Maori Religion and Mythology Part 2
Mahu and Taewha
Mahu and Taewha
Mahu was a brother-in-law of Taewha, the sister of Mahu, Makaweroroa, having married Taewha. Now Mahu lived at Nukutaurua, he and his wife Te Atinuku dwelt at the village of Parinui-a-te-kohu. The people living at Nukutaurua turned to the page 144task of cultivating sweet potatoes, so Mahu also planted his crop, which flourished, matured and was lifted and placed in the store pit, the name of which pit was Okora. So the crop was stored, and when it reached up to the ridge-pole then the pit storehouse was closed; that store pit was a large one.
So lived the people, and, as time went on, the stores of sweet potatoes, of some hamlets became depleted and so short commons became the lot of some of the folk of some villages. Then people heard that the store pit yet untouched was that of Mahu. On a certain night some persons went to examine that store pit, when it was seen that the potatoes at the front end of the store pit had not yet been touched. Then it was said: "We are distressed for want of food, let us procure some potatoes for ourselves from the pit of Mahu, let us purloin them by excavating under the floor of the pit at the rear wall." This raid was agreed to, and so it was asked: "Which of us shall go and obtain some potatoes?" Kokouri and Kokotea replied: "We will go and procure them." So the potatoes were obtained by digging under the floor of the rear wall.
Upon a time Te Atinuku went to fetch some potatoes to serve as food for a certain party of visitors from the east, that is from Turanga, that had arrived at their village. On reaching the store pit Te Atinuku opened the door, and, on looking in, saw that the stored crop had subsided at the rear end of her pit. She then returned and said to Mahu: "O Sir! We are undone, our store pit has been robbed by some person." Mahu enquired: "How was it effected?" Te Atinuku replied: "By groping for them at the bottom of the pit." Then Mahu lamented the rifling of his potato pit. Whiro-te-tipua and Paerangi enquired: "What is Mahu wailing about?" Te Atinuku answered: "He is lamenting our potato crop that has been tampered with at the bottom by some person." Then said Whiro to Mahu: "O friend! Why did you lament; can you not look forth and see Kahuranaki standing afar off to the south? There is Maungawharau, the home of your brother-in-law Taewha; he is the person among us whose skin has been bitten by the south wind and all the frigid winds that beset the path of man who seeks the dread arts of Maikinui and Maikiroa beyond Paerau and within Poutererangi."
Whiro continued: "Procure a paua shell wherewith to scoop up the earth from the place whereat your pit was broken into; take it with you, and be careful to touch no food or drink, when you have reached your destination then may you take food and drink." Mahu consented to this and so procured two shells; as page 145dawn approached, the earth of the doorway, and of the hole in the rear wall was scooped up in the two shells, which were wrapped up in a fabric and placed in a basket, and that basket with the scooped up earth was deposited at the latrine of Parinui-o-te-kohu.
Mahu then took his two garments, one of which was a dog skin cape named Kaputauaki, and a garment covered with pigeon feathers called Kaweka, and these were put in a basket and given to his servant to carry. The party of Mahu and Whiro and the latter's son now started, and, on reaching Whakaki, night had fallen; they travelled on through the night and next day reached Mohaka. The party of Whiro and the son Paerangi remained at his fortified village of Matairangi, which was their home.
Mahu and his servant kept on and on reaching Kairakau saw some persons engaged in collecting food supplies from the sea. Mahu enquired of them: "O friends! Where is the home of Taewha?" Te Oki replied: "You have left it behind you at the small stream you crossed. When you see a path turning off inland that is the way; keep right along it, and, where the ridge is less steep you will see the track ascending, proceed by that path and when you arrive at a place between two hills and look round you will see the village situated on a ridge, below it is a flax swamp." When the directions of Te Oki to Mahu came to an end Mahu turned back to the path mentioned by Te Oki.
Then Te Oki remarked to his companions: "O friends, that is Mahu, the brother-in-law of Taewha." So they named that cliff whereat Mahu had stood Pari nui o Mahu (Great Cliff of Mahu). When Mahu came to the place between the hills he saw the village, whereupon he took his two dress garments and donned them. He took in his hand the basked containing the paua shells and proceeded on his way; when he came to a certain house standing without the fortified village he seated himself on the outer threshold thereof.
Now Makawe-roroa, sister of Mahu, came out and, looking forth, saw her brother seated at the entrance to the house. Makawe-roroa called out: "O Taewha! Here is your brother-in-law Mahu; come out here." Taewha went forth and saw his brother-in-law sitting at the entrance of the tapu house. Taewha then advanced and on nearing the house called out: "What of your party?" Mahu replied: "Misfortune is the cause of my being here, and we will not greet each other until my troubles have been dispersed by you." Said Taewha: "Come let us go." When page 146they reached the latrine Taewha remarked: "Deposit it near the beam and let it lie there." This having been done then only did Mahu proceed to the plaza and greet his sister and brother-in-law. When the greeting and speech-making were over Mahu said: "I have been four days on my way here and I will touch neither food nor water until the matter concerning which I came has been settled. My potato pit has been robbed, access thereto being gained through the base of the wall." Taewha remarked: "Leave the matter until the early morning, when we will deal with our task."
