The Maori - Volume I
III Traditional History and its Teaching—the Whare Wananga, or School of Learning
III Traditional History and its Teaching—the Whare Wananga, or School of Learning.
Tribal history of minor interest—The two peoples that settled New Zealand—Intermarriage of these two elements—Quarrels between Mouriuri and Polynesians—Mixed progeny sides with Polynesians—Aborigines exterminated—The Toi tribes occupy New Zealand—Mouriuri refugees colonise the Chatham Islands—Polynesian settlers witness the extinction of the moa (Dinornis)—Vessels from Polynesia—Maori raid on the Chatham Isles—Superior mana of Polynesians—Origin of Maori tribes.
The School of Learning; its Objects, Methods and Ritual—The Whare wananga a tapu institution—Origin of such tapu—Lack of a script renders oral tradition imperative—Objects of the School of Learning—Conservatism of teachers—Origin of School of Learning—Taiwhetuki, the House of Death—Famous Schools—Names of such Schools—Sacred stones—Sessions held in winter—Magic believed in but termed evil—Different Schools of Learning—The mauri or talisman—The ahurewa or altar—Tapu stones employed in teaching—Methods of teaching—Titles of scholars—Precision aimed at in conserving lore—Stone seats for ceremonial use—Opening chaunt at sunrise—Archaic invocations—The three baskets of knowledge—Teaching in form of lectures—Examination of Scholars—Singular rites—Concluding ceremony performed in water—Invocation to the Supreme Being—Material and immaterial mauri (talisman and sacred life principle)—Additional notes on tapu stones—Procedure differed as among different tribes—Removal of tapu—The final ceremony—The oho rangi rite—South Island schools—Last session of the Whare wananga—The dangers of tapu—The basket of evil and its teaching—Ordeals and trials—The takuahi—The Ra-wheoro—Intense respect for tapu knowledge—The Universal Soul in Nature—Maori mentality—Maori characteristics and achievements—Origin of evil—The Maori and the Earth Mother.
The tribal history of such a people as the Maori of New Zealand is not a subject that appeals to the ethnographer, inasmuch as such oral traditions are composed almost entirely of somewhat monotonous accounts of inter-tribal warfare. It is when we come to deal with the cosmogony, mythology, religion, sociology, etc., of such barbaric races that the anthropologist becomes interested, and finds data for his comparative work. Bearing in mind this truth, I do not propose to give, in this sketch, any of the tribal histories that have been collected and recorded. There are, however, several matters to be explained ere the reader can understand the result of the meetings of the two peoples, Mouriuri and Polynesian, in these isles, and what effect the first settlers had on the later coming intrusive element from the eastern Pacific. The mixture of the two peoples and the development of tribal communities must receive some attention. It is also proposed to give some account of the method adopted in handing down oral traditions from one generation to another, an art in which the Maori unquestionably excelled.
The first question that claims our attention is that of the result of the influx of Polynesians into New Zealand that began with the arrival of Toi and his companions, and continued for probably two centuries.
Two facts are made clear in Maori tradition. The first of these is that the earlier Polynesian voyagers who settled on these shores brought but few women with them, and the second is that bickerings and quarrels between the two peoples began soon after their first intercourse with each other. We are told that the companions of Toi and Whatonga were given wives by the original settlers, and that the Mouriuri women were very partial to the stalwart Polynesian immigrants. This preference was owing to the fact that the newcomers were men of a much finer appearance, and, moreover, were more industrious than their predecessors. Whatonga himself seems to have had two Mouriuri wives, and succeeding immigrants followed the example of the first-comers. One tribal tradition puts matters in this way. The first-comers were given wives by the local natives; in after days such women were asked for, or demanded, and, still later, they page 59 were taken by force. This latter method would unquestionably lead to trouble, nor was that trouble long in coming. The Maori tells us that the pilfering habits of the Mouriuri led to quarrels and fighting, and the domineering procedure of the Polynesians must have been an important factor in such ruptures.
It is evident that, for a considerable period, the new-comers must have been weak in numbers, and hence they would be compelled to assume a peaceful demeanour, no light task for the Polynesian of that period. But, as time rolled on, the intruders’ position would be considerably strengthened each generation, in two ways. They were, ever and anon, receiving new recruits from overseas, and also the half-breed population, the progeny of Polynesian fathers and Mouriuri mothers, sided with the fathers’ clan and increased its strength. There could be only one result from the growth of such conditions. When we consider the character, the attributes, of such men as the Polynesian sea rovers, virile, proud, aggressive and forceful fighting men, we know that when they met with a people differing from them in many ways, then, sooner or later, a struggle to the death must result. That struggle came. The story of the contest, as handed down in tradition, is one of many and increasing quarrels, of increasing numbers of the mixed Polynesian-Mouriuri people, and finally of open warfare. The mixed population, often alluded to as the Toi tribes (Te Tini o Toi), though these people in some parts were also descended from other Polynesian immigrants, eventually determined to attack and destroy the unmixed Mouriuri folk, for whom they seem to have entertained both hatred and contempt. Tradition tells us that they were attacked at many places from the Bay of Plenty to the far north, and on both coasts. Many of the original people fled into the interior, and Maunga-pohatu is mentioned as one of the remote forest solitudes the refugees fled to. It is quite possible that the Nga Potiki, folk, the former occupants of the wild forest region of Tuhoe, were descendants of those refugees. For Nga Potiki do not know their own origin, hence they claim descent from mythical beings. Another fact that has puzzled us is that Potiki, their eponymic ancestor, was not, apparently, descended from Toi.page 60
We now find the position to be as follows:—Owing to inter-marriage with the original settlers, the mixed race had become strong enough in numbers to attack the Mouriuri people, drive the survivors back into the interior, and seize their lands. The Toi folk became resolved into tribes, each occupying a definite area, and it was about this time that the sweet potato, and also probably the taro and gourd, were introduced from Polynesia.
