The Maori - Volume II
XIII The Dawn of Science the Rudiments of Modern Science as Observed in Maori Usages
XIII The Dawn of Science the Rudiments of Modern Science as Observed in Maori Usages
Half knowledge of the Maori—Groping through the murk of ignorance—Rude processes—Maori numeration—Binary and vigesimal systems—Polynesian numeration an advanced system—The digits—The ordinals—Prefixes—Ngahuru (=ten) and its farspread comparatives—Modes of counting—Counting in braces—Element of confusion in Polynesian numeration—The division of time—Time measurement based on phases of moon—The lunar month—Nights of the moon—Intercalation—Time reckoned by nights and lunar months—Names of months—The Pleiades Year—The Orion year—Seasons—The ten months year—Terms denoting time—Maori system of measurement—No universal standard employed—Standards based on human body—Weakness of the system—Mechanical contrivances—Log rolling apparatus—The wedge and skid—Ladders—The drill—The balista employed in tree felling—The whipthrown spear—Tools—Mnemonics—The quipus of Polynesia—The scriptless Maori—No knowledge of medicine—Fire generating—Astronomical lore—The Whanau mārama or Children of Light—Knowledge of stars imperative to deep sea voyagers—Sentimental regard for stars—Ra, the sun—Heavenly bodies personified—Hina-keha, the Pale Moon—Astronomical myths—The ara matua, or ecliptic—The barbaric astronomer who “put sticks in the ground”—Compass points—Star names—Offerings made to stars—Stars greeted—Star myths—Comets—Meteors—Aurora australis—The rainbow—Lightning—Clouds—Maori colour names—Canoes.
In scanning the scientific knowledge of the Maori of past times we may well expect a brief task. His knowledge of what we generally view as science was decidedly elementary, yet we find items of interest in his crude methods of navigation, his half knowledge of the stars, his rude mechanical contrivances and modes of measurement, and his primitive system of time division. In his system of numeration and page 172 the use of the balista we note the high water mark of Maori endeavours; in some of his tools, his mode of weaving, his method of generating fire, we observe the most primitive aspect of his artifacts and methods. At the same time the Maori evinced in many of his usages a close knowledge of conditions and habits that shows him to possess keen powers of observation. Like all barbaric folk he was groping his way through the murk of ignorance, and the heights of Parnassus still loomed far above him.
In common with other peoples of a similar culture stage the Maori had strayed in some cases from the true path, hence his knowledge of astronomy was combind with astrology in such a manner as often to excite derision among Europeans. In his division of time our Maori had not evolved any satisfactory scheme whereby to fix the commencement of his year, he lacked precision here as in other matters. This is also seen in his lack of a universal and precise unit of measurement, in his inability to define long distances with precision, in his attributing disease to a wrong source, and other matters. In some cases it seems surprising that these natives have not adopted more advantageous methods that to us appear so very perceptible to even a casual observer. For instance we know that they used the cord drill uncontrolled by any form of containing cap piece, hence the crater shaped holes seen in old stone weapons, pendants etc. The cap piece would have been of great advantage in the process of boring and one can but marvel that such simple improvements have not been grasped and utilised. In his primitive system of expressing oil from seeds the Maori relied on the strength of his arms, but a rude form of lever press would have been a great improvement on such a crude method, and would scarcely call for much intelligence, one would suppose, in its adoption.
In nothing such rude processes and forms as those referred to above, one experiences a feeling akin to disappointment that the Maori had not advanced further in mechanical contrivances. The fact is that, after observing the evidences of a superior mentality as possessed by the ancestors of the Maori, we naturally expect to see its effect in his every day page 173 pursuits. It is, however, more in evidence in his mythological and spiritual concepts than in his artifacts and industrial methods.
We will now proceed to scan some of the institutions of the Maori that illustrate his progress in elementary science, and will commence with the subject of numeration.
The subject of Polynesian numeration is a somewhat puzzling study inasmuch as one encounters a number of inconsistencies therein, and these are very confusing to the student. We shall here have quite enough to do to deal with the subject as pertaining to New Zealand. The troubles of other lands we will leave to other persons; as the Maori puts it: “Kei rau o whenua ona raruraru.”
The Maori not only counted singly, but likewise employed a binary system of numeration, while there are also signs of a vigesimal method having been employed in past times. As in the groups of Polynesia there appears to have been no precise universal system of nomenclature employed in all districts, certain differences appear in both names and methods, so far as we can judge. Old methods were, however, abandoned in the very early days of European settlement, and our informants were sometimes not very clear as to those methods. The decimal system has now long been the numerative system of the Maori, probably for nearly one hundred years.
Missionary Ellis proclaimed his astonishment at the Polynesian system of numeration in these words: “The precision, regularity, and extent of their numbers has often astonished me.” The same remark might have been applied to the New Zealand system. The Maori certainly had precise terms whereby to denote numbers up to one hundred and eighty, and by the use of his term for a hundred (rau) and the binary method, he could enumerate any number of objects that he would be likely to deal with. As to the Maori term for one thousand viz: mano, it is thought by some that it was not employed in olden days to denote that or any other precise number, but that it was used as an equivalent for “numberless,” “countless,” “a vast number,” and similar expressions. page 174 This may have been so, but the fact remains that the Maori possessed a remarkably full and useful system for a barbaric folk.
Like ourselves the Maori often made use of round numbers, approximate estimations, such as the expression rau ma whitu, which is an abbreviated form of denoting three hundred and forty. In like manner was the term hokowhitu used to denote one hundred and forty, or any number within a few score of it.
Tahi One Rua Two Toru Three Wha Four Rima Five Ono Six Whitu Seven Waru Eight Iwa Nine Ngahuru Ten
Since the arrival of Europeans the word tekau has come to be used to denote ten, but ngahuru was the old term for that number. In its many variant forms it is used all over Polynesia and in many parts of Melanesia and Indonesia, while the names of the digits in Malagasi closely resemble Polynesian forms.
The word tekau, now applied to ten, was formerly employed by the Maori to denote twenty, as it does in Polynesian dialects. The usual prefixes to the cardinals are ko (before tahi) and e (before rua to iwa), but no such prefix is used with ngahuru. When actually counting a number of objects a native proceeds: “Ka tahi, ka rua, etc., “ka ngahuru,” or “ka tekau” in these days. The ordinals are formed by prefixing tua, as tuatahi (first), tuarua (second), tuangahuru (tenth). In speaking of persons the prefix toko is used with digits, as tokorua, etc., but it is not used with ngahuru or tekau, and very seldom with tahi. Natives sometimes insert the definite article instead of the prefix tua to denote ordinals, as te rua (the second), te wha (the fourth). This usage applies to any number: te rau ma tahi (the hundred and first). The prefix toko is also used with a few other words when speaking of persons, as tokohia (how many), tokomaha (many). The prefix taki, placed before numerals has a distributive force, as takitahi (singly), takirua (by twos), and so on.page 175
The word for twenty was tekau, which the Maori now uses to denote ten. Its use for twenty is widespread in Polynesia. Te kau—the collection or assembly, another widespread Polynesian usage; denotes in this case the whole of the digits, twenty in all. From twenty to twenty-nine the digits were again added:—
- Ngahuru ma tahi Ten and one
- Ngahuru ma rua Ten and two
- Ngahuru ma iwa Ten and nine
We now come to the terms for thirty, one of which is an interesting form:—
- Tekau ma tahiTwenty and one
- Tekauma rua Twenty and two
- Tekau ma iwa Twenty and nine
This form hangahuru long puzzled me, yet I had collected it from different tribes in the Bay of Plenty district. Then I bethought me of similar forms employed to denote ten in many distant lands. Thus hangahuru is so used at far Easter Island, hanahuru at the (southern) Mortlock Isles near the Solomon Group in the far west, while hangafulu, sangafulu and sangavulu are all employed in the New Hebrides. Anahulu appears at the Hawaiian Isles, angafulu at Samoa, and sangafulu at the Lord Howe Islands. Sangavulu is met with in the Fiji Group, and in distant Indonesia we find sangapulu, sangauru, tangafuru and tahapulu. This farspread huru or ngahuru form has spread over the vast Pacific area, and in some isles and groups several forms of the word are in use; hence we need not be surprised at finding the two forms ngahuru and hangahuru in New Zealand.
- Tekau ma ngahuru Twenty and ten
- Tekau ma hangahuru Twenty and ten
- Tekau, ngahuru ma tahi Twenty, ten and one
- Tekau, ngahuru ma rua Twenty, ten and two
- Tekau, ngahuru ma iwa Twenty, ten and nine
In some cases these terms seem to have been used as denoting a value of but ten times the subjoined numeral; this being the tatau takitahi or single counting method, under which system hokorua would stand for twenty. This lesser number would be expressed as hokorua takitahi, while hokorua as meaning forty, would be hokorua topu. The words pu and topu denote a pair or brace, and the former is employed in the binary system of numeration.
Hokotahi Twenty Hokorua Forty Hokotoru Sixty Hokoiwa One hundred and eighty
We have now arrived at hokorua as denoting forty. Forty-one to forty-nine may be expressed by simply attaching the digits as before (hokorua ma tahi, etc.), or as hokorua, kotahi te tūmā (Forty and one odd one), and so on. Or one might simply say hokorua makere (forty odd).