In the early morning Taewha and Mahu proceeded to the latrine, where the shell was taken by Taewha, who then said to Mahu: "O friend! In a house does man find shelter from rain and storm, fire finds its food in fuel, now only by just treatment and kindly behaviour can man survive. If we slay these men, Kokouri and Kokotea, who will replace them?" Mahu replied: "O friend! I am sore distressed after my long journey; destroy them." But Taewha said: "No but if you are stout-hearted then you may acquire the knowledge and powers of the uruuru tipua 'basket' and take it home with you and there exercise those dread powers." Said Mahu: "Now at last is my mind easy." Taewha remarked: "Go, convey the stone to the latrine and there deposit it, then put yourself in contact with the latrine beam and return to me."
When those commands had been obeyed Taewha said to Mahu: "O friend! You must be stout-hearted in order to acquire what you desire; you will not acquire it unless you are stout-hearted." Mahu replied: "Assuredly I will be stout-hearted, inasmuch as it was I who sought this knowledge of you." Taewha said: "Now we will touch neither food nor water, we must remain within until our task is properly completed." Mahu replied: "You are the leader in this function, I merely follow your directions."
Mahu was then conducted to the stream, and when all his disabilities and peccadilloes were removed then they entered the tapu house. In the first place the kairangi was deposited, then Taewha said: "With regard to the gods; Tunui-a-te-ika is consulted in matters divinatory, and when information is sought; Maru is employed to obtain the blood and gnaw the heart of victims; Uenuku is the destroyer; these, with Tumatauenga, are the gods appealed to. Be careful in your treatment of your ancestors (the gods) of whom Rakaiora is another, one who is despatched to distant places in order to slay man, his companion page 147being Tunui-a-te-ika. Maru, Uenuku, Tumatauenga and Kahukura are all gods invoked at tuahu or taumatua. These gods have many forms, their activities are of many kinds, their influence extends over land and water, even to the clouds and winds."
When the subjects were disposed of, with their charms and spells pertaining to invoking, despatching, terrifying, stimulating afflicting, weakening, repelling and freeing from tapu, then Taewha went outside and brought in Rakaiora, that is a green lizard, which he handed to Mahu to be swallowed alive by him, and Mahu so swallowed it. When that was over then Taewha defecated into a paua sheel and gave it to Mahu to swallow. When Mahu had consumed it his brother-in-law said: "You will pass the ordeal, there is but one thing remaining, you must swallow this stone." So the stone was swallowed and the Taewha said: "When you pass beyond the latrine of our house let the tuata spell be the first you repeat. If you see a tree then blast it by means of the powers of Tahuwhenua and Tahumaero. If that test be successful then slay the first person you see by the help of Kahukura, Tumatauenga and Uenuku, after which dash two stones together, and, if they are broken by you action, then you will hear the resounding heavens greeting you. You will then have acquired the supreme powers of the whare maire, there will be no residue of the contents of the basket of evil procured by our ancestor from the bounds of the summit of the heavens above us."
Mahu passed out and took his stand outside the outer threshold of the house. He then launched the magic blasting spell termed tahu at the child of Hine-te-ngawari and Puwhenua, the kahika (white pine tree).
The following is said to have been the spell employed by Mahu when blasting the pine tree, it appears in another version of the tale:
When Mahu passed out on the marae he directed his spell toward a tree standing on the southern side of the village:
Tu ake nei ahau i te ihu taketake nou, e Tuainuku, e Rangitu.
He pia uruuru tapu ariki, he pia uruuru tapu no nga atua.
He pia uruuru tapu no nga tipuna o runga
No nga tipua o Tuwainuku, o Hinemoana i tai, i uta
Wawahia i Tauru o te rangi e tu iho nei, o Papa e takoto ake nei
He piere, he ngatata na Matitinuku, na Matitirangi, na Tama-nui-te-ra
Kiita, kiita maroke akuanei, maroki apopo
Aua atu ki te rona, ki te popo oneone.
Mahu then passed along outside the stockade of the village, and, looking down, saw a person cutting flax in the hollow below. Mahu then launched his tuata spell empowered by Uenuku the destroyer if man, and so perished Kurapati, daughter of Taewha and Makaweroroa. He then took in his hands the two stones haded to him by Taewha, struck them together in his hands, but a single concussion and they were broken. At this juncture thunder sounded in the resounding heavens.
The Mahu entered the village, and Taewha enquired: "Who is the person you have slain?" Mahu replied: "I know not. He was cutting flax for himself down there." Taewha went and came upon his own daughter, Kurapati, lying dead. The body was carried up and deposited in the porch of the house; then Makaweroroa raised her voice in lamentation for her child Kurapati; all the people of the village joined in the lament.
When the news reached Kairakau, Pourere, Waimarama, Parimahu and other places that Kurapati was dead, then mourning parties came to wail over her. Then Mahu went in the night time to the slope of the range and dug a pit in the path by which the visitors would descend; having done so he located the man destroying gods, Kahukura, Uenuku and Tumatauenga in that pit, so that when the visitors passed over it they would perish. When the first party of visitors, composed of Teawha's own clans, arrived at that spot they perished, and so the name of Kaiwhakatutu of Mahu became famed as the name for that place. The slaying of those persons was intended as an avenging of the death of Kurapati.
Such was the end, and Mahu at this juncture returned to Nukutaurua.
