Maori Religion and Mythology Part 2
We have already given a number of personified forms of lightning including Tama-te-uira, Hine-te-uira, and Hine-i-te-kohera. Lightning is sometimes referred to as te ahi tipua a Hine-te-uira—the weird fire of Hine-te-uira. Tawhaki himself is closely connected with lightning, a fit position for a grandchild of the page 422Thunder Maid. "Tawhaki is the atua of thunder and lightning; when the heavens thunder then the Moriori folk appeal to Tawhaki;" such was a remark made by a Chatham Island native. It has been said that Tama-te-uira represents forked lightning and Hine-te-uira sheet lightning, while Mataaho personifies the flashing of distant lightning. Tupai represents storms of thunder and lightning apparently; in the Matatua district when anything was struck by lightning it was said to be the work of Tupai. Matatua folk also tell us that Hine-te-uira and Hine-i-te-kohera, who personify lightning, were the offspring of Arawhita, child of Tawhaki. Takitimu people tell us that Hine-te-uira was a daughter of Tane.
The expressions rua koha and rua kanapu are employed to denote distant lightning, as seen flashing on hill peaks. Some high hills and ranges are specially remarkable for such displays, and such hills are termed rua koha; these hills are found in all tribal districts, thus Mt. Tuahara is a famous rua koha of the Taupo area, while the Ngati-Whare tribe depends on Moerangi and Tuwatawata. Tawhiuau is the rua koha of Ngati-Manawa. Te Peke a Tumariu, a peak of the Huiarau range, is a famed rua koha of the Ruatahuna district, and Te Aka-puahou, further north on the same range, passes the warnings of the gods on to the Tama-kaimoana people. For all such phenomena were, to the Maori, laden with portents, and all kinds of omens were derived from the manifestations of Nature. Hence when lightning flashed on a hill top, or thunder muttered among the maunga haruru or "rumbling mountains"; when a rainbow spanned the hanging sky, or clouds assumed peculiar forms; when a meteor flashed through the realm of Watea, or a comet trailed across the breast of Rangi, ever the Maori knew that some meaning concerning his welfare lay in these things, and ever he sought to read the warnings of the gods.
Omens seem to have been drawn from the direction in which the lightning flashed, if in a vertical direction then the local people were endangered, but if the flashes were in the direction of the lands of another tribe then some misfortune would ere long come to those folk. Unfortunately it would appear that no intimation was given of the nature of the misfortune foretold by the flashes, hence the people would be left guessing, and one would suppose that they would be somewhat fearful about engaging in any enterprise. Natives have told me that defeats in certain fights suffered by their tribes were foretold by the rua koha, possibly they were, but the gods were too ambiguous, and page 423so the people did not know whether the coming trouble was connected with fighting, or a flood, or fire, or some other affliction.
The Story of Tawhaki
It has been remarked that the Rero Tawhaki was connected with lightning. As one of our early writers on the Maori said—Tawhaki was an important being whose shining body was compared to the lightning. Whaitiri bore a son named Hema, who had three children, Tawhaki, Kariki and Pupumainono, the two first named being males. In the mythical genealogies of the Maori Tawhaki appears as about eighth in descent from Maui, and he is said to have flourished some fifty generations ago. These imaginary lines of descent merge into lines of genuine ancestors in later times. Stories have been handed down concerning five generations of the Whaitiri family, as shown.
We have seen that Whaitiri represents thunder, Tawhaki lightning, and Whaieroa comets. Hema is not explained in Maori recitals, but at Hawaii the word seems to denote the south wind, while Rata is closely connected with the personified form of sandstone (Hine-tua-hoanga) and the task of grinding implements, etc., in vernacular speech rata means 'sharp'. My faith in the human form of these gentry is of the slimmest nature, rather are they personifications, figments of the fertile Polynesian brain. [A genealogy given facing p. 210 of vol. 14 of the Journal of the Polynesian Society makes Toi an ancestor of Tawhaki, but probably nearly the whole of the line given is mythical. Facing p. 218 of vol. 22 is a more orthodox line, and at p. 910 of my Tuhoe appears that Matatua version of the Tawhaki line. At p. 1 of vol. 30 of the Journal of the Polynesian Society is given the Rarotongan position of Tawhaki, wherein Karihi appears as the elder brother, as he also does in one New Zealand line.] A Takitimu line gives Hine-tuakoanga as the wife of Wahieroa and page 424mother of Rata, which seems appropriate; if anything would make a man 'sharp' (rata) I suppose sandstone would.
