Story: Tāwhirimātea – the weather

Page 1. Origins of the weather

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Tāwhirimātea

The Māori word for weather is rangi (also meaning sky). In Māori tradition, the deity who controls the weather is Tāwhirimātea.

In the creation story, the children of Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatūānuku (the earth mother) wished to separate their parents so that light could come into the world. The only brother who did not agree to this was Tāwhirimātea, the god of wind and storms. When Ranginui and Papatūānuku were separated, he ascended to the sky to be with his father. Together they plotted revenge against the other brothers. Tāwhirimātea began to produce numerous offspring.

The four winds

Tāwhirimātea sent away his wind children: one to the north (tūāraki), one to the south (tonga), one to the east (marangai) and one to the west (hauāuru). The direction in which each child was sent became the name of the wind from that direction.

Clouds

Tāwhirimātea then sent forth a variety of clouds, including Aonui (dense clouds), Aopōuri (dark clouds), Aowhētuma (fiery clouds), Aowhēkere (clouds which precede strong winds), Aokanapanapa (clouds reflecting glowing red light), Aopakakina (clouds coming from all quarters and wildly bursting), Aopakarea (thunderstorm clouds), and Aotakawe (clouds hurriedly flying).

Tāwhirimātea attacks his brothers

To take revenge on his brothers, Tāwhirimātea first attacked Tāne Mahuta – the god of the forest, who had separated Rangi and Papa. The mighty trees of Tāne’s domain were snapped in two and fell to the ground. Then Tāwhirimātea attacked Tangaroa, the god of the sea, causing the waves to grow as tall as mountains. After this he turned on Rongomātāne, whose domain was cultivated food and the kūmara (sweet potato), and Haumia-tikitiki, god of fern root and uncultivated food. To escape, they hid within their mother Papatūānuku. That is why kūmara and fern root burrow into the earth.

Rain, hail and dew

During this time, Tāwhirimātea also released Uanui (terrible rain), Uaroa (long-continued rain) and Uawhatu (fierce hailstorms). Their offspring were Haumaringi (mist), Haumarotoroto (heavy dew), and Tōmairangi (light dew).

Tāwhirimātea and Tūmatauenga

Tāwhirimātea finally attacked Tūmatauenga, the god of war and of humans. Tūmatauenga stood firm and endured the fierce weather his brother sent. He developed incantations to cause favourable winds, and tūā (charms or spells) to bring fair weather. Because neither brother can win, Tāwhirimātea continues to attack people in storms and cyclones, trying to destroy them on sea and land.

How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Tāwhirimātea – the weather - Origins of the weather', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/tawhirimatea-the-weather/page-1 (accessed 9 December 2022)

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