Maori Gods: Tinirau

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In Māori mythology, Tinirau is a guardian of fish. He is a son of Tangaroa, the god of the sea. His home at Motutapu (sacred island) is surrounded with pools for breeding fish. He also has several pet whales.

Hinauri, sister to the Māui brothers, had married Irawaru, who was transformed into a dog by Māui-tikitiki. In her grief Hinauri throws herself into the sea. She does not drown but is cast ashore at the home of Tinirau, where she attracts his attention by muddying the pools he uses as mirrors. She marries Tinirau and uses incantations to kill his other two wives, who had attacked her out of jealousy (Biggs 1966:450).

When her child Tūhuruhuru is born, the ritual birth ceremony is performed by Kae, a priest. After this is done, Tinirau lends Kae his pet whale to take him home. In spite of strict instructions to the contrary, Kae forces the whale, Tutu-nui, into shallow water, where it dies, and is roasted and eaten by Kae and his people. When he learns of this Tinirau is furious and sends Hinauri with a party of women (often they are Tinirau’s sisters) to capture Kae, who is to be identified by his overlapping front teeth. The sisters perform indecent dances to make him laugh. When he laughs, they see his crooked teeth. Then the women sing a magic song which puts Kae into a deep sleep, and carry him back to Motutapu. When Kae wakes from his sleep he is in Tinirau’s house. Tinirau taunts him for his treachery, and kills him (Grey 1970:69, Tregear 1891:110, Biggs 1966:450).

Later Tūhuruhuru is killed by the tribe of Popohorokewa for the death of Kae. In turn, Tinirau calls on Whakatau to destroy the Popohorokewa, which he did by burning them all in the house called Tihi-o-manono (Biggs 1966:450).

In a South Island account, Tinirau, mounted on Tutunui, meets Kae, who is in a canoe. Kae borrows Tutunui, and Tinirau goes on his way to find Hine-te-iwaiwa, travelling on a large nautilus that he borrows from his friend Tautini. When Tinirau smells the south wind he knows that his whale is being roasted (Tregear 1891:110).


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Maori Gods: Tū

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In Māori mythology, Tū-te-wehiwehi (or Tutewehiwehi) is the father of all reptiles, and is also known as Tu-te-wanawana (or Māori: Tū-te-wanawana).

Family
He is a son of Punga and brother of Ikatere. Father of Punga was Tangaroa, king of the sea.

When Tāwhirimātea made war against his brothers after they separated Rangi and Papa (sky father and earth mother, ancestors of all gods), Ikatere and Tū-te-wehiwehi had to flee, and Ikatere fled to the sea and became an ancestor of fishes, while Tū-te-wehiwehi took refuge in the forest and fathered lizards.

Before Tū-te-wehiwehi and Ikatere fled, they disputed together as to what they should do to escape from the storms.


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Maori Gods: Uenuku

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In Māori mythology, Uenuku or Kahukura is the god of rainbows. He is particularly special to the Tainui and Ngai Tahu Māori.

Kahukura, after whom the rock, Te Tihi o Kahukura or Castle Rock on the Banks Peninsula in Canterbury is named was also known as Uenuku in the North Island. He was the spirit guardian invoked by tribal tohunga and appealed to for advice and omens in times of war. Each hapū had an image of Kahukura, often a small carved wooden figure, which was kept in a tapu place.

A literal translation of Kahukura is a red garment and the rainbow is the celestial embodiment of Kahukura in our skies.

Legend
The legend of Uenuku is similar to many other vanishing lover tales such as Cupid and Psyche or Beauty and the Beast.

Uenuku was out hunting very early one morning when, in a clearing, he saw a beautiful girl who seemed to coalesce out of the morning mist. Her name was Hine-pūkohu-rangi He persuaded her to stay and talk with him for a moment and to return the next night, and the next, and the next, and before long they fell in love. But as a mist maiden her home was in the sky, so she had to leave him at dawn. At last, she agreed to marry Uenuku on condition that he tell no-one about her.

