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The Coming of the Maori

The Creation of Man

The Creation of Man

A good deal of confusion and contradiction occurs in the various accounts concerning that far-off event, the creation of the first human being. The popular Maori version is that the first human was a female whose body page 450was moulded out of earth by the god Tane. The more detailed Matoro-hanga account (80, p. 138) states that the sons of Rangi debated as to how the ira tangata (human life) could be produced in distinction to the ira atua (supernatural life). They decided that as they were all males, a search should be made through nature for the female element (uha) from which man could be produced.

The search was led by Tane and numerous experiments were conducted by him as to the possibilities of various inanimate objects and even ideas which were personified as females but were not human. Tane tested his procreating powers on Hinewaoriki (Maid-of-small-forests) and she gave birth to twins in the form of the kahika and matai trees. Nothing daunted, Tane mated with Mumuhanga and she gave birth to the totara tree. From eight personified mates, he produced nine species of large trees and the bracken fern. It is interesting to note that, though these births took place in a distant land of myth, the nine named trees are all indigenous to New Zealand. Though an earlier account states that Rangi clothed the body of Papa with vegetation, the creator of trees is here given as Tane. In recognition of his accomplishment, he was given the titles of Tanemahuta and Tane te waotu (Tane-of-the-standing-forest).

Still prosecuting his search, Tane mated with Punga who gave birth to insects and vermin. He mated with Parauri and produced the tui bird. Other matings produced a succession of other birds all of which are indigenous to New Zealand. Tane's mixed family was further increased by mating with a mountain personified as Hinetuparimaunga (Maid-of-the-mountain). She gave birth to three children, one of whom became Parawhenuamea, the classical personification of water. The other two children were personified and in turn were mated with other personifications with the result that Tane became the grandfather of monsters (taniwha), more insects, lizards, reefs, rocks, sandstone, stones, gravel, and sand. By this time it became evident that the appropriate female element did not exist in nature. Though the search had failed, it must be admitted that Tane's activithes had helped materially to provide a suitable setting for man, who was yet to be created.

The gods now came to the conclusion that the female element would have to be created. They decided to mould a female after their own form out of the red earth at Kurawaka on the puke (mons Veneris) of the Earth-mother. The text here departs from the popular version by stating that various parts including the blood, bones, special organs, and internal organs were supplied and arranged in position by different members of the 36 named gods who took part in assembling the various anatomical parts of the first human body. Some rationalization took place, where possible, such as the lungs being supplied by Tawhirimatea, the god of the winds. There being no goddesses at that period, the differentiation of page 451sex to provide the female element (uha) occasioned considerable discussion among the 17 gods who took part in assembling the various parts of the female sex organ. Eleven different parts were supplied and arranged in relative position, but beyond such well-known terms as raho (labia majora) and werewere (labia minora), it is impossible to identify some of the names given. White (104, vol. 1, p. 162) made a bold attempt to identify the eleven parts given in a Ngaitahu version and he went so far into the interior as to identify kaiure as the ovaries and mokakati as the Fallopian tubes. This was crediting the composers of the myth with a knowledge of anatomy which I am sure neither they nor their followers ever possessed. The number of names given is beyond the requirements of normal anatomy. It is evident that the desire to supply quantity as well as details led the myth-makers to throw in some extra parts for good measure.

The task of vivifying the inanimate form was delegated to Tane. He breathed into its nostrils, the figure drew a breath, sneezed, and came to life and so the ira tangata was created. To maintain Io's position as the real Creator of life, it is stated, the breath of life and the blood were conveyed from him by the whatukura Rehua. The first female thus created was named Hineahuone (Earth-formed-maid) and a common variation of her name is Hinehauone.

The act of procreation was also delegated to Tane. After having evinced so much knowledge about sex anatomy, the gods displayed a curious ignorance concerning sex physiology. Tane applied his procreating power to various parts of the human body before he came to the part that the gods had so carefully prepared for reproduction. Tane's experiments with extraneous parts are given as the cause of the natural secretions such as wax from the ears, tears from the eyes, mucus from the nose, saliva from the mouth, and perspiration from the armpits. The concept of a state of ignorance preceding the first act of coition was used as a literary theme in other parts of Polynesia. In Mangareva and Tuamotu, long poems describe the abortive attempts on various parts of the human body before the problem was correctly solved.