Here ends this version of the strange tale of Mahu and Taewha. It is about the best description yet collected of the ordeals and tests pertaining to the acquirement of the arts of black magic. Another version (published in vol. 35 of the Journal of the Polynesian Society, pp. 78-79) gives some additional details, and explains how it was that the visitors from other villages came to be destroyed. It was a party of avengers coming to slay Mahu and Taewha for having killed Kurapati, daughter of Taewha. Then it was that Mahu busied himself, and, by means of his newly acquired powers, he literally petrified the whole party, every member of which was transformed into a block of stone and those stone folk still stand on the far hill slope at Maungawharau, the hill of Kohuipu.page 149
The Maikinui and Maikiroa mentioned are personified forms of sickness, disease and other afflictions that destroy man. The earth procured from the store pit and conveyed in a shell to the magician of the south served as an ohonga a connecting link between the act of theft and the thieves on the one hand, and the magic spells uttered to destroy them on the other. The version here given ends lamely in that it does not tell us that the thieves were slain by makutu, as other versions do.
When a person was engaged on such a task and quest as was Mahu it was forbidden the seeker to indulge in any form of food until his object was attained, in many cases he was forbidden to speak to any person during such a journey. Hence Mahu is said to have walked from Nukutaurua to Te Mahia to Maungawharau without partaking of food and apparently without resting. Taewha carefully warns Mahu as to the dangers of indulging in black magic; he declines to slay the thieves by his magic spells, but agrees to impart those spells to Mahu.
Taewha compelled Mahu to perform the peculiar ceremony of ngaau paepae, already described in Bulletin 10. In one version he says: "ka ngau e koe i te pae, tea hotel mai" (you must bite the beam of the latrines and then return hither). The act of immersion would obliterate all hara (sin) clinging to Mahu, and so fit him for the task before him, which necessitated approach to the gods. The kairanga referred to was probably a whatu or stone pertaining to the tapu house of learning; it may be a variant form of the name whatu kairangi, one of the tapu stones referred to.
In another version we are told that Mahu ate several lizards, apparently he masticated them; he is thus said to have devoured four lizards, each one a distinct species, and to have wound up by consuming a tuatara, truly a satisfying meal!
In another version still it appears that the stone deposited at the latrine (paepae kairangi) was the one swallowed by Mahu, after which he had to perform the whakaha. This was in conjunction with his teacher, and so he absorbed the knowledge and mana of that teacher, he who had said: "hamama te waha whakaha tei runga i taku tipuaki." Small stones were swallowed by learners in different branches of knowledge. The resounding of thunder in the heavens was, of course, ample proof that Mahu had acquired the mana that he craved.
The various personifications whose names commence with Tahu are confusing: some represent afflictions, sickness, makutu, etc., as Tahumaikinui and Tahumaero, while some represent winds or compass points. About the slaying of Kurapati, had not page 150Mahu obeyed his teacher and slain the first person he saw after he left the house of magic, then he would have lost all knowledge of the matter he had memorised, all his trouble would have been in vain, his mana would melt away, such are the beliefs of the Maori. The slaying of persons by means of burying some charmed object in a path over which they must pass was a well known method of disposing of enemies, and concerning which we have some further data to give.
In a third recital concerning Mahu we have a brief version that refers to a further adventure of our hero. Again we find that no mention is made of the cause of the slaying of the travellers who came to Maungawharau. Reference is made to the slaying of one Haere by Mahu when returning to his home at Nukutaurua. It was in this wise: Mahu stayed a night at the village home of Haere and was given a portion of food, the kinaki or relish of which was a piece of human flesh. Mahu took the small open basket containing the food, we are told that he became, by some mysterious means, aware of the fact that the piece of flesh before him was a portion of the body of his nephew, who had been slain in a fight known as Upokotaua. He therefore refrained from partaking of any of the food. After dark he took it away and buried it; he then located his atua or god, say demon, one Tukaiwhakarongomina by name, at the village latrine, and also prepared and stuck in the earth near the squatting beam a pointed stake termed titi autahi. He then recited his deadly spells over it and retired. When Haere visited the latrine next morning he was pierced by the titi, (stake) and perished miserably. Others met a similar fate, and so the village was abandoned and a new one built elsewhere. Meantime suspicion had fallen upon Mahu and a party was sent in pursuit of him but Mahu, wise man, had lifted the northern trail under cover of night and was far on his way to Mohaka-whanaunga-kore.
Poetical justice demands the death of Kokouri and his friends, and the task of disposing of them was faithfully performed by Mahu by means of his powers of makutu.
We are told that the ordeals described above were necessary, and that great care had to be displayed by learners and teachers of black magic, or such teaching was fruitless. In the story of Ruawharo and Tupai, however, we see that the latter gained a knowledge of magic spells in a surreptitious manner, and without undergoing any form of discipline or ordeals, yet his hoa spells were highly effective and he killed a bird and blasted a tree by means of such "projected death".page 151
The term ohonga is used to denote any object used as a medium in magic arts. Its use seems to be usually confined to what we term black magic; it is but occasionally heard in connection with white magic, wherein the term ahua is often applied to the medium employed, such ahua, however, may be either material or immaterial. Aria is more rarely used in place of ahua. The great aim in procuring the ohonga was to obtain something that would represent, or convey, the personality or hau of the person to be bewitched. The ohonga is quite often spoken of as the hau, a term that has already been dealt with. Anything that has been in contact with the body of a proposed victim forms an excellent ohonga or medium. Thus a shred of a garment, a lock of hair, nail clippings, a portion of saliva or of perspiration, any of these will serve as an effective medium between the magic spells of the wizard and their objective, the hapless victim. Dr Shortland has truly said that the Maori folk were extremely careful about expectorating if they suspected any one of a desire to bewitch them. This writer makes, however, a dubious statement when he says that the ohonga was obtained by a warlock "in order to treat it in a way to ensure the rage of his Atua." The dire effect of makutu was not due to anything done to the mediumistic object, but to the magic spell empowered by the atua (Shortland, Traditions and Superstitions of the New Zealanders, p. 117).
