A Story of New Zeland for Mars and Spica

Jul 11, 2014

"A blaze of light marked the passage of Tane."

Hello, this is Mary Stewart Adams with “The Storyteller’s Guide to the Night Sky.”

On Sunday, July 13, the red planet Mars will makes its closest approach the blue-white star Spica in the constellation of Virgo, the maiden. This will be visible in the southwest, one hour after sunset.

In nearly all cultural traditions, Mars is association with action and aggression. When Mars nears the star Spica, regarded as the ‘solitary” or ‘defenceless one”, there are rich opportunities for storytelling. This weekend the creation story of the Maori people of New Zealand seems fitting, where Mars plays the role of Tane, the son of Earth and Sky, who is god of wind-swept spaces.

In the beginning, there was the sky, Rangi, and he was the husband of Papa, the Earth. They loved each other dearly and clung to one another tightly while the years went by. There was neither night nor day, nor sun, nor moon, nor stars.

“No breezes whispered, no storms raged. There were no clouds, and every living thing struggled and crept between Earth and Sky.

“Then came Tane, god the of the wind-swept spaces of earth and sky, son of Rangi and Papa, and with his strong arms he threw Rangi (sky) far away from Papa (Earth).”

The tale describes that it was only for the love of all living things that Tane threw Rangi so far away from Papa, and when he saw how the tears of Rangi fell as rain, and how the mist rose from the earth as Papa sighed, he began his great work of beautifying Earth and Sky, so that the sundered husband and wife might look at each other and be comforted in their beauty.

When we look to the southwest this weekend where we find Mars nearing Spica, we can imagine Mars as the Maori god Tane, and Spica as the ‘solitary’ or sundered one, his father, Rangi.

In order to beautify Rangi in the eyes of his wife, Papa, the Earth, Tane gathers a basket of shining ones, the stars, and places them on the mantle or garment of Rangi, creating the starry heavens as a mantle of love that Rangi shines over his wife, Papa, the Earth, every evening.

Find the tale in the evening sky, and at the link on the Interlochen Public Radio website.

I’m Mary Stewart Adams, from Emmet County’s International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands.