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The Ancient History of the Maori, His Mythology and Traditions. Awatea, Taranaki, Nga-Ti-Hau Nga-Ti-Rua-Nui [Vol. VIII, English]

Chapter 23 — Pohea and his acts (Nga-ti-rua-ka)

Chapter 23
Pohea and his acts (Nga-ti-rua-ka)

Heark how weeps the tide
As it flows on, and distance
Make the point at Huruhi
Look little in its self
And can it be, that this
Is omen of a calm
For thee o Hi-roa.
I felt the touch thou gave
And it has robbed me of my peace.
O cloud that air wafts on
Stretch out they self
And across the ridge
At Ao-tea, come o'er
That spot so loved by
Me and all my heart.
Accept the offered love
That crowds can give
But let me still
My offering make to thee
Accept my little hear,
Or shall I use the
Shark tooth knife
And make my self depart
And be for ever lost,
Or let the Priest
His ………. art be
Held o'er me in stream
That I my love no more
Or shall I sever all
And throw my self to death.

page (214)

Great was the fame of the wheke (octopus) of Rau-kawa (Cook Strait) ad [sic] many were the tribes killed and the canoes wrecked by this fish, and the news of this goblin came to Whanga-nui (great harbour) and Pohea (blind) had a desire to go and try his power with this fish, and he and Tama-ngakau (son of the act of betrayal) held a consultation, and Pohea agree that they two should go to Nga-whatu-kai-ponu (the pith of greediness) to where this fish was in the Ti-topua (the cordyline that floats) near to Nga-tata-o-te-waka-a-Kupe (the bailers of the canoe of Kupe) that they two might kill that Octopus, as the Octopus was a sacred fish in the estimation of our ancestors, and the supreme chiefs alone might partake of that fish, and it was food which was eaten at a feast when none but those of the family of the feat given durst partake of it, and only the supreme females of the head of a family durst partake of it.

When these two had laid their plans they went to the forest to search for a tree of which to make a canoe in which they could cross Rau-kawa (Cook Strait). They found a tree in the Wai-pakura (water of the prophyrio melanotus) forest and felled it and made it into a canoe near to the Ma-ruaia (head) stream, and dragged her towards the water, and when they had got her near to the top of the cliff at Kai-matira (fishers with rods) at Wai-pakura, they let the canoe rush down that steep so that they might see the resisting power of the canoe, and see how or if she could be squeezed together by the Wheke (octopus) at Rau-kawa, but the canoe did not break in being put down this cliff, but she slid down into the Whanga-nui (great harbour) and dived across the river, and came up on the opposite bank, and the people who owned the canoe saw her come up unbroken, they gave a loud shout of joy, and their ears tingled with the echo of the shout as it resounded from cliff to cliff of the river, if page (215)the canoe had become bent, bulged or twisted, or bust open, she would not do to take a war party to attack the wheke (octopus) at Rau-kawa, so they hauled the canoe on shore and put the rauawa (side boards) on to her and when these had been put on, they made other canoes in which a war party could go to kill a chief called Tu-rere-ao (god of war flying on clouds). And the reason he was attacked was that he should be killed in payment for the death of Au-kehu (red current).

The war party started in the canoes and paddled towards the settlement of Tu-rere-ao, and they attacked his Pa (fort) and a battle ensued, the fort was taken and Tu-rere-ao was taken prisoner, he was killed and the war party cut his head off and stuck it on the post of the door way of the house of Manga-whatu (branch of the weaving garment) in stead of a post or stick for the attendant of Tu-rere-ao (god of war that flees in the day) and the bodies of all the killed in this battle were taken as food for the war party of Pohea and Tama-ngakau (son of the deceit) to kill the wheke (octopus) at Rau-kawa.

This war party assembled at the entrance to the Whanga-nui (great harbour) river and they sent messengers to Tireo-o-te-rangi (first night of the new moon seen in the sky) to come and be the poike (head or sacred power to lead or dare) in front in the bow of the canoe that was going to attack the Wheke (octopus). Tireo-o-te-rangi was a Priest, and was one of the Nga-ti-hau head chiefs of Whanga-nui, and he lived at Turakina (thrown down) at the head of the Tauranga-manga (lay at anchor in the branch creek) and when he had got to where the war party were, he got on board of the canoe, and performed the ceremonies and chanted the incantations to make the canoe very sacred, and the war party in the canoes sailed away for Rangi-tikei (day of striding in walking) river where fifty page (216)twice told of the war party landed, and when the people of the place saw them, the Rangi-tikei people came to attack them so the war party took their paddles and gave battle to the Rangi-tikei people, and the Rangi-tikei people were beaten by the war party of Pohea, and the name given to this battle was Tawiri hoe (taunt of cowardice of the paddle).

