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Historical Records of New Zealand

Statement by Rev. S. Leigh

Statement by Rev. S. Leigh.

Sydney, August 4th, 1830.

Description of.—The New Zealand Temple is a box made of wood, the size of which is as follows: The length is 2 feet, the width 15 inches, the height 16 inches. The roof is of a circular form, and is covered with thatch, like unto the roof of a cottage. On one side is a small door way about four inches wide, which is shut by a small piece of wood suspended by a nail, or a peg of wood which admits the door to be removed either to the right or to the left.

Origin of.—In the year 1816 the New Zealanders were much afflicted with an apprehension of experiencing a favour [failure] in their potatoes. The cause of this appearance of a decrease of this valuable part of their food was by a vast number of caterpillars falling upon their plantations and destroying the leaves and stems of the potatoes. In this alarm the principal persons among them applied to the neighbouring priest for a remedy. After the priest had heard their complaint, he directed them to make a temple, according to the above description, and page 709 when they had made it, to place it upon a post 4 feet high from the ground in the centre of the village next to the plantation. After they had done this he assured them he would come and tabbatab (consecrate) the temple, and put into it the Atua (with some potato), after which the Atua (their god) would be fed with the same, and then they might expect that the caterpillars would all go away, and the potatoes would grow again.

The people were very attentive to the directions given by the priest. The temple was soon made, and placed upon a post exactly to order. The priest was informed that all things were ready according to his will. The priest approached the place and tabbatabed (consecrated) the temple, put in the Atua (the god), and put in some potato on which the Atua was to feed. I asked them if the Atua was in the temple. They assured me he was. I removed the small door and looked, but of course could not see anything. I observed to them that I could not tickee tickee (see) Atua; is he in the corner? To which they said ‘You cannot tickee tickee (see) our Atua (our god); our god cannot be seen, nevertheless god is in the temple.’ They assured me that soon after the temple was erected that the caterpillars fled away, the potatoes grew in abundance, and all of them were very good.

I asked them if they would sell me the temple, as I should like my friends in New South Wales to see it. They assured me they could not. I said I was their friend, and had come a great way to see them; if they would not sell it me, I would not come to visit them any more. They observed they could not let me have it, for if they did all their pickaninnies (their children) would all die, but if I wished to have a temple to take to my friends they would make one for me like upto the one I saw, but it would not be tabbatabed (consecrated). I told them I did not object to its not being tabbatabed, and that as soon as they had made me the temple I would pay them for it, to which they consented. In about three days after my interview with them they brought me an exact likeness of the temple I had seen. At the time they brought it the very priest that tabbatabed theirs was with me, and I requested him to tabbatab my temple, to which he said, I cannot tabbatab yours; you are not a New Zealand man; you come and live at New Zealand, and have potato plantations, then I will tabbatab your temple, and put into it Atua. I cannot do that, I observed; your temple is nothing good; there is but one God! The Great God of Heaven and Earth! The priest said he would show me how he performed the ceremony. He went through it, all of which appeared to be empty and vain. The conversation ended. I paid the natives for the temple, and we parted in friendship.