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Forest Lore of the Maori

The Miromiro or Pied Tit:

The Miromiro or Pied Tit:

The miromiro (Petroica toitoi) was taken, and used, when it settled on a striking-perch, or ventured under a korapa, simply because nothing edible was despised by the Maori. This bird was sometimes compelled to take part in certain rites, as also were the page 329whitehead, the fernbird, etc.; the land-rail, fantail and whitehead (patatai, tiwaiwaka and tatahare) accompanied Maui when he went forth to overcome Hine of the world of death, and so found the death that he sought to abolish. Again, we are told by wise men that, should an owl, a bat, or a miromiro, appear in the haunts of man and enter a house, then of a verity some dire calamity will befall the Community. The miromiro was also a much-favoured love-messenger among the Maori folk, he manu atahu wahine as they put it. It was indeed more than that, for it served as a medium between the love-charm recited by the sender, and the object of that charm, the desired woman; the bird carried the power of the charm with it, no matter how distant the objective. The charmed bird would seek the woman, and, finding her, would settle on her, whereupon she would be influenced by the charm and so hasten forth to seek and cleave to the charmer.

In one version of the Maui myths, that hero is said to have assumed the form of a miromiro when in search of his mother in the underworld. He found the folk in that place working among their crops, and so perched himself on the crescent-shaped upper end of a ko or digging-stick. That peculiar crescent-formation is a symbol of Rongo, who is not only the tutelary deity of the art of agriculture, but also represents the moon; and that crescent is known as the whakamarama and whakaaurei, two names that describe its form; and since the descent of Maui to Rarohenga that crescent has had a third name, viz., whakatau-miromiro, to remind us that Maui, in the form of a bird, once alighted upon it. The Tuhoe folk call the female of this species tarapo.