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Forest Lore of the Maori

Huahua Manu:

Huahua Manu:

As we have seen. the Maori fowler of former times succeeded in taking great numbers of birds during the fowling-season, and in some localities game formed a very important part of the food-supply, as in high-lying districts where crops could not be grown, or to but a small extent; also as the Maori pushed his way further south he found that it became more and more difficult to grow his sub-tropical cultivated plants. In such cases especially was it necessary that some method of preserving this particular food-supply should be practised. The drying of fish and shellfish was a simple task, but this method did not serve in the case of birds, and so the Maori came to adopt the very different process of preserving cooked birds in their own fat, by which means he was enabled to keep such suppHes in an edible condition for a year, and even longer. Comestibles so preserved are termed huahua and so huahua manu denotes birds preserved in fat, and huahua kiore the native rat so preserved, while huahua tangata denotes human flesh so cooked and potted for future use. This latter food-supply was highly appreciated, and raiding parties were wont to rely on it to a considerable extent when in enemy country. Occasionally the flesh of whales and some other creatures of the ocean was potted in this manner, and in our own time huahua poaka, the flesh of pigs so preserved, has become known, and also appreciated by many of us. During the late unpleasantness of the 'sixties our friends the enemy were in the habit of preserving cooked bush-pork by packing it in gourds or other vessels which were then filled with honey, also obtained in the forest.

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Any fat used for the above purpose was heated by means of placing hot stones in it ere it was poured into the vessels, and the words huahua and kohua are both employed to denote the act of stone-boiling, and also the vessel used for that purpose. From the latter term, kohua, spelt koeshooa by Polack, comes 'goashore,' a singular corruption, and the name by which the old-fashioned three-legged iron cooking-pots were long known. It should be understood that, as often used, the term stone-boiling is a misnomer; for stone-heating would be nearer the mark. Apart from the use of boiling springs in some districts, real cooking by means of boiling is a modern method among the Maori, adopted since they obtained the metal vessels of Europe. The only thing to impress upon readers is the fact that birds and rats preserved in fat, that is to say huahua, was a food supply very highly prized by the Maori of yore, and many looked upon it as their most enjoyable dainty. An old survivor of the fighting-days told me that, when an enemy was defeated, the thighs of the dead were often preserved in poha rimu, seaweed vessels, for that part of a body was specially enjoyed, it was a kai rangatira, a superlative edible fit for high-born folk.

Any form of huahua was much appreciated by the Maori folk, so fond were they of fat, and so we have heard old natives make such remarks as: Ahakoa he aha te kai hei rite mo te huahua, e kore e rite, No matter what article of food is compared to huahua it cannot equal it. In this connection can be quoted an old saying and the story pertaining thereto; that saying runs: He huahua te kai, he wai te kaihuahua is the food, water is the food, meaning that birds or rats preserved in fat form the most desirable and important food, also that water occupies the same position. The origin of this saying was in this wise: One Uenuku of the Rotorua district was on a visit to a friend who dwelt in a district where streams are few and far between. During his sojourn in the dry district Uenuku and his host indulged in an argument as to what article of food was the most valuable and desirable. Uenuku maintained that huahua, the most highly prized, was the most valuable and important, but his host insisted that water was by far the most important. Now Uenuku argued strenuously in favour of luscious huahua, inasmuch as he feared that his host was paving the way to entertaining him with inferior provender; his host noted the suspicion and resented it, hence he resolved to shew Uenuku the true value of water. He caused his guest to be regaled with potted birds and divers other thirst-provoking foods, and, when Uenuku became athirst and asked for water, he was told that page 272there was none at hand, and that none could be procured before the following morning. He passed a distressful night, and the morning was well advanced ere water was brought to him, by which time Uenuku willingly admitted that water is a much more important food for man than is even the delectable huahua, and so we still hear men quoting the above saying.

These huahua were often used in barter, or handed over to other clans or tribes as gifts, also as tribute by numerically weak clans living under the mana of a more powerful Community. When Pahere and others of Tuhoe were living at Otukopeka they carried many vessels of potted birds to Taupo, and handed them over to Te Heuheu in exchange for a greenstone patu or weapon named Taramahiti, and a slab of greenstone (nephrite) named Te Opī. When Ngati Manawa were sent back to Tutu-tarata by Tuhoe, they set to and preserved much huahua manu and handed it over to the latter people. A present of food-supplies sent by Te Rehunga of Hawkes Bay to Tamaiwaho included seven calabash vessels filled with potted birds, and one containing only kakapo, also two filled with whale's flesh preserved in fat. Previous to this Tama had sent Te Rehunga a gift of food-supplies that included five pātua (bark-vessels) of preserved birds, three baskets of plucked rats, and five packages of dried eels. See No. 16 of the Addenda for the particulars of these ceremonial gifts.

In another recital we have an account of the presenting of many gifts to a chieftainess renowned for her kindness, hospitality, and other admired qualities; these presents included many pātua or bark-vessels containing potted birds, also garments, implements, two boxes of kakapo-plumes, three boxes of cuckoo-plumes, and four of the under-wing feathers of the toroa-a-ruru albatross.

In Maori folk-lore we see that one Hine-raumati is connected with our huahua or potted game; she is said to produce it by influencing her ancestor Tane, that is by ripening wild fruits and so causing birds to become fat. For Hine-raumati (the Summer-Maid) is the personified form of summer, and her sister is one Hinetakurua (the Winter-Maid), who personifies the winter season; both were daughters of Tangaroa-akiukiu, and both were taken to wife by Ra the sun. Our ancestor Ra, says the Maori, is a restless person, ever on the move, ever wandering either north or south. He spends part of the year with Hine-raumati, who attends to land products, to crops and forest-fruits, to birds and the preserving thereof; huahua is one of her special products. About June comes the takanga o te ra, the changing or turning of the sun, when Ra commences to return to Hine-takurua, the Winter-Maid, she who dwells out in page 273vast ocean spaces, the realm of Tangaroa, and whose task is to nurture the offspring of Tangaroa, of Tinirau, and so provide an abundancy of fish for man. Our Maori folk have an old saying that runs: Kua kitea a Matariki a kua rnaoka te hinu—meaning that at the heliacal rising of the Pleiades the prized huahua was obtained.

