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The Maori - Volume II

IX Social Customs—Continued Customs Pertaining To Birth

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IX Social Customs—Continued Customs Pertaining To Birth

High-class ritual pertained only to superior families—The first-born male and female children of most importance—Tutelary beings presiding over birth—The Children of the Mist, born of the Mist Maid—The mate marama—Giving birth no severe ordeal to the Maori woman—Future mother congratulated by people—Rite to cause conception—Rite to prevent conception—Childless women and sooterkin—Curious beliefs—Cosmogonic period of birth—Abortion—Immature birth a danger to the community—The nest house—Segregation—The tapuhi or attendants—Parturition—Ritual formulæ—Child welcomed into the world—Disposal of the iho—The Tohi rite—Divination—The Oho rangi rite—Ceremonial release of a bird—The Pou uekaha or birth registration—The Maioha rite—Child dedicated to Supreme Being—The baptism of the child—The birth tree—The Tua rite—Ceremonial feast—Tapu name of child—Illegitimate children—Weaning—Curious form of cradle—The nanu—Massage of infant—The names of Io, how used—Flute played to expedite birth—Phallic flutes—Infanticide.

It has already been explained that the Maori has strong aristocratic tendencies, and that the more elaborate ceremonies and high-class ritual were not employed in connection with the common folk of a community. Thus it is that, in order to explain the more interesting customs and practices connected with birth, it will be necessary for us to deal with a family of the chieftain class. With regard to the science of genesiology, the writer happens to possess a somewhat extensive budget of data as collected from several different tribes. This budget includes the higher form of ritual employed by the Takitumu folk. The ritual connected with birth, as pertaining to the cult of Io, the Supreme Being, is of special interest, as in the dedication of the child to that page 2 revered being. The ritual formulæ employed at such dedication are of an extremely archaic nature and interesting withal.

The most elaborate ceremonial was that connected with the first-born male child of a superior family, younger sons were not, apparently, honoured to so great a degree. The first-born female of such a family was, in like manner, considered to be of more importance than later-born females. The tutelary beings presiding over birth were Hina-te-iwaiwa or Hine-te-iwaiwa, and Hine-korako, both of whom are lunar personifications. In olden times marvellous things occurred in the world of light, according to Maori myth and folk lore, hence we hear of strange cases of unnatural birth and weird forms of parentage. A few such cases have been described. My old friends of the Tuhoe tribe are descended from Hine-pukohu the Mist Maid, who came down from the heavens and mated with Te Maunga (The Mountain), their progeny being one Potiki, the eponymic ancestor of the tribe Nga Potiki, called Tuhoe in later times. These fierce, virile bushmen are of celestial origin, they were born of mist and mountain; they are the Children of the Mist.

The condition of mate marama (moon or monthly sickness) always rendered women unclean in former days, and we have noted certain disabilities that were attached to that condition. This unclean state is often denoted by the word tapu, as in connection with the above affection, with birth and also with death. Little inconvenience did this condition cause native women physically, as in the matter of giving birth to a child she was remarkably free from suffering, and the ills experienced by women among more civilised folk. The care taken of a woman of rank, to be described presently, does not present the conditions under which an ordinary woman of the people brought forth her child. I have known women on the march, or engaged in some task, to go aside and return in an hour or so with the child. Truly is the wind tempered to the shorn or doctorless lamb.

In the case of a high-born woman, laborious work would not be expected of her when it was known that she was with child. Also the people of the community would probably visit her in a body and congratulate her on her being about page 3 to bear a child hei kahaki i te kawai—to carry on the line of descent of a high-class family. The Maori ever deeply deplored the extinction of an old and superior family. When, during pregnancy, a woman developed a desire for any particular food, it was said that the child craved it, and that food was called a whakawaiu, a producer of milk.

A very peculiar rite, known as whakato tamariki, was sometimes performed by native priests; it was a performance of white magic in order to cause a woman to conceive, hence was it styled “child implanting.” We have already noted two ways of bringing about such a condition, but there were also others. The following is a procedure that obtained among the Takitumu folk. The officiating priest ascertained which sex was desired by the parents, then procured a leaf which he cut into the outline of a human figure, not forgetting to indicate the sex. He then conducted the woman to a tapu place and bade her lie down on a mat, on her back. By means of certain purificatory acts and ritual formulæ he removed from her all evil and harmful influences, so as to leave her in a pure, receptive, morally clean condition. She now resembled the Earth Formed Maid, the first of all women, created by Tane the demiurge on the puke or mons veneris of the Earth Mother in the days when the world was young. The priest then intoned an invocation to Io, the Supreme One, asking him to endow the woman with the powers of the Earth Formed Maid, the power to produce children. He then put aside the woman's cloak, and, standing at her feet, facing her, holding the leaf image in his hand, he recited: “This young one is now a disciple of thine, O Io! Thy breath, the breath of the Earth Formed Maid, may it now alight.” He then placed the little leaf image on the body of the woman, just above the navel, and again covered her with the cloak. The next act was the lifting of the tapu from them both, after which the woman was free to return to her home. The priest preserved the leaf image, which was afterwards placed under her pillow when she was about to confined. Cruder forms of this rite were performed over women of less note, but in these cases lesser deities were appealed to.

