The Coming of the Maori
Incantations and Ritual
Incantations and Ritual
The priests established oral communication with their gods by means of karakia. A karakia may be defined as a formula of words which was chanted to obtain benefit or avert trouble. A vast number have been composed by all tribes to meet every possible contingency in human life and they cover a range which exceeds the bounds of religion. It is therefore page 490impossible for one English word to cover adequately all the meanings of karakia. All karakia are chants but there are a number of chants, such as patere, tau, and hart, which are not karakia. Prayers and invocations which imply direct verbal communication with a god, are not usually chanted in English, and when they are chanted in Maori, they apply to only a few karakia. The terms charm, spell, enchantment, witchery, magic, sorcery, exorcism, and incantation have all been used as translations of karakia; but they cover some and not all the meanings, just as karakia does not cover all the meanings of any one of the English words used to translate it. Probably incantation is the nearest in general meaning though any one of the English words mentioned may be applied to particular karakia but not to all.
The numerous karakia were defined by adding to each a qualifying word, a phrase, or a sentence to denote its purpose, such as he karakia makutu (an incantation used in sorcery) or he karakia tamariki kia whiti te ra me ka haere ki te kaukau (a children's chant to cause the sun to shine when they went swimming). Some powerful ritual chants recited by priests were given proper names, such as one recorded by Grey (43, p. 304) which is described as "He karakia, ko Hiramai te ingoa" (an incantation, Hiramai is its name). Hiramai was composed by priests of the Taupo district for the purpose of averting disaster during volcanic disturbances and, like other named karakia, was the particular property of the school which originated it. A number of karakia were grouped in classes which were based on function.
- atahu: love charms.
- hoa: to split stones, wither leaves, kill a bird.
- hoa tapuae: to give speed to the feet and to retard an opponent.
- hono: to unite fractures.
- kaha: to gain success in fowling.
- kawa: to remove the tapu from new houses.
- ki tao: to give power to spears (weapons); also reo tao.
- ki rakau: to give power to weapons.
- ngau paepae: to avert sorcery against a war party.
- pou: to fix, such as the memory during instruction.
- raoa: to expel the foreign body in choking.
- rotu: to put people or the sea to sleep.
- ta kopito: to cure abdominal troubles.
- tohi: to sprinkle a child in the dedication or tua ceremony.
- tohi taua: to sprinkle a war party proceeding to war.
- tua: to dedicate children after cutting the navel cord.
- tuapa: to ward off ill luck.
- whai: to cure injuries, burns, choking.
- whakanoa: to make common (noa) by removing tapu.
The karakia may be conveniently arranged for study into those used in connection with three groups in the community: children, laymen, and priests.
Children's karakia were composed to interest and amuse children and had no religious significance. They were supposed to accomplish something miraculous such as causing the sun to shine or the rain to stop. They were short so as to fall within the child's power of memorizing. One for causing the sun to shine when children were going to bathe was recorded by Grey (43, p. 72):
|Upoko, upoko,||Head, head,|
|Whiti te ra!||The sun shines!|
|Hei kai mau||You may eat|
|Te kutu o taku upoko.||The lice of my head|
|Upoko, upoko,||Head, head,|
|Whiti te ra.||The sun shines.|
The composition is a play on upoko. Children would never have been allowed to address such words to a human being, because they are insulting. Perhaps an insult (kanga) was required to make the sun burst out from behind the clouds in anger.
The first karakia I was taught as a child was the following one, used to stop rain:
|E rere e te kotare||Fly O kingfisher|
|Ki runga i te puwharawhara,||On to the bunch of Astelia,|
|Riiru ai i o parirau||And there shake your wings|
|Kei maku o kuao i te ua||Lest your young become wet by the rain.|
|Mao, mao te ua!||Cease, cease the rain!|
Adult laymen. Individuals did not always have a priest standing by to help them out of difficulties which arose in their various activities, so it was part of every person's education to learn an assortment of karakia.Chiefs who had graduated from the houses of learning were well equipped with karakia applicable to every phase of life. Lesser chiefs learned from their older relatives and priests who could teach various things without forming a lodge of instruction. Even commoners learned a number of incantations for their own protection. Thus every individual had a personal stock of karakia for use in everyday pursuits, to cure minor ailments, and to protect against danger.
A very simple karakia for averting anything unpleasant was the short phrase "Kuruki, whakataha!" (Lose power, pass aside!) I once watched two elderly chiefs playing billiards in a Wellington hotel. One played for a cannon off the red, and as his ball was speeding towards the second ball, page 492his opponent parried in the air with his cue as he cried, "Kuruki whakataha." This modern application of an old charm is interesting, particularly as the player missed the cannon.
