The Maori - Volume I
VI Religious Beliefs and Practices of the Maori-Maori Magic
VI Religious Beliefs and Practices of the Maori-Maori Magic
No organised system of worship generally practised—Interesting features of Maori religious beliefs—Classification of Maori gods—Definition of the term atua—Io, the Supreme Being—The Cult of Io a restricted one—Rongo and Tane—Tu, the War God—Tutelary beings—The rainbow deity—Tribal gods—The matakite or seer—Te Awanui, the cacodœmon—Maraea, the female medium—Herbal concoction as a wound preventer—Te Rehu-o-Tainui—The life story of a war god—Maori priests classified—Tohunga—The Ngau taringa and Whakaha rites—Priests paid for services—Hypnotic powers of priests—The bishop and the tohunga—The kura hau awatea—Neolithic wireless—Priests faced the sun when performing rites—Abolition of tapu and its farreaching effects—Missionaries versus tohunga Maori study of stars—Preservation of racial lore—Priesthood often hereditary—Communications of gods—Divine possession—The “mango trick” practised in Polynesia—Multifarious duties of priests—The institution of tapu Its vivifying force emanates from gods—Tapu is prohibition—Offences against gods punished in this world—Offences against tapu—Tapu of death—Marion du Fresne desecrated a tapu place, and so perished—Tapu objects painted red—Tapu of forests—Tapu words—Tapu articles destroyed—Pollution of tapu—Tapu of houses; of nets; of paths; of betrothed girl—The Whakanoa rite—Cooked food pollutes tapu—Women employed in tapu removing rites—Purificatory ceremonial—Ritual performances—Karakia, or ritual formulæ—True invocation rare—Incantations—Vivifying power behind rites and charms, etc.—Fasting—Ceremonial purification in rites—Rites performed in water—Sacred fires The Tuapa wairua rite—Fire walking—Ceremonial umu or steam ovens—Human hair used in rites—Tapu of hair-cutting—Hair cutting as a ceremonial performance—Human saliva used in rites—Its inherent powers—Sun worship—Sun cult connected with its personified form—Nelson's sun festival notes—Moon worship—Star worship—Offerings to gods—Bird released in rites—Symbolism—Images of atua—Genealogical table included in ritual—Ceremonial dancing—Initiatory rite over a seer—Moral impurity a bar to ritual privileges—Tuahu—Takuahi—Marae of Polynesia—Ahurewa—Phallic symbolism page 233 The tiki pendant—Protective and destructive powers of certain organs—Ngau paepae—Phallic trees and stones—Phallic flutes—Spiritual concepts—The wairua, or ata—Ghosts—The mauri or life principle—Protective principle and material talisman—The hau—The breath of life—Ahua and aria Mental concepts—The ngakau, puku and hinengaro—Two distinct spirit worlds—The Reinga—How the soul attains the underworld—Myths of the setting sun—The Ara whanui or Golden Path—The Hono-i-wairua—Hawaiki-nui—The Four-way Path—The celestial spirit world—Miru—Hine-nui-te-Po—Ameto—The practice of magic—Belief in magic has fatal effect—Is both advantageous and pernicious—Magic and religion inter-mixed—Use of mediums in black and white magic—How wizards were identified—Origin of black magic—Reputed powers of wizards—How the shafts of magic were averted—The Ngau paepae rite—Magic spells—The Rua iti—Destructive powers of material medium—Thieves punished by magic arts.
In describing the religious concepts of the natives of these isles it is well to bear in mind that they had not evolved any such a well-defined theological system as we are accustomed to. It may then be said that the heading of this chapter is an appropriate one, and that it is more correct to speak of Maori religious beliefs and practices than to dignify such by the name of religion. Had the cult of Io been known to, and practised by, the whole of the people, then assuredly the term religion might have been employed. But it was not so known, it was confined to the few, and the bulk of the people knew of no cultus superior to that of the departmental deities. This secondary phase was in the hands of the priesthood, whose duty it was to placate such beings and to perform the rites pertaining to the cultus. The ordinary man had direct interest only with inferior beings of the third and fourth classes. Thus the religious practices of the average person of a community were but little removed from shamanism.
The leading features of Maori religion, those of the greatest interest to the ethnographer, are the concept of the Supreme Being, that of the spirit world, with those of the spiritual potentiæ of man, and the institution of tapu. The first three present some novel and little-known phases and peculiarities; it is doubtful if we have acquired such a close insight into those of any other barbaric folk. These details are of much interest to students of comparative religion, and page 234 tend to prove that the ancestors of the Maori must have devoted much thought to the subjects of the whence and whither of man, and of his spiritual nature.
One may well take exception to the term god as applied to some atua, but it is not easy in many cases to find a suitable substitute. The term atua is employed to denote, not only such beings as we term gods, but also anything believed to possess supernormal power. It is often applied to anything mysterious, or that is believed to exercise a malign influence. Thus a serious epidemic may be termed an atua. It has been applied to living persons; in many cases it may be rendered as “demon.” Inasmuch as it was, and is, applied to any malignant being, it does not seem to have been a happy choice to employ it to designate a benignant deity. Like the word tohunga, supposed by most of us to denote a priest, the word atua is used in a very loose manner.
- 1. The Supreme Being.
- 2. The departmental deities, or tutelary beings.
- 3. Tribal gods, so called for want of a better term.
- 4. Family gods; familiar spirits, as the souls of defunct forbears.
With regard to the first class division of our gods, there is but one being to mention, for here Io stands alone, as a Supreme Being necessarily must. Some account of this deity has already been given in a former chapter, to which description, however, a few notes may be here added.
We have been told by divers writers that the Maori had formed no conception of a Supreme Being, and that all his gods were of a malignant nature. Both of these statements are erroneous. The Maori conception of the Supreme Deity is a very remarkable achievement for a neolithic and barbaric people. It occupies and illustrates a high plane of thought, and, moreover, it was never permitted to detericrate, but was page 235 preserved in its original purity. This result was achieved by means of the only possible way in which it could have been effected, namely, by the preservation of the cult of Io in the hands of the few. Hence it never became degraded. Io was viewed as a beneficent being who had no dealings with evil, to whom no offerings were made, of whom no image might be fashioned. He was invoked only in regard to matters of high importance, and the invocations addressed to him were known only to the superior class of priests. These invocations were somewhat numerous, and a number of them have been preserved. They are couched in exceedingly archaic language, contain many cryptic, metaphorical and sacerdotal expressions, while their general tone is of a high order. Here we meet with instances of true invocation, and a wide difference exists between these effusions and the lower class formulæ pertaining to inferior deities and shamanistic ritual.
Ritual performances connected with the Supreme Being were not performed in public. If any excessively tapu ritual formula was repeated at any place where ordinary people might hear it, then certain parts were omitted, more especially any lines containing the name of Io. As a rule such ceremonies were performed out of doors, but some were held at the ahurewa, a particularly tapu place in the sacred lore house of a village community, if such a house existed, for they were few and far between. Io was invoked only in connection with matters of importance, in no case was he appealed to in connection with minor affairs, or black magic.
Here then, among a barbaric and cannibal folk living at the ends of the earth, we encounter a remarkable concept of the Supreme Being. He is called Io the Parentless because he was never born of parents. He was Io the Parent because all things originated from him, or through his agency, albeit he begat no being. He was known as Io the Permanent because he is eternal and unchangeable, and as Io-te-waiora because he is the welfare of all beings and all things in all realms.
We have been told by one of our leading anthropologists that, when a people possess a number of departmental deities, then, sooner or later, the institution leads to the conception of a Supreme Being to stand above them. Presumably page 236 this was the process with the Maori, but the cult of the Supreme One was closely retained by the higher grade priests and the leading families.
The departmental gods were provided by the primal parents, they are members of the offspring of Rangi and Papa. Thus we see that Rongo presided over the art of agriculture and all peaceful arts and institutions, including the making of peace in time of war. In vernacular speech the word rongo denotes peace. This deity is known far and wide throughout the island system, being one of the great Polynesian trinity of Tane, Tu and Rongo. We have seen that the name of Rongo was coupled with that of Tane in a peculiar manner, as Rongo-ma-Tane (Rongo and Tane). This title was used as though pertaining to a single deity. Certainly this double-barreled deity should have been useful to an agricultural people such as the Maori, for it meant a combination of the two beings representing fertility and reproduction.
Tane has been shown to represent the sun, light and the male fructifying power; he is essentially Tane the Parent and Tane the Fertiliser. It was he who begat trees and plants, who fertilised the Earth Mother and caused her to produce the first woman, he who placed the Children of Light on high and so brought Light into the murky world. Tane is the tutelary being of forests and birds, hence he was placated by fowlers, and by craftsmen who sought material for canoe making, house building, etc. Thus many offerings were made to Tane in connection with divers activities.
In Tu we have the tutelary deity of the war department of Maoriland. Tu represents war, bloodshed, and the present writer is inclined to hold the view that Tu personifies the setting sun, which is ever associated with death. If Fenton's statement that one Tu held the same position in Babylonia be correct, then it is a very remarkable coincidence, especially when viewed in conjunction with the parallels pertaining to Ra and Sin. Inasmuch as Tu was the chief war god of the Maori, it was his tapu that lay heavy on fighting men when on active service. His mana was over the warrior, and any who infringed the many restrictions imposed by his tapu were indeed in parlous plight. Offerings of the hearts of slain page 237 enemies were made to him. He was the presiding genius of war, but, at the same time, any fighting force was also under the sway, mana, and guidance of one at least of the many beings who may be termed tribal war gods. These latter belonged to the third and fourth classes of atua maori, or native gods.
In Tangaroa we have the patron of fishermen, for he represents all fish; thus we meet with his name in the charms recited by fishermen. In some of the isles of Polynesia Tangaroa (as Ta'aroa, Tanaoa, Kanaloa, etc.) occupied a much more important position than he did in New Zealand.
Tawhirimatea, as the principal personification of wind, was placated by voyagers and fishermen, whose offerings and charms were made and recited with a view to the enjoyment of placid seas.
In some accounts we find one Haumia, the personified form of the edible rhizome of the common bracken, included as one of the primal offspring.
Kiwa appears as a being invoked by sea-farers, inasmuch as he is the guardian of the ocean. Kiwa and Tawhirimatea were presumably very important beings in Maori eyes in the old sea-faring days when they ranged far and wide athwart the realm of Hine-moana.
Whiro was viewed as one of the most active, and certainly as the most pernicious, of these departmental beings. Representing, as he does, both evil and death, his activities are ceaseless, and so many offerings were made to him. Presumably the Maori considered it highly advisable to placate him, whereas in the case of Io no offerings were made. Either the latter was considered too august a being to be placated, or it was not considered worth while to placate a benignant being from whom no hurtful action proceeded.
Ruaumoko occupies a subordinate position as a departmental genius. His realm is a subterranean one, and his noxious manifestations are rare, hence we do not hear much of him and his activities, save in connection with the change of seasons, and when an earthquake occurs.
In one version Uenuku-rangi, personified form of the rainbow, is included as a member of the primal offspring, and, if this be correct, he should find a place in the class being page 238 dealt with. He is, however, usually viewed as a member of the third class of atua. His fame as a war god certainly extended far in these isles, and he was much in request as a controller and presiding genius in time of war. Many omens were derived from the appearance of rainbows.
We have now scanned the more important members of the second-class Maori deities, and will now pass on to the third-grade beings. Here there is just one explanation to make, however, regarding our departmental gods. They were viewed as supernatural beings, and so may be termed atua, but the Maori seems to view them more as originating beings, or parents, than as ordinary gods such as those of the third class.
The members of the third class of our Maori gods may be looked upon as being tribal gods, though in a number of cases such beings were known to many tribes, even throughout both islands. In a few cases they are known in Polynesia. Others, again, were known over a restricted area only. Among those most widely known were Aitupawa, Maru, Kahukura, Haere, Ruamano, etc. These beings are in many cases personifications of natural phenomena. Thus Aitupawa is said to represent thunder; Maru personifies some celestial phenomenon, a glow seen in the heavens, possibly the zodiacal light; Kahu-kura and Haere are personifications of the rainbow, while Ruamano is a denizen of the ocean, though in what form we know not. Another such atua, known as Tunui-a-te-ika, personifies comets, Tamarau represents meteors, Hine-korako the lunar halo or bow, Rakaiora the lizard, Rongomai apparently represents meteors, and so on. A long list would be tedious.
The atua of the third and fourth classes were the ones most frequently appealed to; they were “for every day use” in connection with the ordinary affairs of life. Many of the third-class beings were utilised, if one may use the expression, as war gods (atua mo te riri), as directing experts, whose instructions, interpreted by their human mediums, were faithfully obeyed. They were also the power behind the arts of black magic that rendered such arts effective. The power that rendered the institutions of tapu and ritual formulæ effective emanated from the gods of all classes.
The beings of this fourth class were appealed to for much the same purposes as were those of the third class, that is in connection with war, magic, and the ordinary activities of every-day life. Inasmuch as the priests or mediums of the different classes of atua differed in what may be termed sacerdotal standing, then it follows that the mediums of the fourth class atua were more shamanistic in their dealings with such beings than were the mediums of higher standing.
It would be of no interest or service to give a list of names of these ancestral spirits, but a few cases known to myself may be mentioned as illustrations. When, in the “sixties” of last century, the Tuhoe tribe was in a disturbed state owing page 241 to fighting proceeding between certain tribes and the fairskinned Pakeha from far lands, it was decided to protect the tribal lands from invasion. During the guerilla-like bush warfare that followed the decision, a Tuhoe woman named Maraea felt herself called to a higher sphere of life, and so decided to become a poropiti. This is the Maori form of our word prophet, a tohunga matakite (second sight expert) in Maori. Our prophetess now cast about for an atua whose medium she might become, one that would endow her with the necessary powers enabling her to foretell events, and lead her people to victory. Being possibly desirous of making it a family affair, she did not placate any of the known supernormal beings, but decided to evolve a new atua for her own use. Happening to be delivered of a stillborn child, she resolved to utilise the spirit of that child as a war god, or, as anthropologists would say, as a “familiar.” Now in Maori belief the spirits of stillborn children, termed atua kahu, are exceedingly malignant beings who ever delight in afflicting the living. Thus it will be seen that they are useful creatures to employ for the purpose of harassing and destroying one's enemies. Even so Maraea set about conciliating the spirit of her own child by means of offerings and appropriate ceremonial, in which task she would probably be assisted by a priestly expert. She now became the waka or kaupapa (medium) of this spirit god, which received the name of Te Awanui.
The life story of Te Awanui is not famous; he never achieved fame on sticken fields as did his more renowned fellow tribesman Te Rehu-o-Tainui, but he figured in at least one fight. When the fight between Tuhoe and Ngati-Manawa at Te Tapiri took place in 1865, Maraea acted as the “prophet” of the Tuhoe force of warriors that ranged itself under the banner of Te Awanui. Old native friends of mine who fought under Te Awanui have described that engagement to me. As Maraea was the mouthpiece of the guiding genius of battle, then necessarily she became the director of the fighting. Truly are the usages of barbaric man a marvel to the human mind.
Dour old bushfighters who took part in that struggle have told me that Maraea claimed to possess marvellous page 242 powers. She undertook to catch in her hands the bullets of the enemy. In the final struggle, when Ngati-Manawa attacked Tuhoe at one of their investing camps, Maraea came to the front and was seen clutching at the bullets as they passed her. And all this was believed by people who had evolved the concept of Io the Parent, and that of the awe or refined essence of the human soul.
A similar instance of modern shamanism occurred in the fight against Imperial British troops at Orakau in 1864. One Penetiti, the “prophet” of the Tuhoe contingent, concocted a weird rongoa, or medicinal beverage, by means of boiling the bark, leaves, etc., of certain trees and plants. Prior to the commencement of the fighting he gave each member of the contingent a drink of this divine elixir, telling them that it would prevent the bullets of the enemy harming them. Unfortunately for Tuhoe some of the ingredients must have been omitted, for they found that the Pakeha bullets were extremely hurtful, so much so that many of the party never saw the forest-clad ranges of Ruatahuna again.
In the case of the fourth-class atua known as Te Rehu-o-Tainui, I can claim a fairly complete knowledge of the origin, manifestations, achievements, and wane of an atua maori. I lived for years with the tribe that fought under his sway, and among whom he originated. Many a tale of savagery have I listened to, as told by the sons of the fierce bushmen who raided the Awa lands, who rallied round the staff of Uhia the medium in the desperate fight of Lake Rerewhakaitu, and left but the drifting waters at Taupo-nui-a-Tia.
This was another atua kahu or caco-dæmon, a malignant spirit god evolved from the spirit of an immature birth. To destroy the power for evil of such a spirit it is necessary to obtain the services of an expert, who, by means of charms and offerings, can render it harmless. This particular evil spirit however, was never laid. Uhia, a member of the Tama-kai-moana clan of the Tuhoe tribe, resolved to placate the spirit by means of offerings, and to act as its medium. The offering was in the form of food, the semblance alone of which is consumed by the spirit. The newly-developed spirit received the name of Te-Rehu-o-Tainui, and his aria, or form of incarnation, was a lizard of the green-coloured species known as moko kakariki.page 243
Uhia was now the fully accredited human medium of the new atua. So successful was he as regards prophetic utterances, that the fame of Te Rehu became known from the rocky shores of the Star Lake to the outlands of the Boiling Water Country. One of the first manifestations of the wondrous powers of Te Rehu occurred at the Tauranga stream, where Uhia, sustained by the powers of his atua, threw himself from the summit of a lofty tree, sustaining no injury from the fall! In these early stages of his mediumship Uhia is said to have acted as does a deranged person, which seems highly probable. When his condition became more normal, it was found that he was urua, or “possessed.” And then Uhia prepared a tuahu, a special place at which to perform the rites of divination, etc., pertaining to his new calling, and many wondrous acts were encompassed by him through the powers of Te Rehu. He looked through the gates of distance and saw coming occurrences evolve in the womb of time; he foretold precisely the result of fights as yet unfought; he diagnosed mysterious maladies and traced them to their remote sources. Truly the name of Te Rehu spread across far lands, and the fame of Uhia struck against the heavens.
The feats of Te Rehu and the medium Uhia would make a long story, but they were successful on many a hard-fought field. In after days the fame of both gradually waned and now, should you enquire of Tuhoe concerning Te Rehu, of the Children of the Mist, they will reply: “Te Rehu-o-Tainui is no more. That god is dead.” Nor could you convince them that gods never die. They will reply to that remark, as they did to a friend of the writer who made it: “Gods do die, if there are no priests to keep them alive.”
When we come to examine the Maori priesthood of former times, we find that, as in the case of their gods, they can be divided into classes of ranks. A system of classification is the easiest mode of describing the tohunga maori, as they were termed. The word to hunga, be it remembered, does not necessarily denote a priest. It really means an expert, and the title tohunga maori means “native expert.” The word maori means “native, ordinary,” etc; it was apparently not employed by the natives as a racial name for themselves in pre-European times. They described themselves as page 244 tangata maori, native folk, or ordinary people, as in contra distinction to supernormal beings, but not as Maori. None of the early writers applied this name to the natives as a racial term, simply because they never heard it. The phrase tohunga maori simply means “native expert, or adept,” though as employed in every-day use it is understood to mean a priest or shaman. To be precise one should add to tohunga an explanatory term, as tohunga ahurewa or tohunga tuahu (a high-class priest), tohunga kehua (a shaman), tohunga makutu (a wizard), tohunga whaihanga (a carpenter), tohunga whakairo (a tattooing or carving artist,) tohunga tarai waka (a canoe-hewing expert), and so on.
The higher grade priests, whose titles are given above, confined themselves to the higher class ritual. They upheld the cult of Io and performed the higher class rites, but did not concern themselves with low class shamanistic practices. These men alone were acquainted with the ritual formulæ of the Io cultus, which contain a great number of sacerdotal expressions unknown to the majority of the people.