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The causing of conception by means of trees and stones possessing the necessary powers has already been described. Polack, an early sojourner among the northern tribes, tells us of a shamanistic tohunga named Arawhata, to whom childless women used to apply. He would tell a woman that he had the power to induce the moon to cause her to conceive, but that she must bring him a certain number of baskets of food to serve as an offering to the planet. Evidently that priest had the commercial instinct. The Tuhoe folk will tell you that the moon is the husband of all women, a singular belief in face of the fact that Hine-te-iwaiwa is a female personification of that orb, she who is the tutelary being of women and controller of all matters pertaining to birth.

A rite, termed Tuapa, was sometimes performed in order to prevent conception in a woman, as one who wearied of child-bearing. In this rite a stone was employed as an emblem of sterility. Some natives assert that the sex of a child can be ascertained prior to birth by means of certain signs. One such is as follows:—If the dark parts of a woman's breasts are comparatively extensive, then the child is a female; if the reverse, the child is a male. Again, the natives believe that the unborn child receives sustenance from the mother through the fontanelles, or rua kai (food apertures) as they are termed.

In olden days childless women sometimes carried and nursed a kind of dummy child, or sooterkin, such as a small wooden image of human form, or a stone with a piece of garment wrapped round it. A Tuhoe woman utilised a large potato as a sooterkin, and when, in later days, she gave birth to a child it was named Tama-riwai (Potato Son) in memory of the potato child. Women sang lullabies over these inanimate children as they would sing to living ones. I have collected several such songs. Nearly five decades ago I knew a childless native woman who nursed and carried a young pig as a substitute for genuine offspring. Still earlier sojourners in Maoriland have seen women suckling young pigs.

In some parts at least a pregnant woman was not allowed to have her hair cut, lest the child should be stunted in its page 5 development. If such a woman has a flushed face then the child is a female. If she feels the child move within her, then bad weather is at hand. If a whe (an insect, the mantis) is seen on a woman, it is a sign that she is pregnant. The singular act styled piki whenua was a bestriding or standing over the residue of birth; it was performed by childless women in order to render them fruitful. The fructifying amulet, called a tiki, described elsewhere, was worn for the same purpose. Hine-te-iwaiwa is said to have been the first female over whom virtual formulæ to facilitate birth were recited. Such a charm is termed a Tuku. A long formula has been preserved we are told, was recited by Tane over Hinetitama (the Dawn Maid) in order to cause her to conceive. It is of a very archaic aspect and beyond our powers of translation, so numerous are the obsolete sacerdotal expressions it contains.

The period of birth among mankind is based on the mystic twelve nights periods of the first of all acts of parturition, when the Earth Mother brought forth her young to the world of light. These po (nights or periods) were, as we have seen, divided into two series of six each, and it was during the second series that the primal progeny came into the world. If the period of labour be drawn out to the fourth or fifth night (day) the child dies; on the fifth or sixth the mother also dies; the old expression rauru whiwhia, betokening a difficult birth.

If a first-born child died in infancy the parents would probably get priest to perform the Tuora rite over the next child born, so as to preserve its life. Cases of premature birth were supposed to have been brought about by the mother having infringed some law of tapu. A woman would commit such an act if she wished to procure abortion. In order to effect this she might merely hie her to a tapu spot, pluck a herb growing thereon, apply it to her mouth and cast it away. That was quite sufficient; she had “eaten” or polluted a tapu spot; the gods would attend to the matter. An immature birth is always a danger to a community, for its wairua (spirit) may develop into atua kahu (kahu=the enveloping membrane), a cacodæmon, a malignant demon delighting in harassing page 6 man. Reflect on the cases of Te Awanui and Te Rehu-o-tainui already described. Such a spirit may take up its abode in an animal, dog, lizard, or bird, and work incalculable harm as an atua ngau tangata (man-assailing demon). A person assailed by such a demon would request a tohunga to expel it, and he would do so by means of the takutaku rite. He would place a piece of herb, perhaps a long leaf or culm, on the body of the sufferer as an ara atua, or way by which the afflicting spirit was supposed to leave the patient's body. An exorcistic formula (karakia takutaku) would he then recite to cause the demon to depart. A rite to lay the demon spirit was sometimes performed over the spot whereat the fœtus had been buried; such an immature birth is styled a whakatahe. Internal medicines for any purpose were practically unknown in pre-European days.

The whare kohanga, or “nest house,” was an important institution in olden times, and deserves some explanation. This name was applied to a temporary hut erected as a lying-in hospital, and which was occupied by a woman for a short period before the birth of her child, and for a week or so afterwards, that is until the Tua or Tohi rite had been performed over the infant. We are told that, in some cases, or some districts, two huts were so used, the whare kahu, or birth house, and the “nest house,” to which mother and child were removed about a day after the confinment. This double house arrangement was assuredly not a common practice, however. There is a certain aspect of tapu, in the sense of “uncleanness,” pertaining to birth, hence the segregation. Little ceremony pertained to the function among the ordinary folk, but in the case of important women it was a highly ceremonious one. It was not seemly for a person to enter or leave this world within a dwelling house, a superstition that has brought considerable hardship to the ever fanciful Maori.

The comparatively comfortable hut described below was by no means always in evidence, and women often needed a Spartan-like spirit of endurance to face hardships imposed upon them. In 1814 the Rev. S. Marsden wrote as follows of a woman he saw “lying with a child about three days old by her side in the open air, sheltered only by a few reeds page 7 placed in the direction from which the storm of wind and rain blew.”

Some tell us that great care was taken to avoid pollution of the sacred life principle of the infant during its first week or so in the world of life, that is until the Tua rite was performed over it. After that performance danger would be lessened; the gods would be watching over the child. Thus the mother would leave her hut to partake of food, lest the child become defiled, and great care was displayed in conveying food to the mother.