The hau of man could be taken to serve as an ohonga so that it was not necessary to obtain a material medium. This hau, being an external quality, a kind of vital aura pertaining to the body, is accessible, and, moreover, Maori belief is that a portion thereof is transferred to any object with which the body comes in contact. Thus, when a person feared the activities of wizards, he would, when he rose from a seat, pass his cupped hand across that seat, so as to scoop up and carry off any of his hau that might be clinging thereto. When we reflect that any article touched by a person retained a certain modicum of his hau, then we can see how a man with enemies around him was beset by danger. We are told that the hau of man can be taken by means of a certain charm or spell, but that it is necessary that the warlock is actually looking at the victim as he recites the spell. (Ko te hau o te tangata he mea riro i te karakia makutu, arangi kia kite toru atu i te tangata ka tangohia mai tona hau.) In describing the use of a medium in black magic the late Colonel Gudgeon wrote: "This is however but a vulgar form of bewitchment for an artist in the black magic art can take the hau of a man's voice while he is page 152speaking to him, and then … can cause the death of the bewitched one." Journal of the Polynesian Society vol. 14, p. 128). As an old native once put it to me: "Should a person be talking to me and I think that he is trying to bewitch me, then I take the hau of his voice, that is I take it with my voice by reciting a suitable charm." At p. 103 of vol. 2 of the Journal of the Polynesian Society are given different spells repeated over ohonga; there are five in all, each of which is employed for a particular purpose at its proper place in the proceedings. The charm recited when actually taking the ohonga is of a pleasing brevity:
Whakahopu ringa o aitu, whakahopu ringa o tangata.
It is only excelled in that respect by one given by Tamarau of Tuhoe:
Hopu ringa o tu, mauri o Tu.
This brevity was demanded by the circumstances under which such media were obtained in many cases, as when a thread of fibre was filched from a garment.
Among the Matatua folk a material ohonga was tied to a wand of Coprosma (karamu) and taken by an expert to the local tuahu or place where rites were performed, and there he would repeat over it the spells that would cause the death of the victim.
We have now another aspect of the hau of man to note, and that is what is termed manea by the Matatua tribes. This is explained as te hau o te tapuwae tangata, the hau of the human footprint, it is that modicum of a person's hau left clinging to each of his footprints. A person can gather the soil on which the footprint is impressed, take it away, and utilise it as is any other form of ohonga. It was owing to these beliefs and practices that persons who considered it necessary would often avoid paths, and also, if practicable, walk in the waters of a stream or sea beach merely to avoid leaving their manea for ill disposed persons to purloin. To leave one's footprints on the sands of time may be a laudable ambition, so long as those sands are not infested by pernicious warlocks.
In his excellent work, Where the White Man Treads, p. 52, W. Baucke mentions a curious usage in connection with the manea of a person. He remarks that some earth from the offender's footprint was enclosed in a quill, and either burned or thrown into a stream where it would be carried over a waterfall, page 153or down a cataract. Doubtless some form of spell would be recited by the performer of this act.
Among the Aotea tribes of our North Island manea seems to denote a sacred place, and in some districts it is applied to what is generally termed a mauri or whatu, a talisman. The Rev. T. G. Hammond gives manea as an Aotea name for certain stones possessing baleful powers implanted in them by magicians (Story of Aotea, p. 191). It would appear that any person touching, or even passing near, such stones would perish. Stones used as boundary marks were sometimes so charged with deadly powers. A Hawera native stated that such stones were sometimes placed in streams the waters of which would probably be drunk by enemies, such as raiders, with deadly effect. Mr Hammond tells us that Taranaki warlocks sometimes placed ohonga in a little canoe shaped vessel fashioned from bullrush leaves, which craft was then allowed to drift away on the waters of a stream. The spell recited over the medium would effect the desired result. The Tuhoe folk told me that the portion of earth representing the manea or hau of the human foot might be deposited at some tapu place, such as the whatapuaroa, for a time. Then, when the mara tautane for the next crop was planted (see Dominion Museum Bulletin 9, 1976 reprint, p. 116) the ohonga would be recovered and buried with one of the seed tubers, and again the spell would be effective.
I have heard the term ohonga applied to tubers of the first planted hillock of a sweet potato crop because such were employed as a form of offering to the stone image representing the "god" of agriculture in whose care the crop was placed. (Ka tangahia te kumara tuhatahi o te tiringa atu ka waiho hai ohonga ki te atua ara te kopatu.) This seems to show that the term ohonga is derived from oho "to arouse, to wake up", the medium employed serves to stimulate the atua to attend to his duty and so produce a bountiful crop. Here we are invading the field of white magic.
