Papatūānuku and Ranginui

Every culture has its traditional stories about how to world was created. In New Zealand, we love the Māori creation story of how something came from nothing as the earth and sky were separated (leaving space in between for us to grow!).

In the Māori world view (te Ao Māori), Papatūānuku is mother earth, the land, and Ranginui is the sky father – where it’s said all knowledge comes from. In the myth, Papatūānuku came from under the water before giving birth to all life – trees, birds, and people.

The Māori creation story begins in darkness or the long night (Te Pō). Where Papatūānuku and Ranginui held each other in a hug so tight no light (Te Ao Mārama) could get in.

Their children (tamariki) were born between them, and for a long time, they existed in the dark, cramped space between their parents. The children began to talk of the light (Te Ao Mārama) beyond. The children started to plot how to separate their parents and explore how to get out of the dark, cramped space they lived in.

It was Tāne, the Māori God of the Forest, who separated his parents (mātua). He lay on his back with his legs facing up, and with his great strength, he pushed and pushed until the light came flooding in. Papatūānuku and Ranginui did not want to be separated from their children or each other. It is said when it rains, the drops of water are Ranginui’s tears.

Tāne turned his mother downward so she would not see Ranginui’s sadness and clothed her in trees and plants. Tāne then dressed his father in the sweat of his brow, which would become the stars in the sky.

Did you know?

Did you know that ancestor (tupuna) Māori had over 750 names for wind, 200 names for different types of rain and 300 names for snow? Te reo Māori is the only language that holds ancient environmental science specific to New Zealand. Within it sits knowledge that navigated uncharted oceans, understandings that helped track movements, rhythms, and relationships – no counting or computers needed!