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Maori Religion and Mythology Part 2

Myths Connected — with Rain, Water, Thunder, Frost, etc

Myths Connected
with Rain, Water, Thunder, Frost, etc.

We have already scanned a number of beliefs and folk tales connected with these phenomena, hence there is not much left to record. We have seen that, when Rangi weeps for his far sundered mate, the Earth Mother, his tears fall to earth in the form of rain, but another authority tells us that rain represents the steaming humidity arising from the bodies of Papa and Hine-moana, earth and sea, the same expert stating that the sun, moon and stars are separate worlds (I mea a Te Matorohanga he ao katoa nga whetu, me te ra, me te mamma; ko te ua he mamaoa no Papa raua ko Hine-moana).

The Maori believed that his tohunga, or those of them who possessed superior mana, could cause rain to fall by means of repeating certain charms, such formulae being empowered by the spirit whose medium the reciter was. Such men could also cause rain to stop. Even an ignorant person could, under certain circumstances, bring on at least a shower of rain as for instance by touching stone, tree, etc., such objects as were termed tipua, and page 409so possessing a mild form of tapu. There are many such objects in all districts, though, alas! their mana has now departed. When Sir George Grey was on the march through the Waiotapu district in 1849 he marked his initials on a soft boulder by the wayside. His Maori attendants told him that the act would certainly produce rain, as the boulder was a mana possessing boundary mark; happily for the natives rain did commence to fall soon after. The shores of Waikare-moana lake are well stocked with such stone and wooden disturbers of nature. The stones, etc., termed uruuru whenua are objects that it is well not to be too free with. The Maori will tell you that it is unlucky to pass a remark on the fineness of the weather, for such a remark will probably cause rain to fall. I have been remonstrated with by natives, when travelling, for erecting a tent on a fine evening; such an act is, I was informed, a demand for rain. When a fine, pleasant day comes in the Whanganui valley the people say: "Me te ra i whanau ai a Muringa."—It is like the day on which Muringa was born. This Muringa was an ancestor renowned for his admirable qualities. On the other hand they have a saying that expresses displeasure if only lowborn persons are connected wth such delightful weather, a beautiful day is wasted on such folk—"Koi maumau kau te rangipai mo Tutua." The Matatua folk have their own saying for a fine day—"Me he mea ko te rangi i whanau ai a Te Rangi-tauarire"—a saying concerning another ancestor renowned for his pleasing qualities. On a disagreeable day they refer to an equally disagreeable ancestor named Horu, as follows—"Me te rangi i whanau ai a Haru"—the day that produced such a fellow must have been an abominable one. I have heard a very much more modern saying, a post-European one, that says—"Me te rangi i whanau ai a Hatana"—like the day on which Satan was born! This latter is paralleled by another for a fine day—"Me te rangi i whanau ai a te Karaite"—like the day on which Christ was born.

One Uruika, an ancestor of Bay of Plenty folk, was remarkable for disdaining to seek shelter in wet weather, he steadily pursued his avocations undismayed, hence a saying yet heard—"Hai aha ma te uri a Uruika !"—what matters it to a descendant of Uruika. Many times, when travelling in wet weather, I have been called a descendant of Uruika. Another old saying is the distichous—"He roimata ua, he roimata tangata"—rain tears and human tears, both were shed over the dead, the former being produced by means of the arts of white magic. We have heard Maui calling upon Te Ihorangi to come to his rescue, and an old Maori once page 410made a very singular remark to me, saying—"Rain never descends without good cause, some person has demanded it in all cases." If a traveller on Kaingaroa Plains uses the monoao shrub for fuel, rain will surely follow. The torea bird calls "Keria! Keria!" when a storm is toward. To omit the simple placatory act of uruuru whenua calls for rain, also bear in mind that a tingling sensation in the ear betokens rain.

Wainui or Wainui-atea and Hinemoana are personified forms of the ocean. Rivers are said to flow to their parent Wainui, and it is Wainui who calls the inanga to come to her and give birth to their young. Sick persons are taken to the water and placed therein because Wainui represents water and she was one of the remote ancestors of the human race. Ever the Maori looked to his ancestors, human and mythical, to preserve his life and welfare in this world. The Matatua folk place Wainui as a daughter of Papa-tuanuku, the Earth Mother, but among most tribes her name does not appear, and Hinemoana takes her place. It is a noteworthy fact that I never heard the name of Hinemoana uttered by the Matatua people during a residence of fifteen years in their district.

Among those Matatua folk one Nganga is looked upon as the personified form or mythical originator of frost, hail and ice; and Tiora seems to occupy a similar position, but is more closely connected with ice. Snow, hail, frost and ice are sometimes alluded to as Nga ika a Whaitiri. In order to avert a frost, or cause a change in the weather a person would procure a firebrand, take it to the urinal of the hamlet, and there wave it to and fro as he repeated the following effective charm—

Ko hea tera maunga e tu max ra?
Ko … te maunga e tu mai ra
Me tuki te upoko, me tata te upoko
Tapuru, tapuru, tapuru akuanei.

(What mountain is that standing yonder? The mountain standing yonder is … Pound its head, beat its head. Cloudy, cloudy, clouded over anon.) In the blank space the name of local mount or hill would be inserted. Here is a fair specimen of the simple charms by means of which the Maori believed that he could interfere with natural laws. Paitini of Tuhoe gave me a similar account of this marvellous frost averting ceremony. When an expert saw that a frost might occur and crops be injured, he would say to one—"Tikina atu te mianga, tiwaiwaitia" meaning that the bidden one should take a firebrand to the urinal, and page 411there wave it about. Having so waved his brand about for a space the operator then cast it aside and repeated a jingling formula termed a tatai whetu, and in which one can see no sense, it being one of a number of such recitations repeated by children. The object was to recite the whole without taking breath; such jingles are also termed pepe taki manawa.