Saturday, 16 October 2021

Pania of the reef


In Napier along the waterfront and promenade is this iconic statue sitting amongst the flower beds. Named "Pania", according to mythology she was a beautiful maiden who lived on the east coast of New Zealand and by day she swam around about with creatures of the reef world  but after sunset she would go to a stream that ran into a bay where Napier now exists.

Karitoki, the handsome son of a Maori chief quenched his thirst every evening at the stream where Pania rested. He was unaware she was observing him for many weeks until one night she whispered a faint spell which carried on the wind to him when he turned around to see her emerge from her hiding place.

They fell in love and pledged their lives to each other and were secretly married. Pania and Karitoke went to his house (Whare) but because it was dark no one saw them enter. In the morning she was preparing to leave but he tried to stop her. She explained that as a creature of the ocean, when the sirens of the sea called her each morning she could not survive if she did not go to them. She promised to return every evening and their marriage continued on that basis.

Karitoki boasted to his friends about his beautiful wife, but no one believed him because they had never seen her. Frustrated by this, Karitoki consulted a wise elder (Kaumatua) in the village who believed Karitoki as he knew ocean maidens did exist. The kaumatua told Karitoki that being a sea creature, Pania would not be allowed to return to the sea if she swallowed cooked food.

That night, as Pania slept, Karitoki took a morsel of cooked food and put it in Pania's mouth. As he did so, Ruru the Morepork/Owl called a loud warning and Pania was startled from her sleep. Horrified that Karitoki had put her life in jeopardy, Pania fled and ran to the sea. Her people came to the surface and drew her down into the depths as Karitoki swam frantically about the ocean looking for her. He never saw her again.

When people now look deep into the water over the reef, some say they can see Pania with arms outstretched, appealing to her former lover. It is unknown whether she is imploring him to explain his treachery, or expressing her continuing love.


Linking up with Weekend Reflections and The Weekend Roundup.

10 comments:

bill said...

A beautiful sculpture and story! Have a wonderful weekend, Amy.

At Home In New Zealand said...

I have seen Pania's statue but was unaware of the tale behind it. Thanks for telling this story really well :)

William Kendall said...

Quite a story.

Pauline said...

I love those Maori legends and this is one of the most romantic I've heard. And there's that beautiful statue to go with it.

local alien said...

I know of Pania of course but had forgotten the story. Thanks for telling it to us

b.c. said...

its lovely to know legends like these from other places, thanks for sharing it! :))

Margaret Birding For Pleasure said...

Thanks for the story behind the statue. Have a wonderful week ahead.

Betty J. Crow said...

Beautiful statute and loved reading the story! Happy Saturday!

Iris Flavia said...

Great the history stays alive like that!

Cath said...

I have visited Napier once. Some of my husbands family hails from there. It was a flying visit and I didn't get to see any of the town.....now I feel like I missed a lot. Thanks for sharing.

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