The burying of bewitched objects under a path with the object of destroying or otherwise affecting persons who passed over them, was essentially a Maori usage. The effect on the trespasser was regulated by the spell recited over the medium employed, thus the result might be death within a short period of time, or merely a weakening of mental or physical qualities, according to the desire of the wizard as expressed in his noxious charm. We are told that, if a warlock wished to destroy or weaken the people of a hamlet, he would bury a duly bewitched object, probably a page 154small stone, in the marae or plaza, a place frequented by all. As the people chanced to walk over the spot they became affected. In like manner practically anything might be employed as a medium in magic, as garments, articles of food, implements, hair, spittle, etc. We have noted two ways of destroying enemies in the story of Mahu. In some cases a sweet potato tuber was the medium employed, we are told that such was sometimes buried in a patch over which a party of raiders was advancing; as they crossed the spot each man would be affected and become nerveless, irresolute, and so be useless as a fighter.
Another method of foiling a party of raiders may also be noted. When news arrived of the approach of enemies then one or more experts would hasten to lay magic traps for them. In many cases a fording place of a stream was selected as a place for operations, or a bridge, or a place whereat a path entered or passed out of a forest; at such a place the potent spell would be repeated. This charm was recited over a length of a forest vine, the stem of a climbing plant. Two warlocks held this across the path each holding one end of the vine, as they faced their home village, or any force of their fighting men that might be awaiting for the time for action—and so the spell was repeated by them. When they came to the words "Takiritia max nga mana hapai rakau" the warlocks laid the vine down on the ground so that it lay across the path; each end of the vine was pegged down and the whole was covered with earth etc., so that it might be concealed. The two men then rose, and, facing the direction in which they were going, they again recited the formula. As they finished the recital they shook the dust from their feet and left it lying on the near side of the length of vine, after which they expectorated on the spot and repeated another formula in which they called upon the vine to do its work and destroy man even as the bird of Ruakapanga, the kuranui (moa) has been destroyed. They then retired to where their armed party was awaiting them, and that party advanced to some suitable confined place whereat to attack the enemy. The first man of the enemy caught or slain was set aside for the gods, that is the heart of such man was utilised as an offering to the gods.
The formula repeated over the vine medium contains some peculiar expressions. The first one asks for the necessary powers to be assigned to the experts and their acts, after which the wording is that of a rotu, a charm to cause persons to sleep or to sink into a condition of lethargy. This latter condition is also carved in connection with the gods, mana and courage of the page 155enemy. A curious line asks that enemies be rendered as harmless and passive as the stones in an oven, Rakahore being the personified form of a rock, etc.
In some cases a spear was buried under a path, and that spear was more deadly than any "live wire" of modern times, for it was not necessary that a person should come into actual contact with it, to pass over it spelt death. The Tuhoe folk tell me that some warlocks, when bewitching a path, would simply make a mark across it with the end of a stick, and repeat over that slight furrow the necessary spell. This method seems to be empowered by one Rongotakawhiu, a malevolent atua of surpassing powers. As an old warrior expressed it "Ko Rongotakawhiu ka haea te kahu o te whenua". He also explained that the warlock carried a short staff, on one end of which was carried a figure in human form, and this was a sort of emblem of Rongotakawhiu. With the uncarved lower end of this short staff he would make the mark across a path; the following was one of the formulae employed on such occasions:
Te ika a Tu ka hikitia
Te ika a Rongo ka hapainga
Te ika a Tangaroa ka haehaea
Tuku tonu, heke tonu te ika ki te Po
He ika ka ripiripia, he ika ka toetoea, he ika ka haparangitia.
Herein the victims are consigned to the spirit world and destruction.
Another informant told me that a stick over which the proper spell had been recited might simply be thrown across a path to have the desired effect. In other cases, when a man was pushed for time, he might simply make a pass with his hand through the air as he repeated his spell. This was done by a person fleeing from enemies, as an escape from a fight, he would make a pass with his hand behind his back as he ran and recite the punga charm whereby to weaken the running powers of the pursuers. Probably no Maori believed that a person perished as soon as he crossed one of these charmed spots, but he would be enfeebled thereby rendered comparatively harmless by the powers of magic and perhaps perish later. Pio, an octogenarian of the Awa folk of Te Teko once said to me: "Now when Ngati-Awa went to Whangamata the canoes of Ngati-Maru were seen approaching and bringing many fighting men. Some of Ngati-Awa proposed a retreat, but my ancestor Tohia restrained them. He grasped the spear named Rongotakawhiu and recited over it a karakia hoa; page 156he then scored a line on the surface of the earth; the warriors of Ngati-Maru advanced, they crossed that line, they were smitten and defeated by Tohia-i-te-rangi, who was the father of my grandfather". Here a spear seems to have represented Rongotakawhiu for the occasion. The Ngati-Poru folk explained that when persons cross such a charmed line or buried object, they enter a condition described by the terms pawera, pahunu, mahunu, etc., that is they become nervous, apprehensive, and lose their self confidence, and so are easily defeated. This was the true effect of the magic spells, which did not themselves cause death.
One can but wonder why, in such case as the above, the acting warlock did not employ the more violent form of hoa and thereby utterly destroy them without the aid of armed men. When, however, one puts such a query as this to a Maori he seems to show, by word and manner, that such an idea has never entered his head. Bearing in mind that the Maori is by no means a dull witted person, what does this lack of acumen denote?
It will be remembered that voyagers and explorers often resort to the drawing of a line when interviewing natives of new found lands, and little known places, Cook and Crozet both adopted this device when doubtful of the attitude of Maori folk. In the case of the Maori the assembled people would probably accept the act as an example of such acts of magic as those referred to above.