Some time after the arrival of the Polynesian immigrants, the disturbed conditions in the North Island area led to the settlement of the Chatham Islands by some of the Mouriuri. One party of these harassed folk, under a chief named Kahu, left the Bay of Plenty district, marched across the island by way of Taupo, and camped on the northern shore of Cook Straits, at the mouth of the Rangitikei river. Under the supervision of a man named Te Aka-roroa, who was apparently a Polynesian, they constructed a vessel capable of conveying the party to the Chatham Isles, which lie about 400 miles eastward of the South Island of New Zealand. They had heard of the discovery of these isles by Toi, and resolved to seek them, and so attain a home in which they might dwell in peace. Now we know that the expedition did reach and settle in those isolated isles, for the Maioriori, or Moriori, folk found in occupation there by Lieut. Broughton late in the 18th century had preserved a tradition of the coming of Kahu, Te Aka-roroa, and their companions. The Maori folk of New Zealand also knew of the arrival of Kahu at the Chathams, and this knowledge was brought hither by one Hau-te-horo, a descendant of Te Aka-roroa of the fourth generation, who found his way back to this island and settled at Whanganui, a place that had been the home of his great-great-grandfather.
Tradition tells us of another party of Mouriuri folk that was expelled from Taranaki and came down the coast to Cook Straits. Here the refugees sojourned a while, and then sailed in several vessels for the Chathams. The natives of that group, who are now practically extinct, had traditions of the arrival there of several different lots of immigrants in the past.
As time rolled on the Toi tribes, the mixed folk, pushed their way further south into districts which the warmth-loving page 61 Mouriuri had never occupied. They settled the southern part of the North Island, and then crossed the sea of Raukawa (Cook Straits) and occupied the South Island. Some fragments of traditions collected in that area seem to show that it might have been settled prior to the time of Toi, but there is nothing satisfactory about such dim, fragmentary stories. A North Island tradition to the effect that the Takitumu immigrants of twenty generations ago were the first people to occupy the South Island is, however, probably incorrect.
Ere passing on to the later coming vessels from Polynesia, reference may be made to an interesting legend of the time of Toi. All students of Maori lore are acquainted with a peculiar title applied to the moa (Dinornis), that huge flightless bird that once roamed over these isles, and of which so many remains have been found. That title or saying is Te Manu nui a Ruakapanga—the Great Bird of Ruakapanga. This name puzzled us for a long time, until the following legend, collected in the “forties” of last century, was made known. It appears that this Ruakapanga was a relative of Toi. He chanced to go a-roving inland of Maketu with some companions, whose names have also been preserved. While on this expedition the party encountered a number of moa, and the legend contains an account of the manner in which the creatures fed. Having overcome a certain superstitious fear of the great birds, Ruakapanga attempted to trap one of them, and was successful on several occasions, but the captured birds always succeeded in escaping. At length so stout a trap was constructed that no moa could free itself from it, and so it was that one was eventually secured. Thus it was that the moa became known as the Great Bird of Ruakapanga, a name that is also known to the Rarotongans. We thus see that both Maori and Mouriuri have known the moa, and both must have utilised it as a food supply. This is shown by the bones and fragments of moa egg shells found in middens and around old umu or cooking pits. It must have been ruthless hunting that led to the extermination of the bird in the North Island, so much of which was covered with dense forest in which some species certainly abode.
It has been noted that a number of vessels arrived on these shores from Polynesia twenty generations ago. These page 62 page 63 vessels came from the Society Group, and the immigrants who came in them exercised an important influence on tribal affairs in these isles. The newcomers were evidently a more virile, energetic and masterful people than the folk of the Toi tribes then in possession of the country. Presumably the characteristics of the earlier Polynesian settlers here had been affected by intermarriage with the Mouriuri people, and some traditions assert that the Toi tribes were an unwarlike, peace-loving folk, a statement that it is somewhat difficult to believe. We do know that the population of the Chatham Islands discontinued fighting, a fact that rendered them an easy prey to a force of fierce fighting men of the Atiawa tribe that attacked and slaughtered many of them in 1835. These buccaneers seized a vessel lying in Wellington harbour and compelled the captain thereof to convey them to the Chathams. It seems probable that the cessation of fighting among the natives of that group had been forced upon the people by the extremely limited area of the isles.
The superiority of the last Polynesian immigrants was shown by the way in which they acquired influence over the Toi people. All the Maori folk of New Zealand trace their descent, by preference, from those immigrants, and indeed they have withheld information concerning previous inhabitants, this to so marked an extent that it is only of late years that we have gained detailed accounts of the Toi and Mouriuri peoples.
