Art. I.—The Maori Genius for Personification; with Illustrations of Maori Mentality.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 18th May, 1920; received by Editor, 18th May, 1920; issued separately, 27th June, 1921.]
Of the singular mythopoetic concepts of the Maori folk, and their inner meaning, but little has been recorded. Such information on native myths as is contained in published works is in most cases a bare and hard translation, a soulless rendering of the original that ignores the vivifying spirit of the myth and the teachings that it contains. The spirit that prompted the evolution of such concepts is ignored, or perhaps not understood. The cause of this neglect lies in our ignorance of the mentality of uncultured man, and of his endeavours, in times long past, to seek and explain the origin of man, of natural phenomena, and many other things. In the peculiar plane of mental culture pertaining to such folk as the Maori, such matters are taught in the form of allegorical myths, and the most remarkable feature of such myths is that of personification. At some remote period the Maori strove to envisage primal causes, to grasp the origin of life, of manifestations, and of tangible objects. In these endeavours he trod the path followed by other folk of a similar culture stage, and his mental concepts, his myths, teem with personified forms and with illustrations of animatism. Personifications hinge upon animatism; for given the belief that all natural objects and phenomena possess an indwelling and vivifying spirit, then such a spirit is always apt to develop into a personified form. These primitive beliefs, coupled with that which looks upon all things as having come from a common source, contain the kernel of Maori mythology.
Though the primal being of Maori myth was Io, the supreme god, yet it was not taught that he begat any other being, but, in some unexplained manner, he caused earth and sky to exist. These are personified in Rangi, the Sky Parent, and Papa, the Earth Mother, and these were the primal parents. Their progeny amounted to seventy, all of whom were atua, or supernatural beings, and among them was Tane, or Tane the Fertilizer, he who fertilized the Earth Mother, and who was the origin of man, of birds, fish, vegetation, minerals, &c.
All things that exist, saith the Maori, are a part of Rangi and Papa, the primal parents—that is to say, they originated with them. Nothing belongs to the earth alone, or to the heavens alone; all sprang from that twain, even unto the heavenly bodies that gleam on high, and the heavenly bodies of all the other skies above the one we see: and all those bodies are worlds.
It was taught in the tapu school of learning that water is one of the chief constituents or necessities of life. It is moisture that causes growth in all things, other necessary agents being the sun, the moon, and the stars. Lacking moisture, all things would fail on earth, in the heavens, in the suns, the moons, and the stars of all realms. Clouds are mist-like emanations originating in the warmth of the body of the Earth Mother. All things possess warmth and cold, all things contain the elements of life and of death, each after the manner of its kind. It was Tane (personified form of the sun) and Tawhirimatea (personified form of winds) who sent back the mists to earth in the form of rain, as a means of cherishing and benefiting all things, for all things absorb moisture, each after the manner of its kind. Air, moisture, warmth, with various forms of sustenance, were the origin of the different forms around us, of the differences in such forms, as in trees, in herbage, in insects, birds, fish, stones, and soils; these things control such forms, and their growth. Hence death assails all things on earth, in the waters, in the sun, the moon, and the stars, in the clouds, mists, rain, and winds; all things contain the elements of decay, each after the manner of its kind.
Again, there is no universal mode of life and growth among all things; each lives, moves, or grows after the manner of its kind. All things possess a home, or receptacle, or haven of some kind, even as the earth is the home of many things. Even the wairua (spirit) has its abode in all things; there is no one thing that does not possess a spirit or soul, each after the manner of its kind. And inasmuch as each and every thing possesses an indwelling spirit or soul, then assuredly everything possesses the elements of warmth, each after the manner of its kind.
Now, as all things in all the realms of the numberless worlds are so constituted, it follows that the female element pertains to all things. Everything has its male and female element. Lacking the female element, nothing could survive, for by such, combined with moisture, do all things acquire form, vitality, and growth. Warmth is another element by means of which things are nurtured, and earth supports all. Even stone is formed of earth, moisture, and heat, and so endowed with life and growth after the manner of its kind.
Now, as such was the intention of Io (the supreme being)—that is, to arrange the functions of all things—even so the denizens of the heavens were appointed as guardians and directors of all things in all the heavens, on earth, and in the heavenly bodies. The twelve heavens are connected with the moons, but the sun is above all—it is the controller of all things.
Because all things are influenced by good and evil, by anger, jealousy, ambition, and because all follow some form of leadership, even so was it that guardians were appointed to watch each realm and report their condition to Io. And because of the differences that exist in all things, thus it is that all possess strength and weakness, goodness and evil, justness and lack of justice, each after the manner of its kind. Hence the guardians appointed as lords of the eleven heavens, of the earth, and of the spirit world. As these beings appointed as guardians are the salvation of all things by promoting their welfare, and are the emissaries of Io, thus it is that all eyes and all ears are directed to Io-matua, Io the Parent, for he is over all. He is the very acme of all welfare, of life, the head and summit of all things.
