The Maori: Yesterday and To-day
The Mauri of the Fisheries
The Mauri of the Fisheries.
Some of the mauri-kohatum, or stone emblems sacred to the gods of the fisheries, are preserved and are used to-day as they were centuries ago. At Taumaha, in South Taranaki, in 1921, the veteran warrior, Tu Patea te Rongo, head of the Pakakohi tribe, told me that he had two of the sacrad stones called “Nga whatu a Turi” which were brought from Hawaiki in the canoe Aotea. Thes small stones of power, rounded and hollowed, were hidden not far from his house. He made use of the when the fishing season came round. When it was time for the piharau or lamprevs. he took the marui down to the bank of the Patea River, to ensure the success of the fishing. These whatu, sacred to Tangaroa, had never been known to fail in bringing large catches if they were used with the proper forms of invocation.
A tapu relic at Mokau Heads: Maoris of Ngati-Maniapoto tribe transferring the Punga-o-Tainui from the beach to the tribal burial-place. [From a photo, 1926
The Whatu-kura-a-Tangaroa is preserved as a holy relic; it is very seldom that it is revealed to public gaze by the Ringa-tu folk of Maraenui, who have it in charge.
At Mokau Heads the mauri of the fisheries lay on the beach until recently. This was the historic punga or mooring stone of the canoe Tainui, which came to Mokau six centuries ago. In 1904 I saw this punga lying on the northern bank of the Mokau, below the cliffs on which the township stands. It was popularly believed that its presence there assured the abundance of fish of all kinds for which Moka in mouth was celebrated along the coast. Once it was surreptitiously taken away to Waitara by the master of a cutter, who intended selling it to a museum. The Maori declare that the fish deserted the river until the cutter-man was compelled to restore it to its ancient resting-place. In 1926 it was suggested that the relic should be transferred to the Auckland Museum for safe-keeping as an ethnological exhibit, and some of the Mokau Maori favoured this proposal. But most of the Ngati-Maniapoto objected to this manner of disposal of the sacred mauri, and accordingly a party of men one morning took a cart to the beach at low-water, loaded it with the heavy treasure—it is a smoothly-rounded boulder like an hour-glass or dumb-bell in shape and about four feet in length—and took it to the tribal cemetery, between Mokau and Awakino Heads. There it was cemented into a concrete canoe representing the Tainui, so there is no danger of anyone making off with the punga now; and from its permanent resting-place it can still look out over the fisheries it guarded, in local belief, for centuries. Our illustration on page 179 shows the natives of Mokau Heads removing the page 181 mauri from the beach to the burying ground. There is a part of the beach called Te Naenae, near where the punga formerly lay; this is where the fishermen until recently placed their offerings of tamure and other fish to Tangaroa, the Maori Poseidon.