In the version collected by the late Sir George Grey (see Polynesian Mythology, p. 36) Tawhaki appears as the son of Hema and Urutonga, the former being the male parent, as in most other versions, but in the Matatua version Takotako is the father, and Hema-i-te-rangi the mother, of Tawhaki. I collected two versions of this tale in the Matatua district. Tuhoe tell us of two ascents that Tawhaki made to the heavens, one being his quest of his grandmother Whaitiri, and the other was when he wished to secure the services of the dog bands of the heavens associated with Tama-i-waho as a help in the task of avenging his father's death. For Takotako had been slain by certain peoples known collectively as the Tini o te Manahua and the Papaka-wheoro, who were aggrieved becuase he had secured Hema, a person of celestial origin, as a wife. Prior to the death of Takotako the Manahua folk had captured Tawahaki and burned him at a place called Tarahanga, but Takotako had restored him to life and health by repeating over him the following charm, termed a whai wera—
Te whai, te whai, te turitaku, te pokotaringa, te ruahine matua
I wera koe ki hea? I wera koe ki Taranhanga a Ue-Tawhaki
Hoki taku tama; ka tokia to kiri ki te wai ti ki te wai ta
Ka ka te motumotu, ka ka te ngarahu
He wera iti te wera, he wera rahi te wera, he wera kaupapa
Ka mahu akuanei, ke mahu apopo, ka mahu a takiritanga o te ata.
Since the time of Tawhaki, that is from about the time when the Danes were harrying the English coast, the Maori has employed this charm in order to cure burns; so say my Tuhoean advisers.
When Takotako was slain by the Manahua or Makahua folk then Tawhaki and his brother Karihi decided to ascend to the heavens and there seek assistance in the task of avenging the disaster. So they fared on until they came to a place where a spider's web, toi huarewa, was hanging down from the heavens. Tawhaki grasped this web and recited a brief charm—"Tapiki tua, tapiki waho, tapiki e te aweawe a Tawhaki." So they clambered up the pendant way to the upper world, and there came across a blind old woman named Matakerepo (blind), who was counting some taro, of which she had ten. As she was so counting them Tawhaki filched one away and so the count made was but nine; as the old woman was recounting them Tawhaki took away another, and so continued to tease the woman until she suspected that some one was tampering with her taro. She grasped her staff and whirled it round her in the hope of striking page 425the interloper, but Tawhaki easily avoided it, and then he placed his hand on her eyes and repeated the words: "Purangiaho to mata e Tawhaki", and the sight of the old woman was restored. She asked the brothers where they were going, and Tawhaki replied: "We go to seek our grandmother Whaitiri, and also assistance in avenging the death of our father, who has been slain by the Tini o te Manahua; by which way do we ascend to the upper heavens?" Replied the woman: "Yonder lies your path. Farewell! Ascend to the clouds above, to the lightning above, to your ancestors above. When you encounter some persons poling a canoe they will direct you on your way." Then the brothers fared on until they came to those canoe-poling folk; there were two of them and their names were Tirara and Tirare; these directed the brothers as to their route, saying: "When you come to some women who are engaged in washing garments they will give you further directions." The brothers went on, and, on reaching the bank of a stream, they looked down and saw two women at work by the water's edge. Now one of the women saw the forms of Tawhaki and Karihi reflected in the water, and so she said to her companion: "O friend! Here are handsome husbands for us." They enquired the destination of the brothers, and pointed out to them the house of Whaitiri.
In one of the Matatua versions collected the brothers had some difficulty in ascending from the abode of the blind woman to the home of Tawhaki, and a number of recitals show that Tawhaki alone succeeded in reaching the tenth heaven. The trouble experienced was the fall of Karihi; he insisted upon being the first to ascend to the upper heavens, but, when half way up the difficult ascent, he fell, though he was rescued by his brother. In the majority of versions collected among various tribes this accident was of a much more serious nature, as we shall see anon. To proceed; when the brothers came to the house of Whaitiri then Karihi entered by the doorway thereof, but Tawhaki passed through the window space and deliberately seated himself on the pillow of Whaitiri, a most daring and dangerous procedure in Maoridom. Then one went and reported to Whaitiri that a stranger had seated himself upon her tapu pillow; and she said: "Whose offspring can he be to thus carelessly assume a right to seat himself on the pillow of Whaitiri?" When she saw Tawhaki, however, she recognised him as her grandson and she then conducted him to the tapu waters of the community whereat the tohi rite was performed over him, after which he was free to partake of food and foregather with the people.page 426
In one Matatua version we are now told that Tawhaki took one of the two women seen at the stream to wife, and that their child was Arawhita-i-te-rangi, also that Tawhaki attacked Tangaroa (who represents all fish) in order to procure some fish to be used in the baptismal tua rite over the infant. The common version is to the effect that Tawhaki attacked a sea dwelling folk who had slain his father Takotako (called Hema among other tribes). The slayers of Tawhaki's father are, in different versions, called the Ponaturi, the Tini o Ponaua, the Tini o te Manahua, the Tini o te Makahua, and the Papaka-wheoro. The version given in the preceding paragraph shows us that Tawhaki wished to ascend to the tenth heaven, the uppermost one in Matatua teachings, in order to procure the rahui kuri or herd of dogs of Tama-i-waho, to assist him in avenging his father's death. Whaitiri endeavoured to persuade him not to go, saying that the quest was dangerous, but Tawhaki persisted, and, in the uppermost heaven he found the dog bands of Tama. But Tama was a being possessed of great powers, and he caused Tawhaki to fall from the uppermost heaven, and so perish at the far off place where the sky hangs down. When people of this world awoke the next morning they saw that the blossoms of the rata, pohutukawa and kowhai trees were of a strange new colour produced by the blood of Tawhaki when he fell from the heavens, and that gleaming red colour they have retained from that time down to our own, the folk who now wander athwart the body of Papa, the Earth Mother. And man still call the blossoms of the rata the kanohi o Tawhaki; this is explained by my Tuhoe informants who say that, when Tawhaki fell from the heavens, he plucked out his eyes (Kanohi) and cast them on to the rata tree, and so the red blossoms represent the eyes of Tawhaki, who may have been red eyed. This explanation has a belated appearance; as gleaming and flashing aspects are associated with Tawhaki the allusion may be to the face (kanohi) of Tawhaki, and it is the singular form of the definite article (te) that is always employed.