In a long account of the erection of the “nest house,” or hut, we are told that no window space was left in it, but two ventilation apertures (koropihanga) were left, one at each end, just under the ridge pole. The length of such a hut was about a fathom and a-half, say nine feet, one māro and a hau, as the Maori puts it. The width was about one fathom and a cubit. A porch, some three or four feet deep, provided a lounging place for the woman on pleasant days; the door was simply a suspended mat. The most desirable form of fire to have inside the hut, chimneys being unknown in Maoriland, was that termed ahi tupopoto. This was a peculiar kind of furnace, or self-burning stove, the stove itself burned away with the fuel therein. A sheet of green bark of the white pine tree was obtained and exposed to sun or fire heat, when it soon curled up and assumed the form of a hollow cylinder, as is well known to us bush-dwelling folk. This was set up in the hut in a vertical position, the lower end being inserted in the earth. This cylinder was then filled with charcoal, and, when the woman wished the hut warmed, the charcoal was kindled on the top. The fuel burned steadily, emitting no smoke, and, as it burned away, so also was the bark cylinder consumed.

Certain primitive sanitary arrangements were made behind the hut for the benefit of the woman. When near her time she would take up her abode in this “nest house,” accompanied by two of her female relatives to act as tapuhi (attendants or nurses). These women remained with her; they did not cook for her or for themselves, that task being performed by the women of the adjacent village home, or at a temporary cooking page 8 shed erected at some distance from the nest house. There was no close communication between the female cooks and the tapuhi; they remained apart. When a meal was ready, then one of the cooks would carry it to a spot midway between the cookhouse and the nest house, deposit it at that spot, and then return. One of the tapuhi women would then fetch it and convey it to the nest house, where the three women would partake of it together, probably in the porch, on a fine day possibly in the open. Only near relatives of the woman would visit her, and her husband, or a priest if some rite was to be performed. This hut would be destroyed by fire after the woman returned to her home, and the tapu would be taken off the place, during which ceremony relatives of the parents would eat a portion of food at the place in order to render it “common.” The tapuhi, or attendants, did not visit their homes while they were attending on their relative, lest some pernicious influence be conveyed to the tapu “nest house.” The terms puhi and rauhi were sometimes applied to these women.

In parturition a native woman kneels down with her knees well apart. An attendant woman squats down in front of her and the two clasp each other round the body, below the arms. The attendent puts her knee against the body of her charge, on the upper part of the abdomen, and presses it downward. Should a woman be overtaken when away alone, as in the forest, she would seek a stout stick and lash it in a horizontal position to two saplings at a proper height. This rude obstetric apparatus is termed a pae whakaruru, or pae whakairi. She would then lean against the pole and so work her body as to produce the required downward pressure. In some cases, however, no such apparatus was employed. Truly these folk are masters of self-help.

In some cases of rauru whiwhia (entangled rauru, this being one of the names of the umbilical cord, two others are iho and pito), or prolonged labour, a woman was conveyed to the tuahu, or sacred place of the hamlet, where a rite was performed over her by a priest. In the case of a high-grade tohunga being employed, the following formula was repeated by him at such a time: “Come, O dame, in the time of fulness, page 9
Old wooden coffins, in which exhumed bones of dead were placed. A considerable number of these receptacles, showing peculiar carved designs, are preserved in the Auckland and Wellington Museums. Dominion Museum collection

Old wooden coffins, in which exhumed bones of dead were placed. A considerable number of these receptacles, showing peculiar carved designs, are preserved in the Auckland and Wellington Museums.
Dominion Museum collection

page 10 bear thyself bravely before the world, even as did your ancestress Hine-titama, when traversed were the ways of earth and heaven, even to the ascent to Tiritiri-o-matangi [eleventh heaven]. Strenuously pursue your course, bear out the functions of your ancestress, the Earth Formed Maid, to abide within Hui-te-rangiora.”

This reference to the first of human mothers was held to be most helpful. This formula was recited to induce the woman to bear herself right bravely. The priest then repeated the following to cause the child to be born in a correct manner: “Now I appeal to the gods of heaven and earth that they may cause you to come forth to Tahuaroa, to this world. Come forth, O child! Tread thy path, the broad way of Tane. Bring thyself by the way of thy ancestress Hinetitama, who came forth to this world to dwell in peace within Hui-te-ananui. Content shall be thy lot in the world of life and light, and sighs of relief shall proclaim the ordeal past, O child!”

Tahuaroa is a name for this world, the fair earth, and Hui-te-ana-nui was the abode or domicile of Hine-titama, the Dawn Maid; it was erected by Tane and Tangaroa.

In some cases other formulæ were repeated by a priest in order to cause a child to be born. The higher-class effusions were addressed to Io. When it was known that a woman of rank had given birth to a child, then people began to collect gifts of food products, garments, etc., for the occasion of the ceremonial greeting of child and mother, known as the Maioha function. Should a priest or other learned person be present at the birth of a child, or shortly afterwards, he would welcome it into the world with such a brief address as the following: “Welcome, O child! Thou who comest from far Tawhiti-nui, from Tawhiti-roa, from Tawhiti-pamamao and Te Hono-i-wairua.” Thus the child was welcomed as having come from the old homeland of the race.