The craftsmen had a special set of karakia for use when binding their adzes, sharpening them, felling a tree, shaping the wood, lashing pieces together, and so on for the various stages of their work. Fowlers had incantations used in making offerings, and thus inducing rats and birds to enter their snares and traps. Fishermen used them in making hooks and nets, taking the tapu off a new net, and attracting fish to their lines and nets. Warriors used incantations of the hoa tapuae class to gain speed. They were used to give strength in wrestling and, conversely, to weaken an opponent. The ki tao class of karakia was used to give power to a weapon in batde and others were recited when girding on the war belt. In games and recreations, a karakia would lengthen the flight of a dart or make a kite fly higher.
Ailments such as toothache and abdominal disturbance had their karakia to give relief. One of the latter, termed a ta kopito, is given by Grey (43, p. 44). It commences with a classical reference to Nuku (Earth) and Rangi (Sky) and then proceeds to inquire as to what food caused the disturbance:
|He aha ra te kai||What was the food|
|I haere ki roto, ki to puku,||That entered your stomach,|
|Tutu ai, ngangana ai,||Causing trouble, causing disturbance,|
|Aurere ai?||Causing groans?|
|He puha pea?||Perhaps it was puha?|
The query applied to puha (sow thistle), was applied in the same form to the following foods: pohue (Convolvulus shoots), aruhe (fern rhizome), kumara (sweet potato), taro (Colocasia antiquorum), karaka (Corynocarpus berries), hue (Laginaria), tawa (forest berry), korau (wild cabbage), hakekeke (fungus), harori (edible fungus), mamaku (tree fern pith), pipi (clams), and ika (fish). The karakia continues:
|Nga kai i haere||The foods which went|
|Ki roto ki to puku,||Into your stomach,|
|Tutu ai, ngangana ai,||Causing trouble, causing disturbance,|
|Aurere ai.||Causing groans.|
Several lines follow which were deemed appropriate by the composer. The karakia concludes with the following assurance of recovery:
|E, e, e,||O, O, O,|
|Ka ora koe,||You will recover,|
|E ka ora koel||O you will recover!|
Probably when the right, or rather the wrong food, was named during the enumeration, it caused the patient to give an extra twitch of pain and so completed the diagnosis. If, on the other hand, the patient did not obtain immethate relief owing to the cause being disease demons, a tohungawould have to be consulted to make a further diagnosis and exorcise the malignant spirits. As with other peoples, when home remedies failed, the qualified practitioner was called in.
Judging by the number of recorded karakia, choking (raoa) through eating food too hurriedly seems to have been a frequent occurrence. Doubtless the most common cause was a fishbone, and apparently the person who administered treatment by a karakia had little patience with the patient. In the example cited, the incantation is termed a whai (43, p. 98).
|Te what,||The incantation,|
|Whiti raoa,||For startling the choking,|
|Tapa raoa.||For commanding the choking.|
|Kaitoa koe kia raoa,||Serve you right for choking,|
|Na to kai tu,||Because you ate standing,|
|Na to kai rere,||Because you ate hurriedly,|
|Na to kai tamawahine||Because you ate like a girl.|
|Tokowhia aku tama||How many of my sons|
|I horomia e koe?||Were swallowed by you?|
|Ko Nini, Ko Nana,||There was Nini, there was Nana,|
|Ko Te Patahi o Wahieroa||There was Te Patahi o Wahieroa,|
|Kainga ki roto||Eaten to go within.|
|Whakaruakina,||Vomit them forth,|
|Nau mai ki waho.||Come out.|
No evident appeal was made to a god, but after the patient was blamed or his error made manifest and some classical reference added, the foreign body was ordered to come out. On the last line, the patient was slapped on the back to aid the expulsion.
Inimical influences were present in strange forests and lands and there were karakia composed for the protection of travellers. Sorcery was prevalent at home and abroad, and it was necessary to have some vocal formula which would turn aside the sorcerer's invisible spear. Mythical monsters, termed taniwha, resided in caves, river bends, and the ocean. Protective karakia enabled the person who unwittingly entered their domain to escape, and there were karakia which could even enlist aid during storms at sea. Wonderful stories are told of the slaying of reptilian monsters in various parts of New Zealand, but no skeletal remains have ever been discovered to support the convincing details in native stories. An old man once said to me that the Maori were the only people who had page 494such wonderful monsters. He was quite disappointed when I showed him St. George and the dragon on the reverse of a gold sovereign and still more so when he learned that the pakeha form of taniwha had been credited with belching forth flames of fire. It was an anomaly to both of us that the people who derided our taniwha should commemorate their fire-spitting dragon in gold. "Perhaps", said the old man, "if our taniwha had spat fire like theirs, the pakeha might have believed in them also."
