Rediscovering Maori goddesses – Aroha Yates-Smith

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(VIRGINIA WINDER)As a youngster, Dr Aroha Yates- Smith began to question why the Maori gods were always male.

She knew about Maui, Tangaroa and Tane Mahuta, but hadn’t heard of many Maori female deities.

However, she did ballet and knew about Greek goddesses as she had danced in a recital based on Persephone, the queen of the underworld, and had heard of their Roman counterparts.

Through her research, Dr Yates- Smith, of Te Arawa, Tainui and Horouta descent, has found there are many atua wahine (goddesses) in Maori spirituality and she will be talking on this topic at Puke Ariki on Wednesday, February 29.

Her talk about the rediscovery of atua wahine by modern Maori communities is an event tied into the Mutunga: Our Legacy, Our Challenge, Our Future exhibition now on at the combined library, museum, research and information centre in New Plymouth.

Dr Yates-Smith says the lack of knowledge about goddesses stems from the impact of colonisation and Christianity on Maori and their customs.

Christians believed in one God, a male. The early European ethnographers’ writings focused predominantly on the role of Maori male gods and men, marginalising the role of Maori women in Maori society, at a spiritual and cultural level,” she explains.

“At the time when European settlers moved here, English women were considered one of their husbands’ chattels. They didn’t have the same rights that Maori women had, so it is not surprising that the ethnographers tended to ignore the feminine in Maori society.”

Dr Yates-Smith completed a PhD thesis entitled, Hine! E Hine! Rediscovering the Feminine in Maori Spirituality, through the School of Maori and Pacific Development at the University of Waikato.

Her research focused on the role of these atua wahine in Maori cosmology and the marginalisation of the Maori feminine in ethnographic writings. In 2004, Dr Yates-Smith received the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Rangi Hiroa Medal for her work and this was presented at the Ngati Mutunga marae in Urenui.

During her Puke Ariki presentation, she will talk about goddesses Hinetuahoanga, Matuatonga, Horoirangi and Pani, whose images have been found in stone.

“I will also briefly talk about the responses I have had from women from different communities – Maori and non- Maori. Many have found the experience of discovering so many Maori goddesses very exciting and moving.”

5 COMMENTS

  1. Tena koe e Whaea,
    I’m so pleased to know that there is indeed a resurgence and revitalisation of Atua Wahine in the motherland. I live in Cairns but only come home from time to time. Please let me know where to read your mahi Hine! E Hine! and also your presentation that you have delivered this day.

    Naku noa.
    Na Jayde Park

  2. Kia Ora Aroha

    I am so pleased to see that you have provided a platform for the recognition of our Atua Wahine!!!

    Long overdue and so important for Te Ao Maori,

    Lets hope we can come out from underneath the ;mantel’ of the [atriachal society we now live in and reclaim the integrity of the essence of being women in our world

    Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui e Kare.

    Arohanui
    Colleen Skerrett

  3. I would be interested in reading the transcript of this presentation or if someone can upload to Youtube would be great!

  4. Kia ora, can you tell me where this story was published please? Is this from an article in a paper or magazine?

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