Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Astronomical Knowledge of the Maori, Genuine and Empirical



Meteors are termed matakokiri, tumatakokiri, kotiri, and kotiritiri, and are probably also referred to as the unahi o Taero. In the Bay of Plenty district the name of tamarau seems to be applied to them. Williams, has “marau = a comet or meteor,” which may be the same name in a mutilated form.

The appearance of a meteor was looked upon as an evil omen by the Maori. Samoan natives say that a meteor has gone to seek fire. Taylor tells us in Te Ika a Maui that a meteor was the aria or visible form of the supernatural being Rehua; but no corroboration seems to be forthcoming. He also says that the old image of Tane at Tahiti “was represented as a meteor, cone-shaped, with a large head, the body terminating in a point or long tail.” This may be so, but it looks dubious. His anecdote of the appearance of a meteor just as he was preaching in a dark hut from the phrase “Behold I saw Satan like lightining fall from heaven,” is good. “We all rushed out, and saw a splendid meteor, like a drawn sword. My congregation with almost one voice exclaimed, ‘There is Satan falling from heaven.”’

An old warlock of the sons of Awa discourses on meteors: “Another ancestor is Tumatakokiri, who is seen darting at night. His appearance is that of a star flying through space. His task, as he so flies, is to foretell the aspect and conditions of the heavenly bodies, of winds, and of seasons. If he swoops downwards, the following season will be a windy one. If he just flies through space, a fruitful season follows; a season of plenty lies before the people. That ancestor is an atua (demon, supernatural being), but is really a star flying through space.”

White has a note that reads: “The matakokiri are simply stars at their gambols.” Again, we are told that meteors are falling stars that have wandered out of their places, and have been struck by their elders, the sun and moon. One says that a meteor appearing to approach one is a good sing. Marshall states that a meteor betokened the death of a chief.