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Te Koparapara: An Introduction to the Maori World

Te Koparapara: An Introduction to the Maori World

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Te Koparapara: An Introduction to the Maori World

866 pages
11 hours
May 10, 2018


Like the clear morning song of te koparapara, the bellbird, this book allows the Maori world to speak for itself through an accessible introduction to Maori culture, history, and society from an indigenous perspective. In 21 illustrated chapters, leading scholars introduce Maori culture (including tikanga on and off the marae and key rituals like powhiri and tangihanga), Maori history (from the beginning of the world and the waka migration through to Maori protest and urbanization), and Maori society today (including 21st century issues like education, health, political economy, and identity). Chapters include a mixture of images, maps, and diagrams as well as relevant songs and sayings.
May 10, 2018

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An Introduction to the Māori World

Edited by Michael Reilly, Suzanne Duncan, Gianna Leoni, Lachy Paterson, Lyn Carter, Matiu Rātima and Poia Rewi

For Ginny Sullivan, an exemplary editor

I te tangi a te kōparapara ki te taringa,

ko aua kupu ki te kamo.

Kōpara e

Kōia te tikanga

Kōia te kawa

Kōia te ritenga

E ringi nei i te atatū

E tiu nei i te rā

E kō nei i te kākarauritanga

Ko Te Kōparapara tēnei e kōtui nei i ngā kōrero i te whenua me te rangi; i namata ki te ake ake; kia kawea e te ihirangi ngā whakaaro, ngā ritenga, ngā wheako o te ao ki ngā tai tuatawhiti.

Kua huri te ao, kua mau ia te tangi o tana waiata, engari, ko ngā whiti ia, he whakaatu i ngā aranga me ngā tōnga hou o te rā, he whakaatu i te moe tahitanga o ngā iwi maha me ā rātou tikanga ki ā te Māori.

Nā reira, whakarongo ki te waiata hou a Te Kōparapara – he hononga kaupapa o te wā.

Kō, kō.

E ko koe ia e ara e

Oh Bellbird

Let your voice ring out cultural etiquette

Let it sing out its customary practices

Let it call out the ritual expectations

Share your melody from dawn to dusk.

Hark, it is Te Kōparapara that transcends earth and sky, physical and spiritual, from the past through to the future, practices and experiences across vast worlds.

The world evolves, but the chorus remains. Each verse here is repositioned with new insights and viewpoints, where ethnicities and cultures have merged with those of Māori.

Lend your ear to the revised perspectives presented here in Te Kōparapara.

Let the music rise and its harmonies radiate.


E Tiu, Whakamihia: Acknowledgements

E Tiu, Wāhia: An Introductory Note    Michael Reilly

Part One: He Tumu: Foundations

Introduction to Part One    Michael Reilly

1      Te Tīmatanga mai o te Ao: The Beginning of the World    Michael Reilly

2      Tikanga: How Not to Get Told Off!    Suzanne Duncan and Poia Rewi

3      Whakapaparanga: Social Structure, Leadership and Whāngai    Merata Kawharu and Erica Newman

4      Ngā Hekenga Waka: Migration and Early Settlement    Richard Walter and Michael Reilly

5      Kaitiakitanga: Land, People and Resource Management    Merata Kawharu

6      Marae    Paul Tapsell

7      Ritual Today: Pōwhiri    Suzanne Duncan and Poia Rewi

8      Takiauē (Tangihanga): Death and Mourning    Megan Pōtiki

Part Two: Tāhuhu Kōrero: Histories

Introduction to Part Two    Lachy Paterson

9      Te Tūtakitanga o ngā Tāngata: The Meeting of Peoples    Michael Reilly and Erik Olssen

10    He Whakaputanga me te Tiriti: The Declaration and the Treaty    Janine Hayward

11    Piki, Heke: Opportunity and Disappointment, 1840–1863    Lachy Paterson

12    He Mōrearea, he Kairiritanga, he Whakatikatanga: Crisis and Conflict, Resistance and Readjustment, 1863–1881    Michael Belgrave

13    He Takaoraora, he Whakameto: Struggle and Advancing in a Stealthy Manner, 1881–1918    Tom Brooking

14    Tōrangapū Ohaoha: Māori and the Political Economy, 1918–1945    Richard S. Hill

15    Te Hūnuku: Māori Urban Migration    Karyn Paringatai

Part Three: Tākiri te Ata: Futures

Introduction to Part Three    Suzanne Duncan

16    Te Tiriti me Ōna Whakatau: The Waitangi Tribunal and Treaty Settlements    Jacinta Ruru

17    Ngā Hurihanga o te Reo Māori i te Mātauranga: Changes in Māori Language Education    Tangiwai Rewi and Matiu Rātima

18    Hauora Māori – He Tīmatanga: Māori Health – An Introduction    Anne-Marie Jackson, Joanne Baxter and Hauiti Hakopa

19    Whakahiatotanga me te Mātauranga Māori: Māori and Indigenous Knowledge in Development Contexts    Lyn Carter

20    Hangarau me te Māori: Māori and Technology    Te Taka Keegan and Acushla Sciascia

21    He Tātai Tuakiri: The ‘Imagined’ Criteria of Māori Identity    Gianna Leoni, Marcelle Wharerau and Tawini White




Information on Contributors

List of Illustrations


E Tiu, Whakamihia: Acknowledgements

Any work is the product of many hands, often hidden from view. Here we wish to acknowledge those who helped bring Te Kōparapara into the light of day. Each of our chapters was evaluated by one or more readers, scholars who agreed to comment on their colleagues’ work, despite their own often challenging work pressures. We thank you all: Peter Adds, Gipsi Foster, Rāwinia Higgins, Hirini Kaa, Danny Keenan, Te Kani Kīngi, Nathan Matthews, Jane McRae, Pita Meihana, Ocean Mercier, Angela Middleton, Te Tuhi Robust, Diane Rūwhiu, Michael Stevens, Angela Wanhalla and Paerau Warbrick. We also thank other Otago colleagues who readily agreed to assist this project in various ways, including Erica Newman, Richard Walter and especially Les O’Neill who drew the maps. The Division of Humanities at the University of Otago kindly funded Gianna Leoni to act as a research assistant for this project through a Humanities Research Grant.

Finally, we acknowledge and thank Auckland University Press, particularly its publisher, Sam Elworthy, and his expert team, especially Katharina Bauer, and the copy editor, Ginny Sullivan, for their consistent support and enthusiasm for this project from its beginnings. They have made the task of writing and editing this volume far easier and more enjoyable than it might otherwise have been. Thanks also to proofreaders Jane McRae and Louisa Kasza, indexer Carol Dawber, and to Katrina Duncan for her visionary layout and design of the book.

E Tiu, Wāhia:

An Introductory Note

Michael Reilly

Ka rite te kōpara e kō nei i te ata.

It is like a bellbird singing at dawn.