Priests. The karakia used by the priesthood were credited with more power because the priests were the direct mediums of the gods. A very important incantation was that used in the tua ceremony after severing the navel cord (tangaengae) to give the child health (oro), bravery (toa), and strength (kaha). An example given by Grey (43, p. 75), enumerates the various things desired for a male child, and every line is followed by the refrain of tangaengae (navel cord), which was evidently deemed appropriate to the chant. The incantation commences with the dedication to the war-god Tu.
|Tohi ki te wai no Tu!||Sprinkle with the water of Tu!|
|Whano koe —tangaengae,||Go thou—navel cord,|
|Ki te hopu tangata—tangaengae,||To catch men—navel cord,|
|Ki te piki maunga—tangaengae,||To climb mountains—navel cord,|
|Me homai—tangaengae,||Let these be given—navel cord,|
|Mo te tama nei.||For this male child.|
Other verses follow with further requests and the refrain of tangaengae, which is omitted in the following:
|Whano koe …||Proceed thou …|
|Kia riri ai…||To become angry …|
|Kia niwha ai …||To become bold …|
|Ki te patu tangata …||To kill men …|
|Ki te tomo pa …||To enter forts …|
|Ki te patu whakaara …||To slay sentries …|
|Ki te tu parekura …||To stand firm in battle …|
|Ki te mau patu …||To bear weapons …|
|Ki te mau tao …||To bear spears …|
|Ki te mau patu kowhatu …||To bear stone clubs …|
|Ki te mau taiaha …||To bear double-handed clubs …|
|Me homai…||Give these …|
|Hei whakatupu …||To strengthen growth …|
|Mo te tama nei.||For this male child.|
The next verse asks for strength to visit the great mountains (maunga nunui), lofty trees of the forest (nga rakau whakahihi o te wao), and the high waves of the ocean (nga ngaru teitei o te moana).page 495
The last list deals with more peaceful requests:
|Whano koe …||Proceed thou …|
|Ki te mahi kai,mau…||To produce food, for myself …|
|Ki te hanga whare nui,mou …||To build a large house, for thyself …|
|Ki te hanga waka taua …||To build a war canoe …|
|Ki te karanga pahi…||To welcome visitors …|
|Ki te whakatupu kupenga,mau …||To make nets, for thyself …|
|Ki te hi ika,mau …||To catch fish by line, for thyself …|
|Ki te hao mahi,mau …||To net fish, for myself …|
|Me homai …||Give these …|
|Hei whakatupu …||For the upgrowth …|
|Mo te tama nei.||For this male child.|
The long karakia ends with a verse which is obscure because of some local references, of which we do not know the significance for the composer.
|E ahua mai ra||O hasten then|
|Te toro i a Kiharoa,||The visit to Kiharoa,|
|Hei kawe ratva i a au||Who will take me|
|Ki te one i Rangaunu,||To the beach at Rangaunu,|
|Kei te rerenga ki te Po,||At the departing to the Underworld,|
|Kowai au ka kite.||Which I have never seen.|
A tua incantation for a female child is interesting, as it enumerates the wishes for women (43, p. 78):
|Tohi ki te wai no Tu,||Sprinkle with the water of Tu,|
|Whano koe—tangaengae,||Proceed thou—navel cord,|
|Ki te mahi kai mau …||To prepare food for thyself …|
|Ki te whatu puweru,mou, …||To weave garments for thyself …|
|Ki te whatu kaitaka,mou …||To weave fine cloaks for thyself, …|
|Ki te karanga pahi,…||To welcome visitors …|
|Ki te waha wahie,mau, …||To carry firewood on the back, for thyself …|
|Ki te keri mataitai,mau …||To dig for shellfish, for thyself …|
|Me homai…||Give these …|
|Hei whakatupu …||To help growth …|
|Mo te tapairu nei.||For this first-born girl.|
The above was composed by the same priest who composed the male karakia, for each line is followed by the tangaengae refrain and the last verse referring to Kiharoa and Rangaunu is identical. It is curious that a first-born female (tapairu) should carry firewood on her back, but Grey's page 496informant may have inserted the line to fill out the list of women's duties regardless of the fact that it would clash with the last line.
The medical treatment of sores (hore), abscesses (kurupo), and excessive secretion of mucus (kea), in which the ailment is addressed directly and ordered to leave in the refrain "tairoria" (be off), is illustrated by the following karakia (43, p. 43):
|E te tiputipu nei, tairoria!||O this swelling, be off!|
|E te kea nei, tairoria!||O this mucus, go away!|
|Haere ki Hawaiki, tairoria,||Go to Hawaiki, be off,|
|Kia whiwhi ai koe, tairoria,||That you may get something, be off|
|Kia mana ai koe, tairoria.||That you may gain prestige, be off|
|Taku kiri ka rekareka, ha—||My skin is healing, ha—|
|Haere i te tai timu,||Go on the ebb tide,|
|Haere i te tai heke,||Go on the falling tide,|
|Haere i te tai manunu ki tawhiti.||Go on the full tide to a distant land.|
|Haere ki tou tupuranga mai,||Go to where you originated,|
|Haere ki tou nohoanga mai.||Go to where you lived!|
In generating a ritual fire, the composition may commence with a reference to the first mythical fire and the classical allusion may be enhanced by naming the two fire sticks used in that ceremony (15, p. 200):
|Hika ake au i taku ahi,||I now generate my fire,|
|Te ahi na wai?||The fire of whom?|
|Te ahi na Maui,||The fire of Maui,|
|Mauitikitiki a Taranga.||Maui-the-topknot-of-Taranga.|
|Ko wai taku kaunoti?||What is the name of my under-stick?|
|Ko Tutehurutea,||It is Tutehurutea,|
|Ko te kaunoti a Maui.||The under-stick of Maui.|
|Ko wai taku hika?||What is the name of my rubbing-stick?|
|Ko te Tukeorangi.||It is Te Tukeorangi.|
Following the above, the names of three volcanoes are introduced as appropriate to the theme of the composition, and the last lines announce that the fire is generated. Mahuika was the god of the interior from whom Maui obtained fire.
