The Tangi

Le Tangi - funeral

And a Tangi (funeral service) is held in the Marae, the people of the local Marae hold twigs of green leaves in their hands. The twigs are a symbol of mourning.


A funeral service takes place before the burial of the “tupapaku” (the body). The Māori does not want to leave the body alone after death, so it will be carried to the Marae where it will remain with family and friends until the burial. Speeches will be addressed directly to the "tupapaku", the Māori believing that the spirit does not really leave the body, until it is buried.

The "urupa" (the cemetery) is usually inside the Marae complex, and it is a particularly "tapu" (sacred) place. When leaving the cemetery, the "tapu" can be lifted by washing your hands with water. For this purpose, there is often a container of water just outside the urupa gate.

According to traditional Māori beliefs, the souls of the dead travel to the native “Pohutukawa” tree which is found at the tip of Cape Reinga, in the far north of the North Island. (Reinga in Māori means: jump, place from which one jumps; place where the spirits of the dead reside) The soul slides along a root of the Pohutukawa, to the very bottom, into the sea.

The soul emerges at Ohaua, which is the highest point of the Three Kings Islands, for a final journey before returning to Hawaiiki to join the ancestors.

In the old days, the head of a beloved chieftain or important warrior was cut off and preserved, so as to remain with the grieving family and tribe forever.

Religion and spirituality

Originally, it was believed that the god Tane had offered mankind three baskets of knowledge - "Nga Kete-o-te-Wananga". These baskets contained the creation stories, instructions regarding magic etc.

Māori believe that everything comes from the gods. All things are embodied in certain mountains, rivers or lakes, and all have a certain type of soul, the wainua. This is why Māori have strong spiritual connections to the land. Some geographical sites of New Zealand are important anchors of Māori identity. For example, the Wanganui River has special cultural and spiritual significance for Māori.

Mount Ngaruahoe and Mount Ruapehu, both located in the North Island, are sacred to the Māori. Most things contain "mana", the spiritual essence. Mana is in man himself, in the earth, in nature, and also in some man-made objects.

If unauthorized people are in contact with the "mana" contained in certain objects or beings, it can cause the mana to escape. Extremely strict “tapu” rules protect ceremonial items, which are particularly filled with “mana”.

The lizard has a special meaning in ancient mythology Maori. This reptile was considered the emissary of the god Whiro. Whiro represented all that is evil on earth, and brought misfortune to unhappy tribes. If the gods were angry and wanted to kill a man, they invoked the lizard which entered the man's body, and devoured his vital organs.

The lizard is also present in artistic motifs. In this case, the evil power of the lizard was transformed into a kind of protection. Oral tradition says that a house intended for the teaching of higher knowledge - a Whare Wananga - sometimes had a lizard buried below the retaining poles. And so, the spirit was protecting the Whare-Wananga.

The godstick - "The godstick"

In ancient times, the "tiki wananga" or wand of the god, was used to perform rites. It was usually made of wood, with a tiki at the upper end, and ended with a base cut to a point. For ritual occasions, cords and red feathers adorned the "wand of the god" and seemed to bring it to life.

The spirit of the god represented then entered the "rod" and the latter became the intermediary between the priest and the spirit with which he wanted to come into contact. Only priests or qualified persons could use the “wand of the god”. Before appealing to a deity, the priest drove the wand into the ground or took it in his hand. He could then invoke the deity in question to bless or help the tribe.

Ringatu and Ratana

Te Kooti Rikirangi founded the Ringatu movement during his imprisonment in the Chatham Islands in 1867. Ringatu means "the raised hand". The Ringatu movement still exists today, and although it does not have a large number of followers, it is recognized as an official church.

In November 1918, another movement was launched by Tahupoti Wiremu Ratana, giving birth to the Ratana Church. Ratana gained national fame by healing by faith, and he founded many churches. He preached faith in God, and the rejection of “tohungaism” Māori.

He advocated the rejection of certain Māori traditions, such as sculpted representations, tribalism, animism, tapu, and called for the ratification of the Treaty of Waitangi. We spoke of Ratana by saying "Mangai", the very mouth of God.

Tahupotiki Ratana died in 1939, but the Ratana Church is still very well represented in Māori communities. Today about a third of Māori attend the Church of England (Protestant), the Catholic Church or the Ratana Church.