Pōwhiri (welcome ritual)
The pōwhiri, which welcomes visitors to a marae, is based on creation traditions, which tell of the separation of earth and sky and the movement from darkness to light. In these traditions, Tāne pushed earth and sky apart. The pōwhiri, which takes place upon the ground in front of the meeting house (marae ātea), is a re-enactment of the creation of the world through the separation of earth and sky. Orators speaking upon the marae ritually re-enact Tāne separating earth and sky, the action through which light came into the world. The work of the orator is to bring light and resolution to the community through his oratory.
On the marae, the world of light (Te Ao Mārama) is represented by the meeting house. Darkness (Te Pō) is represented by the marae ātea. The pōwhiri is designed to address conflict and difficulty, and find resolution. The Tāne energy is born out of darkness. It separates earth and sky, allowing light into the world. Tāne represents the energy of growth and action, and the expression and fulfilment of the earth.
Orators on the marae act like Tāne in his various roles. Their role is to be upright like Tāne-ua-tika (Tāne with a straight backbone), to bear the weight of an issue like Tāne-uehā (Tāne supporting the heavens), and bring higher thought and consciousness like Tānenui-a-rangi and Tāne-te-wānanga (Tāne as bringer of knowledge).
The orator speaks to the issues of the day and seeks māramatanga (illumination) – understanding and wisdom to resolve the matter. The orator re-enacts Tāne’s actions by figuratively hoisting the sky above and allowing light to shine into the world.