As we have seen, the Maori liked to have some dainty such as huahua to set before visitors, but to proffer an inferior quality of food was sometimes followed by very unpleasant consequences. When Te Arohana asked the Ngati Huri bushmen of Maungapohatu to assist him in fighting the Karetehe clan, he unwisely regaled them with some inferior, hard, over-cooked huahua. Later on Te Arohana again asked them for assistance, but the reply received was terse and unmistakable: Waiho i konei te tangata o te paka maroke, which was equivalent to saying: 'You may omit the person of the dry birds.' One Winirehe, however, declined to place such dainties before guests; he believed in reserving them for the old folk of his own village. This decision has been handed down in a well-known and oft-quoted form: Waiho ma te pirau kainga a Te Winirehe—Leave them for the decrepit old folk of Te Winirehe.

A Ngati Raukawa fowler of the now-distant 'fifties explained to me that, at the approach of the bird-snaring season, experts frequently patrolled the forest in order to ascertain the condition of all bird-food, and whether or not birds had assembled in numbers at any feeding-ground. The first bird taken was utilized as an offering to the mauri of the forest; in some cases such an offering appears to have been deposited at the material mauri or talisman, as already explained, but my Raukawa informant stated that, among his folk, the bird offering was simply cast aside in the forest with a brief remark to the effect that it was for the mauri. This was quite a common procedure among fowlers, but a more ceremonial rite was for the benefit of the whole Community. The offering was made in order to ensure good luck for the fowlers, and it was really a placatory offering to the gods whose mana lay over the forest, who protected its productiveness, and whose powers were represented by the material mauri.

When a considerable quantity of birds had been taken, then the work of preserving them would begin, and this cooking and potting process might be performed at or near the village-home, or in the forest, according to local circumstances. In many cases birds were taken far from the home village, and so the preserving was done in the woods, or on the outskirts of the same, after which the whole party returned to the village and made a spectacular entrance thereto, as we shall see anon. When the birds were examined and page 274sorted, some would be set aside for immediate use, while the bulk of them were reserved for preserving. Some would probably be used as an offering to the hau or mauri of the forest, while others would be consumed in what we must call a ceremonial feast. Of these a few would be cooked at a fire or steaming-pit called the ahi tapu; these were eaten by the men who acted as experts and conducted all ceremonial matters. Certain other birds were cooked in a different oven termed the ahi tapairu, and these were for the women of the party; that is any woman of good Standing might partake of them. In a third oven known as the ahi purakau were cooked birds for the ordinary people. These are Raukawa notes.

It was not convenient to cook and preserve birds as they were caught, but only when a considerable number had been taken, hence each day's take of birds would be set aside until enough had accumulated to fill a number of vessels. Some fowlers buried each day's bag in the earth, while others preferred to hang them up. The following note was supplied by an old man of the Waiapu district, one who retained many of the quaint beliefs of his forebears: "The cooking of birds for preserving was delayed for several days in the winter fowling-season; they were hung up until the work of plucking commenced, which was done by the women and children. When the cooking of the birds for preserving began, then the living birds began to leave the forest, because the smell of the cooking fat reached the feeding-grounds and alarmed them, causing them to migrate." Here the Maori seems to have found another excellent reason for postponing the cooking and preserving of birds. The act called tawhanarua is simply the re-cooking of food that has been found underdone on the opening of a steam oven, but should such a thing be done while fowlers are busy in the forests then all the birds will desert that forest and move away to other parts.

When birds were cooked for immediate use they were not cleaned, but when about to be potted it was necessary to do so in order that they might keep in good condition for a lengthened period. In addition to the plucking and cleaning processes the larger birds, such as the pigeon, were boned, the process being known as makiri; after this they were cooked and potted.

Perhaps the earliest recorded account of this native custom of preserving birds and other food-supplies in fat was that given by Brunner the explorer when ranging the almost uninhabited lands of the west coast of the South Island. The following extract from his Journal, dated 16 November, 1847, is of interest: "The natives preserve the birds they catch during the winter months, when the birds are in excellent condition, in a rimu or sea-weed bag. The page 275bird is opened down the back, and all the bones taken out; the flesh is then laid in a shallow platter made of the bark of the totara tree, called a patua, when they cook the bird by applying red hot stones. They then place the cooked birds in the rimu bag, and pour over them the fat extracted while cooking, tying tightly the mouth of the bag. I have eaten of birds kept two years in this manner, and found them very good. Eels and seals are also preserved in this way, using whale oil for their preservation." The cooking of birds by means of red hot stones would be a slow process; a fire of glowing embers would be much more satisfactory. The word rimu here denotes sea-weed, the species known as rimu-rapa (Durvillea utilis) to the Maori. Williams gives koauau as another name for this species. The patua of the North Island cannot be described as a shallow platter, but those of the South Island may have differed in form.

The preparing of birds for preserving was largely the work of women, who were remarkably expert at the plucking, cleaning, and boning processes; the last-named of these processes was much facilitated by the keeping of birds for some days after they were taken, it was then much easier to remove the bones. Steel knives are, of course, now used in this work, but in former times a shell or thin-edged stone flake might be used, or, not infrequently, the sharp and strong beak of a kaka parrot; many women, however, allowed a thumbnail to grow long and this was most serviceable in stripping flesh from bone. The operator first pulls the wings outward in order to straighten them, and then cuts round the lower or inner part of the wing in order to free the flesh. An incision is then made down the back of the neck, and the skin of the neck stripped off so as to have the lower beak attached to it, and this is left attached to the bird. The flesh is stripped from the bones downward from the base of the neck, the legs being pulled through it. The severed legs, wings, head with upper beak, and neck are all connected when the flesh is stripped off. The neck skin is so tied as to leave the lower beak projecting, and it is by this beak that the birds are tallied when the makiri process is over; also it shows the species. Large camps were sometimes organized when this bird-preserving task was toward, and there was quite a spirit of rivalry among women as to which should excel in dexterity in the makiri task. The bones of the birds, together with the trail, were cooked and enjoyed by the fowlers and their assistants.

