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The Whare Kohanga (The "Nest House") and its Lore

The Koroingo or Maioha Ceremony

The Koroingo or Maioha Ceremony

(Primarily a welcoming of the infant into the world of life, and, in a secondary manner, congratulating the parents and their relatives.)

When the child of important persons was born—that is, when their first child was born—then the news would be heard by the clan of the father and by that of the mother, and so a meeting of the clans nearly related to them, the woman and husband, would be called. This ceremonious greeting would be conducted prior to the dropping of the pito, which occurs about eight days after birth. There would be no greeting of the infant by the people immediately it was born—not until it was presentable and the mother was ready to receive visitors. The mother would seat herself in the porch of the "nest house," facing outward to the assembled people. Her infant would be lying in her lap, also facing the people.

That meeting would be one of rejoicing anent the birth of the child. Should the infant be a male, then gifts would be deposited by those clans—that is, by relatives of the husband and wife. But the gifts from the relatives of the father would be kept apart from those from the relatives of the wife [mother], and the former would bepage 23 deposited first. When the gifts were so deposited, then arose the person who initiated the speech-making, and commenced with a greeting. Should the speaker be of the husband's side he would first greet the wife's folk—that is, the mother's side; should the speaker be of the wife's side, then he would greet the husband's people. The greeting to the male or female side having concluded, he would then greet the infant as follows:—

Naumai, e tama! Kia mihi atu au
I haramai ra koe i te kunenga mai o te tangata i roto i te ahuru mowai
Ka taka te pae o Huakipouri
Ko te hangahanga tena a Tane-nui-a-Rangi i te one i Kurawaka
I tataia ai te puhi ariki, te hiringa matua, te hiringa tipua, te hiringa tawhito rangi
Ka karapinepine te pu toto i a ia ki roto te whare wahi awa
Ka whakawhetu tama i a ia, ka riro mai a Rua-i-te-pukenga, a Rua-i-te-horahora
Ka hokai tama i a ia, koia hokai rauru nui, koia hokai rauru whiwhia, koia hokai rauru maruaitu
Ka maro tama i te ara namunamu ki taiao
Ka kokiri tama i a ia ki te aoturoa, e tama, e!"

This recital served as a maioha, or greeting, to the infant, and it was recited (intoned) by a priestly expert, or other person versed in the procedure and in the various recitals and formulae proper to such occasions. This address to the infant welcomes him as emerging from the sheltered haven of the embryo, as having crossed the threshold formed by Tane when he fashioned the first woman from a portion of the body of the Earth Mother. Then comes an allusion to the powers conferred upon women (those of reproduction), and to the clots deposited within the membrane that represent the foetus; then the forming of the eyes of the embryo, and the acquirement of intelligence, as represented by Rua of the many names; then the movement of the infant within the calm haven, and an allusion to normal and difficult birth, already explained; then the passing of the infant into the world.

At the conclusion of this recital some would add, "Welcome, O child! You who come from Tawhiti-nui, from Tawhiti-roa, from Tawhiti-pamamao, from the Hono-i-wairua." All these are names pertaining to old and far-distant homes of the Polynesian race. In the original this greeting runs: "Haramai, e tama ! I haramai nei koe i Tawhiti-nui, i Tawhiti-roa, i Tawhiti-pamamao, i te Hono-i-wairua". As the above recital concluded the reciter would give an exhibition of his powers of facial distortion and agile prancing, flourishing a weapon as he did so. That being over, he would then repeat the intoning of the formula; if recited but once the fact waspage 24 deemed an unlucky omission, and all the people would be displeased. Then the following formula was recited:—

Haramai, e tama! Puritia i te aka matua
Kia whitirere ake koe ko te kauwae runga, ko te kauwae raro
Kia tawhia, kia tamaua, kia ita i roto i a Rua-i-te-pukenga,
A Rua-i-te-horahora, a Rua-i-te-wanawana, a Rua-matua taketake o Tane
Naumai, e . . kia areare o taringa ki te whakarongo
Ko nga taringa o Rongomai-tahanui, o Rongomai-taha-rangi, o Tupai-whakarongo-wananga
Ka taketake i konei ki tipuaki o Rangi
Ka rere mai a Poutu-i-te-rangi, ka whakaawhi i a Puke-hauone
Ka hoka Hine-rau-wharangi i a ia i konei ki a Takamai-ahuahu
Ahua te puke nui, ahua te puke whakaki nau, e Rongo-maraeroa!
Koia te ngahuru tikotiko iere, te Maruaroa o te Matahi o te tau
Te putunga o te hinu, e tama . . e . . i!

