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Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

The Maori Ideas resemble the Teutonic more, yet — with South Asiatic Elements

The Maori Ideas resemble the Teutonic more, yet
with South Asiatic Elements

(12) The templeless, imageless, grove-haunting side of Maori religion points more to the northern migration into page 118Polynesia than to the southern. The pre-Japanese, pre-Aino people, who built the dolmens and mounds in Korea and Japan, might well have been a section of that northern or Teutonic migration from the Euro-Asiatic steppes that spread the Aryan dialects and creeds over the north and west of Europe. And like their European kin they might well have learnt the megalithic art from their Caucasian predecessors, and down in the eastern groups of Polynesia they kept up the combination of open-air worship and the megalithic habit in those great maraes or stepped and truncated pyramids of colossal stone-blocks, on which the Tahitians and the Marquesans served their gods with sacrifices up till the time the missionaries arrived. The fetichistic phase of the Polynesian religion belongs to a far more primitive people, just as the image-making and temple-building phase belongs to a people more advanced in culture.

(13) The colossal stone statues of Easter Island, and the wooden figures of the great Maori carved houses belong to quite a different religious stage. They are not images in the strict sense of the term. They are memorial forms like the busts and figures in our cemeteries. They are meant to recall some ancestor, to give his memory a more lasting form than thought or emotion; and yet they will not make it trivial by reducing the form to mere human proportions; hence the angelic wings on the modern tombstone, the gigantic size of the Easter Island busts, and the monstrous features of the Maori ancestral figures. They belong to that stage of religious evolution which lays great stress on the ancestral spirit. There was little of this in the Vedic religion as it comes upon the stage of history in the Punjaub. Ancestor-worship had vanished; there were still family rites, but they were overshadowed by the public cult of the great national gods, the embodied powers of Nature. The Polynesian still retained the power of deifying, or at least divinising, ancestors, page 119that belonged to the primitive Aryans and to the people of the megalithic monuments, and though they learned to carve memorial images of the greater ancestors or heroes, they never used them as idols or objects of worship, and this again affiliates them to the early religious attitude of the Aryan-speaking peoples.

(14) But there was also a phase of their religion that shows close affinity to the peoples of Southern Asia. This was the magic and witchcraft that the tohungas dealt in. This makutu was closely interwoven with the life of the people. It belonged to the last-comers rather than to any of the aboriginals or tangata whenua. It is true that some of the fairy peoples, like the Ponaturi, are described as dealing in magic rites and incantations. And it is not unlikely that they represent an earlier South Asiatic migration. But the fair-skinned Patupaiarehe or fairies, who seem to have occupied especially the north of the North Island, have no karakias or incantations, and are evidently free from all that sorcery which distinguishes the South Asiatic races, like the Assyrian. It is not an unlikely thing that some of those older inhabitants of New Zealand, and doubtless of Polynesia, may have had intercourse with peoples bordering on the Persian Gulf; and the intermingling on their borders may have given the Semitic hooked nose and general Semitic physiognomy that is sometimes seen on the islands, and not infrequently amongst the Morioris of the Chatham Islands; and they may have emphasised in the ultimate religion of Polynesia that element of sorcery which belongs in a rude or elementary form to all religions.