|The Māori mythological legend of creation begins with the loving bond of two parents - Ranginui and Papatuanuku, known commonly as Rangi and Papa.|
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In the beginning Rangi (sky father) and Papa (earth mother) lay entwined together in a warm-hearted embrace. Together they had many sons, who they loved dearly and doted on. But the children came to collectively yearn for more space and light in the dark, cramped world living between the tight clasp of their parents.
Tūmatauenga, the eldest and fiercest son, cruelly suggested that together they should plot to get rid of their parents. But son Tāne, god of the forests and birds convinced the brotherhood that, rather than harm their loving parents, it would be far better to simply push them apart. Rangi would become a stranger in the sky, while the nurturing Papa would remain on earth to look after them.
Son Rongo, the god of cultivated food, began the desperate quest to push their parents apart. Rangi and Papa refused to budge. Tangaroa, god of the sea then tried and his sibling, the god of wild food, Haumia-tiketike, joined him. Their powerful arms pumped and strained but to no avail.
Tāne, joined forces with his brothers. But instead of standing upright and pushing with his hands as his brothers were, he lay on his back to stretch and extend his strong, sturdy legs to the sky. Finally, through the son’s combined strength - and with great cries of surprise and grief - Rangi and Papa’s affectionate bond was forcefully pried apart.
The sons were pleased. At last bright, warm sunshine bathed the earth, lush forests grew and animals flourished. But they could see the separation had caused Rangi and Papa painful sorrow. They turned Papa face down toward the earth so neither sky father or earth mother had to see the sadness in each others their eyes. Son, Tāne, took it upon himself to search for handsome, heavenly lights to cloak his father, and finding the stars, the moon and the sun he threw them skyward.
At the time that Papa was turned, their youngest son Rūaumoko, god of earthquakes was at his mother’s breast. He was carried to the underworld, with his movements below the earth thought to cause the tremor of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Another variation has Rūaumoko yet to be born. It is his twists, turns and attempts to escape from inside Papa’s womb that causes the earths rumblings.
Rūaumoko is believed to be responsible for the change in the seasons too. Depending on the time of year, his movements cause the variations in temperature as he releases warm or cool air into the atmosphere and over the surface of Papa.
To this day Ranginui and Papatuanuku grieve for each other. Rangi sheds great tears of drenching rain, showering Papa with his love. Papa sometimes responds with heaves and strains that nearly break her apart to reach her beloved Rangi. Or other times slowly sighs a cloudy mist to rise up from the forest as she longs for Rangi.
As a side note, when new designs for the New Zealand flag were called for, many designers chose to use panels of red and blue to represent Rangi and Papa in a symbolic way.
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