Since Io is the head of all things, all things become tapu through him, for without a lord nothing can become tapu, and so he is termed Io the Parent. Since he is termed Io the Parent, and represents the physical and spiritual welfare of all things, we see that the origin of such welfare is with the parent—that the parent holds and controls the welfare of everything. And since all things are centred in him, there is nothing left to be controlled or directed by any other god or being. All things in the twelve heavens, and in all realms, are thus gathered together before him. It is now clear that there exists nothing that does not come under his sway; all comes under Io the Parent.
All things possess a wairua (spirit, or soul), each after the manner of its kind. There is but one parent of all things, one god of all things, one master of all things, one soul of all things. Hence all things are one, and all emanated from Io the Eternal….
It may be thought that the foregoing remarks, which are translated passages from a speech made nearly sixty years ago by a teacher of the tapu school of learning, do not embody much information as to personifications, but they do illustrate Maori mentality. They show clearly how the superior minds of a comparatively uncultured folk broke free from shamanism and a belief in malignant deities, and strove to conceive a supreme being of nobler attributes; how the ancestors of the Maori, wrenching asunder the bonds of gross superstitions, and seeking light from the darkness of ages, pressed forward on the difficult path toward monothesim.
We have already seen that the heavens and the earth are personified in Rangi and Papa, the Sky Parent and the Earth Mother, from whom all things are descended. They were the primal parents, and appear frequently in Maori myth. The Earth Mother is spoken of as the mother of mankind, as the guardian and nurturer of her offspring. Not only did she give birth to man, but she also produces food for him, and gives shelter to his worn body when the soul leaves it at death. After the rebellion of their offspring the Sky Parent wished to punish them, but the Earth Mother said, “Not so; though they have erred, yet they are still my children. When death comes to them they shall return to me and I will shelter them; they shall re-enter me and find rest.” Hence the burial of the dead.
It is probable that many of the offspring of the primal parents are personifications—some certainly are, and these come under the title of departmental gods. All these primary offspring were males, and all were
supernatural beings. They numbered seventy, and each had his own province and functions.
The most important of these children of Rangi and Papa, though not the eldest, was Tane, and he was the personified form of the sun, as will be shown in another paper. But Tane was also the Fertilizer—he who fertilized the Earth Mother, and so produced man and vegetation; hence he also personifies the male element, as well as forests, trees, &c. His daughter was Hine-titama, the Dawn Maid, who, on being pursued by Tane (the sun), fled from him, and so passed into Night, the underworld and spirit world. She became ruler of that realm of Night. And ever Tane is begetting offspring (Dawn Maids), who pass through their brief life in the upper world and then retire to the realm of Night. For Hinetitama had said to Tane, “Return, O Tane, to bring forth cur children to the world of Light, while I remain here to receive them, for their welfare shall be my care.” And ever does the Queen of Night battle with dread Whiro of the world of Darkness in order to protect her charges.
Another daughter of Tane was Hine-rau-wharangi, she who personifies growth in the vegetable world.
Whilst Tane is the personified form of the sun, the common vernacular term for the sun is ra, Ra Kura and Tama-nui-te-ra being honorific names for the sun. Tane-te-waiora personifies sunlight. In our crude translations of native myths we render “Waiora a Tane” as “life-giving waters of Tane.” This is quite wrong; in this connection waiora means sunlight, and it is so called because the Maori taught that the sun is the origin of life. This waiora is a concrete expression, not two distinct words, and is closely allied to the words vaiora of eastern Polynesia, meaning “to be, to exist.” The waning moon does not bathe in life-giving waters of Tane to regain her youth; she bathes in the sunlight of Tane, and so returns to us again young and fair—which may be termed a scientific fact.
The moon is personified in Hina-keha, or Pale Hina, and Hina is a farspread name for that orb, as also is that of ra for the sun, a name that in ancient times was known in Babylonia and Egypt. Hina, being a female, is not included among the children of Rangi and Papa. Rona is the maid in the moon, her full name being Rona-whakamau-tai, or Rona the Tide-controller. Rono, according to Fenton, was a name of the moon god in Assyrian myth. Here we find a parallel in Polynesia, where Rongo Longo, Lono, is evidently a personification of the moon. This is made clear in Hawaiian mythology, wherein Sina, personified form of the moon (cf. Sin of Babylonia), the Hina of New Zealand, on being translated to the heavens took the name of Lono.
