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Appendix E. — Maori Almanac

page 261

Appendix E.
Maori Almanac

The Maori based his system on the moon, its phases being more easily discernible than those of the sun. The lunar month and the nights of the moon were his units in the measurement of time. The solar year he had not adopted, but, like other peoples, he was compelled to make his twelve lunar months agree with the true solar year. Information collected is not copious, and several matters are yet unexplained. It appears, however, that a mode of intercalation was employed, though the method probably differed in different parts of Polynesia.

The lunar month adopted by the Maori was to him a very useful institution, for, like his Polynesian brethren, he had a name for each night of the moon's age.

Maori activities for his existence were mostly guided by different phases of the moon. So important were they to his life that these names were well preserved, though differing somewhat in different districts, as also does the order in which they appear. This latter discrepancy may be owing to forgetfulness for this system of time measurement has been abandoned since the advent of civilisation.

The following is the most popular list adopted by the Ngati-Kahungunu tribe.

1.Whiro—Bad day, the moon is out of sight.
2.Tirea—Bad day, the moon is slightly seen. (New moon.)
3.Hoata—Good day for planting and fishing, the moon is well shown.
4.Uenuku—Good day for planting from dawn to mid-day; good night for eels.
5.Okoro—Good day for planting from mid-day to sunset, good night for catching eels.
6.Tamatea-a-hotu—Bad day for planting and fishing; sea is disturbed by ocean currents.
7.Tamatea-a-ngana—Bad day for planting and fishing; sea is disturbed by ocean currents.page 262
8.Tamalea-aio—Good day for planting and fishing. (Quarter moon.)
9.Tamatca-kai-ariki—Bad day for planting and fishing, sea is disturbed by ocean currents.
10.Huna—Bad day; everything is hidden, as denoted by its name "Huna," or hidden.
11.Art—Fairly good for planting and fishing; good night for spearing eels.
12.Maure—Fairly good for planting and fishing; good night for spearing eels.
13.Mawharu—Good day, especially for pot cray-fishing.
14.Ohua—Good for planting, good return for all seeds and seedlings.
15.Turn—Fairly good for planting; tide coming in morning and evening, sun setting and moon rising simultaneously.
16.Rakaunui—Good day for planting, but not for fishing. (Full moon.)
17.Rakaumatohi—Fairly good day; whitebait is moving. (Moon commencing to wane.)
18.Takirau—Best day of all; plant kumara.
19.Oike—Fairly good day for planting and fishing.
20.Korekore-hahani—Bad day, everything is unobtainable.
21.Korekore-whiwhia—Bad day; everything is unobtainable.
22.Korekore-rawea—Bad day; everything is unobtainable.
23.Korekore-piri-ki-tangaroa—Slightly better day, from mid-day to sunset; night for eels. (Moon last quarter.)
24.Tangaroa-amua—Good day for deep-sea fishing; white-bait is running.
25.Tangaroa-aroto—Good day for deep-sea fishing; white-bait is running.
27.Otane—Bad day for all things.
28.Orongonui—Bad day for anything.
29.Omutu—Bad day for anything.
30.Mutu-whenua—Worst day of all. (Moon is dead.)

Note.—Maori calendar follows the moon, begins with the rising and ends with the setting. Each of these names of the moon's age is denoted or represented by different star or stars, so does different parts of the night. Thus, a day begins from sunset to sunset.

How the Maori applied his thirty nights to fit in with the proper age of the moon has not been made clear. Some of the Maori authorities contended that the moon disappears under-page 263ground and reappears after travelling two days underground. They say that the whiro (first night), only the reflection of the moon can be seen, and the moon does not actually appear until the tirea (second night). Similarly, by the thirtieth night (mutu-whenua), for the moon has then already disappeared underground.

Other authorities say that two of these nights do not actually count in the moon's age; these are the huna and the omutu; for the first being denoted by a special star (the name of which, huna, means hidden). The second, omutu, is an alternative of the name mutu-whenua or vice versa, which was denoted by the respective stars. The names omutu and mutu-whenua mean the same thing, that is, the ending of the moon's night. Others again give different explanations, but none are satisfactory, therefore we are obliged to leave it in obscurity.

The Maori, however, was very accurate in his knowledge of the state of the moon, the appearance of the stars and their situation, which acted as his guide in many voyages across the ocean.

It is nearly six centuries ago, or approximately A.D. 1350, when the Fleet crossed the Great Ocean of Kiwa, and made their landfall at Aotea-roa. It is interesting to know that Columbus, one hundred and forty-three years later, with the aid of the compass, groped his way across the Atlantic to the West Indies. At the period of the great Fleet, European navigators, by hugging the shores of continents, had reached the Canaries and Madeira, whilst Jayme Ferrara had reached the port of missing ships in attempting to sail to the Gold Coast of Africa.

The Maori divided his seasons of the year into six parts:—

  • Ngahuru—Autumn—About February and March.
  • Takurua—Winter—About April and May.
  • Hotoke—Depth of Winter—About June and July.
  • Aroaro-mahana—Beginning of Spring—August and September.
  • Koanga—Spring; planting season—About October and November.
  • Raumati—Summer—About December and January.