This scheme is continued as shown above:—
- Hokorua, ngahuru ma tahi—Forty, ten and one
- Hokorua, ngahuru ma iwa—Forty, ten and nine
In this method one hundred is hokorima, and one hundred and one is hokorima ma tahi. Two hundred is just outside the page 177 hoko system, which ceases at 199 unless preceded by rau. This word rau denotes a hundred. In single notation 200 would be e rua rau, but in the binary method kotahi rau (one rau) denotes 200, though precision demands the addition of the word topu, as kotahi rau topu (one hundred brace). Thus the hoko system may be continued by preceding it with the term rau. Abraded forms are met with in popular usage, such as rau ma whitu (hundred and seven) for 170, the word “tens” being understood. It must be borne in mind that the Maori probably did not indulge much in counting to high numbers. He was given to using terms meaning “balance, excess, odd number.” Thus hokotoru makere is equivalent to “sixty odd” or our “three score odd”; kotahi rau tuma means “one hundred and upwards.” Paepae is a synonym for tuma, as e rua rau, hokotoru takitahi te paepae, which means “two hundred, thirty once told the excess” (230). Rerenga is another term so employed, as kotahi rau me nga rerenga (one hundred and over), while ngahuru pu, taukehe denotes twentyone, that is ten brace and an odd one. Methods of counting seem to have differed as in different districts, for in some cases men, as a war party, were enumerated in pairs, while some peoples objected to this practice, because the binary system was used in connection with food products.
Hokotoru Sixty Hokotoru, ngahuru takitahi Seventy Hokowha Eighty—and so on Hokoiwa One hundred and eighty Hokoiwa, ngahuru ma iwa One hundred and ninety-nine, i.e., twenty nines, ten, and nine.
The words kehe, taukehe, tautahi, tauhara and tauwhara all denote an odd number or surplus. Thus if a native packed forty-five birds in a basket he might still tell you that it contained forty—Ka whakarerea nga tauwhara—the odd ones are omitted.
The word tatau means “to count.” When engaged in counting anything immaterial, such as the generations of a genealogy, the Maori does so on his fingers. He turns down with his right hand the little finger of his left hand on the palm for one, and so on to the thumb for five. He will then start on his right hand, and, if necessary, return to the left hand. In former days he utilised his toes as counters after counting ten on his fingers, but the wearing of boots has put a stop to this usage.page 178
Ngahuru pu, e rima pu Thirty Hokorua Forty Hokorua, tautahi Forty-one Kotahi rau (one rau) pu understood Two hundred Kotahi rau, hokorima Three hundred Kotahi rau, hokorima kotahi pu Three hundred and two
Such is a brief sketch of the binary system of counting, and it is seen that the term pu is sometimes omitted. The Tuhoe folk, in counting the smaller game birds, such as tui, counted in fours, or rather they included four birds in the expression pu (brace). Counting in fours was also practised in the Paumotu Group.
One fails to see what this curious system is based on. The number 44 is a very peculiar unit to employ, and the terms rau and mano are not here used in their usual sense, but rather as resembling a colloquial usage, in which they are used as denoting a number, a multitude. In expressing a very great number, a countless multitude, a native will make use of intensives, as mano tini whaioio and mano tini ngeangea.
- 44 eels = One kaui (string)
- 5 kaui (=220 eels) = kotahi rau (one hundred)
- 10 kaui (=440 eels) = kotahi mano (one thousand)
Kotahi One. Very rarely does one hear tokotahi Tokorua Two Tokotoru Three Tokoiwa Nine Tingahuru Ten Tingahuru ma tahi Ten and one Tingahuru ma iwa Ten and nine
Kotahi tekau One ten Kotahi tekau ma tahi One ten and one Kotahi tekau ma iwa One ten and nine E rua tekau Two tens E rua tekau ma tahi Two tens and one E toru tekau Thirty (Three tens) Kotahi rau One hundred Kotahi rau ma tahi One hundred and one Kotahi rau kotahi tekau ma iwa One hundred, one ten, and nine
The expression te kau=the assembly, includes, as is seen, the singular form of the definite article, and hence, to speak correctly, we should say nga kau in speaking of more than one kau. Mariner, in his account of the Tongans, gives this form.
There is an element of confusion in the account of Maori numeration, as also in that of certain groups of Polynesia. This may have arisen from the different systems in use. Our Maori accounts do not always agree by any means, and it is quite possible that differences existed as in different districts, for inter-communication was infrequent; homogeneous systems or institutions could scarcely have existed under these circumstances. One fact remains clear, namely, that, for a barbaric folk carrying on no form of trade, the Maori had evolved or preserved an extended, precise and useful system of enumeration.
The Maori system of division of time had much in common with that of other folk of similar culture, perhaps in no other department of knowledge, of budding science, has man in far-sundered regions evolved such closely allied systems. page 180 Our Maori based his system on the moon, its phases being more easily discernible than those of the sun; the lunar month and the nights of the moon were his units in the measurement of time. The solar year he had not adopted, but, like other peoples, he was compelled to make his twelve lunar months agree with the true solar year. Information collected is not copious, and several matters are yet unexplained. It appears, however, that a mode of intercalation was employed, though the method probably differed in different parts of Polynesia.
It may not cause surprise that the moon was known as “the measurer” to many old-time peoples, so commonly was it utilised among barbaric folk as the basis of their division of time. The defining of the true solar year has been a very long and difficult task. The Maori had some knowledge of the solstices, termed te takanga o te ra (the changing of the sun), and on this he had based his quaint myth of the sun having two wives, Hine-raumati (The Summer Maid) and Hine-takurua (The Winter Maid). The superior importance assigned to the moon by the Maori as the time measurer and principal god or tutelary being of agriculture, may be the reason why the personified form of that orb (Rongo) is masculine. But then the Maori has also a female personification of the moon in Hina, which is somewhat puzzling, though her duties are not connected with agriculture and time, but with women, childbirth and weaving. Old Country writers tell us that the sun and moon are respectively masculine and feminine in the south of Europe, but feminine and masculine in the north.
The lunar month adopted by the Maori was to him a very useful institution, for, like his Polynesian brethren, he had a name for each night of the moon's age. It is clear that these names were introduced hither from Polynesia, so closely do lists from different isles resemble each other. In order to denote a certain day the Maori would mention the particular name of the phase of the moon and the month, but he had no tale of years to carry his date fixing further, and this was one of the two serious weak links in the Maori chain of time. The date of the commencement of his year of twelve lunar page 181 months was the other weak point, for, as we shall see anon, it was not a fixed, undeviating point.
The twenty-seventh night of the moon's age was called Otane (O-Tane, the o prefix has a possessive value), after the personified form of the sun, while the twenty-eighth night is Orongonui (O-Rongo-nui, pertaining to great Rongo, the personification of the fructifying moon). These two nights were held to be specially favourable to the planting of the tubers of the kumara, or sweet potato.
- 1. Whiro
- 2. Tirea
- 3. Hoata
- 4. Oue
- 5. Okoro
- 6. Tamatea tutahi
- 7. Tamatea turua
- 8. Tamatea tutoru
- 9. Tamatea tuwha
- 10. Huna
- 11. Ari-matanui
- 12. Mawharu
- 13. Atua
- 14. Ohua
- 15. Oturu
- 16. Rakau-nui
- 17. Rakau-matohi
- 18. Takirau
- 19. Oike
- 20. Korekore tutahi
- 21. Korekore turua
- 22. Korekore tutoru
- 23. Tangaroa a mua
- 24. Tangaroa a roto
- 25. Tangaroa kiokio
- 26. Kiokio tarawai
- 27. Otane
- 28. Orongonui
- 29. Mauri
- 30. Mutuwhenua
Ohua denotes the phase of the full moon, and the three names Ohua, Oturu and Rakanui are called the huanga or “fulness” of the moon. The Whiro phase is when the light of the new moon is first seen; it disappears every month and remains in the underworld until it reappears as a Whiro. On this fact are based the myths of the long swim of Hinauri across the ocean, of her bathing in the life-giving Waters of Tane and reappearing as Hina-keha, once more young and fair. One old native who gave a list of thirty names re- page 182 marked: “The moon dies on the Mutuwhenua night; its radiations of light are seen on the Whiro night; on the Tirea night it is actually seen; on the Ohua night it becomes round; on the Rakau-matohi night it wanes. There are ten nights of the ahoroa (moonlight) phase, five nights of decreasing light, and two of old age.” In some lists, as those given by the Rev. R. Taylor, there are three names inserted prior to that of Whiro, and these apparently represent the tapouri or hinapouri (dark) nights of the moon. The word kohiti is used to denote the appearance of the new moon.
Now there was some process of intercalation, some method followed by the Maori that has never been clearly explained. One tells us that the name of Huna, that of the tenth night, is sometimes dispensed with, as the Maori puts it, “ka huna i a ia”—it conceals itself. Another native authority says: “Sometimes Rakau-matohi (seventeenth night) contends that he should be the nineteenth night.” The same man has told us that a contention sometimes arises between the seventeenth and twenty-sixth nights, that sometimes one enters the list and sometimes the other. Yet another native, from a different district, states that the fifteenth night is called Ohua, but that sometimes Ohua is the sixteenth night, or the seventeenth; this is the phase of full moon, as the word hua denotes. If the full phase of the moon is on the seventeenth night, then the name Ohua is applied to the three nights of the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth, in which case the names of the last three nights are omitted because a new moon will have appeared by that time. Clearly there was some interference with the names, some kind of rearrangement, but unfortunately we cannot get it cleared up now.