A second grade of the priesthood included those who were acquained with the ritual pertaining to the departmental and tribal gods, which they practised. One of their most prominent activities was in connection with war, and they were also prominent in others connected with agriculture, seafaring, fishing, woodcraft, and other industries and customs. These men did concern themselves with magic, though not with its lower phases as a rule. They were the advisers of the people in all ordinary matters, and, like the tohunga of the other two grades, posed as experts in regard to sickness. Their mode of treatment was empirical to a degree, inasmuch as all such afflictions were believed to be due to the malignant activities of evil spirits.
The shaman-like mediums of low-class atua or demons of the fourth class I would place in a third grade of tohunga; the term priest is assuredly too dignified a title to be applied to them. These shamanistic gentry were not above practising any sacerdotal jugglery they could devise, and they imposed upon the people in many ways. The superstition-ridden minds of the Maori folk rendered them an easy prey to these charlatans.page 245
The descendants of the different vessels that brought the ancestors of the Maori to these isles place considerable stress upon the importance of the priests who came from Polynesia. Each party seems to believe that theirs was the most learned tohunga. Three renowned priests are said to have come hither in the vessel named Takitumu, namely, Ruawharo, Mahutonga, and Tupai. Some years ago the descendants of these migrants discussed the advisability of sending a deputation to Polynesia in order to seek records of ancient lore. They finally decided, however, that it would not be worth while, inasmuch as the most learned men of Polynesia of that period had come to New Zealand twenty generations ago Curiously enough I had heard the same story told in connection with the natives of Tahiti, who concluded that only inferior priests had come to New Zealand. So that both parties are quite satisfied as to their own knowledge of racial lore.
When a priest had taught some young man his own stores of knowledge, he would, When near his end, tell his pupil to ngau (bite), or whakaha, some part of his body just as the breath of life was passing from him. It was believed that this act had the effect of transmitting the mana (powers, prestige, psychic power, etc.), and knowledge of the dying man to the pupil. It was not the same part of the body that was so treated in all cases, for I have collected data concerning the ceremony as having been performed in connection with the top of the head, the ears, the perineum, and the big toe. In one case that an ex-pupil told me of, he had been instructed by his teacher to whakaha the crown of his head (Me whakaha to waha ki toku tipuaki). This meant that the pupil had to place his mouth to his teacher's head, open it slightly, and inhale his breath. The so-called biting meant that the person who performed it just closed his teeth on the part indicated. In some cases, when the performer had been a pupil of the dying person, the rite was performed in order to acquire his mana. In the case just quoted, the passing teacher said: “Cling to my teachings. Do not heed any other, and old age shall come to you.”
The present-day Maori makes much of the fact that teachers of Christianity are paid for their activities, which practice they condemn. They appear to forget that the page 246 native priests of yore were also recompensed for their services as teachers, in treating the sick, for performing baptismal rites, etc. The only difference is that the one is paid in money, the other was paid in goods. When a tohunga had performed a service for any person, then that person would present him with a garment, or some article of adornment, as a pendant, a supply of food, or some other article, as payment for his services.
The superior orders of priests were believed to possess amazing powers, as is shown in other parts of this chronicle. They were supposed to possess power over the elements, and also strange powers of mind over matter. If what we are told is anywhere near the truth, then some must have held certain hypnotic powers, while others appear to have practised suggestion in a remarkable way. It is now impossible to say how far the knowledge and powers of such persons did extend. The performance of an equivalent to what is called the mango trick, in Polynesia, reminds one of Indian performers. A well-known story tells of the visit of a distinguished Christian dignitary to an old native on the isle of Makoia in Lake Rotorua, in order to induce him to accept Christianity. The old man replied as follows: “I will accept your God if you can do this.” Whereupon he picked up a withered Cordyline leaf, uttered some formula, and behold! the leaf was fresh and green. The story is interesting, but I know of no proof of its correctness. As to the alleged powers of tohunga to blast trees, shatter stones, kill a distant person, by means of a magic formula and some form of innate, psychic mana, personally I have never placed much faith in them.
One of the most extraordinary beliefs of the Maori is that concerning what he calls the kura hau awatea and kura hau po. The first of these expressions denotes a solar halo and the latter a lunar halo. The Maori firmly believes that his tohunga of the upper class possessed the power to produce these phenomena at will, and to cause them to be seen thousands of miles away. We are told that in olden days this power was used for signalling purposes. Thus when Tama-ahua returned to eastern Polynesia from New Zealand, he told his sister, then living at Taranaki, that if he succeeded in making the two thousand mile voyage in safety, he would cause the page 247 kura hau awatea to appear. That voyage was accomplished, and the sign duly appeared in the heavens, to the joy of his sister at Taranaki. Again, when Whatonga returned home to Tahiti from Rangiatea, he signalled news of his safe arrival by means of both the solar and lunar halos.
It was the practice of priests to face the sun when performing rites, and, as they were generally performed about sunrise, that meant facing the rising sun. Inasmuch as the word tohunga means simply “expert,” a number of terms were employed to denote priestly experts who performed special rites, as those pertaining to the baptism of children, divination, ceremonies pertaining to war, sickness, death, etc. Such qualifying expressions as tohiora, waitohi, matatuhi, taua, tuahu, tuakoi, taurewa, and tarahau were thus inserted after the title tohunga. A tohunga kehua was simply a low-class shaman. High-class priests and ariki (head of a principal family) were looked upon as taumata atua, resting places or mediums of the gods.
It was absolutely essential that a tohunga should preserve his condition of tapu, otherwise he would not only lose all his supernormal powers, but also he would no longer be able to obtain benefits or assistance of any nature from the gods. When the system of tapu was broken down by the incoming Europeans, both Maori religion and the Maori social system were doomed, for tapu was the basis of both those institutions. Many young men who were being trained as tohunga abandoned native teachings and accepted Christianity. Some of the conservative priests, viewing with disapproval the new movement, simply withdrew into the background and treated the new religion as an objectionable innovation. These men were viewed by missionaries with no friendly eye, and to this day one may hear descendants of those who sowed the good seed speak most disparagingly of such men at Te Matorohanga, because they clung to their old faith. The whole question of Maori Christianity is one very much misunderstood, and often misrepresented. One enthusiastic early missionary reported to his society that the natives of the North Island were “thirsting for Jesus.” Those who know the Maori marvel at the effect of enthusiasm upon the human mind.page 248
The tohunga maori entered into many activities, and one of the most interesting of his fields of research was that of astronomy. Many of these men had a remarkably intimate knowledge of the stars. In olden days, when performing long ocean voyages, such knowledge was imperative among a people ignorant of the compass. During the long residence in New Zealand such knowledge may well have decreased, but still a constant study of the stars was considered necessary here. This was owing to the fact that it was firmly believed that the stars not only give forth signs of coming events, and weather conditions, but also have an important influence on food supplies.
There seems to be some evidence to show that the different versions of Polynesian mythys, ritual, tradition, etc., are of comparatively modern growth, though possibly centuries old. For some time after the race entered the Polynesian area no doubt their prized lore would be preserved in the various groups in a fairly homogeneous manner. Moreover, we hear half-remembered traditions of meetings of peoples from many isles at some specially tapu centre, such as Opoa, on the island of Ra'iatea, where such lore was recited in its approved form for the benefit of all. In later times dissensions arose, and, in some cases, such as that of the settlers in New Zealand, isolation would certainly have its effect as time rolled on. Thus we may account for the different dialects, and differences in ritual, mythys, etc.; discrepancies would assuredly creep in.
It often occurred that the office of tohunga descended from father to son, but at any time there might be a break in continuity, for divers reasons. When a tohunga was also an ariki, or superior chief, he occupied a very important position, and possessed much influence with the people.
When a priest invoked his atua, that being had different ways of communicating its messages to the human medium. One of these was by spoken language, and the familiar is said to have always spoken in a whistling tone of voice. Some writers believe that these mediums were often ventriloquists. The fact that the Maori seldom whistled, and appeared to dislike whistling, may have been owing to a belief that it was a special attribute of supernatural beings.page 249
The powers displayed by the native priests to throw themselves into a trace-like condition, and also to act in a wild, frenzied manner when the spirits of atua entered them, are met with among savage and barbaric folk the world over. Apparently the higher-class Maori priests did not indulge in these extravagances, but they were common among the lower-grade tohunga, and the people firmly believed that the medium was “possessed” at such times.
With reference to the so-called “mango trick” of India, and a similar feat formerly performed in Polynesia, the following is worthy of note. When the present President of the Polynesian Society was at Tahiti some twenty odd years ago, a native woman of Ra'iatea island told him that her grandfather, a tohunga of that isle, had possessed very remarkable powers. As a child she had witnessed the performance by him of the following feat:—
Before the assembled people he plucked a breadfruit from an adjacent tree, which, before their eyes, he buried in the earth. He then recited some formula of words, and the people saw breadfruit leaves sprouting from the ground where the fruit had been buried. As they looked the tree grew before their eyes until it reached a height of about ten feet, then the flowers appeared, and finally the fruit. This performance was not witnessed by any European, and hence we cannot vouch for the truth of the story. It is, however, but a parallel of the Indian performance, and possibly the woman saw, or rather thought she saw, the marvel related by her. If true, then the tohunga must have possessed the power of hypnotising a number of people at one time.
As already observed, the duties of the tohunga were multifarious. The sick man claimed his services; at the birth and death of the individual he officiated, also at his marriage in some cases. Did men go forth to fell a tree for a canoe, or house building, he would accompany them, kindle the sacred fire and placate Tane. When a canoe was first launched he was again in request. When crops were planted his ceremonial performances were highly necessary, as also when they were lifted. He held an important position in time of war, when the bird snaring season opened, and in connection with sea fishing. So we might proceed to mention the innumerable page 251 activities of the native priest and the shaman. All these duties originated in the firm belief of the Maori that no occurence, however trivial, ever happens by chance, all are manifestations of supernatural forces, the outcome of the will of the gods.
We have now to scan an institution that was a highly important force in Maori life, and it is imperative that the reader should understand its peculiarities and far-reaching influence. In the first place let me state that tapu emanates from the gods. Lacking the gods, then tapu, magic (makutu), spiritual and intellectual mana (power) could not exist. the hidden force, the vivifying power, that rendered these institutions and qualities effective, came from the gods.
To put the matter briefly, it may be said that tapu means prohibition, a multiplication of “Thou shalt not.” These may be termed the laws of the gods, and they must not be infringed. The penalty for neglect of these unspoken commands is the withdrawal of the protecting power of the gods. This left the erring one in parlous plight, for it meant that his active life principle was seriously affected, and nothing stood between the innumerable evil influences that are ever active, and his defenceless body. Let us now seek the cause of origin of this fear of the gods and of the dread tapu empowered by the gods. That cause can be given briefly: it was the fact that offences against the gods are punished in this world, not in the spirit world to come.
When man believes that to offend the gods means his own death in the near future, then the punishment is so near that it terrifies him. When, as with us, the punishment is postponed to a distant period in a vague spirit world, then man's fear is much diminished.
The shadow of tapu lay over the Maori from birth until death, his very bones and their resting place remained tapu for all time. The higher the rank of a person the more tapu was he. It is interesting to note that slaves were held to be free from tapu, and yet no explanation is given as to their condition of welfare and their survival, why they did not perish in such a defenceless condition. The influence or essence of the gods that enshrouds or pervades all tapu persons is the vehicle of that quality. If it is necessary to a freeman, page 252 in order that he may retain life, how is it that the slave exists without it? Some native beliefs appear to be marked by certain inconsistencies, though the same remark might be applied to certain beliefs of higher races.
To trespass on a burial ground, or a forest or stream under tapu, was a serious offence, and only a tohunga could save the offender from the anger of the gods. The same may be said of many other such acts, many of them of a very trivial nature in our eyes. To eat of the remains of a meal of an important tapu person was a suicidal act. A native has been known to beg a drink of water from a European settler, who handed it to him in a cup. The native drank the water, then deliberately and very completely broke the cup. He had to from his point of view, otherwise some person might drink from it later, and so perish at the hands of the gods. Thus it was that, in former times, a tapu person never put a water vessel to his mouth in order to drink, for it would have been necessary to at once destroy the vessel or carefully preserve it for his use only. An attendant would pour the water into his cupped hands, from which he drank. A native once borrowed a cooking vessel from me in order to cook therein some food for a sick child. The child happened to die, and so the pot borrower asked my permission to destroy the vessel. The tapu of death was on it.
There was much of tapu pertaining to sickness, death, burial, exhumation of the bones, and the final disposal thereof. Bearers of handlers of the dead, or of exhumed bones, were excessively tapu in the sense of being “unclean.” Such persons would be fed by others until freed from tapu; they could not touch food with their hands. An attendant would use a sharpened stick as a fork to put food in their mouths. If a person died in a house, it became tapu and could no longer be occupied. When camped at Ohiramoko, in the Rua-tahuna district, some twenty-three years ago, I noted a carved post overgrown with bush, and found that it was a kind of mortuary memorial. Many years before a chief named Te Puehu had been taken ill away from home, and was carried on a litter back to his own village, for a Maori always wants to die on his own land. At the spot referred to the bearers had deposited the litter for a space in order to rest, and so, when page 253 the sick man died shortly after, the spot had been marked by setting up the carved post. That spot had been tapu ever since. Another resting place of the bearers was also marked by a similar memorial, which was, however, destroyed by the Native Contingent when Colonel Whitmore's column raided Rua-tahuna in 1869.
Any place where a person has died, or been killed, may be proclaimed a tapu spot. When Mahia was slain at Te Papuni the place was rendered tapu. Some persons ate some of the food products of the forest at that place, hence they were attacked and slain by the relatives of Mahia. They had desecrated the tapu; it was a deadly offence. It can easily be seen that a person might unwittingly commit a dreadful act of sacrilege in Maoriland, and so lose his life, possibly an intertribal war might spring from it. Such occurrences were by no means infrequent. The infringement of the laws of tapu was a frequent cause of quarrels between early settlers and the natives, and the massacre of the French commander Marion du Fresne and a party of his men at the Bay of Islands was due to such a mischance.
When a village was attacked and some of its inhabitants slain, then the survivors might desert the place and construct a new hamlet elsewhere. I have notes concerning a number of such cases. No such move would be made unless the slain were persons of importance, however. After the eruption of Tarawera in 1886, the natives living at Ruatoki were told by Te Kooti to move away and live elsewhere for a year, on account of the place having become tapu. The tapu condition had been caused by the ashes from Tarawera having been deposited over the district, and that eruption had killed many natives in the vicinity of Tarawera. It was the tapu of death again.
When the chief Te Ahuru died at the fortified village of Te Tawhero, at Ruatoki, that village became too tapu to be inhabited, hence the villagers abandoned it and built a new one elsewhere. Such an occurrence was not, however, of frequent happening. Probably the cause of removal was the fact that no priest of sufficient mana to remove the tapu was available at that time. Battle grounds remained tapu in some cases for generations to those who had had friends slain there- page 254 on. Any place where the blood of an important person was shed might be rendered tapu thereby; as, for instance, a place where such a person was tattooed. The tapu of burial places and mortuary caves was particularly emphasised, and we hear of priests locating lizards at such places to act as guardians of the tapu. A pond near Ruatoki is known as Te Roto-tapu (the Tapu Pool) because, in olden times, the local natives concealed their dead therein. Bones of the dead were often painted with a preparation of red ochre ere being placed in a cave or elsewhere. Other tapu objects were often so painted, hence it has come to be said by us that red is the sacred colour of the Maori; its use, however, was not confined to tapu objects.
Tapu pertained to forests, and, prior to the opening of the bird snaring season, such tapu was lifted by an adept. During this season birds’ feathers were tapu; no one was allowed to scatter them about; they were buried so as to be out of sight. Any loose feathers, or dead birds found in the forest were also buried. The native belief prompting this peculiar action seems to have been that, should birds see such feathers, they would at once abandon that district and migrate elsewhere. Fowlers were not allowed to carry cooked food in the forest, for such an act would render it tamaoatia (poluted); that is, the tapu of the forest would be so polluted. Here, it is well to explain that tapu removing rites would, in many cases, be better described as tapu lessening rites; they do not, and cannot, wholly remove the restriction; this applies to persons and places.
Some peculiar restrictions applied to bird snarers. These were not allowed, while engaged at their craft, to use certain words connected with it, lest the birds should hear them and leave the forest, or refuse to enter a snare. In like manner those engaged in trapping rats in the forest were careful not to speak after they had set their traps the first time. After they had visited their traps the following morning, and secured the trapped rats, they were free to speak again. Among some northern tribes many common words were tapu to rat trappers when plying their craft in the forest. Thus for tamaiti (child) they employed the term moiti; for wahine (woman) the word puanga; for koroua (old man) the word purakau; for a page 255 young man himu; and so on, these words not being used in such connection at other times, except purakau, and that infrequently.
Among the Takitumu folk the miromiro and tatahore, two small forest birds, were considered tapu, inasmuch as birds of these species were made use of in certain ritual performances described elsewhere. A fish might also become tapu, thus the araara was tapu to a certain tribe, and could not be eaten by its members, because it was believed that the body of one of their chiefs had been consumed by fish of that species. Should a person of note be drowned, then the river, lake, or part of the ocean in which he lost his life would remain tapu for a considerable period. The Whakatane river at Ruatoki was tapu to the Tuhoe folk for years, because a dog that had been found gnawing the body of the dead chief Te Ahuru was killed while crossing that river.
Some prominent persons of yore were so tapu that, should the shadow of such a person fall on a hut, or a supply of food, such things would have to be destroyed or put away at once. When Ta-manuhiri went a-fishing with others in the canoe of Kahu-paroro, he was afflicted by a bleeding from the nose. So important a person was he that the party at once returned to land, where not only were the fish caught put away, but the canoe, the result of many months’ labour with stone tools, was destroyed. The flowing blood of a highly tapu person had rendered both unusable. Again, when a new canoe was being made, then the vessel, the place where it was being made, and the makers were all tapu. No unathorised person was allowed to visit the spot. Should a woman visit the place it meant a serious pollution of tapu, and the gods under whose aegis the craftsmen were working, would at once abandon the place. After that nothing would go well, even if the vessel were completed the gods would never deign to guard it from harm. Should it be taken to sea, it would be defenceless against the dangers of the ocean. Tawhirimatea (personified form of winds) and the whole of the Wind Children would assail it; Rakahore (personified form of rock) would strive to crush it, and ere long Hine-moana, the Ocean Maid, would engulf it. Similar conditions pertained to the building of a new house. We must note, however, that these restric- page 256 tions pertained only to canoes and houses of some importance, to such as would ever be more or less tapu, and not to small river canoes and rude huts.
There is a certain amount of tapu pertaining to dwelling houses, especially to the roof, and also the right hand side as you enter, where the most important of the inmates sleep. The rear post supporting the ridgepole was the most tapu part of a house that possessed a whatu, or talisman, for it was buried at the base of that post. Nothing would induce a genuine Maori to drink water that had fallen as rain on the roof of his house, and this prejudice has incommoded many who dwell in houses of European form.
The tapu of a new net for sea fishing was extremely rigid, and no one but the makers thereof were allowed near it, or that part of the beach and adjacent waters where it was first used. The tapu of cultivation grounds was of a similar nature. Any path might become tapu for any one of a number of reasons, and while in that condition no person might use it. Paths leading to cultivated fields wherein the sweet potato was planted were often rendered tapu. The planters of crops were also under tapu. These restrictions were the result of the close connection between all these activities and the gods. The favour and goodwill of those gods must be retained, no matter how irksome the various restrictions might be. The condition of tapu of these places would be notified by some mark in a conspicuous place. Early travellers tell us of such marks consisting of a bunch of human hair suspended on a pole or tree.