Birds hold a special place in the natural and cultural worlds of the Māori people of Aotearoa New Zealand. They were created by Tāne-mahuta, an important spirit being responsible for forests and birds. Birds were considered the elder relations of people. Their ability to communicate meant the tangata whenua (indigenous people of the land) listened to them carefully, considering them to be messengers associated with the spirit world, and able to convey warnings or predictions to people. What they ate and the time of their appearance also guided Māori on the seasonal readiness of natural resources.

The kōpara (bellbird) is particularly esteemed for the clarity and sweetness of its song; its loud dawn chorus, ushering in the light (te ao), betokened ‘life and success’. In the wisdom saying which begins this chapter, the kōpara is a metaphor for the beautiful voice of the singer or speaker. Such exponents of the oral arts are highly esteemed in their communities and are called manu kōrero (talking birds).¹

When Māori people embraced the opportunities provided by literacy during the nineteenth century, they quickly took up the new technologies of the era, publishing newspapers in the Māori language. In doing so they also referred back to their older, oral world by utilising bird names in the titles of various newspapers, including Te Kopara which graced the masthead of a Church of England newspaper published with the backing of the Waiapu diocese between 1913 and 1921.² Like exponents of the oral arts, these newspapers enabled the voice of Māori to be heard: the clear, loud song of the bellbird piercing the cacophonous sounds of the more dominant colonisers.

By choosing the kōpara to open our book, we wish to link our words to that ancestral oral world in which birds stood for the human capacity to create and to communicate their ideas, arguments and findings to an audience. Just as Te Kopara reached a wider New Zealand audience through the print medium, we hope this book will reach out and communicate with a diverse range of audiences: Māori communities that are now spread far and near, even beyond the expanse of Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa (Pacific Ocean), and other peoples who wish to learn about the Māori world, such as those tauiwi (strangers, foreign people, non-Māori, immigrants) who have come to live in these southern Pacific islands we now call Aotearoa New Zealand.

Many of the editors and authors of these words live in a particular place, Ōtepoti (Dunedin), in Te Waipounamu, also known as the South Island, which lies under the mana (authority) of the people of this land, Kāi Tahu, also called Ngāi Tahu. Māori who live in the southern parts of Te Waipounamu historically called the bellbird te kōparapara, and we have chosen this local version of the bird’s name for the book’s title to acknowledge the people of this place.³ It also reflects our desire to draw on southern Māori knowledge and language throughout this book, complementing the often better-known stories and scholarship concerning northern Māori descent groups in Te Ika-a-Māui (North Island).

The kōparapara links us to the poetical genius of Māori speakers and singers. In this book we have sought to incorporate within our more mundane prose narratives the compositions of generations of Māori artists down to the present, by quoting from songs, poems, speeches, wisdom-sayings and other works that collectively form ‘the high talk of Maori oral tradition’.⁴ These works reflect the beauty of the Māori language and enable authors to support and enhance their words by drawing on these pieces of artistry as an appropriate kīnaki (complement, condiment), just as a well-chosen song concludes whaikōrero (Māori oratory).

The book, Te Kōparapara, describes the past, present and possible future of Māori society from an indigenous point of view. Its scope and presentation reflect our experiences as teachers in Māori Studies at New Zealand’s oldest university, the University of Otago, where we seek to explain the complexities of the Māori world to a large and heterogeneous body of students, both indigenous and non-indigenous, drawn from the four corners of the globe.

To understand this complex world fully, we have divided Te Kōparapara into three parts. In the first part, He Tumu: Foundations, we explore the deeper meanings of selected cultural ideas and practices, upon which other aspects of Māori society are built. Chapters in He Tumu begin with creation texts that describe how the universe and humanity came into being, before extending out, like branches of a plant, to consider fundamental events and elements that constitute Māori society: core cultural concepts such as mana and tapu; family and human relationships, including leadership; the migrations of Polynesian ancestors of the tangata whenua and their settlement of Aotearoa New Zealand; management of the land and its resources; the past, present and future of the marae; rituals of encounter practised on marae; and death, grief and rituals of death such as tangihanga.

Māori society has been transformed through its historical interactions with those strangers who came, in increasing numbers, from an expanding European world to live here from the early 1800s. The agonistic process of colonisation that ensued is described in the second part, Tāhuhu Kōrero: Histories. Its chapters are laid out in chronological fashion, commencing with the first tentative meetings in the early 1800s; the signing of the Declaration of Independence and Treaty of Waitangi; the steady loss of autonomy; the decades of war, invasion and defeat in the nineteenth century; the signs of resistance and resilience around the turn of the twentieth century; the quest for equality up to 1945; and the rapid urbanisation that followed the end of World War II.

The Māori world is not an object stuck in the past and contained between book covers or on a museum shelf, but a multi-generational community of people always open to new ideas as they wrestle with the many challenges they face in their lives. The third part of the book, Tākiri te Ata: Futures, recognises this continuing experimentation within contemporary Māori society as it addresses Waitangi Tribunal claims and the challenges of post-Treaty settlements; the expansion in Māori education, particularly in te reo Māori (the Māori language); the improving of Māori health; indigenous knowledge, ethics and development; and the explosion of Māori engagement with new technologies such as media and the Internet. The last chapter turns to the vexed issue of how the new generation of Māori define their personal identity, especially as they wrestle with old and new values and definitions of being Māori.

Where possible in Tākiri te Ata we have focused on the Māori world of the twenty-first century, both its achievements so far and the challenges it faces at least in the next decade or so. Because future developments will almost certainly take unpredictable directions, these chapters are perforce more tentative and less comprehensive than those in Parts 1 and 2. Instead, the chapters in Part 3 sketch out what may happen based on what we know of the subjects today. Like our own lives they are, as yet, incomplete.

Such a diversity of topics requires a large pool of talented authors to undertake the hard task of explaining the Māori world to a wide audience within the compass of a single book. Each author was chosen for their knowledge of the chapter topic. They were asked to write up-to-date summaries of the scholarly research on their subjects within a tight word limit. Instructions on content were kept deliberately brief in order to encourage authors to create chapters reflecting their distinctive interpretations and individual voices.

Most of these manu kōrero come from the academic fields of Māori Studies and History, at Otago and other New Zealand tertiary education institutions. Some are senior scholars and others are new, still establishing themselves in their chosen fields of expertise. Such complementarity achieves a balance between generations, an important Māori value. In the Māori world the older generation links current and future generations to those who have contributed to building and sustaining society from the past into the present. The younger generation turns our thoughts towards the new challenges that the Māori world and its histories will face in the future. This principle of succession is expressed in a famous saying: ‘Ka pū te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi’ (‘The old net lies in a heap, the (new) net goes fishing’).

Te Kōparapara is based on our belief that it is important for everyone to understand the past, present and future of the Māori world, no matter who we are, and whether or not we identify as Māori or tauiwi. In letting this belief inform the entire volume, we hope our readers will gain a greater insight not only into the nature of the Māori knowledge world but also into the central role the indigenous people of this land play in modern Aotearoa New Zealand society. By broadening and deepening our knowledge horizons in these ways, we put into practice another wisdom saying: ‘Ko te manu kai i te miro nōna te ngahere, ko te manu kai i te mātauranga nōna te ao’ (‘The bird that feasts on miro tree berries belongs to the bush, the bird that feasts on knowledge belongs to the world’).

