Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 7, 1874
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4. Tame.

All over Polynesia, Tane was held to be a great god, next to Tangaroa. In New Zealand he superseded Tangaroa in importance. The word Tane, in the present language, means man or male; but I do not know if the name indicates any meaning. His full name was Tane nui o Rangi (Great Tane of Heaven). In Sir George Grey's collection he is called Tane Mahuta, and there he is made the god, or personification, of trees and birds. There are also indications here, in the south, of his having had to do with woods and forests, but a great deal more with the origin and final destiny of mankind.

When Tane had separated Heaven and Earth (his parents), and adorned each with becoming beauty, and was now at his leisure, he wandered about among trees and birds to find a wife for himself; but found none. Turning to his mother for advice, she directed his attention to Hinehaone, a maid formed out of the soil. With her he had one daughter, called Hineatauira (Maid of the glistening Morning). After this, the mother, Hinehaone, is lost sight of, and when the daughter, Hineatauira, grew up, she became Tane's wife, without her knowing that he was her father. They had several children, the names of which indicate a drawing toward death, corruption, and the world of night.

Once Tane made a journey to the heavens, to visit his elder brother Rehua. Who, or what, this Rehua may have been I cannot find out, except that he dwelt in the tenth strata of the heavens. When Tane came to the first heaven, he called up: “Are there men above?” The answer was: “There are.” “May I come up? “No, this is the heaven that has been stretched out by Tane.” Still Tane went up, and onward, till he came to the second heaven, when he again called up: “Are men above there?” “There are.” “May I come up?” “No, this is the heaven that has been painted by Tane.” Still he went up, and onward, till he came to the third heaven, when again he called up: “Are there men above there?” “There are.” “May I come up?” “No, this is the heaven the bounds of which have been fixed by Tane.” So he went on through other strata, till he came to the tenth heaven, where he found Rehua. When the two met, they both sat down to have a cry together. Rehua cried simple, but Tane cried, with a meaning, in verses. The verses are hard to be understood, and, if translated, would not carry with them the poetical beauty they bear in Maori. They begin as if he had met Rehua cultivating the soil; and are then to the effect that the ground is cleared, carpeted, and beautified by the cultivator, which adds to the splendour of

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Heaven; and then end: “Whatever be thy name, it was Tane who has set the Heaven.” Hereby Tane made himself known to Rehua.

When Rehua had learnt, by the crying, that his visitor was the great Tane, he had a fire made, and empty vessels brought. Tane wondered where the food was to come from. Presently Rehua untied his head, and shook out of his hair a lot of birds, tuis, into the empty vessels, and then had the birds killed and cooked. But Tane did not eat of them, because it is against the tapu religion for an inferior to eat anything that has been in contact with the body of a superior, and Rehua is called Tane's tuakana, which means either an elder brother, or a descendant from, an elder branch of a house. Then Tane asked: “Cannot I catch some birds?” “Yes,” answered Rehua, “when the trees bear fruit and the birds feed on it; when the wind blows and their throats get dry, and they fly to the water to drink, then snare them.”

There is more of the tale of this sort, as when Tane went to another place in that region, where people lived on rats and were out rat-catching; but I can see no meaning in it. In Sir George Grey's collection, this sort of tale is attributed to a visit of Rupe to Rehua. Now Rupe is a different person from Tane, and belongs to a later period. Also this catching and cooking of birds and rats seems to indicate a later period than that of the gods. But the following is more godlike again:—

While Tane was absent, Hineatauira asked her mother-in-law (the Earth): “Where is my husband?” “What!” replied Papatuanuku, “thy husband! he is thy father.” When she heard this she felt so much ashamed that she took leave of her mother-in-law, and went away to the world of night below.

When Tane came home again from his journey to the heavens, he asked his mother: “Where is my wife?” “Thou hast no wife any more,” was the reply; “she is gone to the Po (world of night).” Then Tane also went down to the nether world, to bring her up again, if possible. There he wandered about for a long time in a lone, dim, shadowy night. At last he came to a house, but saw no living being. All was still. He spoke toward the pillar of the house, but received no answer; he spoke toward the gable of the house, but received no answer. Then, when he went confused and ashamed along the wall of the house, he heard some one inside the house, calling out to him: “Where, Tane, art thou going?” “I am following our sister,” he replied. Then that one inside said:—

"Go back, Tane, to the world of light,
To train up our children.
Leave me here, in the world of night,
To draw down our children.”
"E hoki, e Tane, ki te ao,
Hei whakatupu i a taua hua.
Tukua au ki te Po,
Hei kukume i a taua hua.*

[Footnote] * Hua, literally, means fruit.