As the boned birds accumulated they were placed in baskets, and these baskets were put in water and there left until the cooking process commenced. Such a basket of boned birds is termed a poutaka page 276in some districts, and a basket in which food is put and which is then placed in a steam-oven, seems to have been known by the same name. The process of packing birds in baskets is described by the word whakamātā.

When the Pleiades were seen appearing above the horizon in the early morning, then it was known that the ahi matiti was at hand; this was the cooking-process and consisted of roasting the birds at a clear fire. They were arranged on a rack, poles were set up in a vertical position near the fire, and the birds were spitted on a number of straight rods which were secured horizontally to the uprights. These rods rested in notches in the uprights or were tied to them, and each series or rod of birds overlapped somewhat the one below it. A wooden trough placed below the rack received all the melted fat that dripped from the suspended birds, and this fat ran into a wooden or gourd bowl placed under one end of the trough. Persons were constantly at hand to attend to the fires and birds, turning the latter when necessary. When cooked, the birds were packed in vessels provided for the purpose, and their melted fat was poured into each such vessel until the contents were covered. When the birds had been packed in the vessels the bowl of fat would be melted and heated by means of putting very hot stones therein, ere it was poured over the birds.

The ahi matiti, or fire used in the above cooking, was sometimes a charcoal fire, and at others a mass of glowing hard-wood embers that gave off no smoke; the rack itself was called arawhata huahua according to W.B., but the Matatua folk term it a matiti. As the birds were being roasted certain charms were repeated in order to secure a good supply of melted fat, to produce good, clean, appetizing fat. An account of these proceedings given by Hori Ropiha contains the following charm that was repeated at such a time:—

  • He kereru ana manu ki uta te u ai
  • Ko te tama i a Tane te u ai
  • Kia utuhia te puhaketo [?]
  • He koko ana manu ki uta te u ai
  • Ko te tama i a Tane te u ai
  • Kia utuhia te puhaketo
  • He kaka ana manu ki uta te u ai
  • Ko te tama i a Tane te u ai
  • Kia utuhia te puhaketo
  • Koko e! Tahuna, tahuna te puna i uta, te puna i tai
  • Te puna whakananea, te puna wai totō, wai puke . . i.

While engaged in this task the people were not allowed to partake of any food until the birds were cooked, placed in vessels and page 277covered with the melted fat; then noa conditions prevailed, the restriction was removed. This method of cooking, said Hori, is termed matiti. The native rat was preserved in a similar way, and similar charms were repeated during the continuance of the work; rats so preserved were very much esteemed; the trail of birds was stone-boiled in vessels fashioned from whinau bark and formed a most delectable food; such was Hori's verdict.

The following charm repeated while birds were being cooked for huahua was published by Dieffenbach; it was used for the same purpose as that given above:—

  • Ka tahuna, ka tahuna te ahi tapu e Tiki
  • Ka ka i te ata tapu
  • E homai, e homai, e Tiki! he hinu
  • Ka ki koe he wai kuku
  • Ka ki koe he wai ruru
  • Ka ki koe he wai pitoitoi
  • Ka ki koe he wai pirakaraka
  • Ka ki koe he wai tuna
  • Ko te puna i whea? Ko te puna i Rangiriri
  • Homai kia ringia.

This effusion reappears in Taylor's Te Ika a Maui, where wai tai appears in place of the puzzling wai tuna above, and both versions are included in White's Ms. matter at the Turnbull Library. This is a karakia whaunu in which oil, i.e., melted fat, is asked for, the donor being Tiki, apparently; presumably this refers to Tiki-kapa-kapa, who is, or was, connected with birds in Maori myth, and not to Tiki-ahua, the alleged progenitor of man.

The following formula was recited when birds were being prepared for the ahi matiti and put in baskets for a while ere being cooked. The late Tuta Nihoniho gave me much detail concerning this preserving process, and, when doubtful, consulted certain old men of Ngati Porou, who brought out some new points. This particular charm is evidently a form of taumaha, for an explanation of which see No. 10 of this Bulletin series.

  • Taumaha tohe ti, tohe ta
  • Kei a Hui-te-rangiora, kei te Manu-taotaotahi
  • Taumaha, nunuku mai, neneke mai
  • Ki te pae rangi, ki te taha rangi
  • Ma wai e taumaha tahu manu? Maku, ma te makitekite
  • Ko Hine-rau-makomako ki tai o te moana
  • Makutu noa ai to tama i ahau nei
  • Ko te whakarore a te wahine, ko te whakarore a te tane
  • Whaona au ki roto ki te kete ki maroki pokipoki rawa
  • Tenei te kaha ka whiwhi, tenei te kaha ka rawe
  • Te mau atu ki tai nui o Tane.
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When a number of birds were set aside as explained and the time came for cooking and potting them then the following karakia whaunu was chanted:—

  • Uia, uia, uia, tangi kotokoto ana ki runga o Ruahine
  • Whakarongo iho ano au ki te wai o Tane te utuutu ana
  • Ko te wai, ko te wai mai whea?
  • Ko te wai tangi pohutu ai manu ki te pua
  • Korihi tama ki te pua uta rau
  • Tuhi rau ana te tapa hua e ngaru . . e . . i.
  • He aha ta taua manu i tangi ki tai nei?
  • He titi, he tata, he karoro uri, he karoro tea,
  • He karoro tangi harau puta i te ika
  • Whainutia taku manu, koia takurua . . i.

