In Māori mythology, Tangaroa (also Takaroa) is one of the great gods, the god of the sea. He is a son of Ranginui and Papatuanuku, Sky and Earth. After he joins his brothers Rongo, Tūmatauenga, Haumia, and Tane in the forcible separation of their parents, he is attacked by his brother Tawhirimatea, the god of storms, and forced to hide in the sea. Tangaroa is the father of many sea creatures. Tangaroa's son, Punga, has two children, Ikatere, the ancestor of fish, and Tu-te-wehiwehi (or Tu-te-wanawana), the ancestor of reptiles. Terrified by Tawhirimatea’s onslaught, the fish seek shelter in the sea, and the reptiles in the forests. Ever since, Tangaroa has held a grudge with Tāne, the god of forests, because he offers refuge to his runaway children (Grey 1971:1-5).
The contention between Tangaroa and Tāne, the father of birds, trees, and humans, is an indication that the Māori thought of the ocean and the land as opposed realms. When people go out to sea to fish or to travel, they are in effect representatives of Tāne entering the realm of Tāne's enemy. For this reason, it was important that offerings were made to Tangaroa before any such expedition (Orbell 1998:146-147).
Another version of the origin of Tangaroa maintains that he is the son of Temoretu, and that Papa is his wife. Papa commits adultery with Rangi, and in the resulting battle Tangaroa’s spear pierces Rangi through both his thighs. Papa then marries Rangi (White 1887-1891, I:22-23).
In another legend, Tangaroa marries Te Anu-matao (chilling cold). They are the parents of the gods ‘of the fish class’, including Te Whata-uira-a-Tangawa, Te Whatukura, Poutini, and Te Pounamu (Shortland 1882:17). In some versions, Tangaroa has a son, Tinirau, and nine daughters (1891:463). As Tangaroa-whakamau-tai he exercises control over the tides.
In the South Island, his name can take the form Takaroa.
Elsewhere in the Pacific
Tagaloa is one of the oldest Polynesian deities and in Western Polynesia (for example, Samoa and Tonga) traditions has the status of supreme creator god. In Eastern Polynesia Tangaroa is considered of equal status to Tāne and thus no longer supreme.
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