Another of the primal offspring was Tu, he who personifies war and its attendant evils; he was an important departmental god. In Assyrian myth Tu represented the setting sun and death, while Ra-tum (the setting sun) was god of death in Egypt, and ra tumu denotes the setting sun in eastern Polynesia (Churchill's Easter Island, p. 126).
In opposition to Tu of evil fame we have Rongo, another of the seventy brothers, who personifies peace and the arts of peace, such as agriculture, and all fruits of the earth. Hence Rongo is appealed to in peace-making functions, and by cultivators of food products.
Another member of the family was Tawhirimatea, in whom are personified the winds of space. The personifications of wind number about thirty, each representing a different form. These are known as the Whanau Puhi (the Wind family).
Yet another of the brothers is the dread Whiro, he who personifies darkness, death, and evil. In the fierce war that waged between Tane (representing light and life) and Whiro (representing darkness and death) the latter was defeated. Hence he retired to the underworld, where he ever wages war against mankind and drags them down to death, while ever the former Dawn Maid, now Queen of the Underworld, strives against him for the souls of the dead.
In Tangaroa we have the personified form of fish, and he shares with Rona the task of controlling the ocean tides.
Te Ihorangi personifies rain, while Parawhenua-mea is the origin and personification of the waters of earth. The former was one of the primal offspring, but the latter, a female, was one of the daughters of Tane by Hine-tu-pari-maunga, the Mountain Maid; hence the streams seen descending from the great ranges. The offspring of Parawhenua-mea (water) was Rakahore, who represents rock, and who took to wife Hine-uku-rangi, the Clay Maid, and produced the personified forms of stones, such as Hine-tuakirikiri (Gravel Maid), and Hine-tuahoanga (Sandstone Maid), Hine-tauira (a form of flint), and many others. Another of the family was Tuamatua, who took to wife Wai-pakihi (Shoal Water), and begat different forms of stones, and sand.
Parawhenua-mea was taken to wife by Kiwa, guardian of the ocean, which is known as the Great Ocean of Kiwa. But the ocean is personified in one Hine-moana (Ocean Maid).
One Mahuika personifies fire. In the first place, fire emanated from the sun. When Tama-nui-te-ra (honorific name of the sun) decided to confer a benefit on man he sent them fire by, or in the form of, one Auahi-tu-roa (a personified form of comets). Mahuika had five children, and their names are those of the five fingers of the hand. (In Indian myth, Agni, the fire god, had ten mothers, who were the ten fingers of the hands.) These were the Fire Children, or family, and in the myth of Maui we see that Mahuika plucked off one of her fingers and gave it to him as fire. When pursued by Fire, Maui called upon Te Ihorangi (rain) to save him; hence rain fell, and fire fled for shelter to Hine-kaikomako (personified form of the kaikomako tree, Pennantia corymbosa). Thus is it that when man seeks to generate fire he hews a piece off the body of Hine-kaikomako whereby to procure it. The sister of Mahuika, one Hine-i-tapeka, represents the fire of the underworld—volcanic fire.
Now, the sun has two wives, Hine-raumati, or Summer Maid, the personified form of summer, and Hine-takurua, or Winter Maid, the personified form of winter. The latter is a fisher, and the former a cultivator of food products. The sun dwells half a year with the Summer Maid, and the other half with the Winter Maid. The offspring of the former is Tane-rore, whose dancing is the quivering appearance of heated air in the summertime. It is personified in Parearohi.
We have in Hine-ata a personified form of morning; of day in Hine-aotea; and of evening in Hine-ahiahi, the Evening Maid. All three are females. This is a Moriori myth.
In Hine-te-uira and Tama-te-uira we have personified forms of lightning one of each sex; and there are ten other such forms. Tawhaki also seems to be connected with lightning, as also was Mataaho.
Whaitiri personifies thunder, but each kind of thunderstorm has its own personified form, such as Rautupu, Whaitiri - pakapaka, Ku, Ea, Aputahi-a-pawa, Tane-matau, and others. Thunder is often personified
in Hine-whaitiri, the Thunder Maid. It will be noted that a considerable number of personified forms are of the female sex. Hine-kapua is the Cloud Maid.
Personifications of the rainbow are Kahukura, Uenuku, and Haere Uenuku was originally a person of this world. He dwelt on earth, where he attracted one Tairi-a-kohu (personified form of mist), who had come down from celestial regions in order to bathe in the waters of the world. She visited Uenuku only during the hours of darkness, and strictly forbade him to make her known to his people. So beautiful was she that Uenuku felt compelled to disobey her. By a cunning trick he delayed the departure of the Mist Maid, and so exposed her to the people, whereupon she deserted him and never again returned to earth. Uenuku was now disconsolate, and he set off in search of her. He traversed distant regions and many realms, but never again beheld the Mist Maid. Finally death came to him as he still sought her, and his aria, or visible form, is the rainbow we see in the heavens. Parallels of this curious myth are widely known in Europe and elsewhere, as shown in the writings of the late Andrew Lang.
