Hina, Tuna, Maui and Rori: sex, inner life, & death

Hina, Tuna, Maui and Rori (Tuamotu island)

Here in the Tuamotu we tell of the rivalry of Maui and the eel-god known as Tuna. These two compared their force for Hina’s sake, and Maui won. Afterwards, seeing grey hairs on his mother’s head, Maui wished to conquer death; but men cannot do this.


 eel swimming in sea. Jungian therapy

Photo: source unknown

Hina was living with Tuna in his land beneath the sea; but she became tired of her eel-husband, also of the coldness there. One day she said to eel Tuna that she was going out to fetch food for them. Then she travelled far away, to find a new man for herself.

Hina was the archetypal wife first of Tuna and then of Maui, not the maternal feminine but feminine desire. She wanted a manly penis. Though Hina’s story arose independently it repeats the story of Eve: Eve dealt first with the serpent, then claimed a sexual relationship with Adam.

Creation myths describe the creation of consciousness, the first beginning of the process by which humans become self aware. A person begins to notice the interior life, to see as interior and subjective that which had until then been known only as it was projected onto another person, or an animal, or an object.

Sex symbolizes entering each other’s interior life, discovering each other’s interiority and also each’s own. The physical sensations of sex symbolize the intense psychological sensation of sharing interiority.

The emotions aroused by sex are part of its intense effect on inner life. In time sex leads to a symbolic birth – the birth of the inner life which is consciousness. As with physical sex, so a real physical baby also has an intense effect on the inner life of its parents.

What does it mean that Hina had sex with a cold eel-husband beneath the sea? An eel has little brain, no inner life and perhaps no feeling. Hina’s copulation was unconscious and unfeeling. But an eel is not simply a dildo (there are Polynesian legends about wooden dildos), which means that their sex was exclusively biological. Hina had been copulating as though she and her partner were cold-blooded animals.

She came to the land of the Tane tribe. When she saw those husband-people Hina sang her chant about what she wanted:

Inland eel here – manly thing!

Eel of the sea there – watery thing!

I here am a woman for the eel-shaped one,

I have come to find him at Raronuku,

I have come to find him at Raro vaio.

Your fame, O Tane tribe, is known to me!

When Hina sought a dry-land man she sought emotional arousal and more consciousness, the kindling of inner life.

pan.phallus.jungian psychoanalysis

Ithyphallic Pan. Mixing Bowl: red figure on attic ceramic, 470 BC.
Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Hina said twice that what she wanted was like an eel, but different. These repetitions confirm the symbolic dimension of intercourse, that it is biological-like but has interior dimensions too.

But the men of the Ngati Tane, Husband-tribe, all shouted to that woman who invited them, ‘There is the road! Keep going on! We will never take Tuna’s woman – he will kill us in a day!’

Therefore Hina went on to the land of the Ngati Peka, and she sang her chant to them. But the men of that tribe answered in the same words as the Tane men.

Therefore Hina went on until she reached the Tu tribe’s land. They would not have her there; no man-erect of Tu would take her, Tuna’s woman.

Ordinary men of the ‘husband tribes’ were equipped for ordinary intercourse but they could not oppose, that is, transform the force which gripped Hina. Hina was possessed by the phallus which means that it compelled her, that it was not leavened by consciousness.

Then Hina passed the house of Huahega, sang her chant. And Huahega said to her last-born son, to Maui tikitiki a Ataraga: ‘Take that woman for your wife.’ Therefore Maui did so, and they all lived quietly together there.

Maui was a trickster hero. His phallic power was more psychological than Eel’s, able to defy conservative nature, to bring surprise, paradox, psychological change.

Maui and Hina’s marriage was directed by Huahega, a representative of the Great Mother. This idea is repeated in a variety of unrelated myths: that consciousness is anticipated and guided by the collective unconscious, that consciousness is an intrinsic potential of the unconscious.

After a time the people of Tuna’s land told Tuna: ‘Your woman has been carried off by Maui.’ Tuna replied, ‘Oh! – let him have that woman to lie on!’ But they kept on going to him, always telling him, ‘Your woman is taken by Maui.’ Therefore Tuna grew angry, and he said, ‘What sort of man is this Maui tiki tiki?’

‘He is a small man, and the end of his ure is bent.’

Said Tuna, ‘Then just let him see this dirty cloth between my legs, and he’ll be showing us his heels.’ Then Tuna said, ‘Go and tell this Maui that I am coming to have it out with him.’ Then Tuna sang his song of lamenting for Hina:

First voice: Kua riro! Stolen from me!

