In the underworld we find a different state of things, for here abide two antagonistic powers that are ever striving against each other. We have already seen that, when Hine-titama, the Dawn Maid, descended to the underworld she discarded that name and became known as Hine-nui-te-Po. Her task in the underworld is to rescue the souls of her descendants, mankind, from the fell designs of Whiro, who ever attempts to destroy them. Whiro is the personified form of evil, darkness and death; he and his myrmidons dwell within Taiwhetuki, the abode of death, and among them are the dread Maiki brethren who represent sickness and disease. Ever these baleful beings attack man, the offspring of Tane and Hinetitarua, in the upper world, taiao, the world of light and life; ever man succumbs and flows like water down to the underworld; ever the brood of Whiro assails the souls of men in the lower world, striving to destroy them. But Hine of the red dawn ever stands between the souls of her children and the hordes of Whiro. In the days when man was young upon the earth, when she fled from Tane the sun god to Rarohenga, the underworld, her abiding word was—”Maku e kapu i te toiora o a taua tamariki” (I will secure the spiritual welfare of our children).
The popular conception of Hine-nui-te-Po is that she is the destroyer who ensnares mankind in the snare of death; the higher teachings are that she is the defender of the endangered soul of man, the saviour of the multitude of spirits in the underworld. Here, then, in this underworld we have antagonistic forces, for Hine the empress of the lower world is aided by many beings known as the Tini o Puhiata and the Parangeki, while the followers of Whiro are known as the Tini o Rohena and Tini o Potahi. A short account of this version of the Hine-nui-te-Po myth tells us that it is Whiro who breeds all forms of disease and sickness that ever assail men and sweep them away to the Po, the underworld of spirits. Also that had not Hinetitama the Dawn Maid hied her to that realm in order to guard and succour the souls of men, then assuredly they would have perished at the hands of Whiro and his dread hordes. These spirits from the upper world are congregated in that region of the underworld wherein abides the erst Dawn Maid, now known as Hine-nui-te-Po. That, we are told, is the division of Rarohenga in which the spirits find safety, where Hine has secured their welfare, where all spirits retain life. Had it not been for Hine then all spirits would have come under the sway of Whiro and Uru-te-ngangana, in which case they would have been haled within Taiwhetuki, Taitewaro and Horonuku-atea, the homes of all calamities and death, and so destroyed, for therein lurk the dread multitudes of Rorinuku, of Rorikauhika and of the Parawhaka-wairuru.
The Dawn Maid had but a short reign, like all dawns, and she passed to the realm of darkness as all dawns must pass. In that realm of Po, or Rarohenga, the shadowy underworld, she awaits the souls of her descendants of the upper world. Those souls are conducted to her by Ruatoia and Ruakumea, whose names betoken their duties.
Now the fire that burns in the underworld at Taiwhetuki appears in this upper world in the form of volcanic fire. From the time that Whiro and his companions descended to the underworld there has been a ceaseless contest in the realm of Rarohenga, the underworld. Whiro and others who held his views are ever assailing Hine-titama, her offspring and descendants. The Moriori folk of the Chatham Isles replace Hine-titama by Rohe, who was the wife of Maui, and who, on being ill-treated by him, retired to the underworld which she controls, and where she captures all souls of the dead as they reach that region.
In one version of the Dawn Maid myth, as preserved by the Maori, Hine turns to Tane the sun lord, who is pursuing her, and sends him back to the upper world, saying: “Return, O Tane! to our offspring; cherish the welfare of our children in the upper world; when death comes to them I will see to their spiritual welfare.”Even so does she preserve the life of the soul of man, hence are human spirits seen and heard giving warning of dangers and coming misfortune. Against this superior teaching we have plentiful evidence of the popular belief, as contained in the well-known saying: “He ai atu ta te tangata, he huna mai ta Hine-nui-te-Po” (Man begets, Hine-nui-te-Po destroys). Another such saying is “Mate tangata e ngaki, ma Hine-nui-te-Po e kukute“, which bears a similar meaning. Hine is said to have been taken to wife by Ruaumoko, another denizen of the underworld, by whom she had many children, and who was an ally of Whiro in his ceaseless attacks on the denizens of the upper world. Hineoi was a daughter of the above twin, and she represents the activities of her sire, and so is connected with all volcanic activity in the upper world. Another saying pertaining to the underworld of spirits is the following: “He nui tangata e haere ana ki te Po, he iti tangata e haere ana ki te ao” (Many persons fare on to the spirit world, but few to the upper world of life.) An allied saying is: “Ko te Po te Hokia a taiao.” (The spirit world from which none return to the upper world, or, as the Maori has it—the spirit world from which the upper world is not returned to.)