A peculiar feature of these names of the nights of the moon is that the Maori has determined the conditions of each night as to the weather, the suitability for fishing and crop planting. For example, on the Whiro night eels are taken with a bob, and torch light fishing is conducted. On moonlight nights few eels are taken. Some nights (or days as we would say) are good for sea fishing, others are not, while some days are unlucky, and some are likely to be too windy for sea fishing to be safe.page 183
The Maori would reckon the length of a journey by the number of nights spent on the road. Thus the question: “Po hia koe ki te ara” (How many nights were you on the road?) might be answered: “Po toru” (Three nights.) We have a curious usage in the reduplicate form of hia (how many—interrogative) as seen in the following old saying: “Mata karipiripi, po hiahia ake he urunga ke.” A literal rendering would be: Side-glancing eyes, how many nights a different pillow. A woman who indulges in sidelong glances is liable ere long to take up with another man.
No attempt had apparently been made to divide the lunar month into weeks. The Maori would hardly experience the want of such a division. He employed his month and night names as follows: “Ka tae ki a Akaaka-nui te kaupeka o te tau, i te Omutu o te marama, ka mānu atu i Rangitoto te waka o Kahu” (When the Akaaka-nui branch of the year came, on the Omutu (night) of the moon, the vessel of Kahu sailed from Rangitoto). The lunar month of Akaaka-nui is about equivalent to December. The Omutu night is at the end of the lunar month. Months are called marama (moon), but occasionally kaupeka or “branches.”
The Moriori folk of the Chatham Isles gave names for thirty-one nights, such names being practically all New Zealand forms.
When examining the names of the lunar months we find that, unlike those of the nights of the moon, they are not known far and wide throughout Polynesia. A few only are so met with in northern isles and these are star names, such as Whakaahu, used here to mark months and seasons more than as month names. In the matter of month names employed by the Maori we find more variations than in the names of the nights of the moon. Moreover in all districts people seem to have had two ways of referring to the months of the year. They sometimes employed the proper name of the month, but often spoke of them as “the first” and “the second,” and so on.
- Uruwhenua. May
- Te Aho-turuturu
- Te Iho-matua
- Te Ihonui
The first name of the list apparently represents the first month of the year. Now we will turn to a Matatua list, as collected from the Tuhoe tribe, whose lands impinge upon those of Takitumu. In no single case do the names agree.
|1. Pipiri||All things are contracted by cold, including man.|
|2. Hongonui||Man now feels severe cold and depends on fire for warmth.|
|3. Hereturi-koka||The scorching effect of fire is seen on the knees of man.|
|4. Mahuru||The earth now acquires warmth, which is felt by vegetation|
|5. Whiringa-nuku||The earth is now quite warm.|
|6. Whiringa-rangi||Summer has arrived. The strength of the sun is felt.|
|7. Hakihea||Birds now sit on their nests.|
|8. Kohi-tatea||Fruits are now set. Man eats of first fruits.|
|9. Hui-tanguru||The feet of Ruhi now rest on the earth.|
|10. Poutu-te-rangi||Crops are now lifted.|
|11. Paenga-whawha||The haulm of crops is now seen stacked on the borders of the fields.|
|12. Haratua||All crops are now placed in the storage pits; the tasks of man are finished.|
Such was the Tuhoe list of months as given me by old Tutaka of the Children of the Mist, together with his remarks thereon. The name of the first month, Pipiri, is a star name, the name of a winter star, or rather of two stars apparently close together, that mark the first month. Mahuru is the name for spring, and the personified form of spring. Poutu-te-rangi is another star name, that of Altair, a star that marks the tenth month. Ruhi is a star in the constellation of the page 186 Scorpion, a female star whose personified form represents the languid, enervating effect of hot weather.
Now on the east coast of the North Island the Pleiades year obtained, and the year commenced with the heliacal rising of that group in early winter, or, to be more precise, with the first new moon after the Pleiades was first seen on the eastern horizon in early morn. This means that the commencement of the year was a variable quantity and not fixed. In the far north, and apparently in the South Island, also at the Chatham Isles, 400 miles east of the South Island, the new year was fixed by the heliacal rising of Rigel, known as Puanga to the Maori. I am inclined to believe that the latter is the older system here in New Zealand, and that it was carried to the Chathams by some of the earlier inhabitants of that group when they settled those lone isles. The Pleiades year was probably a later introduction brought hither by the later coming immigrants of Takitumu and Matatua from Polynesia, where it is evidently an old institution.
An every-day usage was to indicate the months by employing the ordinal numbers. Thus in some places the first month is called Te Tahi o Pipiri (The First of Pipiri), or simply Te Tahi (The First), or Te Matahi. The second month is Te Rua o Takurua, or simply Te Rua. The third is Te Toru o Hereturi-koka, or Te Toru; the fourth is Te Wha o Mahuru (The Fourth of Mahuru), or Te Wha; and the fifth is Te Rima o Kopu (The Fifth of Kopu), or simply Te Rima—and so on. The term Maruaroa includes the period of the winter solstice; this is the Maruaroa of the winter season, but there is another period called the Maruaroa of the Orongonui, which denotes summer.
Ngahuru Autumn Takurua Winter Hotoke Winter Mahuru Spring Aroaro-mahana Spring Te Koanga Spring Raumati Summer
A few early writers state that there were thirteen months in the Maori lunar year, and it is possible that they had an page 187 extra month name, and inserted this extra month every few years in order to correct the lunar year, as was done in Polynesia. On the other hand, we have seen that there was some system of intercalation or adjustment in connection with the days or nights of the lunar month.
Although the Moriori folk of the Chatham Isles employed names for the nights of the moon that are all found in Maori lists, yet their month names differed entirely, a curious fact. In the Moriori list Wairehu is the eighth month, and Waerehu is the Maori name of a star that marks the seventh month, while Welehu is a Hawaiian month name.
In some lists we note that the names of the eleventh and twelfth months are what may be termed makeshift names, such as Ngahuru tuhoehoe and Ngahuru kaipaenga. This fact has led some to assert that the Maori had names for ten months only, and took no notice of the other two months. This is not correct, but these two months were deemed the unimportant months of the year by agricultural tribes; the crops had been garnered and stored, and the preparation of the ground for next season's crop was not commenced until later. The Maori had names for the twelve months, and was never at a loss to denote any month of the year.
The flowering of various plants and trees, the ripening of fruits, the nesting of birds, the decay of annual plants, the arrival of the cuckoo, were all useful to the Maori in fixing the time for certain regular activities of his life.
It is a curious fact that the Pleiades year in Polynesia commences when that constellation is first seen in the evening, whereas in New Zealand it commences with its heliacal rising. We do not know why this change was made when Polynesians settled in New Zealand; though it may be that the desire was to retain ancient institutions. The year ending in autumn was an institution of Egypt and Chaldea in long-past times, and hence in the northern hemisphere the year would commence in certain lands in what is our southern summer. When the Polynesians reached New Zealand they found that autumn is here a pronounced, well-defined season, and that the year's labours, closing with the storage of crops, ceased in March and April. A desire to retain the year ending in page 188 autumn of their old northern homes caused them to adopt the heliacal rising of Matariki (the Pleiades) as the tohu or sign of the new year. This is the only probable explanation that occurs to me. The Pleiades year was a very early institution in southern Asia; Mr. Hewitt maintains that it originated in southern India.
The Babylonian year was composed of twelve months of thirty days each, and it was regulated by intercalation at certain periods. In Egypt the same tale of months and days obtained, while five extra days were set apart for a ceremonial agricultural festival. Curiously enough this system reappears at the Hawaiian Isles, even to the five extra days devoted to a festival in honour of the gods of agriculture.
Several writers are of the opinion that the Polynesians have retained some evidence of a former knowledge of the ten months'year, another ancient Asiatic institution. Some slight evidence of this nature is noticeable in Maori lore.
There are in Maori a great number of words employed in denoting time: I have before me a list containing one hundred and forty-eight of such terms. The list, however, contains a considerable number of synonyms. The word tau, now employed to denote a year, both here and in Polynesia, seems to have been used in the sense of “season” in former times. There are special terms for to-morrow, the day after to-morrow, two days off, two days hence, three days off, a year hence, a year ago, yesterday, the day before yesterday, three days ago. Ra and rangi denote a day, and awatea daylight; night is po. There are a number of expressions for dawn and midnight, and the position of the sun was also referred to in fixing time. At night the Maori relied on the positions of the stars. The Maori could fix time very well until the lack of a proper system of chronology was felt in the want of a tale of years. For one year he could manage very well; above that his only unit was the human generation, an uncertain quantity. Thus he will tell you that a certain incident occurred ten generations ago, mention the name of his ancestor who flourished at that time, and trace his descent from that person.