A tribal aphorism of the Tuhoe natives explains the Maori attitude:—We inherited our land from Toi and Potiki, but our mana from Tuhoe-potiki. The latter name is that of the eponymic ancestor of the tribe. It was the mana, the attribute of a forceful and energetic people, that brought the Polynesians to the front.*
* Mana—power, prestige, influence, psychic force.
The descendants of the Arawa and Matatua immigrants settled in different areas of the Bay of Plenty, where their mixed descendants still abide. The Tainui immigrants are represented by the tribes of Waikato and adjacent districts, and those of Aotea by the natives of Taranaki. The blood of the crews of Horouta and Takitumu runs in the veins of the native occupants of the East Cape and east coast districts. Natives of the northern pensinsula claim descent from the crews of the vessels Mamari and Mahuhu, and so on. Thus the North Island may be said to have been divided primarily into canoe districts, each of which, as a rule, is composed of several tribal districts.
As time passed by, and suitable lands for native occupation became all taken up, a world-old trouble arose, the pressure of one people upon another, and its accompanying jealousies, quarrels and wars. This was the beginning of the long period of such pressure, conquests, absorptions and expulsions that continued down to the arrival of Europeans, or rather when the power of the intrusive white folk became dominant in these isles. To give even a brief sketch of such barbaric disturbances would mean the publication of much matter containing little to interest either the ethnographer or the general reader. It is only by recording data concerning the origin, customs, institutions, myths and religion of a neolithic people that we can claim the attention of either. I will, therefore, proceed to view the Maori method of teaching and handing down oral traditions and sacred tribal lore to succeeding generations.
We have now to deal with one of the most interesting institutions of Maoriland, one that illustrates the reverence felt by the Maori for ancient lore, and casts much light on his mentality.
The tapu School of Learning, under different names, was held to be a highly important institution, and it assuredly occupied a high status in both islands. A study of this school and its activities impresses one with the conviction that the page 65 Maori held what we may call learning in high estimation, and ever looked upon high-class teachers and repositories of such learning as important members of the community. Inasmuch as all esoteric knowledge was closely connected with the gods, it follows as a natural sequence that occult knowledge and its human mediums were endowed with the condition of tapu. In no sphere of Maori activities was that restrictive institution more in evidence than in the higher form of the School of Learning. The more intensely tapu matter was that pertaining to the Supreme Being, and the higher versions of cosmogonic myths, the origin of man, and the superior phases of religion. A people like ourselves, devoid of tapu, who hold our sacred teachings so cheaply as to make our Bible as common as the daily newspaper, simply cannot conceive the feeling the old-time Maori had for knowledge of the above kind.
We are aware that the Maori folk possessed no graphic system, no form of script by which accumulations of knowledge might be recorded and handed down. It was this fact that rendered the Whare wananga such an important institution in native eyes, inasmuch as it conserved all oral traditions, all sacred lore, and transmitted them verbally to posterity. Even when the Maori acquired the art of writing in the schools instituted by the early missionaries, the conservative repositories of ancient and tapu lore looked askance at the art, and showed no desire to make use of it as a vehicle for preserving their knowledge. Had the Maori retained his old-time lordship of these isles, he might have proceeded on similar lines to those adopted of old in India, and continued to conserve his revered knowledge by memory alone, side by side, as it were, with a written tongue.
* Tohunga—expert, adept.
The original Whare wananga, assuredly the most renowned of all, was that known as Rangiatea, which was situated in the uppermost of the twelve heavens. This belonged to Io, the Supreme Being, and it was under the care of the Whatukura and Mareikura, the male and female denizens of the Toi o nga rangi, the uppermost of the twelve heavens, who are the attendants of Io. After this original House of Learning was named the island of Rangiatea (now known as Ra'iatea) in the Society Group, whereat was situated one of the most tapu places of all Polynesia. The Maori church at Otaki, built when Christianity was introduced into that part of New Zealand, was given the same name.
The first Whare wananga built on earth was named Whare-kura, and it was situated at a thrice tapu place named Te Hono-i-wairua, in the far-off homeland of Irihia. It is said to have been constructed by Rua-te-pupuke, who is the personified form of knowledge. In it was conserved all tapu knowledge pertaining to the Supreme Being, the twelve heavens and their denizens, and other revered lore.
Another House of Knowledge was that known as Taiwhetuki, which belonged to Whiro, the enemy of Tane, and personified form of darkness and evil. In this place was preserved the knowledge of evil, and evil arts, such as black magic. It was the origin of the pernicious Whare maire of this world, wherein magic arts are taught. Tai-whetuki was the abode of the dread Maiki brethren, a grisly company, who are the personified forms of sickness and disease, of all maladies that attack men. Ever they wage war against the descendants of Tane, who succumb in their thousands. In Tai-whetuki, the House of Death, they ever dwell. So say the Maori folk of the world of life.