Cases of difficult parturition may be induced by mental worry or by delinquencies, wrongdoing, and on such an occasion a priest might recite the following: “Welcome, O child! I greet you coming from the calm haven to cross the threshhold of Huaki-pouri, as formed by Tane at the Strand page 11 at Kurawaka, whereat were shown the wondrous powers of the gods, the sacred powers of the mother. So gathers the blood within the womb, formed are the eyes; Rua-i-te-pukenga and Rua-i-te-horahora are acquired. Now moves the child within, to appear as stillborn, as a fractious one, or as a lusty babe, passing through the narrow passage to the outer world, forcing his way to the enduring world, O child!”

As the chaunt ceased, the priest, with his right hand, touched the head of the woman, and then the child would be born. Should, however, the case still prove to be an obstinate one, then the woman would be conveyed to the tuahu, or place of rites of the village community, together with her attendants and near relatives. At that spot the woman would kneel down, and one of the tapuhi women would take up her position in front of her, as already explained. The officiating priest now recited another formula, after which he again touched the crown of the woman's head with his right hand. The female attendant now performed her duties, and birth was assured, though haply the child might be stillborn. The mother would now be conducted to the nest house, where she remained, together with her attendants, until the iho (umbilical cord) fell from the child. This iho might be buried at some place, or put in a hollow tree, or a rock cleft, and such a place would ever after be known as “The Iho of——,”with the name of the child added. They were sometimes so deposited on a boundary of tribal or clan lands. It is said that some of the Wai-rarapa folk deposited the iho of their children in a small stone cistern sunk in the earth at a tuahu, and called a waka taupa. It was formed of six flat stones, and resembled a small takuahi, or stone lined fire pit.

In the East Coast district the iho or pito was sometimes inserted in a stone, or a wooden post. A hole was bored in the stone or wood, the cord was deposited therein, and the hole was plugged with similar material of stone or wood. One of these stones at Matahiia somewhat resembles a dumbbell in form. The stone plug has been worked down smoothly flush with the surrounding stone. This part of the stone is called the pito. This stone was held to possess certain mana; thus when a woman wished to be separated from page 12 her husband she would go to the stone and lay her hand on it. This would be accompanied by a charm and probably some further ceremonial act would be performed. Another of the stones is known of in the above district, and a carved figure in human form received from the same coast by the Auckland Museum some years ago was found to have a plugged hole in it. On the wooden plug being extracted there was found within the bored hole an umbilical cord and an object that is probably the dried-up penis of a child. This carven image is a double form, the two figures being back to back, thus resembling the double stone images placed among growing crops that seem to have represented the dual power of Rongo-ma-Tane.

In the case of a stillborn child, the woman would return to her home in the village, and it might be decided that the gifts destined for the child should be presented to her, in which case a ceremonious function was held, after which came a feast, at which the woman and her near relatives would eat apart from the people.

A sharp-edged flake of obsidian, or a form of chert, was used for cutting the iho, or cord. The place of cutting was measured by the konui (length of first joint of thumb), or by the koiti (length of little finger). Several materials were employed for tying, one was the pliant stem of a creeping plant called makahakaha. A piece of the inner bark of the houhi tree was sometimes used as a bandage; it was soaked in oil obtained from the kernel of the titoki berry ere being secured round the child's body.

A singular belief obtained in some districts that a male child is never born during an easterly or northerly wind, or a female child during a southerly or westerly one.

The following is one of the higher forms of ritual intoned by a priest during parturition. It calls upon the child to come forth to the world of life, and upon Io the Supreme Being to favour it and bring it into being as a living soul. It is an interesting formula to record, and well worthy of study by Maori linguists:— page 13

“Haramai; whakaputa i a koe he toi tu, he toi ora ki te ao turoa
Awhai nuku, awhai rangi nau, e Io matua… e
Tenei to pia, tenei to aro,
He aro nui, he aro tamaua take ki a koe, e Io te waiora.
Tenei ka takoto i a koe te ara,
He ara tangata, he ara ariki ki te whai ao;
Ki te ao marama nau, e Io mata ngaro . . e… i.
Ki tenei pia ariki nau … e.
Tukua mai to aro, he aro atua, he aro tipua, he aro nou . . e . . i.
Huakina, huakina i te mata ngaro.
Uea i te ara whaiti ki taiao to pia ki tenei mauri ora,
Ki tenei mauri ka nguha ki a koe.
Tukua, tukua mai he mauri ora ki taiao nei.”

When the pito or iho of the infant came away then it was that the Tohi or Tua rite was performed over the child. This was a baptismal ceremony, the object of which was not so much the naming of the child as its dedication to the gods; it was placed in their care by means of this ceremony. This is a form of the far-spread baptismal rite of pre-Christian times.

The officiating priests would select a place whereat the rite might be performed, some stream at a secluded spot where water waist deep was available. Such a baptismal font was called wai matua, an expression denoting pure, virgin waters coming untainted from the body of the Earth Mother. When the Maori first saw missionaries christening a child with water contained in a vessel fashioned by human hands, he condemned such procedure as being incorrect.

The baptismal party formed a small procession in proceeding to the wai tohi, or baptismal waters. The assistant priest (tohunga tarahau) headed the procession, then the mother with her infant followed, then her husband, then the mothers of the parents, then the two tapuhi or female attendants of the mother, then the fathers of the parents. The chief priest (tohunga tohi) brought up the rear. The latter would provide himself with a small green branchlet of tawhiri (Pittosporum) or mapou (Myrsine) or karamu (Coprosma). On reaching the place selected, the two female attendants advanced and took their stand by the side of the assistant priest. That functionary then proceeded to spread a mat at the edge of the water. On this he spread two fine woven cloaks of superior make, probably a korowai first, and then page 14 over that a paepaeroa or mahiti. These were placed with their upper parts next the stream. If such weapons as greenstone or whale's bone patu and a taiaha were provided, the latter was laid on the upper cloak, and the short weapons deposited with butt ends together and the blades pointing outwards and resting on the taiaha.

