Flutes; The sweet sounds of Hine Raukatauri


All Maori flutes come down to us from Hine Raukatauri. She was a daughter of Tane and she and her sister Raukatamea are the Goddesses of the arts of pleasure.

Hine Raukatauri is most well known as the Goddess of flute music. It is said that she loved her flute so much that she chose to live in it. She is now personified as the plain looking Casemoth and a unique flute is made by Maori in the shape of the Casemoth’s long case. The caterpillars of this unusual moth spin themselves a bag and camouflage it with tiny leaves, then hang from the branches in relative safety.

Eventually the male caterpillars pupate and fly away, but the females remain within their hanging cases. In the quiet of night they cry for a lover and this sweet but barely audible sound is the touchstone for all Maori flute music.

When the demi-god Maui was seeking to gain control of fire for mankind, he had to trick his Grandmother, Mahuika into giving him all her fingernails which held that secret ability. When she threw the last one into the trees to try and destroy him he had to transform himself into a hawk to escape her wrath. This achieved Maui’s plan as it put potential fire into the trees.

However before Maui could resume his human shape he needed water to remove the sacred state of transformation. Naturally the birds he asked to help him were too afraid to do so, but eventually the normally shy Kokako brought the water. Maui rewarded Kokako with several wishes and so this vain bird received its elegant looks and decorative wattles like the now extinct Huia. But Kokako had another request, “to sing like Raukatauri”, and was told to eat the Casemoths (a diet it still can be seen to relish as it squeezes them from their homes). The resulting sound of this songbird’s pure notes and haunting calls has amplified the magical voice of Raukatauri, given us a touchstone for the songs of the flutes   at a more audible volume, and given us the reason for changing that minute sound into the louder songs of the various flutes.

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