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New Zealand Maori Myths & Legends

By Patrick Goodness

The Goodness Company

on 18 October 2012

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Transcript of New Zealand Maori Myths & Legends

New Zealand
Maori Myths
& Legends: By Patrick Goodness Land of the Long White Cloud Aotearoa: 60 million years ago the Tasman Sea,
separating Australia from New Zealand,
had arrived at its full width. 5 million
years ago 5 million years ago the shape of the two main islands of New Zealand today to form. 80 million
years ago 80 Million years before the arrival of man, New Zealand separated from the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana.

This land mass of modern New Zealand which separated from Gondwana was known as the Rangitata land mass. 60 million
years ago 7 thousand
years ago 7 thousand years ago most of New Zealand's land area was covered by rainforest. The surrounding seas protected New Zealand's unique fauna and flora including many species of flightless birds. The Moa, a large flightless bird with 24 subspecies ranged in size from a turkey to almost 12 feet tall…found in the lowlands of New Zealand. The flightless Kiwi had also adapted perfectly to the safe New Zealand forest environment. The Haast Eagle, was the largest and strongest eagle in the world, with a wing span of up to 9 feet, was found in the forest areas
of the South Island. The Haast Eagle, now extinct, preyed on large birds, including the Moa, and could fly at speeds of 80km per hour. Ancient Settlers of New Zealand: The Polynesians Most agree that New Zealand
was settled by Polynesians
between 950 and 1130 AD,
arriving in a number of
twin-hulled outrigger canoes. Māori oral tradition, tells us of Kupe, one of the great Polynesian navigators, who set sail from the mythical
Māori homeland Hawaiiki in his waka (boat). Kupe's travels
Aotearoa Kupe is a mythical figure,
credited with the discovery of New Zealand. According to legend, Kupe disturbed a giant octopus, which eventually led him to discover modern Cook Strait.The great battle between Kupe, his warriors, and the giant wheke (octopus) took place at the top of the South Island. Kupe’s huge ocean sailing vessel almost capsized, which would surely have been the end of Kupe and his crew. But Kupe's quick thinking saved the day.

By throwing calabashes into the sea to imitate bodies, he tricked the giant wheke. And when it emerged from the depths, Kupe leapt onto its head and struck the blow that ended its life. Arapaoa was the name given to that fatal blow, and that was the first name given to the South Island of Aotearoa. When Kupe returned home,
he was met with great surprise and joy. His daughters were so sure that he had been killed by the octopus that they had slashed their chests in mourning. So the rocks of that area were stained red with blood and are still known today as Pari Whero (Red Rocks). Kupe also named the two islands
in the harbor after his daughters –
Matiu (Somes Island) and
Makaro (Ward Island). Once back in their homeland, Kupe was asked many questions about the land of the long white cloud.

And so the stories of discovery and adventure were shared with the people of Hawaiiki – stories of giant trees, mountain ranges, rivers full of fish and greenstone, and forests full of birds, some standing taller than a man. So enticing were these stories that the people of Hawaiiki wanted to see those places for themselves. Talk of following Kupe's travels to the distant shores of Aotearoa became a reality when new waka were built and many more people decided to leave Hawaiiki to start a new life in the distant land. This was the beginning of the migration of the Māori people from Hawaiiki, and was made possible because Kupe had chased the giant wheke across the Pacific Ocean to discover a new and wonderful land called Aotearoa. 'Hawaiki' The Marquesas and the Society Islands evolved as early centers of Polynesian culture.

On the island of Rai'atea (west of Tahiti), Polynesian culture found its highest form. Many believe that it was Rai’atea that was referred to as 'Hawaiki', the 'homeland' of the Maori people. To some Maori tribes 'Hawaiki' is a reference to the Cook Islands, possibly because their ancestors came to New Zealand from the Society Islands by way of the Cook group. Quite simply, Maori culture was based on Polynesian culture. Throughout Polynesia there are common elements in language, legend and place names.

The myth of the separation of Earth and Sky is generally constant, and the stories of Maui are common throughout the region. The Birth of Maui Maui was born so premature, so frail and so underdeveloped that he could not possibly have survived.