These effusions are difficult to translate, containing as they do so many obsolete, sacerdotal, and archaic expressions. The above karakia, as it is termed, adjures the infant to cleave to high teachings; to be clear-minded, and quick to acquire knowledge of celestial and terrestrial lore, and to firmly retain the same—the knowledge that is represented by the various Rua; to be open-eared to listen, as were the beings named, that his thoughts may be with the beings of the uppermost of the twelve heavens. Then comes a reference to the planting of crops, and the fecundating-powers of the stars, also the growth of plants as represented by one Hine-rau-wharangi; and Rongo, the tutelary being of agriculture and all cultivated food plants, is asked to foster growth and so bring about a bounteous crop, a season of plenty: this in reference to the food-supplies presented to the child at this function.

The orator here gave another exhibition of his light-foot prancing and distortion of features. That recital refers to the food-supplies of the ceremonial feast—that is, the foods presented as sustenance for the child (which means for the mother, but it is said that they are given to feed the child).

Now, should there be no such gifts of food-supplies, then the spokesman would not recite the above formula; on no account would he recite it without just cause. Should any person repeat the formula in the absence of such gifts of food, then he would be making a false declaration to the god Io the Parent. In the absence of such supplies he would repeat a different formula—that is, the following one:—

Haramai, e tama! E mau to ringa ki te kete tuauri, ki te kete tuatea, ki te kete aronui
page 25 I pikitia e Tane-nui-a-Rangi i te ara tauwhaiti i te pumotomoto o Tikitiki-o-rangi
I karangatia e Tane-nui-a-Rangi ki a Huru-te-arangi, i noho i a Tonganui-kaea
Nana a Parawera-nui, ka noho i a Tawhirimatea
Ka tukua mai tana whanau, Titi-parauri, Titi-matangi-nui, Titi-matakaka
Ka tangi mai te hau mapu, ka tangi mai te roro hau
Ka eketia nga rangi ngahuru ma rua i konei, e tama . . e . . i!

Herein is reference to the ascent of Tane to the heavens, upborne and guarded by the Wind Children, the offspring of Huru-te-arangi and Tawhirimatea, when, with the rushing winds around him, he scaled the twelve heavens.

Here again the orator performed his dance. Now, when he was reciting the above formula he would omit that portion of it in which reference is made to Io the Parent, the reason of which was that he was repeating it in a public place. He would be unable to recite that part of it on account of it being tapu. But if he was reciting it at the sacred tuahu, then he would render it in its entirety. The part omitted in public functions is as follows:—

Ka kitea i reira ko Io matua te kore anake
I a ia te toi ariki, i a ia te toi urutapu
I a ia te toi ururangi, i a ia te toi uruora
Ka whakaputa Tane i a ia ki te wai tohi na Puhao-rangi, nana a Oho-mairangi
Te wai whakaata no Hine-kauorohia, kaurohia nga rangi tuhaha
Ka karangatia a Tane ki te paepae tapu i a Rehua ki te hikumutu o Rangi
Ka turuturu i konei te tawhito rangi, te tawhito uenuku, te tawhito atua
Ka rawe Tane i te hiringa matua, i te hiringa taketake ki te ao marama
Ka waiho nei hai ara mo te tini e whakarauika nei, E tama . . e!

Here the reciter gave another of his gymnastic exhibitions. This portion of the formula was never repeated in public places. This tapu portion of the recital contains the name of the Supreme Being and a reference to his attributes, hence it could not be repeated in a public place or in the hearing of the people, but only at a tapu place and in the presence of a select few. In this tapu formula we learn that, in the uppermost of the twelve heavens, Io the Parentless alone was seen by Tane the Sun-lord. Also that Io is the source of all welfare, spiritual and otherwise; of tapu, mana, and even social rank here on earth. Reference is made to the tohi rite performed over Tane in the heavens, and to its sequence performed at the turuma of Rehua, at the bounds of the heavens. Hine-kauorohia also appears, she whopage 26 assists in preserving order in celestial realms, in curbing the violence of the Wind Children, and Tane acquires the revered knowledge that he sought.

Having concluded his recital, which would be the last of such formulae repeated by him, the speaker would then proceed to greet the elders of the woman—that is to say, of the mother of the infant. Even so would he greet them, the grandparents of that woman, also her parents, and the people as a whole. He would call to the assembled people, "You have heard the name of our child [or grandchild]; it is for you to deliver the final formula."

