Te Ika a Maui, or New Zealand and its Inhabitants
Chapter XII. Dreams
Chapter XII. Dreams.
The natives are great observers of Dreams, which were formerly thought to be sent from their gods to advertise them of coming events. The common name for dreams is moe hewa, or moe moea; but if they are long-continued ones, they are called popopo hewa.
A karakia, called uriuri, literally to turn round, or avert the fulfilment of bad dreams, was constantly repeated when any one had what he interpreted to be an unlucky one. In dreams it is supposed that the soul leaves the body and visits the Reinga, where it holds converse with the spirits of its friends. Every dream, they think, has its signification, and page 161 they are almost as skilful in interpreting them as Atemidorus himself.
If a person dreamed of a sick relative, and imagined that he saw him in a very ghastly state, apparently on the point of death, it would be considered a sign of his speedy restoration to health; but if, on the contrary, he appeared to be quite well, that would be a sign of death. To dream of seeing the dead, is a sign of death to the living; and of seeing the living, a sign of good. Manihera, the night before he was murdered at Taupo, dreamed that he saw several of his friends who were dead, and said to those around, he felt sure he should be in the Reinga himself before the next night. His interpretation proved to be true; that very day he was cruelly murdered with his companion.
To dream of ascending a precipice to a pa on the top of a hill, without success, is a very bad sign, and a sure token of failing in whatever pursuit the person may be engaged.
To dream of being speared, is a sign of meeting some person or friend. On a journey through a lonely forest, one of my natives dreamed that he was speared, and so general was the expectation of meeting some one next day, that my companions repeatedly hallooed, that the person who was supposed to be coming might hear them.
If, in the time of war, when two parties went out against each other, and slept with only a little space between them, one should dream that he saw a kakariki (green parrot) in the oven, divided into two parts, it would be a sure sign of his own death the next day.
If a person dreams of another squeezing the juice of the tutu (coriaria sarmentosa) on the road, it is a certain sign that a murder will be committed; the juice of tutu being the same as blood.
If you dream of a rat being caught in a trap, it is also a very bad sign, and a sure token of murder.
If you dream of seeing a person's hair singed, it is a sign that his head chief will die.
If you dream that you see a person eating, who does not offer any portion of the food to you, it is a sign of death.page 162
If you dream of a friend who is on a journey, and that you speak to him and receive a reply, it is a sure sign that person is not coming back.
If you dream of friends, and they turn to you, and you see them in good health, it is a bad sign.
If you dream of a friend on a journey, but do not see his face, which he turns away from you, as persons do who dance the maimai, or nga ngahu, it is a good sign of your friend being near his home.
If you dream of your kumara shooting vigorously, it is a sign of a good crop.
If you dream you hear the name of your absent friend mentioned, and that you go to look for him, but do not see his face, it is a sure sign of soon meeting him.
If you dream of swimming, it prognosticates a rainy day.
If you are ill, and dream of some absent friend, who turns and salutes you, it is a good sign that you will recover, and again see your friend.
Kawana Paipai, when at a distance from home, laid up with sickness, dreamed that he saw his minister's wife, who turned to him and shook his hand; this good omen so cheered him up, that he speedily got well, and on his return, the first thing he did was to go and call on her and shake hands with her.
If a tohunga, who accompanies a taua, or war party, dreams that his atua is killed by the atua of the place they are going to attack, it is such a bad omen that the taua immediately returns.
If a person dreams that he sees another coming to kill him, it is a good sign. The person seen will be killed himself.
One way of obtaining answers from the gods, was by dreams. When the priest was in any doubt, he waited for his god to reveal his will to him by dreams, and he generally had one which conveyed the required information.*
* See 1 Sam. xxix., 15.
