Saturday, November 19, 2011


The Polynesian goddess of night, darkness, and death; the queen of the underworld. She is called 'Great Lady of the Night'. Hine-nui-te-Po is the daughter of Tane and Hina. When she learned that Tane, who took her as his wife, was also her father, she fled to the underworld where she rules ever since. According to a Maori myth, the hero Maui tried to gain immortality for mankind by crawling through Hina's sleeping body, but she awoke because a songbird laughed, and crushed him to death with her vagina. Maui became the first man to die, and humans remained mortal.

Songbirds were first brought to earth from the Eternal Land.

From: here
Hine-nui-te-pō (Great woman of night) is a goddess of night and death and the ruler of the underworld in Māori mythology. She is a daughter of Tāne. She fled to the underworld because she discovered that Tāne, whom she had married, was also her father. The red colour of sunset comes from her.

All of the children of Rangi and Papa were male. It was Tāne who first felt the need for a wife and began to look for a companion. His mother showed him how to make a female form from red earth. Then Tāne breathed life into Hine-ahuone, the earth-formed-maid, and mated with her. Their child was Hine-ata-uira, maid-of-the-flashing-dawn (alias Hine-tītama), and Tāne took her to wife (Biggs 1966:449).

One day, while Tāne was away, Hine-ata-uira began to wonder who her father was. She was disgusted and ashamed when she heard that her husband was also her father, and she ran away. When Tāne came back he was told that she had run off to the spirit-world, and he quickly followed after. But he was stopped from entering by Hine herself, in her new role as goddess of the underworld. "Go back, Tāne", she said to him, "and raise our children. Let me remain here to gather them in." So Tāne came back to the upper world, while Hine stayed below, waiting only for Māui to bring death into the world, and begin the never-ending procession of mortals to her realm (Biggs 1966:449).

Māui did the last of his trick on her, attempting to make mankind immortal by trying to crawl through her body, entering in her vagina and leaving by her mouth while she slept, to reverse the path of birth. But one of his bird friends, the fantail, laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation, seeing Māui turned into a worm squirming to enter the goddess, and woke her. To punish the demi-god, she crushed him with the obsidian teeth in her vagina; Māui was the first man to die (Alpers 1964:70).

Hine-nui-te-pō created insects.

From: Wiki
In the underworld, there lives Hine Nui Te Po, the woman who brought death into the world and receives the wairua (souls) of the dead as they leap down to the spirit world.

The Maori feared darkness and the spirits that moved about at night. Dreaming about another person, whether alive or dead, was explained as a meeting of souls in the underworld.

Maori legends tell of the extraordinary exploits of the demi god Maui, the trickster. His heroic endeavours are numerous: snaring the sun and fishing up the North Island of New Zealand are but two. How Maui met his fate is another story. Seeking immortality for all mankind, Maui knew he had to dispose of Hine Nui Te Po. His plan was to enter her body by way of her vagina while she slept and kill her. For company on this perilous mission Maui took with him a Piwakawaka bird (Fantail).

After successfully entering her body, Maui's plan went horribly wrong. The Piwakawaka began singing so loudly that Hine Nui Te Po suddenly awoke. Realising what was happening she closed her thighs tightly and crushed Maui. As a result, mortality is forever part of life.

From: here
Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": MAUI AND HINE-NUI-TE-PO:


Maui now felt it necessary to leave the village where Irawaru had lived, so he returned to his parents. When he had been with them for some time, his father said to him one day, 'Oh, my son, I have heard from your mother and others that you are very valiant, and that you have succeeded in all feats that you have undertaken in your own country, whether they were small or great. But now that you have arrived in your father's country, you will, perhaps, at last be overcome.'

Then Maui asked him, 'What do you mean? What things are there that I can be vanquished by?' His father answered him, 'By your great ancestress, by Hine-nui-te-po, who, if you look, you may see flashing, and, as it were, opening and shutting there, where the horizon meets the sky.' Maui replied, 'Lay aside such idle thoughts, and let us both fearlessly seek whether men are to die or live for ever.' His father said, 'My child, there has been an ill omen for us. When I was baptizing you, I omitted a portion of the fitting prayer, and that I know will be the cause of your perishing.'