As the preceding pages have indicated, in Te Kōparapara we use various terms to describe the two peoples who together constitute contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand society. The indigenous people are known as the tangata whenua, meaning the people of these lands: the whenua refers both to a child’s placenta and to the ancestral lands in which it is buried.⁷ ‘Māori’ is also used to refer to the indigenous people or any cultural elements belonging to them, such as te reo Māori. ‘Māori’ means someone or something that is indigenous, normal, usual, natural or common. In the nineteenth century, ‘tangata māori’ denoted the normal, usual or ordinary people of this place, as opposed to the strange or extraordinary settlers arriving from Europe and elsewhere. These migrants and their descendants are often called Pākehā. Today this descriptor covers any New Zealander, not of Māori descent, who identifies firmly with this land rather than with land somewhere else. ‘Tauiwi’, denoting anyone who is a stranger or visitor to this land, more explicitly covers all non-Māori ethnicities in Aotearoa New Zealand, including other Pacific Islanders.⁸

The book has been realised by a large team of editors from Te Tumu, the School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies at the University of Otago. Suzanne Duncan initiated the idea of a new book that could accompany her teaching of our introductory paper on Māori society. Duncan, Gianna Leoni and Michael Reilly took responsibility for the overall management of the book, including communicating with the publisher, the various authors and chapter readers, and the final editing and preparation of chapters. Suzanne Duncan also co-edited Part 3 and wrote its section introduction. Michael Reilly co-edited Part 1 and wrote its introduction along with the introductory note and acknowledgements. Gianna Leoni’s key tasks ranged widely and included keeping track of all the chapter drafts, editing texts to follow agreed standards of presentation, preparing a bibliography, and selecting appropriate images. Lachy Paterson edited Part 2 and wrote its introduction. Matiu Rātima co-edited Part 3. Poia Rewi wrote the epigraph in Māori, co-edited Part 1 and created many of the book’s Māori titles. Lyn Carter contributed to early planning, helped liaise with the publishers and advised on aspects of Ngāi Tahu knowledge.

In a book devoted to so many topics, we have followed certain language usages and editorial protocols in order to produce a consistent and accessible text.

•   The land is known by many names. Authors have variously used Aotearoa, New Zealand and Aotearoa New Zealand. We favour Te Ika-a-Māui as the Māori name for the North Island and Te Waipounamu for the South Island.

•   Te reo Māori is not italicised because it is the language of the people of this land.

•   Māori words and phrases on their first appearance are followed by short English translations in parentheses. Longer explanations are worked into the succeeding sentence. The same practices are used in reverse for Māori translations of key terms in English, for example, ‘leadership (rangatiratanga)’. Māori terms appearing in more than one chapter are also included in a glossary.

•   All translation of text illustrations are from the original source unless otherwise specified in the illustration credit.

•   We embrace tribally specific language or dialect throughout this work with less well-known variants explained in notes to the chapters.

•   Long vowels are marked by macrons (ā). We have included macrons in Māori words and names of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to reflect the way speakers of the reo then and now lengthen vowels. Consequently, macrons are inserted in historical names of organisations such as the Young Māori Party or the Māori War Effort Organisation.

•   Glottal stops found in many Polynesian languages are represented by hamzahs (‘).

•   Longer or less well-known compound Māori names are hyphenated (Hine-nui-te-pō) to make them easier to read and understand.

•   For macrons and hyphens we have followed usages in Moorfield’s Te Aka or McKinnon et al. (eds), Bateman New Zealand Historical Atlas. Different authorities vary in their use of macrons and hyphens. Our choice may therefore differ from those found in some published sources.

•   We have only included macrons for author names, titles of publications, including legislation, court reports and other documents, when they appear in the work being cited.

•   We have followed Te Aka: Māori–English, English–Māori Dictionary and Index as our authority for any te reo Māori-related questions. For tribal names we have preferred the form commonly in use by the iwi concerned. The book uses the two forms, Kāi Tahu or Ngāi Tahu, interchangeably as both are accepted by that southern iwi.

•   Many places in Aotearoa New Zealand possess both Māori and English names (e.g., Tāmaki-makau-rau and Auckland). Authors choose what place names to use. Some have preferred the English or Māori one; others have included both forms.


He Tumu: Foundations

Introduction to Part One

Michael Reilly

The following chapters in Part One introduce readers to what is considered foundational knowledge, traditions, principles, concepts, institutions and practices of the Māori cultural world both in the past and today. Taken together they form the tumu or foundations to Te Kōparapara.

Chapter 1 retells the creation of the universe, according to the various schools of Māori tohunga (priestly experts, skilled persons, scholars and specialists). From a void, different creative powers, either Io or Rangi and Papa, generate the universe into being. Prominent amongst their offspring are the spirit beings, Tāne and Tū, usually regarded as the creative beings from whom humanity descends. The world, however, cannot begin to grow until the original unity is divided up, a chaotic process brought under control through a hierarchy of dominant and suborbinate spirit beings. The creative powers bring into being women and men, enabling the growth of later human generations through a first act of carnal knowledge.

Chapter 2 defines the fundamental cultural values and concepts bequeathed by the universal creative powers to Māori that underpin and guide social and cultural practices, covered by the umbrella term ‘tikanga Māori’. From a set of primary spiritual concepts (mana, meaning spiritual authority, power, influence; tapu, variously meaning power, being sacred, holy and set apart from normal human interactions; noa, a concept that is the opposite of tapu, meaning a neutral state, that which is mundane, everyday and has a lesser degree of restriction) stem others, such as mauri (life principle) and wairua (soul, spirit), which together stress the importance of human relationships (whanaungatanga), of love and care between people (aroha, manaakitanga), of reciprocity and balance (utu, ea). These principles inform the wellbeing of the natural environment, the spiritual and material world, the community and the individual human person.

Chapter 3 explores the application of cultural concepts to the organisation of Māori society since settlement in Aotearoa New Zealand. Important elements of social structure are reviewed, including hapū (clan, sub-tribe), the key corporate group to which Māori belong, as well as the smaller whānau (extended family) and the larger conceptual category of iwi (people, tribes). Whakapapa is the key organising principle of Māori society, enabling an individual to link themselves genealogically to their ancestors and with each other as a community. These kin communities are led by rangatira (chiefly people) and other leaders, such as elders (kaumātua) and tohunga. The chapter concludes with an extensive case study of a particular social institution, whāngai, which refers to the nurturing and mentoring of a child within its kin community. The case study highlights the deleterious effects on Māori children who become alienated from their communities by the application of European ideas of adoption into stranger, non-kin and, frequently, even non-Māori families.

Chapter 4 draws from two complementary historical knowledge forms, archaeology and oral traditions retold by tohunga, to recount the epic migration of the ancestors to Aotearoa New Zealand. Their original homeland, Hawaiki, is described as a zone of islands from which various voyagers set out over several generations on ocean-going vessels (waka). Traditions about the voyage and the settlement, along with evidence from linguistics, mitochondrial DNA and archaeology, are summarised showing how a network of small ancestral communities, from various migrating ships, established their mana over the new lands shortly after 1300 AD.

