Rangi and Papan

In Polynesian mythology, Rangi (Father Sky) and Papa (Mother Earth) were the two supreme creator deities. They were the source from which all things in the universe originated, including other gods, humans, and the various creatures and features of the earth. Rangi and Papa played an especially important role in the mythology of the Maori people of New Zealand.

deity god or goddess

According to Maori mythology, Rangi and Papa were created from two primal beings—Te Po (night) and Te Kore (emptiness)—who existed in a darkness of chaos before the creation of the universe. From the beginning, Rangi and Papa were locked together in a tight and continuing embrace. Into the darkness between their bodies sprang many offspring, including numerous gods.

Trapped between the bodies of their parents, the deities had little space to move around and no light to see. Weary of this situation, the offspring discussed how they could escape the confines of their existence. Tu, the god of war, suggested that they kill Rangi and Papa, but Tane, the god of the forests, had a different solution. Tane suggested that they make space for themselves by separating their parents. The other gods agreed with this plan except for the wind god Tawhiri, who roared his disapproval.

Several of the gods attempted to separate Rangi and Papa. The first to try was Rongo, the god of cultivated plants. Although he pushed with all his might, he was unable to separate the couple. Next to try was Tangaroa, the god of the sea. He also failed, as did Haumia, the god of wild plants and vegetables, and Tu, the war god. Finally, it was time for Tane to try. The god of the forests placed his head on his mother Papa, raised his feet in the air, and pushed upward against his father Rangi. Using all his might, Tane finally separated Rangi and Papa, pushing Rangi up into the sky and pressing Papa to the earth.

With Rangi and Papa separated, the space between them became flooded with light. The various deities, humans, and other offspring who had been trapped there scattered into the world. Freed at last, the children of Rangi and Papa began to quarrel among themselves, especially Tane and the sea god Tangaroa. Polynesians believe that the conflicts between the gods cause such things as the growth of weeds in fields, the differences between humans and animals, and the storms that threaten boats at sea.

Heartbroken at being separated from his beloved Papa, Rangi cried. His tears rained down upon the earth from the sky, causing great flooding. At the same time, the wind god Tawhiri showed his anger with his brothers by sending storms and winds to batter the earth, causing great destruction to the forests, seas, and fields. Only the war god Tu could resist his brother, but their struggle flooded the earth, leaving only the islands of Polynesia.

primal earliest; existing before other things

chaos great disorder or confusion

Over time the offspring of Rangi and Papa multiplied and filled the earth with life. But Rangi still cries from time to time when he misses Papa, and his tears fall as rain or as drops of morning dew.

See also Creation Stories ; Polynesian Mythology .

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