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The Coming of the Maori

Sex and Marriage

Sex and Marriage

The first reference to the differentiation of sex goes back to the myth relating to the creation of the first mortal woman. A Maori version of this widely-spread Polynesian myth states that the gods, who decided to create human beings (ira tangatd) as distinct from themselves (ira atua), sought a female (uha) from which to produce. Failing to find one, they heaped up the earth at a place named Kurawaka into a form somewhat resembling themselves. The main anatomical parts were formed, and particular attention was paid to the female sex organ, the details of which were given specific names. Then the god Tane, whose name means male, embraced the figure and breathed into its nostrils, whereat she sneezed and came to life. She was named Hineahuone (Earth-formed-maid).

In some of the Polynesian myths, a person named Tiki was the first man and made the first woman out of earth, from which she received the name of Hineone (Earth-maid). Tiki's own origin is obscure. In the Maori myth, Tiki also appears as a male and reference is made to the time-old struggle between him and the female. From recorded chants and other mythical references, it appears that Tiki was the personification of the phallus of Tane, and coition was thereby clothed in metaphorical language. It is also evident from the recorded native literature that the Maori were well aware of the main facts in the physiology of human reproduction. Tane consummated the sexual act with Hineahuone, not for the immediate satisfaction, but to produce the human species or ira tangata from the female (uha) whom the gods had sought and created for that purpose. Thus the Maori philosophers held that the divine spark and the seed came from the male through Tane and the material side which furnished the shelter for the growth of the seed came from the first female who had been made of earth. The knowledge that the seed was present in the page 364seminal emission is supported by the fact that coitus interruptus was sometimes practised as a means of contraception. Mention is made of this knowledge of physiological reproduction because, obvious though it seems, some native races, such as those of New Guinea and Australia, have been described as holding the belief that conception is caused by the entrance of spirits.

The Maori paid little attention to nudity among children until the growth of the pubic hair indicated the burgeoning of sex, when clothing was worn for concealment as well as warmth. Girls matured at an earlier age than Europeans, and menstruation probably commenced between twelve to fourteen years of age. Adults discussed sex matters quite openly as an ordinary topic of conversation and without the pruriency which accompanies such topics among more cultured people. Children listened unchecked, and by the time they reached adolescence, they had little need of the instruction which European parents often fear to give their own children. Love affairs were regarded as a normal part of life. Short love ditties were readily composed and sung and the youth with a pleasing voice was likely to prove successful over his less-gifted rivals. The native flute was particularly devoted to the playing of love ditties, and after its introduction by Europeans, the Jew's harp (roria) was used for a similar purpose. Good looks and expert dancing also carried weight. Similar attributes and accomplishments added charm and desirability to the village maidens. There was also a language of plants in which the name of the plant suggested some tender meaning. Thus a sprig of the common bracken fern, termed rarauhe, meant "Kia rarau mai" (Incline towards me). The acceptance of a bunch of leaves and flowers carrying appropriate messages meant that the lover's advances were favoured.

Love charms, termed atahu, were sometimes resorted to by a young man to gain the affections of an unwilling maid. The atahu itself was a verbal charm (karakia) which was recited over some medium to bring the girl under its spell. One form of procedure was very like the pattern used in sorcery, except that the results were different, the atahu being white magic as against the black magic of sorcery (makutu). The lover obtained some article of clothing or some material thing which had been in contact with the desired person. He took it to the person who had the knowledge, the atahu was recited over the object, and as a result the maid changed her attitude. A second method was to recite the atahu over an object, such as a bunch of leaves used in the language of plants, and place it where the girl was likely to see it. If her curiosity tempted her to pick it up, she came under the influence of the spell. A variation consisted of using a bird as the medium of conveying the spell. The atahu was recited over the winged messenger, preferably the riroriro, and it flew with uncanny instinct to alight upon the woman, no matter how far distant. The woman's page 365indifference turned to such ardent love that she immediately set out to join her now successful lover.