In Chapter 5, the focus is on the landscape and environment of Aotearoa New Zealand by looking at kaitiakitanga, characterised as a socio-environmental ethic. The chapter first defines this important principle as guardianship, protection and trusteeship, before examining a series of examples of kaitiakitanga in operation, largely from the modern period. Many involve the varied roles of particular kin communities, from Ngāpuhi in the north to Ngāi Tahu in the south, in safeguarding and caring for elements of their ancestral landscape and its many resources, such as flora and fauna, waterways or valued stones like pounamu (greenstone). These important roles and responsibilities involve both individuals and their communities, at a customary and more formal, legal level, as they put into practice their mana over their lands (mana o te whenua).

Chapter 6 takes the institution of the marae as its central theme and recounts the past and present significance of the institution, from the influence of Taputapuātea, the ancestral marae (ritual space, sacred site) and centre of learning in the Society Islands, to the distinctive development of the marae as a complex social space at the centre of Māori kin communities (pā-kāinga) headed by rangatira in Aotearoa. With the onset of colonisation, many marae struggled to survive, especially in the face of twentieth-century urban migrations. The chapter describes various Māori-led innovations to ensure the survival of the institution of the marae, including new city-based marae, and discusses the role of the digital world in reconnecting Māori to their ancestral marae and kin communities.

Chapter 7 analyses the pōwhiri, the sequence of formal rituals of encounter conducted between the hosts on a marae and their visitors. Pōwhiri manage the various spiritual and practical risks and dangers when these two groups meet, as well as displaying the hosts’ hospitality (manaaki). The chapter describes the various ritual stages of this complex ritual, explaining their origins, their traditional meanings and practices, and their contemporary adaptations, including the growing use of the less formal rituals of encounter, the mihi whakatau (sometimes known as the mini welcome), particularly in work and other contexts outside the marae. Far from being dominated by rigidity of form, the pōwhiri is being constantly renegotiated as social and cultural requirements change.

Chapter 8 outlines the various traditional and contemporary practices surrounding death and grief in Māori society, illustrating them with many Ngāi Tahu examples. The chapter opens with an overview of the mythological female guardian of the dead and the human attempt to attain immortality, before describing various past and present death rituals and practices, drawn from traditions, and colonial and contemporary records. A significant part of the chapter is devoted to recounting the principal cultural elements making up the tangihanga, the most important ritual on a marae in which the dead are mourned and buried, and the mourners returned from a state of grief to the ordinary world of the living.


Te Tīmatanga mai o te Ao:

The Beginning of the World

Michael Reilly


How did the world begin? Who are we? Where did we come from? Why do we live the way we do? What are the origins of our beliefs and values? Every human society and culture requires satisfactory answers to these existential questions. Māori tohunga responded with a series of creation traditions that established the foundational cultural themes and practices that gave meaning to the day-to-day lives of the ancestors, and continue to do so for their descendants.

This chapter selects three key clusters of creation texts that describe important moments in the Māori genesis, and explores some of the key themes and ideas these works conveyed to subsequent generations. The first group of traditions concerns Io, who initiated the creative process according to certain Māori iwi. The second group, arguably the best known of the three, describes the creation of the world as a consequence of the separation of Rangi-nui (Rangi) and Papa-tū-ā-nuku (Papa). The final group relates to the creation of the first human beings by the atua (ancestor of ongoing influence, spirit being, creative power). Following the retelling of these traditions, the chapter discusses some of the important ideas these traditions convey to subsequent generations.


Io, as a high or supreme atua, is controversial. Many scholars consider Io a later tribal tradition developed by tohunga after they became familiar with Christianity, arguing that such a tradition is inauthentic as it was intentionally created in response to foreign ideas. However, others argue that traditions adapt to changes in the surrounding society and culture and that Io was a modification of existing indigenous beliefs by certain tohunga who wanted to provide a counterweight to Christianity’s inroads. In order to strengthen their interpretations, these tohunga intentionally focused on those traditional elements that had the most similarity to Christian ideas. In contrast, other equally respected authorities believe that Io has long been part of tribal traditions for Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Kahungunu, amongst others. They particularly point to the appearance of Io in karakia texts as indicating this atua’s antiquity.¹ Karakia are formulaic chants accompanying ritual acts addressed to the atua that use archaic language appropriate to works inherited from the ancestors (see also Chapter 2).

This controversy prompts a few additional observations. Firstly, it is worth remembering that Christianity was incorporated by Māori into their existing beliefs system, creating ‘a distinctively Māori brand of Christianity’, which for many included the recognition of other atua.² Secondly, the key question in respect of Io (or any other tradition or traditional character or facet) is whether it is accepted by particular Māori communities and taught by tohunga, either in the past or today. If so, then it is authentic. Thirdly, traditions differ between iwi, hapū and even individual tohunga, just as people speak distinctive dialects of the Māori language. Each tradition is valid for its community: none is truer or possesses more authority than another.³ The following section sets out the traditions concerning Io according to those tohunga and scholars who accept that atua’s place as a significant creative power.

In Ngāpuhi traditions Io is known by a series of epithets or extensions to his base name, which reveal this atua’s priority and importance in relation to other spirit beings (see Figure 1.1).⁴ According to the Ngāpuhi tohunga, Māori Marsden, Io existed eternally in Te Korekore, ‘the realm of potential being’. There Io encompassed all states of being: passive, negative, positive and active. Out of a conjunction of all these elements, Io initiated creation through a process of genealogical recitation or naming (see Figure 1.2).

At the head of this coming-into-being of the cosmos stood Io. This generation process moved on to a series of principal epochs, including Te Korekore (The Void), Te Kōwhao (The Abyss) and Te Pō (Night). Each of these domains generated further sequences (see Figure 1.2). Together these realms formed ‘the seed-bed of Creation’ or ‘the essential foundations of the universe’. Then Io caused the state of being to come into existence, first as a seed in Te Kore and Te Kōwhao, and then as a steadily growing plant, which expanded and developed in what Michael Shirres describes as ‘an insensate movement towards being and self-realization’. This growth was driven by the mauri which Io had placed in the first seed, and led through a series of organic stages from Te Pū (The Taproot) down to Te Aka (The Vine), which in turn generated an active growing process starting at Te Rapunga (The Seeking) and ending with Te Hihiri (Elemental and Pure Energy).

