I took a wrong turn on my bicycle and ended up hiking to Wairēinga with the lovely Lisa Hopa, a Māori primary school teacher from Ngaruwahia. We watched the water come down in pirouettes and crash into rainbows below––so glad to enjoy this stunning scenery with a new friend! At the bottom of the falls we sat down in the shade for a crash course in Māori mythology, droplets of water just reaching our faces.
All inanimate objects have a life force and a genealogical tree that can be traced back to Papatūānuku and Ranginui, the earth mother and the sky father. In the beginning, Papatūānuku and Ranginui were in such a tight embrace that no light could penetrate. The two had several children, each with their own domains:
Tangaroa––guardian of the sea, whose children are all the creatures of the sea
Tane Mahuta––guardian of the forest, whose children are the trees and animals in the forest
Tāwhirimātea––guardian of the winds, storms, and gales (anything pertaining to air)
Tūmatauenga––guardian of war
Rongo Ma Tane––guardian of peace and cultivated food
Haumietiketike––guardian of uncultivated food
Rūaumoko––guardian of volcanic activity and earthquakes. Whenever he gets uncomfortable and moves is when earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.
The children decided that they wanted to separate Papatūānuku and Ranginui so that there would be light and space to move around. Each child had a go in trying to separate their parents.
Tūmatauenga, the guardian of war, wanted to kill Papatūānuku and Ranginui, but the others rejected this idea. Tane Mahuta, the guardian of the forest, decided to lie on his shoulders and push up with his feet, which worked. The earth mother and the sky father were forced far apart. Tāwhirimātea threw stars and moon to keep his father company. Tane Mahuta clothed Papatūānuku with trees because she was naked.
I love creation myths and hope that I can continue to learn more about Māori culture on this trip.
It’s a beautiful thing that an indigenous language is taught in public schools here. Could this model be implemented widely in the United States?