Persons who were heavily tapu ate their meals alone. Even ordinary persons when under special tapu, such as that pertaining to war gods, would not eat with women. Excessively tapu persons were in many cases fed by another person, as they might not touch cooked food with their hands. Persons of low caste, who chanced to become exceedingly tapu, such as handlers of the dead, were sometimes compelled to gnaw their food like dogs as it lay on the ground. These “unclean” persons could not touch the food with their hands, and so suffered much discomfiture until the tapu was lifted from them.page 257
The head was the most tapu part of a tapu person, and persons of importance were sometimes exceedingly unkempt, not to say dirty, so far as the head was concerned. Only a tohunga of high standing might cut the hair of such a person, and after the dread task was accomplished the hapless haircutter would for days be in a condition of helpless tapu, unable to feed himself. In very serious cases it might require two, or even three persons to feed him. One attendant would prepare the food, another would bear it to a certain place and there deposit it, while a third would come and fetch it and convey it to the tapu one, and feed him. Angas tells us that the wife of Taonui was under tapu for a week after she had cut her husband's hair. Captain Cook wrote of a native visitor: “He refrained from eating the greatest part of the day, on account of his hair being cut, though every method was tried to induce him to break his resolution.”
Any place where a fire has been kindled in connection with ritual functions remains tapu, in some cases for generations. Any desecration of such places would be severely punished by the gods; indeed the death of the offender would probably be the result, unless he hied him to a tohunga, who would, for a consideration, banish the danger and preserve the life of the credulous sufferer. The condition of such a transgressor is a form of tapu, allied to the “unclean” state already described. The peculiar act called taiki was performed by women who wished to procure abortion. Such a woman would take some cooked food to a tapu place, or place it in contact with a tapu, person; any similar action would, in native belief, cause the death of the unborn child. The word tapena has a similar meaning to that of taiki; as also have the verbs tamaoa and tapohe. To place a tapu object in a place where it must become polluted is described as a tapohe. I was once informed by an old native that an impediment in speech, or a nasal tone in any person, is the result of his mother having offended against some law of tapu.
When a young girl was betrothed, possibly in her childhood, she was said to be tapu. In some cases a person had a tapu name, and any word of vernacular speech that entered into such name could not be used by the people. To make use page 258 of it would be a serious insult to the owner of that name, hence either a synonym would be employed or a new word would be coined. When the tapu was taken off the name then the word would come into general use again.
Messengers despatched on some special errand by or to a tohunga are still sometimes tapu for the time being. Under such conditions they could not halt by the wayside for a meal, or even speak to any person encountered on the journey.
A condition of tapu may be brought about by some act of a person, such as we have already examined, or by a condition, such as betrothal or pregnancy, by contact with tapu objects, by being concerned in some rite, and in divers other ways.
The left foot of such a person as a tohunga is spoken of as being the tapu one, the one possessing mana. Hence in certain ritual performances he placed his left foot on the body of a person, as, for example, when reciting the Haruru or Hono charms over a wounded man.
Meals were taken in the open, or in the porch of a house, and not eaten in the tapu dwelling houses. Tohunga and other tapu persons suffered much incovenience from many restrictions, and were very careful to preserve their condition unsullied. Mana itself hinges on tapu, and the latter on the gods. The tapu of an ariki has quite a different aspect to that of a tohunga, or priest, though the two might be amalgamated in a single person of the ariki class. The Tohi rite, of which more anon, had an important effect on the tapu of a child of the ariki class.
We have now discussed many phases of tapu, and may conclude our remarks on this subject by observing how the condition of tapu was abolished, how it was lifted from persons, places and things.
A Superior elevated Storehouse or pataka. Erected at a model native village at Christchurch Exhibition 1906.
The ceremonial removal of tapu also differed much. In some matters of small moment, and also in some cases wherein people of inferior social status were concerned, the ceremony might merely consist of the eating of a small article of cooked food. In important matters, however, and in cases concerning persons of importance, a very much more ceremonial function was enacted, and the proceedings bore a much more sacerdotal aspect. Now cooked food is the very antithesis of tapu, it is noa (void of tapu) and also contains inherent powers of polution. Uncooked food is by no means so hostile to tapu. Thus the consuming of cooked food is an act that very frequently entered into tapu removing rites. To convey such food to a tapu place was a very serious misdemeanour, and has meant death to many persons.
I well remember an incident that occurred in one of my bush camps long years ago. A travelling native friend arrived thereat one evening, and stated his intention of staying the night. After an evening's conversation on the subject of native legendary lore, my worthy friend retired to an adjacent hut to pass the night therein. Having stripped off all his garments, after the manner Maori, he wrapped his blanket round him and lay down to sleep. Happening to look up, however, he spied a bag of flour and a side of bacon suspended from the ridgepole above him. This truly alarming sight was too much for my guest; he gathered up his belongings and stalked into my tent, where he passed the night, first glancing at the ridgepole in order to ascertain if it supported any soul-destroying food product. Now the articles that had so dismayed him were not cooked foods, but he deemed them quite harmful enough to imperil his tapu life principle.
On another occasion I camped a night at a small native hamlet, and hung up my saddle bags to the ridgepole of the tent in which my host was temporarily sojourning. This was a foolish act, and ere long he asked me, with some anxiety, if they contained any food. On my telling him that they held some biscuits, he asked to be allowed to hand them in the cooking shed. Such are the prejudices of the Maori, the outcome page 261 of his system of tapu. Although that system was broken down by early missionaries, yet traces of it still linger. In the isolated hill district wherein I was residing tapu, was still in evidence.
One way of removing tapu was as follows:—Supposing a person's hands had become tapu, and he wished to have them freed from that harassing condition. A fire would be specially kindled, at which a small portion of food would be roasted, and this food was applied to his hands and then eaten by the female member of his family who acted as a ruahine in ceremonial performances. Such a woman is sometimes the oldest female of a family, and she takes part in most tapu removing rites. This employement of a female represents the participation of the female element that is held to be necessary. The above is one of the very simplest of such functions. In connection with important matters, the removal of tapu from a new house, canoe, or village, or from the scholars of the tapu School of Learning, the rite was much more elaborate and spectacular, as is shown elsewhere. The food employed in this particular rite removes or absorbs, as it were, the tapu, which is then transferred to the ruahine who represents the tapu spirits of ancestral beings. A woman was always the first person to cross the threshold of a new and tapu house during such a rite. The very fact of a woman passing over a tapu spot would pollute or destroy its sanctity, for such is the effect of that sex. As a native friend put it to me—should a woman trespass on a place where a new tapu canoe was being made, then the gods would retire, and when the vessel was taken to sea they would not watch over and protect her, hence anything might happen.
It must be understood that ritual formulæ entered into tapu lifting rites, brief recitals in the case of the simpler ceremonies, and longer, more elaborate effusions in connection with important matters. Again, another fact to be borne in mind is that the whakanoa rite was, in certain cases, a purificatory one, as for examples, in connection with death, and also birth. Persons who have handled the dead, and women during childbirth were looked upon as “unclean” (tapu), and the above rite abolished that condition. The general aspect of tapu, its rules and restrictions, is of a remarkably Oriental nature.page 262
Occasionally human sacrifice entered into the whakahoa rite, as in connection with the tapu name of an important chief: this occurred in but few cases.
The word huhu is another term employed to denote the removal of tapu, the gerundial form thereof being huhunga; thus huhunga tapu is rendered as “tapu removing.” But enough of tapu and its removal for the time; we shall meet with both again when observing the rites of olden days.
Under the heading “Ritual Performances and Formulæ” we shall survey certain activities that entered largely into the life of the Maori. Apart from the more important ceremonies, and religious or shamanistic formulæ, there were innumerable simple ceremonies and charms known to and employed by all persons. Every man practised many simple ceremonial acts in order to bring him good fortune, or avert some feared misfortune. Many simple charms were also used for like purposes. The innumerable superstitions of the people prompted them to rely on these means to preserve life and welfare.
The number of karakia or ritual formulæ employed by the Maori folk must have been very remarkable. Hundreds of such effusions have been collected by European investigators, and I am convinced that a very large number is still unknown to us. But few examples will be given herein, inasmuch as they are not, as a rule, interesting productions.
In the first place it will be well to impress upon the reader the leading fact that, in his dealings with his gods, the Maori almost invariably relied on indirect influence. Worship and true prayer, entreaty, invocations, entered but little into Maori ritual. What there was of true invocation was connected principally with the higher gods. Indirect methods were employed in order to influence the gods, and this policy was carried to such extremes in ritual formulæ that it would be an absurdity to style such productions prayers. All Maori ceremonial was influenced, not by love for the gods, but by fear of them, and faith in their powers. Even in the case of the beneficent deity Io, the feeling of the Maori was one of awe, not love. How can one love an abstraction? We ourselves often employ quite erroneous terms when speaking of such matters.page 263
The native word karakia possesses a wide range of meaning. It is employed to denote the very simplest form of charm, and childish jingles repeated by little folk over their toys, also the highest form of invocation, the nearest approach to what we style prayer. In most cases there is no sign of entreaty, or of any request, to be noted in these effusions, and the words employed contain no reference whatever to the subject under consideration. As this is the case, one might suppose that one formula might have been employed for all purpose, but not so, each matter, each stage of a process, had its own particular charm assigned to it. The act of repeating the words, the fact that they are recited, and in a proper manner, is supposed to affect the gods, and cause them to be complacent. Now the origin of this peculiar attitude of the Maori, and of the aspect of aloofness noted in his formulæ, lies in the fact that they are based on sympathetic magic. Magic preceded religion, and indirectness was its most peculiar feature. In his endeavours to rise to a higher level in communicating with his gods, that is to say in his efforts to evolve a genuine religion, the Maori did not rise at once to true prayer, but continued to work on the lines of sympathetic magic.
As observed, some of the formulæ employed were extremely simple. For instance, the following brief expression was made use of by a person suffering from stomach ache. He would repeat a number of times this sentence: “Meinga atu ki a Mea he kopito toku” (Tell---that I have a stomach ache). In each repetition he would repeat the name of a chief or of a tohunga (priestly expert). The idea of the reciter would be that such persons would have influential relatives in the spirit world who might be disposed to help him. Quite possibly his affliction had been caused by one of such spirits, in which case the words uttered might induce it to relent, and so relieve the sufferer. Now, surely the above may be viewed as the most primitive form of what we term prayer. In ceremonial acts we may scan examples of equally crude ideas, examples of the ancient method of acting an invocation instead of putting it into words.
It is this fact that the wording of native charms has, as a rule, no bearing on the subject, that has such a puzzling effect page 264 on those who essay to make a study of Maori usages. It is this dissassociation that places Maori ritual utterances on the same level as those of Egypt in its pre-pyramid days, and those of old-time Southern Asia. We have been accustomed to rendering the native word karakia as “prayer” or “invocation,” but it simply denotes a formula, a form of words employed for some purpose, but which may be as puerile as our childish jingle: “Rainy, rainy, go away, and come again another day.” Thus it will be seen that all persons of all ages were acquainted with karakia, more or less. As soon as a child could take part in childish games it acquired certain simple but rhythmical and euphonious recitations employed to cause a kite to fly, a top to spin, and so on; these jingles were termed karakia. A wrestler employed charms to weaken his adversary, and others to endow himself with strength. A runner would charm his own footsteps to render him fleet of foot, and repeat another charm to delay his opponent. The woodsman employed them in placating Tane ere felling a tree, in snaring birds, or trapping rats. The fisherman had many charms for many purposes. The fighting man was compelled to know another budget. Others were for the purpose of confounding the dread arts of the sorcerer. And so, in every activity of life, charms were employed.
Division of labour would have been a boon to the Maori, but as every man was a soldier, a farmer, a housebuilder, a boatman, a fowler and fisherman, then it follows that he was forced to learn many trades, and to acquaint himself with many charms, and other usages. But the tohunga, the priestly adepts, were the men who possessed the greatest number of charms; they were the very stock in trade of those gentry; the higher the grade of the priest, why then the greater his supply of charms.
It is somewhat unfortunate that the Maori should have but one term to include all formulæ, from rhythmic cosmogonic chaunts, couched in fine language, to the crude incantations of the low-class thaumaturgist. It is in the widely embracing use of such words as karakia and tohunga that the native tongue shows one of its weaknesses.page 265
With regard to the performance of rites, ceremonial functions, all persons were acquainted with a certain number of simple acts performed in order to avert evil omens, etc., but what may perhaps be termed religious rites were in the hands of the few, the priest class. There is another matter that should be stressed, namely, that mana was an important factor in the attainment of success as a priest. A man who possessed human mana (mana tangata) was neccessarily a person of importance and influence. An incantation uttered by such a person would be effective. Mana atua, again, is a yet higher quality; by its aid man was enabled to perform great deeds, and such power emanates from the gods. After all a karakia, or charm, is merely a form of words, the power that renders it effective comes from the gods. Inasmuch as the Maori has lost his mana owing to the intrusion of Europeans, and their introduction of Christianity, it follows that no native ritual formulæ would be effective now. The old-time gods of the Maori are dead, or have deserted their kinsmen of the world of life.
All these formulæ were recited in a measured, rhythmic manner; indeed the higher class productions may be said to have been intoned. In the case of men well accustomed to such utterances the delivery was quite impressive, being smooth and euphonious; the sonorous tone of the Maori voice lending itself with good effect to such chaunts. In all cases of important formulæ it was absolutely necessary that such be repeated without any mistake; an error made in the delivery might result in the death of the reciter. The gods were supposed to punish him by inflicting the death penalty; certainly his fears of such a fate would affect him deeply. Another remarkable fact is that such effusions, or each division of a formula, had to be rendered in a single breath. The Maori possessed very remarkable powers in that way, but in cases wherein his powers fell short of the demand on them, he would have an assistant. The first performer would commence and continue the chaunting of the formula until his breath gave out, perhaps in the middle of a world, when his assistant would instantly take it up and carry it on to completion. Thus were the gods appeased.page 266
The faith possessed by the Maori in his charms was a remarkable quantity. Thus he will tell you, in all gravity, that by means of such formulæ, backed up by mana, his ancestors could shatter stone, blast trees, destroy animal life, raise or quell a storm, calm the ocean, together with many other wonderful things. It is in connection with such feats as these that the Maori employs the term mana to denote psychic force.
In most cases preists engaged in the performance of what were deemed important rites stood facing the east. In some cases a priest pointed his hand toward the rising sun, in others both arms were extended, in yet others only the forearms. Rites were usually performed early in the morning, and no food might be cooked, or fire kindled, until the performance was over. The officiating priest divested himself of his garments, and was clad in nought save some green twigs twisted round his loins. Such are the demands of tapu. The Maori held the belief, still held, I believe, by members of the Roman Catholic Church, that prayer and ritual performed on an empty stomach are much more effective than if performed after a meal. So near are we to primitive superstition.
Fasting was practised by the Maori on a number of other occasions, for many tapu functions were marked by fasting. Thus the teaching of all high-class matter was a tapu function, and so neither scholars nor teachers might partake of food until the teaching was over for the day. Again, crops were planted in the same way, hence, as may be imagined, the workmen did not work long hours. In brief, many functions and activities were marked by fasting, and faith in its efficacy was founded on the belief that fasting means purity. There was another form of purity demanded in some cases, as when a person was about to have an important religious rite performed over him. It was considered necessary that he should be in a condition of moral purity, hence he was subjected to a process consisting of confession and absolution, sometimes accompanied by immersion in water. It is here that we note a peculiar and interesting innovation in Maori religion, namely, the introduction of ethics; religion was beginning to concern itself with morality. The page 267 subject was called upon by the officiating priest to confess his peccadilloes, all hara and raruraru, offences against tapu and morality. The absolutory rite left the subject in a condition of moral purity and mental clarity, in a fit condition to undergo the rite, and in possession of clear faculties for the performance of his duties. This freeing of a person from all disabilities is described as “he wetewete i nga raruraru,” and as “e ruke ana i nga he, i nga mate”—a loosening or setting free from pernicious hindrances, a casting forth of troubles, transgressions and disabilities. Briefly it is termed the hirihiri rite; when performed over men about to tread the path of the war god, it is known as tohi taua. In this case it was accompanied by aspersion. Lustral rites were often marked by aspersion, immersion, or ablution. These purificatory ceremonies left the subject in a pure and fit condition for consideration by the gods. In cases of aspersion a branchlet of the karamu shrub (a Coprosma) was usually employed as a sprinkler; or one of kawakawa (Macropiper excelsum).
Many of the religious rites of the Maori were performed at or in water. Thus some stream, pond or pool near a village was set aside as a wai tapu (prohibited or sacred water), at which such functions, took place. Such a place would be avoided by the people, and the waters thereof could not be used for domestic purposes. It is a curious and interesting fact that many practices of Christianity have been borrowed from paganism, and have come down to us from barbaric man.
A form of vegetable scapegoat was employed occasionally, as when a hamlet was suffering from some epidemic sickness. A priest would loosely attach a stalk (stipe) of bracken (Pteris aquilina) to the body of a person, over whom he then recited some formula that had the effect of locating in the stalk the evil influences that had been affecting the people. The person then entered the water, immersed his body therein, and, while under water, released the stalk and allowed it to float away. It was supposed to carry away the aforesaid evil influences.
A very marked feature of Maori ritual was the use made of what we may term sacred fires, in fact, the word “fire” entered in many cases into the name of the rite. These page 268 sacred fires are called ahi tapu (ahi=fire). The kindling of special fire in connection with ritual functions is a very old and widespread custom. Its use for such purposes by the Maori may have been influenced, or even caused, by the belief that fire was originally of celestial origin. These sacerdotal fires were rendered tapu by the karakia or formula recited over them by a priest; in fact, there were certain spells repeated while the fire was being generated. By means of another formula the priest would, as the Maori expresses it, locate the gods in the fire, the gods to whom he was about to appeal. The act of generating fire by friction, the “fire plough” of the Polynesian, is termed hika ahi.
There are many other names pertaining to the above list, names denoting rites in which tapu fire was employed. In some cases, we are told, the priest did not actually kindle a fire, but simply went through the motion of the fire-generating process with a piece of stick held in his hand. Any spot on which a tapu fire has been kindled remains tapu, and to trespass on such a place is highly dangerous, for the trespasser is punished by the gods, usually in the form of illness. A person so afflicted would apply to the priest, who would, for a consideration, rescue him from a highly dangerous position, otherwise death would probably ensue. Priests of all ages and all culture planes have traded on superstition.
Ahi marae Rites performed in war. Ahi horokaka Ahi Tahoka Ahi Manawa A fire at which was roasted the heart (manawa) of the first enemy slain in a fight. Ahi taitai A fire at which were performed rites pertaining to the forest, birds, the village home, etc., and their welfare. Ahi purakau Tapu fires and rites connected with tree felling. Ahi tumuwhenua Ahi amoamohanga A rite connected with first fruits. Ahi torongu A curious rite performed in order to destroy the caterpillar pest among crops. Ahi pure A rite performed over bones of the dead.
When a frost threatened the crops of a village community, a person would seize a live firebrand, proceed to the mianga (village urinal), and there wave it to and fro as he recited an apparently meaningless formula called a tatai whetu (star recital). While reciting this jingle he kept moving the index finger of his right hand as though counting the stars. This act is said to have dispelled a frost.
In a singular rite performed over a sick person, the operator procured a dead ember and a piece of the herb styled puha, both of which he passed under the left thigh of the invalid, and then waved towards the heavens.
The following form of the tuapa, or “warding off” rite, was explained to me by old Tipihau of Maunga-pohatu. Its object was to prevent the wairua (soul) of a deceased person returning to annoy the living. A wooden post or slab was set upright in the earth as a tangible object to represent the wairua. At this post an adept would repeat certain karakia or formulæ to “lay” the ghost of the dead. One of those so repeated was the Ahi, or fire-generating charm, and, while reciting it, the operator went through the motion of fire kindling by rubbing a stick on the ground. As a climax, to show his mana, the priestly adept would then raise the wind called tutaka-ngahau, or cause thunder to resound. The tapu of the proceedings was then lifted, a woman, termed a ruahine when so employed, assisting in this latter function.