|Ka tu taku ahi,||My fire ignites,|
|Ko te piere tau,||Appears in the groove,|
|Ka tau te ahi a Mahuika.||The fire of Mahuika appears.|
The process of separation in the divorce of husband and wife is appropriately likened to the separation of Earth and Sky in the following introduction (43, p. 296):page 497
|He unuhanga a Nuku,||A withdrawal of Earth,|
|He unuhanga a Rangi,||A withdrawal of Sky,|
|He maunutanga,||A loosening,|
|He mareretanga.||A flying apart.|
|Te pou ka tu,||The post is erected,|
|Te pou o te wehe.||The post of separation.|
The making of peace between two warring tribes is charmingly figured as the two rival war gods pressing noses with each other (43, p. 314):
|Ka hongi a Maru,||Maru presses noses,|
|Ka hongi ki a Uenuku.||Presses noses with Uenuku.|
|Ka hongi a Uenuku,||Uenuku presses noses,|
|Ka hongi ki a Maru.||Presses noses with Maru.|
|He apiti,||A joining,|
|He ūanga.||A firm binding.|
An invocation is illustrated by the following karakia to the war god Maru, but his name is not mentioned until the fourth verse (43, p. 262):
|E Maru e—!||O Maru O.|
|Ma au rakau na,||By those weapons of yours,|
|Ko Turaki riri||Named Subdue-anger|
|Ko Turaki nguha,||And Subdue-rage,|
|Hei arai mo te riri,||War may be averted,|
|Hei arai mo te patu.||Killing may be warded off.|
|Turaki ana i kona,||Subduing there,|
|Peperu ana i kona,||Weakening there,|
|Ko Maru-tahuri-atu,||It is Maru-turning-away,|
|Ko Maru-ahuri-kmai.||It is Maru-turning-towards.|
Most of the kitrakia recorded by Best (15) and Smith (80) concerning Io are connected with ceremonies of admission to the house of learning. In most of them, the name of Io does not occur until the end of the composition, as in the following short quotation (80, pp. 7, 96):
|Whakaheke i waho,||Cause to descend outside,|
|Whakaheke i tua,||Cause to descend beyond,|
|Whakaheke i roto||Cause to enter into|
|I enei pia, i enei tama,||These neophytes, these sons,|
|He aro tawhito,||The ancient knowledge,|
|He aro tipua,||The divine knowledge,|
|Ki a koe, e lo e—.||Regarding thee, O Io—.|
The formulae of words which comprise the karakia were composed by various authors to please the unseen powers sufficiently to merit their page 498attention. In composing a chant, the composers not only chose words appropriate to the particular theme, but it may be assumed that in arranging them, they were influenced by patterns of speech usage. In oratory, indirect speech was preferred to direct speech, because it enabled the speaker to display his scholarship by using metaphors and similes and quotations from the classics. An example in speech may convey my meaning more clearly.
At a Maori Congress in Wellington many years ago, one of the topics for discussion was whether the time had arrived for doing away with special Maori representation in Parliament and putting the Maori voters on the same electoral rolls as the pakeha. The advantage was that more European members of parliament might take interest in Maori affairs if they had to seek the Maori vote in their own electorates. The leaders of the Maori tribes present were asked to give their opinion. Most of them replied directly in voicing the opinion that the time was not quite ripe. A Tuhoe chief clinched the matter with a brief speech that made no mention whatsoever to Parliament or voting. He said, "If the juice of the tutu berry is drunk while it is yet warm, it will cause madness. If the kernel of the karaka berry is eaten before it is cooked, it will cause paralysis. If the herring is eaten too hurriedly, it will cause choking, for that was the fish which choked Tamarereti." The speech was received with acclamation, for the indirect use of figurative language conveyed the feeling of the assembly that action should be delayed. That one short speech appealed to the Maori gathering more than all the long-winded speeches with their carefully worked out arguments. No one wished to risk insanity, paralysis, or choking by too hasty action.
The karakia, with few exceptions, were not addressed directly to the gods. In other words, indirect incantations were used more generally than direct invocations as a means of oral communication with the gods. The indirect method simply followed the pattern of speech, oratory, and poetry, and the composers evidently thought that this form of address would be as pleasing and comprehensible to the gods as to man. I do not agree with Best that direct invocations necessarily indicate a higher form of religious thought. The indirect incantation used by the Maori was not due to lower mentality but to deliberate preference. The indirect method of approach to the deity is more respectful than the direct invocation, which in other religions sometimes approaches familiarity on the part of man towards his maker.