Other versions do not kill off Tawhaki in this tragic manner, and so we hear that he obtained the services of the dog band and avenged the death of his father. Another version is to the effect that he neglected to secure the dogs when on his way to raid his enemies and so they abandoned him, doubtless to return to their celestial home. These dogs form a puzzle, they are sometimes referred to as Irawaru and Ruarangi. As we have seen, Irawaru was transformed into a dog by Maui, and is viewed as a kind of tutelary being of dogs, while Ruarangi is, according to native page 427evidence, the name of the larger kind or breed of dogs formerly possessed by the Maori, they are referred to in tradition as kuriruarangi. So far as I am aware these dogs of the heavens appear only in the Matatua versions of the myth. Perhaps a hint of the meaning of these fighting dogs may be gathered from the fact that renowned fighting men were sometimes referred to as kuri or dogs, and so we hear quoted an old expression, "Nga kuri a Pohokorua" (The dogs of Pohokorua), which denoted the turbulent bush fighters of Maungapohatu.
While Tawhaki was ranging the upper world he was not recognised as a god until, on one occasion, lightning was seen flashing from his armpits.
In his Maori Mementos, published in 1855, pp. 75-6, see footnote, Davis gave a brief account of the Tawhaki myth. Having stated that the spirits of the dead, in Maori belief, passed to the Reinga, he added: "Some of the more privileged spirits however ascend to Tawhaki, who sojourned in this world for a time, and whose dead body was accidentally discovered by noticing spots of blood on the back of a certain bird which was in the habit of frequenting the place of interment. When the mangled corpse was taken from the earth bone united to bone, and sinew to sinew; and Tawhaki lived again and ascended to heaven on 'one thread of a spider's web'. The rites observed by the priests in regard to this mysterious being, who is often spoken of as a 'god-man', are of the most sacred character, various choice plants are mentioned as descriptive of the loveliness of his features; his shining body is compared to the lightning, and his blood to the juice of the Tupakihi berry." It is true that Tawhaki was viewed as a god, but there is no reliable evidence to show a belief that spirits of the dead ascended to him, or that he had anything to do with them. The reference to the red beaked bird will be explained anon, and the "choice plants" have already been referred to.
Thomson, in his Story of New Zealand, published in 1859, vol. 1, pp. 110-111, speaks of the deified ancestors of the Maori, and states that Maui, Uenuku and Tawhaki are the only deified ancestors of the Maori known to all tribes. It is very doubtful if Maui and Tawhaki were Maori ancestors, and evidently the writer confused the atua Uenuku with the ancestors of that name. The Uenuku described by him (at p. 111 of vol. 1) is the atua of the rainbow already described in this chronicle. He gives a very brief account of the Tawhaki myth in eight lines.page 428
Taylor, in Te Ika a Maui, p. 35, tells us people were not aware of anything abnormal about Tawhaki, until some saw him throw aside his garments and "clothe himself with the lightning." This writer gives Punga as the name of an elder brother of Tawhaki (p. 33), from Punga and Karihi came the lizard and shark. Tawhaki was slain by his brothers; his sister-in-law Muri-whakarotu sought him, but when she called him the bird pukeko answered "Ke!" and the moho answered "Hu!" Tawhaki was restored to life, and then he and Karihi ascended the toi path to the heavens, but Tawhaki arrived first and severed the toi path to prevent Karihi reaching the heavens. He then encountered Whaitiri, who was counting her ten sweet potatoes, not taro in this version; she was quite blind, owing to her eyes being scratched by a multitude of small birds that passed each night in the house of Whaitiri. Tawhaki destroyed the birds and restored the sight of Whaitiri's eyes. Taylor gives another version of the story that introduces the Hapai incident and the taro-counting and blindness-curing episode, after which Tawhaki ascended further in search of the decamping Hapai. He disguised himself as a poor man of low condition, and, ere long, came to where the brothers of Hapai were busy hewing out a canoe. Unseen by them he later hewed out the canoe himself, and the men found him re-dressed in his fine garments and of a noble appearance, so they took him to the village where he was recognised and received by Hapai, his celestial wife who had deserted him on earth. When their child was born it was carried out of the house by way of a specially made passage-way through the rear wall.
