Pou: Te Puke o Ruarangi


The first pou at the Marae is known as Te Puke o Ruarangi. He is depicted in two different forms. On the left side is a lizard, disappearing under the surface, he is the symbol for the caves in which Ruarangis people found shelter from the sun. These caves were often inhabited by lizards and bats. The right side shows only a part of him in human form as a reminder, that it is a privilege seeing a tuheru as a whole that was only granted to the seers and wise people.

Ruarangi was a chief of the turehu or patupaiarehe and he was born around 1300. He lived with his iwi on Mount Waiaraka (Mt. Albert). They were described as having red hair and green or blue eyes with very light skin. Because of their complexion, they only came out by night, otherwise the sun would burn them. They spend their days inside the various caves and tunnels inside the mountain where they created the underground rivers and lava flows.

One day they got attacked in the middle of the night, they fled into the mountain, through their tunnels to the other side of Mount Waiaraka, into the open at the beach. Their enemies were behind them and in front of them was the sea, no way out. So they started throwing rocks into the ocean with the hope to build a reef (Meola Reef) that could take them to the north shore oposite of the bay, but in their frenzy they did not notice that the sun was already coming up. Because they were out in the open on the beach it was impossible for them to find shelter and so they burned as soon as the sun touched their skin.

What immediataly struck my interest when I learned about the pou was, how similar the stories and description of the turehu and the tales of fairies in the celtic myths:

The Term fairy derives from the Middle English faierie which means land or realm, which matches the idea of the turehu beeing creatures of the land, woods and sea. The celtic describe them also as human in appearance, very fragile and fair often with green eyes. They lived inside hills, caves and mountains and if people got tricked by them, they disappeared into these barrows. By the time they found their way out, the often had to realize that they had not been trapped for a few hours or a day as they might have thought, but for 100 or 200 years.

It is curios to me how people that live on oposite sites of the earth can develop ideas of a – not necessarily superhuman, but surely more than just human – being that are so similar. Apparently there are also very controversial theories about a people living in New Zealand that came from the islands of the celts, long before the first polynesian travelers set foot here. Although all the proofs of this early settlements seem to be very vague I think it is an interesting theory. Could there have been people in Aotearoha that looked like the described turehu, and if so, where did they come from?