Figure 1.1

Ngāpuhi Io epithets. Māori Marsden, ‘God, Man and Universe’ and Michael Shirres, Te Tangata

Io-matua-kore (Io-the-parentless)

Io-matua (Io-the-first-parent)

Io-mua (Io-the-precursor)

Io-pūkenga, Io-te-pūkenga (Io-the-first-cause, Io-the-prime-source)

Io-taketake (Io-the-foundation-of-all-things)

Io-waiora (Io-the-fountainhead-of-life)

Io-mātā-wai (Io-the-head-waters)

Io-mata-moe (Io-of-the-slumbering-countenance)

Io-mata-ane (Io-of-the-calm-and-tranquil-countenance)

Io-kore-tē-whiwhia (Io-the-unchanging-and-unadulterated)

Io-mata-aho (Io-of-the-glorious-blinding-countenance)

Io-mata-kākā (Io-of-the-flashing-countenance)

Io-moa (Io-the-exalted-one)

Io-tikitiki-o-rangi (Io-the-supreme-one-of-heaven)

Io-te-toi-o-ngā-rangi (Io-the-pinnacle-of-heaven)

Io-nui (Io-the-infinite-one, Io-almighty)

Io-roa (Io-the-eternal-one)

Io-uru (Io-the-omnipresent, Io-the-diffuse-and-ubiquitous)

Io-mata-kana (Io-the-all-seeing-one, Io-omnipresent)

Io-mata-ngaro (Io-hidden)

Io-wānanga (Io-the-all-wise)

Io-tapu (Io-holy)

From this state of pure energy, Io initiated further growth, initially at Te Mahara (The Subconscious), then through states of consciousness and knowledge to Te Whē (Seed Word). Io then breathed Te Hauora (The Breath of Life) into the creation process, producing more definite structures forming the ‘material natural world of sense perception’. This permitted the emergence of sky and earth, and eventually, Te Ao Wairua (the Spirit World).

Figure 1.2.

Creation genealogy. Māori Marsden, ‘God, Man and Universe’, Michael Shirres, Te Tangata and Royal (ed.), The Woven Universe

Io-Matua-kore (Io-parentless)

Io-Taketake (Io-foundation)

Io-Wānanga (Io-knowledge)

Te Korekore (The Absolute Nothingness)

Te Korekore tē rawea (The Absolute Nothingness that could not be wrapped up)

Te Korekore tē whiwhia (The Absolute Nothingness that could not be bound)

Te Korekore tē tāmaua (The Absolute Nothingness that could not be fastened)

Te Kōwhao (The Abyss, and further stages of abyss)

Te Anu (The Cold, and further stages of cold)

Te Pō (The Night, and further stages of night)

Te Mauri (Life Principle)

Te Pū (The Shoot)

Te Weu (The Taproot)

Te More (The Hair-roots)

Te Rito (The Shoots)

Te Aka (The Vine, Rhizome)

Te Rapunga (The Seeking)

Te Whāinga (The Pursuit)

Te Kukune (The Stretching)

Te Pupuke (The Enlarging)

Te Hihiri (The Energy)

Te Mahara (The Subconscious, Primordial Memory)

Te Hinengaro (The Deep Mind)

Te Whakaaro (The Consciousness)

Te Wānanga (The Knowledge and Wisdom)

Te Whē (The Seed-word)

Te Hauora (Breath of Life)

Te Atamai (Shape)

Te Āhua (Form)

Te Wā (Time)

Te Ātea (Space)

Rangi-nui = Papa-tū-ā-nuku (Te Ao Wairua)


Io subsequently delegated creation to other spirit beings, notably Rangi and his first-born, Tāne.⁶ However, Io continued to intervene, through spirit messengers, in order to ensure that the momentum of development continued. When Rangi passively clung to Papa, Io implanted rebelliousness amongst the offspring of Rangi and Papa in order to bestir them to seek light, Te Ao Mārama (‘the realm of being’). Io summoned Tāne and instructed him to complete the heavens and to assign various tasks and responsibilities to his younger siblings.⁷

The nineteenth-century Ngāti Kahungunu tohunga, Nēpia Pōhūhū, Paratene Te Okawhare and Moihi Te Mātorohanga, dictated their teachings on different occasions to H. T. Whatahoro between about 1863 and 1880.⁸ They knew Io by various epithets, although some differed from Ngāpuhi’s (see Figure 1.3).⁹ Although these tohunga did not describe the initial creation in any detail, Agathe Thornton suggests it may have begun through a union of Io-matua-te-kore and Papa-tū-ā-nuku-matua-te-kore located, as their names indicate, in Te Kore (a state corresponding to Te Korekore). From Te Kore, Io initiated a genealogical coming-into-being through a series of Pō, then a process of organic growth that led to daylight and, ultimately, the union of Rangi and Papa. Thornton interpreted Io as ‘the ultimate source of the whole universe’ from which all things came into existence.¹⁰

Figure 1.3

Ngāti Kahungunu Io epithets. Those marked (*) are also found in Ngāpuhi traditions. Agathe Thornton, The Birth of the Universe

Io-kore-tē-whiwhia (Io-who-cannot-be-grasped-in-nothingness)*

Io-te-kore-tē-whiwhia (Io-who-cannot-be-grasped-in-the-nothingness)

Io-matua-te-kore (Io-the-parentless, Io-parent-in-the-nothingness)

Io-matua (Io-parent)*

Io-matua-taketake (Io-parent-foundation)

Io-taketake (Io-foundation)*

Io-nui (Io-the-great)*

Io-roa (Io-the-enduring)*

Io-te-wānanga, Io-i-te-wānanga (Io-the-knowledge)

Io-te-wānanga-ā-rangi (Io-the-knowledge-of-heaven)

Io-i-te-pūkenga (Io-god-of-learning)

Io-te-wai-ora (Io-the-water-of-life, Io-the-life-of-all-beings)

Io-mata-ngaro (Io-of-the-invisible-face)*

Io-mata-aho (Io-face-of-bright-light)*

Io-mata-nui (Io-of-the-mighty-eye-or-face)

Io-tē-whiwhia (Io-not-grasped)

Io-te-hihiri (Io-god-of-power)

Io-toitoi (Io-the-summit)

Io-tikitiki-o-rangi (Io-topknot-of-heaven,


Io-ariki-rangi (Io-lord-of-heaven)

Io-uru-tapu (Io-head-tapu, Io-source-of-tapu)

Rangi and Papa’s son, Tāne, became responsible for continuing the development of the world. First, he and other offspring decided to separate their parents. This required Tū-mata-uenga to kill a kinsman, Kaupeka, in order to construct two adzes from which to fashion four toko (poles). These were used to push the parents apart. When they kept holding each other, Tāne told Tū-mata-uenga and others to cut through their arms. Then two of the toko bent so Tāne instructed his brother, Paia, to recite a separation karakia to push Rangi higher up into the sky.

