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Maori Religion and Mythology Part 2

The Legend of Hau and Wairaka

The Legend of Hau and Wairaka

This tale includes names of some ancestors of the Maori folk, but, as in other cases, many marvels have been credited to those old Polynesian colonisers. The following table shows the position of the two leading persons in this legend—

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family tree

The ancestor Poupaka was, we are told, a daring Polynesian sea rover concerning whom several sayings have been preserved. His daughter Aparangi was taken to wife by Kupe the sea rover, he who came hither to New Zealand, and whose surprising adventure in Cook Strait is related elsewhere in this chronicle. In as much as two near descendants of Kupe were named Haunui native speakers always add the name of the mother, as in the table, in order to avoid confusion. Popoto in the table came to New Zealand in the vessel Kurahaupo with Whatongo, grandson of Toi, according to traditions preserved by the Ngati-Kahungunu folk. Tauira, an elder brother of the Hau or Haunui of our story, seems to have been the eponymic ancestor of the old-time tribe of the Wairoa district known as the Tini-o-Tauira. According to a mean of sundry lines of descent Tauira and our hero Haunui-a-Nanaia lived twenty-seven generations ago. The two wives of Hau are shown in the table, Wairaka being the hapless one who yet stands on the drear, storm lashed coast of Pukerua, where Poawha looks out on lone Kapiti.

Hau and his elder brothers are said to have returned to the isles of Polynesia, if so then they may have gone with Tama-ahua, also a Kurahaupo immigrant, and who sailed back to Hawaiki. Hau left his wife Wairaka here when he sailed away; these folk seem to have lived somewhere about the Mahia, and we know that Whatonga of Kurahaupo settled at Nukutaurua in that district.

Some time after Hau and his brothers sailed away to northern isles his wife Wairaka was carried off by two slaves or serving men named Kiwi and Weka. They seem to have taken her across the island and down to Pukerua, just south of Paekakariki, Wellington district, where they were found by Hau on his return from Hawaiki.

Meanwhile Hau and his brothers had reached the far land of Hawaiki, where they heard of one Rakahanga, daughter of page 214Tumataroa, a young woman famed for her personal attractions. Here Hau was deserted by his brothers, who set off to visit the home of Tumataroa and his daughter Rakahanga, where they proposed to entertain their hosts by performing a posture dance. Some time later Hau followed his brothers, and, on reaching the village, found the men of the place collecting firewood, whereupon he asked: "For what purpose are you gathering fuel?" They replied: "To furnish light for the posture dancing." Said Hau: "Give me some of your fuel." They did so and he took his burden of fuel and entered the village with the others, where all deposited their loads of fuel, while Hau hastened to enter one of the houses to escape notice.

All the people assembled in order to witness the dancing, and Hau entered the big house with the others. He now took steps to secure the famous Rakahanga for himself by the exercise of the powers of white magic. He caught an insect, a kind of fly, and repeated over it a form of love charm or atahu, after which he placed it beneath the threshold of the door. When Rakahanga arrived to join the assembled people, as she stepped through the doorway the powers of the charm affected her and caused her to look favourably on Hau, the worker of marvels. When she did so enter, Hau made his way to her and she made no demur when he claimed her as his wife.

On the morrow it became known the Rakahanga had taken a husband, and so her parents asked her where he was. She replied: "I do not recognise him among all these people, for as dawn came, he hastened to conceal himself." Her parents said: "When you come together again be sure to detain him when day dawns, should you not be able to do so then mark him by scratching his face." The woman now understood what to do. The next morning her husband attempted to withdraw again ere daylight arrived, whereupon Rakahanga strove to detain him, but he broke away from her, though not before she had succeeded in scratching his forehead.

Again the parents of Rakahanga asked where her husband was, would she point him out. She looked around her but did not see him, and said: "I cannot see him now." Again she looked for him: "Ehara! Yonder he is, sitting in the corner. Behold my husband; see the scratches I made on his forehead." Then all looked at the man, and brothers of Hau saw that it was he who had gained the love of Rakahanga and had been baffled by her. Those brothers then rose and returned to their own place, where they at once set to work to prepare their vessel for a sea voyage, page 215that they might return home to Aotearoa (New Zealand). They were angry with Hau for having won Rakahanga and intended to desert him and so return home by themselves. But a nephew of Hau informed him of the decision that his brothers had come to, and that the vessel was being prepared. Hau told him to return and make a hiding place for him in the forepart of the hold of the vessel, wherein he might conceal himself and so return to Aotearoa unknown to his brothers.

