The Coming of the Maori
2 — The Gods
The gods have been classified by best (15, p. 86) Into four groups: supreme, departmental, tribal, and family. It is convenient for description and covers the range.
The Supreme God
The god Io, credited with supreme power over all other gods and with having created all things, was an academic creation known to a few. As Io-of-the-hidden-face (Io matangaro), his face was hidden behind a veil of secrecy. He existed in theory and was of no practical use to the mass of the people. The concept of a supreme god will be discussed later.
Io's staff of whatukura, mareikura, and apa formed part of the academic creation. They flitted to and fro through the pages of the Matorohanga manuscript, but they did not come down from their 12-story mansion to be of practical value to mankind.
The Departmental Gods
The departmental gods were major gods who were selected sons of Rangi and Papa. Though the esoteric version lists 70 male children in the family of the primary parents, it was the six sons named in the popular version who were important enough to receive divine authority over certain departments of life. When man required supernatural favour and assistance, he addressed himself to the divine head of the department in which he was immediately concerned. There were six departmental heads: Tane, Rongo, Tu, Tangaroa, Tawhirimatea, and Haumiatiketike. In addition to these, three other sons of Rangi are of academic interest, namely Whiro, Ruaumoko, and Urutengangana. The other members of the seventy did not display any interest in human affairs.
Tanewas the most important of the departmental gods in New Zealand. He had been the leader among the sons of the primary parents page 455during the creation period. He was the father of trees, birds, and other curious progeny. He was the progenitor of man and, in spite of the claims made for Io, man acquired the divine spark through birth from Tane.
For his numerous activities, Tane received many titles, and Best (15, p. 72) listed 41 titles applied to him by various tribes. As the greatest son of the Sky-father, he was Tanenuiarangi; as propper-up-of-the-sky, Tanetokorangi; as the parent of man and other progeny, Tanematua; as the producer of life. Tanetewaiora; and, because of his association with knowledge, Tanetewananga and Tanetepukenga.
Apart from classical distinctions, Tane's practical value to the people was his position as divine head of the department of forests and their products, timber for woodwork and birds for food. Before one of the tree children of Tane was felled for an important house or canoe, recognition of Tane's parenthood had to be made by some ritual chant or an offering. Non-recognition of Tane brought punishment in some form, such as obstruction to the work. In the widely spread story of Rata (45, p. 47), the wood elves replaced the chips and re-erected the tree which Rata had felled without divine permission. After a second felling with similar results, Rata surprised the wood elves and upbraided them for retarding his task. However, they turned the tables by demanding, "Who gave you permission to fell Tane to the ground?" Rata was deeply shamed and admitted his error, so the fairy people forgave him by completing the canoe for him.
Not only trees but sometimes the completed canoe was invested with the personification of Tane, as illustrated by the following lines from the paddle song of the Aotea canoe:
|E tapu tena te ara||Sacred is the course|
|O Tane matohe nuku,||Of Tane struggling below,|
|O Tane matohe rangi.||Of Tane striving above.|
Tane is the Aotea canoe on her historic voyage to New Zealand, fighting against the waves from earth below and the storms from the skies above.
Fowlers hunting in the forests recognized Tane as the lord of birds, and the first bird killed was laid aside, with appropriate words, as an offering to Tane. After that they had Tane's tacit permission to go on catching for themselves.
Tane was the tutelary deity of woodcraftsmen in Mangaia and Tahiti. The Mangaian woodsmen paid homage to him as Tanemataariki (Tane-of-the-regal-face) whose symbol was said to be a composite adze with a carved haft and three blades. In Tahiti, the craftsmen offered to Tane the first chip cut from the trunk of the tree they were felling. Before building the canoe, they killed a pig and offered a tuft of its hair before cooking and its tail after cooking. Tane (Kane) was one of the most important page 456gods of Hawaii. In the Marquesas, he diminished in divine stature and in Mangareva, he lost his godhead by becoming a historical character. However, his daughter married Tangaroa and so restored her father's status to some extent. Tane was the most important god in Tahiti until Oro of Raiatea superseded him. Many of the Tahitian followers of Tane fled to the Cook Islands where they established themselves in Mangaia.
Tu was the principal god of war though some tribes elevated local gods to that position, probably in the hope of obtaining closer co-operation on active service in the field. In the early conflict between the children of Rangi and Papa, Tumatauenga proved himself to be the best fighter, for he successfully resisted the attacks of Tawhirimatea, and he defeated his brothers Tane, Tangaroa, Rongo, and Haumia. By means of snares, nets, and a digging stick, he captured members of their families and ate them to establish his prestige over his brothers. Though stated to represent unborn man at that early period, he did not become the creator of man. In some way, however, man has inherited the courage and fighting qualities of Tumatauenga. Also, by using the techniques ascribed to Tu, man has continued to capture and eat the edible members of the families of the other gods.
