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The Ancient History of the Maori, His Mythology and Traditions: Horo-Uta or Taki-Tumu Migration. [Vol. I]

Chapter I

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Chapter I.

For thee, O Whai, my love is ever great.
From germ of life sprang thought,
And god's own medium came:
Then bud and bloom; and life in space
Produced the worlds of night—
The worlds where bowing knee
And form in abject crouching lost
Are lost—for ever lost.
And never now return ye
From those worlds of gloom.
'Twas Nothing that begat
The Nothing unpossessed,
And Nothing without charm.
Let the priests attention give,
And all I state dispute.
I may be wrong: I but rehearse
What was in whare-kura taught.
'Twas Rangi who, with Atu-tahi,
Brought forth the moon.
And Rangi Wero-wero took,
And, yet unseen, the sun produced.
He, silent, skimmed the space above,
And then burst forth the glowing eye of heaven
To give thee light, O man!
To wage thy war on fellow-man.
Turn and look this way.
On Tara-rua's distant peak now
Shines the light of coming day—
The dawn of eating man and feats of war.
Would'st thou the deeds of ancient battles now repeat,
When Nga-toro-i-rangi
The “Blood nose” battle fought,
And then the “Deep blue sea”
And next the “Earth-red plain”
And “Mist on sea” were fought and gained.
Sleep, O Father, in Matangi-rei,
Where Tane landed first and lived,
And where the dead of all
The tribes now rest, for ever rest.

* * * *

O Kahu-te-raki, come now,
page 8 Bid a welcome to thy nephew
And put him in the
Scented bag of Rau-kata-uri,
In which old Kae was led to dea
Hide him in the Ha-ruru-roa,
In the net of Pae-kawa,
Where noted Huna-kiko spear wa
With far-famed Ma-na-wa.
Why not singe thee
With a flame of fire,
That thou mayst see
The skin of Manu-mea,
And taste of food, that thoughts may ri
And urge to acts thy hands,
And feet, and eyes.
O deaf son, who wouldst not hearken,
I spread before thee life and death,
But thou wouldst bind around thee
The old used mat ofdeath.
I alone was left a solitary one
A cast-off plank of the
House of the god Tane.

School of Mythology and History. (Nga-I-Tahu.)

Whare-Kura, the sacred school in which the sons of high priests were taught our mythology and history, stood facing the East, in the precincts of the sacred place of Mua.

Mua was a sacred locality. It was known by mauku (tree-fern) or flax-bush. One of these indicated the sacred spot where an image of man, without feet (d), in length from the elbow to the point of the middle finger, made of totara wood, to represent Kahu-kura, the atua-toro (attendant spying god), was placed. This was where offerings, and sacrifices, and all other attendant ceremonies were performed to the gods.

The people procured the materials for this edifice, but the priests erected it; and whilst so engaged abstained from food till the close of each day. The high priest performed sacred ceremonies over the pou-toko-manawa, the centre-post, on which rested the ridge-pole, and at the foot of which was carved a tiki, the resemblance of one of their progenitors, to consecrate the house and make it sacred. When the kaka-ho reeds forming page 9 the various patterns which variegated the interior of the house were being laced up, incantations were repeated; and when finally completed, the ceremony of ta-te-kawa, the dedication of the building, was performed.

A sacred sacrifice was killed at the dedication, which was witnessed by all the people. A dog, man, woman, child, or slave was killed, and the blood presented to Mua, with the same ceremonies and incantations as those performed by an army in presenting food to the gods.

The living sacrifice was led up to the front of the building and then killed; the blood only was the sacred offering given to Mua. The body was buried in the sacred place (d).

A sacred fire and an umu (oven) were lighted in the house. These were kept burning whilst the victim was being killed. At the close of day another fire was lighted in the marae (courtyard), in which kumara or eel was cooked and partaken of by the priests and sacred men. The fire in each instance was procured by friction (hika) (d).

When the priests assembled on the first night they selected twenty or thirty youths of highest rank, and proceeded with them to a stream, river, lake, or other water, where the youths went into the water. The priests stood on the brink, and dipped a wiwi, or toe-toe stalk, or piece of grass, into the water, and dropped some from it into the left ear of each youth. The priests then went into the water and two or three times baled some on to the youths, repeating at the same time incantations to open their ears, to insure to them a correct and perfect knowledge of all they were to be taught. The priests then took rimu (raw sea-weed), and performed over it the same ceremonies and incantations as were performed by those who survived the flood. The youths and priests came out of the water, and went directly to Mua and to the image representing Kahu-kura. The priests, repeating incantations, threw some dry sea-weed. The tapu (d) was then supreme, and all animate or inanimate matter was sacred. The sole right to punish for transgression was left page 10 with the gods. All returned to the school, and, having again procured fire by friction, a piece of roi (d) (fern-root) was roasted and given to an aged wahine (female), who put it under her thigh (d). It was then presented to the youths one by one as they stood in a line in the middle, from end to end of the house, each of whom partook of a portion to insure a continuous application to their lessons. They then sat down, and the priests repeated the mythology and history until midnight. Only one female (and she must be a sacred woman) was admitted into this school. Her duty was, by ceremonies and incantations, to protect the lives (mauri) (d) of the pupils from every evil. None but the priests and pupils might eat in the school; nor must any one sleep there. If drowsiness were felt by any one of them, it was deemed an omen that such an one would not live long. He was at once expelled, and not again admitted.