Then Maui asked his father, 'What is my ancestress Hine-nui-te-po like?' He answered, 'What you see yonder shining so brightly red are her eyes. And her teeth are as sharp and hard as pieces of volcanic glass. Her body is like that of a man. And as for the pupils of her eyes, they are jasper. And her hair is like the tangles of long seaweed. And her mouth is like that of a barracuda.' Then his son answered him: 'Do you think her strength is as great as that of Tama-nui-te-Ra, who consumes man, and the earth, and the very waters, by the fierceness of his heat? Was not the world formerly saved alive by the speed with which he travelled? If he had then, in the days of his full strength and power, gone as slowly as he does now, not a remnant of mankind would have been left living upon the earth, nor, indeed, would anything else have survived. But I laid hold of Tama-nui-te-Ra, and now he goes slowly, for I smote him again and again, so that he is now

feeble, and long in travelling his course, and he now gives but very little heat, having been weakened by the blows of my enchanted weapon. I then, too, split him open in many places, and from the wounds so made, many rays now issue forth and spread in all directions. So, also, I found the sea much larger than the earth, but by the power of the last born of your children, part of the earth was drawn up again, and dry land came forth.' And his father answered him, 'That is all very true, 0, my last born, and the strength of my old age. Well, then, be bold, go and visit your great ancestress, who flashes so fiercely there, where the edge of the horizon meets the sky.'

Hardly was this conversation concluded with his father, when the young hero went forth to look for companions to accompany him upon this enterprise. There came to him for companions, the small robin, and the large robin, and the thrush, and the yellow-hammer, and every kind of little bird, and the water-wagtail. These all assembled together, and they all started with Maui in the evening, and arrived at the dwelling of Hine-nui-te-po, and found her fast asleep.

Then Maui addressed them all, 'My little friends, now if you see me creep into this old chieftainess, do not laugh at what you see. Nay, nay, do not, I pray you, but when I have got altogether inside her, and just as I am coming out of her mouth, then you may shout with laughter if you please.' His little friends, who were frightened at what they saw, replied, 'Oh, sir, you will certainly be killed.' He answered them, 'If you burst out laughing at me as soon as I get inside her, you will wake her up, and she will certainly kill me at once, but if you do not laugh until I am quite inside her, and am on the point of coming out of her mouth, I shall live, and Hine-nui-te-po will die.' His little friends answered, 'Go on then, brave sir, but pray take good care of yourself.'

Then the young hero started off. He twisted the strings of his weapon tight round his wrist, and went into the house. He stripped off his clothes, and the skin on his hips looked mottled and beautiful as that of a mackerel, from the tattoo marks, cut on it with the chisel of Uetonga [grandson of Ru, god of earthquakes; Uetonga taught tattooing to Mataora who taught it to man], and he entered the old chieftainess.

The little birds now screwed up their tiny cheeks, trying to suppress their laughter. At last the little Tiwakawaka could no longer keep it in, and laughed out loud, with its merry, cheerful note. This woke the old woman up. She opened her eyes, started up, and killed Maui.

Thus died this Maui we have spoken of. But before he died he had children, and sons were born to him. Some of his descendants yet live in Hawaiki (Hawaii), some in Aotearoa (or in these islands). The greater part of his descendants remained in Hawaiki, but a few of them came here to Aotearoa. According to the traditions of the Maori, this was the cause of the introduction of death into the world (Hine-nui-te-po was the goddess of death. If Maui had passed safely through her, then no more human beings would have died, but death itself would have been destroyed.) We express it by saying, 'The water-wagtail laughing at Maui-tiki-tiki-o Taranga made Hine-nui-te-po squeeze him to death.' And we have this proverb, 'Men make heirs, but death carries them off.'

From: here
Hine-nui-te-po is the Maori Goddess of darkness and death, queen of the underworld. Her name translates as “Great Lady of the Night”. Hine-nui-te-po was originally named Hine-titama, meaning “Lady of the dawn”, and she was the daughter of Tane-matua, God of forests, and Hine-ahu-one, “woman created of earth”, the first woman in Maori mythology. Hine-titama married Tane-matua, not aware that he was her father, and they had several children.

One day, Hine-titama asked her husband if he knew who her father was, and he told her to ask the pillars of the house. She knew that her husband had built the house, and then realized that her husband was actually her father. Ashamed, she ran off to the underworld, where she was stopped by Te Ku-watawata, the guardian of the gate. He advised her to go back, to remain in the world of light and life, but she insisted on going forward. Just as she was about to descend into the darkness, Tane-matua caught up with her, but she turned him back, telling him that he was to go and look after their children in the world of light, as she would look after them in the world of darkness. It was at this point that she changed her name to Hine-nui-te-po, symbolic of her descent to the underworld.

Hine-nui-te-po’s descent also marked the beginning of the flow of mankind to the underworld. The great hero Maui attempted to regain man’s immortality by crawling through Hine-nui-te-po’s body while she slept. Maui had with him three birds as companions, and when he turned himself into a worm and crawled into Hine-nui-te-po’s vagina, one of the birds laughed, awakening the Goddess. Feeling the worm crawling inside her, she crushed it to death. Maui thus became the first man to die, and man has been mortal ever since.

From: here

Also see:

A carving with her image
Myth: XI. Maui Seeking Immortality

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