Tu was of great importance in New Zealand because of the frequent tribal wars and the prestige acquired by successful warriors. Shortly after birth, children were dedicated to Tu for the arts of war or to Rongo for the arts of peace. Tribes in exile who were building up their military strength for a future attempt to regain lost territory dedicated all their male children to Tu. War parties were placed under the tapu of Tu before setting out, and the tapu was removed before entering their village on their return. War parties were accompanied by a priest of Tu who acted as chaplain to the forces.
The early title applied to Tu was Tumatauenga, and other titles were Tumatawhaid, Tutawake, Tukaitaua (Tu-consumer-of-war-parties), Tukariri (Tu-the-angry), and Tukanguha (Tu-the-enraged). He was also known as Tu-whakaheke-tangata-ki-te-po (Tu-who-causes-man-to-descend-to-the-underworld).
Tu was known in Mauke and Atiu in the Cook Islands as the god of war (te atua o te puruki). In Mangaia, he was omitted from the divine sons of the Earth-mother but Tukaitaua and Tutavake came up from the Underworld to fight a battle and it was from them that the Mangaians of that age learned the use of weapons. Tu was known in Tahiti, and was very important in Hawaii (Ku). He was present in the Tuamotu as Tunui and present in genealogies in the Marquesas, where he was not important. In Mangareva, however, he was the principal god but was held to have been introduced from Iva (the Marquesas).page 457
Rongo was a very important god, for he controlled two departments, peace and agriculture. Warring tribes which conducted their operations under Tu, terminated hostilities under Rongo. Envoys passed between the two tribes with the correct ceremonial and peace chants. The peace which was established was known as a maunga a rongo. Probably it was originally phrased as maunga a Rongo (settlement-by-Rongo) but, in the course of time, the current word rongo meaning to hear and to feel (passive), came to have the added meaning of peace from its association with the god Rongo.
Boys who had been dedicated to Rongo, instead of to Tu, by the tohi ceremony were taught the ritual and observances pertaining to Rongo as god of agriculture. The products in Rongo's department were the cultivated foods: sweet potato, taro, yam, and gourd. Best (15, p. 110) also mentions the ari and korau, but no actual specimens have been available for botanical identification. These tropical plants were brought to a temperate climate and great care and labour had to be expended on their cultivation in the severer climate. These extra difficulties led to the development of an elaborate religious ritual and the placing of material symbols of Rongo in the cultivations to ward off adverse conditions and promote the fertility of the crops. The workers in the cultivations were placed under the tapu of Rongo during planting, weeding, and harvesting. Agriculture needed more assistance from the gods than any other branch of industry and it was this need which probably led to the continued use and survival of images or symbols representing Rongo.
Rongo represented peace and plenty which led to his being associated with the qualities of hospitality and generosity. He did not have many titles, but his name, Rongomaraeroa (Rongo-of-the-long-courtyard), pictures a long pile of food set out on the village plaza for feeding the people and their guests. The compound name of Rongomatane (Rongo-and-Tane) suggests some past co-operation between the two gods.
In Tahiti, as Ro'o, he was of no special importance. He has been confused with the important Tahitian god 'Oro, but evidence shows that 'Oro in other dialects is Koro. He appears in Rarotonga as Rongomatane, so the compound name is old. In Mangaia, Rongo was the principal god, and in Mangareva, he was the god of turmeric, rain, and the production of food. In Hawaii, as Lono, he was the god of harvest and fertility, and the first fruits were offered to him at the great Makahiki festival. It is thus evident that Rongo's function as a harvest god is ancient and that his additional duties as a peacemaker were probably of more recent date.
Tangaroa, in the creation myth was given control of the sea and the fish therein. In the period of long ocean voyages Tangaroa may have been of greater importance, but he ranks after his three preceding brothers page 458in New Zealand. However, he is classed with them as the big four in the Maori pantheon.
Tangaroa was recognized as the controller of the tides in the title Tangaroa-whakamautai. In the popular myth of Tawhirimatea's attack against Tangaroa, one of his grandchildren named Ikatere fled to the sea and became the ancestor of fish. Fish are referred to as te aitanga a Tangaroa (the progeny of Tangaroa). Whales are referred to poetically as te ika pipiha nui a Tangaroa (the great spouting fish of Tangaroa). Another grandchild of Tangaroa named Tutewehiwehi fled inland and became the ancestor of reptiles in the form of lizards. Tane was also credited with being the progenitor of reptiles. However, reptiles were of no economic value though they came in useful as symbols (aria) for some of the lesser gods.
Tangaroa was the god of seafarers and fishermen. They probably had their ritual and tapu observances. The fishing grounds at sea were subject to certain restrictions and, right down to recent times, cooked food was not allowed to be taken out in the fishing canoes. Off the Taranaki coast, the head of the first fish caught was tapped (pōpō) against the gunwale of the canoe and then the fish was dropped back into the sea as an offering to Tangaroa. It was thus termed "e ika pōpō kia Tangaroa".