They had a few months of happiness, though she still appeared only at night and left at dawn, and in time a little girl was born to them Uenuku had a child with her. But no one else could see her and therefore he was ridiculed. Uenuku’s friends were sceptical of this wife and child they had never seen. He tried to explain that she left him each morning at first light, so his friends suggested that he block up the doors and windows so she could not see the sun. Finally, he was convinced to block the windows and door when she came to him one night so she couldn’t see the sun in the morning, then he could prove she existed. This he did, but of course, she felt tricked and when the mist maiden knew he had deceived her, she left him.

Uenuku wandered the world searching for his beloved wife and daughter. At last, seeing him lonely and bent with age, Rangi the Skyfather took pity on him and changed him into a rainbow so that he could join his family in the sky.

Artefacts
The Te Awamutu Museum in New Zealand has a large stone said to be inhabited by the spirit of Uenuku. According to local legend, the spirit of Uenuku was brought to New Zealand by the people on the Tainui canoe, in a stone. When they landed, they made a carving with a round opening at the top, in which the stone was placed so that the spirit of Uenuku inhabited the stone. Due to his spiritual significance, photographs of the stone figure of Uenuku are prohibited without the permission of the Maori sovereign.

The same museum is home to an early Māori carving, known as either Uenuku or Te Uenuku, which is of extreme significance both to the local Tainui Māori people and also for its archaeological value. The carving is unique in form, and bears a noted resemblance to Hawaiian carving styles.


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Maori Gods: Urutengangana

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Urutengangana, in Māori mythology, is the Māori god of light. He is the firstborn of the children of the primal parents, Ranginui the Sky father and Papatūānuku the Earth mother.

Also known as The Gleaming One, a personification of light, Urutengangana had two wives, Moeahuru and Hineturama, the first of whom gave birth to “the red sun” and “the waxing moon,” while the later produced the stars. In the struggle between the forces of Light and Darkness, Urutengangana at first sided with Whiro, but, in later times, sided with Tāne.


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Maori Gods: Whaitiri

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In Māori mythology, Whaitiri is a female deity, a personification of thunder, and the grandmother of Tāwhaki and Karihi. Whaitiri is the granddaughter of Te Kanapu, and the great-granddaughter of Te Uira, both of whom are personified forms of lightning (Reed 1963:158). In Maori mythology, there is also a male deity of thunder, Tāwhirimātea.

Marries Kaitangata
Whaitiri is a fearsome figure, fond of cannibalism. When she hears of a mortal named Kaitangata (man-eater), she is certain he will make a fine husband for her. She comes down to earth and marries him, but is disappointed to learn that he is a gentle person, nothing like his name suggests. Whaitiri kills her favourite slave, Anonokia, takes out her heart and liver, and offers them to Kaitangata as a sign of her affection. He is horrified at the grisly offering (Reed 1963:158-159).

Kaitangata is a hard worker, spending a lot of time fishing to feed his family. Unfortunately, he has never learned how to make hooks with a barb, and so most of his fish escape. Whaitiri gives him a barbed hook, and he catches a groper, which she offers to the gods. Whaitiri quickly tires of a diet of fish, so when her husband is away fishing, she takes a net and catches two of her husband’s relatives, Tupeke-ti and Tupeke-ta. When Kaitangata returns, she asks him to perform the incantations that are used when human flesh is offered to the gods. He does not know the chants, so she tries to perform them herself, not willing to confess that she is ignorant of the correct words to use. She mumbles nonsense words, before cooking the bodies, cutting them up and gorging herself on the flesh, to the disgust of the villagers. Only the bones are left (Reed 1963:158-9).

Later, Kaitangata uses the bones to make barbed hooks, and goes fishing. He catches groper, and gives them to Whaitiri. He does not tell her that he used hooks made from the bones of Tupeke-ti and Tupeke-ta. She eats the fish, and because the fish is infused with the tapu (sacredness) from the bodies of the two men, Whaitiri gradually begins to go blind. At first she is mystified at the reason for this, but eventually she is visited by a woman from the underworld who tells her what has happened (Reed 1963:159).