One does not expect to find a precise system of measurement employed by such a folk as the Maori, inasmuch as their page 189 building operations and other activities did not render such an imperative necessity. The Maori possessed no universal standard of measurement, for each man provided his own standard. As among many other barbaric races the units of measurement were derived from the human body. In measurement, as in numeration, uncultured man referred the solution to his own body; he counted on his fingers and toes, he employed his limbs and body as measuring units. Thus we find the words koiti (the little finger), konui (the thumb), ringa (the hand), tuke (the elbow), pakihiwi (the shoulder), all utilised as terms for units of measurement. The following list of units employed in measurement was obtained from east coast tribes.
|Konui, or pona konui||Length of the first joint of the thumb|
|Koiti, or koroiti||Length of the little finger|
|Ringa||Width of the hand|
|Matikara, or lesser whanganga||Span of outspread fingers.|
|Awanui||Span of two outspread hands, thumb tips together.|
|Tuke or whatianga||The cubit. Elbow to finger tips.|
|Pakihiwi or tumu||Length of arm. Shoulder to finger tips|
|Hau or wahanga||The half māro. From middle of breast to finger tips of outstretched arm.|
|Pakihiwi-māro||Length of arm plus width across shoulders|
|Māro, or whanganga, or aronui||The fathom Span of arms outstretched horizontally|
|Pae||Same as māro but arms curved; used in measuring circumference of trees.|
|Takoto||Length of prone body plus that of arm outstretched beyond the head.|
Another form of the ringa or hand measurement was to place the doubled fists side by side on the object. Williams's Maori Dictionary gives the tuke as “a measure of length, from one elbow to the fingers of the other extended arm,” and this application of the term may be a local usage, but not, I think, on the east coast.page 190
The weakness of the above system is at once realised, and bears out the remark that each person was a standard unto himself. The different units would differ in length, according to the height, length of limb, etc., of the human standard. Thus, whenever natives were engaged in such a task as building a house it was necessary to select some person to perform the part of a carpenter's rule, otherwise confusion would ensue.
It is a noteworthy fact that the kumi is the only multiple of a unit that was employed by the Maori. In this case he had taken the first step toward producing a scientific system of measurement, that is a table of units in which a unit represented a certain number of a preceding one.
The width of two or more fingers was occasionally used as a unit, and would be called “two matikara” (fingers), or “three fingers,” or whatever it might be. The ringa unit seems to have differed; it might be the width of the hand minus or plus the thumb, and, in some cases I think, with the thumb outstretched, which would be half the awanui.
When a pae or arm clasp is incomplete the term hamama is employed, thus “Pae rua hamama” tells that the girth is two page 191 pae and part of another, literally “two pae open,” that is the third is lacking, incomplete. Another way of expressing this feature is “Pae rua, hamama te toru” (two pae, the third open.)
“Paea te rakau na.” Measure yon tree. “Pae hia te rakau e tu mai ra”? How many pae is the tree standing yonder? “He rakau nui tera, pae toru” That is a large tree, three pae.
The takoto (from takoto=to lie) is a singular mode of measurement, and doubtless a tedious one. Captain Cruise tells us of his seeing this method employed by natives to measure a vessel in 1820: “He…proceeded to measure the ship from stem to stern. This he effected by prostrating himself upon the deck, and marking upon it the distance between his feet and the extreme ends of his hands, which he extended as far beyond his head as he could, counting at the same time the number of prostrations he had made. When he had got the length he ascertained in the same way the breadth of the vessel, and announced it from the poop to his astonished followers who sat in their canoes.”
In the kumi we have a multiple form of a body measurement; it is a specific term for ten māro (fathoms), and the only such term employed by the Maori. A native will speak of, say a large native house, as being “Kotahi kumi ma rua” in length (one kumi and two). The word māro is here omitted, but understood. Or he may make such a vague statement as “Kotahi kumi, hamanga te rua” (one kumi, the second lacking), thus stating that the distance is between ten and twenty fathoms, a somewhat indefinite statement. The kumi was the limit of native standards. In denoting long distances he relied on comparison or the passage of the sun across the heavens.
A man would sometimes use his walking staff as a measuring rod, as in laying off the dimensions of a new house. On the east coast, among the Takitumu folk, we hear of a special measuring rod, termed a rauru, as having been used in former times; apparently its use was a restricted one. So far as could be ascertained, such rods were owned only by a few persons of importance, and so they may perhaps be viewed as the first step taken in the development of a fixed, arbitrary medium for purposes of measurement.
A cord described as a taura tieke was used in squaring the site of a new house, that is for measuring the diagonals. page 192 The word koha is employed to denote a deficiency, an incomplete unit, as “Kotahi te hau me te koha” (one hau and a koha), that is between one and two hau. The ordinary term to denote measuring, verb and noun, is tatai; whanganga is to measure with the outstretched arms.
Natives now employ some of our terms of measurement, as foot, yard, chain and mile, but often have very vague ideas as to their value. The writer was once crossing Waikare-moana in a native canoe, when an old native, who was giving us an account of some of the old-time fights round the lake, remarked: “If we were to attack Pukehuia now with European weapons I think that we might do so from the opposite shore, for a rifle will carry one hundred yards—or is it one hundred miles?”
So the marked feature of Maori standards of measurement was their indefiniteness, each person providing his own standards. They possessed, however, the keen, “true” eye that readily detects any discrepancy or irregularity.
In the matter of mechanics the knowledge of the Maori did not extend far. Of simple appliances and methods he employed a number, but the tree-felling apparatus to be described represents his furthest advance. He employed the lever in dealing with heavy weights such as logs, a beam or pole used as a lever or handspike being termed a hua. The terms poipoi, kauwhiti and tuwhiti were applied to a contrivance for turning over a heavy log, as might be done by canoe makers. A hole was formed in the end of the log, into which was inserted the end of a long and heavy sapling as a lever. A rope attached to the upper end of the lever served as a drag rope, and a number of men hauling on this gained great leverage power from the apparatus. It is not quite assured that this was a pre-European usage, however. The forming of the socket hole would be a very slow process with the stone tools formerly employed. Were the lever fixed in the middle of the log it would be much more satisfactory, but that would mean the marring of the trunk unless the hole were made where the log was to be hollowed out. I have heard of another contrivance for rolling a log over, but it was not very clearly explained. A spar composed of a long ricker page 193 was lashed longitudinally to the log in such a way as to afford the necessary purchase for a long lever worked as the one described above.
The wedge was employed by the Maori in two ways, as a splitting agent, and as a tightening one. Hardwood wedges were employed in splitting logs and baulks, the maul (ta) employed being a heavy hardwood club. Wedges, termed ora, matakahi, etc., were of different forms and sizes as with us. Small entering wedges, termed pipi, were first used by log splitters “to explore the way,” as the Maori puts it, after which larger bursting wedges, called kaunuku, were inserted and driven home. I have no information as to how the Maori succeeded in “entering” the pipi, but the Tahitians adopted a novel plan. Ere commencing the task of splitting a log they kindled a fire at one end of it, and kept a fierce heat playing on it for some time, until the timber checked, whereupon the small entering wedges were inserted in the checks and driven home with the maul.
The writer is by no means sure that the Maori used the roller in moving heavy weights, but skids were commonly employed to expedite such tasks as the hauling of canoes, and heavy logs for house timbers, stockade posts, etc. Skids are termed rango, neke and ngaro, but we have no evidence to prove the former use of rollers. Skids were often called ngaro parapara because parapara was the most favoured timber for such purpose. This is the small tree Panax aboreum of which the surface of the green trunk, after removal of the bark, is found to be glairy or slimy, and exceedingly slippery. This renders it an admirable skid, and tends to show that such lengths were used as skids and not as rollers.
The hauling of a heavy log or half-hewn canoe, or long ridgepole of a house, perhaps seventy feet in length, over a skidway by natives is quite an interesting sight. The drag ropes are manned by many men who haul in unison, and an active fugleman chaunts the hauling song, the haulers joining in the chorus.
The rope being secured by one end to the ridgepole, was then carried over the crosspiece D and trailed down on the other side to the line of haulers. A similar apparatus was prepared at the other end of the ridgepole, and then all that was needed was a sufficiency of man power to lift the great weight of the baulk. When the ridgepole was swung up to the crosspieces it was, of course, higher than the top of the posts that were to support it, and could then be lowered so as to rest on them. This method has been explained by natives as a pre-European usage, but concerning this we have no corroborative evidence from early writers. However that may be the Maori must have evolved some method of raising such heavy baulks to such heights; this applies to the large superior houses.
Rude forms of ladders (arawhata, rou and mekameka) were employed in climbing trees, and occasionally still ruder bridges (arawhata) over chasms were made, these being merely a few poles laid side by side. The ngehingehi, or tawiri, or kopa, was a strongly-made elongated bag in which the crushed seeds of the titoki were placed in order that the oil might be expressed from them. A form of wooden handle was fixed at each end and two persons twisted these handles opposite ways. It was a kind of tourniquet device much resembling one used in ancient Egypt.page 196
The form of drill employed by the Maori in pre-European times was a primitive one, that termed the cord drill, or thong drill, but it was apparently used without any form of cap piece, hence the operator's control of it was scarcely satisfactory. The resultant wobbling of the shaft produced the crater-shaped hole that is seen in old native stone weapons and pendants. This form of drill was employed in India in ancient times. The pump drill was not used by the Maori in pre-European days, but was acquired from early voyagers; this was the pierced bar form. Had the Maori used the pump drill in olden times it would have been the free bar form found in use among many of the Pacific Islanders.
The native drill, called tuiri, ore and wairori, was controlled by the cords alone, and the desired impetus and weight were gained by attaching to the shaft some stones, or a solid disc of wood (occasionally of whale's bone), or a form of wheel. The boring point of hard stone was lashed firmly to the lower end of the shaft. Hard grit sand was used as a triturating agent combined with a small modicum of water. In boring a hole through a piece of stone the practice was to bore from both sides, the two cone-shaped holes meeting in the middle or thereabouts.