A rainbow composed of bands of different colours has as many personified forms, each colour bearing its own name.
Hine-korako is the personified form of a lunar halo or bow.
Personified forms of the comet are Wahieroa, Tunui-a-te-ika, Upokoroa, Auahi-tu-roa, Taketake-hikuroa, Meto, Auroa, Unahiroa, and possibly Puaroa.*
Fire is sometimes termed Te Tama a Upokoroa (the son of Upokoroa, the long-headed one), because the seed of fire was brought to earth by a comet, and hence Mahuika produced the Fire Children. These comet-names are suggestive in their meanings, as “long-headed” and “long-tailed.”
Personifications of meteors are Tamarau and Rongomai.
Hine-pukohu-rangi and Tairi-a-kohu are personified forms of mist, and Hinewai represents fine misty rain.
Ruaumoko represents earthquakes. He is the youngest child of the Earth Mother, but never came forth to this world. When he moves within the body of Papa an earthquake results.
Volcanic phenomena are represented by Hine-tuoi, Ioio-whenua, Hine-tuarangaranga, Te Kuku (or Te Pupu), Te Wawau, and Tawaro-nui.
The personified forms of wind and of rain are said to have cohabited, and their issue, twelve in number, represent different forms of snow, frost, hail, and ice.
In Wero-i-te-ninihi, Wero-i-te-kokota, Maeke, Kunawiri, &c., we have personifications of cold, and the first two are also star-names—stars marking winter months.
An old cosmogonic myth is that Te Ao (Day) and Te Po (Night) produced as offspring Oipiri and Whakaahu, or Winter and Summer, who were born in space; both are females. Oipiri, whose full name is Oipiriwhea, pertains to night, and her name has the same signification as that of Takurua-hukanui, or Cold-engendering Winter; she produces snow, ice, frost. Whakaahu belongs to the day, or to this world, which she represents. Both of these female personified forms were taken to wife by Rehua, he who personifies the heat of summer. Their attendants are ever contending against each other, but neither side ever gains a permanent victory. This
[Footnote] * Puaroa, cf. Pusaloa = comet (Samoa).
illustrates the struggle between summer and winter, which occurs often, but is never final. Tama-uawhiti, also known as Hiringa, represents Whakaahu—that is, summer. He is the same as Tama-nui-te-ra—that is to say, the sun—and he represents desire for knowledge, industry in procuring food-supplies, and other important activities. He is termed te puna o te matauranga (the source of knowledge). An old saying is, “Kotahi tangata ki Hawaiki, ko Whakatau anake; kotahi tangata ki Aotearoa, ko Tama-uawhiti” (There is only one person at Hawaiki—namely, Whakatau; there is one person at Aoteroa, Tama-uawhiti). This is equivalent to saying, “The most important being at Hawaiki is Whakatau; the most important thing in New Zealand is the sun”—as it probably was to a people coming from the tropics. It is probable that Whakatau is a personification, possibly of winter, for we have a sentence in the above myth that runs thus: “Whakatau was a warrior, equalling Oipiriwhea.” We have already seen that Whaitiri, Wahieroa, and Tawhaki, of Polynesian myth, are personifications, and Hema is a name for the south wind at Hawaii.
Whakaahu, Takurua, and Rehua are also star-names, whilst Oipiri seems to be connected with Pipiri, a double star that appears in June.
Tioroa represents winter, and Takurua is employed in a similar sense. Spring is personified in Mahuru.
We have seen that Hiringa (or Tane-i-te-hiringa) represents knowledge, but the acquisition of knowledge and the power of thought, mental activities, are personified in Rua-i-te-pukenga, Rua-i-te-hiringa, Rua-i-te-mahara, Rua-i-te-wananga, &c.
Space is personified in Watea and Rongomai-tu-waho, and misfortune in Aituā.
In personified forms of clouds we have Hine-kapua, Tu-kapua, Aoaonui, Aoaoroa, Uhirangi, and Takerewai, and these all dwell in the house called the Ahoaho o Tukapua (the open space of Tukapua). Here they ever dwell, for they are in fear of Huru-mawake, Huru-atea, Huru-nuku, and Huru-rangi (personified forms of the four winds), fearing to be jostled and swept away to the bounds of Rangi-nui (the heavens).
