Haumia is one of the original offspring of Ranginui (Sky Father) and Papatuanuku (Earth Mother) and is listed among the pantheon of Maori gods. Also known as Haumia, Haumiaroa and Haumia-tiketike, he was part of the first ever council where the gods decided to separate the sky from the earth in order to bring light to the world. Each of the gods attempted to separate their parents including Haumia, but all were unsuccessful. Finally it was Tane who used his powerful legs to thrust the sky high above giving the world space.
Tawhirimatea, the god of winds and rain, was furious at his siblings for desecrating the bond that held Rangi to Papa, and so he sort revenge by attacking the other gods. Haumia along with his brother Rongo fled to the earth taking refuge with their mother. Both covered themselves with soil and remained hidden from Tawhiri. Since this moment both Rongo and Haumia have remained associated with the soil, Rongo becoming the Maori god of gardens and cultivated foods such are the kumara and taro, and Haumia the god of uncultivated and naturally growing food sources, in particular the aruhe or the rhizome of the bracken fern.
Aruhe formed a very important part of the traditional Maori diet. It was dug from the soil, steeped in water, cooked and then pounded to separate the flesh from the fibres. The remaining paste was formed into cakes and eaten throughout the year. It is said that when Haumia hid in the earth and covered himself in soil, he forgot about his hair leaving it exposed above ground. His hair is the rarauwhe or the fronds of the bracken fern, and when it was seen by Maori it was dug up to expose the edible rhizomes. The important connection between Haumia and the aruhe is recorded in the proverb, “Ko Haumia nana te aruhe” meaning it is from Haumia that we acquire fernroot.
Both Haumia and Rongo are peaceful by nature and are associated with maintaining goodwill and harmony. The children of Haumia are Mokehu and Monehu, these are also the names of the young bracken fern shoots that appear in spring. Mokehu is the parent of Namu (sandflies), Waeroa (mosquitoes) and Ro (stick insects) most likely because these insects take shelter among the bracken fern.
Words by Professor Rangi Matamua.
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