In Mangaian myth, Tangaroa was the first-born son of Vatea and Papa, but his younger brother Rongo stole his wife and received a greater quantity of food offerings so that Tangaroa left in a fit of jealousy. In Rarotonga, he was not so important as Rongomatane. He appeared in the Tuamotu and in Mangareva. In the Marquesas, Tana'oa was associated with darkness. In Hawaii, Kanaloa was of so little importance that the later Hawaiians, in arranging their pantheon to conform with the Christian pattern, elevated Kane (Tane), Ku (Tu), and Lono (Rongo) into a Trinity and cast Kanaloa into Hades. In the Society Islands, on the other hand, Ta'aroa was raised to the rank of supreme creator. Samoa and Tonga also regarded Tangaloa as the creator of the islands.
Tawhirimatea was given control of the winds in the creation myth. He objected to the separation of Rangi and Papa and left for space with his father. There he begat and raised the Wind Children and attacked his brothers on earth, as already described. In the Matorohanga account he sided with his brother Tane in the separation of earth and sky and assisted him in gaining the supernal realm of Io by transporting him upwards on the whirlwinds under his command. With his winds, he also dispelled the hosts of Whiro in their attacks against Tane.
Tawhirimatea, as head of the meteorological department, was appealed to by priests for favourable winds, to abate storms and to change unfavourable weather. In the voyaging chant of Kahukoka, Tawhirimatea page 459was asked to close his eye that looked towards an unfavourable quarter and so allow the favourable winds to blow.
Tawhirimatea, under this name, does not figure as a major god in other groups. As Ta'iri (Tahiri) he occurs as a minor god in Aitutaki and in a similar position as Tahiri in Tahiti. In central Polynesia, Rakamaomao is the god of winds, and priests appealed to him to block the holes through which unfavourable winds blew. In Hawaii, La'amaomao (La'a=Raka) was the god of winds. In the Maori list of the 70 children of Rangi, the name of Rakamaomao occurs with the statement that he represented the south (tonga). Tonga also means the south wind. It is, therefore, evident that in New Zealand, some confusion took place over the real status of Rakamaomao and that in transferring his office to Tawhirimatea, the south wind was left with him probably through an oversight Tawhirimatea was thus a local addition to the family of Rangi and Papa. The name of Tawhiri does not need to go back to the minor god, Tahiri, in central Polynesia, for it could be readily suggested by the word tawhiri, which means to create a wind or draught as in fanning with a fire-fan.
Haumiatiketike was placed by birth among the sons of Rangi and Papa and was the personification of the aruhe, popularly spoken of as fern root but botanically the rhizome of the bracken fern (Pteris aquilina) so common in New Zealand. Haumia suffered from the attack of Tawhirimatea and hid in the ground to escape. However, when Tumatauenga also attacked his brothers, Haumia's hiding place was discovered by his hair (leaves). The leaves and stalk of the fern are termed rarauhe, a shortened form of rau aruhe, and Best (15, p. 115) is careful to point out that Haumia refers to the rhizome, aruhe, and not to the plant, rarauhe. If every god had his rights, the rarauhe would belong to Tane. If Haumia was the personification solely of fern root, the term "god of uncultivated food" would be a misnomer, for tree-fern pith, various berries, and other wild vegetable foods would then belong to the" department of Tane. The fern root grew so abundantly in a natural state that there was little necessity to call upon Haumia for aid.
Haumea occurs in Mangareva as the first wife of Tangaroa, by whom she had eight children. In Hawaii, Haumea also occurs as a woman who figured in intrigues with Kane (Tane) and Ki'i (Tiki). Haumea thus figures definitely as a woman in the mythical period of creation. If the name Haumia was derived from the memory of such a character, the Maori version has changed her sex to male and added Haumiatiketike to the family of Rangi and Papa. The importance of fern root as a food probably influenced this step. The functions of Haumia were also new for the rhizome of the bracken fern was not used as a food in any part of Polynesia.page 460
The six preceding gods form the true departmental gods who complete the list given in the popular version. Of the family of 70 in the Matoro-hanga version, Best selected three as worthy of special mention.
Whiro was the leader of the opposition against Tane. He was credited with control over the various forms of disease grouped together in the Maiki family. After his defeat in the battles against Tane, collectively termed Te Paerangi, he retired to the Underworld where he continued to nurse his animosity against Tane and his descendants. He thus represents darkness and evil, and it would take very little more to elevate him to the European concept of the Devil. In popular versions, he was regarded as the patron of thieves. His symbol or aria was a lizard.
In the Cook, Society and Tuamotu Islands, Hiro or 'Iro (Cook Islands) was a famous voyager living in about the thirteenth century; and the god and the man are often confused in native narratives.