The two principal personified forms of wind are Tawhirimatea and Tawhiri-rangi. These personified winds in general, but each wind has its own personified form. The personified forms of ice, snow, and frost we have already encountered; they dwell upon the summit of Mahutonga (an emblematical term for the south), in the realm of Pārāweranui. The Wind Children of Tawhirimatea bring hither the semblance of those offspring in the drifting snow and driving hail. One Tonganui-kaea took to wife Pārāweranui (personified form of the bitter south wind) and produced some two dozen offspring, all of whom are personifications of different forms of wind. These are the Whanau Puhi, the Wind Children, who bore Tane to the twelfth heaven when he went to obtain the three baskets of occult knowledge.
The Wind Children abide at the Tihi o Manono, in Rangi-naonao-ariki (the tenth heaven, counting upwards), where also dwell their elder brethren, the personified forms of the four winds—north, south, east, and west. For there dwell Pārāweranui, Tahu-makaka-nui, Tahu-mawake-nui, and the other elders; all live in the houses Pumaire-kura, Rangitahua, Rangi-mawake, and Tu-te-wanawana-a-hau.
The plaza of the Wind Children is known as Marae-nui, as Tahuaroa, as Tahora-nui-atea. It is the marae of Hine-moana, the Ocean Maid, the vast expanse of the great ocean. This plaza is the playground of the Wind
Children. To this meeting-place they come from all parts to frolic and gambol on the broad heaving breast of the Ocean Maid. From the frigid south comes Pārāwera-nui, from the blustering west hurries Tahu-makaka-nui, from the east glides Tahu-mawake-nui, and from the fair north comes the marangai, while from every intermediate point the younger Wind Children troop forth to hold high revel on their great playground of Mahora-nui-atea, illuminated by Tane-te-waiora, or by the Whanau Marama, the Children of Light that gleam in cloudless skies when Tane has departed.
A list of the many personified forms of wind would be tedious, but some of the more prominent ones were Rakamaomao, Titi-matangi-nui, Titi-matakaka, and those given above.
Tane is the personified form of trees, for a reason already explained, and in this connection his name is Tane-mahuta—for Tane, like the old-time gods of Babylonia, has many names, according to his activities or manifestations.
When engaged in his great search for the female element Tane took to wife many beings, who produced trees. In many instances such beings are viewed as the personified forms of such trees. Thus Mumuwhango represents the totara, Te Puwhakahara the maire and puriri, Ruru-tangiakau the ake, Rerenoa the rata and all parasitic and epiphytic plants, Hine-waoriki the kahika and matai, Mangonui the tawa and hinau, Hine-mahanga the tutu, Hine-rauamoa the kiokio fern, and so on. Puahou represents the parapara, Poananga the clematis, while Hine-kaikomako we already know in her character of fire-preserver for mankind. Toro-i-waho represents all aka (climbing and creeping plants), Tauwhare-kiokio all tree-ferns, Putehue the gourd-plant, and Haumia the edible rhizome of the bracken.
Te Rara-taungarere seems to represent the fertility of trees and plants, while Rehua was also connected with forests; he is mentioned with Tane in connection with forests (White's Ancient History of the Maori, vol. 1, p. 145), and lehua was an old Hawaiian term for forest.
Tane, under the name of Tane-mataahi, represents all birds, though Punaweko is said to have been the origin and personification of forest-birds, and Hurumanu the same in regard to sea-birds. One Tane-te-hokahoka is also spoken of as one who brought birds into being; probably this is another name for the great Tane. Rupe personifies the pigeon.
In addition to these major personifications, we have, as in the case of trees, personified forms of different species of birds. Thus Terepunga and Noho-tumutumu represent the kawau or cormorant, Parauri the tui, Hine-karoro the seagull, Hine-tara the tern, Moe-tahuna the duck, Matuku the bittern, Tu-mataika the kaka parrot, Koururu the owl, and others might be given.
In regard to fish, we have Tangaroa, who represents all fish. Tutara-kauika represents whales. Puhi is the personified form of eels, Takaaho of sharks. Te Arawaru represents shell-fish.
Rakahore is the personified form of rock, and Rangahua seems to represent stones. These are the more important beings, but Hine-tuahoanga represents all forms of sandstone, Hine-one all sand. Poutini personifies greenstone in general, and is also a star-name. Hine-aotea, Hine-auhunga, Hine-tangiwai, Hine-kahurangi, Hine-kawakawa, and Taurra-karapa represent different kinds of greenstone, while Whatuaho and Mataa represent obsidian. These will suffice as illustrations.
Even swamps are personified in Hine-i-te-huhi and Hine-i-te-repo. South Island Maori state that Hine-tu-repo was the wife of Maui, and it was she who was interfered with by Tuna or Puhi, personified form of the eel. Maui himself seems to have personified day or daylight; hence his contest with Hine-nui-te-po, of the realm of darkness. Transform the eel into a snake, and in the inner reading of the Maui, Hine, and Tuna myth you have the true version of our borrowed myth of Eve and the serpent. This story also explains why the tail of an eel is known as hiku rekareka and tara-puremu. The name of the woman is usually given as Hina, a suggestive name.
