Story: Tāwhirimātea – the weather

Page 4. Rain

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Te Ihorangi is the god who personifies rain, while Hinewai is the female personification of light misty rain.

Describing the rain

The word for rain was ua, but a drop of rain was kōpata. Whakataritari ua was the name for weather leading up to rain, while taru whakaru was damp, cloudy weather. Maomao was the moment when rain stopped. Māwake rangitahi referred to a sudden short squall, and māwake roa to a continuing rainstorm. A day’s rain was called koripo marama.

When it came to distinguishing different types of rain, Māori had a remarkable range of descriptive words.

Light rain was described as:

  • uapūkohukohu – misty rain
  • ua koehuehu – light mist falling in small drops
  • uwhiuwhi taua – a shower
  • tarariki – persistent showers.

Heavy rain was described as:

  • pūroro – driving rain
  • pōua – a rain squall
  • ua kōpiro – drenching rain.

Rain and death

Many tribes interpreted rain or a storm as an expression of grief at a funeral, as at the burial of Te Puea Hērangi (a Waikato leader and granddaughter of King Tāwhiao):

As the cortege approached Taupiri mountain, fierce rain began to fall. All the Maori kings were, it is said, buried in heavy rain, but no rain could have been more violent and powerful than it was on this occasion. It was the heavens weeping. 1

Tribal laments sometimes compare the rain to their tears falling when they mourn. This is an extract from the lament, ‘E pā tō hau’, for Te Wano of the Ngāti Apakura tribe:

E ua e te ua e taheke
Koe i runga rā
Ko au ki raro nei riringi ai
Te ua i aku kamo.
Come then, O rain, pour down
Steadily from above
While I here below pour forth
A deluge from mine eyes. 2

A rain charm

This charm was intended to stop rain falling, and was known as ‘he tūā i te rangi’ (weather charm). It was documented from Tuta Nihoniho, a 19th-century Ngāti Porou leader.

E ua, e te uaua; e mao, e te maomao!
Tihore mai runga, tihore mai i raro,
Koi mate nga tamariki a te ika nui
E kiko! E kiko e.
Rain, O rain, cease raining, fair sky!
Clear away from above, clear away from below,
Lest the offspring of te ika nui be distressed
Bring about a blue, unclouded sky. 3
  1. ‘Sacred funeral: Tangi for Te Puea.’ Te Ao Hou 3 (Summer 1953): 5. Last accessed 4 May 2006 › Back
  2. A. T. Ngata, Ngā mōteatea. Part I. Wellington: Polynesian Society, 1970, pp. 236–237. › Back
  3. Quoted in Elsdon Best, Maori religion and mythology. Vol 1. Wellington: Te Papa Press, 1995, p. 389. › Back
How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Tāwhirimātea – the weather - Rain', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 4 December 2021)

Story by Basil Keane, published 12 Jun 2006