2: Kā Manu o Rēhua

Moths and Rēhua

Moths are associated with two important atua (deities) Rēhua and Hine Raukatauri. This unit is about Rēhua; Hine Raukatauri forms part of Unit 6: He aha tātou a mātai ai? – Why study moths?

“Rēhua is an important male atua associated with kindness, enjoyment and entertainment – said by some to be the eldest child of Rangi and Papa.

I ngā kōrero o te whānau a Rangi rāua ko Papa-tū-a-nuku ko Rehua te mātāmua, i whānau ā-uira mai i tōna whaea; noho tonu atu i te rangi, kāore i heke iho ki te ao nei. He atua ingoa nui tēnei i roto i ngā waiata tohunga o Te Tai Hauāuru (M 2006:598). In the narrative of Rangi and Papa-tū-a-nuku's family Rehua is the eldest and was born in the form of lightning from his mother, and he remained in the heavens and did not descend to this earth. This is a renowned atua in the priestly songs of the West Coast.”

Te takenga mai o te pepe - The origin of the moth

The stories regarding the origin of the moth follow a similar vein. The moth’s origin story is connected to a few different atua depending on the moth. For moths in general they are connected to Tāne and Rēhua. The details of these stories are similar among many tribes including Ngāi Tahu. In the Ngāi Tahu story Tāne, having created the first human form, Hine-hā-one, then climbs to the tenth heaven to visit his brother, Rēhua. While there Rēhua calls for a fire to be lit and calabashes to be brought forth. Tāne asks what food will be cooked in the calabashes. At this, Rēhua shakes his head and two kōkō or tūī fall from his hair. Tāne refuses to eat the birds as they have been feeding on the lice in Rēhua’s hair. Instead he asks if he can return to earth with the birds. Rēhua agrees and informs Tāne that the birds will live in the trees and feed on the fruits of the trees. ‘Ki te mea ka tangi te hau, ka maroke te kakī o te manu, ka tae ki te wai, me tā i te kaha. When the wind blows the throats of the birds will be dry and when they come to the water you must make nooses’. What connection does this have to the origin of the moth? In the Tūhoe stories, the story continues on to include the other ‘birds’ of Rēhua, which include pepe, the moth; tātarakihi, the cicada; pihareinga, the grasshopper; and Kekerewai, the beetle. Collectively these are known as ‘Ngā Manu a Rēhua’ and are more commonly associated with the summer.

Ngā whetū - The stars

The story of the moth is encapsulated in the stars in the Rēhua constellation with all of the above birds and insects named in the constellation. Rēhua, the eldest son of Raki and Papatūānuku, is the reddish star Antares in the Western Scorpius constellation.