The names of other famous Whare wananga have been preserved, some of which were situated in the hidden land of Irihia, some in eastern Polynesia, and some in New Zealand. The most famous ones on the eastern coast of the North page 67 Island seem to have been Te Ra-wheoro, at Uawa, and Rangi-te-auria at Maunga-wharau. That of the Wai-rarapa district was named Te Poho-o-Hinepae. Names of such places seem to have passed down the centuries.
The name applied to these Schools of Learning differed in different districts. In some parts it is called the Whare maire, but among the Takitumu people that name is applied only to an inferior school in which was imparted knowledge of black magic. Among the Tuhoe tribe the high-class school was known as the Whare takiura; such was Kahuponia at Maunga-pohatu. In some cases evidently no special house was built, in which case the name seems to pertain to what may be termed the curriculum. In some districts the name of Wharekura denoted the School of Learning, as at Taranaki.
At the isle of Rarotonga, in the Cook Group, this institution was known as the Are vananga. The word wananga denotes occult knowledge, while whare is a house, a term that is often employed in a figurative manner, as in whare potae and whare taua, the house of mourning. We shall see anon that three classes or grades of knowledge were introduced into the world by Tane.
The two sacred stones obtained by Tane from the Supreme Being were employed as empowering agents to impart mana, force, efficiency, to ritual utterances. A singular act was performed in those remote times whereby to obtain sacred, mana possessing stones for use in the ritual of the Whare wananga. Certain small stones of a suitable size were obtained and deposited on or against the tapu stones (whatu kura) obtained from Io. By this contact the small stones became impregnated as it were with the tapu and mana (sacredness and innate powers) of the larger ones, and so were rendered fit for use in the School of Learning. This belief in the effect of contact seems to illustrate a phase of mentality akin to that which places faith in mediums in sympathetic magic. Of such peculiar mental phenomena we may note survivals in civilised communities.
The following description is that of the methods of imparting knowledge employed among the Takitumu folk of the each coast of the North Island, the Kahungunu tribe referred to above. In this district such knowledge was divided into two main classes, known as the kauwae runga (upper jaw), and the kauwae raro (lower jaw), or celestial and terrestrial subjects. The former expression denotes the heavens above us, the latter the earth. The celestial lore is that pertaining to the Supreme Being, the racial cosmogonic and anthropogenic myths, the primal parents and their offspring, all matters concerning the upper world of the heavens. The terrestrial lore is that treating of the homeland of the race, the migration therefrom, historical traditions, tribal history, etc.; all matters pertaining to this world.
The following are the three “houses,” so-called, of learning of the above-mentioned district:—
The expression “Whare wananga” denoted all high-class knowledge, esoteric lore, the higher forms of religious teachings, such matter as comes under the term of kauwae runga, and the more important matter pertaining to the kauwae raro. All ceremonial connected with the enlightenment of the human mind, with the preservation of the physical, intellectual and spiritual welfare of man, was here taught. All of such matter represents the contents of the kete aronui, the most important of the three “baskets” of knowledge. There was much highly tapu ritual pertaining to the methods and conduct of these teachings. The teaching commenced at sunrise and continued until the sun reached the zenith, when it ceased.
It could not be continued longer, because the sinking sun is connected with decay and death. Such, then, was the Whare wananga.
The expression “Whare kaupo” denotes second-class matter, such as tribal history, accounts of old wars, and other subjects of somewhat inferior status. This “house” was open from noon until sunset, when the teaching ceased for the day.
The term “Whare maire” denoted low-class matter connected with evil deeds, such as black magic, the slaying of man by means of destroying his wairua (soul). In some other districts, as we have seen, the whare maire represented higher-class teachings. In the Kahungunu district it was the home of wizardry and shamanism. These teachings were conducted at night, commencing at sunset. Now such was the division of the day as regards teaching tribal lore, or so we are told by natives. But it was an ideal that apparently was not attained, and I am certain that such a strict limitation of hours was not adhered to in all cases. In some districts we are told that all subjects were taught at night only.
In the building of a house to be used for a special purpose, as a School of Learning, for example, there would be buried at the base of the rearmost post supporting the ridgepole some object, generally a stone, that was known as a whatu. This served as a mauri or talisman for the house. It acted as an abiding place, a kind of shrine, for the gods under whose protection the house had been placed; it preserved the welfare of all connected with it, and of all proceedings connected with it. In at least some cases a few hairs, plucked from the heads of the priests conducting the ritual connected with the building of the house, were buried with the stone. In other cases a lizard was so buried.
At the base of the rearmost post alluded to was the most tapu spot of the Whare wananga: it was known as the ahurewa. At this place was performed any ceremony performed over the scholars, and here were kept a number of small stones used in the rites pertaining to the establishment. These small stones were used for a very singular purpose, for we are told that one was given to each pupil, who placed it in his mouth and retained it there while listening to the lectures of the adepts whom we may term the professors of the School page 71 of Learning. In some cases a small stone was handed to each scholar who had passed the examination test, and he had to swallow it during the performance of a religious function.
When entering the Whare wananga scholars were compelled to disrobe and leave their garments at some distance from the school; this was on account of the intense tapu of the place. They entered the building in a state of nudity and clad themselves with garments kept therein. When leaving the place a reverse process had to be gone through, for such is the exigency of the rules of tapu. For the same reason no food and no women were allowed to enter the house.