The mother takes her position on the left of her husband; their parents stand behind them. The mother holds her infant so that its head rests on her right arm. The two priests and one of the female attendants stand on the right of the parents, the other tapuhi stands in the rear. The chief priest divests himself of his garments, and is clad in nought save some leaves or branchlets secured round his waist as a kind of apron. He now enters the water and takes his stand at a place where it reaches to his navel. In his right hand he clasps the branchlet he had provided himself with. He takes up a little water in his left hand and intones a formula in which he informs Para-whenua-mea (personified form of water) that he has taken his stand within her. He then addresses Io the Parent and intimates that he is a tapu person learned in superior ritual, and so a fit person to conduct the present function. Having concluded this chaunt the priest dips his sprig in the water, then turns to the mother, who places the child in his arms so that his right arm supports its head, whereupon he sprinkles water from the sprig over the head of the child. The priest then turns to the east so that both he and the child shall face the rising sun. The priest now intones another formula declaring that here is a child that is now dedicated to the beings in the heavens at this wai matua (see ante), these waters of Tawhiri-matea, of Te Ihorangi, of Papa-tuanuku, and of Para-whenua-mea, and repeats the name which has been assigned to the child. The four names here mentioned are those of the personified forms of air, rain, earth and the waters of the earth. The priest then covers the mouth and nostrils of the child with his free hand, stoops and immerses his own body and that of the child in the water. Rising therefrom he turns the child so that the water will run from its ears. He then hands the child to its father, who passes it over to the mother.

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The assistant priest now plucks a few pieces of herbage, anything growing at the place, and hands them to the baptising priest. The latter, holding the leaves in his hands, repeats a brief chaunt: “Here is thy disciple, a disciple of thine, O Io the Parent! Given over to thee that he may develop and become a goodly person in thy eyes. For thine is this child, this disciple, a disciple who inherits the teachings of the ages.”

At this juncture the priest releases the leaves in his hand, and allows them to drift away on the waters of the stream. This is a divinatory act; from the drift of those leaves the priest will read the future welfare and ability of the child, its earthly destiny, be it good or evil. The child is now launched into the world as a separate personality, as it were. The sympathetic bond that has united it to the mother is severed; the mental or moral phases of the mother's nature will no longer affect the child as they have hitherto. The immersion of the child has also banished all evil or earthly influences over it, and brings it under the influence of the gods.

The head priest now renders another formula, which runs somewhat as follows: “Here am I, a servant in thy service, O Tawhiri-matea on high…. O Whaitiri! Deal kindly with this son of thine, O Tama-te-uira! Let all desirable traits be assigned to this child of rank, this disciple of thine, O Tawhiri-matea!” These beings mentioned are the personified forms of wind, or air, of thunder, and of lightning. This is a prelude to the rite termed Oho rangi, which betokens an awakening of the heavens. The priest takes two stones, strikes them forcibly together, and throws them up in the air. If that priest possesses sufficient mana a peal of thunder will now be heard, the awe-inspiring voice of Hine whaitiri, the Thunder Maid. If no thunder sounds, then the ceremonies performed will be futile. Again, we are told that if such a peal of thunder sounds in the east or north the fact is looked upon as a good omen for the future of that infant. If it resounds in the south or west, it is a bad omen. The next act of the priest is to sprinkle water over the assembled persons by page 16 means of the branchlet, as he intones another brief effusion that may be termed a blessing bestowed upon the child.

We now come to an extremely interesting ceremony, to which parallels may be found in Indian and ancient Babylonian lore. This act is the ceremonial releasing of a bird, a peculiar method of communicating with the gods employed by priests of southern Asia and New Zealand. When the priest leaves the water he must be careful not to wipe or dry his body, or even to uhu, or “strip,” the water off his head, limbs or body. The assistant priest now hands him a captive bird, which is either a miromiro or a tatahore (two small forest birds). Holding this bird in his hand he chaunts another formula. In this he calls upon the child by name to open its ears, to cultivate a receptive mind, that it may imbibe all the higher forms of knowledge as represented by their personified forms, the Rua brethren. At the conclusion of the chaunt he places the bird in contact with the head of the child for a moment, and then releases it.

The only explanation I have received of the above act is the following, but I cannot say that it is the correct one; it presents an element of doubt:—The priest has already beseeched the gods to endow the child with mana. All mana emanates from the gods and must return to them at the death of the recipient. The release of the bird symbolises the return of the mana bestowed on the child to the gods when the child dies, at whatever age. If the thunder peal was heard, that was a token of acquiescence from the gods; to those gods the benefits acquired must eventually return.

Our priest now proceeds to the rear of the paparoa, or cloak-covered spot occupied by the parents, and there excavates a hole in the earth about knee deep. In that hole he sets a post, called the pou uekaha, at the base of which he deposits a certain number of stones, one for each day of the period of labour of the mother. He also placed therein another series of stones to indicate the month in which the child was born, such month being noted by its number in relation to the full series of twelve months. Thus if the child was born in the fifth month then five stones were placed in the pit. Presumably the two series of stones were kept separate. In many page 17 cases the iho, or severed umbilical cord, of the child was deposited on the stones. The hole was then filled with gravel and tamped by the assistant priest. In some cases, apparently, no post was set up, but the hole was excavated near a tree that served as a mark whereby to locate it in the future. The spot where the ceremonies were performed would be ever known as “The Iho of——,”*and it would be quite a revered place. In the case of a dispute as to the ownership of the surrounding land, the buried stones would serve as an undeniable Crown grant.