The glow-worm is personified in Hine-huruhuru and Moko-huruhuru, the earth-worm in Noke, and the lizard in Rakaiora. One Peketua was the origin of lizards, and the first to appear was the tuatara. Peketua moulded some clay into the form of an egg, and took it to Tane, who said, “Me whakaira tangata” (Give it life). This was done, and that egg produced the tuatara. All land-birds were then produced from another egg, fashoned by Punaweko, and sea-birds from yet another, made by Hurumanu. Birds and tuatara had a common origin.
Maru is the personified form of some celestial phenomenon. Among the Awa folk of the Bay of Plenty Wainui is a personification of the ocean, and Tahu personifies food.
Though Whiro is the origin of death, &c., yet there are many personifications of different kinds of disease and misfortune. Among them are Maiki-nui, Maiki-roa, Maiki-arohea, Tahu-maero, Tahu-kumia, Tahu-whakaeroero, and Tahu-pukaretu. All these dread beings are the henchmen and agents of Whiro, the evil one. They dwell within Tai-whetuki, the abode of disease and death, which belongs to Whiro, and ever they afflict mankind. Thus does Whiro still continue his struggle against Tane, continuing to slay man, animals, trees—all things of this world that sprang from Tane. Thus is man destroyed in the upper world, and when his spirit reaches the underworld Whiro strives to destroy that also. Had not Hine-titama, the Daughter of Light, descended to the underworld, there to war with Whiro and so rescue the spirits of her children, then they would have been cast by Whiro into Tai-whetuki and Tai-te-waro, there to perish. When men of this world die, their spirits are drawn down to the underworld by Rua-toia and Rua-kumea, and are there received and protected by Hine. For, in the days when the world was young, when Hine fled from Tane, the sun god, her abiding words were, “I go to the lower realm that I may protect our descendants; to the underworld I will draw them down and cherish them; their spirit-life shall be my care. Maku e kapu i te toiora o a taua tamariki.”
But ever Maiki-nui and Maiki-roa lurk within Tai-whetuki, the House of Death, while Rua-toia and Rua-kumea convey the souls of men to the care of the Daughter of Light, erst the Dawn Maid.
There are two aspects of Maori myths, or two forms in which they are related. One of these is the common or “fireside” version, the other is the “inner” version, as conserved in the school of learning, and taught only to those entrusted with the task of preserving the esoteric knowledge of the elders of the tribe. These remarks do not apply to ordinary folk-tales, but to what may be termed the higher class of myths. The ordinary version of such myths is known to all members of the tribe, and may be related at any time or in any place. The other version is seldom heard, and is usually unknown to the bulk of the people.
As an illustration of this double aspect, we will take the case of the myth concerning the origin or cause of the ocean tides. The common version is that tides are caused by the inhalations and exhalations of a colossal marine monster known as Te Parata. The school of learning ignored this as a fable, and taught something nearer the truth—namely, that when all realms were being placed under the control of certain guardians the marama-i-whanake, or waxing moon, and Rona were appointed to control the tides of Hine-moana (personified form of the ocean). Again, the common version of the story of Rona is that she was transferred to the moon as punishment for having insulted that orb because one night its light became obscured when she was proceeding to fetch a calabash of water. She is yet visible in the moon, with her calabash by her side.
We have also the instance of Tane, whose many names were often inserted in genealogies showing the descent of man from the gods and the primal parents. The inclusion of these names as those of different beings was strongly condemned by the learned. The same remarks apply to Tiki and others.
We have given abundant evidence that the Maori was permeated with the spirit of animism and of animatism—that is to say, he believed in spiritual beings, and also attributed life and personality to things, but not a separate or apparitional soul as in the case of man. Yet the writer has heard statements made to the effect that the Maori possessed no power of abstract thought. Now, if there is one quality that the Maori did possess, it was that power.
In a brief account of Maori personifications it is impossible to give the various myths relating to them or in which they figure. We can only scan the long list and mention the more interesting of such personified forms. The following condensed account of one of the exploits of Tane will, however, serve to show how the wise men of yore handed these myths down, and how they taught racial beliefs to succeeding generations. Tane, the personified form of the sun, is necessarily the origin of light; hence he is spoken of as the enemy or opponent of Whiro, who personifies darkness. After a long contest and many battles on the horizon and elsewhere, darkness is defeated and retires to the underworld, though Whiro still wars against Tane. As the personified form of evil things, he causes his satellites, Maikinui and others, to assail the offspring of Tane, who succumb in their thousands. Tane, as personified form of knowledge, is called Tane-te-wananga; it was he alone who succeeded in ascending to the twelfth heaven, where he obtained from Io the three baskets of occult knowledge, a fact that was bitterly resented by Whiro. The latter, as the elder brother (darkness is older than light), objected to such treasure passing to the younger brother.