Returns to the sky
One day, Whaitiri overhears her husband describe her to two strangers. She is offended when she hears him say that his wife’s skin is like the wind, and her heart is as cold as snow. On another occasion, she is ashamed when Kaitangata complains that their children are dirty. She explains to her husband that she is unable to wash her children because she is a sacred being from the heavens, and she tells him for the first time that her name is thunder. She prepares to return to her true home in the heavens, and foretells that her children will follow her one day. She departs in a cloud, leaving her children, one of whom is Hemā (Reed 1963:159-160).

Found by her grandsons
This is fulfilled when Tāwhaki and Karihi, Hemā’s sons, set off to climb up to the sky. At the foot of the ascent they find their grandmother, Whaitiri, now blind, who sits continually counting the tubers of sweet potato or taro that are her only food. The brothers tease her by snatching them away, one by one, and upsetting her count. Eventually, they reveal themselves to her and restore her sight. In return, she gives them advice about how best to make the climb into the sky. Karihi tries first, but makes the error of climbing up the aka taepa, or hanging vine. He is blown violently around by the winds of heaven, and falls to his death. Tāwhaki climbs by the aka matua, or parent vine, recites the right incantations, and reaches the highest of the 10 heavens. There he learns many spells from Tama-i-waho, and marries a woman named Hāpai, or as others say, Maikuku-makaka. They have a son, and according to some versions of the story it is this child who is named Wahieroa (Biggs 1966:450).

Names and epithets
Waitiri (thunder, thundering water, dialectal)
Whatitiri (thunder)
Whaitiri-mātakataka (crashing thunder)
Waitiri Station, a large Central Otago New Zealand high country ranch. Named after the thundering waters of the Kawarau River. Waitiri Station is the major ranch of the Kawarau Gorge and runs from the Bungy Bridge to the Roaring Meg on SH6. It is a merino sheep station and is run in conjunction with Eastburn Station.
Waitiri Run (Citroen Rapids) A Grade IV at less than 11,000 cubic feet per second (310 m3/s) and Grade V over 11,000 cubic feet per second (310 m3/s). Length 2 miles (3 km) BIG water, technically simple but intimidating. Waitiri Station provides put and exit access.


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Maori Gods: Whiro

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In Māori mythology, Whiro (or Hiro in the Tuamotus) is the lord of darkness, or the embodiment of all evil. He is the brother and enemy of Tāne. He inhabits the underworld and is responsible for the ills of all persons. In some versions of this story, when people die, their bodies descend into the underworld, where they are eaten by Whiro. Each time Whiro eats a body, he becomes stronger. This process will eventually make him sufficiently powerful to break free of the underworld, at which point he will come to the surface and devour everything and everyone on it. Cremation is therefore recommended to prevent this, because Whiro cannot gain strength from ashes.


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Maori Gods: Rohe

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In a tradition of the Moriori people of the Chatham Islands, Rohe is the wife of the demi-god Māui. Beautiful Rohe was a sister of the sun, and her face shone. A quarrel arose after Rohe remarked that Māui’s face was ugly. Māui then decided that they should change faces.

Afterwards Māui used magic to kill Rohe, but her spirit returned and destroyed Māui. Thus were black magic and death introduced into the world. After her death, Rohe ruled as the goddess of the pō (spirit world), where she gathered in the spirits of the dead. Evil influences were attributed to her (Best 1982:362-363, Shand 1897:125-126).

Cook Islands
In Mangaia, the name Ro’e appears in Te Aka-ia-Ro’e (the root of all existence) which, according to Tregear, is ‘a spirit in the form of a thick stem tapering to a point, and is situated at the bottom of the Universe, sustaining the Cosmos’ (Gill 1976:1, Tregear 1891:421). According to Elsdon Best, the goddess exchanges heads with Māui (Best 1982:363).

Māori
The Māori knew little of Rohe. Tregear records the one myth associated with her, in which she is the wife of Māui. She was beautiful as he was ugly, and she refused his request to exchange faces. Māui, however, recited an incantation, and their faces were switched. In anger Rohe left him, and refused to live any longer in the world of light. She went to the underworld, and became a goddess of the pō (night or spirit world). Rohe is said sometimes to beat the spirits of deceased as they pass through her realm. Her home is in that division of the night world called Te Uranga-o-te-rā. Māui and Rohe had a son named Rangihore, the god of rocks and stones (Craig 1989:231, Best 1982:362, Tregear 1891:421).

