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Hine-nui-te-pō ("Great woman of night") is a goddess of night and death and the ruler of the underworld in Māori mythology. She is the daughter of Tane Mahuta and Hine-ahuone. It is believed among tangata whenua that the color red in the sky comes from her.

How Hine-nui-te-pō became goddess of death[edit]

All of the children of Rangi and Papa were male. It was Tāne who first felt the need for a wife and began to look for a companion. His mother, Papatūānuku, shared with Tane the magic of Kurawaka red soil. Tane moulded the red soil into female shape and breathed life into it. Hine-Ahuone was created and known for the first Earth-made Wahine Toa, Tane went on to marry Hine-Ahuone and birthed a daughter, Hine-Titama. One day, while Tāne was away, Hine-Titama began to wonder who her father was. Finally when she did find out that Tāne was her father she was disgusted and ashamed of who she was, she committed suicide and became goddess of the underworld. This was the first instance of suicide inside of Māori mythology.[citation needed]

Māui did the last of his tricks on her, attempting to make mankind immortal by trying to crawl through her body, entering in her vagina and leaving by her mouth while she slept, to reverse the path of birth. But one of his bird friends, the Pīwakawaka, laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation, seeing Māui turned into a worm squirming to enter the goddess, and woke her. To punish the demi-god, she crushed him with the obsidian teeth in her vagina; Māui was the first man to die (Alpers 1964:70).

Her other husband is her paternal uncle Rūaumoko.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  • B.G. Biggs, 'Maori Myths and Traditions' in A. H. McLintock (editor), Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 3 Volumes. (Government Printer: Wellington), 1966, II:447-454.
  • Anthony Alpers, Maori Myths and Tribal Legends. Anckland : Longman Paul, 1964. ISBN 0-582-71674-8.