These karakia, or formulae, were supposed to be remarkably effective, and far be it from me to deny it; at the same time it is impossible for the benighted outlander to see where their virtue lies. These intoned effusions are not invocations, and contain little or no allusion to the subject of the ceremonial, yet any mistake made in repetition is said to have destroyed their virtue. One can but presume that they are mere incantations in many cases, charms of singular aloofness, the correct recital of which possessed the virtue so firmly believed in by the Maori. Certainly it is most unsafe to attempt a translation of such abracadabra.

The preserving of birds in fat as described is expressed by the word tutu, the preserved supplies are huahua, followed by the name of the potted-product when precision is desired, as huahua manu for preserved birds, huahua kiore for potted rats. Gourd vessels of largest size were utilized as vessels in which to preserve birds, etc., in fat, and such vessels are called tahā, hence tahā huahua means a calabash of potted food. The following notes pertain to these gourd vessels, as they were formerly used:—

When used for the purpose of containing or preserving food the stem-end of the gourd was cut squarely off, so as to leave a hole large enough for the hand to be thrust in, but no larger than was absolutely necessary for that purpose. Hence these vessels are sometimes termed ngutu iti (small-rimmed). It sometimes occurred that, at a banquet, the aperture was found to be too small for the people to thrust their hands into the vessel, in order to reach its greasy contents, in which case a child would be employed to extract the food for the guests. These calabashes are still in use (1910) among the Tuhoe tribe, but there are not many of them left, and no more are being grown. A famous old one, obtained at Rua-tahuna, was fixed up and ornamented in the old style by Paitini of that place. It may be seen in the Auckland Museum. Very few hue (gourd plants) page 279were grown in the Tuhoe district, the altitude being there too great, but the plant flourished in the lowlands of Whakatane.

These calabashes of preserved food were often employed as centre-pieces to adorn the festive board (or rather its primitive substitute, the breast of the Earth-Mother) at native feasts, more especially for what may be termed ceremonial feasts. For this purpose they were fitted with various appendages (Fig. 20). The greater part of the vessel was concealed by a piece of ornamented plaited basket-work, called the papaki, made of narrow strips of Phormium leaf. This fabric being secured, the vessel was then furnished with three or four wooden legs, which were, in many cases, lashed to two wooden hoops which were placed on the calabash over the basket-work cover, and there fastened. These legs were often finely carved from the top to within a few inches of the bottom ends, and were usually made of matai wood, as also were the tuki or top-pieces, of which more anon (see Fig. 21). The upper parts of the legs (waewae taha) were often pierced so that a lashing might be passed through when securing them to the calabash. Further ornamentation was attained by tying bunches of feathers called ihi and puhi, to the legs. These feathers were often those of the pigeon, prepared in the usual manner adopted when used as ornaments, that is by removing the stiff part of the tuaka or quill. This is done in order to render the feathers less rigid, so that they may hang better and flutter in a breeze.

The final item in the way of appendages to these calabashes was the tuki or carved top-piece. These wooden top-pieces, termed necks, collars, and mouth-pieces by Dr. Newman in his paper on calabashes and tuki (see Trans. N.Z. Institute, vol. 36, p. 1) were often made of matai wood, and were elaborately carved over the whole of the outside surface, being left smooth on the inside. Some of the finest work in native carving is seen on these calabash-necks or mouth-pieces, resembling in finish that of their small wooden boxes used to contain ornaments and such small items. In some cases, at least among the Tuhoe tribe, a carved wooden lid (Kopani), was used to put over the aperture of the tuki or neck, but in most cases the broad leaves of the rangiora tree was the only covering employed.

Some of the tuki or necks have several holes pierced through the lower rim for the purpose of fastening them to the vessel, but in many cases the necks were not fastened on in any way, they were simply fitted on to the top of the calabash, the latter being often pared down so that the mouthpiece might fit it. Those seen in the Tuhoe district were so fitted. One specimen of these food-vessels has small holes pierced in the calabash itself to receive the cord which secures page 280the mouthpiece to it. These mouthpieces are also known as horere, paewai and titi; the latter name was obtained at Waiapu, while Whanganui natives termed them tokari and stated that they were in some cases given special names, as also were the tahā vessels.

The tuki is termed a titi, or titi matai, among the Ngati Porou folk. Tuta Nihoniho maintained that these mouthpieces were made from a solid block of matai wood in former times by a tedious process. A hole was first bored through the block (parallel with the grain) in the centre. Stone chisels, lashed on to wooden handles, and struck with a mallet, were then used to cut out the wood and so enlarge the hole. When made the required size, the surfaces of the aperture were rendered smooth by being rubbed or rasped with stones. Occasionally a wooden plug or stopper, carved on the top, was made and used for these mouthpieces. The latter combination might almost be described as a cover or lid, inasmuch as but the small portion thereof below the projecting shoulder was inserted in the orifice. In like manner was the mouthpiece fitted into the top of the vessel, and secured thereto by means of ties passed through holes bored in the top of the vessel, and others in the bottom of the mouthpiece. The little mat-like envelope of the vessel is termed the papaki, and it was made so as to neatly fit the vessel; it was often adorned with a plaited design.

The bird-fat used to fill up the vessel after the food to be preserved is placed therein never sets firm, hence, in modern times, after it has cooled, it has been usual to pour some melted pork fat on the top thereof; when this has cooled it is covered over with leaves of rangiora (Brachyglottis rangiora).

In Saville's Antiquities of Manabi, Ecuador, plate 75 shows a series of earthenware necks of ollas (earthenware jars) which are of the precise form of the tuki of a Maori calabash. Five of the specimens illustrated seem to be entire, judging from the rounded and even appearance of the lower edge, though the author speaks of them (at p. 182) as though they were the necks of broken vessels. The ollas, or earthenware water-jars of Mexico, are made in one piece, and I never saw a detachable neck to any pottery vessel in that country.