In order to work the drill the shaft was turned round a few times, which caused the two cords secured to its upper part to wind round the shaft. Grasping a cord in each hand the operator, by pulling them in a direction downward and outward, starts the reciprocal motion that marks the cord, pump and bow drills. A little practice enables one to work this native drill with ease, but it is impossible to prevent the oscillation of the shaft that produces the crater-like hole. The operation of boring a piece of steel-hard nephrite is a very slow and tedious one. A small proportion of the holes seen in old stone artifacts are of better form and appear as though some controlling agent had been employed whereby to steady the shaft, but most of them show that no such control was employed.
Perhaps the most interesting appliance employed by the Maori of former days was an adaptation of the old Roman balista that was utilised in felling trees. Herein the Maori page 198 did adopt the bow principle, albeit he declined to use the bow and arrow as a weapon.
The ordinary method of felling large trees, as when about to fashion a large canoe, was by the use of a chisel-shaped stone tool, large and heavy, lashed in an axial manner to a long, stout shaft. This was worked on one or two horizontal timbers lashed to supporting posts. A couple of men would manipulate this tool after the manner of a battering ram, the shaft sliding on the horizontal rail. This was a very laborious and slow process, for such stone implements possessed little cutting power in working timber across the grain. When a horizontal groove had been punched in the trunk of the tree then the supporting rail was lifted and a similar groove former higher up, after which the block of wood between the two grooves was chipped out. This was done by using the battering implement as a splitting tool, the cutting edge worked vertically, or by means of a stone adze worked sideways. Again, fire was often employed in tree felling, a fire being kept burning in the kerf for some time, after which the charred wood was chipped off with stone adzes. In the Dominion Museum at Wellington is the stump of a kauri tree that was felled with stone tools. It is six feet in diameter and was preserved to our time by being immersed in the waters of the Ohinemuri river, whence it was taken by a gold dredging plant.
A represents the trunk of the tree. B is a pliant sapling, while C represents a firmly-set post to which B is secured by lashing. D D represents the bowstring which at E is slipped over a protuberance on the tool shaft, or into a slot in the same. This shaft, marked H, has a cord, F, secured to its posterior end, while to its anterior end the heavy, chisel-shaped stone implement I is lashed at K. G represents the two parallel horizontal rails on which the shaft works. The detail diagram shows how the stone implement was fitted into the end of the shaft at J. The process of working this appliance will be evident to the reader. The bowstring was put into position on the shaft as it lay on the supporting rails. One or two men controlled the shaft and others “tailed on” to the rope F. Pulling the shaft backward bent the bow, which strain provided the required impulse when the shaft was released by the operators. The length of stroke was but ten or twelve inches; a longer one was liable to result in the fracture of the stone tool. Two grooves were “punched” in the trunk with this implement as described above. By practising together men became expert in the use of this singular contrivance, and its use seems to have been confined to a guild of a few families of the Tuhoe and Arawa tribes. As an illustration of primitive mechanics this tree-felling apparatus, so jealously conserved, is of much interest.
The whip-thrown spear described elsewhere was a very crude form of missile weapon, but a step in advance of hand throwing. The stone sling was not used in these isles, so far as we are aware, though the Maori employed it in his Polynesian home. The bow and arrow was certainly not used by the Maori folk here, yet there is some evidence to show that the Mouriuri aborigines, or original settlers, knew and used it. A bow found in a swamp north of Auckland resembles those of the New Hebrides group; it was dug up from a depth of two feet.
Of timber working tools the adze was by far the most important. The adze was the common hewing tool throughout Polynesia as the axe was in Australia. Very few of the page 201 Maori stone tools were hafted as axes, and these few are marked by the cutting edge being in the axial centre of the tool. The Western Pacific contrivance by which a tool could be used either as an adze or an axe was unknown to the Maori. Stone chisels, gouges and rasps were used. The great majority of cutting tools were fashioned from greywacke, quartzite and other hard but fairly common stone, but the most highly valued were those made from greenstone, a name that includes not only nephrite, but also serpentine and some other stones. Many of the stone adzes, beaters, weapons, etc., were extremely symmetrical and well finished. We see stone adzes having the whole of their surfaces ground to a smooth finish, usually called “polished” by writers. The manufacture of such objects was accomplished in four processes, namely, blocking out, chipping, bruising and grinding. The third process was effected by means of using hard, waterworn stone hammers, and the grinding was done by rubbing the implement on a block of sandstone. Other tools used in former times will be described under different headings.
The Maori folk had no form of script, no method of recording events or knowledge by means of any form of written character. It has been suggested that in olden days some form of written characters was employed, but that the art has been lost. There is no reliable evidence to support such statements or theories, and the best negative evidence is that the Maori formerly used the quipus or knotted cord for recording tallies. We do not know that this system was actually used here, but it certainly was in Polynesia, and the Takitumu natives have preserved a memory of it, a traditional knowledge of the aho ponapona, as they term it. This name means “knotted cord,” and the local tradition tells us that it was employed in sending messages to distant places, a statement that it is not easy to accept. Had the Polynesians, or their isolated offshoot in New Zealand, been acquainted with any form of written language, then why should they have anything to do with the cumbrous quipus?
Another form of mnemonics is seen in what the Maori calls rakau whakapapa. These were pieces of wood about thirty inches to three feet in length. They were carefully fashioned page 202 so as to present on one side a series of prominent knobs with slots between; one before me has twenty-six such knobs. These staves were employed as aids to memory in reciting genealogies, but were by no means numerous; a few have been preserved in our museums. The better finished specimens are adorned with carved designs.
There was no science of medicine in Maoriland. The native belief that all bodily ailments were caused by evil spirits, or came as punishment from the gods, effectually prevented research in even simple lines such as herbal remedies. When they at last received the knowledge of internal medicines from Europeans the natives were captivated by the new mode of exorcising evil spirits. They took to medicine as a duck takes to water, and swallowed any nostrum they could procure, be it ever so vile. Ere long they began to concoct strange herbal remedies themselves.
The implements employed by the Maori in the arts of agriculture, weaving and fire generation were as primitive as they well could be, and can scarcely be taken as illustrating the intelligence of the race. The Polynesian folk used the crudest method of obtaining fire, that termed the “fire plough” by anthropologists, which consists of rubbing a piece of wood briskly in a groove formed in another piece.
We have already scanned the origin of fire and sundry fire myths, and have now merely to give a few notes on the native mode of generating fire. In theory the Maori ever viewed fire-making as an act of generation in which both sexes must have a part. He terms the act hika ahi (fire generating), and also employs the word hika to denote the begetting of children. The piece of wood that is rubbed on the stationary piece is called the hika or kaureure, both suggestive names; the stationary piece is the kaunoti or kauahi. In the far-off Paumotu Group the fire generating act is called ongiongi, which is the Maori onioni, and closely connected with the Sanscrit yoni.
The wood of the kaikomako, makomako and mahoe trees, with a few others, was used for fire sticks. These trees are respectively Pennantia corymbosa, Aristotelia racemosa, and Melicytus ramiflorus.
The process of generating fire by this method is an interesting one to watch, more so than that of the palm drill, on account of it being a more primitive method. The task is a somewhat strenuous one, and a considerable amount of practice is required ere one acquires the right knack, as the writer can testify. Taking a set of fire sticks now lying before me I find that the kaunoti, or lower stick, is some sixteen inches in length and two and a-half in width. Its thickness is one inch, hence both sides of it can be used. It is a piece of Pennantia wood that has been thoroughly seasoned. The hika or rubbing stick of the same wood is ten inches in length and one inch in diameter; one end is brought to a rounded point, and this is the “business” end of the implement. The operator places the lower stick, the kaunoti, on the ground, but not in a level position, one end is raised some four or five inches, the end nearest to him. The lower end is steadied by another person. The operator kneels down and grasps the rubbing stick with both hands, the thumbs being underneath it and the fingers placed flatwise on its upper surface, one hand over-riding the other. He now commences to form the groove by rubbing the pointed end of the stick longitudinally on the under stick, and, by exerting considerable pressure, a groove some four inches long is soon formed. By this time a quantity of fine dust, abraded particles of wood, has collected at the further end of the groove, and the operator suspends work and carefully collects all this dust in a certain part of the groove near its further end. He then takes up the rubbing stick again to perform the final act of generating fire. All experts I have seen at the task have so divided it into two “breaks.” The pressure now applied is heavy and at first slow, but increases in speed as the groove becomes heated. The sense of smell first tells one that fire is at hand, then the groove darkens in colour, the faintest wisp of smoke is seen, the page 205 collected dust turns black, a small red spot appears in the middle of it, the spot widens, and, as the Maori expresses it, “the son of Upoko-roa appears,” fire lives in the groove. The operator now ceases his strenuous work and empties the burning dust on to some dry prepared kindling material, such as shreds of dry Cordyline leaf. This is either gently blown on, or waved to and fro until the light fuel breaks into a blaze. An expert operator provided with good materials will have a fire blazing in a few minutes.
Fire was viewed by the Maori as a great boon; food and warmth are the salvation of man. This feeling is often stressed in native narrative, song and aphorism. In these crude arts, as practised by the Maori, we see the beginnings of the scientific achievements of more advanced peoples.
