Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Mangaian Society

The Marae

The Marae

The stone shrine of Rauatu and the suspended basket of Rua-tamaine were adequate for the limited ritual of individual fishermen. The curtained apartment was also adequate for the individual requirements of the priest and the few who might consult him privately. For public assemblies of the tribe, special gathering places termed maraes were constructed. The marae as a cultural element had been established at a fairly remote period so that one of the first things attended to by an immigrant group was the erection of a marae to their god. To build or repair a marae was termed a'u. The stone facing of the boundaries was termed pa. The marae was not only necessary page 174to the worship of a god, but it associated the ancestor or tribe with a particular district and, in a way, established their right to the land. If, however, the tribe was conquered, their marae became a historical landmark and could not in itself reserve the land for the tribe. The older maraes retained some prestige in denoting a more ancient occupation. This prestige, however, dwindled to a merely historical one if the temporal power of those who worshiped there was lost.

Gill (12, pp. 332-333), in his list of gods, gives the names of places where they were worshiped. Williamson (28, vol. 2, p. 43), quoting from Gill, was in doubt as to whether the places named were districts or only villages. They were neither, but were the names of the maraes. Table 17 gives the maraes in each district, together with the god worshiped and the tribe which was served. (See fig. 1.)

I visited each district with the district chiefs on a tour of inspection. Of the 40 maraes named, the sites of only 27 could be located at the time, and their positions are shown approximately in figure 1. Probably some have been omitted from the list. With more time, more sites could have been located. Of the 40 maraes, 25 were associated with tribes or individuals. The list shows the principal maraes of the dominant Ngariki, Ngati-Tane, Tongaiti, Ngati-Vara, and Manaune tribes. Of the maraes not associated with tribes in the list, some belonged to the five tribes mentioned above and the others to the smaller tribes that were merged or became extinct. It is probable that all the maraes in Keia district except Mara belonged to the Ngariki.

Of the 27 maraes seen, only 10 were sufficiently preserved to be measured. The general plan was to form a rectangular court by defining the boundaries with a line of coral rocks embedded in the ground and placed closely together. The interior was then filled in with stones and earth to form a level terrace.

The maraes were used for purposes other than religious, and some were entirely secular. The particular function of most maraes has been forgotten, but a survey of the nine maraes in the Keia district illustrates the diversity of function. The district was occupied by the Ngariki people, and they did not need all the maraes for the service of the tribal god, Motoro. Four of the Keia maraes (Akaoro, Orongo, Araata, and Mara) were definitely religious, and each of the three hereditary priests of the Ngariki was provided with a marae (Akaoro, Orongo, and Rangi-taua):

1, 2.

Akaoro and Orongo were national maraes for the service of Rongo, presided over by the two hereditary High Priests of Rongo.

3.Araata was the marae of the tribal god, Motoro.
4.Mara, the marae of Te-aio, was probably set up by Mautara or his successors to the office of priest of Motoro.
5.Mau-tokerau was used for the ceremonial installation of the chiefs of the three Ngariki divisions. In the ceremony they were lifted up on the crossed weapons (uira- page 175
Table 17. Maraes
Tamarua, *MaungaroaTane-kioNgati-Tane
, *AumoanaTurangaTongaiti
Veitatei, *AreunaTe-aio and TaneNgati-Vara
*TakuTe-aio and TaneNgati-Vara
*Mau-tokerau(For installing Ngariki chiefs)Ngariki
, *Rangi-ta'ua
, *Tukituki-mata(For discussions)
, *OrongoRongo(National)
Ivirua, *IvanuiRongo(National, old)
, *TaumatiniTane-ngaki-auNgati-Tane
, *MaputuTane-ngaki-auNgati-Tane
*Are-vakaMotoroManaune, Ngariki
, *ArangireaTe-aioManaune
page 176 vananga) of the warriors and placed on a flat, black stone (toka kerekere). They were given a drink of water from Vai-o-eve, a spring close to the marae, now dried up.
6.Tukituki-mata was a secular marae at which the learned men ('are korero) met to discuss history and ancient lore. A stone seat, with another upright stone forming a back, still remains on the site of this open-air hall of learning.
7.Itikau was a social open air hall at which the drums were sounded: "Tumatuma te pa'u i 'Itikau." (Softly sound the drums on Itikau.)
8.Maraeara was the marae on which the chiefs met to discuss matters concerning the interior economy of the tribe and the problems affecting law and justice. The integrity of the decisions arrived at is indicated by a quotation from a song: "Ko'atu tanu I Marae'ara." (The stone planted at Maraeara.)
9.Rangi-taua was said to be the marae of Mokoiro. It was presided over by the Ruler of Food, who exercised a priestly function.

The maraes were not in everyday use. No need existed for daily placations of "the tribal god, as this was attended to by the keeper of the national godhouse. The public occasions for the use of the marae were well spaced in time and in the intervals weeds grew over the marae. Before a public ceremonial, notice was given to weed (vaere) the marae. Each marae had its official keeper (tiaki) who saw that the marae was kept in order and weeded when required.

Though priests carried out the ceremonial, the chief who built a marae and his heirs after him really owned the marae and his position as the source (pu) from which the marae sprung was recognized. The pu was supported by a warrior ally who was termed the toko (prop). Pangemiro was the pu of the two maraes, Te-ra-tui-o-Vero and Are-vaka, in Karanga, and Pokino was his toko. Of the Tangiia-rakoa marae it was said that Uarau was the original pu and Manini was his toko.

Of the arrangement within the marae court, nothing definite is recorded. Though no traces of raised platforms were found, it is evident that a platform of hala wood (6, p. 295) was erected on the Akaoro marae for the human sacrifice. It is referred to in songs as atarau (6, p. 299), and the term kapua is also used (6, pp. 310, 313). At the Orongo marae the human sacrifice was laid upon a smooth block of sandstone (limestone) in front of the image of Rongo (7, p. 299).

Trees were planted beside the maraes to provide shade. The principal tribes selected a particular tree for their own maraes. The Ngariki took the coral tree, the Tongaiti the puka tea, and the Ngati-Vara the pua (7, p. 130). One of the maraes had a grove of tamanu trees associated with it. In an eva dance, the Ivanui marae to Rongo was thus referred to:

'Aore oa te paepae o Rongo e taea, The platform of Rongo cannot be ascended,
E paepae tuatinitini, tuamanomano, A platform open to the thousands and to myriads,
Kota'i 'ua e tae One only can reach it,
O te 'i'iri, o te rarama. Wisdom and learning.
page 177

Another reference to Rongo runs as follows:

A va te ua i ta'aruku When the rain is heard on the leaves
A tomo a Rongo i roto i tona 'are, Rongo enters into his house,
E 'are turu ariki. A house of chiefly prestige.

The oven for cooking food for feasts on the Araata marae was close to the marae. It was named Tiki-rau (Get-leaves), as fresh leaves had to be provided each time it was used.

Dimensions could be measured.

* Site visited.