The ceremonial “fire walking” act of Polynesia and other lands was also known and occasionally practised in New Zealand. Its only purport here, so far as I have been able to ascertain, was to add mana, prestige, force, renown, eclat, to ritual functions. In Polynesia it is called the umu ti, and is manuipulated as a huge umu or steam oven. After the performance of the fire walk, the oven is utilised for cooking a collection of roots of the ti, a species of Cordyline. It was this same umu that was utilised in New Zealand. The act was one, not of walking through fire, but of walking barefoot over extremely hot stones, heated for hours on a huge fire kindled in the pit. Apparently only a certain kind of stone page 271 is fit for the purpose, and that there is nothing wonderful in the performance is shown by the fact that a number of Europeans have so walked barefoot across the umu ti of Tahiti and the Cook Group. The Journal of the Polynesian Society contains several accounts of such performances. Fire-walking can be traced back to Asia.
In the above ceremonial affair we note a curious usage, the inclusion of a food steaming oven in ceremonial functions. Religious ceremonies were, among our Maori folk, often marked by a similar practice. A steam oven or steaming pit, the ordinary mode of cooking, was utilised for the cooking of food to be used in a ceremonial manner. That food might be a single tuber of kumara, to be used in the Whakanoa rite, or it might be a large quantity of varied foods destined for a ritual feast. All important religious functions were marked by a ceremonial feast. As in the case of the sacred or ritual fires, so also with these umu or steam ovens, the name of such oven came to be used as a name for the rite itself. Thus Umu hiki is the name of a certain magic rite; Umu tamoe that of a rite performed in order to deprive enemies of power; Umu pururangi is another to calm high winds, and Umu pongipongi a rite of black magic to destroy human life. Imu is a variant form of umu, and so we hear of the Imu horokaka, which is equivalent to Ahi horokaka, a war rite, also the Imu kirihau, Imu pararahi, etc.
- 1. Umu tuakaha. For the priest officiating.
- 2. Umu potaka. For the arero whero (fighting men).
- 3. Umu ruahine. For the kaihau women
- 4. Umu tukupara. For the bulk of the company.
The kaihau women, or kairangi women, are those who act as ruahine (priestesses) in religious rites. These oven names page 272 differ as among different tribes; all persons had to be very careful not to partake of food from any other oven than their own. The Umu whangai was a rite performed when making an offering to the gods.
Some explanation should be given here of the curious uses to which hair was put in connection with ritual performances. Human hair entered into ceremonial observances in a peculiar manner, presumably for the same reason that human saliva did, because it was something by which the human body could be represented. Also, the hair of the head of a man of rank and important mana might be thought to represent that mana, as also his tapu. The head of a tapu person is the most tapu part of his body, and hence hair-cutting in connection with such persons was really a religious function. The operator would remain tapu, and so practically helpless, for some time after the ceremonial hair-trimming; in fact, until the Whakanoa or tapu lifting rite was performed over him. One singular fact connected with hair-cutting was that it sometimes entered into important religious rites as a sort of climax; it was the final act of the ceremony with the exception of the removal of tapu from the participants.
Hair was cut with sharp-edged flakes of obsidian, the operator holding a small truft with his left hand, and cutting it with the flake held in his right hand. The result must have been a somewhat ragged clip. We hear of certain communities that had special days for hair-cutting, days that were highly tapu, when many people assembled at a central village. The act of cutting was accompanied by ritual formulæ, and the whole performance was conducted as a religious function. The people would fast until the operations were over, when a ceremonial and general feast would be held. The severed hair would be burned, or deposited at a tapu place, such as the tuahu. Offerings of human hair were made to the gods, as in Polynesia.
We know that, in many cases, the tapu was lifted from participants in a rite as soon as that rite was concluded. It is by no means clear why this was not done in all cases, but it certainly was not. Persons who had become tapu by such participation often remained so for days, even many days on some occasions, during which time they would be under the page 273 most irksome restrictions. Presumably these were what may be termed “severe cases” of tapu. To be compelled to live a life apart from others, to be unable to enter a hut that was not tapu, to be unable to touch food with one's hands, and so on, must have been extremely trying, if not exasperating. We hear of men whose heads were so sacred that they could not scratch them, a truly distressing state of affairs when we remember that they would also be too tapu to be washed. Little wonder that the Maori was afflicted by two species of unpleasant parasites. But to proceed—the following extract from an old missionary record illustrates the above remarks:—“Rauroha…had suffered whilst on board from one of their superstitions; he had cut and dressed his brother's hair prior to his coming on board, and therefore dare not go below lest he should be killed by the atua (god). The weather being bad he had been obliged to squat for three nights under the longboat.”
Again, Angas tells us of a tapu man named Nohorua he saw at Porirua. This man had been seated on the ground near his hut, and, when he left the spot, he stuck some twigs or stricks round the precise place he had been seated on, to proclaim its tapu, lest some person should trespass thereon.
Cook tells us of seeing human hair tied to the branches of trees, and it has been found deposited in caves and crevices in rock. Of cource hair was employed as a medium in black magic intended to destroy human life, but if that was the only superstition connected with it any person would naturally destroy his hair when cut.
Ceremonial hair-cutting entered into mouring for the dead. Widows often cut off all their hair; sometimes one long lock, called a reureu, was left at the side of the head. A hair or two was sometimes plucked from the head of a dead person, and a form of words was repeated over it in order to prevent the spirit of the dead returning to molest the living. A small cord made from the hair of a slain enemy, and termed a kota, was occasionally used by a man to confine his own long hair. Hair from the head of a slain enemy was also taken by victors of a fight, and over it was performed a rite to enable the victors to retain their superiority over their enemies.page 274
In olden times hair was used in connection with certain simple ceremonies performed at critical times, as when a person was in danger of losing his life. It was exceedingly useful to those attacked by taniwha, or other ferocious creatures. All that was necessary in such a case was for the threatened person to pluck a hair from his head and cast it towards his assailant, at the same time repeating a spell called a whakaeo. This procedure deprived the creature of all strength to harm him, and so it would retire baffled. In a Taranaki story of a canoe full of fishermen being assailed by sea monsters, the chief man on board pulled hairs from his head, armpit, and the lower part of his abdomen to use in the rite.
In a certain rite performed by travellers ere undertaking a journey, parts of the performance consisted of the kindling of a tapu fire, and the casting of a hair from each man's head into it. In a folk tale of the Bay of Plenty it is told of one Tu-tamure that, when athirst in one of his journeys at Te Wera, he plucked a hair from his leg and cast it on the ground, whereupon a spring of water broke forth at that spot. I have been informed by natives, as a proof of the truth of the above tale, that the aforesaid spring is still flowing. In the story of Hape and Tamarau, the latter, after the death of his father, procured a hair, or lock of his hair, as the aria of his father's soul, that is as a material representation of the same. Hair was also employed as the aria or symbol of a god.
The employment of human saliva in ritual was also practised by the Maori. This has been a very far-spread custom in former times and survivals of such usages are noted among highly-civilised peoples. The best-known of these superstitious practices of the Maori was the employment of saliva as a medium in black magic, a practice known the world over. By obtaining some of the saliva of an enemy a Maori could slay that enemy by means of uttering a certain spell over it.
In olden days the act of spitting seems to have imparted mana to any act or statement; it might be beneficial or harmful. The Archbishop of Abyssinia spits upon his congregation as a blessing. Elsewhere a malignant curse is accompanied by spitting. Maori adepts performed a rite over the saliva of a dead person in order to ascertain what wizard had slain him; this in cases wherein witchcraft was suspected. Previous to page 275 engaging in a fight a Maori would spit upon his weapon and repeat a charm over it in order to render it effective in his hands. This seems to be equivalent to our spitting on a thing for luck. A tree-feller would expectorate into the umu, or kerf, in order to prevent his arms becoming weary in using the heavy stone tools. A person who was unfortunate enough to encounter a lizard in his path would kill it, spit on it, cut it into pieces, and then burn the pieces; all this being done in order to avert the evil omen.
Should a Maori, when fighting, chance to strike down a relative, or other person whom he did not wish to slay outright, he would recall the senseless one to this world by means of spitting on his fingers and then rubbing them on the face and body of the stricken one. At the same time he would call him back to this world by repeating these words: “Hoki mai ki te ao nei; mahihi ora ki te whai ao, ki te ao marama; korou ora.” The man performing this act would be under the tapu of the was god at the time, as he would be on active service, hence he would possess the mana necessary to make the act effective. Ceremonial spitting was an old Asiatic and European usage, and entered into many ritual performances.
All these ritual acts, however simple, were accompanied by some form of utterance, however crude, and all these are termed karakia. If a person stumbled when walking, struck his foot against some object, he would ejaculate: “Kuruki whakataha,” and these two words were supposed to avert the unlucky omen. When a fowler wished to placate the god Maru, he would make him an offering of a bird. He would simply cast it aside in the forest, with the words: “E Maru! Ina tau” (O Maru! Here is thine).
Many writers have remarked on the absence or paucity of evidence as to sun worship in Polynesia and New Zealand in former times. It is true that there is but little direct evidence of a former existence of a sun cult in these regions, yet such a cult unquestionably existed. It is owing to the Maori genius for personification that we have not recognised his mode of sun worship. He did not practise a direct worship of the sun, as was done in Peru and other lands, but personified the sun in Tane, and made Tane the most important of his departmental gods; Io alone ranks above him. Tane also occupied an im- page 276 portant position at the Society and Hawaiian groups. The cult of Tane was a far-spread one, and, as we have seen, he was prominent in several departments. Many offerings were made to him, and there was much of ritual pertaining to his cult. Apparently the people on the whole were not aware that Tane represents the sun, and it was only when we gained a closer knowledge of native myths that we recognised in him a personified form of the sun. The publishing of the Fornander collection of Hawaiian myths greatly assisted us in the task of identifying these personifications.
In the honorific name of Tama-nui-te-ra we have always recognised the sun (ra). The Maori himself told us plainly its application. In connection with Tane, however, we had no direct assistance from natives, and the identification was a slow task; early collectors did not grasp the inner meaning of Maori myths. When we reflect that Tane was viewed as the most important of secondary gods, in connection with such diverse subjects as the tapu School of Learning and the felling of a tree, and was appealed to in both, then we have some idea of his widespread activities and influence.
Fornander, of Hawaii, gave many proofs in his work on the Polynesian race that Tane represents the sun, yet he makes in that work the statement that solar worship had faded from the Polynesian mind since the race entered the Pacific. Nor did he recognise the fact that moon and star worship were practised by the Polynesians. He writes: “I have found no trace in Polynesian folk lore that the moon was ever regarded as an object of adoration, nor, though the planetary stars were well known and named, that these latter ever received religious consideration.” Now both Sina (Hina) and Lono (Rongo), the two personified forms of the moon, the moon gods as we would term them, were prominent at the Hawaiian group, and were appealed to widely throughout Polynesia, as in New Zealand. Here again we gain proof from Fornander's own data. Star worship was practised in New Zealand, and I feel confident that it was introduced from Polynesia; a number of star names of the two regions agree. It is highly improbable that the cult originated in New Zealand. The Polynesian belief in the influence of the stars and planets on food products would naturally lead to some form of astrolatry. Many Maori myths are astronomical in origin.page 277 page 278
The brief reference to sun worship in New Zealand said to be given in Vol. 2 of Mr. White's “Ancient History of the Maori” appears to me to be doubtful. The matter hinges upon the meaning of the word tui in the phrase “Kei te tui i te ra,” and the rendering of this sentence in the translation is very peculiar, and moreover is open to doubt.
The late Mr. Charles Nelson collected some account of a “sun feast” or hakari, but did not publish it. Mr. Tregear inserted it, or a portion thereof, in his work “The Maori Race.” This sun festival was marked, we are told, by a peculiar arrangement of the tahua, or heaps of food supplies stacked up for the feast. These long heaps were arranged in the form of a heptagon, a fire being kindled at each of the seven interior angles, and a pole bearing a pennant set up at each of the exterior angles. In the middle of the enclosed space was a larger fire, said to represent the sun, and around it stood four larger poles bearing pennants. A human sacrifice, termed whakahere, was burned in this central fire. These pennant bearing poles were called wana and toko, both of which words carry the peculiar double meaning of stake or pole, and ray of the sun. Wana also bears the meaning of a division or heap of food at a hakari (ceremonial feast). With regard to the rites performed at these festivals we have no information. Mr. Nelson was a good Maori scholar, and these brief notes gathered by him I believe to be perfectly genuine; he was on friendly terms with some well-informed old natives.
With regard to moon worship, as we term it, it has already been shown that the female personification of the moon was the patroness of women, presiding over childbirth and the art of weaving. She was appealed to by women, and on behalf of women. In the stage of culture in which the Maori lived the ordinary man knew a budget of charms for every-day use, but when in need of any special ritual he had to apply to a priest, as occurred in cases of sickness. Thus the priest and his endless series of charms, spells, incantations, with perhaps a few invocations, took the place of the private individual and his private prayer as seen in higher culture stages. The Christian priests of the Middle Ages who cast out evil spirits were not much superior to the tohunga of Maoriland.page 279
Rongo, the male personification of the moon, was connected with agriculture, peace, and peace making. He was the sheet anchor of the husbandman.
As to star worship among our Maori folk, certain invocations were repeated in which the principal stars and planets were invoked and asked to send a bountiful food supply. These formulæ were repeated at the first fruits ceremony, when the mata or huamata, first fruits of wild and cultivated products were collected for the ceremony. Forest products were represented by young shoots of trees, etc. The mara tautane, to be described later, was connected with this first fruits function.
“Whanui atua ka eke mai i te rangi e roa e
Whangainga iho ki te mata o te tau e roa e.”
Here Whanui, the star Vega, is addressed as an atua (supernatural being) and is requested to send a generous supply of food by causing the first fruits to flourish abundantly. Throughout the invocation the above two lines are repeated, another star name being inserted at each repetition, as Atutahi (Canopus), Tuputuputu (one of the Magellan Clouds), and so on. The expression mata o te tau denotes the first fruits of the season. The Maori is firmly convinced that the stars have an important influence on food supplies.
The word whangai is also employed to denote the making of an offering to a god, and to a peculiar ceremonial function intended to aggrandize the tapu of a person. Many offerings were made by the Maori to his gods, usually consisting of food products, occasionally of blood, hair, etc. One of the most important of such offerings was a human heart; this was offered to the war god by a party of warriors on active service. That heart would be procured from the body of the first enemy slain. The fowler made an offering of a bird to Tane; the fisherman gave a fish to Tangaroa. The sea-farer invoked and placated Tawhirimatea; on completing a voyage, or landing on a strange coast, he made an offering of seaweed to Tangaroa in the rite called makamaka rimu. In many cases page 280 offerings were made to gods at the tuahu or sacred place of a village, where they might be placed on the ground, on a stone, or on a small elevated platform called a tiepa. Fowlers and others made their offerings wherever they plied their trades.
A very peculiar feature of some religious functions was the act of releasing a captive bird at a certain juncture of such performance. This singular act took place during the performance of the Tohi rite over an infant, a form of baptism, at the lifting of the tapu from a newly built fortified village, during the initiation of a tohunga matakite (seer), etc. In the Takitumu district the birds utilised in this performance were the whitehead (tatahore—Certhiparus albicapillus), and the miromiro (Petroeca toitoi), hence a certain amount of tapu pertained to these two species. The present writer is by no means clear as to the precise meaning of the above act, but apparently it was a form of communication with the gods. During the ceremonial removal of tapu from a new village, two birds were so released at a certain stage of the proceedings, when, in the intoned invocation, prosperity for the new home was asked for. In this function two assistant priests were stationed at different parts of the defensive works, each holding a captive bird in his hand. At the repetition of the words “Tihe mauri ora,” the two birds were released, and allowed to fly away. In this case I was told that the releasing of the birds was a symbolic act, that the supplicants craved for the new village such welfare as was represented in the freedom bestowed on the birds.
This interesting performance is another of our Asiatic-Polynesian parallels. In a certain ceremony performed in India in connection with Kali or Durga, an image of that atua is allowed to sink in the waters of the sacred river just as the sun is setting. At the same time a bird, the beautiful Indian jay, is allowed to fly away to Siva to tell him that his beloved Kali is coming back to him. Again, in Babylonia a raven was sometimes released by a magician during the performance of a rite to exorcise demons, as a hint to such demons to depart in a similar manner.
The reliance of the barbaric mind on mediums, symbols, and symbolic acts is a very prominent characteristic of page 281 such people. Many acts performed by the tohunga of Maoriland appear not only puerile, but also downright absurd to us. For instance, when, in 1820, a severe epidemic sickness, introduced by the ship Coromandel, swept across the island, the native priests of Taranaki acted as follows in order to stay its ravages. They fashioned a small representation of the European vessel, and over it they recited their charms or incantations to induce the gods to cease afflicting them. Quite possibly they believed that the gods of their European visitors were responsible for the distressing visitation. However, we will not condemn the superstitious Maori too deeply, for, if memory serves me, when a heavy shock of earthquake was experienced here at Wellington in the “forties” of last century, a solemn fast was proclaimed by certain authorities!
Among the material mediums employed by the native priests were certain small wooden images carved as to the upper part into the form of a grostesque human figure. These are said to have represented the departmental gods Tane, Tu, Rongo and Tawhirimatea, etc. Mr. John White, in his writings on the Maori, calls them tiki and tiki wananga. The word tiki denotes an image in human form. It has been asserted that wananga bears some such meaning as prophet or prophecy, but the definitions of the term, as given in Williams' Dictionary, do not bear this out. It does bear such a meaning in the Hawaiian and Marquesan dialects, however. An east coast native termed the above images atua kiato. They were used as mediums, temporary shrines or abiding places for the gods, during such time as the officiating priest was engaged in invoking the aid of those gods, after which the spirit god abandoned the image, which again became merely a lifeless piece of wood. The average collector alludes to them as “god sticks.” Like the stone images of rude form placed among crops they might be called taumata atua (resting places of the gods). Some of these images have been preserved, and it is interesting to note that the one representing Rongo is two headed. Evidently this represents Rongo-ma-Tane (Rongo and Tane), the twin deities of agriculture.
In some cases, we are told, such images were carried abroad by priestly experts accompanying war parties, bands of fighting men making forays into enemy country. In this usage we recognise the amorangi, or emblem of an atua carried by a priestly expert in the van of such a force, as shown in an old aphorism: “Ko te amorangi ki mua, ko te hapai o ki muri” (the amorangi in the van, the food bearers in the rear.
Evidently the contact with, the bone of the defunct rangatira (chief) would impart mana to the image. That it possessed such mana is assured, for, when a person was seized with illness, the priest would bring his wooden image and lay it upon the body of the sufferer, this in order to cure him.
When engaged in consulting one of these images, or rather its indwelling spirit, it was customary to attach a cord to the image, and this string the officiating priest gave an occasional tug at. This was an act of whakaoho, to “rouse up” the spirit, to call it to attention, and as a hint for it to page 284 prepare for business. In some cases a bone of a dead chief was used as a medium for an atua, in place of the image described above. In using bones of the dead for the purpose of imparting mana to a medium, or rite, or incantation, it was quite necessary to procure the bone of a well-born person. Those of a person of no consequence would not possess any virtue, they could not impart the necessary mana.
In certain cases the Maori introduced into his ritual formulæ genealogical tables, lines of descent, usually the earlier parts thereof pertaining to descent from the gods. These would be held to possess mana. In cases of difficult birth such a recital was supposed to be very effective. The belief that man is descended from the gods was firmly held by the Maori, and that belief assuredly had some very peculiar results. When man believes that he is partially divine anything may happen.
Ceremonial dancing entered into Maori life to a considerable extent, as in connection with war, peace making, reception of visitors, divination, mourning the dead, greeting the new moon and the reappearance of stars, etc. The reappearance of the Pleiades (the heliacal rising thereof) was marked by songs, dancing and cries of welcome. It was not only the sign of the commencement of the year, but also marked the principal festival of the year. Rhythmical movement has a very great attraction for the Maori; he seems to indulge in it on all possible occasions. His posture dancing, for so it must be termed, may be slow, as in some maioha or greeting ceremonies, or energetic, as in haka, or downright fierce, as in the war dance, but always is it performed in remarkable time. The ceremonial carrying of food to a party of visitors illustrates this love of rhythmical movement.
