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Polynesian Voyagers. The Maori as a Deep-sea Navigator, Explorer, and Colonizer

The Voyage of Werohia to a Far Land

The Voyage of Werohia to a Far Land.

Another such tradition as that of Rata was collected by the late Mr. John White from the Ngati-Mahuta folk many years ago. It comprises the adventures of one Werohia, his brother Raho-punga, and their followers, who made a voyage to a far land peopled by cannibals. Various elements of the marvellous enter into this legend, which apparently pertains to the period when the ancestors of the Maori were dwelling in the isles of Polynesia. There is no evidence to show that the voyage was made from New Zealand.

Werohia and Raho-punga, sons of Puni the priest, heard of an evil cannibal people who dwelt in a far land, and resolved to lead a party to attack them. The voyage occupied a month, and the course was steered by relying on the sun and stars. On reaching their destination, some of the cannibals rushed into the water and hauled the canoes up the beach. Fighting ensued, and the cannibals retreated to several strongholds in precipitious places. These were attacked and taken, after which the invaders and local people lived together in peace for some time, and Raho-punga was given a daughter of a chief as a wife. This woman was instructed by her father to ascertain from her husband the means by which Werohia might be slain. That warrior had appeared to bear a charmed life throughout the fighting—no one could prevail against him. After much solicitation, and with strict instructions not to divulge the method, Raho-punga told his wife that Werohia could be killed only by pelting him with stones. Ere long an attack was made on the invaders, Werohia was battered to death with stones, and all his party slain with the exception of Raho-punga.

The body of Werohia was thrust into a large basket and suspended from the ridgepole of a house, while two old women were told off to guard the place. Raho now determined to try the powers of a certain magic ritual taught him by his father, and this was so effective that Werohia regained life, and, grasping his weapon, he assailed his enemies and slew prodigious numbers of them. He was extremely skilled in the use of arms, page 42 so much so that, prior to his expedition, he had killed his own father in a trial of skill.

The story ends here somewhat abruptly, and we are not told how the adventurers returned to their home. The story may be a memory of some old-time raid, or a mere myth. The above account is much abbreviated.