Saturday, November 19, 2011


In Māori mythology, Tāne (also Tāne Mahuta) is the god of forests and of birds, and the son of Ranginui and Papatuanuku, the sky father and the earth mother, who lie in a tight embrace. Their many children live in the darkness between them (Grey 1956:2).

Separates his parents

The children of Rangi and Papa have grown frustrated with being forced at their confinement in the cramped space between their parents. Tū, future god of war, proposes that they should kill their parents. But Tāne (or Tāne-mahuta) disagrees, suggesting that it is better to separate them, sending Rangi into the sky and leaving Papa below to care for them. Tāne's brothers Rongo, then Tangaroa, Haumia-tiketike and Tū all try in vain to separate the parents. After many tries, Tāne lies on his back and pushes with his strong legs, and finally forces his parents apart, and Rangi rose high into the heavens (Grey 1956:2-3).[1] Then Tāne searched for heavenly bodies as lights so that his father would be appropriately dressed. He obtained the stars and threw them up, along with the moon and the sun. At last Rangi looked handsome (Orbell 1998:145).

Tāwhirimātea, the god of storms and winds, is angry that the parents have been torn apart. He joins his father in the sky and punishes the earth and sea with violent storms (Grey 1956:3-6, Tregear 1891:54). Tāwhirimātea attacks the forests of Tāne, snapping the trunks of the trees, shattering the trees to the ground, leaving them as food for decay and insects. Then he attacks the oceans, and Tangaroa, the god of the sea, flees. Two of Tangaroa's descendants, Ikatere, father of fish and Tu-te-wehiwehi (or Tu-te-wanawana), the ancestor of reptiles, are terrified by Tawhirimatea’s fury. The fish flee into the sea, and the reptiles into the forests. Ever since, Tangaroa has resented Tāne for hiding his runaway children. So it is that Tāne supplies the descendants of Tūmatauenga with canoes, fishhooks, and nets to catch the descendants of Tangaroa. Tangaroa retaliates by overturning canoes and sending floods that sweep away houses, land and trees (Grey 1971:5-6).

Progenitor of humankind

Some legends say that Tāne made the first man, named Tiki. More widely known is a tradition that Tāne was trying to find himself a wife, but at first he found only non-human females and fathered insects, birds, and plants. Then he made a woman by moulding her from the soil (Orbell 1998:145).

In some stories, Tāne marries his daughter Hine-tītama without her knowing who he is. Upon discovering that she has married her father, she flees to the underworld, and becomes the goddess of death, Hine-nui-te-pō. Tāne follows her and begs her to return. She tells him to return to the world and raise their children, while she will wait below to receive them when they die (Orbell 1998:3.

Other traditions tell of the three baskets of knowledge that Tāne brought down from the heavens (Orbell 1998:145).

From: Wiki
The Polynesian god of light, and of the forests and trees. He is the first son of Papa and Rangi. After his birth he settled in the sky. At dawn he 'splits open the world' by lifting up the seam of the sky off the earth, so that a part of the outside world becomes visible.

Tane also created the Tui, a bird that is used as food by the Polynesians, as one of the aspects of the Goddess, the female essence. (See also: Rehua.)

From: Here
In the eastern islands of Polynesia, it was believed that man came into being by continuation of the process of creation, or rather procreation, which had begun with Atea and Papa. The god Tane was most often considered to be the actual generative agent who impregnated a woman he formed from earth. In Maori lore, Tane procreative power and organ was called Tiki.

What follows is the old story of Tane's search for a wife. First he turned to his mother, Papa, who rejected him. Then he united with several different beings, but each time their offspring were things like mountain streams, reptiles and stones. This did not satisfy Tane, who bore the likeness of a man and he longed to have a partner to match himself. At last he took his mother's advice and formed the shape of a woman out of the soft red sand on the sea shore of Hawaiki. He breathed life into her nostrils, ears, mouth and eyes. Hot breath burst from her mouth and she sneezed. She opened her eyes and she saw Tane. Her name was Hine-hau-one, the Earth-formed-maiden. Their first child was called Hine-titama, the Dawn maiden.

After a while Tane took the Dawn maiden as his wife. The girl did not know that Tane was her father as well as her husband. When she asked who her father was, she was told to "...ask that question of the pillars of the house". Hine did so but the housepost did not answer nor did the side panel. Then the Dawn maiden realised the truth. She fled in shame from Hawaiki to the darkness of Po, the underworld. When Tane tried to follow her, she cried out to him that she had "...cut the cord of this world" and that he must return to look after their children in the world of light while she remained in the world of darkness to drag their children down. This was the origin of death. Hine-titama, Dawn maiden became Hine-nui-te-po, great-goddess-of-darkness. In this story, Hine, or Hina as she is called in other places, has a dual nature. She is presented at both the first woman and as a goddess who is guardian of the land of the dead. She is both a life-giver and a destroyer of life.

From: Here
The Gods were born of the Sky and the Earth--of Rangi the Sky and Papa-tu-a-nuku the Earth. And in those days the Sky pressed down upon the Earth, and there was no difference between the light and the darkness. Nothing could grow up then, nothing could ripen, nothing could bear fruit. And the Gods, the seventy children born of Rangi and Papa, had no space for themselves.