Our baptismal party would now return to the village. As the procession approached the village, the assistant priest would chaunt the whakaaraara cry that warned the villagers that the ceremony was over. All the people would now assemble on the plaza of the village in order to welcome the baptismal party in the manner beloved by the Maori. The party advanced slowly amid the clamorous welcome of the villagers, to halt without the outer threshold of the principal house, the assembly house facing the plaza. The assistant priest now busied himself in arranging the mat, cloaks and weapons brought from the paparoa in the porch, below the window space. The child was then laid on the cloaks with its head resting on one of the weapons. The assistant priest then took his stand by one of the posts supporting the barge boards of the house, facing the assembled people on the plaza, who were greeting the child with cries of welcome, with quaint addresses handed down the centuries. The priest now intoned another old formula that craved desirable conditions for the child. At its conclusion the people assembled all joined in a short response. Thus, with speech and ritual, with song and tears, the infant was welcomed into the world. Such is the ceremony termed Maioha and Koroingo. The speech-makers greeted the child, its parents and elders, also the officiating priests, but the ceremony was mainly a welcoming of the child into the world of light and life. The gifts of food products, garments, ornaments, greenstone, whales'teeth, sharks'teeth, all obtainable objects prized by the Maori of yore, were then brought forward and presented, being placed by the side of

* Here the name of the child would be used.

page 18 the child. This function was followed by a ceremonial feast in which the parents and their near relatives ate apart from the people.

There are different forms of the short response uttered by the people at the conclusion of the chaunt above mentioned. One form is as follows: “Welcome, O child! To this world, the world of light.” No formula containing any reference to the Supreme Being was chaunted in the presence of the people; his name was too tapu to be made common. But the following was sometimes so rendered if the child, its parents and grandparents assembled at a secluded and tapu spot: “List, O child! By one sole power, the sacred power granted by the gods, was Tane enabled to ascend to the uppermost heaven, where Io the Parent alone was seen. His is the mighty, universal power; his the intense, unapproachable tapu; his the unattainable realm; his the welfare of all things. Then Tane attained to the baptismal waters of Puhaorangi, forbear of Oho-mai-rangi; the purifying waters of Hinekauorohia… Then was Tane called to the tapu place of Rehua at the bounds of the heavens, where all acquired knowledge was rendered permanent, the knowledge of portents, the knowledge of the gods, and Tane attained the thoughts of the gods, the enduring knowledge conveyed to this world, to be here retained as a guide for all on earth, O child!”

Such was the tohi ariki or aristocratic form of baptism of the Maori. Less ceremonious rites were performed over children of low degree. Among some tribes a slave, or a member of a weak tribe, was slain as a choice dish for the feast, but this practice was apparently not followed by the Takitumu tribes.

A fine karakia tohi, or baptismal invocation, obtained from the Takitumu folk is marked by fine language and highly interesting sentiments and appeals. It is addressed to the Supreme Being, who is alluded to as Io the Parent, Io of the Hidden Face, Io the Welfare of all Things, and as Io the Permanent One. At a certain part of the invocation the priest held the child up in his hands, his arms outstretched, and so dedicated it to the Supreme Being. This was viewed as a very solemn act. As the priest so held up the infant he page 19 repeated the following: “Here is thy disciple upraised in my hands as an offering from sky and earth to thee, O Io! Now thy disciple is baptised at the waters of Moana o Rongo to thee, O Io! Now do I baptise and name (the child) to thee, O Io the Permanent One.” The ritual formula is a long one, but highly archaic and difficult to translate. It is an illustration of the importance of the Tohi rite in Maori eyes.

As observed, these ceremonies differed as in different districts. In one account the iho or umbilical cord of the child plays a part during the Oho rangi rite. It is conveyed to the paparoa by the paternal grandfather of the child, if present, and, at a certain juncture he hands it to the assistant priest. It is contained in a small plaited receptacle fashioned from bulrush leaves or rushes. As the assistant receives it, the chief priest, called sometimes the tohunga tohi ora when performing the Tohi rite, repeated the following formula calling upon the thunder to sound. The names commencing with Taka are those of different phases of thunder: “On high let crashing thunder roar;'tis Takamai-tu, Takamai-i-awhea, and Takamai-te-ahurangi. Here am I, a proper man, a male child of Io the Parentless, of the origin, of the acme of godlike power, of the powers of the heavens and of Papa the Parentless…Let godlike powers and mentality abide with this infant, a descendant of thy godlike offspring, O Rangi!”

As he concludes this recital the priest dips up a little water in his right hand and sprinkles it over the parents of the child as they stand on the paparoa, as he repeats: “The influential iho, the important iho, the parental iho to thee, O Io the Unseen.” Then, taking the receptacle containing the iho from his assistant, the chief priest dips it in the water, and repeats: “uplift, uplift on high the influential iho, the important iho, the parental iho of this child——to thee, O Io of all knowledge of Tikitiki-o-rangi.” Where the blank space occurs the name of the child is inserted. In this account the priest is said to have sprinkled the head of the child with water instead of immersing it. Also, the assistant handed the child to the chief priest, intoning the following words as he did so: “May all evil, all misfortunes, be warded from this child, O Io the Parentless.” A secondary page 20
Typical old Maori women of the Tuhoe bush tribe, taken in front of the “Puhi o Matatua” at Rua-tahuna. One wearing a heitiki.