The story of Taneroroa, an ancestress of the Ngati Ruanui, reveals an indirect technique which is more credible. Taneroroa, a young chieftainess of the highest rank was desired in marriage by one Uhengapuanaki but his advances were resolutely declined. One day, Uhenga was perched in a hinau tree in which he had set some snares for catching parrots (kaka). He was just removing a live parrot from a snare, when he saw Taneroroa beneath the tree gathering the fallen hinau berries. Uhenga immediately locked the wings of the parrot across its back, recited an atahu spell over it, and dropped it quietly to the ground. Taneroroa saw the parrot hopping about unable to fly and immediately sought to capture it. However, in scrambling through the undergrowth after the bird, her cloak dropped off. Uhenga, up in his tree, laughed and Taneroroa realized that she had been seen. As it was a matter of shame for a woman to be seen entirely naked, Taneroroa consented to marry Uhenga as the only sure means of preventing his gossiping about her. Thus the parrot medium brought success to Uhenga in an unforeseen way.

Parents were somewhat indulgent about the love affairs of their grown children. Sex experience was regarded as normal and the theory of wrong-doing and sin was not present until after European contact. Certain prohibitions, however, did exist. The degree of consanguinity which was forbidden in marriage, such as that of first cousins, was frowned upon before marriage. Girls who had been betrothed in infancy were protected by their parents from having love affairs, as the breaking of troth would bring shame upon the family and perhaps active reprisals. A third prohibition extended to the daughter of a high chief whom the parents had decided should maintain her virginity until an alliance was formed with some chief of high rank. Such a virgin chieftainess was termed a puki, and a number of female attendants were allocated to protect her from the attentions of aspiring lovers and also from allowing her own feelings to weaken her resistance before a regular alliance was arranged. Sometimes a special house was set aside for her but she always slept in the midst of her bevy of attendants. The very fact that the puhi was restricted in her social intercourse made her the more desirable. Her fame spread to surrounding tribes and, incidentally, added to the social prestige of her parents. Desirable suitors were not wanting and a historic marriage was ultimately concluded.

In spite of the precautions taken with girls of rank, accidents happened. In Maori and Polynesian myths and legends, there are stories of the gods coming down to the daughters of high chiefs. The story usually told by the recipient of the god's attention was that the divine visit occurred secretly at night while she was asleep and that the god left before dawn. Further visits occurred until the girl became pregnant and the signs of the page 366divine visitation became obvious to her parents. The prospective mother's explanation was accepted and promulgated by the parents. Thus, what would otherwise have been an illegitimate birth was elevated into the realm of the supernatural and became a historical event from which subsequent generations claimed divine descent.

The love affairs among young people were usually transient and multiple, for most authorities hold that young men did not marry until about the age of twenty-five. Among commoners, a protracted love affair was really equivalent to a trial marriage for the couple slept together at night. If the couple continued to be satisfied with each other and made no attempt to conceal their cohabitation, the trial marriage merged into an accepted marriage, accepted by the parties immediately concerned and later by their parents. In other words, the couple had decided to live together and the parents on each side after a discussion of the fact, accepted it, and, by recognizing the arrangement, legalized it without any fuss from church or state. Sometimes, however, the parents of one or other of the couple did not consent and conflict arose. Either the couple was forced to separate or they flouted the opposition by going off to live elsewhere. The normal pattern was for parents to arrange the mating of their children.

In the higher grades of society, the subject of marriage assumed the greatest importance. Love affairs were transient experiences to satisfy a physiological urge, but marriage was for the procreation of children to continue the family lineage. The higher the rank, the greater the need for careful consideration as to who would form a suitable mother for future chiefs. The parents of a daughter of rank, such as a puhi, exercised much care in selecting a suitable husband. A family conclave was usually held to decide the question of selection.

In making a selection, two principles were involved which, though contradictory, were both used. They may be termed intra-tribal and extra-tribal, or, in ethnological terminology, endogamous and exogamous. The intra-tribal principle is summed up in the injunction, "E moe i to tuahine, kia kino e kino ana ki a koe ano" (Marry your cousin so that if trouble arises it will be within the family). Here tuahine does not mean sister, but cousins who are outside the prohibited degree of first cousins. The note of warning was due to past experiences of trouble arising from extra-tribal marriages. In such marriages, if the couple quarrelled and the husband beat his wife or used disparaging remarks about her and her family, the wife went home to her own tribe and told of the insults she had suffered. Her family felt in honour bound to avenge the insults, and inter-tribal war occurred. In intra-tribal marriages, quarrels between husband and wife were within the family and even if the wife returned to her parents, the result was merely a separation which could not lead to inter-tribal war.