Some karakia contain extracts from genealogies and references from myths and legends. Here again, the composers were following the technique of orators, who displayed their scholarship to their human audiences in this way. The priestly chanters also sought to demonstrate their scholarship to their divine audience. Unless the student can feel thepage 499Maori background, he will be puzzled at times as to the connection between some references and the object of the karakia. For example, why should an incantation for divorce commence with reference to Earth and Sky? To the Maori, the separation of the Sky-father and the Earth-mother was the first of all divorces and the connection with the object of the karakia is not only obvious but its inclusion raises the literary standard of the composition. Similarly, the opening reference to Maui in a fire ritual is obvious, because Maui is the mythical hero who brought the fire of Mahuika from the Underworld for the benefit of mankind. The composer continued the theme by asking the names of Maui's fire sticks in order that he might give them and thus display his scholarship. The Maori texts of most of the examples quoted in the preceding pages were taken from Grey (43). I selected samples in which the meaning appeared clear enough for me to risk translating. The majority, however, contain archaic words, meanings, and references which defy adequate translation in this age.
The mana, or effective power of a karakia, according to Judge Fenton as quoted by Best (15, p. 195), lay in "a form of words which was effective simply by its own innate virtue" without reference to the state of mind of the person using it and without the intervention of any superior power. Best objected to this statement and held that the karakia required manabeyond the actual words. In support of his contention, he quoted Gudgeon, who, after giving the text of a karakia, said that it was very potent provided the priest using it had mana. It may be accepted that the karakia composed by a priest was invested with mana by reason of his office and by the alleged success of the formula in commanding the favour of the god. The formula, once established, had to be repeated word perfect, and any slip of the tongue (tapepa) resulted not only in the karakia losing its power, but in the deity pupishing the person who made the mistake (hapa). The general acceptance of such a belief would seem to indicate that some virtue had come to reside in the actual words of the karakia.Probably the priests instituted the idea of punishment as a safeguard to promote accurate memorizing on the part of their neophytes and to prevent unauthorized persons from stealing their karakia. The continued stress upon the vital importance of correct rendition must have led some at least to believe that an innate virtue was present in the words themselves. The ritual karakia used by the priests were effective through their official manaand the intervention of the higher power they were able to enlist on their behalf. However, it is possible that some of the karakia used by laymen in connection with their individual problems had but a vague general connection with an unseen power and depended for their effect on the magic power of the correct formula of words. Thus the divergent opinions as to the source of power in the karakia may all be partly right.page 500
Ritual may be defined as the form of conducting the whole rite relating to one subject and it may include various ceremonial acts in addition to the chanting of appropriate karakia. A few karakia were complete in themselves and did not require the support of any further ritual.
The karakia were chanted by the priest in quick time and the short ones were completed on one breath. However, Best (15, p. 196) states that the invocations to Io were delivered carefully in a euphonious manner with pleasing cadence and modulations of the voice. Two priests were needed for the longer karahia so that the assistant could take up the chant before the leader's breath failed. While chanting, the priest stood erect with both arms extended or with one arm pointing to the sky. Sometimes he stood with the elbows close to the sides, the forearms extended horizontally in front, and the palms upward. In some of the war rituals, the warriors knelt on one knee while the priest conducted the service.
Offerings at the shrine were usually held up high with both hands (whakairihia) by the priest as he recited the karakia and then laid at the foot of the upright stone or post or on the platform, if such had been erected. The offering of a bird or food in the forest by a priest or layman was usually waved in the air and cast aside at the foot of a tree with the words, "Ki a koe, e Tane" (To you, O Tane) or whoever the god was. The first-fish offering at sea usually had its head bumped against the canoe gunwale before it was dropped back into the sea with the words, "Ki a koe, e Tangaroa" (To you, O Tangaroa). Some tribes had a local god for particular fish, such as Pou for the moki among the Whanauapanui. The first moki caught on the opening day of the season was hung up in a particular tree which had been designated as the local shrine of Pou.
The elements of earth, water, and fire figured in ritual observances. The heaping up of mounds of earth to form emergency shrines and the use of earth from an established tuahu to add mana to a new shrine, I have already mentioned.
Water was recognized as a cleansing element in religious ritual. At the commencement of life, the child was sprinkled in the tohi ritual at the tribal wai tapu part of a stream to remove personal pollution and so make him a pure vessel for the reception of divine influences. The war party going out to war was sprinkled or immersed to cleanse them also of personal pollution before coming under the tapu of the war god. On their return from battle, they were sprinkled again to remove the war tapu with its association of blood, so that they could resume normal relations with their wives and families. The individual who had broken a tapu restriction had his sin (hara) washed away ritually by immersion. In severe sickness, the patient was immersed and a raupo leaf or fern stalk was placed in contact with his body to provide a conveyance whereby page 501the contaminating influences and disease demons might leave the body and be floated down the stream to oblivion. The undertakers, during exhumation activities, were saturated with the tapu of the dead which was removed (whakahoro) by the water ritual to make them free (noa) to mix with their fellows. In sprinkling, a branch of the karamu(Coprosma sp.) became established as the correct plant to use. So in divine rituals, water was an essential medium for purification.