When about to make the great ascent, Tane went to Tawhirimatea and Huru-te-arangi and asked them for the services of their offspring, the Wind Children, to convey him to the heavens. The multitude of Wind Children assembled from all quarters to bear Tane to the heavens; from far-distant realms, from the great spaces of Tahora-nui-atea they came. They ascended to the upper regions, to arrive at the Cloud House, whence emerged the Cloud Children to join them in brave array. Now came the multitude of Peketua, the Whanau akaaka, the repulsive ones—insects, vermin, winged creatures—sent by Whiro to attack Tane. But the Wind Children guarded Tane; they furiously assailed the emissaries of Whiro, scattered them, and drove them afar.
Having gained possession of the three baskets of divine or esoteric knowledge—that of good, that of evil, and that of ritual—Tane began his descent to this world. He now assumed the name of Tane-i-te-wananga, as representing all knowledge, as being the fountain and source of knowledge. During his descent he was again attacked by the army of Whiro, and here he is alluded to as Tane-te-waiora, for it was Darkness attacking Sunlight. His attendants called upon the personified forms of wind, snow, hail, &c., who swiftly came and defeated the hordes of Whiro. Some of the latter were captured and brought down to earth, among them being Waeroa (mosquito) Namu-poto (sandfly), Naonao (midge), Ro (mantis), Moko-kakariki (green lizard), Pekapeka, Ruru, and Kakapo (all night-birds). Thus Tane returned safely to this world, bringing with him the great boon of knowledge for the benefit of his descendants, the people of the World of Light.
A study of the mythopoetic tales so frequently met with in Maori lore tends to show that such mental concepts are by no means to be classified as ordinary folk-tales. They are not merely metaphorical discourses or light allegorical fables, but often show that much thought has been devoted to the subject of the myth, to endeavour to discover cause or origin. The myth of Rona (the moon) and the tides illustrates this view, and other instances might be mentioned in which the Maori mind has approached near to scientific truth.
At the same time, man in the culture-stage of the Maori would never state baldly that the moon controls the tides. He must at least personify ocean and moon, for this curious faculty is one of the most remarkable and persistent features in the traditions and occult lore of uncultured peoples. We can even see survivals of such conceptions among highly civilized races, and we still cling to a few of the old-time personifications.
Neolithic man adopted this mode of teaching what he held to be primary truths. Having worked out his crude theories of the origin of the earth, of the heavenly bodies, of natural phenomena, of man, and of many other things, his mentality, strangely affected by long ages of contact with nature and by ignorance of natural laws, proceeded to depict all activities as anthropomorphic beings, and hence the Maori myths we have discussed in this paper. Uncultured man handed down his conclusions as prized knowledge to his descendants; he taught his children these myths, as we teach ours the moral lessons contained in Aesop's fables and in fairytales.
A. C. Parker struck at the root of personification when he wrote, “The primitive mind, believing all things the result of some intelligence, personifies and deifies the causes of effects, and thus has arisen the multiplicity of gods and guardian spirits.” Thus we have the many manifestations of the activities of Tane, the sun god and fertilizer. Even sunlight is personified in Tane-te-waiora, and in an old song we find the following:—
Ko te ata i marama,
Marama te ata i Hotunuku,
E, ko Tane-te-waiora … e.
(Fair dawned the morn,
Bright was the morn at Hotunuku,
Behold ! it is Tane-te-waiora.)
Explanatory myths teem in Maori lore, and are a characteristic feature of the peculiar plane of culture to which he had attained. The Maori was
a mystic by nature. He ever felt that he was part of a living world in which nothing is truly inanimate. He looked upon Mother Earth as the nourisher of mankind, her offspring; his outlook upon life and upon his surroundings differed much from ours; he possessed a feeling of kinship with nature, and a curious form of mental vitality, utterly unknown to the dweller by city streets.
The curious practice of attributing sex to things that possess none is very noticeable in Maori myths, and we ourselves have retained some survivals of this habit. The Maori held very singular beliefs as to the protective and destructive powers of sex, beliefs that seem to be also held by certain races of India. Animatism is marked by mental concepts of a very strange nature, which in many instances are most difficult to understand; of this fact many illustrations might be given.