We have already seen something of Maori astrogeny and astrolatry, also the indirect worship of the sun, and the moon cult. The sun is masculine in Maori myth, but the two personified forms of the moon are of different sexes. Unfortunately we know little of Maori astronomical lore, for early writers did not enquire into it, and it has long been too late to gather reliable data. We do know that these Polynesian folk were close observers of the heavenly bodies, as they would necessarily be when making their long voyages across the Pacific. They had names for a great number of stars, and know when to look for them on the eastern horizon, for it was the heliacal rising of stars that the Maori looked to in the regulation of seasons, etc.
All the heavenly bodies are included in the descriptive title of Whanau Marama, the Light Giving Family; they are the Children of Light. The Maori often speaks of them as though they were sentient beings, and we have seen that he assigns their origin to other sentient and supernormal beings. The Polynesian race has been an exceedingly adventurous one in the past, and its long centuries of sea-faring life made for a close study of the stars and planets. The innumerable long deep-sea voyages made by these folk in pre-compass days rendered a knowledge of the movements of the heavenly bodies absolutely necessary. In this connection the ancestors of the Maori may be said to have had some little knowledge of the page 206 science of astronomy, though in other directions his beliefs, conclusions and practices connected with the stars and planets were merely astrological. When the Maori watched for the heliacal rising of certain stars in order to regulate his system of time division, he was proceeding on sound lines; when he invoked the stars as the bringers of food supplies to mankind, he was still harking back to the primitive beliefs of past ages.
The Maori was a close student of celestial phenomena in general, and of the movements and aspect of stars in particular. Not universally so as to the persons of a community, but certain persons, usually members of the tohunga class, passed much time in observing the stars. At the same time the ordinary or average person of a community would possess knowledge of a considerable number of star names, most of which he could point out. A native's knowledge of such matters certainly exceeds that of the average European. The Maori believed, not only that weather conditions were foreshadowed by the stars, but also that they had an important effect on food supplies, more especially on the productiveness of forests and vegetation generally. We find here another link in the long chain that connects the Pleiades with agriculture.
The Maori had names for a large number of stars, but unfortunately these were not collected in the early days of European settlement, and much of the old-time knowledge was soon lost. All that we know of the star lore of the Maori is but a fragment. The tohunga kokorangi, or expert in such matters, was a very important person to a neolithic sea roving folk; the lore of tatai arorangi, or astronomy, was highly prized. A peculiar feature in connection with the stars and planets is the sentimental regard that Polynesians have for them. They look upon them not only as a connecting link with long-gone ancestors, but also with the ancient homeland of the race in the far west. Hence, on the heliacal rising of certain important stars and constellations, the Pleiades, etc., they were greeted with song and tears by the Maori folk.
We see many songs commencing with such a line as: “Yonder is Venus appearing above the horizon.” The sun is also frequently mentioned, as: “Decline, O sun, and sink into the abyss.” Also the moon, as: “Yonder the moon drifts slowly along.”
Stars are termed whetū by the Maori, who also applies the same term to a comet; a planet is whetu ao. Stars are also sometimes alluded to as the ra ririki or “little suns,” an apt title. The origin of the stars has already been explained; also how they came to be arranged on the breast of the Sky Parent. The word ra, as denoting the sun, has a wide range, extending far across the Pacific, and it was also known in Babylonia and Egypt. The expression takanga o te ra (changing of the sun) is applied to the winter solstice, which seems to be also known as hikumutu.
The Maori loved to speak of the heavenly bodies as a family, one in which the members are ever regardful of each other; they dwell in amity, and that condition was the origin of family love in this world. The greeting of the new moon by women resembled the similar function pertaining to the stars; such reappearances reminded natives of those claimed by death, the permanent death allotted to man in days of yore. The mate a marama, or moon-like death, comes not to man, but only to the Children of Light. As Hina-keha (Pale Hina) the moon acts as guardian of woman, as the tutelary being connected with childbirth; as Hina-uri (Dark Hina) she passes out on the great waters and is lost for a space to the world of life, only to return from bathing in the Waters of Life as fair as of yore. In Maori belief it was the moon that caused crops to flourish, hence Rongo was the god of agriculture, as also of peace and peaceful arts, for the moon is connected with such arts, as the setting sun is with death, war and bloodshed.
A number of the Maori star names are known far and wide across the Pacific; they have been so carried by sea wandering folk of past centuries, what time the Polynesian page 209 voyagers were following the lilting water roads of Hinemoana. The expressions kahui whetu, tatai whetu and huihui are employed to denote constellations. The term whanau ariki is applied to the heavenly bodies as a whole, to denote their superior status. The Milky Way holds an important position in Maori myth, and was also viewed as a helpful indicator of the passage of time at night. It was looked upon as an elder of the Star Children, and so they are under its guardianship.
Some of the old native tohunga taught that all the heavenly bodies are worlds, and possess natural features such as those of the world we live in. This view was not held by the people, however, so far as we can judge.
We have already noted the frequency with which the number twelve is encountered in Maori myth, cosmogony and institutions. In referring to this peculiar fact the late president of the Polynesian Society has written as follows: “When we consider also the thread of astronomical and meteorological ideas that permeate much of the teaching, we can scarce avoid a suspicion that the whole philosophy was based largely and originally upon astronomy. It is certain that the Polynesians were accurate observers of celestial phenomena… They gave a name to the celestial equator, and every prominent star, and were fully aware of the rotundity of the earth, as proved by the fact of finding new stars as they went further north or south. It may be that the number (twelve) of the heavens is connected with the twelve months and the twelve signs of the zodiac, and that this is the origin of their cosmogony.”
In Maori myth the poutiriao or guardians of the heavenly bodies included Te Ikaroa, the personified form of the Milky Way. These beings marked out the various courses for the Children of Light, sun, moon and stars. They laid out the ira matua (main road) and its kaupeka (branches) as paths for the heavenly bodies. The ara matua, or “main way,” is the ecliptic, and it is of interest to note that the term kaupeka is employed to denote the twelve months of the Maori year. Te Ikaroa is the special guardian of the ara matua. This “main way,” was also known as te pito o Rangi, i.e., as the navel of the Sky Parent. This name is also met with in the far-off page 210 Hawaiian Isles in the form of piko o Wakea. The Hawaiian t was changed to k only about a century ago, hence we read it as pito o Watea, the navel of Watea. The latter being, Watea, is the personified form of Space, and this was the Hawaiian name for the zodiac or the ecliptic. It is of interest to note that one of the old Maori wise men gave a list of twelve star names in his discourse on the ara matua and arrangement of the stars. Also he remarked that Venus was appointed to indicate the twelve kaupeka, and he drew special attention to the number twelve. It is most unfortunate that no early settler here interested himself in native star lore, etc., for the few fragments collected seem to show that the Maori possessed very remarkable knowledge of the heavenly bodies. Evidence as to the Maori system of star worship has already been given.
In a paper contributed by Mr. H. Beattie to Vol. 27 of the Journal of the Polynesian Society appears an interesting statement made by an old native to the effect that, when a boy, he had seen his father “put sticks into the ground and observe the stars.” Who knows what interesting information might not have been obtained from that old barbarian who “put sticks into the ground”?
Evidence from the Hawaiian Isles as to the knowledge of stars possessed by Polynesian sea rovers is very remarkable, and we know that Maori tradition tells us that deep-sea voyagers carried expert star gazers with them on their long voyages. Further evidence concerning these barbaric astronomers and their methods and achievements has been given in a former chapter.
The Maori employed a few genuine names of compass points, but in many cases he utilised the wind names as such. The terms raki (north), uru (west), rawhiti (east), tonga (south), tonga ma uru (south and west, i.e., S. W.), and uru ma raki (west and north, i.e., N. W.) are specific terms. Marangai denotes the north in some districts, in others the east and east wind. Among the Kahungunu folk one hears the expression marangai ma uru used to denote north-west. Muri denotes the north, and in some places perhaps the east. The east is occasionally called rawhitiroa.page 211
Maori compass, showing specific terms and also wind names, as given by Mohi Turei of the Ngati-Porou tribe.
The diagram given bears sixteen wind names given by Mohi Turei of Ngati-Porou. The specific names for north, south, east, west, north-west, and south-west have been inserted by the writer, and are followed by Mohi's wind names. It will thus be seen that the Maori could denote direction quite near enough for his purposes.
With regard to Maori star names the position is most unsatisfactory. But few names have been satisfactorily identified, and apparently names differed to some extent in different districts. Seven names have been collected for Canopus, of which Autahi and Atutahi are most commonly heard. One peculiar form is Atutahi-ma-Rehua (Canopus and Antares), but it is not known as to why the two names should be coupled together in this way.
The Hao o Rua is a group of stars near Orion's Belt.
Hine-i-tiweka is another name for Parearau.
The Milky Way is Te Ikaroa, Te Mangoroa, Mokoroa-i-ata, Te Paeroa-o-Whanui, Te Ika-a-Maui, and Te Ika-matua-a-Tangaroa, and it has seven other names.
Mahutonga, or the Kahui o Mahutonga, is the Southern Cross, which is also called the Taki o Autahi. The Belt of Orion is Tautoru and Te Kakau. Puanga is Rigel in Orion. The Magellan Clouds are Nga Patari, the smaller one is Tikatakata and the larger one Tioreore. They are also known collectively as Whakaruru-hau. Seventeen other names for them have been collected. Venus is known as Kopu, whose names are confusing. In the Tuhoe district this planet is known as Kopu when it appears in the morning in winter; as Tawera when it appears in the morning in winter; as Tawera when it appears late at night in the eighth and ninth months of the Maori year; and as Meremere-tu-ahiahi when an evening star in summer. The name of Mata-kaheru is applied to the constellation of Hyades, probably from its shape, which resembles that of an old form of spade blade used at Waikato and elsewhere.