Fire was generated in some ritual ceremonies to add greater mana and so increase the prospects of obtaining favourable results. The fires were named after the rites in which they were used, and Best (15, p. 200) collected no less than 28 names of ritual fires from the Tuhoe tribe. Among them were the following examples:
Ahi taitai: a tapu fire over which a karakia was chanted to protect the life principle of man.
Ahi torongu: a ritual fire to destroy by magic means the caterpillars or grubs (torongu) attacking a kumara crop.
Ahi manawa: a ritual fire upon which the heart (manawa) of the first slain in battle was cooked.
In generating the fire, the karakia chanted usually referred to the process of making the fire with the two fire sticks, as in the example on page 496. In some ceremonies, the ritual fire with its appropriate incantation was sufficient, but the fire was merely the preliminary step in preparing an oven (umu) to cook food in more extended ceremonies. Thus the ahi horokaka was followed by the imu (umu) horokaka in the ritual to improve the morale of a war party on the march. The priest cooked a sweet potato in the oven, ate part of it ritually, and carried the remainder in a basket termed a kete pure.
An imitation of generating a ritual fire was conducted in the tuaparitual to prevent the wairua spirit of a deceased person from remaining in, or returning to, this world to annoy the family. The priest made the fire-generating motions (hika) with a stick on the ground as he recited the warding off karakia.
Best (15, p. 205), in his untiring field work, rescued the names of a number of ritual ovens, though he remarked that some of them may have been social rather than religious. It is interesting that some of them are termed imu which is evidently an archaic form of umu. (Though umuis the general form elsewhere, imu is in current use in Hawaii.) In purely ritual ovens, the oven and food cooked therein were purely symbolic so that a small oven of about six inches in diameter was all that was required to cook a single sweet potato. This was evidently the form used in the imu horohaka already referred to. In others, such as that in the whakaūceremony used by a party travelling through strange country, the oven page 502was large enough to cook a meal for the entire party, but a portion in a basket was hung upon a tree to placate the local spirits by giving them a share. In other ceremonies, such as those connected with exhumation and the tohi rite over children, a number of ovens were prepared to provide a full meal for all present. The ovens, however, were divided into classes according to a similar classification of the people and no one dared to eat food from an oven of another class. The ovens after the tohi rite were made in four classes as follows:
|1.||Umu tuakaka: for the officiating priests.|
|2.||Umu ruahine: for women who took part in ritual to remove tapu from the child.|
|3.||Umu potaka: for the fighting men.|
|4.||Umu tukupara: for the people.|
Other oven names were the umu whangai for the ariki chief as in the exhumation feast; the umu kirihau and imu tamaahu for the officiating priests; the umu pera for warriors; and imu pararahi, umu marae, umu rauroha, and umu mataki tini for the people.
The most extraordinary oven was that made for firewalking. An oven larger than those made for ordinary cooking was prepared and the heated stones levelled to an even surface. The Maori references in literature are scanty and unsatisfactory. One account by Best (15, p. 204) states that the priest did a solo act by standing in the middle of the oven while he recited his karakia. This detail of standing still for some time detracts from the reliability of the story, because the secret in firewalking was to keep moving and not to allow the feet to remain in contact with the same stone long enough to start the process of cooking. However, the references seem to indicate that occasionally some priest knew enough to use firewalking as a means of impressing his audience with his mana.
Food as a medium in ritual has been mentioned in connection with offerings. A fire termed ahi amoamohanga was generated at the offering of the first fruits from the cultivations. The herb named puha (Sonchussp.) was used in some rituals dealing with sickness. The priest cooked or warmed some puha over a ritual fire, passed it under the patient's left thigh, and waved it in the air to remove the contamination of the patient's transgression. In the ritual connected with weaving, the priest fed (whangai) the woman initiate with a piece of puha warmed over a ritual fire so as to fix the technique in her mind and give her skill. Thus the term whangai (to feed) was used in connection with offerings to the gods, the food oven for an ariki chief, and the ritual feeding of an initiate.
Hair was used in some rituals. The hair of a chief or priest was tapu as the head was the most tapu part of the body. It probably required a priest to cut the hair of a high chief, for ordinary persons would be page 503afraid to touch his head. It was for this reason that many priests did not have their hair cut; it remained a tangled mass which added to the fear of their persons. Though men wore their hair in a knot on top of the head, a certain amount had to be removed at times and this was done usually with an obsidian flake. A chief's hair was cut at a place set aside for the purpose and termed a purepurenga. Best (15, p. 207) states that the hair of a tapu person was cut in the morning and that no fires for cooking were lit until the cutting was over. It was regarded as a major operation, and the patient fasted during the day. I was told that guardian spirits were appointed to protect and prevent hair being removed from the sanctified spot for the purposes of sorcery. To further prevent hair being used as a medium in sorcery, the hair was laid at the tuahu, burnt, or concealed. Mr Murdock of Whangarei showed me some hair, an obsidian flake, and a small wooden slab marked with incised lines which he found in a cleft in a cliff on the uninhabited Poor Knights Islands. It was evident that the tip ends of the long hair were cut with the obsidian flake against the wooden slab and so prevented pulling the hair during cutting.