In another version published by Buller in Forty Years in New Zealand (1878), pp. 190-195, Tawhaki and his brother ascended to the higher heavens by way of a cord, the lower end of which was attached to the neck of Whaitiri, Karihi fell from the pendant cord and was devoured by Whaitiri, his own grandmother. When Tawhaki reached the upper heaven he arrived at the house where the Ponatouri folk passed their nights, though they passed the day in the sea. He destroyed those people and found the bones of his father; he also gained one Tangotango as a wife, and she is evidently the same person as Hapai, for the same story is told of her leaving Tawhaki on earth, and his following her to the heavens, where he regained her and "the lightning flashed from his armpits". According to Pio of Ngati-Awa Tangotango represents the Milky Way. I collected two versions of the story of Tawhaki. These two versions emanated from the same school of teaching on the east coast of the North Island; they were written page 429out by two men who, it seems probable, had acquired their knowledge from the same teacher, as witness the similarity in detail and the general trend of the narrative. The opening sentence is practically the same in both, at the same time there are differences such as are seen in all such narratives that have been retained in the memories of the writers, or speakers, One omits certain details, another inserts and omits others; one inserts a saying, song, or charm that another forgets.
In both these narratives we are first told that it was Whaitiri who caused Tawhaki to be conceived, and that she left instructions that, when matured, he should ascend to the heavens to visit her. When, in later times, Tawhaki and his brother were seeking a way by which to scale the heavens, Tawhaki secured the first of the several wives he is credited with. This was Hine-murutoka, a daughter of Rakahore, whose child by Tawhaki was Kama, from whom sprang the various kinds of crayfish eaten by man. Now, I can make nothing of Kama, and cannot help wondering if the native writer omitted to write the final syllable of kamaka, if so, and such omissions are fairly frequent in manuscript manner written by natives, it simplifies matters. Kamaka denotes rock and stones, which might be said to "produce" crayfish because they frequent rocky depths. Rakahore is the personified form of rock, and his "daughter" Hine-murutoka seems to represent the collecting of shellfish from Rakahore, that is from sea standing rocks, called toka.
Tawhaki and his brother attended the ceremonial opening of a house named Papakura-o-Tangaroa that belonged to one Hine-te-kawa. The second-sight experts had foreseen the fact that twelve chiefs would attend the function. On arriving at the ara tiatia, the ascent to the heavens, a dispute arose as to who should lead the way, and Karihi insisted that he had the right to do so. When they were half way up Karihi fell, and Tawhaki descended in order to assist him. Another attempt was made, and again Karihi fell to earth, this fall killed him. Tawhaki then plucked out his brothers eyes and ascended to the sky, where he found his grandmother Whaitiri living in a squalid condition, being blind. Tawhaki recited a charm, and then restored the sight of Whaitiri. He found her counting her taro for her garden, named Puna-i-te-rangi, and then came the taro filching episode.
Tawhaki heard that some women were dwelling in the second heaven, and, ere long, they came down to bathe in a stream hard by the home of Whaitiri. Tawhaki looked at them and greatly page 430admired one named Maikuku-makaka, and so, when the women entered the house of Whaitiri, he sprang forward and caught Maihuku, taking her as his wife. He was specially warned by Whaitiri that he and his celestial bride must on no account sleep outside the house prior to the birth of their child, after which event it would be allowable. This injunction was disobeyed, hence his wife was taken away from him. He then resolved to ascend to the upper heavens in search of her, and so he constructed a kite by means of which he might ascend, but the kite was a failure, and so he mounted Kahu the hawk and Kahu soared upward until he nearly reached the upper heaven, when Tamaiwaho struck them down with his adze.
In the second account the name Arahita (Arawhita) becomes Arahuta, and the narrative follows the first version closely until we come to the ceremonial function connected with the new house. At that place twelve seats had been prepared for superior guests and two of these seats were still unoccupied when Tawhaki and Karihi arrived. Their names were mentioned by the expert who was conducting the ceremonial and so it became known that they were the two missing guests. But the brothers, were, for some reason, offended at being so indicated, and so they attacked and slew all those folk, save and except Hine-te-kawa, whom Tawhaki saved and took to wife in his usual care-free way; their child was Hine-hangaroa.
The brothers proceeded on their way. The story about the kiokio (? Lomaria, a fern) is not explained, but the ascent, the falls and death of Karihi, and the plucking out of his eyes are as told in the first narrative. Tawhaki used his brothers eyes when he restored the sight of Whaitiri, possibly he transferred the eyes of Karihi to her, and the story continues and ends as in the first version, except that we are informed that Maikuku gave birth to Wahieroa.
In one version it seems that the eyes of Karihi were bestowed upon Whaitiri the blind: "Ka makaia atu e Tawhaki nga karu o Karihi ki a Whaitiri, ka mea—'Purangiaho o mata, e Whaitiri-papa' Taka makere o whatu, e Karihi… e … i!"
As to the singular prohibition concerning sleeping out, another version of this appears in the footnote on p. 143 of vol. 2 of the Journal of the Polynesian Society, where the warning is given by the mysterious being known as Te Manu-i-te-ra, in whom the present writer has but little faith. It is assured that we present this name correctly? Our best native authorities have made no page 431mention of it, and the substitution of one vowel for another transforms the title into a personification term known far and wide, as here shown:
We know of several such changes in which both forms have appeared in printed recitals, the following are well known instances:
The second name I have also seen in the form of Te Mate-kapua. Another proof in favour of this theory as to Te Manu i te ra is that in a well known version Tawhaki is informed that if he lay with his wife out of doors they would be pierced by the rays of Te Manu i te ra. This injunction was disobeyed and so Hapai was spirited away by Te Manu i te ra. Tawhaki traversed far ocean spaces in search of her, hence the saying "Ko te moana tapokopoko a Tawhaki." Evidently the rays (hihi) were those of the sun.
