Magical Buffet Mythology: Hine-nui-te-po

Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (

Some may recall a past article I wrote about the Maori duo of Rangi and Papa. When this loving couple was separated by Tane, Maori god of forests, the human race was discovered. Little known fact, but all of Rangi and Papa’s children were men, and soon Tane longed for female companionship. This brings us to Hine-nui-te-po, the goddess of the night and underworld for the Maori and Polynesians.

Tane created Hine from sand and clay, and then took her for his wife. One day Hine had the revelation that her husband, whom she had relations with (if you catch my drift), was also her father. Not cool. This realization drove her into the darkness of the Underworld, where she became Hine-nui-te-po. Now she is the goddess of the night and ruler of all ten levels of the afterworld, although some say she only has claim on four.

Hine-nui-te-po probably began her existence as a beautiful woman. I mean would a god create some average looking female to take as his wife? Of course, now Hine-nui-te-po has a frightening visage. She is generally described as having seaweed for hair, red eyes, the body of a man, and sharp teeth in a mouth like a barracuda. Maybe that’s the way Tane liked his women, but somehow I doubt it.

Perhaps with her current job title as ruler of the afterworld it should not surprise you to learn that it was she who helped play a part in giving mortality to the Polynesians. Due to an omitted portion in Maui’s baptism prayer, Maui began to fear that one day Hine-nui-te-po would claim him. His father told him where he could find Hine-nui-te-po, and with that knowledge, Maui and his companions set out to conquer death.

In order to gain immortality for himself, and mankind, he had to crawl through Hine-nui-te-po’s sleeping body. During his crawl, a songbird laughed and woke the goddess, who promptly crushed Maui. This introduced death by having Maui be the first man to die, and thus humans remained mortal.