Ruaumoko was the last of the family of 70 and he was still at the breast when the Earth-mother was turned over on her face by her other sons to improve the weather conditions. Ruaumoko was thus carried under but his proximity to the Underworld of Rarohenga gave him the opportunity of wooing and winning Hinenuitepo as his wife. He is stated to be inimical to man, and now and then he sends an earthquake or a volcanic disturbance to destroy him. The term for earthquake is ru (to shake) and hence its personification with additional syllables as Ruaumoko.
The gods of volcanic disturbances in other Polynesian areas are Mahuika (with dialectal variations) and Pele, but Ru seems to have been a Maori personification.
Urutengangana deserves little notice except that he is alleged to be the first-born of the 70 children of Rangi and Papa. For an ariki he appears to have been somewhat vacillating, for he sided first with Whiro and later with Tane. He is said to have been connected with light, but it is not clear what use he was to man. The names Uru and Ngangana occur as separate individuals in some narratives, and it is possible that the Matorohanga school combined the two to form an impressive name for the first-born of their family of 70.
In addition to the departmental gods who were shared by all the Maori tribes, each tribe had gods to whom they had exclusive rights. The fact of having to share the war god Tu, for example, with other hostile tribes may have had a contributing influence in causing tribes to elect war gods who would give them undivided attention. Tu was a remote classical god and the veteran of battles fought in distant lands in ancient times. Though his name continued to be honoured in song, story, and ritual, closer and more active gods were needed for the frequent field campaigns in New page 461Zealand. It must have been somewhat of a divine dilemma for Tu when two opposing forces importuned him for victory at the same time. This type of dilemma was evidently foreseen in Hawaii (54, p. 157), where a man had several gods, "because the god to whom he appealed for help might be giving ear to the prayer of someone else." This was likely to occur in war more than anything else, hence most of the tribal gods in New Zealand were war gods who protected their tribes in defensive measures and assisted them in offensive operations.
Some of the tribal gods were stated to have been brought from Hawaiki, and this is supported by some of the canoe narratives which list the divine passengers. The Takitimu account lists seven; the Aotea, four; and the Kurahaupo, three. In such lists, it is possible that some locally created gods may have been referred back to the canoes to give both the gods and the canoes greater prestige. None of the lists include the departmental gods. The gods likely to have been brought from Hawaiki were Maru, Kahukura, Uenuku, and Rongomai.
Maru, as Marumamao, was an important war god in Rarotonga. He is said to have been brought to New Zealand in the Aotea canoe and it is stated that after landing at Rangiahua in the Kermadecs, a dog was killed and offered in ritual to Maru. His importation is probably correct, for he was the war god of the tribes claiming descent from the Aotea canoe, which includes the Taranaki and Whanganui tribes. In the Whanganui area, the first bird killed in the forest was offered to Maru and not to Tane. Maru is also stated to have been brought in the Kurahaupo canoe.
Kahukura was both a god and an important ancestor in Rarotonga, and it is probable that Kahukura the ancestor was deified in that island. He is stated to have been brought by the Aotea and the Takitimu canoes and he became a war god with the rainbow as his symbol. It is probable that Kahukura was an imported god and not a local personification of the rainbow.
Uenuku was an important ancestor in the Cook Islands and, according to Maori tradition, in Hawaiki. He may have been deified in New Zealand, for there is no record of his having taken passage in any of the canoes. He was a war god, and his symbol was also the rainbow.
Rongomai is an ancestral name in central Polynesia, and in Maori myth, he occurs with five varying titles in the 70 sons of the Sky-father. He was the tribal god of the Ngati Tuwharetoa, and his symbols were shooting stars and comets.
Some tribal gods were deified ancestors whose elevation occurred in New Zealand. Probably there are several but a clear example is provided by Rakeiora.page 462
Rakeiora was the navigating priest of the Tokomaru canoe, according to the Taranaki account. He lived near the Mohakatino River where the Tokomaru landed. He became a kumara god, but I have no information as to when and how deification was accomplished. The fertility of sweet potatoes in the Mohakatino district increased so that the fame of Rakeiora spread abroad and led to his material symbol being stolen by another tribe.
Ihungaru (ihu, nose; ngaru, wave) was a tribal god in the Rotorua district. He was probably the god whom the Arawa dipped in Lake Rotorua to cause the waves to rise and so hinder the canoe attack by the Ngapuhi against Mokoia Island. The Ngapuhi tribal god proved more powerful and the invading war canoes made a successful landing. The symbol of Ihungaru was a lock of human hair braided with aute bark.
Some family gods were so successful that their influence increased to the extent of their being adopted as tribal gods. Such a promoted god was Te Rehu o Tainui.
Te Rehu o Tainui was a family god who originated from an abortion. His priestly medium (kauwaka) was a man named Uhia. Uhia manipulated his god so successfully that the Tuhoe tribe promoted Te Rehu o Tainui to the position of tribal war god. His symbol was the green lizard.
Personifications were sometimes adopted as tribal gods and their symbols continued to be the natural phenomena which they represented.
