The cradle-land of the Māori (Polynesian) race. This would appear to be the impression produced by tradition, since no record appears of any older dwelling-place. Nevertheless, Hawaiki may have been the name of some place in which the migrating tribes rested for many generations; or it may be the name of several places, the newer named in memory of the older.

The locality of Hawaiki has caused much discussion; but the evidence is so misty, and in many ways so conflicting, that the question is still open. The traditions vary in the different islands as to the way in which Hawaiki is regarded. Sometimes it is (as in New Zealand) an actual place: the names of its people, their wars, loves, works, etc., told of with great wealth of legendary detail. In other islands (as in the Hervey and the Marquesan Islands), either the geographical existence has faded into a mere poetical dream of Spirit-land, or it has become the veritable Hades, the shadowy underworld of death, and even of extinction.

New Zealand — There is no detailed account of the land itself, and our knowledge has to be gleaned from incidental remarks in legends concerning the lives of the ancestral heroes. The Māoris living in Hawaiki seem to have had nearly the same ceremonies, weapons, customs, and dispositions as the Māori dwelling in these islands at the time of the arrival of Cook. It would appear, from the conclusion of the Māui legend, that Māui dwelt in Hawaiki; yet the land he pulled up from the ocean (Aotearoa) is New Zealand, or rather its North Island, Te-Ika-a-Māui, "The fish of Māui."

The great temple (Wharekura) was in Hawaiki, and accounts are given of those who attended it, and the reason of its overthrow. The word "wharekura," however, is so constantly used as to other wharekura in New Zealand as to be confusing. The great double canoes used in the voyage to New Zealand were built in Rarotonga, "which lies on the other side of Hawaiki," but it appears doubtful if the name applies to the island we know as Rarotonga in the Hervey Group. It is stated that Ngahue discovered New Zealand when flying with his axes of jade, (greenstone, nephrite) before Hine-tū-a-hōanga and her weapons of obsidian: then he returned to Hawaiki.

The Arawa canoe was built from a totara tree, a tree indigenous to New Zealand, and not found in Rarotonga (Henrey Islands); so, too, the poporo trees, which caused the dissensions in Hawaiki (leading to war and the migration) are peculiarly New Zealand trees. The birds brought in the canoes, the pukeko, kakariki, etc., are New Zealand species of birds. This would seem to discredit the evidence of the traditions, so far as detail goes.

The time occupied in transit and incidents encountered should be some guide to us, but we are again met with improbabilities. Turi's voyage in the Aotea appears to have occupied some time; they met storms, and put into an island named Rangitahua, where they refitted and again set out. This island cannot now be identified. The Arawa canoe was nearly destroyed in Te Parata, an immense whirlpool (Te waha o Parata), which is perhaps purely mythological. Ngātoro-i-rangi went back to Hawaiki, when "the wind of Pungawere" was blowing, in seven days and nights. But other legends say that canoes went to Hawaiki and brought the kumara to New Zealand in one night.

Some writers consider that Savaii, in the Samoan Group, is the original Hawaiki, guided by the similarity of name (Savaiki). Others, for a similar reason, believe that the island of Hawaii (Sandwich Islands), is Hawaiki. The inhabitants of those islands themselves, however, believe in another Hawaiki, neither in Samoa nor Hawai'i.

The Asiatic origin of the Polynesians has been considered probable by some. In support of this theory, the Māori tradition avers distinctly that the sailing directions from Hawaiki for New Zealand were to steer for the "rising sun." On the other hand, another legend states that to those dwelling in New Zealand, Hawaiki was "where the red sun comes up." Throughout the South Sea Islands, the general notion is that Hawaiki is in the west; and souls going to Hawaiki as the Spirit-land always pass to a rerenga wairua (spirit's leap) on the westernmost point of the islands. In New Zealand, the spirit's leap is at the most northern part of the North Island.

The canoes, according to many legends, seemed to be able to sail backwards and forwards to Hawaiki when they pleased, and with little danger. The different arguments are too voluminous to be treated at length in the present work. This place called Hawaiki was undoubtedly considered to exist in the spiritual sense also, by New Zealanders as by Eastern Polynesians. In the legend of Rangi-whaka-oma, we find that "the boy went quickly below to the Lower-world (Reinga) to observe and look about at the steep cliffs of Hawaiki." It is also stated that Hawaiki-roa was the land fished up by Māui.

Hawai'i — The Hawaiian name of Hawaiki (the dialect drops k) is Hawai'i, or at full length, Hawai'i-kua-uli-kai-o'o, which in Māori is Hawaiki-tua-uri-tai-koko. It was situated in Kahiki-ku (Tawhiti-tu), meaning Eastern Tahiti or Tawhiti. [Note: This word has given rise to great confusion in Polynesian literature, the words Tahiti, Hiti, Iti, Kahiki being supposed invariably to refer to the Island of Tahiti (properly Tahaiti), but now known either to be the corresponding word to the Māori tawhiti, "distance," or else referring to whiti or hiti, "eastern," "sun-rising." In Hawai'i, the word Kahiki (Tawhiti) includes every group in the Pacific, from the Malay Archipelago to Easter Island.]

This Kahiki-ku, in which Hawaiki was situated, was on the large continent to the east of Kalana-i-hau'ola, where mankind was first created. [See Taranga, Hau-ora, Kore, and Tiki.] It was also called Kapakapa-ua-a-Kāne in a very ancient hymn. Other names are Aina-huna-a-Kāne, "The hidden land of Tāne"; also, Aina-wai-akua-a-Kāne, and Aina-wai-ola-a-Kāne, "Land of the Divine Water of Kāne."