The Tawhaki myth as collected by Sir George Grey (Polynesian Mythology pp. 36-48) is probably the Arawa version, and therein we find that Hine-piripiri was the wife of Tawhaki. The latter was attacked, left for dead, and buried by his brothers-in-law, but found and restored by his wife. Then a great flood occurred and the people perished, and this flood was referred to as the hurihanga i Mata-aho; this incident does not appear to belong to the story of Tawhaki. Tawhaki and his younger brother then set forth in order to punish the Ponaturi folk for having slain Hema, their father. They found those water-dwelling folk absent on their arrival, but their mother, who had been captured by the Ponaturi when Hema was killed, had been left in charge of the house. As the brothers entered the house the bones of their father, suspended from the roof, emitted a rustling sound in greeting, and they hastened to close all crannies in the house walls to exclude daylight, the oft told story we heard when sojourning with the Mist Maid. By these means the Ponaturi folk were caused to sleep late, until the sun had risen, when the brothers drew aside the sliding door. There was no need for them to attack page 432the Ponaturi, we are told, for the sun's rays, entering the house, destroyed them all. Then comes the Tangotango incident, the celestial maid visits Tawhaki, and he ascends to the heavens in search of her.
In the Matatua version collected by myself we find little variation. The Ponaturi folk were absent all day in the realm of Tangaroa, the ocean, in search of food, and returned to their house each night to sleep. That house was apparently on land, a singular fact, inasmuch as the Ponaturi folk were apparently fish. On returning each night to the house one of the sea folk would be in advance in order to detect the possible presence of enemies by the sense of smell. This advanced scout did detect the presence of Tawhaki and his brother, hence he advanced sniffing the air in a suspicious manner, but, owing to his companions pressing forward, he lost the scent, and so Tawhaki was safe. As in the Grey version the sunlight, entering the house, Pikopiko-i-whiti, destroyed the Ponaturi folk. In some versions a lone escapee is Maroro, the flying fish. Tatau, by which name the captive mother of Tawhaki was known to the Ponaturi, was restored to her home; she was called Tatau (door) because she acted as doorkeeper of the house of the sea folk.
In a Takitimu version we are told that the people destroyed by Tawhaki in order to avenge his father's death were the tribes of Tini-o-Ponaua, Tini o Patuare and Tini o Awakati. The same people tell us that Tawhaki brought from Rangi-tamaku, the second heaven above the earth, some thirteen species of sea and land birds that were under the care of Punga; the crayfish was brought to this world with the birds. Again, we are informed that the canoe of Tawhaki was Te Rangi-paenono, but are not told what he did with it or where he sailed to.
Other versions of the myth tell us that Tawhaki resembled a human being, but he would sometimes ascend a mountain and clothe himself with lightning. When Tawhaki was slain the two parrots, kaka and kakariki got some of their feathers stained red with his blood. Offerings to Tawhaki were divided into ten portions, and one of his wives was Hine-tuatai. The full name of Hapai, another of his wives, was Hapai-o-mani or Hapai-nui-a-maunga. One of Tawhaki's objects in ascending to the heavens seems to have been the acquisition of the many charms and spells known to Tamaiwaho; these charms he is said to have obtained, and yet, in another version, Tamaiwaho is said to have slain Tawhaki. An extraordinary incident is related in one version to page 433the effect that the beings in the heavens saw that Tawhaki and Hapai were misbehaving themselves in this world, and so resolved to take action. They baited a hook and, by means of a long cord, lowered it down to earth so that it landed just before Tawhaki and Hapai. The latter picked up the hook and expressed her astonishment, when, Tawhaki demanded it; he took it and placed the baited hook in his mouth, when the being above pulled the line and the hook pierced the mouth of Tawhaki and so he perished at Horehore-tuakau. One version explains that Whaitiri caused food supplies to be short in order to compel Kaitangata to obtain a supply of human flesh, a food she craved. Likewise it makes clear the position of Whaitiri as representing thunder—"her voice is the sound that is heard rumbling in all seasons", and states that Whaitiri's sightless eyes were replaced by those of Karihi, which seem to have still been serviceable. Again, when Tawhaki was desirous of capturing one of the celestial maids he was advised to do so just after they had bathed, at which time their fingernails would be soft, or, as another put it, when their fingernails had receded into their fingers. Apparently these heavenborn damsels were not above scratching.
