Oceanic Mythologies: Australian Aborigine and Polynesian

Polynesian Pantheons

Are there Polynesian pantheons?

Not surprisingly, given the vast distances between the islands, various Polynesian cultures and mythologies emerged over the centuries. There are, however, distinctive correlations between these mythologies and, especially, their pantheons. The Maori pantheon is ruled by Rangi (Sky Father) and Papa (Earth Mother). In Hawaii, Ao and Po were the equivalents of Rangi and Papa. In Tahiti the supreme male god, the equivalent of Rangi, was Ta’aroa.

Sea gods were important among the Polynesians. For the Maori, this was Tangaroa, a son of Rangi and Papa. Other Polynesians called him Tangaloa. The Hawaiians knew him as Kanaloa. Tawhiri was the Maori storm god, another son of the original Sky-Earth couple. Tu, or Tumatauenga, was the Maori god of War. Tane was the god of the Forest. In Hawaii he was Kane. In Hawaii one of the most popular deities was Pele, a goddess of volcanoes, capable, as was the Indian Kali, of great violence. The most popular of all Polynesian deities was Maui. More detailed pantheonic family structures become clearer in the stories of creation.

Wooden carving on a storehouse in New Zealand depicts the Maori gods Rangi (Sky Father) and Papa (Earth Mother).


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