The Maori Life

By Edward Tipton and Carlos Rodriguez

Maori Culture and Traditions

The Maori have a close kinship with their environment. The basis of the Maori culture lies in its Polynesian belief of a divine direction in all matters. In the beginning a host of gods such as Tane Mahuta (God of the Forest) and Tangaroa (God of the Sea), and four others who are wind, wild food, planted food, and mankind, were born to Rangi (the Sky Father) and Papa (the Earth Mother).

It was believed that certain people and objects contain mana which is, spiritual power or essence. In early times, members of a lower class could not touch any of the belongings of a highborn person without the risk of death

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Maori religion and Gods

The Maori people were polytheistic, believing that there are different gods that serve for different purposes. All of these gods and the myths behind them are strongly influenced by the surrounding nature and sea. There are many gods including Ranginui, the Sky Father, and Papatūānuhu, Mother Earth, who are the primary parents of the gods, the earth, and life generally.

In the beginning, Ranginui and Papatūānuhu were stuck together with absolutely nothing between them but total darkness. Eventually they had children together and their offspring gods were born trapped in the total darkness. The children couldn't see so Tane Mahuta (the forest god) plotted on how to separate their parents to bring about night and day as an alternative to killing their parents like Tumatauenga (the war god) suggested, and so Tane was able to thrust his parents apart. Desperately missing his wife, Ranginui wept the seas into existence. From that point onward, the land and skies were forever separated by day and night, and the seas were a new domain.

The gods were then able to separate into their realms and they bickered and fought each other from time to time. Other legends formed and stories emerged to explain the unexplainable, entertain the common man, and to enforce rituals and rules.

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Maori War

Before every war, the warriors would perform a war dance called Haka. The Haka is a type of ancient Maori war dance traditionally used on the battlefield, as well as when groups came together in peace. These actions include violent foot stamping, tongue protrusions and rhythmic body slapping to accompany a loud chant. The words of a Haka often poetically describe ancestors and events in the tribe’s history.

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