Tangaroa: Polynesian Sea God!

Aug 25 2011

Tangaroa (aka Takaroa) is the Maori God of the Sea. Considering the predominant presence of the ocean in the Pacific Islands (especially Polynesia) it is not surprising that the Sea God is considered to be one of the oldest and most prominent deities. In western Polynesia, he is conceptualized as the Supreme Creator/God whereas in the east his status is considered equal to those of his mystical peers. As the sea, Tangaroa is believed to display a host of contrasting characteristics. He is said to be calm and refreshing, boisterous and masculine, and at the same time extremely dangerous.

According to tradition, Tangaroa is the son of Rangihui (the sky father) and Papakuanuku (the earth mother). During an intense family feud which resulted in his parents separating, his brother Tawhirimatea, the God of Storms, attacks him. To seek refuge from his brother’s wrath, Tangaroa takes for the ocean and the aquatic realm becomes his empire. Despite the fact that whom he marries varies depends on which version of the legend you are looking at, one thing is consistent: he fathers all marine life. Under the protection of Tane, the God of the Forest, some of his offsprings venture onto land. In order to adapt to their non-aquatic environment they transform into reptiles and later into other earthly life-form (including human). Thus, Tongaroa is conceptualized as the source and foundation of all life.

The ongoing rivalry and hostility between, Tane (land) and Tongaroa(sea), was a consequence of Tane adopting his aquatic counterpart’s children and grandchildren. Because of this rocky relationship between the two Gods, the Maori conceptualize ocean and land as being opposing realms. Furthermore, the act of fishing is perceived as a direct assult on Tangaroa since it stirs up memories of his abandoning children. For these reasons, the followers of Tangaroa make generous offering to ensure their safety before setting out to sea to for travel or fishing.

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