The self-existent and eternal supreme being: Ko te tino Atua ko Io, nana i hanga te whenua me te rangi.1 He is the beneficent originator of all things. He created the universe, light and darkness, the gods and mankind. Io's cult was that primarily of the priests and higher classes, not the public, and his name was very tapu. No image of Io could be fashioned, and no offerings were made to him. His numerous descriptive names all begin with Io-: Io-te-wananga, the omniscient; Io-matanui, the all-seeing; Io-mata-kana, the Vigilant, etc.

Io begat Io-rangi, who begat Tawhito-te-raki, etc.2 In the Moriori genealogy, Tiki begat Uru, Uru begat Ngangana, Ngangana begat Io, Io begat Io-rangi, who begat Tawhito-te-raki, etc.3

The twelve names of Io are, according to a member of the Kahungunu tribe:4

  1. Io-nui — Great Io.
  2. Io-roa — These names signify that Io is the eternal, unchanging, permanent deity.
  3. Io-taketake — These names signify that Io is the eternal, unchanging, permanent deity.
  4. Io-te-wananga — Signifies that Io is the source of all sacred and occult knowledge.
  5. Io-matua — Io the Parent. He is viewed as the parent or origin of all things, albeit he begat no being.
  6. Io-matua-te-kore — Io the Parentless. Signifies that he was not born of parents.
  7. Io-mata-ngaro — Io of the Hidden Face. He cannot be looked upon; no eye may behold him.
  8. Io-mataaho — Signifies that he can only be seen as the radiations of light are seen. No being may look upon him directly.
  9. Io-te-waiora — Signifies that Io is the source of all welfare, all life.
  10. Io-tikitiki-o-rangi — He is the supreme one of the heavens, and above all.
  11. Io-matakana — He is Io the Vigilant. A righteous cause must be theirs who would gain his ear.
  12. Io-te-kore-te-whiwhia — He is Io the Withholder, and so prevents man gaining all his desires.

The abode of Io is at Rangiatea, a place situated at that part of the uppermost heaven known as Te Rauroha. At that place the highly tapu and mana possessing stones, termed whatu kurawere, were kept. These stones, which were in charge of the attendants of Io, the Whatukura, were deposited on the ahurewa, or altar, of that place.

Modern research shows that Io is most likely an attempt of two priests, Te Matorohango and Nepia Pohuhu to reconcile ancient tradition with Christian theology (ca. 1870).



  1. White, John. (1887). Ancient History of the Maori. 6 vols. Wellington: G. Didsbury, Government Printer, p. 2:4.
  2. ibid., p. 1:32.
  3. Tregear, Edward. (1891). Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Wellington: Government Printer, p. 106.
  4. Best 1924, pp. 87-88.


  • Andersen, Johannes C. (1928). Myths and Legends of the Polynesians. London: George G. Harrap, pp. 347-350, 353.
  • Best, Elsdon. (1924). The Maori. Wellington: Harry H. Tombs, pp. 88, 89, 90, 235.
  • Hare Hongi. (1907). "A Maori Cosmogony." Journal of the Polynesian Society 16:109-119, p. 109.
  • Poignant, Roslyn. (1967). Oceanic Mythology. London: Hamlyn, pp. 40-41.