Prior to youths being permitted to enter our School of Learning they were tested as to their powers of memory. Certain popular legendary tales, korero purakau, were repeated to them, and they were required to repeat such matter from memory before examiners. Those who possessed retentive memories were selected as scholars, allowed to enter the Whare wananga. For the acquisition of high-class matter, the lore of the kauwae runga, it was necessary that the scholars should be young men of good family, of the rangatira class.
The ordinary term for a scholar is akonga, but other terms are employed to denote those who enter the School of Learning. Thus a beginner, a neophyte, is called a pia, one further advanced a taura, and he who has fully acquired the wananga is termed a tauira. A person possessed of much knowledge of occult lore and tribal traditions is known as a pu (receptacle or repository) or pu korero, or a putea rauroha. The tauira automatically becomes a tohunga, because the latter term simply denotes an expert, an adept, not necessarily a priest.
The great aim of the Whare wananga was to pass on old-time lore unchanged to succeeding generations. Any deviation from olden teachings was black treason. To deny the truth of any of its teachings would be a highly pernicious act. A worthy old sage remarked to one he had taught: “O son! Carefully retain the tapu lore I have imparted to you. Your ancestors ever conserved it within the Whare wananga. Should any person condemn these teachings, then may the sun wither him, may the moon consign him to the pit of darkness. He is not condemning me, but Tane the Parent, from whom this sacred lore was derived.”page 72
In our School of Learning of the east coast stone seats were provided for use in certain ceremonial performances. This was a most unusual thing, for the Maori did not use seats other than that provided by the earth. These stones used as seats were eleven in number. Eight of them were placed at the rearmost main post of the house, and the other three further forward, near the takuahi, or fireplace. The eight seats were for the use of scholars, and the three for the accommodation of the teachers.
When the scholars had entered the house, and clothed themselves, then the door was closed and a priest teacher intoned an invocation to Ruatau, Rehua and Paoa, supernatural beings of the heavens. The chaunt was commenced just as the first rays of the rising sun fell upon the house, which invariably faced the east. Bear in mind that Tane represents knowledge, he introduced superior forms of knowledge into the world, and Tane is the personified form of the sun. The scholars were assembled, the priest teacher was standing by the rear post facing the east and awaiting the flash of the rising sun. He was about to hail great Tane.
This act of waiting for the rays of the rising sun carries the mind back to Persian armies on the march in days of old. When the first rays struck the crystal globe enclosing a golden image of the sun fixed on the king's pavilion, the daily march began. First went the chariot with the altar and the sacred fire, even as, with our Maori folk, the amorangi, or emblem of a god, was carried by a priest in the van of a marching force, as exemplified in the old saying: “Ko te amorangi ki mua, ko te hapai o ki muri.” (The emblem of the god in the van, the food bearers in the rear.)
“Enter deeply, enter to the very foundations
Into the very origins of all knowledge
O Io of the Hidden Face!
Gather into the very base of the ears of thy neophytes,
Thy sons, the desired knowledge.
Descend on them thy knowledge, thy thoughts,
To the very foundations of the mind
O Io the Wise! O Io of all holy knowledge!
O Io the Parentless!”
During his recital the priest struck the post near him with his hand. This recital placed the house, its inmates, and the proceedings under intense tapu, so much so that, until it was lifted, the high gods of the Maori might be said to be present. It was an invoking of the gods and the God to come to the aid of the scholars. Any error committed by a priest in the recital of these intoned chaunts was an extremely serious matter, and would probably result in the death of the priest. Such was the Maori belief.
Each of these so-called baskets may be described as a syllabus, and it is of interest to note here that Hindoos speak of their three baskets of knowledge, which represent their sacerdotal lore.
The kete aronui—All desirable, beneficient, useful knowledge designed to benefit mankind.
The kete tuauri—The knowledge of all ritual, or ceremonial matters, invocations and the conduct of all rites.
The kete tuatea—The knowledge of evil, of black magic and all things harmful to man.
The kete aronui was the first one opened in the School of Learning, and this contained the lore of the kauwae runga, teachings concerning the Supreme Being, cosmogonic and anthropogenic myths, etc. All matter was taught in the form of lectures, and had to be very carefully memorised. A single error in such matters as karakia (invocations, etc.) and genealogies was fatal to success. A scholar might wish to acquire but one, or two, of the three baskets, and high-class page 74 priests seem to have been opposed to a person acquainted with the cult of Io having anything to do with black magic.
When the lectures connected with the kauwae runga, or celestial matters, came to an end, then a peculiar ceremonial function was performed in order to abolish the intense tapu pertaining to those subjects, for tapu is a condition that imposes many hampering restrictions. Then lectures dealing with the kauwae raro were commenced, historical traditions, matters of this world. When three teachers took part in the proceedings, two would act as kaituruki, or prompters to the one speaking.
