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The Autobiography of a Maori

A Strange Game

A Strange Game

During hot weather, the children practically lived on the bank of the Awatere river. After being in the water too long, we rolled in the hot sand, as did our grand ancestor, Paikea1, before us when he landed at Ahuahu, or we put flat hot stones on our backs. Lying flat on our stomachs, we often indulged in a strange

1 After the sinking of Huripureita, of all Uenuku's sons, Paikea was the sole survivor. A taniwha in the form of a whale took Paikea on its back and brought him to Aotearoa, landing at Ahuahu. By rolling in the hot sand he revived himself. Paikea married Huturangi, a descendant of Toikairakau and the issue of the union is the Ngati-Porou tribe. It is the boast of young Ngati-Porou that their great ancestor came to New Zealand on the back of a taniwha as befitting the descendants of gods, and not in a prosaic material canoe.

page 29game. While each held a flat round stone between his hands, the command would be given for the competitors to spit on the stones. The competition consisted in seeing whose spit evaporated first. It was not unusual for an impatient competitor to recite the short karakia1 which begins:

Whitiwhiti te ra, pokopoko te ra.
Shine, shine, sun; out, out, sun.

It never occurred to the reciter that the sun was severely impartial; that it shone alike both on the just as well as the unjust. Invariably the losers always murmured that the winner must have been sparing in his spitting.

When a mother appeared carrying a big stick in her hand, it was not then a case of imploring for mercy—there was only one thing to do, pick up your shirt, or even without it, and make a bee-line for home, there to await the tyrant and her big stick.

1 Incantation.