Story: Whakapapa – genealogy

Page 2. Whakapapa of creation

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Creation genealogies

Creation traditions are the most sacred of all traditions because they lay down fundamental beliefs about the nature of reality. Creation genealogies are the foundation from which all other whakapapa derive. Genealogies of creation vary from tribe to tribe, or from region to region, and from tohunga to tohunga.

Genealogies most often begin from Te Pō (representing the unknown darkness of creation). Te Pō is often followed by Te Kore (primal source, potential) and Te Ao (light). Some genealogies envisioned creation as the growth of a forest beginning from Te Pū (the tap root). Others conceived creation as the seeking of knowledge and light. Creation traditions could be highly localised – Te Ati Awa writer Piri Te Kawau wrote that the world was created out of Mt Taranaki.

Genealogical recitations usually culminate in Ranginui and Papatūānuku (the sky father and earth mother), followed by the gods of nature and the beginnings of human and other life, as explanations of how the phenomenological world came to be.

Te Ahukaramū’s versions

Te Ahukaramū, a 19th-century Ngāti Raukawa chief, gave two different whakapapa involving Te Pō, Te Kore and Te Ao. The first shows the progressions from darkness to light:

Te Pō (night, darkness)

Te Ata (dawn)

Te Ao (light, world)

Te Ao-tū-roa (longstanding world)

Te Ao Mārama (world of light).

The second shows the progression from nothing to something:

Aituā (calamity, misfortune)

Te Kore (nothingness)

Te Mangu (darkness)

Rangipōtiki (the sky).

Te Rangikāheke

Te Arawa chief Te Rangikāheke provided this version:

Te Pō, te Pō

Te Ao, te Ao

Te kimihanga, te hahunga, i te kore, i te kore

Ko te nui, ko te roanga

Rangi = Papa.
The night, the dark

The day, the day

The seeking, the adzing out from the nothing, the nothing

The immensity, the endurance

Sky father and Earth mother.

Ranginui and Papatūānuku

In the creation of the world Ranginui and Papatūānuku were the first ancestors. Their children ruled the natural world. Tāwhirimatea was god of the winds, Tangaroa was god of the sea, Tāne-mahuta was god of the forest, Tūmatauenga was god of war and humankind, Rongo was god of cultivated foods and Haumia was god of uncultivated foods. Their children gave rise to both humans and all aspects of the natural world.

Whakapapa of the natural world

In one whakapapa, the kiore (rat) and kūmara are linked by whakapapa: Rongo-māui stole kūmara from his brother Whānui (the star Vega) and then impregnated his wife, Pani, with it. She gave birth to kūmara.

In another, Rongo-māui and Pani had a daughter, Hine-mata-iti, who in turn gave birth to the kiore (Pacific rat).

Haumia (god of uncultivated foods including bracken fern) gave birth to te mōnehu (fine, rusty fern spores), who produced biting insects the waeroa (mosquito) and namu (sandfly).

How to cite this page:

Rāwiri Taonui, 'Whakapapa – genealogy - Whakapapa of creation', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 July 2024)

Story by Rāwiri Taonui, published 5 May 2011, updated 1 Jul 2015