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However, extra-tribal marriages did take place, and one reason is illustrated by the following story. A high chieftainess and an equally high chief in neighbouring villages in the King Country fell in love and met at a rendezvous midway between their villages. On the return of the chieftainess, her father saw that her face was smudged with red ochre. He knew that the young chief of the neighbouring village was the only person in the neighbourhood who had a supply of the red ochre used as rouge. He immediately visited the young chief and said to him, "Ta taua tamahine! Kaua e puritia engari tukua kia haere kia rongona ai taua" ("Our daughter! Do not hold her here but allow her to go abroad so that you and I may be known"). The young man withdrew his suit and the chief-tainess was given in marriage to the powerful chief of an outside tribe. Many distinguished families of the west coast of the North Island trace their descent back through that marriage and so the fame of the diplomatic father and the unselfish lover spread far beyond the narrow bounds of their own territory.

However, fame, in the sense of being widely known, was but one of the results of exogamous marriages. They were primarily intended to keep up the standard of rank and to form a blood alliance between the leading families of the two tribes concerned. In succeeding generations, the chiefs of the two tribes could trace their lineages back to common ancestors. At social gatherings between the two tribes, the home orator in his inceptive address recited the local lineage from the common ancestor, and the visiting orator, in reply, traced down from the same source. Thus an academic relationship was stressed as a matter of courtesy and resulted in the maintenance of good feeling and friendship. Military assistance against other tribes and the averting of hostilities between the two tribes were often successful through claims based on kinship through an exogamous marriage. A defeated tribe gave their chief's daughter in marriage to the leader of the conquering force in order to end hostilities and cement peace. In modern times, Maori politicians have used common descent to obtain support in parliamentary elections. They have, at least, ensured the speakers of a courteous hearing from audiences which held different political opinions.

As indicated, the choice of a husband or wife was made by the parents and family. Parental control was the established pattern and it was usually accepted even though unhappiness was sometimes occasioned. The parents seeking the alliance approached the parents of their choice and, by means of formal speeches, made known their object. When the chosen mate lived at a distance, it was more dignified to send an envoy (toro) with some valuable gift to conduct negotiations. After long distance acceptances, the prospective bride, attended by her suite, accompanied the envoy to the bridegroom's home or she followed later. In the Ngati Mutunga territory page 368there is a straight path across the Motunui plain from the Okoki fort to the sea. It retains the name of Te Aratahitahi a Kapuakore (The swept path of Kapuakore). Kapuakore was a young chieftainess who was asked for in marriage by a chief of Kawhia. After acceptance, the path was carefully swept from end to end to honour the bride, who, with her attendants, passed along it to the beach way which led to her husband's home.

Sometimes a young couple made their own choice and, if opposed, eloped. Occasionally a young chief was strong enough to gain the object of his choice in spite of the preliminary objection of his parents. Very often the parents of a girl objected because their daughter fell in love with a visitor whose handsome form or superb skill in dance or song did not, in their opinion, make up for the difference in rank. Parental opposition was directed towards preventing their daughter from eloping with, or later to, her lover. However, love laughs at locksmiths or their substitutes. In the oft-quoted story of Hinemoa, who lived on the shores of Lake Rotorua, her father sought to prevent her from joining her lover, Tutanekai, on Mokoia Island by drawing all the canoes well up from the edge of the lake. One evening, a love song played to music was wafted softly across the water from Tutanekai's home and Hinemoa crept secretly down to the lake. The path of escape was barred by the removal of the canoes, but love laughed as Hinemoa slipped into the lake and made her historic swim to the arms of her lover.

Among the aristocracy, the process of mating was socially important. The two families assembled, exchanged speeches, and feasted together. When the bride came from a distance, she and her suite were welcomed with more formality. The special feature was the presentation of gifts termed pakuwha (the touching of thighs). The groom's family laid their cloaks, clubs, and ornaments before the bride, and the bride's family laid theirs before the groom. Responsible relatives on either side accepted them and, after setting aside some for the principals, distributed them as they deemed fit. Hori Fukehika and I attended a wedding party near Taumarunui. The bride came from Whanganui, and her senior relative took us into a hut where he showed us the pakuwha gift of about twenty flaxen cloaks, some of them beautifully woven. He made a speech and formally presented the entire collection to us. Hori handled one, I felt another, and we handed them back. Hori replied for us both, "We have touched your gift, we have enjoyed it, and we appreciate the honour. This is enough and we return the gift." Hori said to me in private, "My fingers itched to keep some of those cloaks, but it was the kind of gift which honours with words but not with substance." I wondered what the senior relative would have done if, in my ignorance, I had accepted what had to go back to the family in Whanganui. He probably would have rescued them with the aid of the knowledgeable Hori.