Examples of the use of hair as a ritual offering have been given in discussion of the mawe tuft of the first slain in battle and in the plucking of a hair from the head to throw into the sea for placating taniwha monsters and calming storms. A hair from the head was abstracted and burned in a ritual fire during journeys. A hair was also burned with lizards encountered and killed to prevent misfortune. It was used in other rituals in conformity with the practice of various priests.
Saliva was a readily available medium in minor rituals and there seems little difference externally between a Maori warrior rubbing his saliva on his club and a pakeha gardener spitting on the handle of his spade. However, the Maori is close enough to his past to know why, whereas the pakeha is so far removed from the origin of his custom that he does it vaguely, as he spits on a coin for luck. The fear of saliva being used as a medium in sorcery discouraged promiscuous spitting.
Birds, which had been captured for the purpose, were released during some ritual ceremonies. Best (15, p. 217) states that the birds used were the miromiro (Petroeca toitoi), tatahore (Certhiparus albicapillus), mata (Spenaeacus punctatus), and komako (Anthornis melanura). They were employed in rites conducted at the village shrine, burial caves, and at the opening and naming of a new fort. The rites were also connected with war and the tohi ceremony over a male child of high rank. The miromiro was also used as a messenger in the atahu love charms.
Statements have been made that the Maori believed in so many demons, spirits, and evil influences that he went in abject fear of his surroundings. From the preceding accounts of karakia and ritual, it is obvious that for page 504all the fears the Maori created, he also provided prophylactics and cures which were readily available to every individual. The supporters of the "abject fear" theory have seen only one side of the picture, hence their conclusions are not only erroneous, but ridiculous.
Polynesian affinities. Incantations as the oral approach to the gods were used throughout Polynesia. In the Cook Islands, a number of terms—such as pe'e, amu, and tarotaro—were applied to various kinds of songs and chants. In Atiu, upoko-rakau was a chant used to give power to a weapon like the ki-rakau of New Zealand. However, the term karakia was applied to ritual chants addressed to the gods and karakia was also a tide applied to a high priest. The term pure also applies to ritual. In the Society Islands the incantations, whether direct or indirect, were termed 'upu (Maori kupu, a word, or saying), but pure has largely replaced it. The Tahitian chants also included mythical incidents and genealogies. The terms hara (sin) and hapa (mistake, transgression) occur in connection with errors of ritual or marae ordinances. The use of water for cleansing a hara was present in the form of immersion in the sea. The confession of error was a necessary prelude for divine forgiveness.
The marae rituals of Tahiti have been described in detail by Teuira Henry (50, p. 157), and the pa'i atua ceremony of assembling the gods illustrates the elaboration which was developed in temple services. Two days before the ceremony, the offerings for the gods were assembled, a three days' supply of food cooked, and drums were sounded by order of the ruling chief to impose a tapu over the district. No fires were lit, no dog barked, no pig grunted, no cock crew, and no people moved about. The silence of tapu was supreme.
The next morning, the ruling chief and men of the upper classes, stripped to the waist, commenced clearing the marae and its environs. The priests chanted an incantation with the following introductory lines:
|E vaere'a marae!||A marae weeding!|
|Te ra'u a rimu,||The scraping of moss,|
|Na Ro'o-te-roro'o,||For Ro'o-te-roro'o,|
|E te nu'u atua.||And the host of gods.|
The marae was weeded, the moss scraped off the stones, and the rubbish deposited in sacred pits. The marae attendants ('opu nui) and the priests cleared the fata stands for new food, decorated the carved unu slabs with fresh strips of tapa, placed freshly plaited coconut leaf tapa'au on the kneeling stones, and set up long rods (tira) and short ones (hoe) along the sides of the marae for the gods to alight on in the form of birds. The chiefs finished their task by midday and retired. The priests, on completing their repairing and decorating, bathed and retired to a house on the marae termed the fare-ia-manaha. All the visiting priests brought the page 505to'o symbols of their gods in coverings and lodged them also in the marac house. During the night, the priests chanted and dressed for the morrow's ceremony.