Punga and Karihi appear as children of Whaitiri and Kaitangata in some versions, and from these brothers sprang sharks, reptiles, insects. Punga was named after the anchor (punga) of his father's canoe, and Karihi after the sinkers (karihi) of his father's fishing net. The repulsive offspring of these brothers caused some unpleasantness, and so Tawhaki was slain by Punga and Karihi as he was combing his hair at the pool-mirror at Rangituhi. But Tawhaki restored himself to life by means of his potent charms. Tawhaki found Whaitiri annoyed by hordes of small birds that passed each night in her house, and caused her blindness by scratching her eyes. Tawhaki succeded in destroying the birds, by delaying the appearance of daylight, as in the case of the Ponaturi, but one escaped, and that was Tongahiti. An Aotea version omits the cobweb ladder and makes Tawhaki clamber up the side of the heavens at the place where the sky hangs down to the earth, also there occurs a statement that the whaea (mother or aunt) of Tawhaki in the heavens wept so plenteously that her tears descended and covered the world with a flood that destroyed man. It should be observed that much of the data concerning the Maori placed on record has been contributed by second and even third-rate native authorities, and it would appear that some of them have confused some of the legendary matter, they not being responsible conservers of such page 434matters, this was why the institution of the whare wananga was retained until the arrival of Europeans with their disintegrating teachings.
An incident in Tawhaki's search for Hapai, his lost celestial bride, that enters into some recitals, is an encounter with Tongameha. He had previously warned his two attendants that they must not look at Tonga, one of them neglected this warning, hence Tongameha plucked his eye out. This occurred prior to Tawhaki encountering the old blind woman, called in this version Matakerepo (blind). The old woman detected Tawhaki by scent, she turned, lifted her nose, and sniffed the four winds, thus she found that Tawhaki came from the west. Here we are told that Tawhaki used some of his saliva when restoring sight to the eyes of Whaitiri, and this medium was employed not infrequently by the Maori in restorative rites.
A South Island version explains that it was Whaitiri who showed Kaitangata how to fashion barbed fish hooks previous to that time he had met with indifferent luck as a fisherman, owing to his barbless hooks. We are also told that Whaitiri abandoned Kaitangata because he had made remarks about her unpleasant skin. Whaitiri here instructed Tawhaki not to take his wife outside, he disobeyed her and so a cloud descended from the heavens and took his wife away, as arranged by Tamaiwaho. In this case Tawhaki succeeded in mounting to the heavens on a kite formed of aute.
In another South Island version of the story of Tawhaki given by Pakauwera of Ngati-Kuia we are told that the hair-like growth seen on the mamaku or black tree fern represents the hair of Hapai (ara nga huruhuru o tona hika). Whaitiri advised Tawhaki not to approach Hapai or he would perish. But Tawhaki persisted in going to look at "the hair of the woman"; he was warned twice by Whaitiri, but persisted, and so was slain by Hapai. But Hapai later restored him to life, and they returned to the home of Whaitiri. Then it was noticed that the body of Tawhaki gleamed, that lightning flashed from his armpits. Hapai marvelled at this man around whose body lightning gleamed, day after day passed and ever the lightning shone from his body, so it was that the twain became man and wife. Whaitiri warned them against sleeping outside their hut. Disobedience followed of course, as it ever does, and while they were lying outside a cord having a hook secured to its end, was lowered from the heavens, and rested on the head of Tawhaki. Hapai stretched forth her hand to secure it, page 435and Tawhaki strove to prevent her doing so, but he was too late, and so the hook pierced the hand of Hapai, and she was pulled up to the heavens.
Tawhaki is said to have given the bird pukeko its red marks, and the bird is said to have been connected with his brother. When he ascended to the heavens he met Pakura (the pukeko or swamp hen) who was coming down owing to the lack of water in upper regions. Another story is to the effect that Pakura ate out a shellfish preserve of Tamaiwaho who retaliated by wounding Pakura on the head, and the flowing blood stained Pakura's head for all time.
In Hawaiian myth the rainbow is said to be the path by which Tawhaki ascended to the heavens, and that path was pointed out to him by Rongo-motu, the ertswhile Sina (= Hina), the moon. Both Tawhaki and Karihi are mentioned, as Kara'i and 'Alihi, in an original Hawaiian composition.
A brief account of the destruction of the Ponaturi folk was given me in the original by Tamarau Waiari of Tuhoe. The Ponaturi were a strange folk, they passed their days in seeking food supplies and they bore the names of sea fish; sunlight was fatal to them.
The Tahitian version makes Tawhai the child of Hema and Huauri, and Punga a brother of Hema, while Arihi (Karihi) appears as a child of Punga. This story does not follow the Maori one in its incidents, but the two approach each other in places, as where Tawhaki visits Kui the blind woman, who catches Karihi with hook and line as Tawhaki purloins the old woman's food, after which however he cures her blindness. Another account of these brothers and their adventures is given by Gill, Myths and Songs from the South Pacific, pp. 250-256.
The Tuamotu version follows closely the Tahitian one, it is the same story. At Rarotonga Karihi and Tawhaki are said to have been the children of Hema and Huauri, and of Tawhaki it was said that light emanated from his body like the flashing of lightning. Evidently this version is connected with the Tahitian one, certain names appear in both that apparently are not known to the Maori, others appear in a somewhat different form, thus Pupu-mahinono, sister of Tawhaki in the Maori version, appears as Puapua-mainano at Rarotonga, while our local Hapai-maunga takes the form of Apai-mamouka.
