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Maori Religion and Mythology Part 1

Atua Toro

Atua Toro

Any spirit god, or familiar spirit, that is employed by its human medium as a messenger or exploring agent for any purpose is termed an atua toro, from toro=to reconnoitre, explore, discover, visit, &c. Thus, an atua might be despatched as an active agent in black magic, or to convey or seek information. When the Arawa were about to attack Te Tumu, some eighty-odd years ago, one Te Kahawai despatched his familiar spirit, known as Te Weka, to reconnoitre the place. The atua returned promptly to its medium, and this in itself was viewed as a good omen. When Tamatea visited Taupo, he heard that Ngatoro-i-rangi was approaching the place, and so despatched the atua called Tunui-o-te-ika to act as a guide to him. Ere long Tunui was seen gleaming above the hill Pihanga, hence it was known that Ngatoro had arrived there. We have noted elsewhere that the visible form of Tunui is a comet. Again, we are told that, during certain hostilities at Taupo, Pahau, a medium of the atua Rongomai, who appears as a meteor or fireball, despatched that being in the direction of an approaching enemy force. The demon was seen by all rushing through space, and it burst at the place where the enemy was at the time. This was accepted as a good omen for the despatchers and, an evil one for the approaching invaders. It is not made clear as to whether the act of so despatching Rongomai was done as an act of divination, or for some other purpose. Doubtless the truth in all such cases is that, whenever such unusual phenomena were seen, some cunning warlock or medium would at once claim that he was responsible for the display, and take every advantage of it. We shall see in the legend of Ngatoro and Manaia that the atua Rongomai, Tama-i-waho, Tunui-o-te-ika, Kahukura, Tama-te-uira, Aitupawa, and Turongo-rau were all utilized as atua toro by Ngatoro. As we have seen, Tunui is represented by a comet, Kahukura by the rainbow, and Aitupawa by thunder.