Second voice: Grieving for the wife is the heart.

Chorus: Kua riro! Stolen from him!

The winds have brought the word

That she is taken. Now we go–

First voice: We leave for Vavau, land of speeding wave

To see the loved one–

Second voice: –Kua riro!

The wailing winds lament it!

Grieving love!

Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to people, that is, made this archetype (of dramatic, irrevocable transformation) available to consciousness. The gods retaliated by chaining him to a rock and having a vulture eat his liver for eternity. Maui was the equivalent Polynesian hero who stole fire. In this myth he has stolen the feminine, another archetype, and Tuna will retaliate. Because it is conservative the unconscious opposes the expansion of consciousness, even though it also initiates consciousness.

Then the people told Maui that Tuna was coming to have it out with him.

‘Just let him come!’ said Maui.

But they continually told him of Tuna’s threats; therefore he asked them, ‘What sort of ure is this Tuna?’

‘Aue! He is huge! He’s as big as a whale’s!’

‘Like a standing palm-tree?’

They lying answered, ‘Like a leaning one!’

‘He is weak and bending?’

‘Always drooping.’

‘Then just let him see the crooked end of mine and he’ll go flying for his life!’ said Maui.

Maui asserted that conscious phallic power trumps the unconscious kind.

Maui waited with his family, he dwelt there quietly in that place. One day the sky grew dark and thunder rolled, the lightning flashed. All the people, knowing this was Tuna, were afraid, their skin was trembling, and they cried out blaming Maui: ‘This is the first time that one man has stolen the woman of another man! We will all die!’ But Maui said to them, ‘Just keep together. We will not be killed.’

On came the monsters, came Pupa vae noa, and Poroporo tu a huanga, Toke a kura, and Tuna nui himself-they all came rushing on the land.


huge squid.jungian psychoanalysis

Giant Squid
Photo: Japan, 2007, source unknown

These monsters were like dragons, regressive forces in the unconscious.

And Tuna stripped off his loincloth, and he held it up; at once a mighty wave reared up and swept toward that land.

Then Huahega shouted to her son, to Maui tikitiki, ‘Quick now! Show them yours! Pull it out!’

Did Maui then as Huahega told him, did as his mother said. That wave fell back, the great wave of the monsters soaked away. The bottom of the sea was bare, and all the monsters floundered on the reef, they flapped in pools. And Maui went out, he went with his weapon and he beat them dead, each one. He killed them all, excepting Tuna.

Maui was like St George – his phallic power discriminated the regressive unconscious.

Then Tuna went to Maui’s house with him and they two lived together quietly. One day Tuna said: ‘We two are to fight this out. When one of us is dead, the other can have the woman.’

Said Maui, ‘What kind of combat do you wish?’

Said Tuna, ‘One of us enters into the body of the other, goes completely in. When it is over I will kill you, and take the woman back to my land.’ So Maui agreed, and Tuna said, ‘I will try it first.’ He began his chanting:

Hiki tautau orea,

Tautau orea,

He tangata nui i whano mai

I tena motu ra

. . . . .

It is I, Tuna,

That now enters your body, O Maui!

With this word Tuna went completely into Maui’s body, he went through the place for entering and disappeared. After a while he came out again. Said Maui, ‘Now it is my turn,’ and he spoke a chant like that which Tuna said:

Ko vau, ko Maui, e tomo ki roto

I ia au, e Te Tuna!

With this word Maui entered into Tuna’s body, and all of Tuna’s sinews came apart, he died.

Tuna attacked Maui’s intestines, just the vulture ate Prometheus’ liver, an appendage of his intestines. Maui’s intestines represent his power center. Freud explained that, in the course of toilet training, a child learns ways of negotiating power with his or her parents.

Maui had more intestinal fortitude, or ‘guts’, than Tuna. The center of power was no longer in the unconscious but now in consciousness. This repetition confirms that the myth is about developing consciousness. The image also repeats the idea of going inside each other’s interior; Maui and Tuna are in combat over the inner life.

Maui came out again; he cut off Tuna’s head to take it to his ancestor. But Huahega his mother took if from him and she said: ‘You must bury this head of Tuna beside the post in the corner of our house.’

Maui did so, and that head grew up, it sprouted, it became a coconut tree. On the nut which is its fruit we see the face of Tuna, eyes and mouth. All coconuts have this.


palm tree.jungian psychotherapy

Coconut palm tree
Phuket, Thailand: beach guide

By defeating Tuna Maui created the coconut palm, the basis for much of a Pacific island’s technology. When a hero becomes conscious of the inner life, then the wisdom of the unconscious becomes available and the community prospers. This idea is repeated in many unrelated legends.