An alternate theory that the first human being was a male was held by some of the Maori tribes, according to White (104, vol. 1, p. 151). The Ngaitahu held that the first human was a male who was created out of earth by Tane and given the name of Tiki or Tikiauaha. The sexual parts were supplied by other gods. The Ngati Hau of Whanganui and the Ngati Tuwharetoa of Taupo say that Tiki was the first man but the brief records do not give the creator. A Ngati Awa (Whakatane) version states that the first man was made by Tiki from a mixture of his own blood and clay, and a variant Ngati Tuwharetoa version says that the first man was made by Tikiahua out of red clay. Neither of the two versions gives page 452the name of the man. The Ngaitahu account continues that after the creation of Tiki, Tane made the first woman out of the soil of Hawaiki as a mate for Tiki and named her Iowahine. On the other hand, the Ngati Porou and Urewera tribes support the Ngati Kahungunu myth, already stated, that the first human being was a woman who was created by Tane.

In Polynesia, we find that in the Marquesas, Mangareva, and Easter Island, the first woman was made out of earth or sand by Tiki. Her name in the Marquesas was Hinamataone; in Mangareva, it was Hinaone; and in Easter Island, it was Hinapopoia (Hina-the-heaped-up). A Tuamotuan poem states that Tane created a woman named Hauone but another Tuamotuan version states that Tiki married a woman named Onekura (Red-earth) who, however, was a member of a living family. Confusion thus exists between the god Tane and an interloper named Tiki.

The Matorohanga school disposes of the problem very neatly. In a chant (15, p. 76) used by Tane on his union with Hineahuone, he describes his "tiki" before and during coitus, thus leaving no doubt that the term tiki was applied to his phallus. Other references support the identification and, as applied to the teaching of the Matorohanga school, Best (15, p. 81) is quite correct in his contention that Tane represents the male principle generally and Tiki personifies the male organ [ure], which name is also employed as the ordinary term for the sacerdotal recitals, as when the tiki of Tane is referred to.

However, the teaching of a local Maori school cannot do away with the fact that Tiki was regarded as a definite individual, who was the first man in various parts of Polynesia, including the Society Islands ('Ti'i) and Hawaii (Ki'i). The persistence of the same concept among some of the Maori tribes shows that it was carried to New Zealand from Central Polynesia. The elimination of the man Tiki by transferring his name to the male organ, whether personified or not, would thus appear to have been a later development thought out by an inner circle of priests whose ideas had not reached or been accepted by all the Maori tribes. The creation of the first female from earth is certainly an ancient concept, as proved by its wide distribution and by the fact that in the various versions her name is a compound of one (earth or sand). Tiki as the first male is also ancient from its distribution, but which sex came first in the original story is a matter for conjecture.

The union between Tane and Hineahuone (80, p. 144) resulted in the birth of a daughter who was named Hinetitama (Dawn-maid). In creation myths in which one initial pair is responsible for producing the human line of descent, incest is inevitable. The Polynesians did not have a Land of Nod to enable them to evade the problem. In the Marquesan, Mangarevan, and Easter Island myths, in which Tiki is the first man, Tiki page 453committed incest with his own daughter. In a Tuamotuan version, the influence of an older account is evident for Tiki committed incest with his own daughter, though there were other families living at the time. In the New Zealand story, Tane took his daughter Hinetitama to wife in order that the human species might be continued. They had a daughter who was named Hinerauwharangi. She married Te Kawekairangi, but there is no explanation of how he had appeared on the scene so opportunely. Perhaps there was some adjacent Land of Nod after all. Be that as it may, the Matorohanga version gives human descent as continuing through this last pairing. A genealogical tree gives 28 generations from Hinerauwharangi to Ngatoroirangi, the priest of the Arawa canoe. Percy Smith has made the count from Tane and Hineahuone to approximately the year 1900 as 52 generations. Applying the time measure of 25 years to a generation and adding 50 years to bring it up to the present date, the genealogy reveals that the first human being was created about 1350 years ago, or in the year 600 A.D. The fact that the time is rather short does not render the genealogy less valuable to the person who can memorize and recite it.

After the birth of their daughter, Hinetitama asked Tane, "Who is my father?" Tane evaded by telling her to ask the posts of the house. This idiomatic form of evasion occurs in other Polynesian stories. Hinetitama realized from the answer that Tane was her father. During the night she fled in the direction of the approach to the Underworld of Rarohenga. She reached the guardhouse of Poutererangi and obtained an entry permit from Te Kuwatawata, the guardian of the entrance. Before entering, she looked back and saw her weeping husband following. She called back to him, "Tane, return to our family! I have severed connection with the world of light and now desire to dwell in the world of night." So saying, she passed through the guardhouse and descended to Rarohenga where she assumed the name of Hinenuitepo (Great-lady-of-the-under-world). As mistress of the Underworld, she dwelt at Te Ruatuwhenua in a house named Wharaurangi. The courtyard before it was aptly named Te Tatau o te po (The Portal-of-the-Underworld). Though referred to as the Goddess of Death for her rightful slaying of Maui, she was really a kindly deity who was friendly to the descendants of Tane when they passed through the portal of the Underworld.