Story: Tāwhirimātea – the weather

Lightning and war

Lightning and war

This piece about lightning is from the essay Uenuku or kahukura, the rainbow god of war, by Tuta Nihoniho of Ngāti Porou. Nihoniho outlined a number of weather phenomena and advised on how to interpret them when going into battle. The essay was translated and edited by Augustus Hamilton and printed in Te Ao Hou magazine in 1959. The translation goes:

The second token to be studied is this: to carefully view the hiko (distant lightning), besides the uira and the kanapu, for the hiko betokens the blood of chiefs who are to fall in battle, or be drowned, or burnt to death, or die a natural death; hence it will be well to explain as the field of battle. If the two sides are about equal for the coming fray, and the hiko lights upon the field, examine it clearly. If the lightning is in the region of your enemy, or on the great ranges in his vicinity, and the source from which it emanated is on the right hand, then you know that you yourself sent that lightning as a sympathetic greeting for the high caste blood; your enemies will soon fall beneath the shining sun.

But if the lightning is on the side toward you, or over your great ranges or sacred places, remember that you will fall before your enemy; therefore reflect and be wary: follow not the precepts of the ignorant, but rather those of the thoughtful; rearrange your affairs and postpone your attack, for you have chanced upon evil days.

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Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Reference: Tuta Nihoniho, ‘Uenuku or Kahukura: The Rainbow God of War’. Te Ao Hou 26, March 1959. Vol. 7, No. 1, pp.51–52.

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How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Tāwhirimātea – the weather - Wind and storms', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 May 2022)

Story by Basil Keane, published 12 Jun 2006, updated 1 Mar 2022