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The Coming of the Maori

The pure Rite

The pure Rite

According to Best (22, p. 24) the tohi rite was followed immediately by the pure ceremony conducted at the parents' dwellinghouse. Fine dress cloaks were spread in the porch in front of the window and jade and whalebone clubs placed upon them to make a show of family wealth. The people gathered and greeted the returning procession with ceremonial weeping. The priest recited a ritual chant replete with mythological references regarded as the foundation of knowledge which the child was to acquire. The people then moved close to the porch and greeted the child with the usual weeping of welcome, after which some of them made speeches of welcome to the child. When the speeches were over, a feast was held on the open marae before the house. Thus the child was formally received into the society of his family and his tribe.

The tohi and pure rites are capable of various interpretations. Briefly, in the tohi rite, the child was rendered tapu by the sprinkling of water and was ceremonially presented to the god who was to aid him in this world. The pure rite was a fixation process which rendered his spiritual powers or mana permanent. The term pure in central Polynesia is a general term for a religious ritual, but in New Zealand, it has a localized meaning. The parents and attendants who had shared in the tohi and pure rites were in a state of tapu and this was removed by the whakanoa (render normal) rite conducted by the priest at the village latrine (turuma) or a stream of water.