Maori Religion and Mythology Part 2
Sickness and Disease
Sickness and Disease
We have here an alarming list of personified forms of disease and sickness. All these Maiki brethren are the henchmen of Whiro in his ceaseless war against mankind. We are told that it is Whiro who generates all ailments that sweep man down to the Po or underworld (Te mahi a Whiro he whakatipu i nga tu mate katoa e iki nei i te tangata ki te Po), Occasionally some of these names appear in recitals with a prefixed Tahu, but we have no knowledge as to whether or not this prefix affects the meaning of the expression in any way. Half a dozen other Tahu names are given that also pertain to personified forms, or causes, of disease. These latter seem to be distinct from the Maiki series. Again, one of the many Tane names or titles is Tane-te-maiki-rangi, from whom emanates the ailments and death that assail all things on earth. One authority states that, when Tane took Hineatauira to wife, she gave birth to Tahu-kumia, Tahu-whakaero, Tahu-tuturi, Tahu-pepeke, Tahu-pukai and Tahu-ote-atu. Others include Tahu-kumea-te-po and Tahu-kumea-te-ao. These Maiki folk appear sometimes in song, thus, in the lament for Waianui, son of Tar a, who was drowned in Cook Strait, we note the following: "Ko te take o te kino i takoto ai ki roto o Tu-te-ani-waniwa Te whare ra tena i whakatipuria mai ai Maiki-nui, Maiki-roa, Maiki-ahua, Maiki-whekaro, Maiki-pupurauwha, Maiki-i-taupuru, Maiki-ka-wheau atu na koe ki Tuahiwi nui o Hine-moana." In the following extract we have both the Maiki and Tahu series mentioned:
Ka haere na koe i te ara o Maiki-roa, o Makiki-kunawhea
Ka whakaoti to tira ki te Po … e
He ara ka takoto i a Hine-titama ki a Tahu-kumia, ki a Tahu-whakaero
We have another list of names, that contains some of the Maiki titles. These are said to be the names of the ailments that destroy man, and cause him to traverse the 'broad path of Tane' and page 315descend to the underworld. As to the significance of the initial Rua we know nought, and this series of names seems to be quite distinct from that given in connection with the personifying of knowledge. It will be noted that six of these Rua names resemble others carrying the prefixed Maiki. The three series of Maiki, Tahu and Rau names have not been explained to us, but they are all connected with the ailments that afflict mankind. The Maiki brethren are certainly personifications, the Rua list I am not confident about, it may contain simply proper names, though such names cannot be those of maladies. Two of these names, Ruaroa and Ruamahu, are those of two of the offspring of Hine-nui-te-po and Ruaumoko of the underworld.
The native who gave the list of Rua names introduced them with the remark: "Koia nei nga ingoa o nga mate o te tangata e iki nei i te tangata ki te Po, e heke nei i Tahekeroa ki te muriwai hou ki Rarohenga i te ara whanui a Tane ki te Reinga" Tylor has remarked that:—"The belief prevailing through the lower culture that the diseases which vex mankind are brought by individual personal spirits, is one which has produced striking examples of mythic development." (Tylor, Primitive Culture, vol. 1, p. 267).