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Fishing Methods and Devices of the Maori

Sharks and Whales

page 56

Sharks and Whales

The following mythical origin of sharks and some other sea denizens appears in Maori myth:—

origin of sharks and other fish

Tawhaki does not appear here. Karihi might as well have added the tikati* to his family, it being a sea-fish resembling the barracouta in form and colour, but is thicker. It has a long, pointed head, a formidable set of teeth, and drifts ashore like frost-fish in autumn and winter. It may be one of the mangā of which the native names are given in this paper. It is but just to state here that another authority informs us that one Takaaho, one of the offspring of Rangi and Papa, was the origin of the shark family. When the three guardians (poutiriao) were appointed in order to safeguard the ocean and its denizens, it was then that Takaaho and Te Pu-whakahara went forth to seek a roaming-place for their progeny—that is, for

Mango-pare (Syphyrna zygoena),
Mango-makomako or mako (Lamna nasus),
Mango-taha-pounamu (blue shark),
Mango-niho tara.

and other species of sharks; also whales and porpoises. In the first place, these creatures were appointed as denizens of the fresh waters of earth, but they objected and persisted in roaming the vast bounds of the Ocean Maid (tupaki nui o Hine-moana).

The species of sharks called aupounamu, huri-taniwha, makomako, and wahatara are said by the Maori to be man-eaters, and they are page 57alluded to as the mokopuna Rongohuakai, descendants of Rongo-huakai, who was another of the primal offspring. Mako taniwha and mako pounamu are two other shark-names collected. Yet another such name is komakohua, of which we have no explanation. Other names of sharks or kindred species collected are as follows:—

Mangō tara. Mango ururoa.
Uatini. Taiari.
Pioke (?), or oke, or pioka. Hekemai.
Ngerongero (blue shark). Kukurerewai.
Horopekapeka. Mango aupounamu.
Takiari. Karaerae.
Tutahuna. Pepeke.
Taniwha. Matawhā (blue shark).
Hapū. Arawa.
Ari. Kahawai.
Koehu. Wera.
Koinga (Mustelus antarcticus). Tuatini (blue shark).
Kuai, kuwai, kukuai, kukuwai. Tatere, tatera, tatare.
Pupuwai (same as kukuwai). Waingenge.
Wharepu. Matarua.
Taeo. Takapari.
Toiki (tiger-shark). Tupere.
Ngutukao (tiger-shark). Ninihi.
Pongi (female of ururoa).

As a token of what may occur even in these times, a description of a deliberate attack on a shark is inserted here, as taken from the Wellington Dominion of February, 1928. Mr. Ferris, I may say, is a descendant of old-time sea-ranging and shark-slaying Polynesians:—

"Twelve feet in length and over 400lb. in weight, a shark harpooned by Mr. C Ferris at Wainui Beach, Gisborne, recently gave visitors to the beach a fine display of fighting before it was pulled ashore (says an exchange). Mr. Ferris, whose exploits in the direction of shark-catching had attracted attention, amazed the onlookers as he waded into the surf quietly casting strips of stingaree bait about him to entice the monster. The shark swam closer and closer to the harpooner, and eventually came within reach of the latters' heavy weapon which Mr. Ferris sunk deep into the great fish with a single stroke. The shark appeared to be aware of the presence of a stranger in the water, but in spite of its suspicions it had been enticed nearer and nearer, making swift snapping rushes as piece after piece of bait was cast upon the water. With the harpoon driven deep into his side, near the heart, the shark leaped wildly in an effort to free himself, lashing the surface of the water to a crimson-tinted foam. When he tired of his struggles the shark was drawn ashore and dispatched.

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The harpooner's nerve and speed of movement were the subject of much comment."

A stranded whale was as a gift from the gods to the Maori, inasmuch as it provided him with a bounteous "cut and come again" dish. The bones of whales were used wherefrom to fashion many kinds of implements, those of the sperm whale being apparently preferred for such purposes. Mr. White has told us that ere the carcass of the stranded leviathan could be touched a charm was recited over it in order to free it from tapu. This would be on account of the peculiar feeling of the Maori toward the whale family. These creatures, the Wehenga-kauki of native story, were viewed as being of a somewhat supernormal nature. They were held to be subservient to man—or at least to some men—and so were relied on as guardians of vessels in ocean voyaging, and also as succourers of distressed mariners, as in cases of shipwreck.