When a band of raiders from the north passed up the waterway to Wairarapa lake early in last century a pole having a bunch of fern tied to its upper end was found standing in the river. This was held to be a tohu makutu, a token of an act of makutu active magic. But why conceal such a medium in some cases, and leave it exposed in others; in the latter case an approaching enemy would probably suspect the meaning of a pole or transverse stick, or disturbed ground and avoid it, either retire and advance by another route or endeavour to nullify the powers of the medium by means of virulent counter-spells.
There is another method of closing a path to an approaching person or party, and one that, apparently, was never meant to destroy or endanger life, in some cases at least no harm was intended and probably no spell or charm was uttered, the interdiction was simply based on the mana of the individual who imposed it. The visible sign of such a blockade would be a log or branch placed across the path, perhaps a branch or pole suspended over it. Such a block to traffic is termed a pa, and this page 157word enters into a number of place names, being usually followed by the name of the object utilised as a blocking medium. Thus we have Pa-rangiora, a place name near Ruatoki; at this place a branch rangiora, a shrub, was placed across the path by one Muruhakapua in order to block the path to one Kaituareka who was said to be coming with evil intent. In like manner did the place name of Pa-puweru originate; in this case a garment (puweru) was suspended across the path. I was told that no form of makutu pertained to this act, that a party was on its way to visit the hamlet, and that, for some reason, the presence of these people was not desired. The party turned back simply because to proceed would be an act of takahi mana, a belittling or disregarding of the prestige of the local headman.
Another peculiar use of a garment was connected with the punga rite performed by a person being pursued by enemies. As the pursued finished the recital of his charm he threw the garment behind him, and, when his pursuers came to that garment, they at once became ngenge (weary) and so powerless to effect their object.
Stones placed as boundary marks were certainly bewitched in some cases, and Taranaki natives tell us how lizards were placed at the bases of such stones when the death laden magic formula was recited. These lizards are said to have been so placed to act as guardians of the stone, really as a medium for the magic spell. This custom was extended to the stones placed to mark the bounds of the different family plots in a large cultivation ground. Any person moving one of the stones would, of course, perish, in Maori belief. A Maori, in alluding to these lizard guardians, speaks of them as though they live for centuries.
At one time during the 19th century, there chanced to be a serious number of deaths among the native children of the west coast of the North Island, and some of the elders came to the conclusion that the old native gods were punishing them for having abandoned their old faith and accepted Christianity. Their gods and ancestors were showing their displeasure, and their power, by destroying the children. The old boundary marks, with other tapu stones and places, were all considered to be especially dangerous to those who touched or trespassed upon them. Hence experts were employed to traverse the district and render such objects and places innocuous by means of a simple ceremony. The Rev. R. Taylor tells us of a case in which a native lad, suffering from some wasting complaint, was said to have page 158unwittingly sat upon one of these tapu stones and so had become afflicted. The energetic and reckless missionary then busied himself in removing the stone and casting it into the adjacent river. As he was not stricken by the gods for this daring act the local natives came to the conclusion that those gods had no power over Europeans. One might suppose that the tapu stone lying in the river would render the water tapu and so unusable, possibly some expert would be employed to remedy the matter.
Another method of employing magic was to render a doorway dangerous to pass through. This was effected by means of spells and by the employment of some form of medium; such a medium was often concealed under the door-sill, and any person passing over this would be affected by the dread powers of the spell. This was equivalent to the burying of the mediumistic object in a pathway. Another method was to smear some substance on the doorposts or adjacent parts, cooked food was often used for this purpose.
When Maui and his companions were about to assail Hine-nui-te-Po the latter sent Namu-poto the silent sandfly to obtain some of their blood; when that blood was brought to her she smeared it on the lintel of the doorway of her house to serve as a vehicle or medium for her destructive spells. When Maui passed through the doorway he was foredoomed.
The sentence describing this in the original is illuminating. Hine obtains some of the blood of Maui and his companions—"Katahi ka parua (nga toto) ki runga i te kurupae o te tomokanga o te whare kia hou mai ra te ope nona ra nga toto ma raw. Katahi ka karakiatia e Hine, ki te tomo te hanga ra ki roto i tona whare ra ka poheaheatia ratau i o ratau toto" Here it is plainly shown that the karakia or spell was recited in order to render distraught those who entered the house.
The warlock Timu-whakairihia, when about to punish Ruawharo and Tupai for interfering with his wife, was careful not to destroy them, they being relatives of his, and so he merely worked his enchantments upon them so as to harass them and render them ridiculous. This is a case in which the medium employed consisted of human excreta, and this was smeared on the timbers of the doorway. (Katahi a Timu-whakairihia ka mau atu ki te wai o te wahine, pania atu ki te tomokanga o te whare hei, makutu mana i nga tangata ra.)
See White's Ancient History of the Maori, vol. 3, pp. 37-43, of original for another version of the foregoing.page 159
When Hau was courting Rakahanga, daughter of Tumataroa, he seems to have employed some form of love charm to aid him, and so we are told of a doorway being charmed as it were so as to render a woman complacent. The act is not satisfactorily explained in the story as it has been preserved—Hau caught a fly, repeated a charm over it, and having done so, he then left it under the doorway of the house. (Mau tonu a Hau ki te rango, karakiatia ana, ka oti katahi ka waiho i raw o te tomokanga mai o te whare.) No explanation is given, but evidently the charmed fly formed an important medium in this act of atahu. Quite probably it was supposed, as in the case of birds so employed, to settle on the woman, and so transmit to her the powers and effect of the charm.
