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Maori Religion and Mythology


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The Maori Mss. of which translations are now published were collected by the author many years ago. The persons through whom the MSS. were obtained are now, with one exception, no longer living. They were all of them men of good birth, and competent authorities. One who could write sent me, from time to time, in MS. such information as he himself possessed, or he could obtain from the tohunga, or wise men of his family. Chapters iii. and iv. contain selections from information derived from this source.

The others not being sufficiently skilled in writing, it was necessary to take down their information from dictation. In doing this I particularly instructed my informant to tell his tale as if he were relating it to his own people, and to use the same words that he would use if he were recounting similar tales to them when assembled in a sacred house. This they are, or perhaps I should rather say were, in the habit of doing at times of great weather disturbance accompanied with storm of wind and rain, believing an effect to be thereby produced quieting the spirits of the sky.

As the dictation went on I was careful never to ask any question, or otherwise interrupt the thread of the narrative: but wrote as nearly as I could every word, page viii being guided by the sound in writing any new and strange words. When some time had thus passed, I stopt him at some suitable part of his tale: then read over to him what I had written, and made the necessary corrections—taking notes also of the meanings of words which were new to me. Chapters v. and vi. are with some omissions translations of a Maori MS. written in this way.

Chapter ii. contains a tradition as to Maori Cosmogony more particular in some details than I have ever met with elsewhere. My informant had been educated to become a tohunga; but had afterwards become a professing Christian. The narrative took place at night unknown to any of his people, and under promise that I would not read what I wrote to any of his people. When after some years I re-visited New Zealand, I learnt that he had died soon after I left, and that his death was attributed to the anger of the Atua of his family due to his having, as they expressed it, trampled on the tapu by making noa or public things sacred—he having himself confessed what he no doubt believed to be the cause of his illness.

In Appendix will be found a list of Maori words expressing relationship. It will be observed that where we employ definite words for ‘father' and ‘brother' the Maori use words having a more comprehensive meaning, page ix like our word ‘cousin': hence when either of the words matua, &c., are used, to ascertain the actual degree of relationship some additional explanatory words must be added, as would be necessary when we use the general term cousin.

A short vocabulary of Maori words unavoidably introduced in the following pages, which require explanation not to be found in any published dictionary, are also printed in the Appendix,—as well as a few selected karakia in the original Maori, with reference to pages where their translations appear, as a matter of interest to some persons.

Auckland, January, 1882.
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