The great feature of the ceremony took place next morning. A procession of priests was formed at the fare-ia-manaha to proceed to the ahu altar. The high priest led, followed by four priests carrying the to'o symbol of the tutelary god in a wooden ark attached to a pole nine feet long. The bearers kept calling "Ho, ho, ho" to attract the attention of the real invisible gods. The other priests followed in order, carrying the to'o of their gods wrapped in tapa. If one of the bearers of the tutelary god stumbled, the procession had to start over again and a human sacrifice was offered to the gods to appease them. The procession was joined by me doctors, craftsmen, and fishermen, all carrying the to'o symbols of their gods. Last came the sorcerers with their carved tiki images on boards. When the procession reached the high altar, the ark of the tutelary god was placed on a low platform built against the front of the altar (ahu) and termed the ava'a. The high priest took the tutelary god from the ark and removed its wrappings. Simultaneously, the coverings of all the minor gods were removed and all present prostrated themselves. The minor gods were presented in turn to the tutelary god, and the high priest gave the attendant priests red feathers which had been wrapped up with the tutelary god and so charged with divinity. The feathers were used to decorate the old to'o symbols or to attach to new to'o which were consecrated by the high priest on their presentation. Fresh feathers were handed to replace the ones given away. The sorcerers advanced with their images and then withdrew. The old wrappings of the to'o symbols were placed in a chamber below the ava'a platform, and the naked gods, with new wrappings beneath them, were laid on the ava'a beside the tutelary god. A ritual fire termed an ahi fai was lighted and a sacrificial pig singed on it. Then the temple drums announced the end of the exhibition of gods. The tutelary god was wrapped up and replaced in its ark and the minor gods, also wrapped in new coverings, were returned to the marae house. The ceremony was so sacred that only the 'opu nui attendants were allowed to view it. Any stray male intruder was killed as a sacrifice.
The officiating priests took their places beside the leaning stones on the marae court and the sorcerers and 'opu nui assembled at the rear of the court. The ruling chief and others arrived to take their places in the middle of the court, baring their shoulders in respect. No women or children were allowed on the court. The priests kneeling on the right knee cried "Ho, ho, ho" and the whole assembly joined in a chant of praise termed an umere. Other chants followed and the errors of the assembly were laid on mei'a roa, a long banana plant which was a substitute for a human sacrifice. Another ritual fire, termed an ahi page 506ha'apena, was lighted; and more sacred hogs were singed and placed on the fata stands as offerings to the gods. The proceedings ended at about noon when the two ritual fires were extinguished. The parima chant of dismissal was recited and the ruler and his companions placed wreaths of flowers on the stone image of Ro'o-te-roro'o as they retired. The high priest addressed the tutelary god still on the ava'a, the drums and trumpets sounded, and the priests returned to the marae house with the ark of the tutelary god which was handed over to its keeper (tiri) with a chant.
The people now brought forward their offerings for the feast termed tumufara, which consisted of hogs baked whole, deep-sea fish, turtles, baked vegetables, and various sweet puddings. They also brought mats, rolls of cloth, and feather ornaments. The people, with their chief, garnered in the outer courtyard. A share of the feast was set aside for the ruling chief and the shares for the gods and priests were presented by the people's orator in a speech which concluded with the words:
|Fa'aaroha mai to maru.||Grant us thy protection.|
|E te atua, tahiti'a mat.||O god, hearken to us.|
The high priest replied and the people returned to their homes to partake of the extra food they had cooked for themselves. The priests divided the food offerings into shares, the first going to the gods and the rest to themselves according to status. The gods' share was placed on the fata stands before the priests were allowed to settle down to enjoy their own. They ate with dignity on the marae, because the gods were eating with them in spirit. After asking permission of the gods, the priests took home the unconsumed portions of their liberal shares and also a share of the mats, cloth, and feather ornaments.
One Tahitian rite has been described at some length to indicate the great development which took place in central Polynesia as compared with the simple rites of New Zealand. This development was due to the growth in power of the priestly class. The priests were responsible for the addition of the marae court to the ahu altar, thus providing ample space for the construction of food stands, leaning or kneeling stones, and a house for accommodating themselves and their religious paraphernalia. The decoration of the marae with carved wooden unu with tapa streamers, plaited coconut-leaf covers (tapa'au) for the kneeling stones, and upright poles along the sides, all tended to elevate the prestige of the temple. The prestige of the temple was further heightened by the ruling chief and his colleagues undergoing the menial task of weeding it. The marae had become too holy for commoners to approach it. The priesthood was also responsible for every god being represented by a to'o symbol which eventually had to be consecrated by the high priest at a temple ceremony. It was the large number of minor gods with priestly and lay guardians page 507which made possible such an impressive ceremony as the procession of gods from the marae house to the high altar. The richer food supplies of pigs and turtles and the greater variety and abundance of vegetables enabled the priests to demand a greater quantity of offerings than was possible in New Zealand. However, the feast on the religious marae of Tahiti was the counterpart of the feast on the social marae of New Zealand. Apart, however, from the greater variety of food, a difference existed in that the Tahitian feast had become religious, with the priests directing the distribution of food, whereas the Maori ceremony had remained purely social, with the temporal chiefs retaining their right to distribute and announce the shares of food. The Maori religious rites retained their original simplicity with the chiefs also retaining their full rights in temporal matters, but the Tahitian rites underwent marked elaboration through the growth of priestly power which made successful incursions into the secular authority of temporal chiefs.