The following account of a rite performed over a person in order to endow him with powers of matakite or secondsight, is inserted as an example of the general aspect of rites performed by high-class priests. This account was given to me in years past by an old native well acquainted with such procedure, and written down precisely as delivered. The function was an initiatory one to enable a person to see spirits of the dead, to enable him to act as the medium of such a spirit, and to reap advantage from such mediumship for the page 285 benefit of himself and friends. The account is before me in the original and I render it directly into English.
Suppose a sleeping person dreams that he sees the spirit of his dead father, grandparent, or child; that the defunct person had been of a clever disposition, whose death had been much regretted, then the dreamer might desire that the spirit (wairua) should return to visit him in the future. He would now proceed to interview a tohunga of the tuahu or ahurewa class, not one of an inferior grade. He would request the priest to cause the spirit to revisit him, and to protect and befriend him by means of warning him of approaching dangers, etc. To this request the priest would give a direct reply, either consenting or refusing. Supposing that he consented, he would say to the applicant: “Go forth and capture a bird, either a tataihore or a miromiro, and be careful to take it alive.” Having received instructions as to the disposal of the bird when caught, the applicant would proceed to the forest in search of it. It was necessary that he should capture the bird that day. Having secured it he would convey it to the tuahu (sacred place of rites) of the priest before dawn the next morning, and there leave it confined in a basket or gourd. He would then hie him to the priest who would conduct him to the water and there perform the Pure rite over him. Both persons divested themselves of their garments, and entered the water in a nude condition, the priest preceding the neophyte. The latter then took his stand to the left of the priest. The priest then commenced to intone a formula that had the effect of a purificatory rite; it absolved the neophyte from the hampering and polluting effects of all wrong acts committed by him from childhood, and left him in a condition of purity, and so a fit subject for dealings with the gods. To put it briefly it was a whakahoro i nga raruraru o te tinana, a freeing from moral hindrances of the body.
“He ahurangi, e Io , , , e!
Tenei ka turuki atu
Kia turuki mai te ata-a-rangi o… 1
Kia whakaupa ki tenei tama tamaua take nau, e Io-taketake!
He koronga ka tu ki a koe
He koronga ka whano ki a koe
Kia urutu, kia uru taketake ki tenei tama
He tama ahurangi nau, e Io… e!
Tawhia tamaua take ki tenei pia, ki tenei taura
Na tenei tama kia mohunga, kia mohikutu
Tenei tauira ki marae nui, ki marae whakapau tangata
Ki a koe, e Io… e!”
At the conclusion of this recital the priest instructed the applicant to immerse his entire body in the water, he still holding his hands. As the body of the man emerged from the stream, the priest placed his left hand on his head, and, with his right hand, took up a little water, and sprinkled it on the subject, as he repeated the words: “Tapihai nuku, tapihai rangi ki a koe, e Io-matua..e! no tenei tama.” The priest then said: “Now leave the water, and be careful not to wipe the water from your body or head.” The next act of the priest was to immerse his own body seven times in the waters of the stream, after which he rejoined the neophyte and both proceeded to the tuahu. There the priest gained possession of the imprisoned bird, and told his companion to place his mouth close to the head of the bird and whakaha it three times (this act has already been explained). The neophyte was then told to enter a house, taking the bird with him; then the priest closed the door and the bird was released inside the page 287 hut. Leaving them, the priest proceeded to the sacred tuahu. When the broad light of day appeared the confined man opened the door of the hut, thus releasing the bird and allowing it to fly away; he then rejoined the priest. The latter would ask him if the bird had flown away, and he would reply that it had, whereupon the priest would command him to kneel down before him. The priest then placed his hands on the head of the man and repeated another karakia or formula over him. This was the final act that endowed the new seer with the desired faculties, the power to see spirits and the manifestations and warnings of the gods, true spiritual sight.
Such is our illustration of Maori ritual performances of the superior type; those performed by shamanistic gentry of the tohunga kehua class were of a grosser character, as appropriate to charlatanry. The important ritual connected with the human soul was directed to the Supreme Being, not to secondary gods, for Io is the kaipaihere, the unifier and cynosure of all human souls.
The above account is one of much interest, inasmuch as it illustrates a peculiar feature in Maori religion, namely that religion was beginning to concern itself with morality, or that morality was forcing itself upon religion. Thus, in these dealings with Io, the Supreme One, it was necessary that the supplicant should be in a condition of purity, and not of ceremonial purity only, but also of moral purity. Hence the ceremonial removal of all moral impurity ere the commencement of the function. Herein we observe a very interesting phase in the development of religion, and the examination of detailed evidence concerning such evolutionary steps is what makes the study of Maori ethnography so interesting a subject.
The above formula may be cited as being an example of a true invocation to Io, it is above the level of the ordinary karakia. The Supreme Being is asked directly to endow the subject with certain spiritual vision and powers; this is a considerable advance on ritual formulæ wherein no reference is made to the matter under consideration. Of this latter nature are the great majority of these effusions. The Handbook of Folk Lore does not appear to provide any term that describes the peculiar features of the ordinary karakia maori, or native ritual formula. Prayer, spell and charm are all ruled out by page 288 the writer of that work, according to the meanings therein assigned to them. This seems to leave one but the term incantation to apply to them.
The rite termed Pure is one that is often mentioned. In some cases it has the effect of removing tapu, but in other cases it imposes tapu on the subject. In the Tahitian dialect pure is said to mean “to pray,” probably the repetition of incantations is meant, not true prayer.
Examples of Maori rites might be given in profusion, but we shall be compelled to scan a number of them when dealing with the subjects or war, fishing, agriculture, etc., hence let these remarks suffice here.
Let it be clearly understood that the Maori never erected anything in the form of a temple. He made no attempt to add impressiveness to his ritual performances by means of any artificial erection, indeed he was strongly prejudiced against performing rites elsewhere than out in the open. So far as we are aware the tapu houses in which tribal lore was taught were tha only buildings in which important rites were ever performed. The Maori preferred to carry out such functions in the open, not under a roof, and away from all artificial structures. This is the frame of mind in which Semitic folk of old viewed the tapu of religious ceremonies and formulæ. Thus we are told that, in the time of Moses, the only altar allowed for ritual purposes was a mound of earth, or a place constructed of unhewn stone. The use of any tool was believed to have a polluting effect. Simple altars formed of earth were employed in India and by the Maori.
In his work on the South Island natives Canon Stack informs us that the tuahu of those tribes were small fenced enclosures about 12 feet by 6 feet in area, having a rude wooden image in the centre. We are not told what or who such image represented. Only priests could enter these tapu places. Should any unauthorised person trespass thereon he would pollute the tapu thereof, and would be severely punished by the gods. In diagnosing the illness of a patient a priest would sometimes assert that it had been caused by trespassing on a tuahu, or a spot where a sacred fire had been kindled. The Rev. R. Taylor, in “Te Ika a Maui,” gives some account of Whare-kura, a wooden building used for religious purposes, and as a council chamber, that existed in some old home of the Maori folk ere they came to New Zealand. This was evidently a more elaborate system than any that was known here, for a number of priests” domiciles are said to have been ranged round it. The same writer tells us of three whata or elevated platforms for depositing offerings on that were used among the tribe of Ngati-Ruanui of the Taranaki district. These were well constructed erections, adorned with carved designs, and the three stages are said to have been styled the Paiahua, the Whitipana, and the Pou-whakaturia. The pouwhiro, or chief priest, in a nude state, performed rites before these stages. Outside the enclosure in which these were situated, the tauira or neophytes and lesser priests were gathered; outside of these were the people. If this arrangement obtained among the Ruanui folk, then it was an unusual proceeding; alsewhere the tuahu was evidently marked by extreme simplicity.
These tuahu were generally situated at some secluded spot, though not far from the village home, and sometimes within the limits of the hamlet. Occasionally it was situated near the turuma, or village latrine, because in such a place it would not be likely to be trespassed on. In rugged regions, such as the Whanganui valley, they were sometimes located on steep bluffs, where trespass was improbable. These tapu places often had special names assigned them, as Te Makaka, a famous one at Whakatane, and Ahurei, situated at a place page 291 called Maketu, at Kawhia. In some cases a takuahi or small pit fireplace was made at the tuahu, wherein ceremonical fires were kindled. These small fire pits were lined with four stones, the pit being rectangular in form. In the Bay of Plenty district a reddish stone called poutama was sought for this purpose. Each of the four stones of these firepits had its special name; these were in general use and so widely known. One such preserved by the Tamarau family of Ruatoki is named Tokaroa. The word takuahi was also applied to a sacerdotal fire kindler, a person employed by priests to attend them and perform such services as providing fuel for sacred fires. All tuahu, as extremely tapu places, are under the guardianship of three famous poutiriao, or guardians, viz., Tane, Rongo and Tupai.
It is a peculiar and interesting fact that the Maori has never constructed in New Zealand the marae or stone pyramids of his former home in eastern Polynesia. We might think that those erections are of comparatively modern date, erected since the ancestors of the Maori left those parts, but the late Colonel Gudgeon has recorded the fact that some knowledge of them has been preserved by the Maori. An old native informed him that those marae or stepped, truncated pyramids, were places where religious rites were performed. The different platforms were occupied by various ranks of the priesthood. If the Maori constructed, at great expense of labour, the great stone pyramids of Tahiti, why and how did he acquire in New Zealand such a strong distate for anything like an elaborate altar? The word marae here denotes a plaza, an open space in a village, what may be termed the village square, which is a common meeting ground for the people, and where public functions are conducted. The word marae is also employed with some such meaning as “expanse” hence we have such expressions as marae nui and marae roa applied to the ocean. In the word paepae we note the same double meaning as in marae. The steps or platforms of the Tahitian pyramids were called pae. A paepae at the Marquesas is a stone platform. At Nukuoro pae is an altar, but at Rarotonga paepae is a courtyard.
The rua torino was a small pit employed in magic rites; it symbolised the pit of destruction and death. The soul of the victim is brought within the pit and there destroyed. An Arawa correspondent states that the rua torino was made at the ahupuke. All such practices differed, as among different tribes. The tuahu tapatai is described by W. H. Skinner as being situated within a village, a small fenced enclosure in which stood a wooden post called te pou tapu—the sacred post.
It would appear that a priest could use almost any spot as a tuahu, whereat to perform a religious function, or simply to recite an incantation. He often chose to have some material object to mark the spot, if only a rough stone or wooden peg. Tipihau of Tuhoe once told me that a priest could set up his toko at any place as a tuahu. The toko were two wands, or rods, or pegs used as symbols of life and death, welfare and misfortune; they were also known as tira. Both toko and tira bear the double meaning of pole and ray, as of light and the sun. It would not be surprising to learn that this toko rite was a survival of sun worship. The toko ora representing life, welfare, prosperity, was allowed to stand, but the toko mate, or tira mate, was cast down after the performance was over, as symbolising the victory of good over evil, of life over death.
The term wahi tapu, prohibited place, was often employed to denote the tuahu of a village, but then it is a term that might be applied to many places, a latrine for example. The principal places at which rites were performed were the tuahu, the wai tapu (tapu waters), the turuma (latrine), and the ahurewa, if the hamlet possessed one.
With regard to survival of phallic symbolism, etc., in Maori myths and usages, serveral interesting notes concerning native beliefs and practices of former times must be mentioned. Any person studying Maori life and customs as they were in pre-European days, must be struck with the evidence en- page 294 countered as to the faith placed in the powers of the organs of generation. It is quite possible that this evidence points to an ancient system of phallic worship, a cult that has, in the dim past, been a remarkably widespread one.
It is evident that barbaric man was much impressed by the mystery and powers of sex, that he extended it to things that we know to be sexless, and that he endowed certain natural phenomena with strange powers of fructification. This ignorance of natural laws, combined with superstition, and the mythopoetical mind, all assisted in the evolution of singular myths, such as are so prominent in the phallic cult.
Any system of direct worship of the phallus as practised by the Polnesian race must presumably have been abandoned long ago, if it ever existed. The beliefs and acts that formed a feature of Maori life were possibly survivals. Perhaps the two most interesting features of such survivals are the myth concerning the phallic eel, and the faith displayed by the Maori in the protective power of the phallus. Ceremonial copulation was another extraordinary usage in New Zealand, as also, apparently, in Polynesia, according to Cook's evidence.
We have seen that Tane represents the male element and procreative power. In Tiki we have the personified form of the phallus, of which fact there is ample proof. The grotesque neck pendant called tiki, usually made of nephrite, and which was properly worn only by women, is a fructifying symbol. It bears the sacerdotal name of the linga and of its personified form. This pendant was made, wholly or partially, in the form of the human embryo, and its innate powers in the way of causing conception was the reason why it was worn by women. The first one ever made was fashioned for Hina-te-iwaiwa by her father. One of these greenstone pendants seen possesses a linga of disproportionate size.
We will suppose that a fight is toward, when a discovery is made that a famed warrior is afflicted by hauhauaitu, or listlessness, nervous depression, caused by some interference with tapu. This unpleasant condition can be abolished by the subject crawling between the legs of the first born male or female of the high chief's family. I have been told of cases in which the sufferer simply lay down and the selected woman stepped over his body. This act would restore the sufferer to his ordinary condition of welfare. As to the other side of the question, the destructive power of the female organ, we see in this an Indian belief. In that land Sakti seems to be the destructive energy of the female sex. The dual aspect of female attributes, creative and destructive, as noted in Maori belief, is equalled by those of Siva the Destroyer of India, who represents the fructifying principle, the generating power of Nature.
The peculiar rite known as ngau paepae (beam biting) to the Maori, may or may not have had a phallic origin; it is a very puzzling usage. Why should a sick person go through the motion of biting the beam of a latrine during the recital of incantations intended to relieve him? The wise old man Tutaka, already referred to, told me that the space in front of the paepae, or horizontal “squatting” beam, represents life, health and welfare, while the space behind it, termed the kouka, represents death. The present writer has dwelt for many years in the lone places of the land, ever striving to page 297 read the minds of his native friends, but after all is disposed to think that what he does not know about the Maori would make a bulky and interesting tome. One item should be recorded, however, viz., that the act of biting seems to have usually deprived the bitten person or object, of his, or its mana, and benefits the biter. This idea may be connected in some way with the ngau paepae act.
One of the most interesting notes gamed by the writer from the Tuhoe hill tribe was that concerning the phallic tree known as Te Iho o Kataka. This tree is a hinau (Elœocarpus dentatus) standing on a bush-covered ridge at Ohaua-te-rangi, in the Rua-tahuna district. The fructifying powers of this tree have been known for some twenty generations, and originated as follows:—An ancestor named Irakewa, an immigrant from the isles of the Pacific, deposited on this tree the iho (severed umbilical cord) of an infant child named Kataka. Tane-atua, the father of the child, visited the tree in after years, and was about to pluck some berries therefrom, when he heard a voice say: “Do not suffer me to be eaten, for I am the iho of Kataka.” Tane treated the tree with respect after this, and placed on it the iho of another of his children, saying, as he did so: “I am here placed to cause children to be conceived.” Ever since has that tree been known as “The Iho of Kataka,” and, down through the changing centuries, childless women have resorted to it in order that they might become fruitful. Such a woman would be escorted to the tree by her husband and an expert, who would recite the necessary charm while she clasped the trunk of the tree in her arms. The east side of the tree is the male side, the west side is the female one, and the woman would make her choice as to which sex she preferred; if a male she would clasp the male side of the tree. My worthy old friend Tamarau Waiari, of Tuhoe, was born through the agency of this marvellous tree, or at least so I was told, and who am I that I should doubt it?
In “The Sacred Tree,” by Mrs. Philpot, we are informed that, in parts of Asia, certain trees are looked upon as material representation or agents of the mysterious feminine reproductive power; also that: “The sacred cedar of Gilgit, on the north-west frontier of India, was held to have the power of causing women to bear children.”page 298
In the Kawhia district is a stone, or boulder, near the Awaroa creek, that possesses, or did possess, such powers as those of the Iho o Kataka. It is known by the name of Uenuku-tuwhatu, and in former times was resorted to by childless women of that region.
In collections of Maori antiquities one occasionally sees old specimens of the native flute known as koauau that have been carefully fashioned so as to closely resemble the phallus. It is quite possible that these objects represent old-time beliefs and practices in some way, though we have gained no explanation of them. The late Mr. John White has put on record a note to the effect that, in former times, a flute made of human bone was sometimes played in order to assist in cases of difficult parturition. The flutes so used were such as had been made of bones of ancestors of the parents; as a rule flutes were made from the bones of enemies. This was assuredly a singular custom, but then in New Guinea, where we recognise so many Maori customs, beliefs and artifacts, we find that flutes were fashioned so as to represent both sexes, and, moreover, they were used in connection with birth ceremonies. (See the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Vol. 50, pp. 254–274.) The Maori held that the flute acted as a link or medium between the woman and ancestral spirits of the child, who might assist her in her trouble.
It might be thought that the spiritual conceptions of the barbaric Maori would be but an uninteresting study, and probably marked by extreme crudeness, or at least by evidence of the lack of introspective thought. It is true that some haziness is detected in one direction, namely, the final abode of the soul of man, and its passage to that abode. With regard to this point, however, our own beliefs or views are but little further advanced, possibly owing to the fact that the teachings we have absorbed for many centuries past do not make any strong appeal to the person of average mentality. Public opinion is slowly but surely destroying the abominable myth of the burning lake.
If the student of Maori life finds any difficulty in defining the various qualities pertaining to man, he is scarcely in a worse position than he who would explain our terms soul and spirit. Taking the definitions given by our latest and most page 299 complete dictionary, it is scarcely possible to assign different meanings to these two terms; apparently they bear much the same meaning.
The native concept of the spiritual nature of man would be much easier to understand were it not for the intrusion of tapu, and the belief in the divine origin of man, divine origin on one side of the house, the male side. On the female side man is earth bound, and of earthly origin, save and except the fact that the wairua and manawa ora (soul and breath of life) that vivified the Earth Formed Maid, the first woman, were procured from Io, the Supreme Being. The plain physical life principle is a comparatively simple conception, but when it is spoken of as being a sacred quality, to pollute which is highly dangerous to human life, and, moreover, the same name is applied to a material object, a mere stone—then little wonder that the European mind becomes confused. Further confusion is caused in our minds by the native terms denoting both material representations of immaterial qualities and immaterial representations of material objects. We shall even see that the barbaric Maori dealt with immaterial representations, immaterial forces, etc. Of a verity confusion may well assail the student. Yet certain writers have told us that the Maori was not capable of abstract thought. The present writer collected for many years data pertaining to the various terms discussed below, and gives the result briefly.
In the term wairua (soul) we have the Maori term for what anthropologists style the soul, that is the spirit that quits the body at death, and proceeds to the spirit world, or hovers about its former home here on earth. The word wairua denotes a shadow, any unsubstantial image; occasionally it is applied to a reflection, thus it was adopted as a name for the animating spirit of man. The spirits or souls of the dead were believed to return to, or remain in this world in the form of butterflies and moths, at least in some cases, hence butterflies are sometimes termed wairua or wairua atua. I have heard them described as “he wairua no te kehua” or spirits of ghosts, which is a double abstraction. We have in Maori another expression similar to wairua, and that is ata, of which ata-a-rangi is an page 300 extended form. Williams' Maori Dictionary gives:—Ata: Form, shape, semblance, reflected image. Whakaata: Reflection. Ataata: Shadow. Among east coast tribes both ata and ata-a-rangi bear the double meaning of shadow and spirit, i.e., the wairua. Ata is also applied to reflection, a reflected image. The Samoan meanings of ata support this, for among them are “shadow, spirit, reflected image,” and “the representative of a god.” The Maori, however, seldom uses this word as denoting the soul or spirit of man, wairua being the word in general use. At Futuna Isle, New Hebrides group, ata means a ghost. Its general meaning throughout Polynesia is “shadow.” At Taumako isle ata denotes the soul.