The ancient and most general way of obtaining a wife was for the gentleman to summon his friends, and make a regular taua, or fight, to carry off the lady by force, and oftentimes with great violence. Even when a girl was bestowed in marriage by her parents, frequently some distant relatives would feel aggrieved, and fancy they had a greater right to her, as a wife for one of their tribe; or, if the girl had eloped with some one on whom she had placed her affections, then her father or brothers would refuse their consent, and in either case would carry a taua against the husband and his friends, to regain possession of the girl, either by persuasion or force. If confined in a house, they would pull it down, and if they gained access, then a fearful contest would ensue. The unfortunate female thus placed between two contending parties, would soon be divested of every rag of clothing, and thus would be seized by her head, hair, or limbs, and as those who contended for her became tired with the struggle, fresh combatants would supply their places from the rear, climbing over the shoulders of their friends, and so edge themselves into the mass immediately round the woman, whose cries and shrieks would be unheeded by her savage friends: in this way, the poor creature was often nearly torn to pieces. These savage contests sometimes ended in the strongest party bearing off in triumph the naked person of the bride; in some cases, after a long season of suffering, she recovered, to be given to a person for whom she had no affection; in others, to die within a few hours or days from the injuries she had received. But it was not uncommon for the weaker party, when they found they could not prevail, for one of them to put an end to the contest by suddenly plunging his spear into the woman's bosom, to hinder her from becoming the property of another.
* In Burmah also there are no religious ceremonies at marriage.—See Malcolm's Travels in Burmah.
When the parents thus consented, they usually said, E pai ana kia moe korua, koto tungane kia kanga iho ano korua, kanga iho ano kia korua ano.
Sometimes the father simply told his intended son-in-law, he might come and live with his daughter; she was thenceforth considered as his wife, he continued to live with his father-in-law, being looked upon as one of the tribe or hapu, to which his wife belonged, and in case of war, the son-in-law was often thus obliged to fight against his own relatives. So common is the custom of the bridegroom going to live with his wife's family, that it frequently occurs, when he refuses to do so, his wife will leave him, and go back to her relatives. Several instances came under my notice where young men have tried to break through this custom, and have so lost their wives.
The native term for courtship is he aru aru, literally, a following or pursuing after. Ropa* is a declaration of love by pinching the fingers. He puna rua is a struggling of two suitors by pulling the poor girl, who became the property of the stronger; it is also a term applied to a man with two wives. Tau mau is to betroth or promise a girl in marriage; wai aipo is when she is given and resides with her husband.
* Ropa is probably derived from Ro, the praying mantis, and pa to touch: this insect pinches those who touch it with its fore legs, which are covered with spines. If a married woman sees one, it is regarded as a sign of her conception.
When a man left home on a long journey, he repeated a karakia over his wife, that she might be faithful, with a curse on any one who should do him dishonor:—
Ko Maru kia tiakina te waha o runga,
Ko Tutangata kino kia tiakina te waha o raro,
Ka wakanoho ko mata te kuwaha ka kapi ka urahia,
He aha te manu nana i noho te upoko o taku kaha?
He katipo, he karewa, he au ika, kia tika ki to tangata,
Nana i makutu, nana i kaia.
Generally, the first wife was a lady of rank, and was always viewed as the chief wife, however many others there might be, and of whatever rank; but some were regarded as servile wives. Heuheu had six, but one only ranked as the head wife.
The first born son, though his mother was only a slave wife, had all the rights of primogeniture; but should the first born child be by the lady wife, he then acquired the dignity of an ariki. This rank also was given to her first born, although a female.
Infanticide was formerly very common. It was generally perpetrated by the mother, and frequently from grief for the loss of her husband, or in revenge for his ill-treatment of her. A woman of the Thames destroyed seven of her children; the reason she assigned for such unnatural cruelty, was that she might be light to run away, if attacked or pursued by the enemy: this was especially the fate of female children.
* This is the usual way of curing little squeaking pigs: they hold them under water until they are quiet.