Tunui a te ika was a tribal war god in the East Coast and Bay of Plenty areas. He was also an atua toro (toro, to visit) who could be sent on errands to spy out the enemy. His symbol was the comet, which he personified. He was also the guardian of the burial cave named Wharekohu on Kapiti Island; and in this aspect, his symbol was a lizard.
Family and Inferior Gods
The lowest grade of gods were those whose followers were confined to the members of the family in which they originated, usually from abortions or miscarriages. Such gods were termed atua kahu or atua kahukahu from the membranes (kahu) which enveloped the embryo. The spirit of the embryo having been deprived of its right to continue life in a normal human being, sought to prolong its existence on this earth by entering some other living form. Unless the spirit was laid by the proper disposal of the foetus, it entered whatever creature happened to come near. Hence the animate host could be a dog, bird, fish, reptile, or even an insect. The host creature then became the symbol or aria of the newly established god. Some member of the family became the medium or interpreter of the family atua kahukaku. This is the theoretical sequence, but in practice, a psychic member of the family announced that the spirit had entered him.page 463
Thereby, without any theological preparation or education, a low grade priest and an inferior god were created. If the new medium could enter into a convulsive seizure to show that he was possessed by the spirit, his new office was proved and established. It was with this lower class of tohunga that charlatanism and fraud became more evident. Women, who were barred from office with the superior and tribal gods, could become mediums of the inferior gods.
Theoretically, the atua kahukahu defended the family honour by punishing those who transgressed against the various tapu restrictions of the family, whether wilfully or through ignorance. The spirits entered the body of the transgressor and produced the suffering and abnormal condition now known as disease. Thus they functioned as malignant disease demons but it must be remembered that the fault lay with the patient. From their origin, they were atua kahukahu, and from their activities, they were also termed atua ngau tangata (man-biting gods). Their activities spread beyond the confines of the immediate family, for they attacked any member of the tribe who transgressed against the family tapu restrictions. Thus the whole tribe were well aware of the existence of family gods and went in fear of them. Another term for the malignant spirits which caused sickness was kikokiko, or atua kikokiko, so named probably from their eating away the flesh (kiko). In my childhood, I was warned against whistling at night as it would attract kikokiko.
The power of a god depended upon the personality of his medium. The medium Uhia raised Te Rehu o Tainui from a family atua kahukahu to the important position of a tribal war god. The family god exercised special protection over his medium, but if the medium became guilty of error (hara), the god left him. This appears to form a good excuse for the waning personality and loss of psychic power on the part of the medium.
The inferior gods could be sent out by their mediums to accomplish certain tasks. For this function, they were termed atua toro (visiting gods). The medium who practised black magic, sent out his god or familiar spirit to visit the prospective victim and attack him. The atua toro became an atua ngau tangata when the visit became a visitation. Gods were also sent out to reconnoitre the enemy and good or bad omens were interpreted by the medium on the return of his emissary. The power to travel, however, was also exercised by the tribal gods. Thus, Best (15, p. 131) records that the priest of the tribal god Rongomai sent him, in the form of a comet, to reconnoitre the advancing enemy. The obedient comet dashed out in their direction and burst directly over them, revealing the position of the enemy. If it had killed some of them, it might now be regarded as the precursor of the atomic bomb. As Best holds, doubtless a wily medium page 464would claim any unusual phenomenon as due to co-operation between him and his god.
Inferior gods were also stationed as guards over sacred places and objects. They formed what Te Matorohanga termed the poutiriao. It is well known that the latrines of the old hill forts were used as local shrines in some ritual ceremonies. Whanganui informants told me that they were protected by guardian spirits whose symbol was a lizard. The fear of reprisals by the guardians prevented sorcerers from taking faeces to use in their fell practices. Thus people could use the latrines for their legitimate purpose without any apprehension concerning black magic. Spiritual guardians were also appointed over burial caves; and any lizard seen near the opening had a deterrent effect on cave riflers, for it was likely to be the aria symbol of the guardian god. When I first examined the anchor of the historic Tainui canoe in the Mokau River, I passed my hands around its constricted neck under water. I touched a fish and an involuntary shudder ran up my spine, for I first thought that it was the aria of the guardians of the anchor. I do not know whether the anchor was ever provided with spiritual guardians, but I like to think that that friendly fish which would not leave the shelter of the anchor was their representative.
Some of the inferior gods appear to have been created without passing through a foetal stage in their development. If an individual declared that he had been visited by the spirit of some dead relative and if he continued to make contacts, he became a medium and the spirit of his dead relative became a minor god. This somewhat easy technique was seized upon by charlatans in post-European times, but usually the visiting spirit never attained the rank of a minor god. Lack of continued support from a sceptical public or the death of the medium usually curtailed the addition of new gods to a minor pantheon in which the older gods were already dead.