The wairua is not located in any organ of the body, it is when we consider the terms denoting mental qualities that we note references to bodily organs. The wairua seems to bear two aspects; it is supposed to be an immortal quality that survives the body at death, and yet we are also told that certain magic arts were employed in order to destroy the wairua of enemies, and so cause the death of their physical bases. The wairua can leave the sheltering body during life; it does so when a person dreams of seeing distant places or people; it is the astral body and the immortal soul, certainly a spiritual life principle.
The Handbook of Folk Lore restricts the term “soul” to “the separable personality of the living man or other being,” and that of “spirit” to “a soul-like being which has never been associated with a human or animal body,” while ‘ghost” is applied to the soul after the death of its physical basis, the body. But when the soul, or ghost, of a defunct forebear is attached to, and appealed to by, a mediumistic descendant, it must be styled “a familiar.” I fear me that most of us will forget to employ these terms in their proper places.
The word ora, employed by the natives of Tikopia, a Polynesian community in the Melanesian area, to denote a spirit and ghost, is our Maori word ora, meaning life, alive, welfare, safe. The Samoan angaanga, a spirit, denotes “head” and “skull” in Maori.
The wairua is held to be a sentient spirit; it leaves the body during sleep, and warns its physical basis of impending page 301 dangers, of ominous signs, by means of the visions we term dreams. It was taught by high-grade native priests that all things possess a wairua, even what we term inanimate objects, as trees and stones. The same thing has been recorded concerning the natives of Polynesia.
These lines refer to the assembling of the clots, the assumption of form by the eyes of the fœtus, and the acquirement of Rua-i-te-pukenga, etc. At this stage of development it was that the embryo acquired a soul, as also the rudimentary powers of thought, etc. The various Rua names represent personified forms of knowledge and thought.
“Ka karapinepine te pu toto i a ia
Ki roto te whare wahi awa;
Ka whakawhetu tama i a ia,
Ka riro mai a Rua-i-te-pukenga,” etc.
We have said that the wairua of man goes to the spirit world at the death of the body. Can it return to this world after once leaving it? We are told that those who go to the spirit world never return here, but this is meant in the sense of returning hither as living human beings, for we are also told that they return hither to protect their descendants, to guide the souls of dying relatives to spirit land, etc. Beliefs respecting these activities are contradictory. Natives tell us that kehua (ghosts) are seen here, and they certainly are much feared, but when you ask them to explain the reason why those ghosts are not sojourning in the spirit world, why each man seems to give a theory of his own. Natives also tell us that wairua (spirits) are roaming about in space, and in forests, and on mountains, and so on. These beings can only be seen by matakite, or seers; some assert that they are wairua tangata, human souls, spirits of the dead, but do not explain why those spirits are not dwelling peacefully in spirit page 302 land. These strolling souls of the realm of Watea (space) are termed turehu by some, the name by which forest elves and mythical bush dwelling folk are known. They are also termed parangeki. Companies of spirits seen moving through space are called tira māka by the Awa tribe of the Bay of Plenty.
At the Chatham Islands women repeated certain formulæ over a newly-born infant in order to enable it to absorb the breath of life, and that its wairua might be stabilised and vigorous.
The word wairua is often employed by natives in curious ways. Some time back I received a letter from an old bush native who, in the “sixties,” fought against us at Orakau and elsewhere. In after years we became good friends, and for eight years he lived with me in various bush camps, the result being many pages added to this recital of Maori lore. In that letter occurred the following sentence: “E kore nei taua e kite a kanohi, ko te wairua anake e kite ana, me te aroha hoki” (We no longer see each other with our eyes, but only with our wairua and also with our affection).
The wairua of defunct parents or ancestors were supposed to possess remarkable protective powers. When the Maori wished to institute a protective talisman (mauri) to preserve himself, his clan, or food products from harm, he would by means of certain ritual, locate or establish the wairua, or power of the wairua of an ancestor, in the material object utilised as a talisman. In cases of black magic we are told that it is the wairua of man that is affected by the deadly spell.
In native belief ghosts do not seem to move abroad during the day, but only at night. One entertaining aboriginal told me that all wairua are active as dusk and dim dawn; daylight is too glaring for them, and they cannot see in the darkness of night. My own observation tells me that natives have a strong dread of ghosts throughout the night when moving abroad. Such movements by natives at night were, however, rare.
Magic rites and ritual formulæ were employed in order to destroy the wairua of enemies, and others were used with less deadly intent, merely to so affect their wairua as to weaken their resolution and courage.page 303
When a tohunga set about discovering the person who had bewitched a sick person, he would take his patient at eve, or dawn, to the local wai tapu, or sacred stream. There he would, by means of incantations, cause the wairua of the magician to appear, when he would give the name of the warlock. Such an apparition would be seen by him, being a seer, either hovering about or standing by the side of the patient. A similar ceremony was performed in order to detect a thief.
When a Maori came to his last moments, when in extremis, and his wairua was about to leave its physical basis, then a formula known as tuku wairua (soul despatching) was repeated over him. This was to send his soul to the spirit world, and to prevent in remaining in this world to annoy his surviving relatives. In some cases, when near his end, a man would say to his friends: “Tukua au” (Despatch me). In some districts this recital is termed wehe, from wehe, “to separate, to detach.” The same word is employed to describe a rite performed over a person in order to obliterate affection for a member of the opposite sex; miri aroha describes the same thing. In some cases a portion of hair was taken from the dying man's head, and burned when the formula was repeated.
Ghosts (kehua) were, and are, much dreaded. They are sometimes termed whakahaehae, a word meaning fearsome, terrifying. Kikokiko is a name applied to peculiarly malevolent ghosts that afflict the living, causing grievous illness, and often death. In the South Island, according to the Rev. Wohlers, these demon spirits are known as rikoriko and ngingongingo. A native superstition is that the appearance of the small bird moriorio (whitehead—Certhiparus albicapillus) heralds the coming of kehua.
The most interesting part of the Maori concept of the wairua of man is that concerning its refinement after the death of the body. The belief was that the soul that leaves the body at death later becomes refined, sloughing off its grosser qualities, when there remains the awe or purified spirit, an ethereal but sentient spirit, invisible to human eyes. This concept appears to have come about in this way: The superior minds among the Maori folk of former times saw that the page 304 general conception of the human soul was much too gross, and set about instituting a process of refinement. The word awe is one employed to denote extreme lightness, tenuity, in vernacular speech. At the same time the bulk of the people seem to have retained their belief in the material aspect of spirit life, such as has been described in the myth of Mataora.
In the term mauri, or life principle, we have to deal with a quality of a different nature. The wairua has been shown to be a sentient spirit that not only left the body at death, but also during the dreaming hours of its physical basis. The mauri, however, is a life principle that cannot so leave the living body; death alone frees it, or rather it ceases to exist at the death of the body. The mauri has been styled the soul by some writers, but this term is assuredly a misleading one, for it implies that the mauri survives the death of the body. Such would be a natural conclusion for the reader to arrive at. There is no evidence to show that the Maori believed in the survival of this quality.
The mauri may be defined as the physical life principle. The Greek term thymos meets the case better than any English expression I wot of, for the Maori viewed the mauri as an activity. It is to some extent the source of emotions, for, in cases of sudden fright, etc., the mauri is “startled,” as a native puts it, ka oho te mauri. Such emotions as love, hate, anger, etc., are not credited to the mauri, but to the ngakau, puku and manawa, material organs of which more anon.
It is shown in the above relation that the mauri or life principle is not confined to man, nor yet to the animal kingdom. Everything animate and inanimate possesses this life principle; without it nought could flourish. Nor is this potential quality confined to material objects; not only does the unstable ocean and fleecy mist wraith possess a mauri, but also wind, winter, summer, night and day, etc., are endowed with this life principle. The life principle of natural phenomena sounds like a new departure, but is really a very ancient concept. Now if the material mauri, the stone emblem, becomes polluted or vitiated in any way, or weakened, as by magic arts, then the person, people, or land, or whatever is under its guardianship, is in serious danger. The mauri has lost its virtue, its mana has departed, hence the protected ones lie open to all the innumerable evil influences that are ever present, ever hovering about and threatening the welfare of all things. We now see that the gods whose powers are represented by the material mauri protect the immaterial mauri or life principle of man, or of anything else that has been so placed under their care.
Some time ago, I observed natives erecting a weir for the purpose of taking the lamprey during its upstream migration. Meeting one of these natives in town later on I enquired as to the success of the trapping operations. I was informed that a very poor catch had been made, and that this ill luck was owing to the abandonment of ancient customs, no mauri had been located at the pa (weir), as was formerly the case. Illustrations of this curious usage of talismanic symbols appear in other parts of this recital.
The mauri ora, or tapu aspect of the life principle, is an interesting conception, and essentially a Maori one. When the Maori accepted Christianity and discarded the institution of tapu, then it was that his mauri became vitiated, his old-time gods deserted him, and so welfare, physical and otherwise, abandoned him. His numbers rapidly decreased, his women became infertile to a serious extent, his old-time vigour and mana deserted him. All these grievous changes, say my old native friends, were brought about by the contamination of the mauri ora of man, which had become common, void of tapu, polluted.page 307
When the ancestors of the Maori came to New Zealand they brought with them certain material mauri and whatu, sacred stones, and, by means of certain rites, introduced their gods into these isles, and also performed the tamoe rite to weaken the powers of any aboriginal or local gods of these lands. Certain ceremonies were performed over infants in order to protect their mauri.
The material mauri that pertained to birds of the forest, that caused them to be numerous each year, was an important institution to inland tribes, while that of sea fish was as important to coast dwellers. The river mauri was equally useful to eel fishers.
At Tahiti and Mauke islands mauri means a ghost; at Rotuma “to live”; at Taumako “life, to live”; at Horne Island “life.” At Samoa it seems to carry about the same meaning as in New Zealand. The word is known far into Melanesia, and in New Guinea.
The word hau is another term that puzzles the student of Maori institutions, and one for which there is apparently no English equivalent. As with the mauri we find that there are several aspects of the hau, that the term is applied to material objects, and also to a quality. The hau of a person seems to be his vital personality, or vital principle, or vital mana, certainly it represents his vital welfare. It is not located in any one organ of the body, but pervades the whole body. If a man's hau be taken, as by means of magic arts, then the magician can slay the person himself. To effect this the warlock will obtain something connected with the person he desires to bewitch, as a hair from his head, some of his spittle, or a shred from his garment. This was used as a medium in sympathetic magic, and is called an ohonga. Unfortunately this material object is often termed hau by natives, which is very confusing to our simple minds; the immaterial hau is represented by the material hau. It has just been seen that the same difficulty exists in the case of the mauri. The name of hau is also applied to food ceremonially partaken of in certain religious performances, to some object pertaining to a slain person as a lock of his hair, taken by the victor in order that a certain rite might be performed over it; this particular hau was also known as a mawe. The page 308 name of hau was also applied to branchlets of Coprosma used in certain divinatory rites; all this in addition to the various meanings of the word in vernacular speech, of which there are about eighteen. Can the puzzled condition of European enquirers be wondered at?
In accordance with the above-mentioned double application of the term to material medium and immaterial objective, we find that hau is employed by the Maori in place of the terms ohonga, mawe and ahua. All these three terms denote something representative of a quality, condition, or object, etc., a material or immaterial semblance. The material mauri of a forest that protects its productiveness, etc., is sometimes called a hau, and the welfare, the fruitfulness of forest and land is known by the same name.
The hau of man, then, is a vital essence that pervades but cannot wholly leave his body; an essential and vivifying ichor that must be protected, as his mauri was protected, and in the same manner. Both hau and mauri seem to be used in an anagogic sense. The hau of a forest, of land, etc., is about equivalent to the mauri or mauri ora of man. As an illustration of the nature of the hau of man let us suppose that I have an enemy whom I wish to destroy. Should I chance to see him rise from a sitting position, I can take his hau by means of a very simple act. I draw my open hand across the seat he has vacated, and so scoop up his aura-like hau, some portion of it adhering to the place he has sat upon. A certain rite of black magic performed over that immaterial medium will result in the death of my enemy. Or should I chance to come upon his footsteps on a path, I can take the manea of his footprint and use it in the same way. Manea is a term employed to denote the hau of the human footprint, and is also applied to material mauri, a talisman such as we have described.
Hauora is a word denoting vital welfare, physical and intellectual vigour. Any person who has transgressed a rule of tapu, that is who has offended the gods, cannot be in a hauora condition, hence we might say that spiritual welfare enters into the definition. The word toiora is used with a similar double sense, and the sacerdotal expression kauruora has apparently an allied meaning.page 309
It should be explained that land or a forest can be injured by magic spells, and so lose all productiveness, just as human life can be destroyed by similar means. This is why the hau of land is protected by means of a material mauri, just as the hau and immaterial mauri of man are protected.
Among the Matatua tribes the ceremonial sacred fire known as the ahi taitai was viewed as the hau or mauri of the village home, because the rites performed at it protected the vitality, welfare, etc., of the people. They preserved the life principle of the people, of land, of birds, fish and trees, etc. In one of these rites the officiating priest generated the tapu fire and roasted a bird thereat, usually a rearea (bell bird). The priest would eat a portion of the cooked bird: the balance of it he would suspend over the fire for a while, then take it down and bury it as an ika purapura, which seems to be the same thing as a material mauri, or something near it. It represented the hau of the people, of their home, lands, etc., and its powers were protective. The ahua (semblance) of man is absorbed by the ika purapura. One version has it that this semblance of land was obtained as a stone, or tree branchlet, or some leaves, and, together with the semblance of man, would be deposited at a secret place as a talisman to preserve vitality, etc., in man and land. After a time they might be buried as an ika purapura, to preserve the seed of life to man and land. When building an important house a human sacrifice was, in some cases, made in the Matatua district. The body was buried at the base of the central post of the house, and was called a whatu, a word that carries the meaning of core and kernel, among others. Tutaka informed me that, in after days, the bones of that whatu might be disinterred and taken to the tuahu to serve as a protective talisman.
At Tahiti the material hau or ohonga seems to be known as tupu, and this is possibly connected with the tuputupu of the Whanganui district, which is applied to the natural objects possessing supernormal powers termed uruuru whenua on the eastern coast. The term hau has in Maori many meanings, one of which is “famous,” and it has been stated that the term as applied to man means “prestige, fame, renown,” much the same defintion as that assigned to the word mana. page 310 This definition, however, will not meet the case of the human immaterial hau that has been described above, the hau of land and forest, or the material hau we have discussed. In this connection we see that the heart of the first enemy slain in a fight is used as an offering to the gods, and the act is called whangai hau, the hau is whangaia, fed or offered to the gods, and the sacred personality of the gods is honoured by such offering. The heart or hair of the victim so utilised is styled the hau, and here the hau seems to be equivalent to the mawe or ahua of a parekura (fight or scene of a fight), as previously described.
The word manawa denotes the heart, the material organ, but also means “breath,” and occasionally the stomach or bowels. It is also used as we employ the term heart occasionally, viz., as meaning staying power or support, also as denoting energy or vivacity. The word enters into many compound forms, as manawa-nui, stout-hearted, patient; manawa-pa, grudging; manawa-reka, gratified, etc. The heart is viewed as a seat of emotion, as seen in such expressions as manawa-wera, excited, angry.
The most interesting form of these terms is that of manawa ora, which is about equivalent to our “breath of life.” Here we lose the idea of the material heart and have the “breath” meaning. It will be remembered that when Tane and his brethren wished to vivify the lifeless earthen image fashioned at Kurawaka, the Mons Veneris of the Earth Mother, he obtained from Io the wairua (soul) and manawa ora (breath of life) that endowed that image with life and volition.
The tohunga maori possessed charms by which he professed to restore the breath of life to a person apparently dying. A similar charm was sometimes repeated over a newly-born infant.
The terms psyche and anima both originally carried the meaning of “breath,” but both came to mean the soul, the infinite in man. The Maori did not follow this line of reasoning, but adopted two words meaning shadow and reflection as terms to denote the soul.
The terms ahua and riā have already been encountered, and so we have some idea of how they were employed. page 311 Ahua means “form, appearance, character, etc.” It is also used in the sense of “semblance.” In connection with ritual performances the word frequently occurs. One may take the ahua of land or forest in the form of a stone or branchlet. Such ahua may be material or immaterial, the word is applied to a material object representing something material or immaterial, and also to an immaterial semblance of either. The meanings of such a term seem much involved until one has fathomed them, and that may occupy much time. I prefer not to say how many years I sought to grasp the signification of the terms mauri and hau.
A man who has had property stolen will take the ahua of that property to the priest to be used as a medium in a rite performed in order to discover the thief. Such ahua would consist, in most cases, of a sample of the stolen goods. I have known a man to whom a present had been made, simply take the ahua of it and return the gift to the donor. The action was simply one of touching the object. In some cases ahua might be rendered as “personality.” I have myself been frequently greeted as “te ahua o nga tangata o mua”—the ahua of the men of yore—on account of my ceaseless endeavours to acquaint myself with their doings. The ahua of the members of a village community was protected by such a talisman as the ika purapura or manea described above, and in some cases by a sort of talismanic luck post called whata puaroa, that was set up at the sacred place of a village. This ahua resembles the immaterial hau. Again, it was the ahua of food offerings that was consumed by the gods, not the food itself.
The word ăriā is employed to denote the material form of an atua; its form of incarnation, as a lizard or bird; the form in which it is seen by mortal eyes. It also seems to be used with a similar meaning to that of ahua, as the semblance, likeness, resemblance of an object or condition. It also means “to be seen indistinctly.” In describing an atua a native will say “he mea tona aria” (its aria is a so-and-so). These aria, or forms of incarnation, seem to pertain principally to atua or gods of inferior grades only, as spirits of the dead, deified ancestors, and familiars. In many cases the aria is material, but not always so, as, for example, when the term is used as denoting the ahua. The two wands or page 312 branchlets employed in the tira ora rite already explained, are alluded to as the aria of life and death, but the term ahua would have been equally as applicable. I have heard the word kohiwitanga used to denote the visible form of an atua, as also the term arikatanga.
All these expressions reviewed above are met with in a study of Maori gods and religious beliefs, and a knowledge of them is highly necessary to those who would peer into native mentality, and the peculiar spiritual concepts that emanated therefrom.
We have seen that the word manawa denotes, not only the organic heart, but also, in some cases, the seat of feeling. It will be seen that the Maori looked upon certain organs as the seat of the emotions and of thought, but never thought of the brain in connection with thinking powers.
The word ngakau denotes the bowels; it is not applied to the organic heart, but to the seat of the feelings, and the mind, hence it is often rendered as heart by us. It is the principal term employed to denote the mind. It is also met with in compound forms, as is the word manawa, hence we note such expressions as ngakau-rua (of two minds, uncertain), ngakau-nui (eager, zealous), etc. Both ngakau and manawa must sometimes be rendered as “inclination, desire.” We now see how the Maori located the seat of emotions and thought in the stomach. Peculiar rites were performed over newly-born infants, over fighting men about to lift the war path, and persons about to undergo or participate in some important rite—“hei whakamarama i te ngakau”—to render the mind clear, intelligent, quick.
The word puku, meaning the stomach, is also employed to denote the seat of emotions, etc., as shown in the expressions puku takaro (playful), puku riri (angry), puku mahi (industrious), and puku kata (amused). In some usages puku must be rendered as “memory,” or “mind.” Yet another word, ate, meaning the liver, is sometimes used as denoting the seat of affection, while ate, puku, ngakau and manawa are all occasionally used in the sense of “spirit,” as implying desire, or inclination.