It must not be supposed that these Maori calabashes were ornamented in the manner described when put away in a store-house. They were adorned with feathers and tuki when about to be placed before guests, for birds and rats preserved in this manner were deemed one of the most delicious articles of food. It is a compliment to have a tahā huahua set before one. As a rule such preserved food is only produced on important occasions, as during certain social and ritual functions, or in honour of a notable guest.

page 281

As a rule, the basket-like fabric which encloses the calabash was specially made for the vessel, so as to fit it well, and was plaited with black and white strips of undressed flax (Phormium), in various geometric designs. It was made so as to fit the vessel closely, even to the rounded upper part, and reached to within two to six inches of the opening of the vessel. Occasionally, however, we note such a vessel placed in an ordinary basket (kete) which, naturally, does not fit it, hence the appearance is slovenly in the extreme. In some cases a sort of running cord is carried round the top of the basket in order to draw it tightly round the vessel, but in most cases this is absent. On the top of the containing-basket is often a series of cord-loops which, when the vessel is filled and covered, are drawn up over the cover tightly, and so secured. At other times they might serve as handles whereby to carry the vessel. In addition, we sometimes note strong looped cords secured to the basket, long enough to come well above the top of the vessel, and which serve as handles whereby to carry the vessel when it is full, and has the covering fastened down.

A specimen shown in Maori Art has the securing and carrying-cords. It is mounted on four piain uncarved legs, and shows the containing mat-like plaited fabric and two encircling hoops. It is a rough specimen, showing nothing in the way of ornament except the carved tuki (see Fig. 22). There are many of these carved mouth-pieces in the Dominion Museum, Wellington (see Fig. 23).

In former times, when the orthodox legs for a calabash of food were not to hand, and some support was needed for it at once, a poteteke was sometimes employed. This was nothing more than a pronged stick like a Y with three arms. A piece of a small tree or branch was sought which had three branches growing from it at about the same level. These were cut off so as to form a resting place for the calabash. The stem or shank of this forked stick was inserted in the ground and the calabash placed within the prongs where it rested securely.

Captain Dillon, in his account of a sojourn at the Bay of Islands in the 'twenties of last Century, speaks of presents of human flesh being sent by local natives to their friends at distant places, such flesh being that of mutual enemies. Dillon remarks: "I demanded to see it, when he showed me several calabashes filled with the shocking viand, baked in a South Sea oven to preserve it from putrefaction." Polack states that, when he was about to purchase a vessel of lard from a Maori, a native lad pointed to the vessel and said: "He man fat."

Calabashes of the largest size were reserved to serve as tahā for potted foods, and, when ripe, the rind became very hard, while page 282the soft pukahu matter inside dried up; when this was thoroughly desiccated the dried spongy matter adhering to the inside of the calabash was loosened by means of placing small stones in the vessel and then subjecting it to a vigorous shaking. These gourds are pear-shaped and the stalk-end was cut off so that the orifice formed would be 3½ in. to 5 in. in diameter; this was the top of the vessel where the tuki or mouth-piece was affixed. A Wairarapa native termed this mouth-piece a tokai. The outer surface of the calabash was rubbed with a handfui of Phormium tow according to one informant, after which it was oiled. I have never seen a tahā huahua bearing incised and blackened designs, such as one sees on gourd bowls (oko, ripa, ipu) and tahā wai, or gourd vessels for containing water.

The feathers used for decorating these gourd-vessels were split and then formed into bunches; two of these bunches would be secured to each of the three or four legs of the vessel, one near the upper whiti or hoop, and another at the lower hoop, thus the two bunches would, in the case of a fairly large vessel, be about a foot apart. The splitting process referred to consisted of stripping off a part of the rachis of each feather so used, on either side, so that it came away with the web attached. When a number of these were tied together the effect was much better than if the full-quilled, stiff feathers had been used, for the tail-feathers were the ones utilized for these decorations. As to the birds that provided these feathers, it was customary to decorate a tahā huahua with feathers of the species that the vessel contained, be it pigeon, parrot, tui, weka, kakapo, or what not.

In the Waiapu district and adjacent parts a peculiar contrivance was employed in order to adorn a tahā huahua; apart from any feather decorations attached to the legs and hoops, some had affixed to them two hoops of supplejack, open hoops like croquet hoops. One of these was placed over the other at right angles, and both were adorned with bunches of feathers; by means of ties these two U-shaped hoops were so confined that they could be fitted on the vessel, and lifted off again when necessary, as when the contents of the calabash were taken out. The apparatus was kept in place by placing the lower ends of the hoops on the inner side of the upper whiti or hoop encircling the vessel. These feather-decked hoops, when secured, projected above the tuki.

The bark vessels alluded to were also employed as receptacles for potted food-supplies, and these, in most cases, were fashioned from totara bark, though some other species as hinau and miro, were occasionally used. I have never seen one made of miro page 283bark and doubt if such bark could be worked into the desired form without much difficulty. These vessels are called papa and pātua, and these terms seem to have been used indiscriminately in some cases, but in the Matatua district the bark-vessels in which food-products were potted were termed papa, while those used as water-vessels, and for stone-boiling were known as patua. Small, inferior water-containers for temporary use were sometimes fashioned from the bark of the mako (Aristotelia racemosa) and puahou (Nothopanax arboreum); these soon dried and shrivelled up so as to be useless. Williams gives pūpoho as meaning 'a wooden trough for holding huahua,' presumably a form of kumete hewn out of the solid timber; such do not seem to have been used in late times, though bowls of considerable size, termed kumete, were used as dishes to contain food at a feast; possibly Williams' pupoho were used for a like purpose.

