Whanui stole tuber kumara (sweet potato) from his brother Rongo-ma-tāne, and brought them to earth where his wife Pani introduced them as food to humans. As the star Vega, his rising signals the time for the harvest. When it moves slowly it is a sign of plentiful crops and an abundance of food. But when it moves swiftly, as if blown by the wind, then the coming season will be one of great scarcity, a lean season (he tau hiroki). When Whanui is seen flashing above the eastern horizon as autumn approaches, it is the sign for taking up of the kumara crop.

Whanui is invoked for abundant food:

"Whanui atua ka eke mai i te rangi e roa e
Whangainga iho ki te mata o te tau e roa e."

The expression mata o te tau denotes the first fruits of the season.

In the Society Islands and the Tuamotus known as Fanoui.



  • Andersen, Johannes C. (1928). Myths and Legends of the Polynesians. London: George G. Harrap, p. 398.
  • Best, Eldson. (1899). "Notes on Maori Mythology." Journal of the Polynesian Society 8:93-121, p. 109.
  • Best, Elsdon. (1924). The Maori. Wellington: Harry H. Tombs, pp. 133, 279.
  • White, John. (1887). Ancient History of the Maori. 6 vols. Wellington: G. Didsbury, Government Printer, pp. 3:98-117.