Papatūānuku and Ranginui

There are many Māori creation stories. Papatūānuku and Ranginui is the most common, but Ranginui had several wives, and Pokoharuatepō, mother of Aoraki who features in the next story was first. Telling of the formation of Te Waipounamu, the South Island, the story of Pokoharuatepō is just as important in Ngāi Tahu history.

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To begin – there was nothing. Papatūānuku (earth mother) and Ranginui (sky father) arose from this nothing. When Ranginui fell in love with Papatūānuku, she already belonged to Tangaroa.

While Tangaroa was away, Ranginui took Papatūānuku for himself. When Tangaroa returned to find Papatūānuku with another man he felt betrayed and in anger, he challenged Ranginui to a battle.

Tangaroa was stronger and speared Ranginui in the buttocks, paralyzing him. Ranginui clung so desperately to his love Papatūānuku that neither the light of the sun or the moon could penetrate their embrace.

Their children were caught in this deep embrace, in total darkness. Eventually the older children decided to separate their parents, but debated for a long time whether they should be killed, or just forced to separate.

Eventually, Tāne and Paia agreed to try and separate their parents.

Tāne moved quickly to raise his father. He rested a support post on his mother and propped his father up with it. The post was made of ten joints or heavens and was called Toko-maunga. Paia, the younger brother, then followed and placed in another post called Rua-tipua. One by one the two brothers placed in posts to support their father.

Now the two were separated, there was a sky and an earth, and their children finally saw the light of day, but Tānemahuta was not yet finished, as he could see that his parents were naked.

He climbed up into the heavens and asked his brothers for help. Rehua gave him seeds to plant in Papatūānuku, and soon she was clothed. He retrieved the stars from Wehinuiamaomao, who had hidden them under a mat, and threw them into the heavens to cloak Ranginui.

Now his parents were clothed, Tānemahuta set about creating the first woman, Hinetitama.