When the course of lectures was ended, then the examination of the scholars was proceeded with. As observed, the procedure appears to have differed somewhat in different places, but one account collected is as follows:—Each scholar who was to be examined with regard to the lore of the kete aronui took his seat on one of the three stone seats near the fireplace of the house. Those who were to be examined in the other “basket” of knowledge seated themselves on the stones at the base of the rear supporting post of the ridgepole. The small stones kept at that place were produced by one of the teachers, who placed one in the mouth of each pupil. These stones seem to have been endowed with mana by having been placed in contact with one of the tapu stones (whatu) of the house. Each scholar was called upon to repeat the matter of the lectures he had listened to. Those who showed themselves efficient, who had memorised such teachings in a satisfactory manner, were subjected to a final ceremony as they sat on the stone seats.
A peculiar act was performed at this juncture by one of the priestly teachers. He plucked a hair from the head of each pupil who had passed with honour, obtained a fragment of dust from their bare feet, a portion of their saliva, and buried them near the rear post of the house. The object of this procedure was to render the scholars invulnerable to the shafts of black magic, and to enable them to retain the acquired knowledge, to prevent it being filched from them by charlatans.
Certain ritual formulæ were intoned by the priests over the scholars as they sat on the stone seats, such extremely page 75 tapu invocations had to be delivered without pause or break in the continuity of the recital, hence a tohunga turuki, or assistant priest, took part in the proceedings. The chief examiner commenced, and continued the chaunt so long as his breath held out. The very instant he stopped, his assistant took up the recital without any perceptible break in the delivery. These adepts were extremely expert in this procedure. To each scholar was given a small fragment of stone over which a charm had been repeated. This stone was called the whatu whakahoro, and it had to be swallowed at a certain stage of an intoned invocation. The swallowing of the fragment of stone, we are told, had the effect of stabilising the acquired knowledge.
The function was a remarkable one. The stone was placed on the tongue of a scholar, and he retained it there until the time came for him to swallow it. Another small stone, termed a whatu kairangi, was given to each scholar in the final rite, and this seems to have equalled our diploma or parchment certificate. This stone was retained by the scholar, and an old native friend of the writer always carries his in his vest pocket. The stone that, in at least some districts, scholars kept in their mouths while listening to the lectures, was called a whatu whangai.
Tenei to aro, tenei to pia
He aro matua, he pia nau, e Rangi!
He aro nou, e Ruatau!
He pia nau, e Tane te wananga a Ruatau . . e!
Te wananga a Rangi . . e
page 76Heuea te uruuru whenua.
Heuea te uruuru makinokino
Huru manu ki tenei taura
Huru marire ki tenei pia nau, e Pawa . . e!
Rukutia, rukutia i te putake o nga korero
Rukutia i te wananga kia heke i to ara
He ara te ihonga, he ara te whiroa
He ara to ngakengakenga ki te pu
Kia tamaua ki te hiringa i roto
Kia tawhia ki te hiringa matua
Kia whanake i te pu te hiringa tawhito uru rangi
Kia whanake i roto i te koronga te hiringa tipua
Kia whanake i te iho to hiringa, e Ruatau! . . e!
Te hiringa i te mahara
Te hiringa i te wananga nau
E Tane te wananga a Rangi tikitiki . . e . . i!
Puritia i te ioio nui, i te ioio o te pukenga
I te ioio o te hiringa wananga tipua
I te wananga ariki, i te wananga atua
No runga i nga rangi tuhaha;
No te uruuru tahito, no te uruuru tipua
No te uruuru matua ki a koe, e Io matua . . e!
E Ruatau! E Tane te waiora . . e . . i!”
Na, ka horomia te kowhatu i roto i te waha o te taura ra i tenei tonu. Na, ka mea ano te tohunga.
“Oi whiwhia, oi rawea
Oi tamaua te ueue tipua, te ueue rangi
Te ueue kaha, te ueue atua, te take i roto
E tipu to aro, e tipu o mahara
E tipu, e rea ki te whai ao, ki te ao marama . . e,
He pukenga tipua, te koronga atua
Whiroa i roto te pukenga
Whiwhia i roto te hiringa atua nou, e Tane ki to
aro . . e . . i!”
The above invocation is a good specimen of the highest type of invocation employed in old-time Maori ritual. The wording is archaic and highly sacerdotal. Such ritual was intoned in an impressive manner, and would that my readers could hear a Maori expert rolling forth with rhythmic diction this ancient appeal to the gods. It appeals to divers gods and personifications, to Rangi the Sky Parent, to Ruatau, Tane, Pawa, and to Great Io, the Supreme Being. It appeals page 77 to them, on behalf of the scholars, to endow them with desirable qualities, a high order of mentality, and power to retain the tapu knowledge they have acquired.
“Here is my mauri, thy mauri, O Io the Parent!
Here is my mauri, the mauri of Tupai
Here is my mauri, the mauri of Tane
Here is my mauri, the mauri of Tu-matauenga
Here is my mauri, the mauri of the tipua
Here is my mauri, the mauri of the gods.”
Here we note that this stone was employed as a material mauri, or talisman, to protect the immaterial mauri of man, that is to protect his life principle. We shall, in another that is to protect his life principle. We shall, in another place, enquire further into this extremely interesting double application of the term mauri when dealing with the spiritual and mental concepts of the Maori. It will be observed that, in the above formula, the mauri is spoken of as emanating from, or originating with, the gods.