So his mother, Taranga, wrapped the him in a knot of her hair and threw it into the sea - hence Maui's full name of Maui-tikitiki-a-Taranga ('Maui, the topknot of Taranga').

Maui should have died, but the gods intervened and Rangi, the Sky Father, nursed him through infancy. The Fish of Maui How Māui
to the
World One evening, Māui lay beside the fire staring into the flames. He watched the flames flicker and dance and thought to himself, "I wonder where fire comes from." Māui, decided that he needed to find out. In the middle of the night, while everyone was sleeping, Māui went from village to village and extinguished all the fires until not a single fire burned in the world. He then went back to his whare and waited. The next morning when the village discovered there was no fire, Maui volunteered to go and see the great goddess, Mahuika, and ask her for fire. Māui walked to the scorching mountain to the end of the earth following the instructions from his mother and found a huge mountain glowing red hot with heat. At the base of the mountain Māui saw a cave entrance. Before he entered, Māui whispered a special karakia to himself as protection from what lay beyond. Mahuika, the goddess, rose up before him, fire burning from every pore of her body, her hair a mass of flames, her arms outstretched, and with only black holes where her eyes once were. She sniffed the air. "The fires of the world have been extinguished, I have come to ask you for fire." Mahuika listened carefully to Māui, and then she laughed. She pulled a fingernail from one of her burning fingers and gave it to him. "
Take this fire as a gift to your people.
Honour this fire as you honour me." As Māui walked along the side of the road he thought to himself, "What if Mahuika had no fire left, then where would she get her fire from?"
He quickly threw the fingernail into a stream and headed back to Mahuika's cave. Maui asked her for another fingernail and then threw the fingernail into the stream again. He did this over and over again until Mahuika became furious. She knew Māui had been tricking her and threw the burning toenail to the ground. She surrounded with fire and chased Maui from the cave. Māui changed himself into a hawk and escaped to the sky, but the flames burned so high that they singed the underside of his wings, turning them a glowing red. Mahuika took her very last toenail and threw it at Māui in anger. The toenail of fire missed Māui and flew into the trees, planting itself in the Mahoe tree, the Tōtara, the Patete, the Pukatea, and the Kaikōmako trees. These trees cherished and held onto the fire of Mahuika, considering it a great gift. When Māui returned to his village he didn't bring back fire as the villagers had expected. Instead he brought back dry wood from the Kaikōmako tree and showed them how to rub the dry sticks together forming friction which would eventually start a fire. The villagers were very happy to be able to cook their food once more and to have the warmth of their fires at night to comfort them. To this day the Kahu, the native hawk of Aotearoa, still retains the red singed feathers on the underside of its wings, a reminder of how close Māui was to death. Māori the The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand, they are Polynesian and comprise about 14% of the country's population.

Te reo Maori is the native language which is related to Tahitian and Hawaiian. Maori Tangi Funeral Service: If a tangi (funeral service) is held on the Marae, the local Marae people hold small twigs of green leaves in their hands. The twigs are a symbol of mourning.

There is a funeral service before the burial of the "tupapaku" (body). The Māori will not leave the body alone after death, so it will be taken to the Marae where it will remain with family and friends until burial. Speeches are not given to the community…but directly to the dead body, as the Māori believe that the spirit of the body does not actually leave until the body is buried. On death, the Māori believe that the spirit travels to the Pohutukawa tree which sits on the very tip of Cape Reinga, at the top of the North Island - as far as man may go in New Zealand.

The spirit then slides down a root of the Pohutukawa, to the sea below. The spirit emerges onto Ohaua, which is the highest tip of the Three Kings Islands, for a final farewell before rejoining the ancestors. In earlier times, the head of a loved chief or warrior leader would be decapitated and preserved, in order to always be with the bereaving family and tribe. Maori Religion
and Spirituality The Godstick Ringatu and Ratana In the beginning the belief was that the god Tane offered mankind three baskets of knowledge. Within these baskets were the stories of creation, instructions concerning magic, etc.

The Māori believe all living things are descended from the Gods, embodied within certain mountains, rivers and lakes. All things have a type of soul - the wairua. This is why the Māori have strong spiritual ties to the land. Certain geographical features of New Zealand are important anchors for Māori identity. For example, the Wanganui River has a particular cultural and spiritual significance for the Māori. Most things contain "mana" - spiritual essence.