At Samoa Tawhaki is given as the son of Tangaroa. At Hawaii Kaitangata took Hina to wife, their children being Puna and page 436Hema; this Hina is the one who represents the moon, and who took the name of Lono-moku or Rongo-motu, given as Lono-mutu in one version. Kahai (Tawhaki) was the son of Hema, he went to a far land and there died.
We also have the story of Tawhaki and Karihi as known to the natives of Efate, New Hebrides. They ascended to the heavens in search of their mother, who belonged to that region.
To the Moriori folk of the Chatham Islands Tawhaki and his wife Hapai-maomao were "parents" of the winds; he ascended to the heavens in search of her, and there met Wheti-taketake, the Whai-tiri-takataka of the Maori version.
In 1849 one Matiaha of the South Island wrote out a budget of native myths for Creed, and this manuscript matter was secured by the late Mr John White, who carved it up and published it in driblets in vol. 1 of his Ancient History of the Maori, p. 95 et seq. That (Tawhaki) was the son of Hema, he went to a far land and there died.
We also have the story of Tawhaki and Karihi as known to the natives of Efate, New Hebrides. They ascended to the heavens in search of their mother, who belonged to that region.
To the Moriori folk of the Chatham Islands Tawhaki and his wife Hapai-maomao were "parents" of the winds; he ascended to the heavens in search of her, and there met Wheti-taketake, the Whai-tiri-takataka of the Maori version.
In 1849 one Matiaha of the South Island wrote out a budget of native myths for Creed, and this manuscript matter was secured by the late Mr John White, who carved it up and published it in driblets in vol. 1 of his Ancient History of the Maori, p. 95 et seq. That Ms matter is marked by some very singular expressions, for evidently the writer became confused with regard to the "ng" of the North Island and the "k" of the South, hence it contains such abominable forms as rongohaka (for rokohanga), kangau (for ngakau), and ngaika (for kaingd).
Clearly the Tawhaki myth is an old one that has been carried to all quarters of Polynesia, and is even known within the Melanesian area. Evidence from many isles is on record in Smith's Hawaiki, in Gill's Myths and Songs, and in the Journal of the Polynesian Society vols 3, 7, 20, 21, 30, 31, 32. In Hawaiki Tawhaki is treated as a genuine Polynesian ancestor who flourished about 700 A.D., and that may be right, but I look upon Whaitiri, Tawhaki, Wahieroa, etc., as fictitious personages, so many of them represent natural phenomena. S. Percy Smith held the view that very ancient myths have been connected with a genuine Polynesian ancestor named Tawhaki.
The Story of Whakatau
We have a version of the story of Whakatau as given by Tamarau Waiari of Tuhoe. This is another of the popular stories into which enters a strong element of the marvellous. One is interested in noting an act that also enters into the story of Kupe and his encounter with the Wheke a Muturangi, namely the use of oil in calming troubled waters. Another incident that attracts page 437attention is the flashing of fire from the armpits of Whakatau when he lifted his arms. As Whakatau was the great-great-grandson of Tawhaki he may have inherited some quality from that famous being whose body was apparently a source of lightning, which flashed from his armpits. This peculiar faculty of being able to set fire to things so readily is not attributed to Whakatau in other versions. Tamarau tells us that Hine-te-iwaiwa sought Whakatau and asked him to avenge the death of her son Tuhuruhuru; in other versions Tuhuruhuru appears as the father of Whakatau; while Tuwhakararo, son of Tuhuruhuru, was the person slain by the Ati-Hapai folk of the Tihi o Manono in yet another version.
Tamarau tells us that Whakatau had a similar origin to that of the hero Maui, he developed in a like manner from a foetus, and, like Maui, he was nourished and guarded by the Wind Folk far out in the great ocean spaces. Upon a time, certain persons who were seeking shellfish at the sea-side saw a kite flying out seaward, and a person walking on the surface of the ocean, ere long he came to land and continued his kite flying. People strove to catch him, but the Wind Folk, his foster parents, succoured him and bore him seaward. The people persisted in attempting to capture Whakatau, all to no purpose, when he said to them: "You will never capture me, but if Apakura [his mother] comes here she will succeed." So a person was sent to fetch Apakura, and, when she arrived, Whakatau was on land again flying his kite, and so Apakura hastened to him and asked: "Whence come you?" Whakatau replied: "I am your own child Whakatau, I am what you cast into the waters, the Wind Folk nourished me." Then Apakura knew that this was her child, and so she took him to her home, where she said to him: "Do not return to your former home." Whakatau agreed to this saying: "Very well, but had I not been caught by you I would certainly have returned there."
So Whakatau dwelt at his new home, where he learned to catch fish, and learned the charms by means of which fish are lured to shore, and also shellfish; also he learned how to call upon the forest folk, the Tini o Hakuturi, to render men powerless, to slay them by magic. Thus Whakatau acquired knowledge of all kinds of plans and devices.