It has been my privilege to examine a collection of sacred stones formerly used in the famous old Whare wananga of Maunga-wharau, in the Hawke's Bay district. They are flat, smooth, apparently water-worn stones, circular or somewhat ovoid in form, and about one inch across. One is of a jet black, but the others of a reddish colour. If I am not much mistaken they represent a stone commonly termed carnelian, such as is found about Cabbage Bay, Hauraki Peninsula.page 78
All tohunga ahurewa, priestly experts of the Whare wanaga, were extremely tapu personages, more particularly the chief priest, sometimes termed the whatu of the School of Learning. Te Matorohanga of Wai-rarapa was such a high expert, hence his tapu prevented him entering stores, or dwelling houses of Europeans. He could not even partake of food without assistance, the tapu prevented his handling food, hence his sister used to feed him, actually placing the food in his mouth, for such was the tapu of the Maori in the days of yore.
As previously observed, the methods differed as in different districts. In some schools no stone was swallowed by pupils, and in some the stone given to one who had passed in the examination test was known as a whatu tamaua take, of which each one had its own specific name. In the year 1914 there were four old men, holders of this stone “certificate” still living in the Whanganui district. In some schools a small tapu stone was retained by each scholar in his mouth, on the left side thereof, when repeating the acquired matter of the lectures to the examiners. In this case those who had been successful underwent a final ceremony while seated on the stone seats at the rear end of the house. The scholar seated himself on one of these stones, when an examiner handed him a stone about two and a-half inches in diameter, termed a whatu turuki. This stone the scholar retained between his open hands by means of pressure, his hands being help up before him as he sat on the stone. Then certain ritual formulæ were recited over him. He was then told to rise, and another such stone was placed on the seat, on which he again seated himself. Then two priests took their stand, one on either side of him, and each placed a hand on his head, so as just to touch it. A third priest then intoned certain ritual that enabled the pupil to retain the sacred lore. Then the pupil was handed his stone diploma, which he retained. Each scholar who successfully underwent the examination took his seat on the right side of the house; those who failed had to go to the left side. The latter might be granted another opportunity to memorise the lectures. Some of the sacred stones used in these schools are said to have been brought to New Zealand in past centuries by immigrants page 79 from Polynesia. One adept who taught several young men in the “sixties” of last century possessed two of the sacred stones from the Whare wananga of old. When his teaching commenced early each morning, he would place one of the stones in the palm of the hand of one of the pupils. The other pupils then placed their hands over the stone, one above another. As they stood in that position the teacher intoned certain karakia. Then each scholar in turn held the stone in his mouth as another invocation was chaunted. The teaching or lecture then commenced, and was continued until the sun reached the zenith, when it ceased for the day.
Prior to the dispersal of the scholars of the Whare wananga it was highly necessary that the tapu of the proceedings should be lifted from them. This rite was performed outside the house, often at the turuma or latrine, which place for some reason, was often selected as the spot where religious ceremonies were performed. At this place the scholars were subjected to the extraordinary rite known as ngau paepae, in which the subject has to bite (ngau) the horizontal beam of the latrine, the while certain invocations or chaunts were intoned by the priest. After this performance the scholars immersed their bodies in the waters of a stream.
The next scene was enacted at the Whare wananga, to which all returned, and grouped themselves within the porch, standing in a rank just within the outer threshold, and facing outwards. The head teacher, standing on the marae or clear space in front of the house, then addressed the youths, congratulating them upon their success, their behaviour while under tuition, and also giving them much advice on many points. He warned them to be careful in their demeanour, to comport themselves with dignity, to prize highly and cherish carefully the treasures of learning acquired within the sacred precincts of the Whare wananga.
Teachers and scholars then left the building in procession, the former leading. On arriving at the bounds of the marae, or plaza, before the house, the procession halted, and all turned to face the Whare wananga. A priest now arranged a kauahi (piece of wood used in making fire by friction) and proceeded to hika ahi, or generate fire. For this ceremonial fire was, like fire employed in all ritual functions, exceedingly page 80 tapu, hence new fire was essential; it could not be kindled with live embers from any other fire. While this adept was busy with the fire plough apparatus, another priest was intoning a tapu chaunt appropriate to the occasion. The most prominent feature of this final rite was the singular performance known as oho rangi, which was an awakening of the heavens. A tohunga of high standing would, by means of his mana, cause thunder to sound in the heavens. This was the culminating act of the session, and it not only imparted mana to the proceedings, but also emphasised the powers of the priest. The powers that enabled him to so control a natural phenomenon would be a combination of mana tangata and mana atua, human and supernatural powers. This implied power over the forces of nature, as possessed by the tohunga maori, was a matter of firm faith in the native mind. Different phases of thunder possess specific names in Maoriland; in fact they are personified, and the two forms controlled in connection with the above rite are known as Puoro-rangi and Te Rangi-whakarara. The former of these is marked by a rumbling sound, and the latter by sharp detonations.
At the conclusion of the above rite the scholars divested themselves of their tapu garments and resumed their ordinary clothing. They were then free to return to their homes, to mingle with the people. Their period of tuition was over, they had passed through the three grades of scholarship, the pia, taura and tauira. Henceforward they would be viewed as tohunga (adepts) and pu korero (repositories of learning).