After the separation the land was unpleasant to live in. Io’s spirit helpers visited and performed purification and naming rituals over Tāne, who became known as Tāne-nui-ā-rangi.¹¹ The spirit helpers informed Io about the state of the world. Io ordered some of Rangi and Papa’s children to climb to the heavens. There was conflict over the selection. The elder brother, Whiro, was angry at Tāne’s plan to go and arranged to have him killed during the ascent, but this failed. Whiro’s ascent was unsuccessful. Tāne reached the highest heaven, Toi-o-ngā-rangi, with the assistance of Tāwhiri-mātea’s wind-children. After undergoing appropriate purification rites, Tāne was given epithets indicating his greater mana, many resembling Io’s (see Figure 1.4).¹² Tāne received three baskets of knowledge (Te Kete uruuru-matua, -tipua, -tahito) and two sacred stones (Whatu-kura-rehu-tai, Whatu-kura-huka-ā-tai) from Io-te-wai-ora. He returned to the land of Papa-tū-ā-nuku, where the baskets and stones were deposited in Whare-kura.¹³

Figure 1.4

Ngāti Kahungunu Tāne epithets. Agathe Thornton, The Birth of the Universe

Tāne-nui-ā-rangi (Great-Tāne-of-heaven)

Tāne-matua (Tāne-parent)

Tāne-i-te-hiringa (Tāne-god-of-power)

Tāne-i-te-mahara (Tāne-god-of-thought)

Tāne-i-te-akaaka-matua (Tāne-god-of-the-parent-root, or main-root)

Tāne-i-te-wānanga-ā-rangi (Tāne-of-the-knowledge-of-heaven)

Tāne-te-waiora (Tāne-the-water-of-life)

Tāne-toro-kaha (Tāne-stretch-forth-strongly)

Tāne-tāhū-rangi (Tāne-ridgepole-of-heaven)

Tāne-tāuru-rangi (Tāne-top-of-heaven)

Tāne-te-apa-rangi (Tāne-the-apa-of-heaven)

Tāne-maikiroa (Tāne-misfortune)

Rangi and Papa

Iwi and tohunga who did not accept Io as the foundational atua focus instead on Rangi and Papa. Two tribal traditions about them were written in 1849, the first by Te Rangikāheke of Te Arawa in the Rotorua region of Te Ika-a-Māui, and the second by Matiaha Tiramōrehu of Ngāi Tahu in Te Waipounamu.

Te Rangikāheke’s Tradition

According to Te Rangikāheke, the world was in darkness. In this unending night Rangi and Papa clung to each other so that their children and all the other people lived in darkness. The children wanted night and day, so they debated for a long time searching for the right process (tikanga) to follow: whether to kill or to separate their parents. One child, Tū-mata-uenga, wanted to kill them, but Tāne-mahuta, his brother, sought only to separate them, so that one would be beneath them as a parent and the other above them as a stranger. They all agreed to the separation except for one who opposed it out of his great love (‘tino aroha’) for his parents.

Each of Tāne’s brothers tried to separate their parents but failed until, finally, Tāne successfully pushed them apart. The parents’ response to this act is graphically retold: ‘aue noa ana, Hei aha i kohurutia ai, mo te aha tenei hara i patua ai maua, i wehea ai? Hei aha ma Tane-mahuta?’ (‘loudly lamenting, What is this grievous ill-treatment, for what reason (do you commit) this crime that harms and separates us? What is there to gain for Tane-mahuta?’).

The brother who disagreed with this decision, Tāwhiri-mātea, along with his father, Rangi, decided to make war against the others by generating winds and clouds. Tāwhiri first attacked Tāne and destroyed his forests. Next, Tāwhiri assailed Tangaroa, his offspring, Punga, and Tangaroa’s grandsons, Ikatere, ‘father of fish’, and his brother, Tū-te-wehiwehi, ‘father of reptiles’, who was also called Tū-te-wanawana. The grandsons debated whether to go inland or to sea and the family split into two hapū. That of Punga and Ika went to the sea, while Tū-te-wanawana’s went inland, with each warning the other of their likely fates: that they would become cooked food. Papa-tū-ā-nuku took and concealed two of her sons, Rongo-mā-tāne and Haumia-tiketike, in the earth.

Tāwhiri attacked Tū-mata-uenga. Tū was the only one of the brothers who stood and fought Tāwhiri and Rangi until they were calmed. Tū-mata-uenga decided to fight his brothers for failing to assist him. Tū-mata-uenga first attacked Tāne, fearing that the latter’s numerous progeny might cause him harm; he fashioned traps and snared them. Next, he found Tangaroa’s descendants, made nets from flax and caught them. Then he saw the hair of Rongo and Haumia above the earth in which they were hidden, and dug them up, letting them dry in the sun.

Figure 1.5

Te Rangikāheke’s Tū epithets. Grey, Ko nga Moteatea, Nga Mahi a nga Tupuna, Polynesian Mythology and Shirres, Te Tangata

Tū-ka-riri (Tū-who-fights)

Tū-whakaheke-tangata (Tū-destroyer-of-men)

Tū-ka-nguha (Tū-who-rages)

Tū-mata-whāiti (Tū-of-the-narrow-eyes)

Tū-kai-taua (Tū-eater-of-war-parties)

Tū-mata-uenga (Tū-of-the-flashing-eyes)

Figure 1.6

Creation genealogy, adapted from Te Rangikāheke

At this point in some of his narratives, Te Rangikāheke explains that Tāne-mahuta was the trees and birds; Tangaroa, the fish; Rongo-mā-tāne, the kūmara (sweet potato); Haumia-tiketike, the aruhe, or fernroot; Tāwhiri, the wind; and Tū-mata-uenga, the people. Te Rangikāheke adds that Tū-mata-uenga ate his tuākana (elder brothers) as ‘utu’ (compensation) for letting him fight Tāwhiri alone. They became his tēina (younger brothers) and fell under his authority (whakanoatia). Only Tū’s adversary, Tāwhiri, was beyond the former’s power (tapu). He remained an opponent (‘hoa whawhai’), his anger equal to that of Tū, his teina. Tū-mata-uenga’s authority over his fallen tuākana was further marked by his adopting a series of names (see Figure 1.5). He also acquired authority over his kin by using karakia. There were distinct karakia for each of his defeated tuakana, as well as ones for Tāwhiri and Papa-tū-ā-nuku.¹⁴

Te Rangikāheke’s narratives conclude by describing how the light greatly increased after the separation, as did the numbers of people who had been hidden until then, including Tū-mata-uenga and his brothers (see Figure 1.6). Some of Te Rangikāheke’s accounts provide lists of ancestors descended from Tū who began to settle the world, down to important semi-divine ancestors such as Tāwhaki and Māui-tikitiki-a-Taranga (also known as Māui-tikitiki-o-Taranga), and to ancestors associated with Hawaiki and Aotearoa, such as Uenuku and Toi-te-huatahi. Some of Te Rangikāheke’s versions note that during the attack of Tāwhiri against his brothers large parts of their mother’s land disappeared into the sea. The increasing numbers of Tū-mata-uenga’s descendants (down to the Māui brothers) had to subsist on the remaining dry surface of the land.¹⁵

Matiaha Tiramōrehu’s Tradition

Tiramōrehu’s text opens dramatically with the ‘Atua’ singing creation into being in Te Pō. The world is conceived of as a genealogy, passing through stages of light and void, with some terms resembling the Ngāpuhi Io tradition (see Figure 1.7).¹⁶

Te Mākū lived with Mahora-nui-ātea and they produced Raki (Rangi in northern dialects). According to Tiramōrehu, Raki had a series of families. He first lived with Pokoharu-a-te-pō, and they had numerous progeny including Te Hā-nui-o-raki, Taputapu-ātea and Mahere-tū-ki-te-raki. Raki then married Papa-tū-ā-nuku, and they had their first son, Rehua, and daughter, Hākina, as well as other spirit beings, who continue to dwell in the heavens. This union produced many other offspring including Tāne, Paia, Tū and Roko, down to Uenuku, Ruatapu and, finally, Paikea, from whom, Tiramōrehu believed, humanity was descended. Raki had a series of other wives, including Hekeheke-i-papa, some of whose offspring remained in the heavens, Hotupapa, Māukuuku and Tauhare-kiokio.