Now Hine-te-iwaiwa heard of the courage and ability of Whakatau, and esteemed him a proper man to avenge the death of her son Tuhuruhuru. She came to the village of Apakura and enquired: "Where is Whakatau?" The people of the place page 438replied: "He is up on the hill yonder flying his kite." So Hine went up to him and asked: "Are you indeed Whakatau?" But Whakatau replied: "You have just left him behind you at the village yonder." "But I was told that you are Whakatau." Then Whakatau answered: "No, he is there hiding from you." So the woman returned, and, on reaching the village, said: "The person yonder says that Whakatau is hidden here." Then Apakura said: "That man yonder is Whakatau, but when you confront him just take hold of his garment." Off went Hine, and, when she reached the man, she took hold of his garment, whereupon Whakatau said to her: "I am Whakatau, let us return to the village." So they went and, on arriving at the house at Apakura, Whakatau enquired: "For what purpose did you come?" "I came to enlist your services as an avenger of my wrong." "What is your wrong?" "My son was slain at Tihi o Manono." Whakatau enquired: "Has not a punitive force yet been raised?" Hine answered: "A force has been raised, but it has not yet started." "And when will it march?" "On the morrow." Then Whakatau said: "Now return and busy yourself in collecting your food supplies, retain for yourselves all the actual food but keep all fat and oil you can get for me."
Then Whakatau gave instructions to his people to prepare for his use the canoe left to him by his grandfather, so it was fitted up, lashed and launched. In the morning they paddled away, seven of them, and, on arriving at the home of Hine-te-iwaiwa, Whakatau proceeded to collect all the oil he could obtain, but laid in no stock of food. So he obtained the oil, and then they set off for the village of the people who had slain the man whose death they were to avenge. They reached the place in the morning, and the people thereof began calling out to them: "For what purpose did you come here, ere long we will destroy the lot of you." Whakatau enquired of the speaker: "What is your mode of attack?" The man replied: "By diving and swimming under water." Said Whakatau: "Very well, now come on." So the warrior leaped into the sea, whereupon the oil brought with them was poured out on the waters and then objects beneath the surface were plainly seen, and so the diver was seen rising to the surface, whereupon Whakatau grasped a spear, attacked, wounded and slew the diver; that warrior was disposed of. The people on shore waited for the diver to return, which he never did. Then another warrior cried: "I will overcome you." Whakatau enquired: "What is your mode of attack?" "I am a person who flies through space." Said Whakatau: "Ah well, fly page 439away." Then Whakatau set up a snaring perch on which the flying man settled, was caught, and despatched. When the enemy saw that their man was caught, another called out: "Now I will defeat you." Asked Whakatau: "In what form of attack do you excel?" Replied the warrior: "In the catching of canoes." "And how do you approach them?" "By above water methods." Then a line was cast out, a line that had been soaked in oil, and the hook of which was placed within a gourd vessel full of oil. The brave approached the hook and scented the fragrance of the oil, he swallowed the gourd vessel, whereupon the line was pulled, the hook caught him, he was hauled up to the canoe and slain. Whakatau now knew that all the famed braves had been slain, no prominent warriors remained. Then he sent his companions back home to convey the bodies of the slain to Hine-te-iwaiwa, saying to them: "Tell Hine to observe the sky tomorrow, if the heavens are reddened then the Tihi o Manono will have been burned; if it gleams not then I will be dead." So they departed in order to deliver the bodies of the braves as food for Hine-te-iwaiwa.
When evening came Whakatau set off on his errand of vengeance, and, on reaching the Tihi of Manono, found that the evening fires had been kindled. He procured some fern root and rubbed it over his face, after which he entered the house and seated himself near the fire. One Hioi remarked: "O friends! The man we have been dealing with is a great fighter, yet he is but a small person"—whereupon Whakatau asked: "Of what appear-ance is he?" "There is no one to compare him to, he is but a small man." Then Whakatau enquired: "Compared with me what did he look like?" Hioi answered thereto: "Well now he resembled you, though you now appear changed, your face is darker, still the resemblance is there, now it was you, yourself, you sitting there!"
Then Whakatau lifted his arms on high, fire flashed from his armpits, and at once the side walls of the house burst into flames; in like manner he lifted them toward the ends of the house and those ends were aflame. A state of turmoil now existed within the house, as Whakatau passed out and closed the door after him; when the people inside attempted to escape by way of the smoke-vent he closed that opening. And so it came about that the whole house was burned, while from afar Hine-te-iwaiwa saw the reddened heavens that betokened the destruction of the Tihi o Manono.
It cannot be said that the Maori has no love of the marvellous, and no powers of imagination when he has so many stories of this page 440nature in his stores of unwritten lore. Evidently the rubbing of the fern root on Whakatau's face gave it a darker colour, though such attempts at explanation still leave some very weak points in these recitals. The version of this story collected by Sir G. Grey resembles closely the above. In another Whakatau rubs his face with ashes, but the fire flashing from his body is absent from a number of versions I have seen, quite possibly Tamarau was confusing Whakatau and Tawhaki. In one version Whakatau causes Haere the rainbow to appear in the heavens in token of his success, after which he slays Poporokewa, chief of the Tihi o Manono people. This version was published in Taylor's Te Ika a Maui and it is very closely followed by one given in White's second volume.