Typical old Maori women of the Tuhoe bush tribe, taken in front of the “Puhi o Matatua” at Rua-tahuna. One wearing a heitiki.

page 21 remark by the chief priest during the aspersion was; “Be diligent in the performance of ritual. Be exact in thought and act. Enjoy well-being, O soul, in this world of light.”

One of the old wise men of last century explained the act of laying the child's head upon a weapon as a substitute for the old custom of human sacrifice at such a function.

The final act of the priest consisted in freeing from tapu those who had attended the Tohi ora rite.

The Maori had much practise in cutting up the human body for the oven, and possessed a very fair empirical knowledge of anatomy, but he does not seem to have recognised the function of the umbilical cord. I have before me a list of names of parts of the human body, as known to the Maori, and the list contains one hundred and eighty-two names. Some, however, are duplicate names.

Congenital stigmas occurred among these natives, though personally I have seen but few cases. Albinism certainly occurred, and the reddish haired, fair skinned type is an interesting one.

The Tua rite was essentially a purificatory one, and apparently the Tohi had a similar effect. It removed the tapu pertaining to birth. In his “Primitive Culture” Tylor remarks: “It should be noticed that though the naming of the child is often associated with its ceremonial cleansing, there is no real connection between the two rites, beyond their coming due at the same early time of life.” Now this exactly described the position with regard to the Maori; the naming of the child was not a stressed feature of the above described rite, which was a purificatory and dedicatory one. This appears strange when we know that the word tua means “to give a name to.” Among some northern tribes it seems to have been a custom to plant a young tree, or the branchlet used in the baptismal ceremony, at the birth of a child. The future welfare, vigour, etc., of the child are said to have been foreshadowed by the vigorous growth of the tree. Poor growth betokened unsatisfactory conditions for the child.

Among the Matatua tribes the Tua rite seems to have been a different function to the Tohi, and it was performed at the nest house prior to the baptism of the infant in the page 22 Tohi. The two most important charms recited over the child in the Tua rite were known as the Tua of Tu and Tua of Rongo. The former was connected with the art of war, while the latter was for the purpose of endowing the child with energy, ability, etc., in the arts of peace. The food supplies for the ceremonial feast held after the performance of the rite were cooked in four separate ovens, termed the tuakaha, potaka, ruahine and tukupara. These different lots of food were for the priests, the fighting men, the priestesses, and the bulk of the people. This meant that the first and third of these steam ovens were of small size, and the other two very large ones, or, in these two cases, several ovens might be utilised. The different phases of tapu called for this procedure. The child might be given a tapu name at birth, if of a high-class family, but this name was discarded at or after the Tua rite, and a new one was then bestowed upon the infant. The first name is described as an ingoa whakaii or ingoa whakarare. The performance of the Tua lifted much of the tapu from the infant, and so friends were then allowed to nurse it. Should the tapu name contain any word of vernacular speech, then that word became tapu and could not be used by the people until the child's name was changed; a substitute word had to be found or coined. Woe betide any luckless wight who uttered the tapu name of a child. In one case in the Matatua district a child's tapu name was Te Ahiahi (The Evening), hence the word maruke came into use to denote evening; apparently coined for the occasion. These supplementary notes pertain to the Matatua district.

The stigma of illegitimacy was keenly felt by youthful unfortunates, but was not so much heard of in later years. If the person became a useful member of the community he did not suffer much from the title of poriro. Such children were alluded to as “offspring of the cuckoo” (He potiki na te koekoea).

When desirous of weaning a child a woman would sometimes rub her breasts with the bitter sap of the kawakawa fern (Lomaria fluviatilis), of the clematis, or of the horopito page 23 (Drimys axillaris). In some cases children were allowed to suckle until they could run about. Many will explain that children were weaned when they could turn over, that is when they had gained some command over their bodies. In extreme cases of lack of milk, a condition that occurred but seldom apparently, a favoured food for the infant was the flesh of young birds, which was masticated by the mother ere feeding her child. A belief obtained in some parts that, should any of a mother's milk chance to drop into a fire, a stoppage of the flow of milk would result.

An only child is described as a huatahi, while twins are termed mahanga. I was informed by an old native of the Matatua district that the first-born of twins was, in olden days, sometimes slain as an interloper. There is no trace of the curious couvade among our Maori folk. A result, apparently, of contact with civilisation is the number of childless couples among the natives at the present day.

Natives did not like to see an infant handled much or frequently by others than its parents. When a child was old enough to attempt to walk, then an apparatus called a pakokori or korowhitiwhiti might be constructed for it, to assist the child in obtaining command over its body and limbs. This was a small enclosure about a foot square. Four pieces of pliant supplejack were inserted in the earth at both ends, so as to form four small arches. Round the tops of those another piece was placed in a horizontal position and tied to the uprights so as to form a circular hoop. This hoop was padded with old garments, the end of which hung down inside the primitive cradle, and it was of such a height that it came just under the armpits of the child as it stood inside the apparatus. The arms of the child would be outside the hoop, and there it would stand with the support of the hoop, but ever on the move, and so soon became able to stand, and also to walk.

The Matatua folk are said to have occasionally used a form of swinging cradle, termed a porakaraka. It was simply a form of basket distended by means of a hoop of supplejack secured round the upper part. It was suspended from a beam, and to it was attached a cord which the mother occasionally page 24 pulled as she sat hard by weaving or plaiting, and so caused the basket cradle to swing to and fro.