They were huddled in clefts and, hollows of the Earth, and the Sky overlaid them. Some were upon their backs, some upon their sides; others went crawling and stooping. They had heard of light, but they had only known darkness: they wondered what light might be. They consulted as to how light might be brought to where they stayed huddled, and how space might be given them. Tu-matauenga, the father of fierce human beings, spoke. "Let us slay our father and our mother," he said, "so that they will not press upon us."

But none of the other Gods would side with Tu-matauenga, father of fierce human beings. Then said Tane-mahuta, father of forests and all life that inhabits them and all things that are made from timbers, "Nay, let us force them apart. Let Rangi be made a stranger to us, but let Papa remain near us and be a nursing mother to us; let one be above us and the other beneath our feet." All thought well of what Tane-mahuta said, all except Ta-whiri-matea, father of winds and storms. He howled when his brothers spoke of raising the Sky above their heads and placing the Earth beneath their feet.

But the children of Rangi and Papa had agreed to sunder their parents. Then Rongo-ma-tane, the father of cultivated food-plants, tried to separate them. He tried and he failed. Tangaroa, the father of fishes and all that is in the sea, raised himself for the effort. But he was not able to do the great deed. Haumia-tikitiki, father of food-plants that grow up without cultivation, now tried to make the separation, but his effort was without avail. Then the Gods called upon the father of fierce human beings to separate the Sky and the Earth. But for all his fierce endeavours, Tu-matauenga could not put them apart.

The Gods would have given up their plan, and would have stayed huddled between the Sky and the Earth where there was no space for them to move and no difference between the light and the darkness, if Tane-mahuta did not stand in the place where the others had made their effort. He pushed with his arms and his hands; but what he did was without avail. Then he put his shoulders upon Papa's middle; he put his feet against Rangi, the Sky. His feet raised up Rangi, his shoulders pushed Papa downwards; to shrieks and mighty groans the separation became more and more wide. "Wherefore slay your parents?" the Sky groaned. "Why do you, our children, commit this dreadful deed?" the Earth cried out. The Gods were made dumb and moveless as Earth and Sky moved and shrieked and groaned. Tane-mahuta did not abate his effort. Far down beneath him he pressed the Earth, far, far above him be thrust the Sky.

As the Sky and the Earth were rent farther and farther apart, light came to where the Gods were. They stood upright; they moved freely and to distances. The Sky and the Earth stayed where they were, far from each other. Now plants and trees grew up; there was maturity, there was ripening of fruit. The human race came into existence, and men moved here and there upon the Earth.

And for all time Sky and Earth were set apart. But still, from the tops of wooded mountains, the sighs of Papa-tu-a-nuku rise up to Rangi. Then Rangi drops tears upon her bosom--tears that men know as drops of dew.

From: here
Tāne in tribal traditions

Tāne is a figure of great importance in tribal traditions. Tāne separated earth and sky and brought this world into being; he fashioned the first human; he adorned the heavens, and brought the baskets of knowledge, wisdom and understanding down from the sky to human beings.

Tāne is sometimes given different names to reflect his different roles. He is called Tāne-mahuta as god of the forest, Tāne-te-wānanga as the bringer of knowledge, and Tānenui-a-rangi as bringer of higher consciousness.

Tāne as a model

Tāne is a model for masculinity and action in the world. His various names suggest freshness, youth, someone who can overcome others’ actions, and who is true, loyal and authentic. He is seen as upright and able to bear the weight of an enterprise; he has his roots in the earth and his head in the heavens.
Creation traditions

In most Māori creation traditions, Tāne separated earth and sky. His parents, Ranginui (sky father) and Papatūānuku (earth mother), had produced many children while lying in a close embrace. The children became frustrated with living in darkness between their parents, and decided to push the pair apart.

This creation story by Wiremu Maihi Te Rangikāheke of Te Arawa tells how Tāne’s brothers tried and failed to separate earth and sky:

Rongomātāne arose to separate the two, but the two were not separated. Tangaroa arose to separate the two but they were not separated. Haumia-tiketike arose but the result was the same. Tūmatauenga arose and the result was the same. Finally, Tāne-mahuta arose… 1

It was Tāne who successfully separated Ranginui and Papatūānuku, and created Te Ao Mārama – the world of light.

Trees in the forest

Trees in the forest are seen as Tāne-mahuta, rising to separate earth and sky. Tāne, the tree, holds the sky aloft, bringing light into the world. The widespread felling of forests in New Zealand in the 19th and 20th centuries was calamitous to the traditional world view of tribes that lived in the forest – it was like the sky rejoining the earth, and the world returning to darkness.

The felling of forests also went against traditional models of behaviour. The word ‘tika’ means erect, upright and correct – as a tree is upright and erect. It informs the concepts of tikanga – correct behaviour or action – and whakatika, which means to arise. Correct behaviors arise from within a person, as a tree rises from the ground.

From: here
Also see:
Chapter II. Maori Cosmogony and Mythology
The Children of Heaven and Earth
Plant and Tree symbolism

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