About Maori Mythology

Maori Mythology and Oral Traditions


Maori mythology accounts for the creation of the universe, the origins of gods (atua), people, natural phenomena, the weather, celestial observations, and all things in their natural world (4). 

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History, and these concepts of how the Maori world was created, how the present and past merge to define Maori culture and create the basis for the orientation of ‘human beings (1)’ within that world, were, and in some regions still are, kept alive via a tradition of oral narration; through poems, songs (waiata), by proverb (whakatauki), chants, prayers and by genealogy (whakapapa) (2)  - cultivating their own mythology to record their past and tell the legends and stories of their gods and tribal heroes, (3)

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The genealogical form underpins Māori understanding of the development of the universe; Rangi (sky father) and Papa (earth mother). The marriage of this celestial pair produced the gods and, in due course, all the living things of the earth.[3] (4).  From their union, 70 male children were conceived which became the gods of the Maori - providing an explanation of the creation of the world and a link from mythology to reality (5).

In a post to follow, we’ll have a look further at the mythology of Rangi and Papa and how the Maori world came to be, about the migration of Maori ancestors on the 7 ocean fearing canoes from Hawaiki, How the north and the south islands were created and then, more locally, we’ll explore the legend of Matau – the taniwha of the Wakatipu.

Happy reading!



3. https://maoristorytelling.weebly.com, U., 2021. Oral Tradition. [online] https://maoristorytelling.weebly.com/oral-tradition.html#. Available at: <https://maoristorytelling.weebly.com/oral-tradition.html> [Accessed 13 January 2021].

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/, U., 2021. Māori Mythology. [online] En.wikipedia.org. Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C4%81ori_mythology#:~:text=They%20present%20M%C4%81ori%20ideas%20about,forest%2C%20and%20the%20forests%20themselves.> [Accessed 13 January 2021].

5. Maori, M., 2021. Famous Folktales. [online] Maori Mythology. Available at: <https://maori-myths.weebly.com/famous-folktales.html> [Accessed 14 January 2021].

2. BINNEY, J., 2021. Maori Oral Narratives, Pakeha Written Texts TWO FORMS OF TELLING HISTORY. [online] Nzjh.auckland.ac.nz. Available at: <http://www.nzjh.auckland.ac.nz/docs/2004/NZJH_38_2_06.pdf> [Accessed 13 January 2021].

1. Long, C., 2021. Creation Myth | Definition, Types, Examples, & Facts. [online] Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at: <https://www.britannica.com/topic/creation-myth> [Accessed 13 January 2021].

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