Episode 8 Fact 1: Atua Wahine - Female Maori Gods



Tāne, the son of Papatūānuku, the earth mother and Ranginui, the sky father was the first of their children to feel the need for a wife and a companion. His mother, Papatūānuku, showed him how to make the female form from the earth then Tāne breathed life into Hineahuone, the earth-formed maiden, and mated with her.  Their child was Hine-ata-uira, the illuminating deity of dawn, also known as Hine-tītama, and they became husband and wife. 

One day while Tāne was away, Hine-ata-uira began to wonder who her father was. When she heard that her husband was also her father, she ran away. When Tāne came back he was told that she had gone to the spirit-world, and he quickly followed but he was stopped from entering by Hine herself, in her new role as Hine Nui Te Pō, goddess of the underworld. "Go back, Tāne", she said to him, "raise our children. Let me remain here to gather them in." So Tāne came back to this world, while Hine stayed below, waiting the endless procession of mortals to her realm.

Hine Nui Te Po  by Paitangi Ostick

Hine Nui Te Po by Paitangi Ostick


Hinemoana was the second wife of Kiwa, one of the male divine guardians of the ocean. Her name literally translates to Ocean Woman and she was the ocean personified. Together, Hinemoana and Kiwa had a number of children. The names and number of these children vary in different accounts however each of them was the ancestor of the creatures of the sea; shellfish, eels, seaweed, octopus and so on.

Others say that Kiwa is the brother of Hinemoana, or her guardian. Some Māori nations have stories in which Hinemoana is married to Ranginui, the god of the sky. This causes jealousy on the part of Papa, the earth mother, another of Rangi's wives. The enmity between Hinemoana and Papa is shown in the way the sea is constantly attacking and eroding the land.

Hinemoana  by Paitangi Ostick


Hine-te-iwaiwa was the wife of Tinirau and and is knows as the spiritual guardian of childbirth, weaving and the cycles of the moon. Some say that it is Hine-te-iwaiwa that assists at the entrance into, and the exits from this world. And in rituals around the tattooing of the lips prior to marriage, the raising of Tapu, and the introduction of weaving.

Hine Pū Kohurangi

The Ngāi Tūhoe nation are descended from Te Maunga (the mountain) and Hine Pū Kohurangi (the mist that surrounds their mountains). They are known as the Children of the Mist and the rising of it each morning from the earth symbolises the greeting of the earth mother to the sky father above.

Hine Pū Kohurangi, the deity of the mist fell in love with Uenuku a mortal and let him know that she was from another realm. Night after night she came to see him and stay with him in his home, only to flee before dawn. Uenuku grew tired of this and one night before she arrived he blocked the light from coming into his home, so as to trick Hine into staying with him longer. In the early hours Hinewai, her sister, called to her to hurry before the light of day could touch her but Uenuku's trick worked and his soothing words encouraged her to stay. Eventually the door was opened, the light flooded in and upon touching her, Hine Pū Kohurangi ascended to the roof of the house and lamented her farewell to this world. Her lament referred to the duplicity of Uenuku, her folly in trusting him and she promised never to return to him. Grief and intense longing led him ever onward in restless seeking. The gods above eventually took pity on him and transported him to the heavens where he became a rainbow.

Hine Pūkohurangi  by Paitangi Ostick

Hine Pūkohurangi by Paitangi Ostick

Ref B.G. Biggs. Maori Myths and Traditions. 1966
Ref Hirini Melbourne: Hine Pū Kohurangi 1998.
Ref Reed. A.W. 1963. Treasury of Māori Folklore
Elsdon Best: Māori, Religion and Mythology


Episode FactsClea Pettit