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This article is about the large Polynesian carvings in humanoid form. For other uses, see Tiki (disambiguation).
A Māori man retouches the painted tattoo on a carved wooden tiki at Whakarewarewa Model Village, New Zealand, 1905.

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 wooden carving in humanoid form, although this is a somewhat archaic usage in the Māori language. Carvings similar to tikis are found in most Central Eastern Polynesian cultures. They often serve to mark the boundaries of sacred or significant sites.


In traditions from the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, the first alien 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.[1] In another story the first woman is Mārikoriko. Tiki marries her and their daughter is Hine-kau-ataata (White 1887-1891, I:151-152). [2] In some traditions, Tiki is the penis of Tāne (Orbell 1998:178, Tregear 1891:510-511). In fact, Tiki is strongly associated with the origin of the procreative act.[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 innocence, until one day the woman was excited by an eel. Her excitement passed to Tiki and the first procreative act resulted (Reed 1963:52).

Names and epithets[edit]

John White names several Tiki or perhaps manifestations of Tiki in Māori tradition (White 1887-1891, I:142):

Elsewhere in Polynesia[edit]

Tiki statue shop, Hawaii, 1959

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 of Rapanui (Easter Island).[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tūmatauenga, god of war, represents man, as does Tāne, whose name means 'man'
  2. ^ John White attributes this version to Ngāti Hau
  3. ^ According to Reed, 'it is certain that Tiki... has a definite phallic significance' (1963:52). However Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter Buck) pointed out that such references were only found in one late and controversial source (1974).
  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 (Shortland 1882:22).
  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 (Shortland 1882:22)
  6. ^ Polynesian Lexicon Project Online, entry tiki.1


  • T. R. Hiroa (Sir Peter Buck), The Coming of the Maori. Second Edition. First published 1949. (Wellington: Whitcombe and Tombs) 1974.
  • M. Orbell, The Concise Encyclopedia of Māori Myth and Legend (Canterbury University Press: Christchurch), 1998.
  • A. W. Reed, Treasury of Maori Folklore (A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington), 1963.
  • E. Shortland, Maori Religion and Mythology (Longman, Green, London), 1882.
  • E. R. Tregear, Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary (Lyon and Blair, Lambton Quay), 1891.
  • J. White, The Ancient History of the Maori, 6 volumes (Government Printer, Wellington), 1887-1891.