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Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

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How Hine Popo crossed the Sea of Raukawa

"an old-time legend of Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara".

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This is the story of Hine Popo, an ancestress of the Rangitane, which tribe formerly occupied Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara: -

In those ancient times there were two brothers living in this district, and the name of the elder was Te Hiki-paroa and that of the younger, Manini-pounamu. The younger brother married Hine Popo, who belonged to Rangitoto, an island in the Sea of Raukawa, which you Pakehas call d'Urville. One night, Manini-pounamu with fifty men twice told took to their canoes and sailed away from Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara across Raukawa, until they reached Rangitoto, where they remained.

When Hine Popo awoke in the morning she found the kainga deserted and her husband gone. Then she was overcome with grief and her heart was sad within her. But our ancestress possessed great powers, the powers which emanate from the gods of the Maori. So she prepared to seek her husband, Manini-pounamu, even in that far land whither he had gone. Now all the canoes of the village had been taken by her husband and his people, so that she was compelled to cross that great sea of Raukawa by swimming. (Friend, do not laugh when I speak of these things which happened in those remote times, for they are quite true. You Pakehas do not possess powers such as did the Maori of olden times, therefore you should not laugh at things which you do not understand. It is only thoughtless people who do so.)

So Hine Popo proceeded to perform rites and to repeat the prayers necessary to the occasion. Then she went down to the seashore and standing by the waves of the ocean, she chanted a sacred incantation calling upon the taniwhas of the deep to assist her. And that name of the incantation is Maro.
With the confidence which comes from the possession of great powers, she entered the waves and started on her long and weary way to Rangitoto, a way beset with many dangers and terrors to the Maori. It is said that her dogs swam after her, until they were forced to turn back, and then they returned to land and there howled dismally for their lost mistress. Even now, it is whispered among us that, upon dark or foggy nights, the dogs of Hine Popo can be heard wailing on the seashore, waiting for her return. And so our ancestress swam on and on, far out upon the ocean, until she reached a floating island upon which she rested for some time.

Again taking to the water she swam until she reached Toka-kotuku (a rock in Queen Charlotte Sound) where she again recited incantations to the Hapuku. Swimming on from there, she reached the Papanui-a-Puta (a rock outside Pelorus Sound) where prayers to the taniwhas were repeated. Long and weary grew the way to Hine Popo and it was at such a time as this when the Maori of old prayed that the land might not be drawn out lengthways.

At last she reached the shores of Rangitoto and went up to her father's house where she remained in the porch and wept aloud in her sorrow. Her father called out "Who are you?" but she did not reply. Again he called, "Who are you?" Hine Popo replied, "It is I who was abandoned at Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara." Then her father knew who this strange visitor was and cried out, "Oh, my daughter!" So the parent and child wept together until Hine asked, "Have my people arrived here of late?" The father answered , "They have arrived," and asked "How did you come?" His daughter replied, "I swam here across the great ocean." Then said her father, "Two chiefs and one hundred men have come to this place, and the names of those chiefs are Te Hiki-paroa and Manini-pounamu".

This is the first part of this story of Hine Popo. Hine Popo is sometimes seen by our people, even in these times. When we are on the shore or traversing the cliffs of Raukawa, we see, at times, far out upon the ocean, the form of Hine Popo floating on the waves and her long hair washed by the waters."

Source: Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol 39 (3). This legendary tale was given to the writer by Te Pakauwera, of Ngati-Kuia tribe, of Pelorus.

Korero o te Wa I Raraunga I Rauemi I Te Whanganui a Tara I Whakapapa