Tāne Mahuta: separator of heaven and earth

The Māori story of creation goes back to Ranginui 'Sky Father" and Papatuanuku 'Earth Mother'.

From Te Kore (the great void where nothing existed) and Te Pō (the perpetual night of darkness) comes the Māori story of creation.

In this darkness, imprisoned between their parents who were locked in a never-ending embrace, lived the children of the gods - Ranginui 'Sky Father' and Papatuanuku 'Earth Mother'.

The love between Ranginui and Papatuanuku was so immense that they could not bear to be apart. Yet, by clinging to each other, the parents were also keeping their six children from the light.

That was until one day when, as Ranginui stirred, a single beam of light shone from Papatuanuku's armpit onto her children.

Amazed by this radiance, the children yearned to free themselves and enter the world of light.

So the children began to work on breaking the embrace that had kept their universe dark for so long. But their parents' love was strong and their efforts were fruitless.

Then the mighty Tāne Mahuta (god of the forest) lay on his back and dug his shoulders deep into his mother's body. With his legs, Tāne pushed against his father and, with all the strength he could summon, attempted to let light into the world.

Ignoring his mother's cries to stop, Tāne pushed even harder and the bond between his parents began to tear. Drawing on his very last reserves, Tāne fully extended his powerful legs, forcing Ranginui to the heavens and flooding the world with bright light.

Today, when Ranginui's tears fall from the sky as rain onto his beloved Papatuanuku, it is a reminder of his grief and longing for her. Papatuanuku's pain is visible in the red ochre clays of the earth, still stained by the blood drawn during the separation.

Background: Tāne Mahuta - lord of the forest

The greatest legacy of this legend is the mighty 'lord of the forest' Tāne Mahuta standing victorious in Waipoua forest, with his shoulders still pushed hard against his 'mother earth' and his feet stretched high towards the heavens of his 'sky father'.

Tāne Mahuta, one of the oldest and largest trees in the world at 51m high and with a girth of 13.8 metres, stands in the great Waipoua kauri forest that is home to 75% of New Zealand's mighty kauri trees.

Waipoua forest is in the Hokianga region on Northland's west coast. Tāne Mahuta is a short walk from the Waipoua forest carpark on State Highway 12.

Local tourism operator Footprints Waipoua offers guided evening tours interpreting the forest and Māori legends under cover of darkness.