Maui and Hina lived quietly together with Huahega. One day when his mother was sleeping, Maui saw grey hairs on her head. He said to Hina his wife, ‘Your hair and my hair are the same – quite black. But Huahega has both black hairs and grey hairs.’

He woke his mother up and asked her why this was. Said Huahega, ‘Grey hairs in my head say that I am growing older. When all my hair is white you will know that I am an old woman, soon I shall die, and you will bury me; you will never see me more.’

Then Maui grieved, and he asked his mother, ‘By what means can people go on living in the world?’

Consciousness made Maui aware of mortality. Since consciousness transcends many biological limits, why not mortality? The underlying issue is our relationship to the archetypes. When we explore the inner life we meet the archetypes and may begin to relate to them. The danger is that we may identify ourselves with archetypes and believe that we are god-like, thus becoming unreal and perhaps manic. To avoid such inflation we must distinguish between them and us: archetypes are immortal; we are mortal.

‘If you can get possession of the stomach of Sea-slug-of-the-deep-set-eyes,’ that mother said, ‘then you will never die.’

Therefore Maui went to the shallows of the white lagoon and he searched for Rori. He found him living in the clusters of the coral.


purple slug.jungian psychotherapy
Sea Slug (Holothuroidea) on coral
Photo: source unknown

Said Rori:

‘You must have some reason, Maui-of-many-tricks, for coming all this way to the coral-beds of Whangape.’

Said Maui: ‘That is so.’

‘What is your purpose?’ Rori asked him.

‘I have come to get your stomach for myself, O Rori. In return, I shall give you mine.’

Said Rori, ‘If my stomach were taken by you, this would cause my death.’

‘I will not kill you if you give it to me,’ Maui said, ‘but if you will not, then I must kill you.’

‘Never, never will I give it up! It is my stomach.’

Therefore Maui in his anger snatched up Sea-slug, squeezed his guts; it came. Then up he sicked his own. Began he swallowing the stomach of Rori-of-the-deep-set-eyes.

Just then, his brothers who had followed him cried out, ‘Here is Maui swallowing that demon’s guts!’ They ran at him, those brothers, to stop him doing it.’

As a trickster hero Maui was a demi-god, but he had ordinary brothers who kept him from getting ‘too big for his britches’. Siblings’ feedback protects us from inflation.

So Maui had to bring up Rori’s stomach when he had almost swallowed it. He took his own and put it back. Was furious with his brothers Maui then, He cried at them, ‘Why did you stop me at my work? I sought the means by which we all might live, we need not die. Now, because of you, it will never again be mine to try this deed.’ Then Maui sang his solemn chant concerning quest for everlasting life.

Afterwards Maui returned to his house. Huahega asked him, ‘Have you taken Rori’s stomach?’

He answered her, ‘I had it indeed, O my mother. But suddenly my stupid brothers rushed at me; I had to bring it up again.’

Then grey-haired Huahega said to her last-born son, ‘Evermore, O Maui, must you follow me upon this path which I do travel, until you yourself grow old and die.’

Not speaking then was Maui, he was silent.

Maui became depressed (other Polynesian myths show that a hero’s silence represents depression). When an inflationary bubble is burst, depression allows limitation to be integrated into consciousness.

One day Huahega said to Maui, ‘Do not ever go again to seek adventures, O my son. Remain here in our land.’ And Maui consented. They all lived quietly together.

After a certain time had passed, Hina bore Maui’s first-born child, a girl. Her name was Rori i tau. Afterwards Hina conceived again, she gave birth to another girl. Her name was Te Vahine hui rori. No sons were born to them. Maui named both of his daughters for Rori so that they might never die; for Rori can live beneath the waters of the sea.

This passage is a subtle commentary on our relationship to mortality. We transcend our death through our children: our name may live on in the consciousness of future generations. In a Maori greeting ceremony, a weeping old woman recites the genealogy of her own people and that of the visitors, in order to trace their relatedness.

The fame of Maui’s thousand tricks was known to all men of the land, all lands. Therefore people spoke of him and handed down the word; and afterwards he was called Maui peu tini, ‘Maui of a thousand tricks.’

A repetition which again makes clear the human nature of Maui’s immortality. Our conscious spirit lives after our death if our deeds or ideas enliven future generations.

I have not been told of Maui’s death. There are many other tales of him – forgotten, cannot be remembered; I have ended this telling with those things that I know.

Again, Maui was not immortal but neither was he quite dead.