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Historical Records of New Zealand

Rev. N. Turner to Rev. J. Etchells

Rev. N. Turner to Rev. J. Etchells.

Wesley Dale, Wangaroa, New Zealand, Sep. 30th, 1824.

Rev. and dr. Sir,—

* * * *

On the 30th April, 1823, we left Hobart Town for Port Jackson, where we waited about eight weeks before we could obtain a passage for the place of our destination, and after much difficulty, expence, and exercise, on the 15th August, ’23, we arrived safe at our destination, where we found our brethren Leigh and White, and when we saw them “we thanked God and took courage.“ Our brethren had been here about 8 weeks, and had just got a rush hut built into which to receive us.…

Deplorable indeed is the condition of this people in every sense of the word. The words of the Apostle, “without God and without hope in the world,“ were never more applicable to any people than to the New Zealanders. Of the one true and living God they have not the most distant idea; but of imaginary deities they have numbers—of birds, reptiles, and fishes. But page 630 their greatest deities are the souls of their departed relations, of whom they feel the most superstitious dread. To them they always pray before they go to war, and entreat them to impart their anger to them, to enable them to fight and conquer their enemies. Those that fall in war are roasted and eaten by the victorious party; the captured are taken for slaves, and it is no uncommon thing for these to be butchered and eaten, to gratify the diabolical passions of their ungodly masters, or to appease the anger of some departed relative, who they fear will come and destroy them, if his anger be not appeased. They that have eaten human flesh are considered as deities even while they are alive, and by the name of Atua (god) they are often addressed, and even the body itself, when the spirit is fled, is called a [torn out] Atua, so that according to their view they are themselves deified body and soul, dead and alive. When any are afflicted among them, they say, the Atua has got within and is eating them. And in this way, according to their view, all their affliction and death is brought about. When they die they tell us that their left eye becomes a star. The bright ones are those of their great men, the dim ones those of their slaves. They have an idea of a future state, but not of rewards and punishments for moral actions; they tell us they all go to one place called Raing or Po, there to feast on sweet potatoes, &c., &c. Of pure spiritual pleasures they have no conception; their heaven is all in carnal delights. Their moral character is such as might naturally be expected from a mind so dark and polluted. I may venture to affirm there is no crime of which they are capable of which they are not guilty. Reason is completely dethroned, and the reins of government are given up to the passions altogether, and by these they are carried to the greatest extremes. Their temporal condition is equally bad; they are filthy in the extreme, never wash themselves, but as often as they can besmear themselves with red ochre and oil, which in the hot weather makes them very offensive. Many of them literally swarm with vermin. Their huts in general are nothing better than poor people’s pigsties in England—are much the same heighth and size, and into them they creep through a little hole at one end. They have neither furniture nor cooking utensils, and the poor filthy mats that serve them for cloths by day serve them for bedding by night. Their food in winter consists chiefly of fish and fern root; in summer they have potatoes, sweet and common. They have many pigs among them, but they are principally reserved to trade with whalers, for muskets and powder, things of great value to them.…

I remain, &c.,

Nathl. Turner

To the Rev. J. Etchells.