Here ended the speeches from the relatives of the husband, and then those of the wife arose. A speaker would in the first place repeat the formula known as the whakaaraara pa, and here it is:—

Moe araara, ka tau te manu ki te pae
Koheri, kohera, ka tiritiria, reareaia tama ki tona hiwa
Kia hiwa!

The object of this was to call the people to order, to enjoin them to be quiet and orderly, and to concentrate their attention on the formula about to be delivered.

The speaker would take his stand in front of the woman and facing the assembled people. It was then that he would recite the matter just written—that is, the whakaaraara. Having finished it, he would then take his stand before the clan of the female parent. He would turn so as to face the clan of the male parent, and so repeat the following:—

Tenei au, tenei au ka hoka i taku tapuwae;
Te hokai nuku, te hokai rangi, te hokai na Tu-matauenga.
Taku tapuwae ko tapuwae nui o Tane i pikitia ai nga rangi tuhaha
Ki te toi ora, ki te toi matua, ki te toi tapu, ki te toi mauri ora.
Tihe mauri ora!

Here the speaker indulged in the prancing performance already mentioned—that is, at the conclusion of his recital.

Then all persons related to the male and female parents shouted a joyous refrain, a paean of satisfaction. Also, the first speaker would rise, and the two would perform a prancing dance together, facing the people as they did so. The paean chanted by the people ran thus:—

Mauri ora ki te whai ao, ki te ao marama, e tama . . e!

This invokes all blessings in favour of the infant, physical and spiritual welfare. All the people joined in rendering this chant. At its conclusion the speaker turned and faced the infant, and then intoned the first formula (the one commencing "Naumau, e tama! Kia mihipage 27 atu au," at p. 23). The meaning of this was that all persons were now free to come forward and greet the infant. Then all the people would rise and chant the refrain—

Haere mai ra, e tama . . e!
Haere mai ra, e tama . . e!
Ki te whai ao, ki te ao marama.

(This is equivalent to "Welcome, O child! Welcome, O child! to this world, to the realm of light and life.)

The man who had been speaking then sat down, and the father of the male parent or of the female parent (not the infant's father) would rise and greet the infant and its mother. After that he would salute the people of the female parent (if it were the father of the male parent speaking), after which he would greet his own people. (If the father of the infant's mother was speaking he would first greet the relatives of the child's father.)

The following greeting to a female infant was employed in some cases: "Haere mai! Haere mai, e hine! Whakaputa i a koe ki te urutapu, ki te ururangi ki taiao, ki te ao marama, e taku kahurangi . . e." Having intoned this, the expert would then chant the formula given at p. 31. All this served as hei huki i te manawa o te tamaiti; he pure tetahi ingoa.

These ceremonial functions pertaining to birth are alluded to in Maori myth as having been instituted in remote times, when the offspring of sky and earth took part in them. Thus when Hine-titama, daughter of Tane, gave birth to her daughter Hine-rauwharangi during the Aonui lunar month of the Orongonui season, the mother was conducted to the famed house called Hui-te-ananui, she and her infant. After the coming-away of the iho of her high-born infant both mother and child were conducted to the porch of the house, and seated on a mat styled the takapau wharanui. Then the people assembled on the plaza before the house Hui-te-ananui. Tupai, younger brother of Tane, he who preserved the sacred receptacle pertaining to the gods, then came and took the infant in his arms and repeated the following:—

Naumai, E hine wairoto!
Whakaea, whakaea to uru tapu
Whakaea, whakaea to uru tipua
Whakaea, whakaea to uru wairoa ki taiao nei
E tipu, e rea, E hine kahurangi ariki!
Whakamau tai, whakamau o Rongo
Whakamau taketake toitu ki taiao nei, E hine ariki rangi . . e!
E tipu, e rea koe he whatu ioio nui, he whatu io matua
He io taketake ki taiao nei, E Hine-rauwharangi . . e!

page 28

At this juncture the people rose to greet Hine-titama and Hine-rauwharangi. At the conclusion of this ceremonial greeting the whariki wharanui, or ceremonial mat, was conveyed to the brink of a stream and there arranged. Hine-titama seated herself thereon with her infant. The priest took his stand in the stream where the water reached to his loins; he then took the infant Hine-rauwharangi and ceremonially baptised her according to that form of the rite known as the tohi ururangi of the toi huarewa of Tikitiki-o-Rangi, the uppermost of the twelve heavens. (For original see Addenda II.)