In the South Island these schools of learning were called Whare kura and Whare purakau. Kura is a term employed to denote anything highly prized, the reference being to highclass knowledge in this case. Whare purakau simply means Legend House. The Whare kura seems to have been of higher standing than the other, its teachings being confined to such matters as historical traditions and the ritual pertaining to agriculture, etc., while the other house, or curriculum, included such matters as the practice of the art of war. Mr H. Beattie tells us that a third name, that of Whare tohunga was applied to the teaching of the arts of wizardry in the South Island. The last session of a Whare kura in the South Island was that held at Moeraki in 1868.page 81
The final sessions of at least some of the Schools of Learning of the east coast of the North Island were marked by the utilisation of written language, the scholars recording the teachings in M.S. books. This innovation was looked at askance by the conservative, dour old tohunga, who viewed the procedure with dislike and contempt. I have an account of these sessions, and the means taken to lift the tapu from such books at the conclusion of the teachings. This was done by means of what was known as the umu whakahoro rite. The teacher made a small hole in the earthern floor of the house in which the school had been conducted. He then heated some small stones in a fire kindled outside the house, and placed them in the umu or diminutive earth oven. He then placed a little watercress on the hot stones, and on that a dozen very small potatoes. More herbage was put on top of the potatoes, and a little water sprinkled over it; this water, percolating down to the hot stones, produced the steam that is the cooking agent. The little steam oven was then covered closely with earth so as to prevent escape of the steam.
When the potatoes were deemed to be cooked, the priest demanded the M.S. books of the scholars, and piled them up at his right side. He then opened the steam oven, took the uppermost book, belonging to one Henare Matua, and told the owner to approach him. The priest held the book in his right hand, and took one of the small cooked potatoes in his left hand. He placed the potatoe in the left hand of Henare, and the book in his right hand. He then acted in like manner with the other pupils and their books, after which he told all to whakaha their books, a curious sacerdotal expression which denotes the placing of an object to the mouth, an act accompanied by an intaking of the breath. Four times was this act performed. At the first inspiration the priest said “He toi nui,” at the second “He toi roa,” at the third “He toi whakaputa,” and at the fourth “Nau, e lo o Tikitiki o rangi, e!”
“Tenei o pia, tenei o taura
He iho nui, he iho roa, he iho taketake ki a koe, e Io, e!
Pokia he tamaua take, rokia he tamaua take
Ki enei pia, ki enei tama,
He toi nui, he toi roa, he toi whakaputa nau, e Io matua e!
Ki taiao, ki te ao marama ki a koe, e Io, e!”
In the particular case of tapu removing ceremonies here described, one pupil, an adult, declined to have the tapu removed from his book, the intense tapu that is so dangerous to human life. He took it to his home, erected a special building in which to keep the book, and placed it in a small box, which he hoisted up to the ridgepole by means of a cord. One day, during his absence, some children entered the building, lowered the box to the floor, sat on it, and partook of food while doing so. This was a vile pollution of the stringent tapu, and, in a brief space, the owner became insane, and so died. The fateful book passed into the possession of a relative, who also lost his reason, and, while in that condition, he destroyed the book. Truly the gods who live for ever, the hidden power behind the institution of tapu, are not to be insulted with impunity. So sayeth the Maori.
The nefarious arts of the “basket of evil” constituted a teaching kept apart from high-class lore, and such matter was sometimes taught out of doors, at some secluded spot. The teaching was marked by some unpleasant ordeals and trials. In some cases a learner was compelled to swallow repulsive substances, and to steel himself to slay a relative by means of his newly-acquired magic powers. This was the price that he paid for the acquisition of such powers. We are told that, in some cases, a pupil was commanded to bewitch his teacher, or one of his own parents. Any person so bewitched would assuredly die. Other trials of his skill were demanded. He was told to slay a bird, to blast a living tree, and to shatter a stone, all by means of the magic vril-like power he had acquired. Should he successfully perform these acts, then he was told to slay a person by the same means, after which he became a tohunga makutu, a wizard, a warlock of acknowledged mana, a being dreaded by all.
Old canoe at Koriniti, Whanganui River. The topstrakes and fittings have long disappeared.
Dominion Museum photo collection
An attendant, called the takuahi, was employed during sessions of the School of Learning to perform any necessary duties connected with the house, such as tending fires. We are told that, in some cases, these men acquired a considerable amount of knowledge of tribal lore by means of listening to the lectures of the teachers.
The Ra-wheoro School at Uawa was opened, perhaps for the last time, in 1836, just after the fight at Toka-a-kuku. Rangi-uia, Toki-puanga and Mohi Ruatapu were the teachers, and Te Matorohanga of Wai-rarapa was present. The last teaching of tribal lore on the lines of the Whare wananga in the Wai-rapapa district was, I believe, that of 1865. The procedure was a modified form of ancient methods.
Among the older generation of natives there is much of sentimental regard for old racial and tribal institutions. I have heard them regret the abandonment of the School of Learning, and the attitude of the younger generation towards the formerly-prized tribal lore. One of these survivors of a lost past remarked: “I mourn over the bequest of our ancestors and our elders”—in allusion to the Whare wananga that has closed its doors for ever.