Story: Papatūānuku – the land

Page 2. Papatūānuku – the earth mother

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Creating the world

In the Māori creation tradition (there are numerous versions), Papatūānuku, along with Ranginui, the sky, was born in the darkness known as Te Pō. Papatūānuku and Ranginui had several children while remaining in an embrace. The children grew frustrated with living in darkness between their parents, and conspired to separate them by thrusting Ranginui above and Papatūānuku below. Thus the world of light, Te Ao Mārama, came into being.

Earth mother and sky father

Papatūānuku and Ranginui’s many children gave birth to more children, including birds, fish, winds, and water. They became the progenitors of all life and all natural phenomena. In this tradition, all things of this world are descendants of the children of Ranginui and Papatūānuku, and all life is interconnected.

Born from the earth

Papatūānuku is a powerful figure, as she represents the generative foundation of all life. All things are born from her and nurtured by her, including humankind. Many tribal traditions discuss the birth of humans from the earth. In the Hineahuone tradition, the first woman was formed from clay at Kurawaka by Tāne, a son of Ranginui and Papatūānuku. Her name, Hineahuone, means earth-formed woman. In a Northland tribal tradition, the ancestor Tuputupu-whenua emerged from the ground.

How to cite this page:

Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, 'Papatūānuku – the land - Papatūānuku – the earth mother', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 4 March 2024)

Story by Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, published 24 Sep 2007