Tahiti
In Tahiti, the ‘Father of Famine’ is called Rohe-upo’o-nui, (Large-headed Rohe) (Tregear 1891:421).


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Maori Gods: Rongomai

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In Māori mythology, Rongomai refers to several entities:

a deity by whose assistance Haungaroa traveled from Hawaiki to New Zealand as she went to tell Ngātoro-i-rangi that he had been cursed by Manaia.
a being in whale form which attacked and almost wiped out the war-party of Maru.
a god of comet.
the war-god of the tribes in the Lake Taupo region.
a celebrated demi-god ancestor of some iwi. He went with Ihinga and others of his friends to visit the dread Miru in her abode in the underworld. There they were taught incantations, witchcraft, religious songs, dances, and certain games. One of Rongomai’s men was caught, and was claimed by Miru in sacrifice, as payment for having imparted the sacred knowledge, but Rongomai and the others got safely back to the world again.
the chief of the Mahuhu canoe in its voyage from Hawaiki to New Zealand. He was drowned when the canoe overturned, and his body was eaten by the araara fish, since held sacred by the Nga Puhi and Rarawa iwi, who claim descent from Rongomai. Until they embraced Christianity, those iwi would not eat the araara (or trevally, Caranx georianus) .
a meteor or comet, seen in the full light of day when in comparatively recent times, the Ngati Hau tribe were besieging the fortress named Rangiuru at Otaki, occupied by the Ngati Awa.


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Maori Gods: Ruaumoko

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In Māori mythology, Rūaumoko (also known as Rūamoko) is the god of earthquakes, volcanoes and seasons. He is the youngest son of Ranginui (the Sky father) and Papatūānuku (the Earth mother) (commonly called Rangi and Papa).

Ruaumoko Patera, named after this god, is one of many paterae (shallow craters) on Io, one of Jupiter’s moons.

Mythology
After Rangi and Papa were separated by their sons, Rangi cried, and his tears flooded the land. To stop this, the sons decided to turn Papa face down, so Rangi and Papa could no longer see each other’s sorrow. Rūaumoko was at his mother’s breast when this happened, so he was carried into the world below. He was given fire for warmth by Tama-kaka, and his movements below the earth cause earthquakes and volcanoes. Another version tells that he remains in Papa’s womb, with some variants saying it was to keep Papa company after her separation from Rangi. In these versions, his movements in the womb cause earthquakes.

The earthquakes Rūaumoko causes are in turn responsible for the change of seasons. Depending on the time of year, the earthquakes cause the warmth, or cold, of Papa to come to the surface of the land, resulting in the warming, or cooling of the Earth.

Rūaumoko pulls on the ropes that control the land causing the shimmering effect of hot air, called haka of Tane-rore, and in some versions, earthquakes.

Rūaumoko is also known as husband of his niece Hine-nui-te-pō, the goddess of death and a daughter of Tāne.


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Maori Gods: Tama

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In Māori mythology, Tama-nui-te-rā (Tamanuiterā) is the personification of the Sun.

Etymology

Tamanuiterā is a Māori Sun god
In the Māori language, Tama-nui-te-rā means “Great Son of the Sun”. The Māori word for “sun” or “day” is rā, deriving from Proto-Polynesian *laqaa.

Legends
Hero Māui decided that the days were too short and caught Tamanuiterā with a snare, then beat him to make him travel more slowly across the sky.

Family
In some legends Tamanuiterā is the husband of Ārohirohi, goddess of mirages. In other legends, Tamanuiterā had two wives, the Summer maid, Hineraumati, and the Winter maid, Hinetakurua.

The child of Tamanuiterā and Hineraumati, Tane-rore, is credited with the origin of dance.

Another son of Tamanuiterā is Auahitūroa, god of comets and fires, and grandchildren of Tamanuiterā are Ngā Mānawa.


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