We have a number of statements to the effect that these bark-vessels were used as water-containers, but for carrying water the gourd-vessels were much more convenient. East coast tradition asserts that, when the ancestors of the Maori folk settled in New Zealand, they soon came to recognize the useful qualities of the bark of the totara, the rangiura or inner bark, and that patua were fashioned from sheets of this bark, for those early Polynesian settlers did not introduce cultivated plants, as they had come to these shores in search of castaways. They are also said to have fashioned from this, bark-vessels resembling takā wai (gourd water-vessels) in form, that is to say pear-shaped, and these are referred to as potete, which name seems to imply that the bark material was drawn together or doubled to form the narrow neck or upper part, and this contraction was brought about by the use of a cord.

The making of a, patua or papa totara was a task for an expert, and that task has been well described by T. W. Downes in vol. 37 of the Journal of the Polynesian Society. The sheets of bark were exposed to the heat of a fire in order to. soften them and so render them easier to bend. W.B. teils us that a square piece was cut out of each corner of the sheet of bark about to be worked, but in Mr. Downes' account of Whanganui methods it is seen that the desired contraction was achieved only by bendings of the sheet of bark. It is interesting to note that certain Dravidian peoples of Southern India make bark-vessels similar to the Maori patua, as explained by the Bishop of Donnakai, who examined the local forms in the Dominion Museum (see Fig. 24). The illustration (Fig. 24) shows how neatly the Maori managed to bend and secure in the desired shape the stiff, rebellious bark. When these bark-vessels were filled with cooked birds and page 284fat the contents were covered with leaves and a flat piece of bark cut to fit the wide opening after which they were placed in a pataka or elevated store-house. When either taha or patua containing huahua were placed before visitors, more especially when a ceremonial feast was held, the vessels were decorated with feathers, and such feathers were those of the birds contained in the vessel.

Again we must make some remarks concerning another form of vessel used by the Maori when potting birds, aud also as a receptacle for oil. This vessel was simply a piece of the great sea-weed known as the giant kelp or bull kelp (D'Urvillaea utilis) to us, and as rimurapa to the Maori. These vessels are called poha and powha, sometimes poha rimu, the word rimu being a generic term for all sea-weeds. In some cases vessels made of totara bark were called poha, Williams gives us 'kōkihi= a bottle made of sea-weed.'

When Angas the artist was at Wellington in the 'forties a whale chanced to be stranded near the harbour entrance, and the natives saw an opportunity to obtain oil for their own use and also to seil to Europeans; of this Angas wrote: "The mode they employed for conveying the oil was curious: having no bottles they obtained a number of the large pods of a species of seaweed that grows on the rocks off Evan's Bay; these they filled with oil, and then tied them up at the mouth with flax. Each pod held upwards of a quart, and resembled in appearance a bottle of caoutchouc." These 'pods' must have been very small ones if they were rimurapa. Local natives, when requiring poha, are said to have usually obtained the material at Sinclair Head, always a famous place for it, hence the Maori name of Rimurapa for that place. Colenso informed us that oil was sometimes kept in the stout double air bladder of the curious sea porcupine fish.

Missionary Taylor teils us in his Te Ika a Maui that the Moriori of the Chatham Islands converted the large flat leaves of the bull kelp into tubes by making a small orifice through the outer skin of one side, and then inflating the intervening space, and stopping up the opening; when dry these retained their shape and became hard These were used in the construction of their peculiar fishing floats, also as receptacles for water, oil, potted birds, etc.

White's Mss. contain a note to the effect that poha or kokihi were made by inflating lengths of rimurapa, and that preserved birds and fish were kept in them, also oil. The inclusion of fish is unusual R. Ward, in his Life among the Maoris, wrote: "Converted into air tubes by making a small orifice through the outer skin and then inflating it, when one skin separated from the other; this being done the hole soon closed, and they were placed in the sun to dry, page 285and always afterwards retained their form."

The following account of the making of these sea-weed vessels was obtained at Whareponga on the East Coast:—

The poha or seaweed-vessel made from the rimurapa was made in the following manner: The long, flat arms or branches narrow considerably at their bases, where they are attached to a rock, hence this contracted part is made to form the neck or upper part of the vessel. The seeker of the rimurapa searches among the coastal rocks at low tide, and, when he has found suitable material, he proceeds to cut off the arms, or branches of the plant at, say, three feet from their bases, or less, according to the length desired for the vessel. He leaves the short pieces still adhering to the rocks and hies him homeward. After the lapse of a certain time the severed branch or leaf grows together at the cut end and it is this healed end that becomes the bottom of the poha or vessel, when made. Now the piece is cut from the rock so as to retain on the vessel the contracted part at the base which serves as a neck for the poha, The operator then, with hand or stick, pries apart the two sides or segments of the leaf and, by blowing into the orifice, inflates it, after which he ties the mouth or neck tightly so as to prevent the air escaping. The vessel is then allowed to dry, when it hardens and, in that condition, retains its inflated or distended form, resembling a huge bottle.

Some poha are large enough to contain a great many titi (mutton birds), for they were usually preserved in these vessels. When the poha was used as a water vessel, it was protected outside in the same manner as those used to preserve food in, that is by lashing thin strips of totara bark thereon; this was to protect the vessel from puncture.

In his Southern Districts of New Zealand Dr. E. Shortland describes the poha titi of the South Island; these are poha in which mutton birds (titi) are preserved in fat, and this is even yet an annual task of southern natives. Of these poha Shortland wrote: "Poha, a sort of cask shaped like a sugar-loaf, constructed from the air bladder of a species of sea-weed, strengthened outside by layers of the bark of the totara, and kept firmly together by means of stakes tied with flax." Elsewhere he mentions having seen a number of these bird-filled vessels, and: "Many of these were from five to six feet high, and ornamented with feathers: they were all designed as presents to relatives at Wai-a-te-ruati, or Banks's Peninsula." Of the poha or 'cask' he wrote: "In this the young titi are packed, after being cooked, and the oil which has escaped in the cooking is poured on them. Over the exterior of the bag is then laid the bark of the totara tree, and the whole is strengthened by means of several sticks suffi-page 286ciently stout for the purpose, with which the bag and its bark covering are pressed into the form of a sugar loaf." This writer states that poha titi is a synonym for koaka huahua, which is scarcely correct, inasmuch as the latter expression means a calabash containing food preserved in fat, the particular kind of food not being specified. The bark used for covering longitudinally the filled sea-weed vessels consists of comparatively narrow strips of the thin outer bark of the totara, not the thick inner bark of which patua were made.

