Story: Māori creation traditions

Ranginui and Papatūānuku

Ranginui and Papatūānuku

This lintel, which was carved with stone tools in the Bay of Plenty in the 1850s, shows Ranginui (the sky) and Papatūānuku (the earth) during the stage of creation known as Te Pō (darkness). The spirals represent light coming into the world. The following Ngāti Raukawa version of the subsequent separation of Rangi and Papa was dictated by Hūkiki Te Ahukaramū in the 19th century:

Ka moe [a] Rangi i a Papatūānuku, te wahine o Tangaroa, i pūremutia e Rangi … Ka puta ki waho ko … Tānenui-a-rangi …Ka whakaaro rātou kia puta iho te rā i te kēkē o Rangi. Ka mea [a] Tānenui-a-rangi ‘Tēnei te rā kei runga e whiti ana’. Ka mea [ia], ‘Me toko tō tātou matua kia waiho ko te wahine ko Papa hei matua mō tātou’. Ka mea rātou, ‘Tokona, wehea rāua, kia tau kē te wahine kia tau kē te tāne, kia tupu ai tātou ki te Ao’. Kātahi ka tokona te rangi. E tū iho ana a Rangi e takoto nei a Papa.

The sky (Rangi) cohabited with the earth (Papa), who was the wife of the sea (Tangaroa). She was seduced by the sky. They had a child whom they called Tānenui-a-rangi (Tāne, great of the heavens). … The family thereupon decided that the sun should be allowed to shine through the armpit of the sky. Tānenui-a-rangi said, ‘The sun shines above’. He then said, ‘Let us raise our father above and leave the female, Papa, as our parent’. They joined in and said, ‘Raise him up, separate the two. Let the female be set apart, let the male be set apart so that we may prosper in the world’. The sky was then raised above. Hence, the sky stands above and the earth lies below.

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How to cite this page:

Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, 'Māori creation traditions - Common threads in creation stories', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/artwork/2426/ranginui-and-papatuanuku (accessed 21 September 2018)

Story by Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, published 8 Feb 2005