Another form of magic pertaining to houses and huts consisted of spells intended to destroy or cripple any thieves endeavouring to enter the place.
The ohonga employed by Hine when planning the death of Maui was, as we have seen, a drop of his blood. She had wished to obtain the hau or vital aura of Maui as a medium to base her spells on. One version states that she endeavoured to obtain his aria for that purpose, and I believe that the drop of blood obtained by Namupoto would be viewed as the aria of the hau of Maui. Another version explains that Maui was overcome and slain by the genital organs of Hine because she had deliberately prepared it as a destructive agent by reciting a spell over it; Katahi ia (a Hine) ka raweke i a ia, ka whakakoia tonutia toua werewere hei patu mana i a Maui. Ko te karakia ahu tenei a Hine i toua werewere hei patu i a Maui:
Tahu hika he taha, taku werewere he taha
Taku katitohe he taha, tohe uira he rarapa he taha tona.
The wording of this spell is peculiar and the second line may be incorrecty given here. The Maori firmly believed in inherent powers, both destructive and beneficial, as pertaining to the sexual organs. This belief has been explained elsewhere in Dominion Museum Bulletin 10, 1976 reprint, pp. 353-354. Tutakangahau of Tuhoe explained to me the qualities of the ure or phallus. Take the case of a person engaged in an argument or quarrel, he suspects that another is silently endeavouring to bewitch him, to injure him by means of magic spells. He will go aside to some secluded place, there grasp his ure, penis, and retract the prepuce, after which he will expectorate into that hand, close it, and return to the vicinity of his adversary. He then page 160makes a motion as though throwing something at his opponent, opening his hand as he does so. Now Tutaka remarked that this act was sufficient to ward off or nullify any magic spells that might have been directed against the performer, and that it was not necessary to repeat a charm. The throwing act would probably be so performed as not to be seen by the person it was directed against. Moreover the above act not only saved the threatened person but would also seriously affect the offender. Some explain this as a recoiling of the original spell upon he who uttered it, the repulsing force being the act described above, and the inherent powers of the phallus caused the averted spell to affect the person who uttered it. The following is a brief form of spell used by the Matatua folk in the above described kai ure rite:
Kai ure nga atua, kai ure nga tapu, kai ure o makutu.
He who gave this formula described the kai ure act briefly thus:
Ka rere te ringa ki te ure, ka titoirua, katahi ka hapainga te karakia.
The curious remark made by a native anent the koutu mimi, as given at p. 353 of Bulletin 10, serves as a striking illustration of the mentality of barbaric man, hence it is here given in the original: "Taku titiro ko te or a o te Pakeha e or a nei, e kore nei e mate i roto i nga tau katoa, e kore e wareware tona koutu mimi i nga po katoa. Ko te tawhito tena, ara ko te ure, koinei te ora o oku tipuna; ko taua mimi hai whakakuruki atu i nga mea raweke mai."
We have seen that the spells coming under the head of the term matapou had what one may term a paralysing effect, indeed often a petrifying one, inasmuch as by such means persons and animals were turned into stone. The same term, however, was applied to the act of causing a canoe to remain motionless, to bring it to a halt, so that no efforts of the members of the crew, paddle they never so bravely, could move it.
In the quaint story of Hau and Wairaka the former overtook his fleeing wife on the beach at Pukerua and at once put an end to her escapades by levelling a matapou spell at her, which spell transformed her into a rock that, for long centuries, has withstood the surging billows of the Sea of Raukawa. This is referred to in a well known song:
Ka tae koe ki a Wairaka
Matapoutia, poua ki runga, poua ki ram, ka rarau, e hinel
This Hau was the person who prevented the vessel of his brothers coming to land at Nukutaurua by means of a matapou spell. page 161When Kupe was pursuing the Wheke a Muturangi through Cook Strait he stopped that creature's progress by the same means. (I mate te Whake a Muturangi ki Tuahiwi nui o Moko i te whanga o Raukawa nei, he mea matapou na Kupe.) When Tamatea sent his wife Turihuka to procure some water some five or six centuries ago she wasted time by sitting down and weeping for her far distant home in eastern Polynesia. This so annoyed her worthy husband that he transformed her into a stone; he also left their dogs at the same place, so that she might have company, the two dogs named Haumai and Mitimiti, and his attendant, Kopuwai was left to look after them. When Tamatea reached Putiki at Whanganui he heard the two dogs howling, whereupon he knew that Kopuwai had deserted them, hence he turned both dogs into stone by the matapou, and transformed Kopuwai into a lizard. As these persons and dogs had been left in the South Island then Tamatea must have possessed the power to project the force of his spell for long distances.
In the story of Mahu we had another illustration of this turning of folks into stone, and in that case a large party was so petrified. The sentence describing this act of Maho and Taewha is a striking one: "Ka tu raua ki te karakia i nga atua e rima kia whakamaikitia te ope taua ra ki te whanau a Hinemoana, a Tuamatua, kia poua hei kowhatu te iwi nei." Many such cases as this are recorded in Maori folk tales, but the most remarkable illustration I wrote of is that where Rehua repeats a matapou charm in order to halt the ata (shadow soul) of Io the Supreme Being so that he might speak to it.
