Exploring Māori Mythology: Tangaroa, the God of the Sea

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Exploring Māori Mythology Tangaroa, the God of the Sea
Exploring Māori Mythology Tangaroa, the God of the Sea

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Māori mythology is a vibrant element of New Zealand’s cultural heritage, filled with diverse deities, heroes, and creatures. Among these figures, Tangaroa, the god of the sea, holds a significant place. Considered one of the primary gods in Māori mythology, his influence and stories offer fascinating insights into the Māori’s relationship with the ocean.

Tangaroa, the God of the Sea

Tangaroa, also known as Tangaroa-whakamau-tai, is the god of the sea and the father of all fish and reptiles in Māori mythology. He represents the vast, dynamic, and unpredictable nature of the ocean. As a critical source of sustenance and a pathway for exploration and migration, the sea plays a crucial role in Māori culture. Therefore, Tangaroa’s significance is deeply rooted in the Māori people’s daily life and spirituality.

Tangaroa’s Role in Māori Mythology

In the Māori creation myth, Tangaroa is one of the children of Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother. When their children decided to separate their parents to create the world as we know it, a conflict arose. Tāwhirimātea, the god of storms and wind, sided with his father and waged war on his brothers, who had agreed to the separation.

During this conflict, Tangaroa received the brunt of Tāwhirimātea’s wrath, causing the sea to become a tumultuous and unpredictable force. This myth explains the tempestuous nature of the ocean and the need for seafarers to respect and appease Tangaroa for safe voyages.

Tangaroa in Contemporary Māori Culture

Today, Tangaroa’s influence continues in Māori culture. The sea is considered a source of the tribe’s strength and sustenance, with practices like fishing and seafaring deeply ingrained in Māori life. Many rituals and karakia (prayers) are dedicated to Tangaroa to ensure safe sea travels and abundant fishing.


Tangaroa, the god of the sea, embodies the Māori people’s deep connection with the ocean. His stories and influence, which continue to resonate in modern Māori culture, offer a fascinating glimpse into the spiritual world of New Zealand’s indigenous people. Through Tangaroa, we gain a deeper understanding of the Māori worldview, where nature is not just a resource but an integral part of their whakapapa (genealogy) and identity.

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