Polynesian affinities. Tane, Rongo, Tu, and Tangaroa, the big four of the Maori pantheon, were present as major gods in the Cook, Society, and Hawaiian Islands. With the exception of Ta'aroa in the Society Islands, they possessed more or less the same functions as in New Zealand. The four names occur in the Tuamotu, Marquesas, and Mangareva but the divine power of some of them has dwindled to such an extent that but brief mention of them is made in legends, chants, or genealogies. In Samoa and Tonga, Tangaroa occupied a prominent position, but the other three are markedly absent. Without doubt, these four major gods were introduced from central Polynesia, as were some of the tribal gods. Attention has been drawn to Tawhirimatea and Haumiatiketike as being created locally and given new functions.
Throughout Polynesia, the lesser gods were created by deifying ancestors, and in some parts, family gods were created from abortions page 465and miscarriages. Thus, the Maori, in creating local gods, have followed methods which were in vogue in central Polynesia when their ancestors left.
A number of ancient characters figure in myth and legend, and as they were credited with magical powers, they have been regarded sometimes as gods. The most prominent of these was Mauitikitiki a Taranga, or Mauipotiki, who occurs in legends throughout Polynesia including Samoa and Tonga. He obtained fire from the Underworld, fished up various islands, and snared the sun; and in the Maori version, he was slain by Hinenuitepo while seeking immortality for man. In spite of his marvellous feats he was not deified and worshipped, except, evidently, in Tonga.
Tawhaki was a legendary character of wide distribution. He married a woman from an upper world, restored sight to an old blind woman named Kui, and ascended to the upper skies by means of a vine which reached upwards to those mythical regions. There he found his runaway wife and his child and evidently they lived happily ever after. In Hawaii, he occurred as Kaha'i, which is the dialectal form of Tawhaki. In Mangareva, he was credited with a ruddy skin and hence named Tahakikura. In some of his adventures, he was accompanied by a younger brother named Karihi. There is no evidence that Tawhaki was elevated to the rank of god.
Tinirau also has a wide distribution. He lived on the sacred isle of Motutapu which in Mangaian legend had the power of floating off to other parts. In Maori legends, Tinirau was married to Hinauri, the sister of the Maui brothers. He had a pet whale named Tutunui which was treacherously killed by Kae, after it transported him back to his own island. In Samoan story, Tinirau, under the dialectal form of Tingilau, had a pet turtle which was also treacherously slain. Reprisals followed. Tinirau had marvelous fishponds on Motutapu stocked with all kinds of fish. He was regarded in some island stories as a tutelary guardian or lord of fish but, though he possessed magic powers, he evidently remained a culture hero.
Symbols of the Gods
The gods were invisible spirits created by the power of abstract thought, and they were of uncertain form. However, in the creation myth, the gods moulded the first woman into a form like their own. We may assume, therefore, that human beings inherited form as well as life from the gods. Some students doubt the authenticity of the statement and believe that it was incorporated in the myth after acquaintance with the first chapter of Genesis. I see no reason, however, to regard the idea as foreign to page 466Polynesian thought. In some Polynesian myths, gods such as Tangaroa appeared in material human form to mate with human females and produce progeny. Deified ancestors would also convey the idea of human form in the spirit world. There is no indication in Maori and Polynesian myths that a change of form was considered necessary.
Perhaps as a relief from the effort to visualize the unseen, the Polynesians, like other people, selected or created something visible as symbols of their gods. The things selected were natural phenomena, animals, and material objects; and the symbols created were made by hand from wood or stone. The charge made by so many early religious writers that the Maori were idolators who worshipped their symbols as actual gods was probably influenced by professional jealousy.
Natural phenomena. Such phenomena as rainbows, lightning, meteors, comets, and stars were regarded as the visible manifestations of certain gods; and such manifestations were termed aria. The rainbow (aniwaniwa) was the aria of the tribal gods Kahukura and Uenuku. Best has pointed out that mist and fog were the aria of Hinepukohurangi, who was the personification of mist and fog and that, similarly, light rain was the aria of Hinewai, the personification of light rain. It is probable, therefore, that the gods represented by natural phenomena were at first merely personifications and were later elevated to the rank of gods. A personification becomes a god when man regards it as such and invests it with power which he can command by means of ritual and offerings. Thus Kahukura, the personification of the rainbow, became an unseen war god and the visible rainbow became his aria. If the aria appeared across the path of a war party, his priest interpreted it as a bad omen and the war party returned to wait for a more propitious time. If it appeared behind or to the side, the omen was good and the war party proceeded with the conviction of ultimate success. Thus the invisible god, Kahukura, sent his visible aria to give advice to his followers.
An Arawa war god was Makawe, whose aria was a meteor. His priest studied the night sky to read the visible signs of his deity. Lightning as an aria appeared at opportune moments to convey information. Stars as aria shone brightly or grew pale according to the message to be conveyed.