Taumata-kuku is Aldebaran, Matariki the Pleiades, also known as Ao-kai, and the Huihui o Matariki. Six of the stars of the Pleiades are Tupua-nuku, Tupua-rangi, Waiti, Waita, Waipuna-a-rangi and Ururangi. The peculiar name of Hokokumara is also applied to the Pleiades.page 213
The Coal Sack is Te Patiki, also Te Rua-patiki, and Naha.
Williams gives Poutu-te-rangi as Altair, sometimes Antares. Rehua is Antares on the east coast. The long curved line of stars in Scorpio of which Antares is one is known as the Canoe of Mairerangi, while the Canoe of Tamarereti is the Tail of the Scorpion. Puangahori is Procyon. Parearau was the name applied to Jupiter by several Bay of Plenty natives, though Stowell assigns the name to Saturn. Takurua is Sirius, but the name is applied to several stars, and Whanui is Vega. Many more star names have been collected but these have not been properly identified, and a recital of the many names would be tiresome.
Canopus was viewed as a very tapu star, hence he keeps apart from the other Children of Light. This star is said to have been one of the most useful guides to voyagers coming to these isles from Polynesia. Weather signs were derived from its appearance. To Canopus offerings of tapu food were made, and certain chaunts were sung; it is said to have been one of the first-born of the Star Children. A star named Marere-o-tonga is said to be the precursor or harbinger of Canopus.
Parearau is said to be a female, and is evidently a planet, hence the story of her being an irresponsible, wandering person. She is spoken of as the wife of Kopu (Venus), but she left him and clung “to another cheek,” so she is often known as the errant or vagabond, Hine-i-tiweka. The name Parearau signifies an encircling band, hence it has been said that the name pertains to Saturn. A native remarked of her: “Her band quite encircles her, hence she is called Parearau.”
A prominent feature of the names applied to the Milky Way is that several of them proclaim it as a fish, and the name of Mokoroa, great or long moko recalls the fact that that word denotes a crocodile in parts of New Guinea. One story is to the effect that the Galaxy represents a monster overcome by Maui the hero. This great path of the heavens tells the Maori of the approach of dawn by its position, and the Matatua folk apply the name of Tangotango to it because it changes night into day. One authority identifies Tangotango as Uru- page 214 te-ngangana, one of the primal offspring, though this seems to be a case of “not proven.” The ordinary name for the Milky Way is Te Mangōroa, and mangō denotes a shark. The Maori derived weather signs from this Watling Street of our forebears.
In Te Kakau the Maori recognises the form of an adze handle (kakau); it includes the two divergent rows of stars in Orion that are so plainly seen. Puanga (Rigel in Orion) is said to strive with the Pleiades for possession of the year, and this is explained by the fact that, on the east coast of the North Island, the commencement of the year is marked by the Pleiades, but by Rigel in the North and also in the South Island and at the Chatham group. The Moriori folk call the three bright stars in Orion's Belt the food store of Rigel. Again, Rigel is said to be the parent of Canopus, and one of the principal “food bringers.” The cosmic rising of some stars was marked by offerings of food and greeting songs. Rigel, the Pleiades, and others were connected with agriculture. The appearance of Rigel when first seen provided signs that foretold the aspect of the coming season. In some districts the Maori sees in Orion a tuke or snaring perch used for taking birds, of which Rigel is the attracting blossom secured to the perch. In the South Island the rising of Rigel in the morning was the signal for the opening of the tapu School of Learning, as well as the commencement of the new year.
The Magellan Clouds are remarkable in native story on account of their portents as to coming winds. These signs often hinge upon the relative positions of the two.
The beauty of Venus is recognised by natives, otherwise they would not have evolved the following saying, quoted when a handsome woman is seen: “Me te mea ko kopu ka rere i te pae” (Like Venus as it appears above the horizon). This planet is alluded to as the betokener of morning, it warns man of the passage of time during the night. Quoth an old native: “Kopu is an important person in the heavens, the message she sends to mankind is this—‘O friends! All folk of this side of the island, cease sleeping, awake and arise. Here am I, the warner of coming day, behind me comes the red sun.’”page 215
The Maori seems to have names for seven stars in the Pleiades, for we are told that Matariki and her six children abide in the heavens, where their task is to provide food for mankind and to foretell the aspect of coming seasons. Fine weather is alluded to as the Paki of Matariki. A fable speaks of Matariki (the Pleiades) as the offspring of Summer and Raro (the lower world). The Pleiades festival was an important one in Maori eyes. During the present year (1922) the old Maori year commences with the new moon on May 27, according to my native correspondents. The name of Matariki is known far and wide across Polynesia.
Rehua (Antares) is looked upon as representing summer, hence “Rehua whakaruhi tangata” (Rehua the enervator of man), also a saying heard on a hot day, “Kua tahu a Rehua” (Rehua has kindled). Another is Rehua pona nui (big-jointed Rehua), in the heat of summer man becomes thin and his joints protrude. Rehua is a name that brings confusion to the student of matters Maori, for it is also the name of one of the whatukura, or attendants of Io in the uppermost heaven. It is also employed as denoting a chief, hence, when such a person dies, we hear the remark: “Ko Rehua kua mate” (Rehua is dead). Some speak of Rehua as being a name for the constellation of Scorpio, or a portion of it, and explain that Rehua is a bird, one of whose wings is broken. Under the unbroken wing is the group of stars called the Waka o Tama-rereti (Canoe of Tama-reti). Rehua has two wives, which are stars on either side of Antares. The name of one is Pekehawani, alias Ruhi, and of the other Whakaonge-kai. The former is she who induces the languid, enervated feeling of man in summer; fine weather is called the Paki o Ruhi, and her full name of Ruhi-te-rangi is applied to the ninth month. The other wife of Rehua is credited with making food scarce in summer.
Takurua has been identified as Sirius, and takurua is the word for winter. But there were several stars named Takurua, a form of suffix to the name differing in each case. This star name is employed at the Society and Hawaiian Isles.
The stars named Wero and Pipiri are spoken of as winter stars, but have not been identified; Whakaahu is a summer page 216 star. In Whanui we have a star that enters often into Maori discourse, for this is Vega, who is said to call the husbandman to the task of the harvest. As the time drew near the storage pits were put in order, and then, in the month of Poutu-te-rangi, Vega appeared on the horizon in the early morn. The first person to note its appearance raised his voice after the manner Maori, and the old, old cry of “Ko Whanui e-e! Ko Whanui!” (Here is Vega) went ringing round the hamlets. Then, from decrepit old folk to the youngest child, the people came forth from their huts to assemble on the plaza, and the clamorous welcome to the ancient pole star of the hidden homeland echoed across the land.
From Vega also were derived signs as to the coming season, its leanness or fatness.
It would be tedious to relate a somewhat long list of names that have not been identified. Albeit much of myth and quaint fancy enters into native star lore, yet in some ways the Maori made scientific use of his knowledge of the ra ririki, or “little suns,” as in the art of navigation for example. Also he held firm belief that they influenced food supplies and foretold weather conditions.
Comets are often spoken of as whetu by the Maori, but he possessed a number of special names for that phenomenon, among which are auahi-roa, auahi-turoa, upoko-roa, wahie-roa, and taketake-hikuroa. Meto is also probably a name for comets, as also puaroa, and tirama-roa. The Samoan pusaloa, a comet, is probably the Maori puaroa. The Maori personified comets, meteors, and other natural phenomena, and looks upon such personifications as supernatural beings, atua. Portents were derived from the appearance of comets, and the appearance of one was wont to cause alarm.
Meteors are called matakokiri and kotiri, and omens were derived from such appearances. In popular folk lore they are star children who have been buffeted by their unruly brethren.
The Maori has a number of names denoting red or luminous aspects of the sky, such as papakura, umurangi, ahimanawa, etc. Such things were often viewed as being of page 217 ominous import, and a tohunga would proceed to avert the danger.
The aurora australis is known as tahu-nui-a-rangi; the word tahu here means “glowing.” A Whanganui native related, some fifty years ago, a quaint fancy connected with this phenomenon. He stated that when the ancestors of the Maori came southward to these isles some twenty to thirty generations ago, some of them continued the voyage to a land in the far south, where they settled. This was followed by the explanation that the phenomenon called by us the aurora australis is really the reflection in the heavens of huge fires kindled by descendants of those old voyagers. They are signalling to their distant kinsmen in these isles, and are probably desirous of being rescued from their chill abode.
With regard to the rainbow, we have seen that the Maori possessed some quaint myths concerning them, and that several of his gods were personified forms of that display. Atua piko and atua tapiko are descriptive terms for the rainbow. Its ordinary names are aniwaniwa, kopere, and aheahea. Omens were derived from the appearance of the bow; if ominous of evil then a tohunga would busy himself in reciting a charm to ward off the danger.
Lightning (uira) is also much personified, as we have noted, and omens were derived from its varying appearances. These remarks also apply to thunder. The Maori always strove to control natural phenomena, rain, thunder, etc., by means of charms and some simple ceremonies. This was often done in connection with wind by sea farers, and with frost by crop growers. Clouds (ao and kapua) have also a number of personified forms, and wind signs are derived from them. The Cloud Children of native myth are a numerous company, and another story makes clouds the covering or clothing of the primal parents. Clouds, personified in Hine-kapua the Cloud Maid, are the offspring of Tane, that is of the sun; they are also said to be produced from the warmth of the body of the Earth Mother.
