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Mangaian Society



A knowledge of fencing seems to have been part of the equipment of a man of knowledge ('are korero). It was a custom at great gathering for a warrior (toa) to oppose a noted visitor and try a preliminary bout of arms with him. The orthodox blows and parries were named. Some teachers were skilled in the use of a particular stroke or feint, and ambitious young men of good family sought the favor of their instruction. Unfortunately, the details of Mangaian club fighting were not recorded and information is now scanty. One method attributed to Taumare is remembered because of its historical association:

Taumare taught certain feints at the head so as to draw the opponent's guard upward and then to deliver the real blow at the legs. Similarly, when the guard was drawn downward by feints at the legs, the real blow was delivered at the head. The blow following either series of feints was termed a torotoro kiore. He also taught his students to beware of such feints and to be quick in guarding the part that had not been primarily threatened. The guard that met the torotoro kiore blow was termed tata kiore.

On the death of Akaina the people gathered at the Tukituki-mata marae in Keia where the body lay in state. While awaiting the arrival of the Temporal Lord, the warrior Ngauta, a young man named Te Toe stood out in the path to try a bout of arms with him. Te Toe was another name for Te Ka, a son of Raumea of Ngati-Vara. The more experienced warriors were somewhat incensed that an inexperienced youth should have the audacity to test Ngauta. However, Te Toe had been well taught by Taumare. When Ngauta appeared, Te Toe stood in his way with weapon on guard. Ngauta made a couple of feints to the head and then made the torotoro kiore stroke at the legs of Te Toe. To his surprise, the blow was met by the tata kiore guard. As Ngauta whirled his weapon upward for another blow, Te Toe sprang forward, grasped the hands, and held the weapon. Ngauta strove to release his hands, but the youth was stronger than the older man. After a moment's struggle, they parted, and Ngauta went on to pay his respects to the dead.

When he came out of the death hut, Ngauta went over to Te Toe and said, "Na'ai 'oki ta'au tata kiore ra e Te Toe?" (From whom did you get the tata kiore guard, O Te Toe?) Te Toe replied, "Na Taumare." (From Taumare.) Ngauta said with a smile, "Na'ana 'oki ta'aku." (Mine was also from him.)

The conduct of a youth properly trained in arms was carefully observed in his first battle, and an opinion was formed as to his chances of achieving distinction. It was held that the feet should go forward and never retire. Te Uanuku and Raumea, the sons of Mautara, were taught the finish that made them famous by Te Vake, priest of Tane. In their first battle at Maueue it was seen that they would be great toa. They were called "nga page 158tama a te pu'atea" (the sons of the puatea tree) because the tree is firm and cannot retire.

In the myth of the sharing of the possessions material and immaterial by Vatea among his sons, war was given to Tongaiti. Famous warriors were thus alluded to as keepers (tiaki) of the house of Tongaiti, as in the following song:

E tu e ara, etu e ara, e tu e ara, Stand up arise, stand up arise, stand up arise,
E ara nga tokorua a te papa kura. Arise the two from the red earth.
Ko ai ma te tiaki i te 'are o Tonga'iti? Who are the keepers of the house of Tongaiti?
O Te I'o ka ta'i, o Te Vaki ka rua, Te Io is one, Te Vaki is two,
O Tirango ka toru, o Pa'ia ka 'a, Tirango is three, Paia is four,
O Te Uuira ka rima, o Rarea ka ono. Te Uuira is five, Rarea is six.

Note. My informants held that "the two from the red earth" referred to the two types of weapon which a warrior commonly places on the earth as a pillow so that they are quickly available in the event of sudden alarm. The six men named were famous warriors from different tribes and were termed toa 'uri tumu (warriors who could turn over the trunks of trees).

The weapons used were alluded to as the 'ata taua na Tonga'iti (the war scaffold belonging to Tongaiti), the scaffold ('ata) being that upon which weapons were kept. These consisted of spears (okiri) and clubs (taiki) made of ironwood. According to a note in Aiteina's Bible, eight types of club constituted the 'ata taua of Tongaiti. A staff of ironwood termed a popo, used as a walking stick (tokotoko), was converted into a weapon in emergency. A wooden spade shaped like an oar was also used as an emergency weapon. Weapons of noted warriors received individual names. That of Ngangati was Te-ara-o-te-iva.

