In Māori mythology
Maori mythology
Māori mythology and Māori traditions are the two major categories into which the legends of the Māori of New Zealand may usefully be divided...

, Tangaroa (also Takaroa) is one of the great god
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

s, the god of the sea
A sea generally refers to a large body of salt water, but the term is used in other contexts as well. Most commonly, it means a large expanse of saline water connected with an ocean, and is commonly used as a synonym for ocean...

. He is a son of Ranginui and Papatuanuku, Sky
The sky is the part of the atmosphere or outer space visible from the surface of any astronomical object. It is difficult to define precisely for several reasons. During daylight, the sky of Earth has the appearance of a pale blue surface because the air scatters the sunlight. The sky is sometimes...

 and Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

. After he joins his brothers Rongo
In Māori mythology, Rongo is a major god, the god of cultivated food, especially the kūmara, a vital food crop. Other food crops cultivated by Māori in traditional times include taro, yams , cordyline , and gourds . Because of their tropical origin, most of these crops were difficult to grow except...

, Tūmatauenga
In Māori mythology, Tū or Tūmatauenga is one of the great gods, and the origin of war. All war-parties were dedicated to him, and he was treated with the greatest respect and awe. He is usually a son of the primordial parent, sky and earth...

, Haumia, and Tane
In Māori mythology, Tāne is the god of forests and of birds, and the son of Ranginui and Papatuanuku, the sky father and the earth mother, who lie in a tight embrace...

 in the forcible separation of their parents, he is attacked by his brother Tawhirimatea
In Māori mythology, Tāwhirimātea is the god of weather, including thunder and lightning, wind, clouds and storms. He is a son of Papatūānuku and Ranginui...

, the god of storms, and forced to hide in the sea. Tangaroa is the father of many sea creatures. Tangaroa's son, Punga
Punga (mythology)
In Māori mythology, Punga is a supernatural being, the ancestor of sharks, lizards, rays, and all deformed, ugly things. All ugly and strange animals are Punga's children. Hence the saying Te aitanga a Punga used to describe an ugly person...

, has two children, Ikatere
In Māori & Polynesian mythology, Ika-tere or Ikatere is a fish god, the father of all the sea creatures including mermaids. He is a son of Punga and his brother is Tū-te-wehiwehi....

, the ancestor of fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

, and Tu-te-wehiwehi
In Māori mythology, Tū-te-wehiwehi is the father of all reptiles. He is a son of Punga and brother of Ikatere....

 (or Tu-te-wanawana), the ancestor of reptiles. Terrified by Tawhirimatea’s onslaught, the fish seek shelter in the sea, and the reptiles in the forests. Ever since, Tangaroa has held a grudge with Tāne, the god of forests, because he offers refuge to his runaway children (Grey 1971:1–5).

The contention between Tangaroa and Tāne, the father of birds, tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

s, and humans, is an indication that the Māori thought of the ocean and the land as opposed realms. When people go out to sea to fish or to travel, they are in effect representatives of Tāne entering the realm of Tāne's enemy. For this reason, it was important that offerings were made to Tangaroa before any such expedition (Orbell 1998:146-147).

Another version of the origin of Tangaroa maintains that he is the son of Temoretu, and that Papa is his wife. Papa commits adultery with Rangi while Tangaroa is away, and in the resulting battle Tangaroa’s spear pierces Rangi through both his thighs. Papa then marries Rangi (White 1887–1891, I:22-23).

In another legend, Tangaroa marries Te Anu-matao (chilling cold). They are the parents of the gods ‘of the fish class’, including Te Whata-uira-a-Tangawa, Te Whatukura, Poutini, and Te Pounamu (Shortland 1882:17). In some versions, Tangaroa has a son, Tinirau
In Polynesian mythology, stories about Tinirau are found throughout the islands of Polynesia. He is a guardian of fish. Many themes recur in the various versions...