The father of each pupil must attend to take charge of his child, to prevent crying, restlessness, whispering, or any other act by which the attention of others would be distracted.

The school was opened by the priests (d) in the season of kahui-rua-mahu (autumn), and continued from sunset to midnight every night for four or five months in succession. From midnight to dawn all slept. Daily exercise in games and bathing was allowed, but they were not on any account to go near where food was being, or had been, cooked; nor could they associate with any of the people. Any youth not entitled to a seat in the school who came near a pupil of whare-kura, for his temerity, became a water-carrier to the institution.

Food was cooked daily by females at a place apart from the settlement, and by them brought to a spot a little distance from the school; then it was taken by a water-carrier or some of the pupils into whare-kura.

The priests whilst teaching, and pupils whilst being taught, occupied the order already stated. The chief priest sat next to the door. It was his duty to commence the proceedings by page 11 repeating a portion of history; the other priests followed, in succession according to rank. On the south side sat the older and most accomplished priests, whose duty it was to insist on a critical and verbatim rehearsal of all the ancient lore. During the time occupied in teaching, none spake save the rehearser or the criticising priest.

The first lesson taught was the incantation to open the ears of the pupils; the next that indicating the path each spirit must take to obtain energy and zest to acquire the sacred lore; then the ceremonies and incantations of Po, Ao, Te-kore, Maku, and the ceremonies and sacred lore of Rangi. These were rehearsed each night for one month, to stamp them indelibly on the memory of each pupil. Then followed the most ancient incantation-songs (d) to imbue their souls with enthusiasm to emulate the mighty deeds of the gods and men.

Afterwards were taught the origin, attributes, and powers of Po, Ao, and Tane; and after these the incantations and ceremonies of witchcraft; then those to give bravery and vigour in war, and to bedim the eyes of their enemies; then those over food given to procure death; then those to cure the wounded and invalids: with these the term would close, and all would that night sleep in whare-kura. At dawn of day they proceeded to Mua, to the front of which was thrown some raw and cooked pitau, or fern-root, or grass, which had been prepared by the priests with ceremonies and incantations to take the tapu from it, so that the gods might at once partake of it.

All then went to the water, where the pupils took their places in it, and the priests standing on the brink, as before repeated incantations and performed the ceremonies of huri-i-te-takapau, with each incantation laving water over the pupils, while the assembled tribes stood within an easy distance and repeated an incantation for themselves.

The high priest then asked, “Which of you has perfectly learnt the ceremonies and incantations?” Being answered by one, “I have,” the people were ordered by the high priest to lead a page 12 captive up to where he and the pupils were. The pupil who answered the high priest, to exhibit his learning and power, bewitched him, and death at once ensued. The blood from the nose of the victim was taken on a piece of wood, or stick, or grass, and tied to an ancient and sacred toko (d) in front of Mua, and offered to the gods.

If, when being led to his doom, the captive was asked, “Where are you going?” he would answer, “To be bewitched by one of the pupils of the priests;” and before the time taken to cook food in a hangi (d) could elapse he would be dead. The ceremonies connected with the death of the victim were a sacrifice to the gods of war, witchcraft, and fate. It was optional with the priests to cause the body to be at once buried in the sacred place of Mua, or to order it to be cut up and cooked and eaten, to add virtue and power to the incantations and ceremonies of future divination, and to counteract the power of secret witchcraft (d), when food was the medium.

The priests and pupils then returned to the home of the people, dancing, making grimaces, and singing songs till they arrived there; then a fire was kindled by friction for the ceremony of huri-takapau, and an umu lighted, and food cooked, and incantations repeated over it. A portion was taken by a priest to touch each pupil with before he offered it to Mua; the remainder was eaten by the old men. Thus concluded the annual term of whare-kura. The doors were closed, and the house was left quite untouched until the opening of the following year.

On the first night of the school being closed the priests and pupils must sleep out in the open air. On the following day they might go to their usual places of abode, but were not allowed to join in any labour connected with cultivating or cooking food. Having passed three days at home, they all met again and proceeded in a body to the front (d) of Mua, where a mound of earth was made, about a foot long, to resemble a lizard (ika-whenua) (d). On either side of this the high priest placed one foot, and pressed the mound while he repeated the page 13 incantation of Tane.

During the time the priests and pupils were engaged in whare-kura they must not cohabit with their wives, nor must they procure firewood, save for the sacred fires in whare-kura only. Teachers, being men of rank, were not remunerated for their services. Ample exercise might be taken, in games, or other amusements; but cultivating or cooking food was strictly prohibited. Pupils must attend at whare-kura three, four, or even five years before they could become priests, or doctors, or teachers. When teaching was resumed in each following year, only the new pupils were required to submit to the preparatory ceremonies.

School of Agriculture.

