Maori mythology is a strong tradition. But from one island to an other, from a tribe to an other and even some families of the same tribe, beliefs were different. They were at the source of many disagreements between tribes often ending in long wars.
The Polynesians were polytheists and very superstitious, they feared spirits. The main god was Taaroa : the Creator. Many secondary gods hallowed by legends also existed such as Hiro, god of the thieves ; Hina, goddess of the moon ; Pele, god of the volcano or Oro, for whom human sacrifices were practiced.
When Christian missionaries arrived at late 18th century, Polynesians followed the decision of Queen Pomare and finally accepted to worship the Christian god. As a conqequence, religion became myth.
You can discover this mythology in rich and poetic legends. They are singing a hymn to life and to the adventures and achievements of heroes and gods. Here is one of the many legends that “explains” the origin of the coconut :
Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess daughter of the moon’s son. Her name was Hina. She was so beautiful that lightening came out of her body.
She was destined in marriage to Lake Vahiria’s King who was a disgusting eel. Hina ran away and went under the protection of the important Maui, who stops and adjusts the sun.
From the cliff of Vairo, they saw the eel that was coming to pick up Hina. Maui through his hook and screamed : “from my fief no king can escape. He will become food for my gods.”
The eel swell the hook, was captured and the head was cut off. Maui wrapped the animal in a piece of Tapa and gave it to Hina advising her not to put the parcel on the ground before she reached her house. “The head of the eel contains great treasures for you”.
But Hina forgot the parcel on the floor. The tapa went open and the head of the eel faced the floor. Young shoots came out and the first coconut trees were born.
According to this legend you can find the eyes and the mouth of the eel on coconuts !