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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Māori Mythology, Taniwha Of The Deep

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

The Scottish have the Loch Ness Monster. The people of Vermont have their Memphré. The Welsh have the Afanc. The Japanese have the Amabie (アマビエ). The Indians have the Makara. And the Māori of New Zealand also believe there is something more to fear than sharks and jellyfish.

The taniwha are supernatural creatures that can take the shape of giant lizards, sea creatures, sharks, whales, octopus, or monsters that lived in deep waters (both fresh water and salt water, sometimes with wings or with changing shapes. They exist in the ocean, rivers, lakes, caves, or the Cook Strait. Some taniwha would eat people or kidnap women. In contrast, others were believed to be guardians for a tribe or ships at sea.

Kupe was the mythological navigator who is reputed to have discovered New Zealand while travelling in the Matawhaorua canoe. He placed one of his guardian taniwha, Tuhirangi, in the Cook Strait. Tuhirangi guided and protected canoes and reappeared in the form of a dolphin named Pelorus Jack, which accompanied ships between 1888 and 1912.

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