Basic Information

Alternative Name: Ihu-maataotao [2]
Type/Species: Taniwha
Origin: Maori (Māori) Mythology, New Zealand

About Horo-matangi / Horomatangi / Ihu-maataotao

Horo-matangi is a particularly fierce taniwha that inhabits Lake Taupo (Taupō) in an underwater cave near the island of Motutaiko. [1,6] Horo-matangi has been credited with the creation of the Karapti blowhole. [2] Horo-matangi had extraordinary mana. [5] Mana is a complex manifestation of influence, prestige, and power that is not physically seen. [10]

People of inferior rank, or those whose mana could not overpower the taniwha, would meet an instant death. Great chiefs and great tohunga (priest) sometimes had sufficient mana to tame the taniwha. [5] But, sometimes even a chief or an invocation of a tohunga could not beset such a beast with extraordinary mana. [5]

The best, and most recent, example of this particular manifestation of power occurred in 1845. Te Heuheu Tukino, known as a particularly great chief, along with many of his tribe, died by a landslip at Te Rapa. [5] The legend includes the notation that Pakehas (Europeans, or non-Māori locals of European descent) believe that this was an ordinary landslide, but it is obvious to the Māori that Horomatangi caused the disaster, despite Te Heuheu Tukino's high rank and position. His mana could not overpower Horomatangi. [5]

In addition to his copious mana, Horomatangi's particular fierceness is often attributed to an incident that took place some time ago, during the time of Te Taniwha, also named Te Ihi. Te Ihi ventured out to Horo-matangi, a reef in Taupo Lake, which is home to the taniwha of the same name. He returned and remained home for quite a long time after his trip, but when the fishermen took the fish nets into the waka (ships, canoes), Te Ihi accompanied them. [3]

The fishermen, busy with the nets, did not see Te Ihi enter the water, but at some point, they looked for him and only saw his garments in the waka. In confusion, they assumed that he had been taken by Horomatangi. [3] Te Ihi did not return until the third day, when he appeared on the shore, and ever since then, whenever a waka has traveled near the reef or the taniwha, Horomatangi would become quite angry. [4]

Horomatangi's rage manifested itself as boiling the water, holding the waka immobile, stirring up the gravel and rocks along the bottom of the lake, and destroying the waka and all aboard. The only way to stop or to quell his anger was to have someone onboard the waka that had substantial mana over the taniwha. [4] For this reason in particular, rarely would anyone attempt to cross from Toka-anu to Tapuae-haruru directly, especially without a personage with exceptional mana to tame the anger of Horomatangi. [6] That is also why it is well known that the only humans who dared the wrath of Horomatangi are Te Heuheu Tukino and two women, whose history suggests that they were both Arikis. [6]

Hakaraia Te Wheo, the grandson of Te Ihi, [3] had enough mana present within him. [4] When aboard a waka threatened by the taniwha, he would pluck a hair from his head and set it into the water; thus, Horo-matangi's anger would subside. [4]

A recent story of men who attempted to directly cross Lake Taupo involves the presence of a well-known tohunga (priest) who was believed to have the mana needed to protect them from Hormatangi. In this particular adventure, the waka left the sands with the water smooth and the wind calm. [6] Many on the waka had troubled hearts on the venture, but they traveled directly across the lake in any case. As to not attract attention to themselves, they avoided looking around and even speaking as they passed over Horomatangi's home, worried that he may become angry with their travel. [6]

Very suddenly, the waka completely stopped, and then began to spin around and around. As suddenly as this happened, a large rock appeared, its surface peeking over the water, which all aboard knew as Horomatangi, as taniwha may take any form they please. [6] Just as fear began to grasp at the men in the waka, the tohunga took a hair from his head and set it in the water and then muttered an invocation to the gods. [6] There was a moment, then the water became still again. The mana of the tohunga mastered the taniwha. [6] Still, the men aboard held their fear until they moved the waka into the shallow waters, away from Horo-matangi's influence. [6]