When the vessel sailed for Aotearoa, Hau was in his hiding place, while his friendly nephew was in charge of the baling well of the forepart of the vessel. So they fared hitherward across the Ocean of Kiwa. In nearing the coast of Aotearoa Hau's nephew left his post at the forward baling place, whereupon one of Hau's brothers proceeded to bale out the well. While doing so he discovered the stowaway in his place of concealment, and at once attacked him. Hau managed to escape from his brother, but was forced to leap overboard in doing so. He at once resorted to his own strange powers and so called upon the fish of the ocean to assemble and succour him by bearing him to land. Ere commencing this last and most extraordinary part of his voyage Hau found time to repeat a matapou charm in order to stay the progress of his brother's vessel, and render it immovable on the face of the waters.

Hau reached land at the beach called Rarohenga, at Kahutara, near unto Nukutaurua. Now when morning came Popoto came forth from his fortified village, and, on looking down on that beach, he saw some object bethronged by sea birds and concluded that it was a stranded fish. He sent a man down to the beach to examine the object, and, when the man reached it, he saw the eyes of Hau looking at him, but the body of Hau was hidden by sea-wrack. The man returned and reported to Popoto: "The stranded object is a man who says that you are his father, and he desires that a fire be kindled to warm him." Then Popoto took fire, and fuel, the same being wood of the maire tree, and descended to the beach; a fire was made on the strand and the body of Hau was warmed thereat, and many say that the remains of the fuel are still seen at that place.

Hau was conveyed to the village where his mother, Nanaia, enquired of him: "Where are your elder brothers?" Hau replied: "They are out yonder on the ocean, observe the sail of their vessel like unto a small cloud far away on the horizon." Then were performed the strange acts of yore, a tapu steaming pit was kindled, and food was placed therein to be cooked, then the page 216firebrands were taken and utilised in a singular ritual performance whereby winds were caused to spring up, in this case a wind favourable to the vessel of the brothers of Hau. That vessel now approached the land, and Hau went down to the beach to meet it. As the vessel neared the beach the elder brothers of Hau looked at him as he stood there; said Te Matawharite: "Yonder is Hau standing on the beach." But Tauira remarked: "How could a man cast overboard at sea be here." So the brothers of Hau came safe to land in their vessel, Papa-huakina.

Hau then returned to his father's home where he questioned his mother about his wife, and Nanaia replied: "She has been taken away by your two servants Kiwi and Weka." Then Hau rose and went forth into the south in search of Wairaka his wife, and her two abductors. He came to Taiporutu but found her not, and Hau signed as he thought of his lost wife. At this time Kiwi, Weka and Wairaka had ascended Taumata-hinaki, where Wairaka heard the sighing of Hau, and so said her companions: "The sound that comes to me reminds me of Hau." They remarked: "How can the man who went over seas be here."

Hau now proceeded on his way and crossed over to Whanganui whence he turned southward and so came to Whangaehu, a name said to have been derived from the fact that he baled water out there, though we are not told what it was baled from. Turakina was so named because he overthrew something there (a tree in one version) and Rangitikei from his striding over the land. Other names given by him were Manawatu, Waiarawa, Hokio, Ohau, Waikawa, Waitohu, Otaki, Waimeha and Waikanae. At Paekakariki he reached the end of the sandy beach. Ere long he came to a barrier of rock through which he forced a passage by means of his powers of magic, and so we have the Ana o Hau or Cave of Hau.

Again Hau fared on, and, on reaching the beach at Wairuapihi, below Pukerua, he at last came upon Wairaka. He asked her where Kiwi and Weka were, and was told that they would return in the evening. Hau awaited their return, and, when they arrived, he attacked and slew them. Hau then commanded Wairaka to go to the off-shore rocks and gather shellfish, when she had waded out some distance he recited the dread matapou spell and thereby transformed Wairaka into a rock. Thus when you look down the iron road of the white man upon the bounds of the sea of Raukawa you will see the storm lashed rock that represents the hapless Wairaka.

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In the above we have what may very well be an historical tradition into which Maori narrators have worked a number of their beloved marvels. So it is with the records of scriptless man, and not with such only.