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Why 7 whales


Why Seven

There are seven days in a week, seven visible colours in a rainbow, seven continents, seven wonders of the ancient world and seven deadly sins; not forgetting the seven dwarfs, seventh heaven and seven is considered to be a lucky number.


The number seven is quite significant in the Bible. In the creation story, God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

Mathematically, the number seven has a couple of features that make it appealing to many people. First, it's an odd number (even numbers can be easily divided by two) it is also a prime number, which means it can only be divided by itself and one. Since it's the largest prime number between one and ten, seven it is seen as more appealing.


Compositionally, it is easier and more visually satisfying to compose elements of odd numbers such as seven placements or arrangements of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art.


“The various visual elements, known as elements of design, formal elements, or elements of art, are the vocabulary with which the visual artist composes. These elements in the overall design usually relate to each other and to the whole art work.”




Hence the family pod of seven whales works better visually and in a composition of elements than four, six or eight


In Maori mythology there is the an ancient legend of the Seven Whales Ngai Tahu Matawhaiti, hapu of Ngati Kahungunu, explaining how some hills east of Wairoa came to be.

The legend tells how the Seven Whales disobeyed the mighty Tohunga, the master of the seven giant whales and were cursed and turned into hills. Today the Seven Whales are known as the hills of Wairoa can bee seen in the Waitati Valley, five kilometers east of Wairoa.



Many traditions mention that whales accompanied or guided the canoes on their journeys to Aotearoa


The song ‘He oriori mō Tuteremoana’ describes a canoe, believed to be the Tākitimu, safely following in the wake of a pod of seven whales during a storm. Some of the whales are specifically named in this song. The tohunga (priest) on board the Tākitimu was Ruawharo. He possessed the mauri (life force) of whales, which he laid to rest at Māhia Peninsula to attract whales to the region.




As elsewhere among Polynesian peoples, many Maori tribes have strong cultural affinities to whales

In Maori cosmology, whales are the descendants of Tangaroa, the god of the oceans. They were thought of in awe, as supernatural beings, and often deemed tapu, or sacred.


Then we have the epic legend of Paikea, the Whale Rider who is a key ancestor who came to New Zealand on the back of a whale or even that our ancestor Paikea was the whale.

His story is shadowed by treachery in Hawaiki, where a battle took place over family status and rivalries.

On the east coast of New Zealand, the Whangara people believe their presence there dates back a thousand years or more to this single ancestor, Paikea, who escaped death when his canoe capsized by riding to shore on the back of a whale. From then on, Whangara chiefs, always the first-born, always male, have been considered Paikea's direct descendants.

Whales were a sign indicating to a tribe that it should settle in a particular place. In others, whales were the guide.

Some individual Maori were said to have a whale guardian spirit when at sea. Stylised whale shapes, symbolising the bounty within, were often carved on the bargeboards of storage houses.

Pane-iraira was a taniwha (water spirit), thought to be a whale, who calmed the waves for the journey of the Tainui canoe. Tohunga responsible for navigation exercised their powers during storms, appealing to sea creatures to escort the canoes and shield them from the fury of a storm. Often the tohunga would pull a hair from his head and throw it to the whale or taniwha as recognition of assistance. This tradition may have been prompted by the reported habit of toothed whales and dolphins presenting gifts of seaweed to each other.



According to Maori myth, whales were the oldest children of the sea gods


It was the connection between Aotearoa and the sacred land from which the Maoris came. Thus, having the whales guide the ancestors to Aotearoa in the first place was a great blessing on the journey.


It is conceivable that the Maori ancestors used whales as their guide, knowing full-well that the whales would migrate to shallower waters; it is even possible that the ancient ancestor who first found his way to New Zealand happened upon Aotearoa while chasing whales through the sea.

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