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horoirangi: the return

For many years, a simple stone carving of a goddess of the forest named Horoirangi guarded a small cave on a cliff-face on Tihiōtonga overlooking Lake Rotorua.  The carving could only be reached by climbing Te Arakari-a-Tūtānekai (the steps carved by Tūtānekai). Made of ignimbrite rock and pumice, the figure sat calmly overlooking the land for many years.  
Before her death, Horoirangi was a noble woman and cousin of Tamatekapua.  Because of the qualities she displayed in her lifetime, she became revered after she died and was thought of as a kaitiaki of Ngāti Tuarā.
As a spirit she cared for the fertility and protection of the lands around the ancient pā named Te Whetengū.  Her care preserved birds and fruits of the surrounding forest. She was an important part of daily life for the Ngāti Tuarā. As long as she was revered her mauri would protect all who lived in that area.
The Ruawāhine or priestess of the pā, would often take gifts of food and offerings to  her.  The first fruits of the kūmara harvest and the first birds taken in a hunt were laid at her feet.  Food was buried after the feast rather than left out because it was considered tapu and not to be touched or eaten by others.
During the raids of the warrior and prophet Te Kooti in 1870 the Tihi-ō-Tonga settlement was abandoned. Later, Rangiriri one of Te Arawa's last great tohunga decided to remove Horoirangi from her home in case she was vandalised.  In the 1920’s she was taken to Auckland Museum for safe-keeping.
In the following years, stories of famous male gods were collected, written and spread by Europeans, but the stories about female spiritual beings, or atua wahine were never recorded. Consequently they began to be forgotten. Horoirangi was one of the wahine atua, or female spiritual beings whose story was almost lost.
That was until the 1980’s, when a curious academic named Dr Aroha Yates-Smith decided to research into rediscovering atua wahine.  She believed that the stories and roles of women were just as important as those of men.
Thanks to her hard work and dedication, more was learnt about atua wahine including Horoirangi.  Dr Yates-Smith was responsible for the re-discovery of Horoirangi at Auckland Museum and helped organise her return to Rotorua, her home. Horoirangi is now cared for by Rotorua Museum - Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa.
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Qualities: wellbeing, relationships, identity, diligence, scholarship

Did you know?

An earthquake occurred at the same time Horoirangi was brought home to Rotorua.

Dr Yates-Smith believed that it was caused by Horoirangi showing thanks for being returned.

More to watch:

See an episode of Waka Huia about Dr Aroha Yates-Smith:


More to read:

About atua wahine:


This entry is related to these other entries:

Pukaki; Te Kahumamae o Pareraututu: The Cloak of Pain; Murirangaranga



Iconography of New Zealand Māori Religion, D. R. Simmons

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