Category Archives: Maori

Cape Reinga – where the spirits depart for the homeland

Kupe, the earliest known voyager from Hawaiiki, the homeland of the Maori people, named Cape Reinga Te Rerenga Wairua, the path of the spirits. After the death of a Maori person, the spirit leaves from Cape Reinga, the northern most point of New Zealand. As it reaches the Three Kings Islands, the spirit turns to wave a final farewell and returns to distant Hawaiiki.

Daniel, our driver, instilled in us a respect for the deeply spiritual nature of the area. He made it clear that no food or drink was to be taken beyond the carpark and all rubbish was to be brought back to the coach. To discourage picnicking, there are no rubbish bins. There is something special about a spot like this – a dynamic vista, beautiful plantings, immaculate pathways, tourists galore – and not a pay and display machine, ice-cream vendor, coffee van or merchandise shop in sight. The magnificence of the place was all we needed.

When you look out from Cape Reinga, you can see the waves coming from two opposing directions – from the Tasman Sea on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. Sometimes, there is a distinct line where the two oceans meet.

A blustery walk from the bus to the lighthouse.

A blustery walk from the bus to the lighthouse.

Iggy looks out from the Cape Reinga lighthouse.

Iggy looks out from the Cape Reinga lighthouse.

Iggy took a photo similar to this one at Bluff, the southernmost point of the South Island. So here I am at the northernmost point of the North Island.

Iggy took a photo similar to this one at Bluff, the southernmost point of the South Island. So here I am at the northernmost point of the North Island.




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Pohutukawa – the New Zealand Christmas tree

Rotoroa Pohutukawa

pohutukawa on beach Rotoroa+

Every year the pohutukawa shines out along our coastline right on time to celebrate Christmas. The pohutukawa at Maimai Bay, Rotoroa Island, was thick with blossom. The ancient tree clung tenaciously to the soil, its weary limbs resting on the sand below.

Maori legend has it that a young warrior, Tawhaki, tried to find heaven with the hope of avenging the death of his father. He fell back to earth. The pohutukawa flowers represent his blood.

An especially significant pohutukawa tree grows at the tip of the North Island where Maori believe the spirits of the dead depart from the land.

My childhood memories of pohutukawa centre on playing on the North Shore’s Thornes Bay beach in the 1950s and reading Avis Acre’s stories of Hutu and Kawa, the pohutukawa fairies. This image from one of the Hutu and Kawa books was downloaded from the internet.

An illustration from a Hutu and Kawa book.

An illustration from a Hutu and Kawa book.

More recently, I have enjoyed Rod Slater’s sculpture in Auckland where the Southern and North Western Motorways converge at Nelson Street. The sculpture has 105 fibre glass wands as stamens, each five metres long. This image was also downloaded from the internet.


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Hatupatu’s Rock

Every time we drive to Taupo, Iggy says “There’s Hatupatu’s rock.” So this time we stopped to take a photo of it and I looked up the Maori legend on the internet.

Hatupatu must have been quite slight to have concealed himself in here.

Here is a carving of the Hatupatu legend. It was done by Iggy’s godmother as a gift to him. Can you identify the different characters from the story below?

The Legend of Hatupatu and the Birdwoman

A summarized version of the Maori legend as it is told on the National Library of New Zealand website.

Hatupatu was hunting for birds in the forest one day. He met a woman who was spearing birds for herself. The woman had wings on her arms, and claws instead of fingers. Her lips were long and hard and pointed, like a bird’s beak, and she was using them as a spear.

Just as the woman speared a bird with her lips, Hatupatu threw his spear at the bird. The spear  stuck in the woman’s lips instead. Terrified, Hatupatu ran away, but the bird-woman soon caught him. As she had wings she could travel faster than Hatupatu.

Then the woman, whose name was Kurangaituku, took Hatupatu home to her cave, and kept him prisoner there. Kurangiatuku gave Hatupatu only raw birds to eat. He pretended to eat them, but hid them instead. When Kurangaituku left each day at dawn to spear birds, Hatupatu stayed back and roasted the birds. He also admired all the treasures in the woman’s cave – pet birds, lizards, a taiaha, and piles of precious cloaks made of flax, dogs’ fur or red feathers. Hatupatu wished he could escape and take the treasures with him.

One morning Hatupatu suggested to Kurangaituku that she should travel over a thousand hills to do her hunting. Kurungaituku agreed to this and off she went. When Hatupatu thought that she was far enough away, he began to gather up the treasures. He killed the lizards and all the pet birds except one. That little bird escaped, and flew away to fetch back Kurangaituku. And as the little bird flew along he sang, ‘Kurangaituku, our home is ruined, our things are all destroyed’; he kept singing this and flew on and on.

At last Kurangaituku heard him, and said, ‘By whom is all this done?’

And the little bird answered. ‘By Hatupatu—everything is gone.’

Kurangaituku hurried back to her home. The little bird showed her where Hatupatu had gone, and she ran on, calling out, “Hatupatu, you are not far from me now.”

Hatupatu heard her behind him, and he thought, ‘I’m done for now.’ So he repeated a magic charm he knew; ‘O rock, open for me, open.’

Then the rock opened, and he hid inside it.

Kurangaituku came running past the rock, but she could not see him, and she ran on, still calling out, “Hatupatu, you are not far from me now.”

After her voice had died away in the distance, Hatupatu came out of the rock and ran on again. When he came to Rotorua, Kurangaituku saw him once more and pursued him, throwing stones at him as she went. But then Hatupatu came to the boiling springs at Whakarewarewa. He jumped over the springs, but Kurungaituku tried to wade through them, and so she was burnt to death.

Then Hatupatu came to the shores of Lake Rotorua. His home was on Mokoia Island in the middle of the lake. He dived in and swam under the water to the island, and there he was united with his parents, who had thought for a long time that he was dead.