Friday, January 29, 2010

Day LX - Taniwha

Water predator,
Respected by the Māori,
Tapu guardian.


A significant creature in Māori mythology, the Taniwha is a tremendous predatory monster that inspires awe in the minds of tribal New Zealanders. Believed to dwell in the water of deep pools or the wide ocean, descriptions of the beast vary though tend to suggest it is the size of a whale or large shark. Whether they look like sharks, lizards, octopuses or floating logs (they are often said to be shapeshifters) their reputation is such that the Māori respect the various kinds of Taniwha and use the creature's name as a term to mean 'chief'. Though they can be dangerous beings that bring deadly currents and kidnap women, Taniwha are looked to as tribal guardians that can provide protection against enemies and serve the interests of the tribe that exalts them. The creatures of the deep are also vigilant keepers of tapu (what is taboo and sacrosanct) and ensure that those who violate what is sacred or overstep restrictions are punished. Reverence of the Taniwha remains to the present day (they even manage to stop roadworks and development taking place) and you wouldn't want to undermine the great ocean monster of the Māori mythology. Respect is due.

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