The matakia method of employing magic is another matter that calls for some further explanation. To wait until a person is in the bush partaking of food ere one repeats a spell of black magic directed against him seems to be a very singular procedure. The Maori belief respecting this singular usage appears to present a twofold aspect. In the first place the noxious powers of the spell were swallowed as it were together with the food, both entered the body of the victim, and so the spell became effective. In the second place there seems to have been a belief that, because the spell was co-mingled as it were with cooked food, then it must necessarily be more effective. We have already noted how cooked food acted as a potent medium in the arts of witchcraft.
The late Kawana Paipai once explained that, when persons were partaking of food and a person chanced to arrive at or pass near the hamlet, he was at once invited to share the meal. Were this not done then the visitor or wayfarer might silently repeat a page 162matakai spell and so bring disaster upon them. A peculiar account of an act of matakai was given by Tarakawa. A warlock named Te Wheuki came upon some children who were eating food and asked them for a portion, whereupon one of them enquired: "Why do you not prepare some food for yourself?" His reply was: "How can I, am I not tapu?" As no food was forthcoming Te Wheuki, with a movement of his foot spurned the dust of the path in the direction of the children, who died the same day. Doubtless the warlock would silently repeat a brief spell as he performed the act.
Cruise tells us that "It is customary, when the natives of this country sit down to their meals, for the slaves to put the portion of each individual before him in a new basket, made of a kind of flax; nor are those baskets under any circumstances used twice; and at the termination of the repast every person carries away the remnant of the food set before him." (Cruise, Journal of a Ten Months' Residence in New Zealand, p. 108). Cruise does not explain matters, but one of the reasons for this carrying off the remainder of the food and the use of new baskets was the fear of witchcraft.
The Rev. R. Taylor has the following among his remarks on makutu: " … the person who bewitched another remained three days without eating; on the fourth he eat (sic), and his victim died. The natives were afraid of their food being bewitched; when they embraced Christianity they were very particular in asking a blessing on it to prevent the evil wishes of their enemies taking effect." (Te Ika a Maui, 2nd ed., p. 204).
When a person had been insulted, as by the utterance of a kanga (a term implying execration, abuse or insult), he would probably repeat some formula supposed to have the effect of nullifying the evil effects of such insult. About the shortest of such formulae consists of the two words: "Turou whakataha". In many cases a man would make no reply to the spoken insult.
Should the injured party consider himself in danger, he would certainly make no reply, but would go home and carefully refrain from taking any food for three days. The idea was to let the offender to be the first person to eat food, in which case his evil utterance, curse, spell or insult would recoil upon himself. It would be highly dangerous for the injured party to eat first. It was also advisable to repeat such a charm, or countercharm, as the following, when danger from evil spell and evil wishes was apprehended. It was repeated silently, never aloud, while standing at the village latrine, facing the east:page 163
Tutohia te po, tutohia te ao
Na raw mai koe, na runga atu au
Te mana i a koe me tuku ki raw
Ki te Po i raw, kia ngaro i raw
Kia iro raw, kia tamumu i raw
Haere atu ki te mate
Oti atu to wairua ki te Po
Herein the reciter proclaims that the known and unknown betoken his superiority over his adversary, and consigns his powers to banishment in lower realms, chastened and humbled, concluding with "Go to your death, let your spirit begone forever to the unknown!"
Our cautious man would then order some food to be cooked, and while this was being attended to, he would return to the latrine, taikawa, kneel down before the paepae, or horizontal beam thereof, and bite it or apply his teeth to it, an act known as ngau paepae. This is another way of nullifying the effects of magic arts. He then obtained a small piece of the dessicated faeces, wrapped it in some grass and took it home. When the cooked food was ready, he would obtain a piece thereof and put it with the other item. He then plucked a hair from his head and another from his body, and put these with the other objects, which he took to the stream beside which certain ceremonies were performed, and cast them into the water, repeating as he did so:
Ka hika taku ahi ki moana nui,
Ki moana roa, ki moana whakarewarewa.
He then returned to the village and partook of the food prepared for him, after repeating his final protective charm:
Tapatapa tu ki te rangi wairua raia ra
Kia kai mai te ihi o te ka
Te mana o te kai, tutawake o te kai.
It is impossible for us to see any sense in some of these formulae or karakia employed as charms; possibly he who employed them was no wiser. For instance, the first of the above two may be rendered as "I generate my fire to great ocean, to vast ocean, to restless ocean", but as to how such words could save a man from the dread shafts of black magic passeth the understanding of man, at least of the man now writing.
Ngati-Porou informants stated that it is the wairua(soul, spirit) of man that is affected by makutu. Kahui of Taranaki stated that a warlock would capture, or gain control over, the ata of a person whom he wished to destroy. Both ata and wairua carry the page 164double meaning of shadow and spirit; the term is used in the latter sense when alluding to these operations in magic.
The owl (ruru) was connected with makutu`and was looked upon as a bird of evil omen. I well remember a native neighbour of mine in a far forest land being seriously perturbed because, on two consecutive evenings, he had seen an owl in the porch of his hut. Evidently this was a portent of some dire misfortune, trouble loomed before. A would-be warlock of a local hamlet heard of the occurrence and at once announced to my neighbour that he himself had sent the owls, and that, unless certain articles were handed over to him, trouble would assuredly follow. My neighbour came to me in distress and explained matters, whereupon I persuaded him to let me handle the case, explaining that, being but a godless and abandoned foreigner, the gods of the Maori, including owls, had no power over me. In the negotiations that ensued racial antipathies and superstitious fears were prominent; but the end was not well for the despatcher of ominous owls, and he did not acquire the coveted property.