Robertson states, that the American natives were remarkable for their being small eaters; this cannot be affirmed of the natives of New Zealand. In their natural state they are great eaters, and seem to prefer fat and oily substances, such as no European, unless pressed with hunger, or from the extreme north perhaps, could touch. The natives fed even on putrid whales, and tainted meat, with apparent relish. Man, indeed, in a savage state, does not seem to possess the sense of smell to the same extent, that he does in an advanced state of civilization, or else his perceptions are different, and the smell of putrid substances is not only not offensive, but positively agreeable.
Uncivilized man appears to prefer fat and oil as food. I have frequently seen natives eating their potatoes with putrid train oil, plentifully poured over them: also, when they have roasted pigs whole, and the inside was filled with a pool of melted fat, they would stoop down and drink it the same as water.
There is one thing, however, to be stated; they do not generally live on animal food, few taste it except on particular occasions, when pigs are killed to entertain strangers with; but this is a comparatively recent custom, since the use of pork is derived from Europeans, who first introduced pigs amongst them. Previously, fish and birds, and especially human beings, were all they had, in addition to the taro, kumara, and fern-root. We cannot wonder, when their diet was so entirely vegetable, that they should occasionally eat to excess. The quantity of potatoes which a native consumes at a meal is very great, but the nourishment they contain is small. The country abounds in eels, which attain an immense size, and are very fat. These are considered great delicacies, but I have noticed those who freely eat them are generally ill afterwards. Egypt is also a country abounding in eels, yet, Herodotus states, they were forbidden as food; so also in the Mosaic law, we find the same prohibition. The translator of Herodotus states, that the probable reason was their having a tendency to produce scrofula; it is very remarkable, that this page 167 is the prevailing disease of the Maori, and that they are great eaters of the eel.*
The natives have only two meals a day, the first being about ten, the other at sun-set, or a little earlier. But frequently in those months when food is scarce, they have only one, and no other relish for their potatoes than a little sow-thistle, or wild cabbage. A native will endure hunger very patiently.
Those who live with Europeans, after a little time, are not in general greater eaters than ourselves.
Though extremely dirty in their persons, the natives are cleanly in their food, which is served up in baskets. These are neatly and expeditiously made by the females, whilst the food is being cooked. Guests of rank have each his fresh-made basket set before him, and when the meal is over, they are thrown away and fresh ones made. One reason appears to have been, the fear of witchcraft, or of destroying their tapu, by eating out of a basket which had been used by some one else. A chief never ate after any one, or allowed any one to eat after him. The remains of his food, with the basket which contained them, was thrown into a wahi tapu, that no one might obtain any portion with which to bewitch him. Formerly they had the greatest dread of witchcraft by means of food. When a great chief or tohunga took his food, he might frequently be seen seated within a little fence of basket work, or else in a corner of the verandah, apart from the rest. In general, a basket is placed before every three or four persons; it is filled with potatoes, garnished with a piece of meat, a fish, a bird, or in default of these, with a little sow-thistle or wild cabbage; when there is meat, they pass it round, each taking a bite or tearing off a portion; and when the meal is over, they wipe their greasy fingers on the backs of the attendant dogs, as their serviettes, whose noses are generally thrust into the basket as soon as the last hand is withdrawn.†
* Deaths from feasting on the Pihapiharau, or Lamprey, are by no means uncommon.
† Vigne, in his travels in Cashmere, thus describes a meal given him by the Rajah of Tira, vol. 1, page 109:—“They did not eat with me themselves, but a table was placed for me beside them, and they talked to me during the repast, which was served up in dishes made of dock leaves, sewn together, and my drinking cup was also of the same material. The Sikhs are less particular in these matters than the Hindus, and will eat twice, and oftener, out of the same plate; but the Hindus, more especially the Brahmin or the Rajpul, will not eat twice out of any vessel that cannot be cleansed with earth: when, therefore, they play the host, the Hindus cause their dishes to be made of dock leaves, which are thrown away after they have been used.”
Baskets appear to have been used in a similar way by the ancient Egyptians; they are represented in their paintings, as well as alluded to in Scripture. The chief baker had in his dream a basket of bakemeats for Pharaoh; and so in Israel, Jehu commanded the elders of Jezreel to bring him the heads of Ahab's sons in baskets; and the Israelite was blessed in his basket and store.