Mana is within man himself, land, nature, and also man-made objects. Contact with mana by non-authorized persons or objects could cause the mana to be drained away. The lizard had a particular significance in ancient Māori mythology. This reptile was considered to be the emissary of the god Whiro. Whiro represented all that is evil on earth, and brought misfortune on unfortunate tribes. If the gods were angry and wished to kill a man, they would invoke the lizard to enter into a man's body, in order to eat away his life giving organs. Today the lizard is present in Maori art. In art, the evil powers of the lizard are transformed to a form of protection. In ancient times the godstick, was used for rites. It was usually fashioned in wood with a tiki at its head, and leading to a pointed base. Cords and red feathers adorned the godstick making it seems alive in the winds.

The spirit of the god represented then entered into the godstick, and the godstick became the intermediary between the priest and the spirit with whom the priest wished to make contact. Before calling upon a deity, the priest would either thrust the godstick into the ground, or hold it. He would then call upon the deity concerned to bless or help the tribe. Only priests could use the godstick. Similarities to Modern Day
Christian Faiths? Tapu and Noa Tapu is the strongest force in Māori life.
It has numerous meanings. Tapu can be interpreted as "sacred", or defined as "spiritual restriction" or "implied prohibition”. A person, an object or a place, which is tapu, may not be touched by human contact. The two main types of tapu were private and public. Private tapu concerned individuals.

Public tapu concerned communities. In earlier times, tribal members of a higher rank would not touch objects which belonged to members of a lower rank. This was considered "pollution". Similarly, persons of a lower rank could not touch the belongings of a highborn person.
Death was the penalty. A breach of "tapu" was to commit a hara (violation) could incur the wrath of the Gods. Certain objects were particularly tapu. In 1772 the French explorer Marion du Fresne was killed for breaching a particular "tapu". Food cooked for a chief was tapu, and could not be eaten by an inferior. A chief's house was tapu, and even the chief could not eat food in the interior of his house. A woman could not enter a chief's house unless a special religious ceremony was performed. (The Karakia) "Noa", on the other hand, lifts the "tapu" from the person or the object. "Noa" is similar to a blessing. Tapu and noa remain part of Māori culture today, although persons today are not subject to the same tapu as that of previous times. A new house today, for example, may have a "noa" ceremony to remove the "tapu", in order to make the home safe before the family moves in. Maori House
of Meeting The Marae The Marae, sacred open meeting area, generally situated in front of the community house, is the area of greatest mana, the place of greatest spirituality. Official functions take place in the Marae:
Celebrations, weddings, christenings,
tribal reunions, funerals. Young people are expected to help in the work on the Marae.

The older people of the Marae have authority, and are respected. The Kaumatua (older people) are the Marae elders. Their role is to teach the young people Māori traditions such as speeches, genealogy and song. Waiata (song) is very
important in Māori life. Over the centuries, waiata recounts history, legends, and specific events in the life of the person. A speaker may break into song at a given point during his speech. Certain waiata should only be sung on certain occasions, however, such as for a "tangi" (funeral). Important: A European, or "Pakeha", may only enter the Marae on permission from the Elders, and due respect must be shown while in the Marae complex. If a visiting party visits the Marae, a special ceremony takes place first. This ceremony is called the "te wero", and is always carried out by a male member. Wero means "cast a spear". The "wero" is always issued by a male. After the haka, a male from the Marae places an item of challenge on the ground. The visiting party must wait at the gate of the Marae until the occasion presents itself for them to show that they come with peaceful intentions. A "wero" may be issued to a high-ranking woman, such as a Queen, but the "taki" (challenge dart) must be picked up by a male member of her party. This is the traditional way of determining whether visitors to a Marae came in peace or with hostile intentions. When visitors enter the Marae, you must remain close together and advance at a slow respectful pace. The women of the Marae take part in the call of welcome, the Te karanga : "Come forward, visitors from afar, Welcome, welcome!" (Haere mai, Haere mai). Bring with you the spirits of your dead, that they may be greeted , that they may be mourned. Ascend onto our Marae, ascend the sacred Marae of our people. Welcome, Welcome. (Haere mai, Haere mai)" When you enter the Marae, stop for a minute or two, and remember those who have died.