Papa-tū-ā-nuku had originally been married to Takaroa (or Tangaroa in northern dialects). Papa had gone to live with Raki when her first husband went away with the popoki (placenta) of their child. By the time he returned, Papa-tū-ā-nuku and Raki had produced a number of children, notably Rehua and Tāne. The two men went and fought on the beach; Takaroa wounded Raki by piercing him through the buttocks with a spear. While Raki survived, his subsequent children were sickly and weak.

Figure 1.7

Beginning of creation. Tiramōrehu, Te Waiatatanga mai o te Atua, pp. 1, 23

Nā Te Pō (The Night), ko Te Ao (The Day)

Nā Te Ao, ko Te Ao-mārama (The Bright-day)

Nā Te Ao-mārama, ko Te Ao-tūroa (The Long-standing-day)

Nā Te Ao-tūroa, ko Te Kore-tē-w[h]iwhia (The Unattainable-void)

Nā Te Kore-tē-w[h]iwhia, ko Te Kore-tē-rawea (The Intangible-void)

Nā Te Kore-tē-rawea, ko Te Kore-tē-tāmaua (The Unstable-void)

Nā Te Kore-tē-tāmaua, ko Te Kore-matua (The Parentless)

Nā Te Kore-matua, ko Te Mākū (The Damp)

Figure 1.8

First ‘inoi’ (prayer, chant) of Paia. Tiramōrehu, Te Waiatatanga mai o te Atua, pp. 4, 26, translation by Harlow, slightly modified by Michael Reilly

Ko toko nā wai? Ko toko nā Ruatipua

Ko toko nā wai? Ko toko nā Ruatahito

He turuturu, he pīnaki, he papare, he aitutonga

Tēnā toko, tokotoko ka eke, ko toko o tēnei raki.

Prop of whom? Prop of Ruatipua

Prop of whom? Prop of Ruatahito

An upright, a digging stick, a protection, a spirit from the south (?)

That prop, the prop ascends, the prop of this heaven.

Raki, who was still clinging on top of Papa-tū-ā-nuku, now told Tāne and his tāina (younger brothers) to kill him so that people might live.¹⁷ When Tāne enquired as to how they would do this, Raki informed them that they must separate him from Papa-tū-ā-nuku so that the light might grow for the children. When Tāne suggested that his elder brother, Rehua, should undertake the deed, Raki insisted that it had to be done by all the brothers. Tāne then accepted the plan to kill his father ‘kia tipu ai te ao hei ao’ (‘so that the world can develop to be the world’).

Tāne gave instructions to other of Raki’s offspring to stamp down on Papa and prop Raki above. According to Tiramōrehu, this was the beginning of the construction of Raki by Tāne. Rehua, Tāne and their younger brothers helped lift up their father, while Paia prayed to give them strength.

As the children separated the parents they bid each other farewell, and Paia continued praying as Tāne used props to prise his parents apart. At the end, everyone gave a great shout.¹⁸

Tāne, whose name significantly means man or husband, was responsible for completing the construction of the world. He searched high and low for appropriate things with which to decorate the naked Raki. He coupled with various female beings but nothing they brought forth was entirely satisfactory. Tāne coupled with Te Puta-rākau and produced Hine-tītama and Hine-ā-tauira. He then coupled with Hine-ā-tauira and they produced offspring.¹⁹ Tāne returned from visiting his brother, Rehua, in the heavens with trees to plant, so that the birds that came down from the sky might have something to eat on earth. While Tāne was away, people had told Hine who her father was. Overcome with shame (‘mate i te whakamā’) she ran off to Te Pō. Tāne pursued her but she told him to return to the world (‘te ao’) to raise their progeny. They each sang love songs as they parted: ‘He tamaiti rānei koe . . . I wehe ai ā rohi’ (‘Whether you are a child . . . we are divided, weeping’); ‘he matua nōhoku . . . I waiho e koe . . . ka nunumi au’ (‘a parent of mine . . . I was left by you . . . I departed’). On his way back Tāne got hold of the stars in Te Pō and covered Raki with them.²⁰

The Creation of Humanity

Having created the natural world, the atua turned to considering ways to populate it. Various tohunga related stories about the making of the first human beings. These stories are sexually frank, reflecting the social and cultural worldview of those who made and told them, especially the world of pre-Christian Māori.²¹ The following is Tiramōrehu’s version (Figure 1.9).

Tāne created a trial model for a human being by kneading the body from Hawaiki’s earth. Once he had completed the form he said a prayer, and then named that first human body, Tiki-auaha. Tāne was pleased with this human being, so he decided to create a woman to be a partner for Tiki-auaha. He formed her by mixing water and Hawaiki’s earth and then copulated with her.

At the same time, he chanted a long prayer, the verses of which describe his sexual experimentation: ‘Me paka [panga rānei] ki whea taku ure i aha . . . ?’ (‘Where shall I apply my penis?’). Each verse then verified the appropriate activity for that part of the body (such as the mouth being for swallowing food), the correct excretion associated with that place (such as mucus, tears, wax, sweat or faeces), or the proper location of a particular body part. In the process the entire body and its functions are named.

As a result of this chant’s strength, the woman Tāne named Io-wahine ran forth. Tāne then thought she should become Tiki-auaha’s wife, and so they married and lived together. Their issue eventually peopled the world. Tiramōrehu concludes: ‘Ko tā mātou karakia tēnei ko tā ngā tāngata māori o tēnei motu’ (‘This is our ritual, that of the Māori people of this land’).²²

The tohunga, Pōhūhū, describes the creation of the first woman in a text taken down by Whatahoro and considered authentic by Ngāti Kahungunu authorities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.²³ Tāne, known as Tāne-matua, and his tuākana began asking themselves how they would raise descendants in ‘te Ao-mārama’ (the world of light). Their tuakana, Uru-te-ngangana, told them to search for ‘te uha’ (woman, the female element, also known as uwha) who could take on their own likeness in order to produce progeny.

Figure 1.9

Creation genealogy, adapted from Tiramōrehu

The brothers initially sought female atua like themselves, but decided that the most appropriate woman had to be from Papa-tū-ā-nuku. They paired off and went in search of ‘te uha’ without success. They then looked for this element amongst the creatures living in the world. However, they did not find an appropriate form for the ‘Iho-tangata’ (‘the form or likeness and attributes of [humanity]’).

