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A Maori man retouches the painted tattoo on a carved wooden tiki at Whakarewarewa Model Village, New Zealand, 1905 Tiki1905.jpg
A Māori man retouches the painted tattoo on a carved wooden tiki at Whakarewarewa Model Village, New Zealand, 1905
Hawaiian ki`i at Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park Kii at Puuhonua O Honaunau 01.jpg
Hawaiian kiʻi at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Tiki statuette from the Marquesas Tiki Marquesas Louvre MH 87-50-1.jpg
Tiki statuette from the Marquesas

In Māori mythology, Tiki is the first man created by either Tūmatauenga or Tāne. He found the first woman, Marikoriko, in a pond; she seduced him and he became the father of Hine-kau-ataata. By extension, a tiki is a large or small wooden, pounamu or stone carving in humanoid form, notably worn on the neck as a hei-tiki, although this is a somewhat archaic usage in the Māori language. Hei-tiki are often considered taonga, especially if they are older and have been passed down throughout multiple generations. Carvings similar to ngā tiki and coming to represent deified ancestors are found in most Polynesian cultures. They often serve to mark the boundaries of sacred or significant sites. In the Western world, Tiki culture, a movement inspired by various Pacific cultures, has become popular in the 20th and 21st centuries.



In traditions from the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, the first human is a woman created by Tāne, god of forests and of birds. Usually her name is Hine-ahu-one. In other legends, Tāne makes the first man, Tiki, then makes a wife for him. In some West Coast versions, Tiki himself, as a son of Rangi and Papa, creates the first human by mixing his own blood with clay, and Tāne then makes the first woman. Sometimes Tūmatauenga, the war god, creates Tiki. [lower-alpha 1] In another story the first woman is Mārikoriko. Tiki marries her and their daughter is Hine-kau-ataata. [1] :151–152 [lower-alpha 2] In some traditions, Tiki is the penis of Tāne. [2] [3] :510–511 In fact, Tiki is strongly associated with the origin of the reproductive act. [lower-alpha 3]

In one story of Tiki among the many variants, Tiki was lonely and craved company. One day, seeing his reflection in a pool, he thought he had found a companion, and dived into the pool to seize it. The image shattered and Tiki was disappointed. He fell asleep and when he awoke he saw the reflection again. He covered the pool with earth and it gave birth to a woman. Tiki lived with her in serenity, until one day the woman was excited by an eel. Her excitement passed to Tiki and the first reproductive act resulted. [4]

Names and epithets

Tiki statue shop, Hawaii, c. 1959 Tiki statue shop 2, Hawaii, 1959.jpg
Tiki statue shop, Hawaii, c. 1959

John White names several Tiki or perhaps manifestations of Tiki in Māori tradition: [1] :142

Elsewhere in Polynesia

The word appears as tiki in New Zealand Māori, Cook Islands Māori, Tuamotuan, and Marquesan; as tiʻi in Tahitian, and as kiʻi in Hawaiian. The word has not been recorded from the languages of Western Polynesia or in the Rapa Nui language. [7]

See also


  1. Tūmatauenga, god of war, represents man, as does Tāne, whose name means 'man'.[ citation needed ]
  2. John White attributes this version to Ngāti Hau. [1]
  3. According to Reed, "it is certain that Tiki ... has a definite phallic significance." [4] However Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter Buck) pointed out that such references were only found in one late and controversial source. [5]
  4. In this story, Tiki-tohua was an egg produced by Hine-ahu-one, a woman made by Tāne to be his wife. This egg gave rise to all the birds. [6]
  5. Tiki-kapakapa (born after Tiki-tohua) was a girl who later took the name Hine-a-tauira. She and Tāne had a daughter named Hine-titamauri who was given to Tiki as his wife. [6]

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  1. 1 2 3 White, John (1887–1891). The Ancient History of the Maori. Wellington: Government Printer.
  2. Orbell, M. (1998). The Concise Encyclopedia of Māori Myth and Legend. Christchurch: Canterbury University Press. p. 178.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Tregear, Edward (1891). Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Wellington, N. Z.: Lyon and Blair. ISBN   9781432664893 . Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  4. 1 2 Reed, A.W. (1963). Treasury of Maori Folklore. Wellington: A.H. & A.W. Reed. p. 52.
  5. Hiroa, T.R. (Sir Peter Buck) (1974) [1949]. The Coming of the Maori (Second ed.). Wellington: Whitcombe and Tombs.
  6. 1 2 Shortland, E. (1882). Maori Religion and Mythology. London: Longman, Green. p. 22.
  7. "Entries for TIKI .1 [CE] Carved human image". pollex.org.nz. Retrieved 2 March 2018.