Canon Stack, in a private communication, stated that the poha were formerly provided with a stand and supporting legs much in the same manner as a tahā. From three to five rods were secured to the conical package and cross-pieces tied on about fifteen inches from the bottom, on which the poha rested. Where the upper ends of the rods met at the top of the poha, they were tied together and adorned with bunches of feathers.

Another South Island contributor corroborates much of the above and explains how the base of a poha titi was inserted in a plaited flax basket after the strips of bark had been placed on the seaweed receptacle, the strips of totara bark completely enveloped the vessel, and were secured by means of ties. He also states that the kelp leaves are opened or split by means of thrusting the closed hand into them and so forcing the sides apart. They are then inflated and tied, so that they dry and harden in that state (see Fig. 25).

These sea-weed vessels were much more commonly used in the South Island than in the North, inasmuch as calabashes were widely used in the latter region, but could not be grown in the South.

Now the cooking and preserving of the birds having been completed at the temporary camp, then the party of fowlers and their hunuku or followers returned to their permanent home, carrying with them the results of their work in the form of many calabashes or patua of potted birds. As the party proceeded on its way certain experts chanted several formulae that pertained specially to such an occasion, and of which the following is one:—

Tara wera, tara wera nui na Rua;
Ka tina taku manawa ki te wai taharua
Kia tina, kia ora ko para te tai tapu

Tenei hoki au a para tinaku whai matakitaki
Ki te kura whakarewarewa.
Taina hoki ra te kinakina a Tane
Ka haruru, ka ngatoro ki te akau.
Ka heke te ika i te horua, he manu hoki te manu nei;
Ka tete mai ona niho, ka wawana mai ona wana.

page 287

Here follows another of the chants employed at such a time:—

Whakarewa, whakarewa, whakarewa te manu ki te kopanga;
Kai te kopanga he runanga a hinu;
Kai te kopanga he runanga a manu.
Ko te rango putuputu ki raro ki Ngati Awa
Ko te kura whangai ngutu
E Ruariki, e te ao matakaka ki te kapua.
Houhou te kata, oreore te kata
He kata manawa reka ki tona tahā
Penei ra e wewete ki au e
Ki . . i . . i!

The final exclamation was delivered by the whole party.

Another chant rendered by the leaders of the marching party of laden fowlers was as follows:—

I haramai au i uta, e whano ana au ki tai.
I haramai au i tai, e whano ana au ki uta;
Ki uta ki te pua nei he tongarerewa.
Taku whakarongonga atu ki Poutu-te-rangi,
Taku noho noa i te matoru ko (me) he manu ka rere;
Rere whakaheke tia he rangi tau hokohoko [?] ruarua po kia tu whakaniua
Tirohia e Maui ki te wharaunga i Matiko-tai.
Kaore koa te whenua nei ka ruia, ka nekea ai taku taonga nei;
He taonga iti hoki taku taonga nei.
Ko hotu maunga te tukua e tuku a runga
Te whakaihoa e tuku a rangi, ka whai te moana rauiri [?]
Ka kakati ki tari.

The final line was repeated by the whole party. The above chants were sung as the party approached the village, and, on reaching the village home the Tau o Uenuku was delivered; this is a tapu formula and runs as follows:—

Kai tai, kai tai, kai te whakaruaroa;
Ka tutakina maua ko te aha?
Maua ko te ara tukutuku pungawerewere.
Tuia taku wairua ki runga o mauri rere
Ka whanake Tautoru i marama o Pipiri;
Taku kiri whakahau ki te tonga.
Whakahau o wai, o manu mo takurua;
Koia i ruru tapehu a te kawe a te haeata [?]
Tohia ki te wai no Tu tararau, e kawe ki aitu tararau,
E kawe ki aitu, auake e whita [?]
He taurekareka, he rukutanga manawa
Ki te whakahiahia ki te kura a Poutama . . e . . e . . i.
Te kura a Poutama . . e
Te tutia ko Para te tai tapu; i tangi ki whea?
I tangi ki maunga nui, ki maunga roa, ki maunga haruru.
Ka tu mai ra te a i [?] e tonga, e wai taria o manu rekareka
page 288 He kina i autakina ai, autakina ki te pae tuatahi, autakina ki te pae tuarua
Whakairi ki taku taha Makoirihau e koe
Maramarama te rangi i runga nei
Ko ana uira, ko ana rarapa tu tahi
Ka whano, ka winiwini ki te wai o takurua.

The people of the village would be assembled in order to receive the fowling-party, but, strange as it may appear to those who know something of the ways of the Maori, that party was received in dead silence; no cries of welcome, no chants were heard, no waving of branches or garments was seen; truly an unusual feature in Maori receptions. There was yet another formula to be chanted ere the bearers' loads could be deposited on the ground, ere the villagers might welcome the returning fowlers. The villagers merely waved their arms, beckoning the forest rangers to approach, they could utter no cry of welcome ere the final chant had been rendered; it would be an error of grave import and would bring misfortune upon the people. Three of the fowlers now delivered the final chant, but at no time would all three be singing, one would always be ready to pick up the chant when the others, or another, had to pause to take breath. This chant, as given me by an elderly man of Ngati Porou, runs as follows:—

Tara, tara, tara i uta, tara i tai, tara hikumanga, tara hikoia;
Hikoia noatia e koe te whare tapu o Tangaroa;
Tangaroa urutomo ki uta, Tangaroa urutomo ki tai;
Ki te piripiri i uta, ki te tarata i uta.
No tai, no uta [?], no tahua, no whitiki
Ki te mokimoki, ki te raurenga no hine.
Ko hine i piri aroha mai koutou ki te waikura ariki . . e,
Wai taramea ariki, e wai taramea ko ariki;
I kainga noatia e koe ta taku manawa ta ki te tua;
Ta taku manawa ta ki te apra eopeo whatiu . . e.
Hua kore iana taunenewa, ua korei [?] ana taunenewa,
Hua te kuru ko mauhi nui ka anga atu, ka anga mai
Ka heke ki tai aropuke, ka toro uri, ka toro tea, ka toro hua kirikiri
Pohatu whakatakataka huaki kopi tau . . e.