Hinengaro is yet another word used to denote the seat of thought; used also as “conscience” in some cases, and page 313 “desire.” It is said to be the name of an internal organ, but I myself have not heard it used in that sense. In one old cosmogonic recital given in the form of a genealogy, the name of Te Hinengaro appears, as also those of Te Mahara (The Thought), Te Manako (The Desire), Te Atamai, etc. The word atamai, in vernacular speech, means “clever, quick-witted.” It bears the same meaning in the Samoan dialect, but is also there used to denote the mind, as finangalo does at Tonga, and finangaro at Futuna Island (New Hebrides). Elsewhere in Polynesia variant forms of the word hinengaro denote “desire,” “to love,” and “wise.'
Emotions pertain to the ngakau and manawa more than to the hinengaro, as explained to me. The latter is the abiding place of knowledge, of conscience, and of thought. Often the word must be rendered as “mind,” as in: “Ehara te hinengaro o Mea he ngakau kino” (What an evil mind is the hinengaro of So-and-so); and again in: “Te hinengaro o Mea he marua-a-po” (Dark is the mind of So-and-so).
The word aro appears in Williams' Maori Dictionary as meaning “mind, seat of feelings, desire,” also “bowels.” This word is often encountered in old ritual formulæ as bearing some such meaning. In that sense it is certainly not an ordinary usage in these days. Some very interesting examples of the use of this word are noted in old recitals.
I have also a brief note of the word ihomatua as meaning “mind,” but no particulars concerning it.
In the word whakaaro, meaning “thought, opinion, intention, understanding, plan, to think, to consider, etc.,” we have the root form aro, to know, and the causative prefix whaka. The word mahara, meaning “thought, memory, to remember, to think upon,” whakamahara = to remind, is also the name of the spleen, according to Williams' Dictionary. Strange how these words, employed to define mental activities and processes, are connected with the organs of the body.
The conception of a spirit realm in which abide the souls of the dead pertains rather to mythology than to religion, but we have come to look upon such beliefs as a part of the religion of a people. This is an illustration of how myth and religion have become intermingled, and of the impossibility of page 314 separating them if you wish to give a connected account of the beliefs of a people. Moreover, no religion has escaped this intrusion of myth into its domain.
We have seen that Tane represents the life and light of this world, and that Whiro represents death, disease and the darkness of the lower world. We have now to show how it is that the souls of the dead in the underworld are not destroyed by Whiro, as their bodies were in this world. The explanation lies in the words of Hine-titama, the Dawn Maid, to Tane, when she bade him return to this world: “Return, O Tane, to our offspring; for you the care of the living, for me the care of the dead. For you to preserve the welfare of our children in the upper world; when decay and death bring them to me I will protect their spiritual welfare.” Thus the erst Dawn Maid ever guards the souls of the dead in the underworld, and so are they able to return to this world to warn their living relatives of danger.
It is interesting to find that the Maori of yore believed in the existence of two spirit worlds, the subterranean underworld and another situated in the uppermost of the twelve heavens, a realm known as the Toi o nga rangi (Summit of the heavens). It must, however, be understood that the popular belief was that all spirits of the dead descended to the underworld. This was the common belief, yet it is quite clear that another, and much less widely known belief, existed concerning a celestial spirit world. As it obtained among the Takitumu tribes I am much inclined to believe that the latter was an esoteric version of priestly teachings. There is some evidence to show that it was the aristocratic belief or teaching, and that ordinary people were either ignorant of it or had no precise knowledge of the concept.
A few early writers refer to a belief in two spirit worlds. Thomson does so in his “Story of New Zealand,” while the Rev. R. Taylor, in “Te Ika a Maui,” refers to “some idea” that the natives had of the spirits of well-born folk ascending to the heavens, while those of persons of inferior note descended to the underworld. Among the Moriori folk of the Chatham Islands a similar hazy conception of two spirit worlds seems to have existed. The more important priestly experts of both groups could doubtless have made matters much page 315 clearer. As explained by learned natives of the Takitumu district, the soul of man makes its own choice as to whether it ascends to the upper spirit world or descends to the underworld. The human soul, in this matter, is influenced by its feelings. The souls of those who, in life, had sympathised more with the Earth Mother, prefer to abide in the underworld. Those who sympathise more with the Sky Parent always wish to ascend to the celestial spirit world. Such sympathy is in connection with the separation of the primal parents. The explanation of these matters given by several learned men differs somewhat from that to be found at p. 113 of “The Whare Wananga.” Te Matorohanga, Mohi Ruatapu, and other learned ones, never gave us reason to believe that the spirits of evil persons went to the underworld in particular, or that thy choose to go to Whiro, the evil spirit, in that realm. Rather are these ideas the result of Christian teachings, which are noticeable in such men as the Scribe mentioned in the above work. These mis-renderings are also noted on p. 46 of “The Whare Wananga,” but on p. 185 appears the old teaching as given by Te Matorohanga.
The Rev. Mr. Yate, whose work on New Zealand was published in 1835, tells us that Te Reinga, the subterranean spirit world of Maori belief, is a place of torment, a very misleading statement. He does provide us, however, with one interesting passage, which runs as follows: “Taki, an old man at Ohaeawai, is still hard and stubborn. He said he was quite satisfied to go to hell so long as he could get what he wanted in this world before he went there, as he was quite sure that he would never reach heaven.”
The ideas of many peoples concerning the spirit world are vague, and so, in connection with the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, we hear of no less than four spirit worlds, or so it seems, but possibly there is some explanation that reduces the number. Let us look at the Maori accounts. We are told that he believed in a celestial spirit world, and in a subterranean one, to which he gained access at Cape Reinga. But another story is that spirits of the dead proceed to the west, the far west of the setting sun, so that one might credit the Maori with three spirit worlds. These discrepancies are explained by the fact that there are different versions of these page 316 myths. The common, widespread belief was that spirits of the dead proceeded to Te Reinga, at the N.W. extremity of New Zealand, a place also known as Te Rerenga-wairua, spirit's leaping place, or flitting place. There they tarried a while on a hill or elevation called the Taumata (resting place) at Haumu (Taumata i Haumu), when they looked back and greeted this world. Some tell us that many sharp-edged flakes of obsidian are lying at that place, and with these the spirits lacerate themselves as they mourn after the manner Maori. They then proceed to the extremity of the cape, where a pohutukawa tree stands, a long root of which extends down the face of the cliff. Down this root the spirits proceed to the base of the cliff, where they take their stand on a rock. They see the waters welling upward, the swirling rimu (seaweed) drifts aside to disclose a chasm, the puta rerenga wairua (spirit flitting hole), down which the spirits go to find themselves in the spirit world. Some tell us that the sun, or a sun, shines in that world, where there is no darkness; it is much the same as this world, a belief that probably owes its origin to dreams. The accounts of the further movements of a spirit differ; one says that, as the spirit proceeds, it comes to a fence or obstruction of some kind. If the spirit proceeds, it comes to a fence or obstruction of some kind. If the spirit clambers over this barrier then it will return to this world and re-enter its physical basis; if it passes underneath the barrier, then never will it regain the life of this world. At length the spirit finds the shades of its own relatives and a scene of greeting and weeping commences. A persistent feature of these stories is that, when food is offered to the spirit, and accepted and eaten, return to this world is impossible. The spirit may visit its living relatives as a spirit, but no more.
The story of spirits lacerating their flesh and partaking of food does not disturb the native mind at all, possibly the Maori has a sub-conscious idea that the spirit performs the semblance of these acts, in sympathy with other extra-ordinary beliefs of his. In one case the same person gave me an account of how the spirits of the dead descend to the underworld, and also told me that spirits abide in the tenth heaven.
South of Cape Te Reinga some distance is a stream, known as the Waiora a Tane, a name we have already met page 317 with. Some tell us that any spirit passing over this stream can never return to the life of this world. A person recovering from a severe illness is said to have reached and returned from this stream.
This name of Te Reinga simply means the “flitting place” from which spirits pass to the underworld. Reinga and rerenga are both gerundial forms of the word rere, to leap, run, flit, descend, etc. The Maori has come to apply this name of the starting place to the underworld itself, which is obviously wrong. The precise and correct name of the subterranean spirit world is Rarohenga. The name Muriwai hou ki Rarohenga seems to apply to the entrance or approach to the underworld, and Tahekeroa, the long descent, is the name of the way by which spirits pass from this world to Rarohenga. Paerau seems to be the name of a division of the spirit world. The expression, Rimu ki Motau, met with in songs, seems to denote the seaweed through which the spirit passes, as described above. The phrase Tawa mutu, or last chasm, seems to apply to the same place, where the leap into the next world is made; it appears as tava in the Cook Islands. The words pua reinga, also met with in Maori songs, cannot now be explained by these natives, but here again the Cook Islands natives help us. They say that a pua tree (a species not found in New Zealand), stands at the leaping place of spirits at Rarotonga. The departing spirit ascends this tree and thence leaps into the tava or chasm, the entrance to the spirit world. The Maori also applies the name of Morianuku to the entrance to spirit land, or to some place near it. The folk of the Ngai-Tahu tribe are said to apply the name of Tatau-o-te Po to the underworld, a name that would be more suitably applied to the entrance to the spirit world. It is used as an equivalent for such an expression as “The Gates of Death,” and it was the name of the “house” of Tu and Miru in which was conserved the knowledge of evil.
The setting sun has ever been connected with death in the human mind; from savagery to the highest culture plane this remark holds good. The sinking sun and the sinking soul of man go down together into the underworld of night. The Maori says, in song: “Tarry a while, O Sun, and together we will descend to the Reinga.” The glories of fine sunsets have influenced man in evolving certain concepts of the spirit world. The return of the sun to this world has helped the belief in life beyond the grave, as the return of the moon led to the myth of resurrection from three days' death. In Maori myth we see that the daughter of the sun dwells in the underworld and protects the souls of the dead. Now it would appear that the Polynesians have two reasons for locating their spirit world in the west. In the first place they have ever connected the setting sun with death, and also they claim that their original homeland lies somewhere in the far west, the hidden land from which their ancestors migrated eastward in long past times. These natives have preserved a strong sentimental regard for that lost homeland; this is very noticeable in Maori songs, and so the belief has grown that the souls of the dead return to the loved home of their ancestors. In connection with this belief we shall see that the entrance to the underworld of spirits has been placed in that homeland. Moreover the homeland has become so confused with the underworld that natives do not seem to be able to draw a dividing line between them. The homeland is usually termed Hawaiki, and we find this name also applied to the lower spirit world; this is a prominent feature of the beliefs of the Cook Islanders.page 320
The following is an account of how the soul of man proceeds to the underworld via the setting sun road. When man of this world is near his end, then the wairua (souls) of his dead relatives come hither from spirit land in order to conduct his released soul to the spirit world. The soul does not commence its journey immediately after the death of the body; it remains in this world for a few days ere setting forth. The period of its sojourn here is that of the time that elapsed between the birth of the person and the dropping of his pito (umbilical cord). The way by which the flitting soul passes over the great ocean to the old, old homeland of the race, is that known as the Ara whanui a Tane. This is the path laid down by Tane-te-waiora for his descendants to pass over on their way to Rarohenga. It is the rippling water road that spans the heaving breast of Hine-moana, the Ocean Maid; it is the Broad Way of Tane, the golden path of the setting sun.
Guided over the Golden Way of Tane, the freed soul fares on over the Great Ocean of Kiwa, tracing the rolling sea paths down which the sea kings passed in the days when the world was young. Far away beneath the setting sun, where Tane gleams above the realm of Whiro the Dark One, there lies the land of Irihia, whereat abode the heroes of old. In that land stands a far-famed mountain, a mountain which, we are assured, it took two full days to ascend. It is known as Maungaharo, as the Tihi o Manono, and also as Irirangi. The summit of this mountain is the most tapu place in the land of Irihia. Here were performed the most sacred rites pertaining to Io, the Supreme Being, here important hakari (ceremonial feasts) were held, and tapu offerings (whakahere) were made. Here also, it is said, lie the offspring of the children of Rangi and Papa. This spot is known as Te Hono-i-wairua, because it is the meeting place of souls of the dead; it is also known as Te Rake-pohutukawa. Hereat stands a strange edifice known as Hawaiki-nui, as Hawaiki-rangi, as Hawaiki-whakaeroero, and as Poutere-rangi; four names it hath. The guardians of this house are the three poutiriao, named Te Kuwatawata, Hurumanu, and Tauru-rangi. Rua of the many names also pertains to this place, and in it lie the two sacred whatu or stones obtained by Tane from page 321 Io the Parentless. Should a company of persons be about to migrate from the land of Irihia to other regions, then the mauri of the company of migrants, together with the ahua (semblance) of their vessels, and their gods, were taken to this place so that the Pure rite might be performed over them ere the voyage was commenced.
In this house of Hawaiki-nui was the meeting place of the sacred four-way path, the ara matua, the path of the four winds, the path by which souls of the dead come from the four corners of the earth to assemble in the sacred house at the meeting place of spirits. These four paths lead from the south, the west, the north and the east. There are four entrances to Hawaiki-nui, one each on the south, west, north and east sides, and by these entrances pass the paths of the four winds into the sacred house. Each soul of the dead that wings its way to this central point of the earth passes by its own wind, and enters the house by that wind. Thus the souls that come forth from the south enter the house by the southern entrance, those from the west by the western entrance, and so on. The four paths enter and meet within Hawaiki-nui, but only two paths leave it. One path leads downward to the underworld of spirits, this is Taheke-roa, the long descent; it is a part of the Ara whanui a Tane. The other is Te Ara-tiatia, also known as the Toi-huarewa. This is the way to the celestial spirit world.
When the souls of the dead enter the “house” known as Hawaiki-nui, some very tapu rite of the Pure type is performed over them, of which, however, we have no particulars. Each of the purified spirits then chooses its final abode. Those that decide to remain with the old Earth Mother pass down Taheke-roa to the underworld, while those who prefer to pass to the celestial spirit world proceed by way of the Ara-tiatia to that supernal realm. The two names of this so-called path to the heavens are sacerdotal expressions employed to denote the whirlwind, the ordinary names of which are awhiorangi, uru puhau and awhiowhio. On reaching the uppermost of the twelve heavens the soul is welcomed by the marei kura, the company of celestial maids abiding in that realm. After a certain length of sojourn in that exalted abode the soul, we are told, loses all memory of this world. It has returned to the page 322 realm of Io the Parent from whom all things sprang. As Maori song has it: “Kawhakaoti te mahara ki taiao.” This very interesting belief of a barbaric folk recalls a remark made by Draper: “The return of the soul to the Universal Intelligence is designated by Erigena as Theosis or deification. In that final absorption all remembrance of its past experiences is lost.”
The term kauwhanga is sometimes applied to the crossed four paths that meet in Hawaiki-nui. This house was erected by the primal offspring. Ara matua is another name for the four-way path, and this is also the name of the ecliptic, a curious coincidence. Tahuaroa and Rangitatau are other names applied to the site of Hawaiki-nui. The tuahu (? altar) of that place is called Hawaiki-nui-o-Maruaroa, and Maruaroa is the name of the winter period of the takanga o te ra (changing of the sun), or winter solstice. Now this house is, we are told, the true, original Hawaiki, which was not the name of the old homeland, as it is now employed, but that of the most tapu and revered place in that land. From that original Hawa-iki the souls of the dead are “ikia ki te Po” (swept away to the spirit world).
It is of interest to note that, at Mangaia island, in the Cook Group, the myth of the Ara whanui is also encountered. Here the souls of the dead assemble at the Waters of Rongo, a stream, and follow the setting sun to the far west, as described by the Rev. W. Gill: “The sun now sinks into the ocean, leaving a golden track, the entire band of ghosts takes a last farewell, and, following their earthly leader, flits over the ocean in the train of the sun god Ra.” In Polynesia they speak of going “down” to the west; possibly this fact had some influence in the growth of the belief that Avaiki or Hawaiki and the underworld are the same place.
One meets with references to these beliefs in Maori songs, as in laments for the dead. Thus, in one Hine-raumoa's lament for her grand-daughter, we find: “Fare on, O maid, by the Broad Way of your ancestor Tane. Enter Hawaiki-rangi and ascend by the toi huarewa to the twelfth heaven. Then enter Rangiatea, whence was brought the treasure of knowledge and the sacred whatu; leaving me here grieving in the lower world, O maid of mine.”page 323
The traditions of Rarotonga, Cook Group, speak of a famed house or temple called Koro-tuatini that stood in the old homeland of the people. It is said to have been the place of assembly of gods and men.
The Rev. R. Taylor collected a formula repeated in order to assist the soul in its passage upward through the heavens; this charm is called a whakaeke, a word meaning “to cause to rise, to mount.”
We have already seen that the underworld of spirits is sometimes termed the Po. Wohlers, in his account of South Island natives, makes the necessary distinction between the Reinga and the Po. The latter term is also employed at Tahiti to denote the spirit world. Mr. John White, in one of his papers on Maori myths, gives us a story about a river called Karokaro-pounamu, situated in the underworld, or at the entrance thereto. At this river a female being named Rohe acts as ferry woman, a name known at Mangaia and the Chatham Islands, but this is seemingly the only time the name has been collected in New Zealand.
Another denizen of the underworld is one Miru, of whom also we know little here; at the Cook Islands the name is much better known. Miru was a female, and was queen of the underworld apparently, and here she seems to clash with Hine-nui-te-Po. At Mangaia she was very prominent, and was said to consume the souls of the dead when they reached the underworld. The Maori tells us that Miru was a companion of Tu, and that both are connected with death and evil. In one version of the myth of Hina, Miru is said to have been a brother of Ihu-atamai and Ihu-wareware, who took Hina to wife at Wai-rarawa, though this may not have been the same being.
In Hine-nui-te-Po, the female being who presides over the underworld of spirits, we encounter an old acquaintance, viz., Hine-titama the Dawn Maid. Her rule of that realm is not unquestioned, for it is disputed by Whiro, he who represents darkness, evil and death. Whiro and his satellites are ever engaged in two ceaseless activities, and these are the destruction of man, the slaying of the descendants of Tane in the upper world, and the striving to destroy the souls of the dead who sojourn in the underworld. Here some explanation page 324 must be given of the double aspect of Hine-nui-te-Po in Maori myth. In popular belief Hine is the destroyer of mankind. She drags man down to the underworld and death, she ensnares man in the snare of death, and behold! he is seen no more in the world of life. Hence a well-known saying: “He ai atu ta te tangata, he huna mai ta Hine-nui-te-Po” (Man begets and Hine-nui-te-Po destroys). Now this is the common version, as generally known and believed by the people, but the superior version, as taught in the whare wananga, is a totally different concept. This teaching shows us that Hine, the erst Dawn Maid, is the abiding shield of the human soul, the ever active buckler of the spirits of the dead who throng the region of Rarohenga. Ever she stands between them and danger, ever she protects them from dread Whiro and his myrmidons who persistently endeavour to destroy them. Since Whiro first descended to the nether world has this ceaseless struggle continued. He assails Hine and her charges as he assails man in the upper world; he wages a double war.
Several writers have told us that the Maori concept of the lower spirit world is that of a hell; this is absolutely wrong. Never did he conceive any punishment of the soul in the spirit world. This erroneous statement seems to have been practically confined to the missionary type of writer. The “place of torment” of which the Rev. Mr. Yate told us had no place in Maori belief. Dr. Savage, who visited New Zealand in 1805, remarked that the natives have an idea of a variety of rewards and punishments in a future state! Inasmuch as this writer could not converse with the natives, and interpreters were not, he must have indulged his imagination to some extent. Brown's statement, in his “Maori and Polynesian,” that Rongo and others were “cast into hell” is most misleading. In Vol. XVI. of the Journal of the Polynesian Society appeared a most unwarrantable rendering of an old Maori formula. It alludes to the “dismal hell” of Rarohenga, “the place of sighs and groans.” All these doleful statements were invented by the so-called translators or paraphrasers; not a word of them appears in the original.
Earle, who sojourned in New Zealand in 1827, did not so give play to his imagination, and so gives us a credible account of native belief on this subject. He wrote: “The page 325 natives had not formed the slightest idea of there being a state of future punishment. They refuse to believe that the good spirit intends to make them miserable after their decease.” He describes the effect on the natives of the missionary teachings as to burning lakes, flames of torment, and similar absurdities; some were horrified, while others merely laughed.