The most important seasons to the Maori were Te Koanga and Ngahuru. The first was the time of the planting of seeds, the second was the time of the harvest. These two seasons were denoted by the planting and the harvesting of the crops, therefore they were varied in different parts, according to climatic conditions. In the case of a high country, and in the more southerly latitudes where snow is experienced, the planting was very much page 264delayed, for all the vegetables of the Maori required warm bedding.

The flowering of various plants and trees, the ripening of the fruits, the nesting of birds, the decay of annual plants, the arrival of the cuckoo, were all useful to the Maori in fixing the time for certain regular activities of his life. The arrival of the horirerire (cuckoo bird) flying upward in a small circle singing, was a hint to the Maori to plant his seeds.

When a lazy person went out begging for planted food he would meet with the following remark of refusal: "E; i whea koe i te tanginga o te horirerire ka puru i tetahi kakano mahau ki te oneone?" (Where where you at the singing of the horirerire to plant your seed in the ground?)

The Maori also had two other noted periods of a year which materially affected his social life: The ngahuru (harvest) and the waru (famine). In choosing his time for receiving visitors or holding festivals he would say: "Kanaka i te wa o te warn, e ngari hei te ngahuru." (Not to be at the period of the waru, but at the ngahuru.)

We may digress here a little in relating the story of what happened between two well-known ancestors of the Ngati-Kahungunu tribe. Kaitahi who lived at Te Hauke, near Te Aute, Hawke's Bay, made an unexpected visit to Tureia, who lived with his people Te tini o Tureia (the multitude of Tureia) along the sea coast between Wai-hua and Mohaka. On his arrival, which was during the waru period, he found Tureia existing on a starvation diet. On the menu were some ngupara or fresh-water shellfish, about the size of little marbles and the shape of kuku (mussel). These shellfish were cooked and opened by the thumbnails and carried into the mouth, and after swallowing the flesh the shell was then thrown aside.

Kaitahi taking advantage of his host's unfortunate position, made the following belittling remarks: "E; ta; kei te mate koe, kei te kai tonu koe i o koikara." (O; man; you are living in suffering, for you are eating your fingernails.) To this Tureia asked: "Kei whea ia?" (Where is it?) Kaitahi, nodding his head towards Hawke's Bay, said: "Ara; kei iooku kainga, nanao tonu ake ai i raro i te kumu, e puru ana ki te waha." (There; at my home, all you have to do is to reach down your hands under your seat and put forth in your mouth.) To this Turei said: "Ka mutu pea; heaha te ngahuru?" (It is wonderful; what is the ngahuru? (harvest). At all times, replied Kaitahi; "He ngahuru anake."

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The day after Kaitahi left for his home, Tureia ordered his multitude of people to follow him on his way to visit the home of Kaitahi. Just as Kaitahi had reached his home, he looked back and to his horror he saw Tureia with his multitude of people approaching his home. Realising his plight, he went and hid himself in the latrine. When Tureia inquired of him, the people of the place said that he had not arrived. However, when Tureia looked in the latrine he found his boastful guest of three days previously crouching in the latrine. Tureia then mockingly remarked: "Ha; e ta, kei, konei tonu ia kou?" (Hallo; man, you are still here, after all.) To this Kaitahi shamefully replied: "E; e mano atu hoki nga waru a Kaitahi," meaning that there is only one winter, which affects all places alike. Tureia having satisfied himself that he had sufficiently punished his bragging guest, returned home with his people. On the way they were seen by the chief of the place named Hikawera, a son of the Whati-apiti (the origination of the tribal name Ngai-Te Whati-apiti), who lived at his pa between Omahu and Te Wai-o-hiki, where they were called in to have a meal. Many Maori-fed dogs were slaughtered and cooked to augment other foods. The intestines of these dogs were thrown in the river near the place and so polluted the water of the river for some time, hence the river was named Tutae-kuri (dog's dung). Prior to leaving, Tureia was asked by his host if he had any daughter to give him as his wife. To this request Tureia gave his daughter Te Rangi-mokai, who became the mother of Ratua-i-te-rangi, who married Te Rangi-tuanui, the son of Tapuwae (the outstanding chief of Te Wai-roa).

The Maori had no respect for any person who did not carry out his word, for his word was his bond. No matter what came he was bound to honour his word.

Any person addicted to falsehood was regarded as a man of double tongue (He arero rua), and promising to do a thing and failing is called He waha huka (frosty mouth). A person who boasts of doing a thing beforehand is called He kai-a-waha (bragging mouth), and who brags of any initial success in war is called He manamana hau (windy boast). All these names had a very degrading effect on a person's honour and prestige, irrespective of his high rank.

The expression by Kaitahi has been preserved to the present day, and is frequently used by people to visitors who come in the winter period: E; e mano atu hoki nga waru a Kaitahi?

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