Hupene, the old Tohunga, squats muttering on the floor beside his carved ancestor Tiki.
Tiki is a god who in the dim long ago helped to build the world, and whose carved image is now supporting the middle pillar of the house. His eyes of pawa-shell, which once commanded in the ten Heavens and were full of fire and wisdom, glisten out of the silent twilight; they stare far, far into the darkness, which Hine-nui-te-po is slowly spreading over the world, Hine-nui-te-po, the Great Mother of Night, who at one time was young and beautiful, and gave life to Nature.
“Haere-mai, e te manuhire, Haere-mai” (“Welcome, stranger, welcome”), so speaks the old Tohunga; then, drawing his flax mat around him, he mutters: “Haere-mai”, and, after a long silence again, as if murmuring to himself, “Haere-mai”—but soon his eyes follow those of his ancestor again, gazing into the silence of the slowly descending night, the ancient goddess Hine-nui-te-po, the Great Mother of Rest. Wisdom dwells with the aged, and their muttering is the sign that their wisdom is ripe. Flying from the mouth of the old it becomes mother now and wife to the listening ear.
“Listen, my guest:
When man dies, he returns no more to the place which once knew him. Unlike the Daughter of Heaven, Te marama, the moon, which ever ascends to new life from the Spring of Living Water, man must die: he is devoured by Hine-nui-te-po, the Great Mother of Nature, the first among the gods; and man is her food.
Ha, hear now the story of Tiki, our Father, the Father of man!
When Rangi-nui, the great Heaven, and Papa-tu-a-nuku, the far-stretching earth, were separated from each other, then, my listener, the light shone over Papa-tu-a-nuku, the mother of Tiki, and he was the first man.
Ah, great was his longing for the power to spread himself out over Papa: father of mankind he wanted to be! Far, and far, and far he wandered over Hawaiki, searching and asking, and again and again he wandered forth over all Hawaiki, his heart full of longing.
Ah, my listener, full of longing was his heart.
At last he came to the river at Hawaiki known by the name of Wai-matu-hirangi, and from the depth of his desire he cried aloud: ‘Oh, daughter of Hawaiki, child of the murmuring water, tell me how I may become the father of mankind. Tell me where may I obtain the power and from whom?’
And the river Wai-matu-hirangi answered him and said: ‘Ha, Tiki, son of Heaven and Earth, go and search for the incantations and the powerful Karakias to the gods who have the desires of man in their keeping, and when you have obtained them return to me here, for it is here that the child of man shall be born: out of the murmuring waters at Hawaiki. Go, and search!’
O, listen to Tiki, our father, the father of man.
Ha!—see how he set out on his search. First he journeyed to the gods of Te Po, the Lower World, and then he made his toilsome way through the ten heavens, searching for the sacred incantations and the Karakias, the object of his mighty quest, and at last, high, high in the uppermost heaven, he found them—ah, my listener!
Joy made his journey light and the distance easy, and it was with a gladsome heart that he stood once more by the river in Hawaiki and cried aloud:
‘Oh, Daughter of the Many Faces, I bring with me the Karakias to the powerful gods, the great incantations which will give power and ecstasy to Tiki. See, I bring the incantations for which I went in search.’
Then he knelt down, and, as the gods had commanded him, mixed the sacred red colour with the soft sands of the shore, and formed a figure like unto himself, as he saw his own image reflected in the water. Full of joy, he shaped the body and the limbs, the head and the eyes; and then he commenced to chant the sacred incantation, the first lines of which are as follows:
‘From the children at Hawaiki,
Shake in ecstasies
Oh, shake in ecstasies
Oh, Tiki, the Father,
Tiki, the Seeker,
Ha, shake in ecstasies….’
And so, with the help of the Shimmering Heat and the Echo, the power of multiplying, he gave life to the first woman.
Marikoriko, or Twilight, was the first woman!
Marikoriko, my listener, was not a child of the gods; she was created out of the sands of the shore and the sacred Red; she takes her descent from the Shimmering Heat and from the Echo, and she became the first wife of Tiki, our father.
Many children were born to Tiki and Marikoriko his wife. Their daughter was Hine-kau-ata-ata, the Floating Shadow. And the children of Hine-kau-ata-ata began their lives as clouds, wandering across the sky. They were light, and flew far away till lost to sight in the distance, or they were heavy and did not move and brooded overhead in rain. Then it was that Papa-tu-a-nuku, the Earth, lay under the spell of the first awakening day.
Among the many children of Tiki and Marikoriko were the sons the Power of Speech and the Power of Growth, who took their sisters to wife, and Te-a-io-whaka-tangata, ‘He who became man’, was born, and he was the father of many children—the Maori children of the world.
This is the wisdom of Tiki, our father, and Marikoriko his wife, the parents of man who peoples the earth. The wisdom of Tiki, our father.
Welcome my guest from the far distance, welcome!
You give pleasure to my eyes, and in your ears has sounded the wisdom of Tiki.—Welcome, friends of my guest.
Hine-nui-te-po has swallowed the world again and Rangi looks down upon Papa out of his Eye of Night, the moon, and is slowly unfolding his beautiful garment, which is adorned with the stars—the eyes of the braves who fell in battle.
Fiery looks Maru down upon the women who kindle the cooking-fire; Maru was the god of war in Hawaiki, but he was an evil god, full of anger and wrath, and from him are descended illness and murder. He had many enemies, and at last they killed him, and devoured him; but his spirit flew up to Rangi, there to become the fiery and flashing star.
Rauriki, the oldest among the women who kindle the cooking-fire, murmurs, for she is old, but she is a woman and murmurs no wisdom; she murmurs incantations to the fire that it might listen to Maui, who once brought the fire into the world—to be bright and warm and to cook the food for the hungry and for the guest.
Silent and peaceful is the night. The Great Mother of Nature swallows silently a few old songs and the low-toned voices that sound out of the huts and the whare-puni.
Ngawai, Rauriki’s granddaughter now takes the embers to the whare-puni, and puts them to the feet of Tiki, to warm and light the house, and outside Night is working her grand and lonely wonders, while the old men, squatting around the fire and staring into the flames, narrate of the terrors of Hine-nui-te-po.
Musing and wondering thoughts light up the glow of the fire in the faces, fire flashes out of the pawa-shell eyes of the old ancestor, and patches of light flicker over the group that surrounds the fire, now lighting up the artistic lines of the tattoo in the faces, now again the phantastic carvings on the walls, or suddenly brightening a painted ornament, and covering the rest with impenetrable blackness.
Every line the light reveals, every colour it displays, gives knowledge: each carved image is a part of the history of the people. It is the family history of the group around the fire, their history painted by the god of the fire upon the black garment of night—and with the fire it will die, swallowed by Hine-nui-te-po. And so in the end all will die, the words, and the speaker, and the listener: they all will at last be devoured by Hine-nui-te-po, who has brought forth Rangi and Papa, who has brought forth Tiki, who made Marikoriko his wife.
Out of the womb of Hine-nui-te-po came the world, and to her all must go back—as the fire to the ashes.