In Forster's account of Cook's second voyage, we note the following in his remarks on the natives of Tahiti: “Whether they have any idea of rewards and punishments in a future state, we could not learn; but it is most reasonable to suppose that such ideas have occurred to a nation so far advanced as the Tahitians.” Why should it be reasonable to suppose it? In most cases the belief in a hell of punishment has been evolved by races much further advanced than the Polynesians. Again, one Schwaner tells us that the natives of the Barito River region of Borneo do not believe in any system of punishment after death, and adds: “From this principle those defective ethics result which are found among all these people.” Truly this sounds like the tenth century. But enough of these mythical hells; we will leave them alone, as the Maori did.
Several early writers mention a native belief that the souls in the underworld pass through a number of phases, degenerating in the process, until they become extinct. Quite possibly some did hold this view, though I have not myself gained any such information. Mr. White mentions it, and refers to Ameto as the lowest realm of the nether world, where extinction comes. Personally I place little faith in the name Ameto; it is an improbable form. It is possible that the word meto, meaning “extinguished, extinction,” was employed as a personification term; in which case the expression would have been “ki a Meto,” and not “Ki Ameto.” *
Two beings, named Rua-toia and Rua-kumea, are said to conduct souls of the dead down the way called Tahekeroa, that leads to the underworld. It is this underworld that was known as the kainga huna a Tane (the hidden home of Tane); it is where he retires to each evening to pass the night.page 326
In this native belief in two distinct spirit worlds we have an interesting illustration of the development of such concepts. The Maori had reached a peculiar stage of such development. He had not evolved any belief in post mortem punishment of the human soul, or of any system of rewards in the next life. Then why should he need two spirit worlds? My own belief is that the oldest concept is that of the underworld of spirits, a shadowy realm such as that of Babylonian and Hebrew belief. The celestial spirit world is probably a later conception, and I am inclined to believe that it is due to the aristocratic spirit of the Maori; in fact, the bulk of the people seem to have been ignorant of the particulars relating to the spirit realm of the twelfth heaven, as they were ignorant of the Supreme Being, Io the Parent. Now it is quite possible, and it seems to me probable, that this belief in two spirit worlds would have led eventually to the idea of a heaven and hell. An intermediate stage would be a belief that the common people descended to Rarohenga, while those of the superior class ascended to the Toi o nga rangi, or uppermost heaven. Not that I think the Maori would ever have equalled our Christian priests of past centuries in the conceiving of horrible features of their beloved hell. The Maori had already evolved a very good parallel for our old friend Satan in Whiro, while Io would have made an excellent beneficent god.
The Maori custom of invoking Io to bestow mana on a newly-born infant, the belief that such mana returned to the Supreme Being at the death of the recipient, with that of the refinement of the human soul after death and its ascension to supernal regions to dwell in the realm of Io, are striking evidence of superior mentality in the old-time Maori.
The ordinary folk of a Maori community doubtless looked upon religious beliefs and practices with an eye to personal advantage, as I suppose all peoples do to some extent. This attitude certainly influenced the Maori in his acceptance of Christianity. The superior concepts noted in this paper were evidently the fruit of superior minds.
John Wesley said that to disbelieve in witchcraft is to disbelieve in the Bible, so that we cannot be surprised that the barbaric Maori had so firm a faith in the arts of the sorcerer. In a Maori community any person believed to page 327 possess the powers of enchantment, the ability to destroy life by means of magic arts, assuredly did possess such power. This is shown by the fact that fear would kill his victims. Let a native once get the idea into his head that he has been bewitched, and his days are numbered. Dr. Thomson tells us in his “Story of New Zealand” of how a native who imagined himself bewitched refused food and lay prostrate in a state of apathy until he died. Many of us who have lived in contact with natives have known of similar cases. In some cases a native might recover from such imaginary affliction; for instance, if he believed that an expert of his own folk possessed greater mana than the enemy magician. In such a case he would get such expert to nullify the powers of the hostile magician and also to cause them to recoil upon himself, and so slay him.
The native belief in makutu, or magic, was the cause of a considerable amount of suffering and injustice, but was undoubtedly a beneficial form of discipline in some ways. It was a weapon that could be employed by the weak; a belief in it fostered hospitality and politeness, and put some restraint on the actions of evil doers. The thief dreaded it because he believed in second sight and black magic. Men knew that if they sought to injure a fellow tribesman in any way, the shafts of magic might be levelled against them.
Magic and religion were confused in Maoriland, and we cannot explain one without dealing with the other. Magic may be said to have entered into all phases of Maori religion, but the highest class of priestly experts do not appear to have indulged in black magic, at least in the Takitumu district. They did, however, practise what we may term white magic, such performances as the oho rangi rite already described, the awakening of the heavens in order to impart mana to a rite. The power that rendered all rites of magic effective emanated from the gods, and it was the same beings who imparted mana to all religious rites. Little wonder that the Maori drew no clear line of distinction between religion and magic.
The belief in the powers of the sorcerer was not eradicated in the Maori mind by the acceptance of Christianity, and it will be long ere that belief dies. In my own experience I page 328 have seen robust men killed by their own fears. On one occasion I was myself mixed up in one of these cases of makutu, and had reason to chide the sorcerer in somewhat strong terms. I was informed by natives that my foreign extraction alone saved me from death on that turbulent occasion.
When we know that, at any time, the death of a person might be attributed to magic, and that it would be deemed a pious duty to slay the wizard, then we can see how faith in wizardry often led to injustice. The perils of travellers outside the tribal bounds were serious, and men were chary of allowing their young folk to travel in such regions, on account of the dread of witchcraft. Very singular precautions were taken by travellers. Black magic is one of the items of the “basket” of evil obtained by Tane, and it is connected with Whiro the demon.
Makutu was a dangerous game, and no wizard knew when his end might come at the hand of some enraged person. In the early “seventies” a native named Weriweri, of Taupo, an alleged wizard, was suspected of having slain a person by his dread arts at Oruanui. The people of that place sent him a letter telling him to proceed thither and answer the charge. He told an officer in charge of one of our military posts of the receipt of the letter. That officer asked him: “Well, Weriweri, are you going there to answer the charge?” Weriweri looked slyly up, and said: “E Katene. No purari whia”!
The arts of black magic were exercised in different ways. In some cases a mere recital of an incantation seems to have been sufficient; in others the only action referred to is some movement of the wizard, who, presumably, would be silently repeating his spells. Again mediums were employed, mediums animate and inanimate. Such medium might be a lizard, or a stone, or a wooden post, or—well, anything. Some forms of the dreaded makutu are aggressive, and far distant persons could be destroyed by this fell art. Other forms were protective, and did not become active unless some act of trespass occurred, as in the case of the waro rahui. Another form is that consisting of certain actions and spells employed for the purpose of nullifying the effect of magic arts. These page 329 are, in some cases, virulent, and cause such exhibitions of magic to recoil on and slay the wizard.
Whenever a native died otherwise than of old age, or in battle, the suspicion of witchcraft was always liable to appear. If so, then a tohunga would probably be requested to ascertain the identity of the wizard, and there were several ways of doing so. In one of these a small, rude representation of a human figure was made of bulrush leaves, and this was placed at the edge of the wai tapu, or stream where the adept performed his rites. By reciting a spell he would cause the wairua, or astral form, of the sorcerer to appear, and would recognise him and be able to make his name known. A more direct method was one in which the adept prodded the corpse with a stick and enquired of it: “Are you at the south?” Another prod accompanied the question: “Are you at the west?” So he worked round the compass. Should the body move, or appear to move, at any of these prods, then it would be known in which direction the sorcerer resided. The next quest was the individual, and so another series of prods would be delivered, and further questions asked, as: “Are you connected with—?” mentioning the name of some person living in the direction indicated. Should any sign of movement be noted on the part of the corpse at the repetition of a person's name, then that person was deemed responsible for the foul act. It might be decided to destroy the sorcerer by means of long distance magic, or an armed party might be despatched to slay him. A similar ceremony was performed over a sick person in order to discover what sorcerer or atua (demon, evil spirit) was afflicting the sufferer. Should the body of a person whose death had been attributed to witchcraft have been buried when the seer arrived, that worthy would procure a fern-stalk and recite over it one of the many spells that come under the generic term hoa. This he would place on the grave and then retire. Should the stick, after a certain lapse of time, be found to have sunk into the earth, then it was known that the defunct one had been bewitched. In cases where a person was believed to have been slain by sorcery a relative might procure a stick, tap the corpse with it (presumably to attract its attention), and say: “Anei to rakau hei ranaki i to mate” (Here is your weapon wherewith to avenge your death).page 330
The origin of the arts of black magic can be traced back to Tai-whetuki, the house of evil and of death, the abode of Whiro. All magic rites that destroy man and his food supplies originated there. That place was the origin of all teaching of the arts of black magic, of what east coast natives term the whare maire, an institution for the teaching of sorcery. This term was employed in cases where a class was instructed, but when it was a case of a man teaching a single pupil, perhaps his son, or grandson, the term whare porukuruku was employed. In the old story of Mahu and Taewha we see that scholars in the school of sorcery were, in at least some cases, required to undergo very distressing ordeals, such as the eating of repulsive substances. At the conclusion of the course of lectures or addresses the scholar had to show his skill and command of his new powers. Above all he had to show that he possessed the necessary mana to render his spells and rites effective. We are told that he was compelled, by means of potent spells, backed by a high order of mana (will power or psychic force in this case) to shatter a stone, to blast a tree, and slay a human being. We hear of most extraordinary things having been done, of such a sorcerer directing his dread powers against some person, probably a slave, at some distance from him, and of how that bewitched person died at once. The present writer is not quite Maori enough to accept these tales as the truth, but at least he had the sagacity never to mention his doubts. In some cases, we are told, a pupil was compelled to so slay one of his own relatives, or his teacher, to prove his new powers, or has even been instructed to kill one of his own parents. I can quite understand that a native who believed himself to be bewitched would die ere long, possibly even the same day, but as to his dropping dead when the spell was recited, well, this is asking a good deal of us.
When a man considered himself to be in a desperate situation, and doubted his ability to save himself, he might place himself unreservedly in the hands of the gods, concluding his supplication with the words: “Ki a koe, E Rehua! Mau e tiaki” (To thee, O Rehua! Do you protect—“me” understood) if his atua happened to be Rehua. If a man acted so in good faith, why then the matter resolved itself into a question of mana of the opposing gods.page 331
There were great numbers of charms for the purpose of warding off the shafts of magic. If a person had reason to believe that he was being bewitched he would say nothing, but quietly go home and refrain from taking any food for three days. He would also repeat a charm to destroy the power of any magic levelled at himself, and possibly another directed against the wizard. These would probably be recited at the turuma, or village latrine, where he would stand facing the east as he repeated them. Such a spell now lying before me consigns the body of the wizard to death, and his soul to the underworld. The great desire of the injured party was to let the offender eat first, in which case his spell would recoil upon him and slay him, or any spell uttered against him would enter his body with the food and have a similar effect. In addition to the warding-off charm, and perhaps an active spell of black magic, our injured person might wish to take still further precautions. Thus he would order some food to be prepared, then proceed again to the turuma, and, kneeling down, bite, or apply his teeth to, the horizontal beam of the latrine, the ngau paepae rite already explained. This act was believed to be extremely effective. He would then procure a fragment of the food that had been prepared, pluck a hair from his head and another from his body, convey all three to the wai tapu (tapu stream) of the village, and cast all into the water, repeating a charm as he did so. He then returned to the village and partook of the prepared food, when he repeated a final protective charm.
One fails to see any sense in many of the formulæ employed on such occasions as the above. That consigning the wizard to death is clear enough, but that repeated when casting the objects into the water runs as follows:—“I generate my fire to great ocean, to vast ocean, to restless ocean,” where it ends abruptly. How these words could save a person from the fell shafts of black magic passeth the understanding of civilised man, perchance the Maori himself was no wiser, but he possessed the abiding faith that makes for contentment.
The following method for foiling a wizard was recommended to me by a grey old warrior of the siege of Orakau. If you come to know that some person is attempting to bewitch you, ascertain who it is that is making the attempt, page 332 then send some one to obtain a piece of cord, of any kind, from the wizard's home. Then procure a little blood by making a small wound in your left side and smear that blood on the cord, kindle a fire and burn the cord. At that fire also roast a single potatoe and give it to your ruahine to eat. “Friend! The realm of death shall claim that man.”
One of the most effective ways to destroy man by magic is that known as matakai. This means the bewitching of a person at the time he is engaged in eating food. If the magic spell is repeated at such a time it is said to be doubly effective. Among the Maori folk should people partaking of a meal see any persons passing by, they would at once call to them to step aside and partake of the meal. To neglect this invitation to passers-by was deemed unlucky, and not always safe. A neglected person might be a warlock of parts, and retaliate by exercising his powers of sorcery.
The use of mediums in magic was a common practice among the Maori. Thus when it was desired to slay a person by magic arts, or to affect him in other ways, or to cause a woman to desire a certain man, a medium was procured if possible. This medium might be a hair, a fragment from a garment, or some of his spittle, anything that had been in contact with him, or her. Thus it is seen that such a medium is useful in both black and white magic. The article itself is termed an ohonga, and the expressions aria and ahua, explained elsewhere, are sometimes applied to it. A brief spell was quietly repeated by the person taking the medium, and another one after he had secured it. Other charms served to weaken the victim, to lessen his powers of resistance, and yet others to complete the task and slay him.
The ohonga or mediumistic object represents the hau or personality of the victim, hence we may hear a native say that the hau of a person was taken. It is the ohonga that was actually taken, but that, representing as it does the hau of the victim, gives the sorcerer power over the hau and its physical basis. His spells and performances are rendered effective by the connecting link of the ohonga; it is the vehicle between the active spell and the passive object.
One method of destroying human life was that known by the names of rua-iti, rua-tupo, rua-haeroa and rua-torino. All page 333 these names were applied to a small pit made in the earth at the tuahu, and which was symbolical of death, the pit of death; it was the waro or chasm of destruction. An account of this mode of destroying man was given by Tarakawa of the Bay of Plenty in a very lucid manner. We will suppose that a man's death has been attributed to witchcraft. The officiating tohunga will procure a portion of saliva from the defunct one's mouth on a leaf and then take that leaf to the tuahu, or place of rites. The avenger now divests himself of his garments, ties a piece of Phormium leaf round his body, and busies himself in fashioning a rude image of a person with earth, also a small hole in it, or in the earth near it. This hole is the rua-torino, or rua-iti (rua=pit). He then takes a stone in his hand and recites a potent spell of black magic that will compel the wairua (spirit or soul) of the man slayer to leave the magician's body and fly direct to the rua-torino. As he does so he strikes the earthen image with the stone. Ere long the wairua of the wizard will arrive; it will leave the wizard's body and proceed direct to the rua in the form of a fly. As it is seen to enter the little pit the avenger dashes the stone down on it and recites the dread spell that destroys it, that is that causes its physical basis, the body of the wizard, to perish. Meanwhile the wizard is probably ignorant of the fact that his wairua has been taken, until he sickens, and so knows that his end is near. On the other hand his atua, or familiar, might warn him that some person was tampering with his wairua, whereupon he would busy himself in uttering spells to counteract his enemy's efforts. Again, if his mana was greater than that of the person who was attacking him from afar, then that person would not succeed in capturing his wairua. A vast deal depends on mana in all these activities pertaining to magic and ritual performances.
The use of mediums in black magic was a serious matter in the life of the Maori. He never knew when he was safe, he could never tell when evil influences were at work to destroy him; his very friends might be the innocent means of causing his death. A garment presented to him might contain his death warrant; a gift of food might have been so charmed as to cause his death when he ate thereof; a stroll page 334 might lead him to pass over a tapu or charmed place that would be his undoing. Where we repeat a grace before eating, the Maori did much the same thing in order to destroy any harmful powers or influence that might pertain to the food. Birds were employed as mediums in both black and white magic, the owl being utilised in the former case.
Not only did the Maori employ magic for the purpose of destroying the soul or vital spirit of man, but he also performed rites intended to affect the minds of people. For instance the umu tamoe was one such that was supposed to suppress ill feeling, enmity on the part of others. It was utilised when travelling in strange regions. Immigrants from Polynesia are said to have recited charms for this purpose ere landing on these shores, being doubtful of the reception they might receive. The rotu moana was a spell employed to calm the ocean, and another rotu charm was for the purpose of causing people to sleep. This term rotu is one of some interest. Mr. H. Beattie, in his writings on South Island natives, speaks of this expression as meaning some form of hypnotism. The word rata is another that has some strange meaning unknown to us. It denoted a seer, also divination, and, as an adjective, “quiet, tame, friendly.” Whakarata means to tame, to subdue; at Mangareva wizards were called akarata (whakarata). The Malay word lata, applied to hypnotism, is an interesting comparative.
When reciting certain spells a wizard adopted a very extraordinary attitude. He hollowed cut a small pit in the earth and put his head in it, keeping it there as he repeated the words of the spell. This was done in connection with the avenging of insults, and a curious rite performed in order to cause people to abandon their homes and leave the district. Insults, termed kohukohu, kanga, kai-upoko, etc., were productive of much trouble. As a general thing the Maori is a very civil person, but if he wishes to insult a person he is liable to work himself into a very excited condition. To see two women quarrelling is a singular sight; the talking and shrieking that goes on is remarkable, but they do not come to blows. There was always the danger that any person who considered himself to be insulted would have recourse to magic in order to avenge the slight. In many cases the fear of such retaliation seems to have had a deterrent effect.page 335
The pseudo-science of makutu was often called upon when a thief was ripe for punishment. Of such punishment there were several grades. The injured person might desire that the thief be utterly destroyed, or perhaps visited with some less severe form of punishment. A magic rite called ahi matiti, or whakamatiti caused the thief to become mentally deranged, and also contracted and weakened his fingers in such a manner that he would find it very difficult to steal again. There were a number of spells that were believed to have similar effects. When the thief was unknown the tohunga could ascertain his identity by performing a certain rite, when the wairua or image of the thief would appear before him.
Illness and disease were often believed to be due to magic arts, and the Maori believed that sorcerers could inflict certain diseases by means of spells. Thus the wero ngerengere is a spell employed in order to cause a person to be afflicted by ngerengere, a local form of leprosy now almost extinct.
The term tipi denotes destruction by means of magic rites. The Tipi a Houmea is a rite by which trees can be blasted, man slain, and lands rendered infertile. In performing this rite the operator seeks or prepares a smooth surface of earth or sand which he scores across with a stick as he repeats his dread spell. To sterilise a stream, to render it unproductive of food supplies, he will throw a stone across it as he repeats his karakia.
By means of charms the Maori held that he could lengthen or shorten the day, contract or draw out land, cause the sun to shine, the rain to cease, frost to disappear, and many other marvellous things.
As to how far the sorcerers (tohunga puri, tohunga ruanuku, and tohunga makutu) of old believed in their own powers, or believed that they possessed magic powers, it is impossible to say. The shamanistic low-grade practitioners were probably downright humbugs. As to white magic, quite possibly the high-class tohunga were more genuine, and really believed that they held strange powers.
A charm termed ka mahunu was believed to have the power of affecting the conscience of a person. It was used in page 337 cases that did not call for severe punishment. It caused a person to regret some wrong act he had committed. Tumatapongia is the name of a charm that renders the reciter invisible; it is useful to one pursued by enemies. Another extremely useful charm is that called papaki, by means of which you can render demented a woman who refuses to smile upon you. The whai motu charm will help to cure a wound, and that called titikura will do much towards restoring a sick person to health.
Many examples and illustrations of magic appear under other headings in this neolithic chronicle.
1 Name of the dead person inserted here, he whose soul is the desired spiritual force. Ata-a-rangi=human soul.
* See Ometo of Marquesas myth.—Journal of the Polynesian Society. Vol. IV., p. 199.