, and nine daughters (1891:463). As Tangaroa-whakamau-tai he exercises control over the tide
Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the moon and the sun and the rotation of the Earth....


In the South Island
South Island
The South Island is the larger of the two major islands of New Zealand, the other being the more populous North Island. It is bordered to the north by Cook Strait, to the west by the Tasman Sea, to the south and east by the Pacific Ocean...

, his name can take the form Takaroa.

Elsewhere in the Pacific

Tagaloa is one of the oldest Polynesian deities and in western Polynesia
Polynesia is a subregion of Oceania, made up of over 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people who inhabit the islands of Polynesia are termed Polynesians and they share many similar traits including language, culture and beliefs...

 (for example, Samoa and Tonga) traditions has the status of supreme creator god. In eastern Polynesian cultures Tangaroa is usually considered of equal status to Tāne and thus not supreme.
  • In Samoa
    Samoa , officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and one of the biggest islands in...

    n mythology
    The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

    , Tagaloa
    In Samoan mythology, Tagaloa is generally accepted as the supreme ruler, the creator of the universe, the chief of all gods and the progenitor of other gods and humans. Tagaloa dwelt in space and made the Heavens , the sky, the land, the seas, the fresh water, the trees and the people...

    is the father of Losi
    Losi (mythology)
    In the traditions of Samoa, Losi was a giant and a son of Tagaloa, who instructed him to go and catch fish for the gods. Losi obeyed, but played a trick on the gods by laying a fish at the door of each of them, causing them to slip and fall. Losi then stole a slip of taro plant and smuggled it...

     and Fue
    Fue is the Japanese word for flute, and refers to a class of flutes native to Japan.Fue or FUE may also refer to:*The French University in Egypt*The Future University in Egypt*Follicular unit extraction, a technique of harvesting hair...

  • In Rarotonga
    Rarotonga is the most populous island of the Cook Islands, with a population of 14,153 , out of the country's total population of 19,569.The Cook Islands' Parliament buildings and international airport are on Rarotonga...

     (Cook Islands), Tangaroa was the god of the sea and fertility. He was the most important of all the departmental gods. Cult figures made from wood carvings
    Cook Islands art
    Wood carving is a common art form in the Cook Islands. Sculpture in stone is much rarer although there are some excellent carvings in basalt by Mike Taveoni. The proximity of islands in the southern group helped produce a homogeneous style of carving but which had special developments in each island...

     were very popular in pre-christian times and are still popular on the island today.
  • In Mangaia
    Mangaia is the most southerly of the Cook Islands and the second largest, after Rarotonga.-Geography:...

     (Cook Islands), Tangaroa is a child of Vatea (daylight) and Papa (foundation) and the younger twin brother of Rongo. Rongo and Tangaroa share food and fish: Tangaroa's share is everything that is red (the red taro
    Taro is a common name for the corms and tubers of several plants in the family Araceae . Of these, Colocasia esculenta is the most widely cultivated, and is the subject of this article. More specifically, this article describes the 'dasheen' form of taro; another variety is called eddoe.Taro is...

    , red fish and so on). Tangaroa is said to have yellow hair
    Blond or blonde or fair-hair is a hair color characterized by low levels of the dark pigment eumelanin. The resultant visible hue depends on various factors, but always has some sort of yellowish color...

     and when Mangaians first saw Europe
    Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

    ans they thought they must be Tangaroa's children (Gill 1876:13, Tregear 1891:464).
  • In Manihiki
    Manihiki is an island in the Cook Islands known as the Island of Pearls. It is a triangular atoll north of Rarotonga.- History :Polynesians are believed to have lived on Manihiki since at least 900 or 1000 AD. Kupe was the first to explore Aotea Roa. Kupe came from Manihiki, also known as...