When this battle was ended Pohea and his party took the corpses of the killed and prepared them for future use as food for the war party, and the war party embarked in their canoes and went to the other side of the river of Manawa tu, where they were seen by the people of the place who rushed on Pohea and party to kill them, and a battle ensued, and the people of the place were beaten, and the name given to this battle was Harakeke tau toro (flax that hangs down) from the flax which the people of Pohea had used in tying up their hair in a top knot on their heads, and also from the flax leaves tied round their waist as war belts, and from this the war party went to the Ika a maru (the fish of Maru) where they slept from whence it was straight sailing and on the morrow the wind was fair and they put up the sails of the canoes and sailed towards Ara-pawa (path of gall) and when they had got into Rau-kawa (Cook Strait) and were half way between the North and South Islands, and were near to Nga-whatu-kai-ponu (the kernels of greediness) where the wheke (octopus) lived, the sea became of another hue, and the water became of a red colour, soon after the fish came up, and his feelers took hold of the canoe, and the crew of the canoe gave a loud cry of fear, but the weapons had been made with which to this fish, these were made of wood and were one span long one end of which was sharpened these the people took hold of and were going to spear the fish and Tama-ngakau said "Now be brave, spear this wheke (octopus)" but Pohea cried out and said "Wait, wait, till the body comes up, page (217)so that we may see it clearly, then you can spear our enemy." The war party waited, and Pohea took a calabash of whale oil and poured it on the sea, which he had concealed and kept to himself, and the sea which had been dark and had been rough with waves, became calm and clear and the wheke (octopus) could be clearly seen, and the people speared the body of the fish and killed it, and the feelers of the fish unloosened their hold of the canoe and it sank in the sea, but the current of the sea carried it on shore, and the spot where it stranded was called Wheke nui (great octopus) which name that spot has been known by to this day.

As Pohea and his party had overcome the wheke (octopus) they were elated by this act, and they went on shore to rest, and then sailed away for Ara-pawa (path of gall) to the home of the tribe of Tu-rere-ao (the god of war that flies on clouds) which was the home of Tu-rere-ao before he had gone to live at Whanga-nui (great harbour) which was also the place where Tu-rere-ao and his companions had lived when they had killed the chief Au kehu (red current) from which act Pohea and his party had killed Tu-rere-ao.

When Pohea and his party had arrived at Ara-pawa, there they found the sister of Tu-rere-ao living who received Pohea and his party as her guests: she was called Kahu-pani (garment of the orphan). When they had partaken of food and were resting she asked them "From where did you come from the other side of the water?"

The war party said "Yes from Whanga-nui." She asked "Has there been any party arriving there, who had gone from here?" The war party said "There has, but what was the name of the leader of the party?"

So she acted deceitfully towards them and said "I only ask for asking sake about Ture-ao (custom of the world) who went from here, and who has been lost to us ever since."

page (218)

Pohea answered and said "There are many many tribes in our district, but we heard of one party of migrators who came from this part and the leader of such was called Tu-rere-ao, and they came to the sea coast at Manawa-tu, and perhaps they are still there to this day."

Now the words of Pohea were correct because he and his war party had killed Tu-rere-ao and all his sub tribe, in revenge for the death of Au-kehu, who had been killed by Tu-rere-ao and his party, and the bodies of the people of Tu-rere-ao had been kept as food for the troops of Pohea to live on while they were on this expedition to kill the wheke (octopus) at Rau-kawa.

Kahu pani said "I ask without object about Ture-ao, as I thought he had gone to your place, and such are the inland stupids questions, who ask such foolish things with object, but as we are living so very lonely here, hence I ask about one of our party who is lost to us here."

Pohea said "You are right top ask such questions, such questions are quite right to be asked, about some of your people, who should ask about members of the tribe, but the heads of the tribe, so that those who are absent from the tribe, that such if they ever hear, may know that those at their home feel anxious about them."

Kahu-pani said "I ask about Ture-ao because he is my brother, and we and my children have become orphans as my husband was drowned at sea, at the place where you killed the wheke (octopus) and hence I ask about my supreme lord my brother."

So she sat and wept, and when the people of the war party slept she felt malicious against Pohea and Tama-ngakau because she had indistinctly heard that they had page (219)killed her brother so she sent one of her daughters to tell one of the women of Pohea's party who was cook of the sacred food for the party of Pohea, with a present of a Tii root (d) now this woman was related to Kahu-pani, as this woman was a child of one of the prisoners who had been taken in war in ancient times when the Whanga-nui people made war on the South Island's tribes and eat the killed, and Kahu-pani's daughter told to the women to come and sleep in the house of Kahu-pani her mother. The woman went as asked, who was questioned by Kahu-pani as to the doings in regard to the killing of the wheke (octopus) and when all this had been related, Kahu-pani appeared to be sleepy, and she wept, and the woman asked her the cause of her weeping, who answered and said "I am grieved about my brother who has thought fit to stay in the other Island, and I have not heard of him, but I have seen omens, I have seen gods on the sea coast, who pat the surf with their hands, perhaps it is an indication of the death of my brother."

The woman said "Perhaps you are correct, death as come on your brother."

Kahu-pani asked "Have you heard of a battle in your country?"

The woman said "It is so, we had a battle just before we started for this part, and we killed the people of Tu-rere-ao and he also was killed, and we dried the flesh of the killed as food for us to live on whilst on this expedition to kill the wheke (octopus) at Rau kawa, and that was all the food we lived on while on this expedition.

At dawn of day this woman went back to her party to the war party of Pohea, so soon as she had departed Kahu-pani began to weep, and her people asked for the cause of her weeping, she told the, and also about the death of her brother by the war party of Pohea, so the people of Kahu-pani were inflamed with rage to the people page (220)of Pohea and his war party, so they held a consultation and when they had settled the plan of the action they should take they agreed to attack Pohea and his people in the night so they did and killed the people and also killed Pohea and Tama-ngakau, and they eat Pohea and Tama-ngakau, and not one of the war party of Pohea ever came back to their home at Whanga-nui, and those of Pohea who were not killed were taken as slaves and kept there, and the descendants of those who were enslaved came across to Whanga-nui and related the story of their defeat and hence the knowledge of these facts by our people at our home at Whanga-nui.

(197A to follow this)