Heaven or Sky, the great father of men. Rangi was not the oldest of the gods; the first conception of existence commencing in the Māori mind, with Darkness or Chaos (Pō), being evolved from Negation (Te Kore).
Rangi (Heaven) and Papa (the Earth) lay clinging in a close embrace, so intertwined that the children they had begotten dwelt in darkness in their narrow realm. These children, who afterwards became the great gods of men, resolved to rend their parents apart, and, after taking long counsel together, essayed the task. One only, Tāwhiri-mā-tea, the lord of winds and storms, was grieved at the decision, and refused to join in the forcible divorce of Rangi and Papa.
Rongo-ma-tāne, Tangaroa, Haumia-tikitiki, and Tū-mata-uenga all attempted the "rending apart" in vain; but the mighty Tāne-mahuta, the lord of forests, at length forced Rangi upwards from the breast of his wife, and let in the light of day. Tāwhiri-mā-tea was furiously angry at the result of the violence of his brothers, and drove them far away, forcing Tangaroa, with his offspring Ika-tere, to take refuge in the sea, while the other child of Tangaroa, Tū-te-wanawana, sought safety in the forest.
The Earth-Mother (Papa) hid her sons Rongo-ma-tāne and Haumia-tikitiki in her bosom, and saved them from the wrath of their brother. Tāne-mahuta, with his forests, was broken and subdued; only Tū-mata-uenga, the god of men, stood lofty and unshaken. Tū-mata-uenga then turned his wrath upon his brothers for having forsaken him in the fight, but at last peace fell gradually upon the troubled world. Rangi became content in the sky, only casting down his tears at night (the dew) towards his loving separated wife, whose warm sighs rise up to him for ever.1
This may be called a concise narrative account of the "rending apart," but the priestly and genealogical traditions tell the tale with countless variations, and offer many pedigrees.
Rangi's first wife was Poko-harua-te-pō, whose elder brother was Tangaroa. By her, Rangi begat Tāwhiri-mā-tea, and several powerful but little-known children. His second wife was Hekeheke-i-papa, by her he begat Tama-i-waho and several others who were spirits and remained in the heavens; also Tama-nui-a-rangi, who came to the earth. Next Rangi took Hotu-papa, by whom were brought forth Tū, the god of war, and many others. By Ma-uku-uku and by Tau-whare-kiokio he had progeny of small importance, but by his last wife, Papa-tū-a-nuku, he begat Rehua, Tāne, Rongo, Tū, Rongo-mai, Rua-tapu, Paikea, etc. Papa-tū-a-nuku was properly the wife of Tangaroa, but Rangi and Tangaroa fought for the possession of the female, and on Tangaroa thrusting Rangi through the thighs with his spear and being held victorious, he handed his erring wife over to Rangi.2
Rangi was the son of Mākū or Te Mangu, his mother being Mahora-nui-atea. After Rangi had been wounded by Tangaroa he begat, by Papa, the "generations of the deformed," comprising Tāne-pepeki, Tāne-tuturi, Upoko-nui, Tāne-te-waiora, and others.3
Another version relates that Rangi's first wife was Hine-ahu-papa, his second Papa-tu-a-nuku, and his third Papa. Te Mangu's union with Mahorahora-nui-a-Rangi brought forth four children, the Props of Heaven, viz.: Toko-mua, Toko-roto, Toko-pā, and Rangi-pōtiki (see Toko). From Rangi-pōtiki's wife, Hine-ahu-papa, descended Tū-nuku, Tū-rangi, Tama-i-koropao, and Haronga. Haronga took Tongo-tongo to wife, and begat Rā, the Sun, and Marama, the Moon.4 Rangi (as Rangi-nui-e-Tū) by Te-atu-tahi, begat the Moon, and by Wero-wero, the Sun.5
Rangi as Heaven, less in the sense of a person and more as a locality, is supposed to contain ten divisions or spaces, in opposition to Papa, who contains ten hell-spaces or divisions downwards to the netherworld. The first division of Rangi is called Kiko-rangi, the home of Tāwhiri-mā-tea; the second is, the heaven of rain and sunshine; the third, Ngā-roto, the heaven of lakes; the spray splashing over is the rain of the lower world. Herein reigns Maru. The fourth heaven is the Hau-ora or Te Wai-ora-a-Tāne, the "Living water of Tāne," from this circle the soul of man comes when a child is born. The fifth division is Ngā-tauira, the abode of those who attend the inferior gods who officiate in Naherangi; the sixth, Ngā-atua, the home of the inferior gods, and the dwelling-place of Tāwhaki; the seventh is Autōia, where the soul of man is created, and where spirits of mortals begin to live; the eighth is Aukumea, where time is allowed for spirits to live; the ninth is Wairua, therein dwell the spirit gods who attend on the deities in Naherangi; the tenth or highest heaven is Naherangi or Tūwharea, the Great Temple, where the supreme divinities reside, the heaven of Rehua. Of these heavens, Maru is god of the lower three, Tāwhaki of the next higher three, and Rehua of the upper four.6
The Samoan heavens were also ten in number. In Mangaia, Vātea, Daylight, takes the place of Rangi as father of gods and men. He was the son of Vari-ma-te-takere, who dwells in the lowest depths of Avaiki (Hawaiki), the spirit-world.
In most of the Polynesian islands the personality of Rangi appears to have become lost, and Rangi (as Lai, Lani, Rai, Lagi, etc.) is the abode of gods, the upper sky, etc., the fatherhood and creative power being assigned to divers other mythical personages and deities.
- Grey, Sir George. (1855). Polynesian Mythology. London: John Murray, p. 1:ff.
- White, John. (1887). Ancient History of the Maori. 6 vols. Wellington: G, Disbury, 1:1 ff.
- ibid., 1:33.
- Shortland, Edward. (1882). Maori Religion and Mythology. London: Longmans Green, p. 17.
- White 1887, p. 1:7.
- ibid., p. 1:Appendix.
- Best, Elsdon. (1924). The Maori. Wellington: Harry H. Tombs, p. 86.
- Hongi, Hare. (1920). "The Gods of Maori Worship: Sons of Light." PSJ 29:24-29, p. 25.
- Long, Charles H. (1963). Alpha: The Myths of Creation. New York: George Braziller, p. 41.
- Pettazonni, Raffaele. (1956). The All-Knowing God, trans. H. J. Rose. London: Methuen, pp. 344-345.
- Tregear, Edward. (1891). Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Wellington: Government Printer, pp. 391-392, 544.
This article incorporates text from Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary (1891) by Edward Tregear, which is in the public domain.