Histories of a Nation brings the oral histories and traditions of the Waitaha people which casts light on the culture, scientific and natural wisdom of the early peoples of New Zealand

The Story of The Waka of the Gods

THE OLD TIDES ARE THE ANCIENT TIDES, the waters of Creation. And the Gods made a mighty Waka to sail those sacred oceans, the ones we named Tai Rehua and Tai Rehia. And that wonderful vessel was overwhelmed by the Deluge.

Mokopuna, young one, son of my son, let us travel to the wildest waters and voyage with the Waka of the Gods.

In the days of old the ancestors waited each season for the arrival of the greatest of all Waka. And as it drew near they told their children what they were about to see…

‘Look for the finely carved stern post reaching for the stars. See the proud prow cutting a great wave coloured by rainbows and know the Gods use their wonderful powers to send the Waka swiftly through the waters.

Do not be afraid when shadows fall over the land, that is only the tall sail shutting out the Sun. Remember it has two huge hulls, one is Aotea Mai Rangi and the other Aotea Roa, and magic ropes bind their timbers to ride the turbulent waters of the Old Tides’.

Our ancestors loved the Waka of the Gods that came by year after year. Then it sailed by no more. Season after season they searched for it but it never returned. So they asked their wisest ones to seek it in the mists of the past. Looking deeply into yesterday they saw Mahuru and his wife Hione, the keepers of the Waka, bid it farewell on distant shores. And they saw angry stars gathering close to the Moon to give birth to the Tides of Chaos, the dreaded Deluge. And a terrible tragedy unfolded before them.

Far beyond the veiled horizon, seas began to climb to terrible heights before rolling out to attack all in their path. Dar storm winds shredded the clouds, swept birds from the sky, sucked fish put of the water and smashed them into the sail. Cold hands struggled to lower it before the Waka capsized. Valiant was their strength but sudden winds bent the tall mast and the hull of Aotea Mai Rangi was forced beneath the waves. It surfaced but wallowed deep within. Then winds gained new strength from the gathered starts to push the Waka relentlessly across the wild waters.

Suddenly, agony pierced the hull of Aotea Mai Rangi. Timbers shattered as jagged teeth of rock broke through to open all to the raging tides . A hidden reef marked its doom. Desperately, the Tohunga cried to the Guardian Taniwha to save the Waka…

‘Hear us, mighty one. We are at the end of our strength and cannot bail fast enough to stem the tide. Send the waters back to the sea. Make the Waka ride high upon the waves. Come soon or we will perish in the tides.’

The karakia was too long. Aotea Mai Rangi began to sink before the Taniwha appeared. Moving swiftly, the Commander slashed the bindings to part the hulls and set Aotea Roa free as brave Aotea Mai Rangi slid beneath the waves.

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