These peculiarities of Maori mentality have the effect of making genuine old traditions, recitals, poems, and speeches of much interest, simply because they were reflected in the language of the people. The mythopoetic concepts passed into the common tongue; hence such matter as mentioned above teemed with allusions to personifications, with metaphor and allegory, with aphorisms and occult expressions. Here we encounter in a living language the figurative expressions and quaint sayings in which is preserved the mentality of uncultured man. Here are the fossilized thoughts of long-gone peoples, of past ages, being uttered by persons of our own day.
The better-class Maori was ever careful to acquire a knowledge of tribal history, of myth, tribal aphorisms and poetry, in order to adorn and point his speech. These folk were born orators, most punctilious in their utterance, and their formal speeches were marked by rhythm, by peculiar modes of diction, and by archaic and poetical expressions.
When Whare-matangi took leave of his mother, Uru-te-kakara, at Kawhia, in setting forth to search for his father, he said to her, “Farewell! Grieve not for me. Should I survive, then the sea-spray will assuredly return me to your side. Two nights hence, look you to the south; should the gleam of Venus be plainly seen, it will be my token to you that I have safely reached my destination. If you see it not, then know that Aitua has struck me down, by the hand of man or by Maikiroa. Then do you send me kindly greeting by means of the kura awatea,* that I may be comforted by it in Rarohenga” (the spirit world).
When Ngarue and his wife were separated, and he departed for Taranaki, he said to her, “Farewell, the breast-clinging spouse ! Shame gnaws at me like unto the gnawing of the Ocean Maid into the flanks of the Earth Mother. It is like a fire burning within me. Even my love for you pales before it. Farewell ! Remain at your home with your elders. Think not of me, though I will ever greet the mists that hang over Parininihi and conceal you from me. And now the swift-running stream can never return to its source. Farewell ! The gnawing of affection is a grievous affliction, but by Te Ihorangi was Mahuika destroyed. Farewell ! In the summer of our days we part as the Dawn Maid parted from the Sun God.”
In these notes we have endeavoured to explain the Maori genius for personification, and to throw some light on his modes of thought. For
[Footnote] * The kura awatea is the solar halo. The Maori believed that certain persons possessed the power to produce this phenomenon, and that they utilized it in signalling to a distance.
the Maori lived in a world to which we have no access; we emerged from that world many centuries ago, to enter a new and very different sphere.
The Maori had a loving regard for the earth, for was not Papa, the Earth Mother, the mother of mankind? Far above him he saw Rangi, the Sky Parent, upon whose breast the Whanau Marama, the Children of Light, were arranged by Tane the Fertilizer, who traverses the head of Rangi accompanied by Tane-te-waiora, the cheering sunlight. The moon was to him Hina-keha, Pale Hina, she who follows in the wake of the sun god, and, in times of stress, becomes Hina-uri, or Darkened Hina. In the transient comet he recognized Auahi-tu-roa, he who brought fire to mankind; and in Maru he resolved celestial phenomena into a protecting deity and a war god. When a meteor darted across the heavens he knew that Tamarau was active; and he saw in the brilliant rainbow Uenuku spent with his long, hopeless search for the Mist Maiden. When the chill winds of winter smote him he knew that Pārāweranui was abroad; when the heaving breast of the Ocean Maid troubled his rude craft he knew that the Whanau Puhi were gambolling on Mahora-nui-atea; when the golden trail of Tane gleamed athwart placid seas he knew that the Wind Children had retired to their haven. Far overhead he beheld the many-coloured battalions of Tukapua and the Cloud Maid, as they hurried forth from the Cloud House, harassed by Tawhirimatea. When Mahuika assailed in fiery wrath the offspring of Tane-mahuta he saw the countless legions of Te Ihorangi darting to their rescue, while Mahuika found fair haven within Hine-kaikomako. In the ceaseless contest between Parawhenuamea and Rakahore he saw the origin of Hine-tuakirikiri (the Gravel Maid), whose multitudes protect the body of the Earth Mother from the wrath of the Ocean Maid, and of whom it was said, “He ope na Hine-tuakirikiri e kore e taea te tatau” (A troop of the Gravel Maid cannot be numbered). Yet another stubborn defender of the Earth Mother was Hine-one, and all footsore travellers welcomed the advent of the Sand Maid.
Even so the Maori of yore traversed the path of life, the life he gained from the Earth Mother and from Tane. As he passed down that path he was protected by the offspring of the primal parents, by anthropomorphie personifications, and by the spirits of his dead forbears. When the path became faint as he neared its end, when Whiro and Maikinui destroyed his body, when his spirit traversed the Broad Way of Tane that leads to the spirit world, it was then that the Dawn Maid fulfilled her vow made in the days when the world was young, and protected her children who sought refuge within her realm.
And Tane the eternal, who saw the birth of man, guides his spirit down the Golden Way, and knows that the end is well.