The whole of the party joined in the repetition of the final line of the above, and at the last word all dropped their loads of huahua on the ground. Each bearer of a vessel containing such preserved game dropped it to the ground, he did not stoop and place it on the ground, neither did he lower it by the kawe or swag-straps (pack-straps that pass over shoulders), but simply dropped it as soon as he cleared bis arms from the straps. This peculiar act was a divinatory one, one of page 289the many extraordinary things done by the Maori in order to ascertain what fortune had in store for him. Should the vessel (tahā) so dropped fall and remain in an upright position, then that fact was hailed as a good omen, the immediate welfare at least of that bearer was assured; but should the calabash fall over on its side then ill luck would be the lot of that hapless fowler. lt is fairly certain that the bearer did not drop the gourd vessels from the height at which they had carried them, for such vessels are easily broken; they would allow the straps to slip down their arms as far as the elbows, then, at the repetition of the final word of the chant, allow then to slip off their arms to the ground.

After the calabashes of huahua had so been deposited on the plaza then the following was repeated: Taitai pakara maku ki roto i te mawera ki a Hine-manuhiri ara huri wai ra ko te whakahotahota ki pari ninihi ehinu—all of which may be quite correct, but I can make nothing of it. The same may be said of most of these formulae; we cannot explain them, neither can any living Maori.

The tapu part of the Performance now being over the villagers commenced to welcome the returned fowlers after the manner Maori, with clamorous cries of welcome, beckoning gestures and waving of garments; such was the powhiri or reception of friends in Maoriland.

Should the party be bringing in any potted kiore (wood-rats) that had been caught, cooked and preserved in tahā, then the following formula was also chanted by the leaders of the returning trappers:—

Kiore, kiore, kiore ki te whakamau tawhiti,
Waiho kiore kia mau ana;
Katikati tu ki runga te rotari . . e,
Pakura e! Naumai ki uta.
Parera e! Naumai ki uta.
Moho. e! Naumai ki uta.
Ki uta ki a Hine wai rere hua taketake.
Hie! Hie! Tenei hoki au te whanatu nei,
Me taku mea iti, me taku mea rahi.
He miti te ringa o te wahine, he hawa te ringa o te tane.
Taku tara i whakanohoia ki te kotore o te koko;
Koi, koa, koire.
Oreore te kata a te wahine. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

The whole party joined in the repetition of the last line of the above. These chants are known as tau manu or bird chants, save the tau kiore last given, tau being a generic term for a number of songs and chants employed in a ceremonial manner on many occasions, hence are they named tau marae, tau waka, etc.

page 290

The following is a tau manu that occurs in the tradition of Manaia, an old-time Polynesian voyager who settled in New Zealand many generations ago. With many of his people he had been camped in the forest, and busily engaged in snaring and potting birds; when all was ready the party returned to the village, and, as the laden fowlers marched on to the plaza, they chanted the following:—

Tenei au te tau ake nei i taku tau,
He taufanga a tai, he tauranga a uta.
Whiua ki tai he hau moana, whiua ki uta he hau whenua.
E tipu he tiputipu whenua homai kai,
He hotu rangi homai kai, he tomairangi ahuahu kai,
Kia ahu i waho, kia toko ake i roto.
Na wai? Na Tane.
Na wai? Na Hurumanu.
Na wai? Na Punaweko.
I taratara a uru, i taratara a tea

Kia mea mai tona aro ki tenei pia, ki tenei tama, E Tane te waiora . . e . . i.

He aha tahu aro?
He aha taku aro?
He aro whakamau ki te koronga o Tama-raeroa.
He aha taku aro?

He aro whakamau ki a Rua-i-te-pukenga, ki a Rua-i-te-mahara, ki a Rua-taketake.

He aha taku aro?
He aro ahu marae, he aro ahu tangata ki tenei pia taku aro . . e . . i.

Natives who relate this old tale do not always attribute the same tau manu to Manaia, and one reciter of the story included in it the following 'bird-chant':—

He manu nui na Tane-nui-a-Rangi
I makaia ki waho, i makaia ki tai, i makaia ki uta.
Huri atu ki tua o nga paepae maunga, o nga paepae moana.
He ara taurite, he ara tau rawa,
He ara haere i raro, he ara haere i runga.
Maiangi, maiangi ki taha tu, maiangi ki taha to,
Maiangi ki taha uru, maiangi mai ki te waotu a Tane.
He puhi tapu, he puhi wareware, he puhi taka mai ki taku aro.
He ara ka nguha ki au, e Punaweko . . e . . i!

Yet another contributor of traditionary lore gave me the following as the tau manu of Manaia:—

Tau ake nei au i taku tau,
He tau nau, e Tane-te-waiora, ki au.
He tau nau, e Punaweko, ki au;
Ki tenei pia, ki tenei tama nau, e Punaweko!
Haramai ra tai, haramai na uta whenua.
page 291 E kai koe i te wao a Tane;
E upa to kaki, e upa to puku.
He mata kamokamo to mata, he mata ka rokia to mata
He mata ka turuki mai to mata ki au5 e Punaweko . . e . .

Herein we recognize that Punaweko who represents forest birds, and who is appealed to as an atua in the above formula.