     (Cook Islands), Tangaroa is the origin of fire. Māui
    Maui (mythology)
    Māui is the great hero of Polynesian mythology. Stories about his exploits are told in nearly every Polynesian land. Maui in most cases is regarded as a demi-god, or as fully divine; in some places, he is regarded as merely human ....

     goes to him to obtain fire for humankind. Advised to reach Tangaroa's abode by taking the common path, he takes the forbidden path of death infuriating Tangaroa who tries to kick him to death. Māui manages to prevent that and insists that Tangaroa give him fire. Māui kills Tangaroa. When his parents are horrified, Māui uses incantations to bring him back to life (Tregear 1891:463-464).
  • In Hawaii
    Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

    , Kanaloa
    In the traditions of ancient Hawaii, Kanaloa is symbolized by the squid or by the octopus, and is typically associated with Kāne. It is also the name of an extinct volcano in Hawaii. In legends and chants Kāne and Kanaloa are portrayed as complementary powers...

    is associated with the squid
    Squid are cephalopods of the order Teuthida, which comprises around 300 species. Like all other cephalopods, squid have a distinct head, bilateral symmetry, a mantle, and arms. Squid, like cuttlefish, have eight arms arranged in pairs and two, usually longer, tentacles...

     or hee.
  • In Tahiti
    Tahiti is the largest island in the Windward group of French Polynesia, located in the archipelago of the Society Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean. It is the economic, cultural and political centre of French Polynesia. The island was formed from volcanic activity and is high and mountainous...

    , by the goddess Hina-Tu-A-Uta, Ta'aroa
    Ta'aroa is the supreme creator god in the mythology of French Polynesia. While the use of the 'eta is appropriate given the pronunciation of his name, as is typically the case with Tahitian words it is often omitted in practice.-The Myth:...

    is the father of 'Oro
    Oro is a god of the Polynesian pantheon. The veneration of Oro, although practiced in varying intensity among the islands, was a major cult of the Society Islands in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially Tahiti and Raiatea. On Tahiti 'Oro was the main deity and the god of war. The secret society...

  • In the Marquesas Islands
    Marquesas Islands
    The Marquesas Islands enana and Te Fenua `Enata , both meaning "The Land of Men") are a group of volcanic islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the southern Pacific Ocean. The Marquesas are located at 9° 00S, 139° 30W...

    , the equivalent deities are Tana'oa or Taka'oa.
  • In Tonga
    Tonga, officially the Kingdom of Tonga , is a state and an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, comprising 176 islands scattered over of ocean in the South Pacific...

    , the Tangaloa
    Tangaloa (Tongan mythology)
    Tangaloa was an important family of gods in Tongan mythology. The first Tangaloa was the cousin of Havea Hikuleo and Maui, or in some sources the brother or son or father of them. He was Tangaloa Eiki Tangaloa was an important family of gods in Tongan mythology. The first Tangaloa was the cousin of...

    family of gods resided in the sky and were the ancestors of the Tui Tonga
    Tu'i Tonga
    The Tui Tonga is a line of Tongan kings, which originated in the 10th century with the mythical Ahoeitu; withdrew from political power in the 15th century by yielding to the Tui Haatakalaua; and died out with Laufilitonga in 1865...

  • In Rennell and Bellona Islands (Polynesian cultures in the southern Solomon Islands) Tangagoa is a sea god which stayed on the coastal cliff of east Rennell known as Toho, and flew in the night with a flame in the sky. Tangagoa was believed to take spirits of the dead, so when someone was near death, the sparkling fire would be seen at night. Some can still recall the time when this god appeared in the night as a flame in the sky, and have many tales of it. Tangagoa started to disappear in the 1970s and early 1980s when Christian missionaries visited the cliff and cast him out.
  • In Raiatea a legend reported by Professor Friedrich Ratzel
    Friedrich Ratzel
    Friedrich Ratzel was a German geographer and ethnographer, notable for first using the term Lebensraum in the sense that the National Socialists later would.-Life:...

    in 1896 gave a picture of his all-pervading power.

External links

  • Tangaroa in Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand
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