Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": IO AND THE MAORI COSMOGONY



lo (Iho), the Supreme Being of the Maori of New Zealand, is regarded as eternal, omniscient, and the creator of the universe, of the gods, and of man. As will be seen from the following text, the cosmogonic myth constitutes, for the Maori, a paradigmatic model for every kind of
'creation': the procreation of a child, the inspiration of a poet, and the like. (Cf. M. Eliade, 'Myth and Reality' [New York: Harper & Row,1963, PP- 30 ff)

lo dwelt within the breathing-space of immensity.
The Universe was in darkness, with water everywhere.
There was no glimmer of dawn, no clearness, no light.
And he began by saying these words,-
That He might cease remaining inactive -
'Darkness become a light-possessing darkness.'
And at once light appeared.
(He) then repeated those self-same words in this manner.
That He might cease remaining inactive:
'Light, become a darkness-possessing light.'
And again an intense darkness supervened.
Then a third time He spake saying:
'Let there be one darkness above,
Let there be one darkness below.
..........................................
Let there be one light above,
Let there be one light below,
..........................................
A dominion of light,
A bright light.'
And now a great light prevailed.
(lo) then looked to the waters which compassed him about,
and spoke a fourth time, saying:
'Ye waters of Tai-kama, be ye separate.
Heaven, be formed.' Then the sky became suspended.
'Bring forth thou Tupua-horo-nuku.'
And at once the moving earth lay stretched abroad.


Those words (of Io) (the supreme god) became impressed on the minds of our ancestors, and by them were they transmitted down through generations, our priest joyously referred to them as being:

The ancient and original sayings.
The ancient and original words.
The ancient and original cosmological wisdom (wananga).
Which caused growth from the void,
The limitless space-filling void,
As witness the tidal-waters,
The evolved heaven,
The birth-given evolved earth.




And now, my friends, there are three very important applications of those original sayings, as used in our sacred rituals. The first occurs in the ritual for planting a child in the barren womb.

The next occurs in the ritual for enlightening both the mind and body. The third and last occurs in the ritual on the solemn subject of death, and of war, of baptism, of genealogical recitals and such like important subjects, as the priests most particularly concerned themselves in.

The words by which Io fashioned the Universe- that is to say, by which it was implanted and caused to produce a world of light-the same words are used in the ritual for implanting a child in a barren womb. The words by which Io caused light to shine in the darkness are used in the rituals for cheering a gloomy and despondent heart, the feeble aged, the decrepit; for shedding light into secret places and matters, for inspiration in song-composing, and in many other affairs, affecting man to despair in times of adverse war. For all such the ritual to enlighten and cheer includes the words (used by Io) to overcome and dispel darkness. Thirdly, there is the preparatory ritual which treats of successive formations within the universe, and the genealogical history of man himself.


Hare Hongi, 'A Maori Cosmogony,' Journal of the Polynesian Society, XVI (1907), PP. 113-114

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