Saturday, 25 August 2012

Papatuanuku and Ranginui and How the World Began

(This is a saved post from Multiply)

Probably every culture has stories of how they believe the world began, certainly the tangatawhenua (people of the land,) of Aotearoa/New Zealand had their own creation mythology.

The version I have written down here here is based on the writing of Professor Ranginui Walker.

There were the three states of existence and they were:

Te Kore (the void), signified the vastness of space which contained the seeds of the universe and is therefore a state of potential -

Te Po (the dark), was the celestial realm and the domain of the gods and the source of all mana and tapu -

Te Aomarama (the world of light), is the world of light and reality, the dwelling place of humans.

In the beginning of the world there was only Te Kore, the great void and emptiness of space .

Te Kore had differing qualities which were described by a series of adjectives. Thus Te Kore became:

Te Kore te whiwhia (the void in which nothing could be obtained),
Te Kore te rawea (the void in which nothing could be felt),
Te Kore i ai (the void with nothing in union),
Te Kore te wiwia (the space without boundaries).

Te Po, the second state of existence also had adjectives and graduations.
First there is Te Po, then:

Te Po nui (the great night),
Te Po roa (the long night),
Te Po te kitea (the night in which nothing could be seen),
Te Po uriuri (the dark night),
Te Po kerekere (the intense night),
Te Po tangtango (the intensely dark night),

As with Te Kore, the periods of Te Po correspond to the aeons of time before and as the earth slowly came into being. They also signify the emptiness and darkness of of the mind.

Because there was no light there was no knowledge.

Papatuanuku (the earth mother) and Ranginui (the sky father) were so close and embraced so tightly that they prevented light from coming into the world however their procreative powers brought sons into being,
Tanemahuta,
Tangaroa,
Tawhirimatea,
Tumatauenga,
Haumiatiketike,
Rongomatane.

The sons realised that living in a world of darkness and ignorance could be alleviated only by separating their parents so that

Ranginui could become the sky father above them

and

Papatuanuku would remain with them as their earth mother.

The task of separating earth and sky fell to Tanemahuta who prised them apart with his shoulders to the ground and his legs thrusting upwards. After this one of his names became Tane-te-toko-o-te-rangi (Tane the prop of the heavens).  His name was verified over and over in the great forests of Tane where the mighty trunks of the totara and kauri trees could be seen soaring upwards past the green canopy and towards the sky.

Now the separation of the earth and the sky brought into being

Te Aomarama (the world of light)
the third state of existence
the place of human beings...

Letting in the light let in knowledge...

But...
Ranginui was filled with sorrow at being parted from Papatuanuku whose face far below him now was a constant reminder of the painful separation. His tears were
Ua-nui (great rain)
Ua-roa (long rain)
Ua-whatu (fierce hailstorms)
Ua-ngana (light rain).

Finally the gods decided to turn Papatuanuku over so that her face would be hidden from her husband. The youngest of the brothers, Ruaumoko was still breastfeeding at the time and as the god of volcanoes he was left there to warm and comfort his mother.


After the Separation came the War of the Gods .

Tawhirimatea (the god of winds) who had opposed separation and was therefore angry devastated the forests of Tane with hurricane force. Once he had vanquished Tane he lashed up the mountainous seas of Tangaroa, driving the descendants of Tangaroa to seek shelter from his wrath.

Thus the children of Tangaroa scattered, Ikatere fleeing to the depths of the ocean to become the progenitor of the fish species and Tu-te-wehiwehi travelling inland to establish the reptilian family.

Tawhirimatea could not vent his wrath on Rongomatane and Haumiatiketike because their mother Papatuanuku hid them by thrusting them deep into her breasts. Remaining untested in war Haumiatiketike became the god of edible fern roots and other wild and uncultivated plants. Rongomatane became the custodian of the kumara and the god of cultivation and other peaceful arts.

Finally Tawhirimatea turned his wrath on the one remaining brother Tumatauenga whom he was unable to vanquish. However Tumatuaenga became angry with his brothers for not standing alongside him. For this reason he is also known as
Tu-ka-riri (Tu of violent temper),
Tu-ka-nguha (Tu of raging fury),
Tu-whakaheke-tangata-ki-te-po (Tu who consigns men to Hades)
Tu, as the god of war and ancestor of fierce man encompasses in his names the aggressive characteristics and warlike nature of men.

Tapu And Noa

Tumatauenga sought utu (redress) from his brothers for leaving him to face Tawhirimatea alone. He attacked the children of Tane, asserting his mana by debasing them and converting them to common use. From trees and vines he fashioned spears and snares to kill and trap Tane's birds. He also made nets and canoes to catch the children of Tangaroa. By his actions of using the children of his brothers as food and common objects Tumatauenga negated their tapu and made them noa.

This reflects the basic Maori dichotomy between the sacred and profane and explains how it came into being and the holistic view of humankind conceived of and belonging to the land (tangatawhenua - people of the land). People are not above the land but an integral part of it, therefore, if a tree is needed for timber, then rituals to seek permission from Tane must be performed first. In a similar way a fisherman is expected to return to the sea the first catch he caught as an offering to Tangaroa. The first fruits of the harvest season should be offered to Rongomatane, the god of cultivation.

No comments:

Post a Comment