The Maori knowledge of astronomy was of a very elementary nature, but he made good use of his powers of observation, and so was enabled to make his long deep sea page 218 voyages athwart the Pacific. He could always tell when a certain star would reappear, a fact that surprised early European voyagers in these seas. In like manner he probably had fixed certain reliable weather signs as in connection with the natural phenomena just alluded to, but, as in the case of the stars, he then wandered off into the fair but elusive by-paths of conjecture and myth.
The development of the recognition of colours is not a subject that the present writer has any knowledge of. The statement that has been made that the Maori was blind to blue, * however, is sufficient to force one to deny the remark. The Maori possessed a term for blue, though he often referred to it apparently by a term signifying “dark coloured.” It has been said that the colour blue is not mentioned in the Veda hymns, the Zendavesta, the Bible or the Homeric poems. That may or may not be so, but to say that the peoples responsible for all that literature were blind to blue, could not recognise it as differing from black, or green, would appear to be an absurdity. They may not have had a specific term for blue, and may simply have alluded to it, as the Maori often did, as a dark colour. Our Maori folk were much given to the use of a blue earth called pukepoto as a pigment for facial adornment. It was a scarce substance, and in some cases difficult to procure. If the Maori could not distinguish between blue and black, as has been stated, then why did he so prize the rare pukepoto, for charcoal was plentiful enough. This pukepoto is vivianite, a phosphate of iron. The Maori used the word to denote blue.
From tests made with our natives in connection with the ability to distinguish different colours, it appears that the weakness of the Maori colour scheme lies more with his vocabulary than with his powers of visual perception. The Maori employed black, white, and red pigments in his decorative art connected with houses, etc; the pukepoto seems to have been used for facial decoration only. He also had terms to denote green, brown and blue, but he relied much on natural objects, that is on comparison, when he wanted to define colours.page 219
Native terms employed to denote black, white and red are specific and apparently ancient. Those for brown, green, blue and grey bear a more modern aspect. Then we come to straight-out names of natural objects, and in this line we ourselves also use many terms of a like nature, hence such expressions as rose coloured, wine coloured, orange coloured, etc. Were we to drop these terms of comparison then our own scheme of colour definition would be marked by an awkward paucity of terms.
The Maori has two words to denote black, mangu and pango. The latter is, however, also used as meaning simply “dark,” or dark-coloured, hence it is used in speaking of dark brown or blue. Uriuri is also used to describe anything dark-coloured, and this uri reappears in pouri (dark); po signifies night.
The common term for white is mā, but the word tea also carries the same meaning. Kōmā and hāmā mean whitish, light coloured. Ahoaho and puaho denote intense whiteness. A light colour with a brownish or reddish tinge I have heard described as ma puwhero.
The usual expression for red is whero, but many other words denote the colour red, or bear such a meaning as “gleaming” or “ruddy.” Brown is often called whero, though pakaka describes that colour; the latter is from a word meaning “scorched.” Pāka korito denotes light brown, the last word being also used to denote light coloured hair. Whero popouri is dark red, and whero mangaeka a light or yellowish red. Ngangana seems to convey the sense of glowing redly, as also does mura, and puwhero means reddish. Ura and kura are both employed to denote red, as also are a number of other terms, of which ura may be said to be the root form. Tuawhero denotes light red or reddish colour.
The common term for green is kakariki, and this is the name of the little green parakeet, the kakariki, and also the native name of the common green lizard (Naultinus elegans). Another word used to denote green in pounamu, which is the name of what we call greenstone, that is nephrite and some other stones. This word is evidently based on namu, the Tahitian word for green. The Maori calls our glass bottles pounamu; page 220 the first ones procured by natives were probably of darkcoloured glass. Red and green were colours much favoured by the Maori. As to the various shades of green, in order to express these the natives fall back on comparison to the various kinds of greenstone and tree leaves, etc. Thus you will hear a native make such remarks as “Penei me te kohuwai te ahua” (Like the kohuwai in appearance), the said kohuwai being a water plant. The expression kowhai kakariki is employed to denote greenish yellow. The kinds of greenstone called rau karaka (karaka leaf) and kawakawa have evidently been so named because their colours resemble those of the leaves of the karaka and kawakawa trees.
The term for red (whero) is not infrequently applied to yellow. A more precise term employed is pua kowhai (kowhai blossom) which denotes the yellow blossoms of a species of laburnum. In some cases simply the word kowhai is used. Another term for yellow is pungapunga, the origin of which usage probably lies in the pollen of the common bulrush, which is known by the same name, and is of a yellow colour. Renga (=yellow) is another name for this pollen. Yet another word used to express yellow is mangaeka, the name of the yellow strips of undressed Phormium leaf used in decorating certain capes. The term kowhai is sometimes applied to the sun (Ka ahua kowhai te ra), as in the evening when it looms yellow above the horizon in the golden sunset. The term parakaraka is applied to orange, and evidently here the ripe berries of the karaka tree are alluded to.
As we have seen the name of a blue earth used as a face paint was employed to denote blue. The blue sky is called kikorangi, and this term was used in comparison terms, as also was werewere kokako, the name of the blue wattles of the crow. Yet blue might be alluded to simply as pango (dark). I once asked a native what the colour of the blue earth called pukepoto was. He replied: “It is pango, like the ‘blue’ you use when washing garments.”
The only specific term I know for grey is kororā, and it is by no means in common use. It was probably derived from the bird of that name, a penguin having bluish grey plumage. Such an expression as kōmā might be applied to page 221 light grey. Hina and puhina are employed to denote grey hair, but are not applied to anything else. Original meanings of hina seem to have been “pale” and “shining,” thus mahina is a name for the moon. Hina is the personified form of that orb, and hinatore is any phosphorescent substance.
A term often employed among the southern Takitumu folk to denote grey is tangatapū, a word that caused the writer no small amount of trouble. Repeated enquiries revealed the fact that the word was originally employed to denote grey pigs, the first of that colour seen were given to the natives by the whalers. These grey pigs were called tangatapū, a word obtained from the whalers as the name of the place of origin of those pigs. Evidently they had been obtained by the seafarers at Tonga-täpu, an isle of the Tongan Group, a name pronounced as Tangataboo by the old whaling fraternity.
The statement made by the late Canon Stack that blue was not recognised by the Maori cannot be upheld. A further statement that no words are found in the native tongue to express brown, orange and pink, is also an error. The Maori certainly utilised many terms of comparison, but we also use many similar expressions.
The word ura is sometimes employed to express red and also brown, often “glowing,” and mumura carries a similar meaning. Ata and kakano are both used to denote shades of colour, or hues.
It seems to be a fact, and a curious one, that names for colours appear to originate everywhere in the same order, black, white and red being the first to receive specific names.
Our Maori folk, like their kindred in Polynesia, had not advanced far in the art of shipbuilding. Their sea-going vessels were but rude craft consisting of dug-out hulls, the sides of which were raised by means of adding one or more top-strakes, secured carvel-wise. Owing to the large size of trees found here a single strake was deemed sufficient in nearly all cases. These were attached by means of lashings passed through holes in the strake and upper part of the hull, the join being covered by a batten. The rim lashing method employed at Fiji and elsewhere, notably at some of the isles of western Polynesia, seems to have been unknown here.page 222
Primitive as were the craft of these isles and of Polynesia, yet some interesting evidence may be noted concerning the origin of certain modern practices in the details of such vessels. Thus, in the supports of the rude floor or platform of the Maori canoe we see the first form of a boat rib or knee, although it was not attached to the sides of the canoe, and in no way served to strengthen it. In Wallis's account of Paumotu canoes may be noted an advance on the Maori construction, inasmuch as they are said to have been “formed of planks sewed together and fastened to several small timbers that pass transversely along the bottom and up the sides.” Again, Porter, the American voyager, speaks of canoes of the Marquesas having three plank partitions across the hull, which “perform the office of timbers to keep the vessel from separating or closing together.”
A model of a canoe from the Gilbert Group shows nine pairs of ribs carefully fitted, and to these ribs the side planks are lashed. Here we have a marked advance toward the built-up frame vessel. In Williams's work, “Fiji and the Fijians,” we find the following: “The ribs seen in canoes are not used to bring the planks into shape, but are the last thing inserted, and are for securing the deep side boards…and uniting the deck more firmly with the body of the canoe.” At the Ke Islands a distinct advance was made toward a framed boat, both lashings and trunnels being employed. A similar advance is seen in the canoes of Micronesia. Labillardiere describes canoes of the Admiralty Isles as being fitted with cross boards internally, apparently resembling the partitions of the Marquesas canoes.
In Forster's account of canoes of the New Hebrides he speaks of the lashings being passed through knobs on the inner sides of the planks, so that these knobs served the same purpose as the interior cant or rim of Fijian vessels, and no lashing appeared on the outer side of the plank.
The Takitumu canoe that came from the Society Isles to New Zealand is clearly described as an outrigger vessel, and two accounts credit her with the double outrigger. She is also said to have had two masts, but it seems doubtful if a single outrigger vessel would carry two sails.page 223
Much more might be written concerning the Maori canoe, but it would here occupy too much space, and it is proposed to publish a special work on the subject in the near future.
* Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, Vol. 12, pp. 156-158.