Incarnations. Some gods manifested themselves through certain living creatures, such as reptiles, birds, fish, and insects. They were included in the term aria and may be regarded as incarnations. The incarnations functioned as temporary hosts for the gods who took possession when they had something to communicate or were called on for consultation by their priests on ritual occasions. The favourite reptile was the green lizard which was regarded with superstitious fear. It was the aria of the Tuhoe war god Te Rehu o Tainui and a number of others. The favourite bird was the owl. And of various kinds of fish, the shark was probably the page 467most favoured. Of insects, the mantis (whe) was the aria of Te Ihiotera. The priests professed to interpret the wishes of the gods from the appearance and movements of their living aria.
Inanimate objects. Some symbols consisted of natural objects, such as a particular tree or a lock of hair. One of the Arawa gods was represented by a lock of hair braided with strips of the inner bark of the paper mulberry (aute). Rakeiora, the deified priest of the Tokomaru canoe, was also said to have been represented by a lock of hair. These were also termed aria, but their use was not common.
Manufactured objects. White (104, vol. 1, p. 2) described and figured six staffs (toko) of equal length with a rounded knob at one end and pointed at the other for sticking into the ground. The shafts vary, being straight, corkscrew, zigzag, wavy, and with semicircular bends. White states that they represented the gods Tumatauenga, Tawhirimatea, Tane, Tangaroa, Rongo, and Haumia and that the treatment of the shafts represents certain characteristics of the gods represented, such as the zigzag form of Tangaroa to represent the waves of the sea. White states that the staffs were symbols of the presiding gods in the various schools of learning. The staffs do not look very convincing, but the term toko applied to them is interesting in view of the fact that the material symbols of the gods in Tahiti were also termed to'o, the k consonant being represented by the glottal closure in that group.
Best (15, p. 159) mentions that a priest, when travelling, sometimes used his walking staff (turupou) as a temporary shrine for his god when he wished to consult him. The stick was stuck in the ground and attached to it was a string which the priest tugged now and again to draw the attention of the god. Another name for a staff was tokotoko and, as it resembles the staffs described by White, there may have been an early relationship between the toko staff and the toko gods.
The human figure, whole or in part, was the commonest motif in Maori carving, and complete human figures abounded in the decoration of houses, canoes, village gateways, and memorials to the dead. Many of these represented ancestors but never gods. Though not common, wooden images were made in abbreviated form. Taylor (85, p. 211) described them as wooden pegs about 18 inches long, with a distorted human head on the top and with a lower pointed end that could be stuck in the ground. He further states that they possessed peculiar sanctity from the presence of the god they represented when dressed up for worship though at other times they were ordinary bits of wood.
"This dressing consisted in the first place of the pahau, or beard, which was made by a fringe of bright red feathers of the kaka, parrot,—next of the peculiar cincture of sacred cord with which it was bound; this mystic bandage was not only tied on in a peculiar way by the priest, who uttered page 468his most powerful spells all the time he was doing it, but also while he was twisting the cord itself, and lastly, painting the entire figure with the sacred kura; this completed the preparation for the reception of the god who was by these means constrained to come and take up his abode in it when invoked."
Maru (a): 36 cm. in height, with one shell eye retained. A flax cord, wound around the shaft in straight, transverse turns, was probably added by some former European owner. The head and flax binding are painted red.page 469
Kahukura (b): 37.5 cm. in height with a flax binding in the original "criss cross" pattern. The head and flax are painted red and the lower shaft, black.
Hukere (c): 37 cm. in height with head of unusual shape, mouth with triangular teeth, and two small hands with five fingers each. No binding, upper part painted red and lower part, black. In addition to the name, the locality, Whanganui, is written on the back. As Skinner points out, the head shape, teeth, and pointed lower end resemble those of a skull box in the Auckland Museum.
Maru was a well-known god in Taranaki and Whanganui, and Kahukura was important in some areas. Lack of information regarding Hukere indicates that he was probably a local god in the Whanganui district.
Three other "god-sticks", which have been figured by Hamilton (47, pl. 59, fig. 2) and Best (15, p. 157), were obtained, according to Skinner (70, p. 172), by the Rev. J. Aldred in the 1840's at a village between Patea and Hawera. Percy Smith (79, p. 88), in speaking of the gods brought in the Aotea canoe, says of the same three images: "Some idea of what these images were like may be obtained from the accompanying illustration, which though not copies of the originals brought from Rangiatea, are just the same, and were obtained from the Ngati Ruanui tribe, descendants of Turi and his tribe."
By "just the same", Smith probably meant in general form for the details of the carved heads are much later developments. These three god-sticks fortunately remained in their homeland and are now in the Auckland Museum. I am indebted to Dr. Gilbert Archey for the prints which are reproduced in plate XXIV.