At Te Mahia is a famous mauri of whales round which cluster singular beliefs. It is known as Takamautahi, and is a hill or hillock said to resemble a whale in form. A mapau tree growing on the hill is said to have represented the spouting of the whale. A version of the myth collected at Waiapu explains that this hill was originally fashioned somewhere in that district, after which it was transferred to Te Mahia. Possibly the northern folk were well able to spare this highly useful talisman on account of their possession of a most effective stone mauri, called Te Whatu o Tangaroa, which is located near East Cape, and which possesses marvellous powers in the way of attracting schools of fish.

Hori Ropiha informed me that the whale-shaped hill at Te Mahia attracts whales from the wide ocean spaces: they never forget it, however far they may roam; they may ever endeavour to reach it, and so become stranded. When a whale is seen approaching the shore at that place the beach is put under tapu, and no man may tresspass thereon until the monster comes ashore. Hori also explained that whales, man, eels, fish, and birds all possess a mauri; hence all those creatures can be affected by black magic, and so destroyed. No. 22 of Appendices gives Hori's remarks in the original.

The following is a rendering of a native account of the coming of the vessel "Takitumu" from eastern Polynesia to New Zealand, some five hundred years ago. Te Mahia Peninsula was named after a place at Tahiti, hence its full name of Mahia-mai-Tawhiti. There is a curious story connected with this place. Previous voyagers to New Zealand seem to have noted the resemblance of the place to Te Mahia at Tahiti, hence Ruawharo sought it on his arrival here. He brought with him a small parcel of sand or gravel from the original Mahia to page 59act as a mauri for whales at the new-found Mahia. It is this sand that is the real mauri, or talismanic attraction, and so ever since that time whales have been in the habit of casting themselves ashore at Te Mahia. The schools may roam abroad even as far as the famed Puna i Rangiriri, but ever do they return to Te Mahia.

" 'Takitumu' was an intensely tapu vessel from stern to bow, whereas some vessels had no tapu pertaining to them. The food-supply of the folk who came in 'Takitumu' consisted of the fish caught during the voyage. Now, this is why 'Takitumu' is such a famous vessel. 'Takitumu' came to land at Muriwhenua, and after some time, came southward down the east coast in search of Te Mahia-mai-Tawhiti. She passed Torouka, passed Te Ika-a-Tauira, and Waikara [? Waikawa] and Kahutara were seen looming high. Now Ruawharo stood up and said, 'This is Te Mahia.' As they approached land, Nukutaurua was seen stretching outward. So the vessel of Ruawharo and his younger brother and their people came to land at Te Mahia. Again and again they examined the land, noting that it did not exactly resemble Te Mahia [at Hawaiki]; however, the place was settled by them. The parcel of gravel they had collected at Te Mahia [at Hawaiki] was opened and poured out. They carried out all the instructions and followed all the usages proper to the occasion, as they had been instructed. Even so, when they awoke in the morning, a whale was seen stranded on the beach. For their mother had said to them, 'At the place where a whale is stranded you must settle.' Well, the reason why Te Mahia was abandoned by them was that Ngotu-a-rangi was struck by Ruawharo; hence Ngotu left and moved away southward, where he married and begat Raka."

The famed mauri of whales at Te Mahia had much tapu pertaining to it, and the vicinity was avoided, except at times when a whale came ashore. It is, of course, a well-recognized fact that all things that possess a life-principle {mauri) can be affected by magic arts, hence much care is necessary in order to protect and preserve their welfare. There is some reference to this story of whales and Te Mahia-mai-Tawhiti at p. 26 of vol. 3 of White's Ancient History of the Maori.

A mythical origin of whales is given as follows:—

origin of whales

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This placing of Tinirau conflicts with the one generally known, in which Tinirau appears as the offspring of Tangaroa. Te Pu-whaka-hara was one of the offspring of the Sky Parent and Earth Mother. Tutara-kauika is said to be a name for the right whale, also called kewa. The sperm whale is called paraoa, while paikea denotes some other-species.

Another of these weird origin myths differs from the above, and is as follows:—

origin of whales

Herein we have Tinirau, generally associated with Tangaroa as representing the origin of fish, and the reciter of the table stated that from the beings named therein sprang whales, porpoises, and all similar creatures. Native authority gives Tuhuruhuru as the offspring of Tinirau. The pakake species of whale is said to have also been known as Rongomai-tahanui.

* Tikati said to be Jordanidia solandri.

In mangā, the generic term for sharks, the final vowel is long, as is also the case with the name of the barracouta, mangā.