Many of the earlier battles in Mangaian history were surprise attacks and acts of treachery. Later, when the position of Temporal Lordship became established as the fruit of victory, it became customary for the tribe aspiring to power to give some form of notice or declaration of a state of war. The war was confined to the two opposed tribes and their allies. Noncombatant tribes which had become kopu ika (tribes furnishing sacrifices) were always likely to be drawn upon for the human sacrifice necessary to proclaim peace.

The tribal god was usually consulted through the priest concerning the methods and prospects of obtaining success. When Kauate asked Mautara how the Ngariki tribe could regain its lost supremacy, Motoro, replying through his priest, stated that Kauate must offer himself up as an ika tea sacrifice to Rongo. In the oracular phrase deciding upon war, "va'i te 'akari a Rongo!" (Split the coconut of Rongo!) the "coconut" referred to the head of an enemy.

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Divination was also resorted to for determining the result of war:

A method conducted by the chief of the war party consisted of placing two ariri shells (Turbo petholatus) on the tribal marae on the eve of battle with an incantation to his god. The shells representing the two opposing forces were viewed in the morning, and the one that had turned over indicated the party that would suffer defeat. As recorded by Gill (12, p. 34), this method was used by the giant Moke in his war against an invading force from Rarotonga.

Another method was termed pa te vai (enclose the water). A large taro leaf was formed into a container by fitting it into a space formed of a square of four short lengths of banana stem. A number of live dragon flies, lizards, and centipedes were dashed into the water after the appropriate incantation. The number drowned indicated the number of warriors to be killed in the impending battle.

A third method consisted of holding a fish hunt in the lagoon, when the number of fish caught represented the number of the enemy that would be slain. (See 12, p. 268.)

A state of war having been announced by a threat, challenge, or the offering of a propitiatory human sacrifice, preparations were made for the decisive battle. In the later period of Mangaian history, the propitiatory sacrifice to Rongo became very important to the party seeking office. Either a victim arbitrarily selected or a victim who offered himself (ika tea) was an ika motu (severing sacrifice) to sever the rule of the party in power.

A battle was termed puruki and a war party, tutai. The place of battle (vai nga'ere, one puruki, or ta'ua) was often selected beforehand and announced by the challenging party. The field on such occasions was weeded and cleared of shrubs and banana trunks to enable the opposing forces to draw up in proper formation.

The force that was first on the field took up its position in extended line about four or five deep. In the front rank were the heads of families, and behind them were other members of the family in order of seniority. The younger sons and sometimes the wives were in the back rows carrying spare weapons and baskets of stones to use as missiles. The father was armed with the longest type of spear or pointed club, whereas the eldest son used a shorter club.

When the second force took the field, they drew up in a similar formation in extended line facing the enemy. Families of the second force would place themselves opposite enemy families against whom they had particular grudges. Each family group or file was termed a vai tamaki or simply vai. A family, in selecting their position in the line, might ask their head, "Ei ta'ai vai?" (By whose section?) The father would then name the particular family and form up opposite it.

The two opposing lines moved toward each other and halted just close enough to reach each other with the longest club. The battle became a series of hand-to-hand combats between members of the front lines. It was the duty of the eldest son to step forward to his father's right front "to guard the head of the father" (e tiaki i te upoko o te metua). This he did by parrying the blows of the enemy with his shorter club. In the family meals, the father divided the cooked fish, giving the eldest son the head of the fish. According to Aiteina, this figuratively represented the father's head which the eldest son protected in war. If the father fell, the eldest son stepped up and took his place with the long spear while the next oldest son stepped up into the supporting position. The relatives at the rear picked up the disabled warriors and bore them off the field. If the eldest son was killed or disabled, the next eldest took his place in the front line, and so the sequence in age and experience was carried on.