Now when a child is born, one of the first acts performed is to shake it somewhat vigorously in order to expel the nanu. This is said to be a kind of viscous fluid in the mouth, or mouth and nose, of the child; it seems to be also known as ngaru. The hapless infant is said to have been held up by the legs, head downward, when so shaken. If this was not done the voice of the child would never be clear and distinct, but would ever have a nasal twang.

The form of massage performed on an infant is described by the term toto, the gerundial form whereof is toanga. The head, body and limbs were so treated that they might be shapely, and the process was continued daily for some considerable time. Some mothers seem to have flattened the nose of the child.* Was this a heritage from the flat-nosed Mouriuri mothers of past centuries? Flat noses can scarcely have been a characteristic of the original Polynesian race. This massaging was believed to render children shapely, supple, lithe, active. An old saying is: “Kia totoia nga waewae o taku mokopuna hai whai taki” (Let the legs of my grandchild be massaged that he may pursue challengers), a saying that will be clear to us when we come to witness the war dance.

The following remarks have been culled from a contribution on the care of children in former times made by Ihaia Hutana, of Waipawa: “When the boy grew up he was taught the customs and arts of his people, to deliver a speech well, to use weapons, to cultivate food, to hunt and snare, to take the products of forest, stream and ocean, to make and manage a canoe, and to build a house. Also was he instructed in the ancestral lore of his tribe, in signs pertaining to the elements, in fact, everything that would be beneficial to him in his future life. Indolence in a young person was severely censured, for it brought trouble to him, and to his children in later life.

… The salvation of the men of old was the attention they paid to raising children, for they well knew that safety lay in numbers, and that rank could be maintained only by tribal strength. Thus they proved the truth of the old saying that a house built within a fortified village is a token of

* This statement is denied by many natives.

page 25 strength, whereas a house erected in the open is food for fire. Our elders married that they might have offspring to perform necessary labours for the welfare of the community. They desired male children to carry on their families to future times; they were delighted to see their children become parents in their turn.”

Each of the twelve names of Io, the Supreme Being, represents a certain quality or attribute. That of Io-matua was employed in the Tohi ariki rite, for it meant Io the Parent. In the rite performed in order to endow a child with mental vigour, the ability to acquire desirable knowledge, the form employed was Io-mataaho (Io the enlightener). In that performed over pupils in the tapu School of Learning, the name Io-te-wananga was used, for he is the source of all tapu knowledge.

In olden days a very strange custom obtained among some northern tribes. In at least some cases of parturition the father or grandfather would be in attendance for the peculiar purpose of playing a flute (koauau). This flute would be one fashioned from a thigh bone of an ancestor of the woman or of her husband. Such an instrument was looked upon as a medium of communication between the living child and its forbears now in the spirit world. Those spiritual beings possess the power to help and succour their descendants in the world of life, and the sounding of the instrument was apparently held to be an appeal to such spirits to come to the assistance of the mother in her hour of trouble. Now some of these koauau flutes that have been preserved are what may be termed phallic flutes, so made as to represent the male and female organs of generation. An old specimen in the Dominion Museum has been so fashioned as to represent the phallus; it is also adorned with finely executed carved designs. In the Hastings Museum is an equally old nguru or nose flute carefully fashioned from a whale's tooth. This also is elaborately decorated with fine carving, and on one side has been carved in low relief the figure of a woman with the yoni of abnormal size. I have no information that connects these phallic flutes with those played over a woman in labour, but think it quite probable that such flutes were the ones page 26 employed on that occasion. The practice was a very extraordinary one from our point of view, though to a Maori it would be clear enough, a normal and natural procedure. The act of fashioning flutes from the bones of one's own friends was certainly unusual, so far as we are aware. Such a flute as the above was also played over the child should it suffer from any form of sickness.

Now in the great island of New Guinea we find a curiously parallel practice. The natives of British New Guinea employ
A haka or posture dance. Dominion Museum collection

A haka or posture dance.
Dominion Museum collection

both “male” and “female” flutes in ritual performances. As Mr. Haddon writes: “The sacred flutes play an important part in ceremonies.” Also: “They are blown on the completion of a chief's house, at initiations, and after the burial of the male dead… It would seem that the flutes have some connection with procreation.” Mr. Haddon's paper on “Migration Cultures in British New Guinea” appeared in Vol. L. of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Infanticide was not unknown here in former times, though it was never practised to the extent that it was in some of the thickly-populated isles of Polynesia, Tahiti for example.

page 27

In some parts, when a charm was recited over a male infant to cause him to develop the qualities of a warrior, the mother placed a small stick in the child's hand to represent a weapon, and held it there during the repetition of the charm. If a female child it would be dedicated to Hine-te-iwaiwa, the patroness of women and women's arts and industries. The charm would be one to cause the child to be diligent in acquiring such arts, and also industrious in after life. A small hank of dressed Phormium fibre was held in the infant's hand as the charm was being recited.

Such are some of the quaint customs of the barbaric Maori as pertaining to reproduction. The higher forms of ritual pertaining to birth and death are extremely interesting, as the dedication or offering of the infant to the Supreme Being from whom all life and all things emanated, and to whom the soul of man returns at the death of the body.

Meanwhile we will leave the mother and child at the door of the “nest house” to illustrate a saying as old as the days of Tane and of the Earth Formed Maid: “He aroha whaereere, he potiki piri poho” (A mother's love, a breast-clinging child).