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The wife lived with her husband in his home and the children grew up as members of his tribe, but exceptions have occurred in which a wandering chief has married his host's daughter and become merged in her tribe. A visiting chief has become the eponymous ancestor of his wife's people, as in the Ngati Marutuahu tribe of the Thames district. Stories are told of a visiting chief who, when his local wife was pregnant, returned to his own home after leaving instructions as to the naming of the child. The child, a boy, excelled in games, and his defeated companions retaliated by asking who was his father. The child asked his mother, who, realizing that she could no longer keep him, told him that his father was a great chief who lived in a certain direction. The boy set out and, after various adventures, reached his father's home, identified himself by reciting the names of his parents and the name given to himself, and was accepted by his father as his son and heir. This theme is common throughout Polynesia and, worked out in detail, the stories are among the most charming in the oral literature of Polynesia.

The marriage rule observed by the mass of the people was one wife at one time, but chiefs sometimes exercised the privileges of rank and wealth by having more than one. Thus, monogamy or more accurately monogyny (one wife) was the general rule and polygamy or polygyny (plural wives) was much less common. All chiefs did not avail themselves of their privilege. Though many are shown in the genealogical records to have had more than one wife, the marriages were monogynous in that they were contracted after the death or separation from previous wives. Apart from the few which may have been dictated by the desires of the flesh, plural marriages in chiefly families were made for very practical reasons. Marriage was primarily for the production of children. If the first wife was barren or produced only girls, the chief felt in duty bound to his lineage to marry another wife in order to produce a male heir. I know of an instance in which a barren wife induced her husband to marry her younger sister in order that he might have children. Incidentally, of course, she kept him in the family. A second wife was termed a punarua and a third wife would be termed a punatoru. The marriage of two sisters to the same husband was the best form of polygynous marriage, for any quarrels between the wives would be within the same family and any repercussions were localized. Though the wives were said to have lived amicably within the same household or in different houses, jealousies leading to conflict were bound to arise and the Maori historical narratives give ample evidence of this. The wife of the first marriage was senior (wahine matua) to the later wives, and her children were senior (tuakana) to theirs. Jealousy on the part of a junior wife led to her carrying tales to her husband that would influence him against his senior wife. Thus, when Wairangi, a chief of Ngati Raukawa, was away on a visit, his senior wife was visited by a page 370kinsman. The junior wife told Wairangi on his return, Wairangi thrashed his senior wife, and she fled to the home of her tribe. The inevitable result was war between the two tribes. Ruaputahanga, the senior wife of Whatihua of Kawhia, after giving birth to a child, asked her husband to catch an eel to satisfy her craving. Whatihua caught the eel at the place indicated, but he gave it to his junior wife on his return. Ruaputahanga, hearing of it, left her husband and child and fled to Taranaki. There she married a high chief and her descendants have so intermarried with leading families in various tribes that Ruaputahanga is one of the most distinguished names in the west coast genealogies.

The punarua number, two wives, appears to be the most common in the historical narratives, but there are instances of four wives and, rarely, more. Plural wives were of economic importance in the household of a chief, for they provided more food and wove more cloaks, which added to the stock available for various social obligations. In Hawaii also, two wives were termed punalua.

The widow of a chief went into a protracted state of mourning during which she was tapu. The right person to remove the tapu by marriage was her late husband's brother, thus a custom resembling the levirate of the Jews was present among the Maori. If a brother was not available, the right to make other arrangements remained with the family of her husband.

High chieftainesses captured in war were taken to wife by the conquering chiefs but the lineage from such marriages carried the bar sinister of captivity. Captives of less rank were kept to do menial work as slaves and were treated as concubines by their masters. Any progeny from concubines merged into the father's tribe but they did not usually appear in the official tribal lineages.