The school in which the youths of highest rank were taught was distinct from the School of Agriculture. In this school all other grades of society met and consulted with the priests in regard to all their daily avocations. It was of considerable size—namely, from sixty to ninety feet long, and from eighteen to thirty feet broad—and would accommodate a hundred inquirers, and was lighted by fires kept in pits in a line up the middle of the house. Being a resort for all, females were not debarred from entering and asking any questions relating to their daily labour; only those who were pupils in whare-kura were prohibited. Lessons were given and questions answered only at night. The ceremonies and incantations performed and repeated in it caused it to be sacred. It was not occupied as a school every night in succession. Each pa had one or more, according to the number of its inhabitants.

As soon as all the lessons had been given on the first night of the term they all rose and went to Mua, where the priest, whilst repeating incantations and performing ceremonies, presented the fronds of pitau to the gods. At this time Kahu-kura was page 14 naked, as the ceremonies and incantations in this school were not very sacred.

When ceremonies of importance preparatory to war were performed all the people assembled and in a body proceeded with sacred offerings to Mua. There the priests clothed the god, first with two old garments, which were covered with valuable fringed mats called kai-taka, presented by the people, incantations being repeated the while. This ceremony having been performed, Mua was unrobed by the high priest, and the body of the people returned to their various occupations. The high priest then took the god from his place, with the mats and the last offerings presented, and, surrounded by those who were to proceed to war, he elevated the god, with the mats and offerings, in their midst, and offered, first raw, and then cooked or singed pitau to him. This ceremony must not be interrupted by any circumstances whatever, but be continued till dawn of day, when they returned to the school, and by friction lighted a fire, and cooked a portion of fern-root as a tau-maha, or thankoffering. In the meantime the warriors had taken their seats in a line; then the priest took the thank offering and held it to the nose of each to smell; it was then given to an old man to eat, to take the tapu off the people.

On the following morning a fire was lighted by friction, and food cooked and offered to Mua to propitiate the gods. This food was eaten by the most aged of the priests. All the people were then assembled, and ceremonies and incantations were performed and repeated to finally rid the people of all tapu.

Only in winter the people were taught in these schools, so that, when the seasons for cultivating the kumara, taro, and hue, for snaring and spearing birds, for fishing, and for digging fern- and convolvulus-roots came round, these might not be neglected. Fern-root was the only food partaken of in this school. At this season all lived and slept there, and no one was allowed to visit his house or cultivation. When the building page 15 was not occupied as a school visitors were received and entertained there. It was also the home of the aged men and women, and the place where the people amused themselves with whai, poi, and the other games played in the whare-matoro (d).

Astronomical School.

This school was opened in the season of pou-tu (d) (midwinter). It was a building from thirty to sixty feet long, and eighteen or twenty feet broad. It was erected outside of the pa, and was frequented by priests and chiefs of highest rank, who discussed subjects of vital importance to the people. In each year this assembly directed the days on which crops should be planted and reaped, the localities where birds and fish should be taken, and all the details in regard to travelling, visiting, and giving feasts.

They also compared their observations of the heavenly bodies, and discussed the indications of the omens to the several undertakings of the year. The stars Pu-anga, Taku-rua, Aotahi, Rehua, Kai-waka, Mata-riki (or Mata-ariki), Wero-i-te-ninihi, Wero-i-te-kokoto, Wero-i-te-ao-marie, were those which principally guided them in their discussions; and to impress the knowledge of these indelibly on their minds, they rehearsed the lessons taught to them in their youth.

One or more such schools was attached to each pa, according to the number of its inhabitants. This school was not entered from sunrise to sunset, nor was any one allowed to sleep in it. From dusk of evening till dawn of day it was occupied by those who discussed the subjects before stated; and these were only allowed to leave the house to answer a call of nature.

Those whose duty it was to supply food for the occupants of this school were not allowed to go near to it when at a short distance they must call to those within; the youngest man would come and take it. A female of high rank might carry food to the door, and rap, and hand the food in; but if a female of a junior family took food, she must stay at a short distance and page 16 call till the door was opened; a female of high rank would then take the food from her, and, whilst carrying it to the house, repeat an incantation; at the same time he who opened the door would also repeat an incantation: this they did on account of the door having been opened.

If an ordinary man—one of the people—carried food, he would not call, but, when arrived at a convenient distance, he would throw a stone on the house, and when the door was opened he would leave what he had taken and return. He durst not speak to the person who came for the food, nor would such an one speak to him.

Ample provisions and firewood were daily provided by the people for the occupants of this school, but only the junior in age of those who were engaged therein would carry them inside.

One, two, or three females took part in each session, whose duty it was to perform all the sacred rites and ceremonies of the mauri (d).

Each session occupied three, four, or five months. No one in that time visited his home, or in any way held intercourse with the people. They slept in the day-time, and held their discussions at night. And not till the ceremony of ika-whenua was performed were they allowed to go to their homes. When this house was not occupied by the priests, the aged and decrepit of the people made it their home.

At the close of the session similar ceremonies and incantations were performed and repeated as were performed by the priests at the concluding ceremonies of whare-kura.