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Games and Pastimes of the Maori



The game of Wi is similar to that termed tag by European children, if my dulled memory serves me. All the players but two stand still a little distance apart, sometimes in two parallel ranks, at others they form a ring with clasped hands. One player tags (papaki) another, and the former becomes the kiore (rat) who is pursued by the tagged one. The kiore keeps dodging swiftly about among the group, doubling and turning as much as possible. The pursuer (kai-whai) must follow exactly in the trail of the kiore and make every turn that he does, that is imperative. When the kiore is tagged he becomes piro, or out, and must then fall out. If a pursuer does not follow exactly in the steps of the kiore, the omission puts him out. It is a game demanding the exercise of much nimbleness. By tagging others the game may be continued for a long time.

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The above is the form of this game as played by children of the East Cape district. Another form, explained by a member of the Tuhoe tribe, differs considerably, reminding one somewhat of our 'prisoners base.' It runs as follows:—A circle, termed the wi, is marked on the ground, and around this the players stand. The keeper of the wi, or base, is selected by means of a counting out process similar to that employed among ourselves. One recites the following apparently meaningless words in the manner of our 'ena, dena concertina,' and ticking off the members of the circle with his finger as he proceeds:—

"Piki, pika, pere, rika,
Papa, rangi
He, hi, rate, mai
Hau, haunga, te, hati, mai, putu,
Piki, piki."

The member at whom his finger points at the repetition of the last word, falls out, and the process is repeated until but one remains, who becomes the base keeper. The other children then endeavour to enter the circle or base without being tagged by the base keeper. If one is so touched before he has crossed the line, then he must assist the base keeper in defending it. Those who enter without having been touched are said to have won. An East Coast note mentions a form of wi in which there were four bases or stations, and each had its base keeper.

The counting out process is called tatau tangata or person counting. There is some evidence to show that it was practised as a pastime by itself, not in connection with a game, as described above.

Of a similar nature were the rhythmical jingles termed Tatai whetu and Tatau manawa. These were repeated by children in one breath, a player not being allowed to take breath during the recital. The test does not appear to be a difficult one. The following is a sample of these effusions:—

"Katahi, ka ri, ka wara, ka tikoki
Manu ki, manu ka toro, kai o, tungongo.
Kai te koata, raua riki, tara kaina, e hi
Tarere, e tika, rawaho, tikina,
Kapohia, te arero, o te rangi
Wiwi, wawa, heke, heke,
Te manu ki, tai keha."

A rhythmical but apparently meaningless jumble of words.

Now this jingle was also used as a Tatai whetu, which is a very useful manifestation of thaumaturgy, so long as one possesses true faith. The repetition of this weird composition had the desirable effect of preventing a frost. Combined with certain actions it would dispel a frost, and hence it was utilised by the men of yore when a page 166 frost threatened the crops. In order to bring about this desirable state of things, a person would provide himself with a firebrand, proceed to the maianga (urinal) of the hamlet, and walk round it, waving his firestick in the air as he did so. He then cast away the brand, and, facing the east in manner orthodox, he recited the above gibberish, apparently as a form of charm. As he did so, he checked the stars off with extended forefinger, as one does when counting a number of objects. The following is another version of the Tatai whetu employed on such occasions:—

"Katahi ti, ka rua ti, ka haramai, te pati tore.
Ka rauna, ka rauna, ka noho, te kiwikiwi,
He po, he wai, takitaki, no pi, no pa
Ka huia, mai, kai ana, te whetu
Kai ana, te marama
Ko te tio, e rere, ra runga, ra te, pekapeka, kotore
Wiwi, wawa, heke, heke
Te manu, ki o, tau tihe."

The breath holding competition recital was also known as pu manawa, and as tatau kaho, or batten counting. The latter name arose from the habit of apparently counting the roof battens of a house during the recital. Any one failing to repeat the whole in one breath fell out of the game.