Polyandry, or plural husbands, was not countenanced in New Zealand. In the Marquesas, however, a high chieftainess sometimes had a secondary husband, who attended to various domestic affairs and exercised marital rights when the primary husband was absent. In Hawaii, also, a high chieftainess could have two husbands, and they were termed punalua, the same term as for two wives. A single instance of polyandry occurs in the version of the Maui myth (44, p. 81) in which his sister Hineuri was taken to wife by the two brothers, Ihuatamai and Ihuwareware before she was carried off by Tinirau to the mystic isle of Motutapu.

The freedom of intercourse between unmarried people ceased on marriage for marriage was a formal agreement not between two individual but between two family groups. Thus if either husband or wife transgressed by having a love affair with an outside person, action was taken by the family group or subtribe of the non-offending person against the family of the transgressor and that of the paramour. A war party termed page 371a taua whine (taua, war party; wahine, woman) raided the offender's village to exact recompense (utu). The family group was held equally responsible with the culprits, because, after all, the individual was merely a unit of the family group. In extreme cases, war probably resulted; but usually the right of the invading party was recognized peaceably and the looting of the village borne resignedly. If the erring party was the wife, her husband had the right of one free blow with a club at her paramour. Whether the blow struck or was avoided, honour had to be satisfied for a second blow was beyond the law and would form sufficient cause for the paramour's tribe to rise in his defence.

I once enlisted in a war party from Rotorua which raided a village near Te Teko in the Whakatane district. We stripped to loin cloths outside the village, armed ourselves with manuka poles from a native fence as spears, and marched in close column of fours on to the village plaza, where we executed a ferocious war dance before the assembled villagers. Our leaders made fiery speeches accusing the local tribe of guilt in sexual matters, punctuating their remarks with libidinous songs deemed appropriate to the particular occasion. The village chiefs admitted their fault and then proceeded to lay various articles before us in payment, such as jade ornaments, bolts of print cloth, and money in pound notes. Each individual, as he or she advanced to the pile, called out the nature of their contribution. Some gave horses and cattle, and the two secretaries of the expedition wrote down the names of the donors in order that the animals might be collected later for driving home. We then rubbed noses with our hosts, engaged in amicable conversation, partook of the feast provided for us, and returned to army headquarters at Te Teko. During the day, a distribution of the loot was made among the members of the party. To my embarrassment I was included and given a share consisting of a genuine jade ear pendant and five pounds in notes. I tried to assure them that the privilege of taking part in an ancient custom was sufficient honour, but the leaders insisted on my acceptance as no future obligations were involved. I, therefore, kept the jade pendant but returned the five pounds to go towards the liquid refreshment of the expedition. Some aspects of the raid, such as the secretaries with their note books and pencils, were modern, but the main principles were based on ancient custom. As one of our chiefs said in his speech, "The clouds of heaven settle only on the peaks of the lofty mountains and the clouds of trouble settle only on the heads of high chiefs." The statement signifies that if the family of the offender were of poor status, a war party would not deign to visit them. The wife and her lover had fled to distant parts, but the tribe accepted the clouds of trouble cheerfully, for they had been recognized as a lofty peak.

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Divorce as an institution was unknown and unnecessary, for there had been no elaborate marriage ritual to be dissolved by a corresponding ritual. If husband and wife quarrelled too bitterly for immediate reconciliation, the wife returned to her own people. If the husband still loved his wife, the atahu love spell conveyed by a bird messenger could be used. Usually peace negotiations were conducted by representatives of the two families; but if the wife refused to return or the husband refused to have her back, the separation became complete. When war occurred as the result of the quarrel, separation was naturally complete. Separation was also complete after a village had been raided by the taua wahine previously described. The separated couple were then free to make other alliances. Some of the most touching love laments have been composed by deserted wives. Mention is made of the wife going through some ritual at a stream, figuratively to extinguish the embers of love and so ease the pain. This constituted the final act of separation on her part.

From birth to marriage, we have tried to follow the individual through the various stages in his education to fit him to assume his social position in his tribe. Some of the customs and tapu to which he has to conform have been described. He has now settled down as a full-grown man in his household with his wife and he looks forward to the birth of an heir, who will be born on the kakapau wharanui, the wide-wefted mat which symbolizes marriage and domesticity. His son will in turn pass through the cycle of birth to marriage, but he now enters the second cycle leading from manhood to death.