The figures are supposed to represent Tangaroa, Rongo, and Maru. The double-headed figure is 12 inches high, the head, 3.5 inches. It was said to be Tangaroa but Best thought it was more likely to be Rongomatane. One of the single-headed figures is 12 inches high, and the other about 8 inches. The carving of the heads is typically Maori. The lower ends are worn and blunt but were evidently sharpened originally for sticking in the ground. All show signs of having been painted with the red ochre which Taylor referred to as the "sacred kura". The shafts of all three retain an ornamental binding of the same pattern which Taylor figured and which is retained on Kahukura in the Cambridge University Museum.
In the two other god-sticks, the binding commenced at the bottom. The number of courses to complete the pattern depended on the diameter of the shaft; the longer figure requiring but four courses each way, whereas the other required 15 courses. The binding of the short image (Plate XXIV c) was made with a twisted cord which is unorthodox both for Polynesia and New Zealand. It was probably applied after the image ceased to function, by someone who had cord handy instead of braid.page 471
The three god-sticks with the ornamental binding are invaluable specimens though the beard or ruffle of red feathers is lacking other images, without the lashing, have been figured. On the evidence, the god-sticks in the Auckland and Cambridge University Museums can be attributed to the Whanganui and south Taranaki districts. They were probably more widely spread in former times. The form with a pointed lower end and the ornamental braid binding are ancient but the carving of the head has changed with the development in local carving.
The function of the images, according to Taylor (85, p. 213), was to render the cultivations and workers tapu during periods of activity. They were stuck in the ground during the time of planting (tōkanga; to, to plant), when the plants were growing [probably weeding, waerenga], and digging up the crop (hauhakenga). Powerful spells rendered the workers sacred, and they could not leave until the work was finished. Best (15, p. 158) states that in divination, the expert seated himself on the ground and stuck the tiki in the ground, facing him. He tied one end of a strip of flax to the neck of the figure and held the other end in his hand. He chanted his incantations to induce the spirit god temporarily to occupy the image. As he continued his chants, he pulled the string to cause the figure to move and attract the attention of the indwelling spirit to the ritual being chanted. He gave a tug with each request and stuck a piece of wood in the ground to keep tally of his requests.
Stone Images. Figures made of stone occur more frequently than the wooden images, and they have a wider distribution. They were roughly made, but they served their purpose as a temporary abiding place for the deity or spirit whose aid was required. Best (15, p. 161) refers to them as tauranga atua and taumata atua, resting place of gods. Many of them are said to represent Rongo, and they were placed in the sweet potato plantations. One, named Matuaatonga, kept in a little house on the island of Mokoia in Lake Rotorua, promoted the fertility of the kumara crops. As in many of the smaller Polynesian stone gods, little attempt was made to produce an object of art.
Polynesian affinities. Incarnations of the gods were present throughout Polynesia; and in central Polynesia, they were termed ata, which in Maori means shadow. As in New Zealand, the priests interpreted the movements of the incarnations as messages from the gods they represented. In Mangaia, the ata of Tane was the mo'o bird. A follower of Tane, who was being led into an ambush, was warned by a mo'o bird flying down in front of his path twice; but the foolish man took no heed and was killed. In some of the atoll groups, various families have a tapu against certain fish, and it is possible that the fish were originally incarnations of family gods. In Hawaii, some families say that they had a shark ancestor, and, again, it is possible that the shark was originally an incarnation of page 472a deified ancestor. Totemism, meaning human origin from an animal or a plant, was not present as an institution in Polynesia.
Material symbols of the gods were used throughout Polynesia. They varied from natural objects, such as stones, shells, teeth, and human hair, to images carved in wood or stone. Clubs and other manufactured objects were used in Samoa and Tonga; carved slabs decorated with feathers in some of the Cook Islands; and carved wooden images in Rarotonga and Aitutaki of the Cook Islands, Society Islands, Australs, Marquesas, Mangareva, Easter Island, Hawaii, and Tonga. In central Polynesia, the images were termed tiki, in Hawaii, ki'i (tiki). In the Society Islands, the images termed ti'i were abandoned as symbols of the gods but were used by sorcerers to represent their familiar spirits (orometua). The gods, represented by wood covered partly or entirely by a wrapping of sennit, were termed to'o. Thus the terms tiki and toko used for the two types of Maori symbols were brought from central Polynesia by the Maori ancestors. Stone images were made in the Society Islands and Hawaii and they were developed to a large size in the Australs, Marquesas, and Easter Island.
Red feathers were the most valuable offerings to the gods in the Society Islands, and through them, divine power was given to the to'o symbols to which they were attached. Red feathers were also valued in the Cook Islands as decoration for religious symbols. The beard or collar of red kaka feathers used to decorate the Maori images thus followed a pattern derived from central Polynesia. The use of three-ply braid in a decorative wrapping around the staff of the Maori images was also an introduction. The pointed lower end for sticking into the ground was present in central Polynesia and very general in Hawaii. The double human head was a common motif on Rarotongan fan handles and in small stone images in the Marquesas. Painting with red ochre was a local development in New Zealand.