, also illuminated. Tirama-roa is the name of some luminous phenomenon, possibly a comet.

Another version gives us—

Family Tree. Rangi-nui (Sky Parent)., Whiro (Personification of Darkness)., Tongatonga=Hine-te-ahuru, Sun, moon and stars.

A good native authority has said that Turangi and Uru-te-ngangana were names applied to one being, and we are told that another name of Tongatonga was Tu-rangi, also that Hine-te-ahuru had another name, that of Moe-ahuru; she is also alluded to as Te Ahuru. One version gives Rona as one of the offspring of the above twain. The common story concerning Rona is that she or he, is an atua whiro (evil supernatural being) who attacks the moon because it destroys food supplies, but the higher grade of teachers denied this. Rona is the guide, or conductor of the moon (marama), even as Tatai-arorangi is the guide of the sun. The full name of Rona is Rona-whakamau-tai, or Rona the Tide Controller.

One version gives Haronga as the male parent of the sun, and Tangotango as the mother. The latter appears to be a variant form of Tongatonga and is probably the correct form. Pio of Ngati-Awa explained that Tangotango is a name for the Milky Way, also known as Te Ikaroa. Haronga appears to hold much the same position as does Varuna of Indian myth, the god of the summer solstice.

While ra is the common name for the sun, we find that ra kura is apparently a honorific term for it, kura conveying the sense of redness or gleaming. Another term for the sun is the ra tuoi. The only meaning we know attached to tuoi is that of “thin, lean.” Another important name for the sun is Tama-nui-te-ra, and this is a personified form of that orb. Thus we have his origin given in this way:—

Family Tree. Turangi=Moe ahuru, Tama-nui-te-ra, Te Marama-i-whanake

We see that the sun is given as the first born, and the moon as the second born; after these came the stars, who are alluded to as ra ririki (little suns), and as being the taina or younger relatives of the two firstborn. The offspring of Rangi and Papa were somewhat fearful of these heavenly bodies, because they possessed eyes only - 68 and no bodies, heads, or limbs. They are sometimes alluded to as the Whanau Marama (Shining Offspring or Light Family). The sun is mentioned as a male, and has two wives, Hine-raumati (Summer Maid) and Hine-takurua (Winter Maid). In Moriori myth the three daughters of the sun are—

Hine-ata Morning Maid.
Hine-aotea Day Maid, or Daylight Maid.
Hine-ahiahi Evening Maid.

The moon has also several names, the common term being marama, while mārama means light. Marama-i-whanake denotes the waxing moon. Marama-taiahoaho implies the full moon. Marama-rou and marama-titaha apparently denote other phases. The sex of the moon is seldom referred to save in the myth of Hina, who is apparently the personified form of the moon, and a female. In full her name is Hina-keha, or Pale Hina, while Hina-uri seems to personify the darkened moon, during the hinapouri or lightless phase. In some myths the moon is clearly referred to as a male being.

Te Ikaroa (the Milky Way is said to be a younger brother of Whiro, and to have been the guardian of the little suns or stars. All these Children of Light, prior to their being placed on the breast of the Sky Parent, resided at Maunga-nui (great mountain), the home of Tu-rangi and Moe-ahuru. Here the sun lived in his own abode, known as Maire-kura, for he was a tapu being. The moon and Rona lived with their parents in the “house” Maire-hau. These were fine places in which the inmates roamed about. The plaza where they roamed was Te One i Oroku (The Strand at Oroku). Here dwelt the Whanau marama, the Children of Light. Here dwelt Te Ra (The Sun), Te Marama (The Moon), Kopu (Venus), Autahi (Canopus), Matariki (Pleiades), Whanui (Vega), Parearau (one of the planets), Puanga (Rigel), Kautu, Whakaahu, Takurua-ruru, Tautoru, Wero i te ninihi, Wero i te kokota, Poutu-te-rangi, Rehua, and many, many more, the little suns are a multitude, hence the saying:—“Ko te pukai mata kirikiri a Turangi;”; and also “Te apa whatu a Te Ahuru.”


The gloom of primal light was trying to the offspring of Rangi and Papa, hence Tane resolved to introduce brighter luminaries as a boon to his brethren. In the Tuhoe version of this myth it is stated that Tane-nui-a-rangi (Great Tane, offspring of Rangi) went to Tane-te-waiora and demanded the Whanau Marama wherewith to - 69 adorn the breast of the Sky Parent. We know that all these Tane names really applied to one and the same being, and it will appear later that Tane-te-waiora was his title when spoken of as being the custodian of Te Waiora a Tane, which is a figurative or emblematical term for Light, the Light of the Sun.

The Tuhoe folk say that Tane first demanded Hine-titama (the Dawn Maiden) but could not obtain her. Again, Kewa is said to have assisted him in procuring the Light Givers. Tane went to Maunga-nui and obtained them. He placed in a basket all these adornments of the house of Tane-te-waiora, as they were termed, and that basket seems to be represented by Te Ikaroa (Milky Way). One only of the younger folk, or little suns, was left hanging outside the basket, viz., Autahi (Canopus), which still remains outside it. The Tuhoe version says, “Ko Te Mangoroa tonu taua kete” (“The Milky Way itself is that basket”). Then the basket was placed on Uruao, the waka atua or supernatural canoe of Tama-rereti, and taken to the heavens, where all the Whanau Marama or luminous ones were arranged on the body of the Sky Parent. For Tane had said—“The breast of our parent, Rangi, is blank; it shall be adorned with the Whanau Marama.” The sun was placed on the breast of Rangi, the moon on his stomach, while the ra ririki or little suns (stars) were arranged on his head, body and legs. Tane said to Te Ikaroa, “You shall abide in the midst of our young ones, lest they quarrel, jostle each other, and fall.” Now we know that such quarrels do occur, because when a matakokiri (meteor) is seen, that is one of the younger ones falling Te Ikaroa and Tamarereti, theirs is the task to prevent the children falling and breaking their heads, or being drowned in the ocean.

Thus it was that Tane illuminated the Sky Parent, and so we became possessed of the light of the ao-turoa (this world), and that of the po tiwhatiwha (period of darkness) as given by the moon. This was not effected at first, for all the Light Giving Ones moved at the same time, so that Papa, the Earth Mother, became dried up and dusty, so fierce was the heat of the sun, for at this period the body of Papa was naked and unprotected. Hence Tane rearranged the heavenly bodies and their movements, so that the sun should move across the breast of Rangi in its own time, and that the moon and Milky Way and stars should follow behind him. This is how day and night were separated; day was assigned to the ra kura, and night to the marama hua (moon), to Te Ikaroa, and to their taina (younger relatives). Now it was that a proper period of time for sleep was acquired, and Rona was appointed guardian of the marama whiro (moon). We now see how it was that Tane brought Light to the World.

(To be continued.)