At this point, Rō-iho, Rō-ake and Hae-puru instructed Tāne-matua to go and heap up the earth at Kurawaka: this is considered the puke (mons pubis) of Papa-tū-ā-nuku.²⁴ There the brothers created the form of the female. Tāne breathed te manawa ora (life) into her nostrils, mouth and ears, and she sneezed; hence the saying, ‘Tihe mauri ora’ (‘Sneeze, living soul’ or ‘the sneeze of life’), a phrase still used ‘to announce the fresh breath of a new orator’ on the marae as well as the first cry of a new-born baby.²⁵ She was taken to the altar at Mauri-takina to be ritually freed of tapu. Being tapu marked someone as being under the influence of the atua; they were sacred, holy and set apart from normal human interactions. Ritual acts, such as immersion in water, freed a person from the restrictions associated with the tapu state. In this case, the ritual allowed the woman to become human and to marry Tāne.

More body parts were added to her until finally the atua created her genito-urinary system: she was called Hine (girl, woman, daughter). ‘Koia tenei te putake o te toi-ora o te tangata ki te Whai-ao, ki te Ao-tu-roa nei’ (‘This is the origin of the living-spirit of humanity in the world of light, in this world’).

Once Hine assumed human form, she was given over to Tāne-matua so that he could copulate with her. His penis (‘Tiki-ahua’) pierced (‘werohia’) the different parts of her body that produced various discharges: wax from the ears, tears from the eyes, mucus from the nose, spit and phlegm from the mouth, sweat from the armpits, clammy perspiration from between the thighs and excreta from the anus. The tuākana told Tāne to copulate in Hine’s vagina: ‘kei reira te awa karihi e puta mai ai te toi-ora o te puna o Hine ki taiao nei’ (‘there is the vagina from whence comes forth the living-spirit, from the fountain of Hine, to the world-of-light’).

During intercourse three karakia were recited: the first by Tūpai to excite Tāne’s penis and to join him and Hine together; the second by Hae-puru to ensure offspring (Figure 1.10); and the third by Rō-iho and Rō-ake to strengthen Tāne’s implantation of the ‘ira tangata’ (‘spark of life’) in Hine. At the end, Tāne experienced detumescence, ‘Te Matenga o Tiki . . . i a Karihi’ (‘The Death of Tiki by Karihi’): Tiki is the penis and Karihi the vulva. The text suggests Karihi is the active partner during intercourse.²⁶ The Danish scholar, J. Prytz Johansen, reflects on the episode’s deeper meaning: ‘In the culmination of sensual delight the man . . . feels the whole mystery of creation: that woman actualizes man’s life, but that, bringing forth life, she imbues it with defeat and death.’²⁷

After the karakia, Hine underwent a series of ritual acts to remove her from a tapu state and to name her Hine-hau-one (known in other versions as Hine-ahu-one). She became Tāne’s wife and they had four daughters. Later, Tāne also married his first-born, Hine-tītama, who fled to Rarohenga (Underworld) after learning who her husband was.²⁸ She became Hine-nui-te-pō. All Māori people descend from Tāne’s unions.

Figure 1.10

Second karakia to secure children. Whatahoro, Lore of the Whare-Wānanga, Part I, p. 36, translation by Michael Reilly

E Hine! Tenei au te tau atu nei i taku mata,

He mata tipua, he mata na Io, he mata na nga atua

O runga ki a koe E Hine e i!

I aua kia hahana i waho, kia hahana

I roto i te paepae ou karihi i te pae ahi,

Kia hahana i ou puapua, i roto to karihi

Kia hahana i o werewere, i roto o to karihi

Kia hahana i to kati-tohe, i roto o karihi,

Kia hahana i a Mauhī, i roto o karihi,

Kia hahana i a Maunene, i roto o karihi kati-tohe, e Tiki e i!

Hine! Here I am with a comely face

A divine face, a face of Io, a face of the atua

Upon you, O Hine!

From a great height (?) to glow outside, to glow

In the threshold of your vulva, the place of procreation (?)

To glow in your puapua, in your vulva

To glow in your werewere (labia minora), in your vulva

To glow in your kati-tohe (hymen), in your vulva,

To glow in Mauhī (labia majora?), in your vulva,

To glow in Maunene (labia minora), in your vulva, hymen, O Tiki!

Discussion of Themes and Ideas

At their deepest levels the creation traditions are a tohunga thought-experiment, a philosophical response to questions about the world and how it came to be.²⁹ At the very beginning they imagined an eternal all-encompassing nothingness or perpetual darkness. There was one whole or totality. For some, the void was co-extensive with Io (known to Ngāti Kahungunu tohunga as Io-te-kore-tē-whiwhia). Io initiated change, perhaps through an original act of intercourse with Papa-tū-ā-nuku-matua-te-kore. Other tohunga imagined that creation began with a husband and wife pair, such as Rangi and Papa, who remained so tightly clasped within the original darkness as to be one. To describe the beginning of all things seemed so perilous that tohunga thought it prudent to stick with the smallest unit possible.

The limitations of such a minimal unit soon became obvious. Io succeeded in initiating the organic emergence of elements, but had to hand on the task of evolution and development to a pair to carry matters forward. Even a pair was not fully successful: Rangi and Papa produced children but they were still stuck in the dark. Raki, in Tiramōrehu’s interpretation, had multiple partners and large numbers of offspring, but all of them remained in total darkness. Instead of progressive movement, there was evolutionary inertia.

It seems clear that for the tohunga only a decisive disruption could cause the whole to begin to separate into a multitude of different autonomous parts. Matters had to move on from being one to many. That was achieved by the decision to split Rangi and Papa apart. As the parents were parted so the world was moved from primordial darkness to a world in which there was also light (night and day).

Success in breaking the evolutionary stalemate was not without its challenges. Te Rangikāheke envisaged unrelenting conflict between different aspects of the world, described as if they were warring groups. The world was continually at risk of being destroyed; for example, large parts of Papa-tū-ā-nuku were lost and everyone had to make do with what was left. In other traditions the world was still unpleasant and required further interventions by Io using Tāne as his agent of change. Traditions show Tāne having to work hard to find the right elements with which to construct the world following the splitting of the original pair.

A degree of stability was required so that the world did not fall completely apart into random chaos. To do so required a partial shift away from an endless multiplicity of entities to a situation in which the many were under the authority of one dominant being. Thus was hierarchy introduced. In many traditions, Tāne was clearly the dominant being with responsibility for developing the world and for the important later step of creating human beings. That dominance was always marked in the oral tradition by the acquisition of sequences of epithets, each indicating the qualities inhering in that being. For Te Rangikāheke, Tū came to dominate after the failure of his brother beings to withstand the attack of Tāwhiri. Appropriately, Tāne and Tū were imagined as the ultimate ancestors of humanity. Thus humanity in turn was conceived of as dominant over other entities in the world.

For tohunga, the stability established by these hierarchies of dominant and subordinate beings was always contingent. This ensured that the world remained dynamic and open to further change. Tohunga stressed that the

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