This is a sacred time.

By showing your respect, you will earn their welcome. Once inside the Marae, greetings and speeches take place. The speaker moves backwards and forwards as he speaks. Speeches are followed by waiata (songs) by the women. A traditional welcome practiced by the Māori is called a "powhiri", consisting of a "hongi".

This is the gentle pressing together of the nose and forehead. The "hongi" is the mingling of breath between the two people, representing unity. Often this is performed three times : the first pressing is a greeting to the person, the second acknowledges ancestors, and a third pressing of nose and forehead honors life in this world. The Powhiri The Maori Haka: Dance of War The Haka was performed before the onset of war by the Maori last century, but has been immortalized by New Zealand's Rugby Team the All Blacks, who perform this dance before every game. Traditional Powhiri Full Face Full faced tattoos or "moko" was predominantly a male activity. Female forms of moko were restricted to the chin area, the upper lip, and the nostrils. Today the Moko still lives on as an increasing number of Maori are opting to receive their moko, in an effort to preserve and connect with their culture and identity. Tattoos The Hangi A traditional form of cooking called a Hangi is a feast cooked in the earth. Stones are heated in a fire in a dug out pit and covered in cabbage leaves or watercress to stop the food from burning.

Mutton, pork, chicken, potatoes and Kumera (a sweet potato) are then unusually lowered into the pit in a basket. The food is covered with Mutton cloth or similar and traditionally with flax. Finally earth is placed on top to keep in the steam. The food takes about 3 hours to cook.

The Hangi is still popular today. The unique taste of food cooked in a Hangi can best be described as steamed food with an earthen flavour. Maori Arts
Crafts Carving: Before the arrival of the Europeans, Māori literature, stories and legends were handed down both orally and through weavings and carvings. Some carvings are over 500 years old. The Māori believed that the gods created and communicated through the master carvers. Carving was a tapu art, subject to the rules and laws of tapu. The pieces of wood falling aside as the carver worked were never thrown away, neither were they used for the cooking of food. Women were not permitted near the carvings. all things possess a spirit (wairua), and a mauri (life force). To the Māori, Felling a tree was to cut down a descendant of Tane, the god of forests and of man. Before committing such an act, a karakia (ritual incantation) was recited by the Tohunga, in order to ensure that the act of felling an offspring of Tane could be carried out safely. Manaia a side-faced and sometimes birdlike figure,
may be found in Māori carvings.
Easter Island is known for its distinctive
Manaia, made up of a side-faced man with
a bird-head. In Hawaïi Manaia also exists,
referred to by the Hawaïians as a
bird-headed deity. Another connection
to South America? In South America, and particularly in Peru, a number of different manaia types estimated to have been carved around 2 000 years ago may also be found, leading to speculation as to whether early Polynesian voyagers visited South America, or whether South American voyagers traveled to the Pacific, introducing their Manaia to the Polynesians. Weaving Māori weaving was made from the New Zealand flax. From the flax, baskets, floor mats, skirts and cloaks were and still are made. There are more than fifty different varieties of the New Zealand flax, and the Māori know the advantages of each type of flax for its respective use. Maori Language Maori consists of five vowel sounds:
a e i o u
(‘a’ as in ‘car’, ‘e’ as in ‘egg’, ‘i’ like the ‘ee’ in ‘tee’, ‘o’ as in ‘four’, ‘u’ like an ‘o’ in ‘to’). There are eight consonants in Maori similar to those in English — ‘h’, ‘k’, ‘m’, ‘n’, ‘p’, ‘r’, ‘t’, and ‘w’.
There are also two different consonants — ‘wh’ and ‘ng’. Many Maori pronounce the ‘wh’ sound similar to our ‘f’.
The ‘ng’ is similar to our own ‘ng’ sound in a word like ‘sing’, except that in Maori, words can start with ‘ng’. Try these expressions: Kia ora: Hello Kia ora tatou:
Hello everyone Nau mai, haere mai:
Welcome Kei te pehea koe?:
How’s it going? Kei te pai: Good Ka kite ano:
See you again see you again
at the next lecture! Ka kite ano…
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