Formerly, they were often much pinched for food in winter; that period went by the name of the grumbling months, they had no other name for them; they were blank in their calendar, as they could do nothing but sit in their smoky huts, with eyes always filled with tears.
In times of scarcity, the only food they had to depend upon was fern-root and shell fish. The traveller is often surprised, as he journeys along the coast, by the large heaps of shells which he sees on almost every mound he passes; these are records of bygone scarcity, and frequently he will find fragments of human bones mixed with them, for it was at such times that the least offence sufficed to cause an angry and hungry savage to knock his slave on the head, that he might satisfy the cravings of his hunger. It is remarkable that some natives cannot eat the pigeon, when it feeds on the young leaves of the kowai, the New Zealand laburnum (Edwardsia micro phylla); the Nga ti hine kino, a hapu of the Nga ti Ruaka, a Wanganui tribe, are said to have weak heads (rahi rahi) and are especially adduced as an example; the pigeon at such times gives them violent headaches, though other persons can eat it with impunity.
The natives are now gradually acquiring a taste for European food, and some have quite renounced their old way of living.
Some years ago, Tamihana te Rauparaha and several young page 169 chiefs of the Ngatiraukawa tribe formed a kind of club amongst themselves, and determined to give up their native customs, and adopt those of the Europeans. They had good houses erected, and took their meals in the same way we do, which they have persevered in doing, and this has become a great means of raising their tribe in the scale of civilization.
The hakari, or feast, was formerly given either as a paremata, or return for a previous one, or on some particular occasion, such as a marriage, the making of peace, or the stirring up of a war, for the obtaining of help either to build a house or make a canoe, or to hunt, or fish. They were sometimes given by individuals, but more frequently by the inhabitants of one place to those of another. The hakari was often on a very grand scale, proportioned to the wealth and influence of those who gave it. Sometimes a number of poles were planted in the ground, being fifty or sixty feet high, which were made to support eight or ten stories, heaped up with baskets of food to the very top. At other times, long walls of kumara were erected; these were made with the greatest care; they were generally about five feet high, as many broad, and were crowned with a covering of pigs roasted whole. Several hundred were often thus killed for a single feast, or else their place was supplied with dried fish, and with what is considered a very great delicacy, birds, or pork cut up in small pieces, and cooked in their own fat: these are packed up in large hua, calabashes, or in ornamental dishes, made of the bark of the totara, and tastefully decorated with feathers, they are called papa. When the guests arrive they are received with a loud welcome, and afterwards a person, who acts as the master of the ceremonies, having a rod in his hand, marches slowly along the line of food, which is generally placed in the marae, or chief court of the pa, and then names the tribe for which each division is intended, striking it with his rod. This being done, the chief of that party receiving the food, sub-divides it amongst his followers. The food is then carried off to their respective homes. The calabashes are often tastefully ornamented with carving, red ochre, and feathers. These feasts are generally political meetings; both before and after the division of food, many page 170 speeches are made, the speaker walking up and down a space left for him by the crowd; he only speaks as he goes one way, walking back in silence, and as he became animated, he moves with increased celerity. On the occasion of a marriage, the friends of the bridegroom provide the feast for him, and those of the bride for her; but the two do not eat together. When a chief intends to give a feast, he sends some member of his family as a herald to summon those for whom it is intended. As he passes through each village, he sings, Uea uea i te pou o tou whare, kia wiriwiri, kia tutangatanga wakairi kapua naku, ki runga moeahu taku kira ka tongia e te anu matao e tahu e — nau mai e waha i taku tua he karere taua, he karere wainga. If it be a feast to invite the individuals thus summoned to war, the words he karere taua are used; if to a feast only, the words he karere wainga are spoken. If those invited do not wish to partake of the feast, they reply, Penu ki taku kainga, e kore au e tae alu kahore aku paremata tahi atu ki a koe.