Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Mangaian Society



Children learned by absorbing the cultural atmosphere of the household and by imitating the adults. As they grew older, they were taught the reasons of things. If they departed from the cultural pattern they were admonished and told why certain things were not done. In chiefly families children realized fairly early that they had a family name and prestige to live up to. The boys were taught the arts and crafts by their male relatives, and the page 148girls were taught the feminine crafts and household duties by members of their own sex. If a boy were attentive and zealous, the father sent him to experts for a higher education.

Secondary or higher education was given to suitable pupils by those well versed in ancient and tribal lore who, for the possession of knowledge well above the average, were termed 'are korero (houses of talk, storehouses of knowledge). The boy sent by his father took a basket of cooked food for his instructors as a courtesy gesture, not as payment. The old people were punctilious in observing that instruction was not bought. The 'are korero delighted in imparting knowledge if the pupil, by the attention he evinced, showed that he was worthy of the trouble.

The test of the new student was made by means of the candlenut lights used during the first of the sessions, all of which took place at night and continued until daylight:

The baked and dry kernels of the candlenuts were strung on the dry midribs of coconut leaflets. The student took some of these with him. When the instruction commenced, the pupil lit the top kernel of one of the torches. He held this upright in his hand while the teacher talked to him across the flame. During the recital, the pupil carefully tended the torch. If he held the torch upright, the first kernel burned upwards and did not ignite the kernel below it until it was almost used up. If the kernel burned too much on one side, he held the torch at an angle to ensure the even consumption of the one kernel. When it burned down he took care that the second kernel was ignited from it before he removed the charred ember of the used kernel. Sometimes this took a little care, and the recital would cease until the next kernel was alight. If by constant care a single torch lasted until daylight, the teachers approved of the student and said that he would be a tamaiti kai korero (a youth who consumed instruction). He was deemed worthy of continued instruction. The test of one torch proved that the pupil was so interested that he was able to resist the claims of sleep. Should, however, the youth prove careless and neglectful, the light would spread and more than one kernel would be burning at one time; the first torch would be speedily burned out and then a second and a third. Should three or four torches be used up in the one night's session, it was regarded as an infallible sign of lack of attention and interest in the course of instruction. The student was promptly "ploughed" on his first night's work. His father was informed that the boy would never learn and that further instruction would be wasted on him.

Each adult had an equipment of incantations to bring success in the various activities of life. This was immaterial property of the greatest value and, just as he inherited it from his father, so in turn he transmitted it to his son. The Mangaians believed, as did the Maoris, that if a person imparted all his knowledge he became an empty vessel and nothing was left but to die. The parent, therefore, though he imparted incantations that would help his son during his material lifetime, always reserved one or more of the most powerful incantations to prevent his own too early demise. When he felt death approaching through a fatal illness or had a premonition or omen that he was soon to die in battle or otherwise, he summoned his heir and, as part of his last bequest, he taught him the final incantation. Having done all page 149that he could for his son in the way of education and fitting him for success in life, he calmly composed himself to meet the death that impended.