GENESIS: Sons of Sky And Earth

Rangi and Papatuanuku, the sky father and earth mother, were the parents of all creation.  The sons of these two were the elements of life, and one son Tane, created the first woman.

Before there was any light there was only darkness, all was night.  Before there was even darkness there was nothing.  Of these things it is spoken in our karakia, the chants given down from ancient time that name all the ancestors of the Maori people. 

It is said in the karakia, at the beginning of time there stood Te Kore, the nothingness.  Then there was Te Po, the night, which was immensely long and immensely dark:

    Te Po nui

    Te Po roa

    Te Po uriuri

    Te Po kerekere

    Te Po tiwha

    Te Po tangotango

    Te Po kitea

Meaning the great night, the long night, the dark night, the intensely dark night, the gloom-laden night, the night to be felt, the night unseen… begins the  story of the beginning and before the beginning and of the generations of ancestors of man from the beginning of Po.   

After the long night a glow finally appeared, the moon and the sun rose, and the heavens were lit. But  Rangi and Papa and their children lived in darkness. The Sky lay on the Earth, and light had not yet come between them.

Their children were angry that they could not see and argued among themselves about how they could bring light to the earth.  Tumatauenga (atua of war) urged that they kill their parents, but Tane Mahuta (atua of the forests) contended that they should  simply separate them. Tane prevailed and Tumatauenga, Rongo, Tangaroa and Tane Mahuta all struggled in turn to wrest the Sky from the Earth. Eventually  it was Tane Mahuta who by thrusting with his mighty feet gradually lifted Rangi away from Papa and night became distinguished from day.

Rangi was heartbroken at the separation.  She shed an immense quantity of tears forming the oceans. Tawhiri (atua of wind and storm), had opposed his brothers in their attempts to separate Rangi and Papa.  He followed Rangi aloft and then wreaked vengeance on Tane Mahuta and Tangaroa (atua of the sea).  Tawhiri lashed the trees of Tane Mahuta until, uprooted, they fell in disarray. Tawhiri then turned his rage on Tangaroa.   As Tangaroa fled for the ocean depths, his many grandchildren became  confused.  While the fish made for the seas with him, the lizards and reptiles hid among rocks and the battered forests. To this day Tangaroa  is slowly eroding the land in the hope that the forests will fall and he will be reunited with his offspring.

When the participants lay exhausted and peace at last descended, Tane Mahuta fashioned the body of a woman from clay, and breathed life into her nostrils. She became Hine-hauone, 'the Earth-formed Maid'. Hine-hauone bore Tane Mahuta a daughter who was named Hine-titama 'the Dawn Maid',  She too, in time, bore daughters to Tane.  When Hine-titama discovered her father's identity, she was overwhelmed with shame. She left the world of light, Te Ao, and moved to Te Po, the world below, where she became known as Hinenui-te-Po 'Great Hine of the Night.

More Information

For more information about maori theology click here

Maori Creation Stories

For an overview of creation stories click here

Key Source:

One of the key sources of Maori legend is an 1854 publication by Sir George Grey, the Governor-in-Chief of New Zealand in the mid-19th century, entitled: Polynesian Mythology and Ancient Traditional History of the New Zealanders as furnished by the Priests and Chiefs".

For a full version of this publication click here

Te Rangikaheke

For more information about Te Rangikaheke (also known as Wiremu Marsh), one of the afore-mentioned but un-named chiefs, who was a critical source for Grey and an author in his own right, click here and find "Te Rangikaheke" under "T" in the Quick Biography Search on the "Find" page.

Sir George Grey

For a biography of Grey click here and find "George Grey" under "G" in the Quick Biography Search on the "Find" page.

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