This country, as Pali-uli (Pari-uri), "The dark mountain," is described as Paradise. This paradise it seems possible that a man can again reach. The tradition says: It was a sacred land: a man must be righteous to attain to it; if faulty, he cannot go there; if he prefers his family, he will not enter into Pali-uli.

An ancient hymn says:

"Oh, Pari-uri, hidden land of Tāne;
Land in Taranga-i-Hau-ora;
In Tawhiti-tu, in Tapatapa-ua-a-Tāne;
Land with springs of water, fat and moist,
Land greatly enjoyed by the God."

The traditions of this paradise resemble those to the biblical legends of Eden. In the midst of Pali-uli were the beautiful waters of life, transparent and clear (see Waiora); and from hence were driven forth the Hawaiian Adam, Kumu-honu (see Tupu-tupu-whenua), and his wife, Ola-ku-honua. This pair were supposed to be exiled on account of their having done some evil, not plainly stated, but connected with the sacred apple tree (Ohia melemele), or the "tabued breadfruit tree," Ulu-kapu-a-Kāne; and the man is often alluded to afterwards as "the fallen chief," "the mourner," "he who fell on account of the tree," etc. Allusions are also made to the moopelo, some kind of lizard or reptile, as a lying animal, and a chant speaks of it under the name of the Ilioha:

"The nioha, the mischief-maker, stands in the land.
He has caught the chief Ko-honua," etc.

Then follows the man's new names: "Fallen," "Tree-eater," "Mourner," "repenting," etc.

In one of the Hawaiian genealogies, that of Kuma-uli-pō, the first person on earth is supposed to have been a woman, La'ila'i, who was evolved from Night (). She and her husband, Ke-ali'i-wahi-lani, were the parents of Kahiko, the father of Wākea (Ātea).

A great chief, whose name was Hawaii-loa, or Ke Kowa-i-Hawai'i, sailing east towards Iao (Jupiter, when morning star), first discovered Hawai'i, and then returned to fetch his wife and family, which having succeeded in doing, his progeny peopled the Sandwich Islands. The Hawaiian, like the New Zealand navigators, seem to have been able to go to and from Hawaiki when they pleased. As the Marquesans claim descent from one of the twelve sons of Toho, so the Hawaiians are descended, according to the legend of Kumu-honua, from one of the twelve sons of Kinilau-a-mano, whose father was Menehune, the son of Lua-nu'u.

Marquesas — The Marquesans are the only ones who have kept the record of a national name. This they say is "Te Take." They claim that the god Tāne, one of the twelve sons of Toho, was their original ancestor. His home was in Take-hee-hee, or Ahee-take (Take-herehere, or Ahere-take). They mention seventeen stopping-places, one of which was Vavau, before they reached Ao-maama, "the White World," their present abode. Perhaps this name, like the New Zealand name, Ao-tea, having a similar meaning, is a reference to the land pulled up from the Abyss by Māui.

The Marquesans mention a Tree of Life in their Paradise:

"The tree of life, firm rooted in heaven above
The tree producing in all the heavens
The bright and sprightly sons."

But this, which may be a mystical tree, cannot be referred to in the incantation used at human sacrifices, when there was mention of "the red apples eaten in Vavau," and "the tabued apples of Ātea," as being the cause of all evil and misfortune. "From Vavau to Havaii" is the earthly boundary. Havaiki, in the Marquesas, is "below," a world of death and fire. Thither went Māui to get the gift of fire for man from the fire-goddess; and the name is used in modem times as an equivalent to "Hell." Havaii is spoken of in the Marquesan legend of the Deluge as the first land appearing after the Flood: Great mountain ridges, ridges of Havaii.

Mangareva, and the Gambler Islands — Here Avaiki has taken to itself almost entirely the spiritual character. It signifies (1) an abyss; (2) Hell; (3) antipodes; and (4) the name of a place mentioned in ancient song, and now conjectured to mean Hawaii in the Sandwich Islands. It is also called Havahiki, a word which (recognizing the full value of Polynesian phonetics) may be the really original and perfect form: Ki te nuku ke, ki Raro, i Havahiki, "To the other world, the Under(-world), Havahiki."

Mangaia, and the Hervey Islands — Avaiki has here lost all apparent geographical value. It is entirely the Spirit-world, the Underworld, where the sun goes to rest at night, and whither the souls of the dead depart. [As an entirely mythical place, it is more fully described under Te Kore.] In Avaiki, the great pua tree stands beside the lake Vai-roto-Ariki, "the Royal Freshwater Lake." On this tree the spirits of those who die are received; thence they fall into the fatal net of Akanga, and then pass into the fire of Miru; that is, the souls of the mean and cowardly so fall. In Aitutaki, the heaven of souls is called Iva. There the spirits (of those who have been buried with proper funeral offerings) lie evermore at ease, chewing sugar-cane, etc.

Tonga — We have no record of Hawaiki, either as a supernatural or historical locality, among the Friendly Islanders. A place called Pulotu receives the souls of the Tongan chiefs; and it was from this place, an island lying to the north-westward, that their ancestors came, they being two brothers, who, with their wives and attendants, left Pulotu by order of the god Tangaloa. This ancestral home is the dwelling of the gods. In it stands the talking tree Akaulea, near the Water of Life, the Vaiola. As only the nobles have souls, they alone pass to Pulotu, to what has been aptly called "a Paradise of the Peerage." The petty chiefs, the Matabule go to Pulotu as servants of the chiefs; the common people, or Tua, cease to exist with the death of the body.



  • Tregear, Edward. (1891). Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Wellington: Government Printer, pp. 56-58.

This article incorporates text from Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary (1891) by Edward Tregear, which is in the public domain.