Horomatangi, the custodian of the mana of Lake Taupo, also has a familiar. The familiar, Ati-a-muri, the man-taniwha, paddles his waka in the dusk, looking for stray strangers to lure to the delight of Horomatangi. [6] He doesn't seem harmful in and of himself; instead, his goal is to bring confused or uncertain travelers within the power of Horomatangi's mana. [6]

Ati-a-muri is feared especially in the dusk at night. [6] At this time, he paddles about the lake in a specter waka, visiting the edges of the lake. He only approaches near enough so the outline of his waka can be seen. [7] The people of villages, upon hearing the paddling in the lake, shout welcomes to Ati-a-muri, deceived that a visitor had come. But no reply would come, and soon the familiar would disappear from sight. [7] These instances serve as a reminder for the wise folk of the village that Ati-a-muri tried again to lure people to certain death. [7]

On the western shore of Lake Taupō lie the Karangahape cliffs. [1] Two dogs haunt the high land there, both of whom are also connected to Horomatangi. [7] The occupation and position for these dogs is unclear, but no one has ever seen them. [7] The only way that anyone knows that they exist is that, as the mist thickly covers the land, two dogs can be heard barking and howling on the high land above Karangahape. [7]

Anyone who has thought to investigate the noise must wait until the mist has lifted to traverse the landscape, by which time the barking and howling has subsided, and the only discovery ever made of such exploration is two stones. [7] It is unclear if the stones themselves bark, or if the stones are actually a form of goblin-dog, or even taniwha, that keep their guardian place as stones and transform into dogs in the mists. [7]

Whatever their position and characteristics, these dogs are connected closely with Horomatangi, and because of this connection, interacting disrespectfully with either the stones or the dogs, should they be found, is a violation of a local tapu [7] (taboo, restricted action [10]). For example, the Māori will not point a paddle at the Karangahape or the cliffs associated with these dogs, for it may evoke a deadly response from Horomatangi. [7]

It just so happened that a Pakeha, not unaware but merely reckless, pointed to those very cliffs and shouted a challenge that would raise Horomatangi to a deadly rage. [7] To the surprise of all his companions in the waka, no harm came to either person or property from this blatant sign of disrespect. [8] After substantial discussion, the locals concluded that the taniwha must have no mana over the Pakehas. It has now become customary to have a Pakeha in the waka when traveling notoriously taniwha-dangerous waters, especially the line at Lake Taupō. [8]

In the recent past, Pekehas have safely crossed the lake at every hour, both direct and indirect routes. [6] Even the Māori will take the dangerous direct route, but they will take a Pakeha with them for safety. [6]

Still, even today, people associate deaths and accidents in Lake Taupō to Horo-matangi, for he attacks both the waka and the powerboats. [2]

In some traditions, Ngatoroirangi, the amateur navigator whose adventures kindled much of Lake Taupō, also brought gods form Hawaikii, the mythical ancestral homeland of the various Māori tribes. He brought Horomatangi to assist in the travel of his sisters, Kuiwai and Haungaroa, to the lake. [9] The taniwha, from White Island, dived into the sea and traveled underground till he broke into the waters of Lake Taupō, where he blew pumice up into the air. When Horomatangi dived back into the water, he created a whirlpool to block the entrance of the channel that many still believe exist at the bottom of Horomatangi Reef. [9]

Physical Description

Horomatangi often took the form of a hideous reptile, or giant lizard, [2] as well as the form of a great, black rock. [1] At other times, he would appear as an old man, fire-red and terrifying. [1]


  1. Orbell 44
  2. Rose 172
  3. Te Hata 42 [Online]
  4. Te Hata 43 [Online]
  5. Gudgeon 188 [Online]
  6. Gudgeon 189 [Online]
  7. Gudgeon 190 [Online]
  8. Gudgeon 191 [Online]
  9. Self Guided Tour Map. Link defunct: <>
  10. Orbell 211

For more information on footnotes and references, please see the bibliography.