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Numangatini indicated the age sequence in formations very well in his description of the three battles he had fought (7, p. 149). In his first battle at Teatuapai, he carried a basket of stones to throw at the foe. In his second battle at Rangiura, he fought with a flat wooden sword as a support. In the third battle at Oraeva, he fought in the front rank with a long spear. Sometimes a junior brother forced himself to the front, if dissatisfied with the skill of his senior relative. Under special circumstances military custom could be departed from; a younger brother might displace an unwounded elder brother, and a younger brother refuse to take the place of a wounded elder brother. In one of the minor engagements not recorded as an official battle this is what happened:

The children of Manini sought revenge against Moerangi, whose family were in position in the opposing force. The Manini family called to their leader, "Ei ta'ai vai!" The expected answer came, "Ei ta Moerangi!" (With Moerangi!) They accordingly placed themselves opposite the section where Moerangi stood at the head of his younger brothers, for Tokoau, their father, was dead. An interchange of thrusts took place until Paia, the youngest of the Manini family, disgusted at the poor showing being made by his senior, came to the front and displaced him. He feinted at Moerangi's head and, as Moerangi's guard went up, drove his spear through his foot and impaled it firmly to the ground. He then taunted his enemy, saying, "E a'a ai to kiri va'a e taitea aina?" (Why are your lips becoming so pale?) Moerangi called for a younger brother to take his place with the words, "E tu ta'i tama a Tokoau i mua!" (Let a son of Tokoau stand up in front !) But the younger brothers, knowing that the murder of Manini might bring the blood curse upon the family unless avenged, declined to move, saying, "Ko to mua 'ua na e te tuakana." (The eldest is in front now, O, eldest brother.)

After the orderly commencement of battle, the combatants moved about more freely. The second line had its chance to engage in hand-to-hand combats, though through it all they were supposed to remember to guard their father's head. The wives often displayed great courage in coming to the assistance of their husbands, beating down the spear points with short clubs and even catching the points in thick cloth. Some women have interposed their own bodies to stop fatal thrusts. It says much for the faithfulness of Mangaian wives that they dared such dangers even against their own tribes, when they were not expected to join in the fighting but to remain in safety at home.

Williams (27, p. 235) records an incident in the last Mangaian battle fought after the advent of Christianity:

The young chief of a neighboring island, who was present at this conflict, informed me that, while in the heat of the battle, he was greatly annoyed by the fury with which the wife of his antagonist assailed him. He exclaimed, "Woman, desist; I am not come to fight with women." She vociferated in a frantic manner, "If you kill my husband, what must I do ?" and immediately threw a stone, which struck him on the head, and felled him to the ground; and had it not been for the prompt assistance of his own people, he would have lost his life by the hands of her husband.

The warriors fought with their patrilineal tribe, and adopted children fought with the tribe into which they had been received. A man might find page 161himself opposed to his wife's relatives, or even to his own sons who had been adopted into their mother's tribe. It was held that in regular battles (kako'-anga tamaki) blood relatives on opposite sides could kill one another without such supernatural consequences as occurred in the tariki slayings. The shed blood did not bring punishment upon the relatives (kare e 'a' angi mai te toto ki runga i te 'uanga), for they were serving different tribal gods and could not be accused of the crime of ta atua (killing the god).

Military skill was displayed by some of the leaders. Mautara with an inferior force defeated the Ngariki at Tapatiu by suddenly attacking the center instead of forming up in line opposite a superior force. In a later battle, owing to the signals of the priest Paia, Mautara stationed his small army in a position between the taro patches that prevented a large section of the enemy from being employed against him.

The term miro was also used to denote war. A war of extermination was termed a miro tu'uri karai'i, signifying that the stones were turned over ('tu'uri) to obtain all the land crabs (karai'i). A war in which only the leaders were killed was termed a miro tatemu. Pahgemiro changed his name from Revareva because he became supreme ruler on the first occasion without battle, and his battle or victory was a miro tu ke (a different kind of miro).

Though all Polynesians delighted in war, the rewards in Mangaia were higher than in any other area. The leader of the successful war party secured the supreme temporal power over the whole island. He could even depose the hereditary high priests of Rongo. His leading warriors secured the positions of chiefs over districts and subdistricts, and the lesser warriors received liberal grants of the best land.

The warrior killed in battle went to the special warrior's paradise, Tiairi, to dance ('aka) with his comrades and previous opponents. All others had to face the oven of Miru in the lower Avaiki.