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

Chapter II

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Chapter II.

Darts the lightning in the heaven,
And flashes, darting twofold,
O'er the hill Tau-whare.
Oh, evil omen thou of death,
Of spirits now released
From Wharo!
Now meditate on evils done,
And put thy weapon down;
Release thy hand from thy war-club
And Ue-nuku-wareware.
I ask thee, what
Is now the season of the moon?
'Tis midnight gloom of thieves.
* * * * * * *
And moan the distant waves
Of western sea,
And echo in the cave
Of Papa-whara-ana.
Now gleams a flash of light
On peaks of mountains in the south,
As the high priest
Is lifted up to Rona.
* * * * * * *


One night a woman had to cook some food for her family, and, not having a vessel of water near to wet her repaki, or retao (worn-out baskets used to cover the food in an umu, or oven, and over which the earth is heaped to keep the steam in), she had to carry them to a stream. So, taking her retao in one hand and a taha (calabash) in the other, she sallied forth. On passing over some rough parts of the road in the dark, she repeatedly struck her feet against roots of trees and stones, page 21 until she became annoyed, and anathematized the moon for not giving light when it was most needed. The moon, offended at her conduct, at once came down, and, taking the woman–whose name was Rona (tied or strangled)—repaki, calabash, and a ngaio-tree (Myoporum lætum) which she had laid hold of for protection, and the rocks near to which the tree was growing, carried them away through the clouds, and back to the moon's place in the sky; and Rona has ever since remained there.

When it is a clear night, especially when the moon is at the full, Rona may be seen reclining against the rocks, and the retao, and calabash, and ngaio near to her.

Rona. (Another Reading—Nga-ti-Hau.)

Rona was one of our most remote ancestors of the days long, long past. One night he was very thirsty, and unable to satisfy his craving because there was no water in any of the little streams. As it was dark he waited for the moon to rise until his patience (oha) was exhausted, and then he took a calabash in each hand, and went to fetch some water from a creek some distance away. On his return he struck his foot against a stick or root of a tree, and was so much hurt that in his anger he cursed the moon by saying, “When will the cooked-head moon shine?” The moon was annoyed by the curse, and came down, and by the power of her rays (ihi) drew him, with his tahas or ipus (calabashes), and a ngaio-tree which he had laid hold of, and placed them in her bosom, where he and they have remained and may be seen to this day.

Rona. (Another Reading—Nga-i-tahu.)

Rona is lord of the sun and moon. Rona eats the moon, and the moon eats Rona; but, as each becomes exhausted and devoured in the monthly battle, they go to Wai-ora-tane (the living water of Tane) to bathe, and are there restored to life and strength, by which they become able to renew their struggle.

But Tu-raki (garb of heaven) divides with Rona the control of the moon.

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Rona was an idle man. Having quarrelled with his wife, Hine-horo-matai (the daughter who swallows all she obtains without asking), she left him, and one day he went in search of her, intending to beat her. When he had gone far out to sea the god Hoka (screen) was sent from above to Rona's wife to break down the shelter around her home. On the following day she and her children also went out to sea. They were seen by Rona, who called to them in a deceitful way, and was going to beat them, when Hoka came down and beat Rona. Hine-horo-matai then went home with her children, and there they became very thirsty. She went with her two calabashes to get water for them; but, as the water dried up as she advanced, she went on even close to the moon, at which she threw one of her calabashes, and it has remained there ever since; the other she threw down to the earth. By this time Rona had recovered from his beating, and again pursued his wife, who fled to the sun. He followed her there, but the heat of its rays beat him back. His wife then fled to the moon; but she came back from thence, and came to her home, and set fire to it, and was herself burnt to death. Rona sought for her and his children, and, as he could not find them, he went to the moon, and has remained there ever since.

Rona. (Another Reading—Nga-i-tahu.)

Rona took Uru-pahika-hika (repaired in patches) to wife, and begat Tu-to-te-korari (Tu the twisted), Tu-to-te-korora (Tu the penguin—Spheniscus minor), Pipi (drip), Ka(o)rure (spin), and Wai-kura (red water).

Rona went out on the sea to fish, and soon after his departure his wife, Uru-pahika-hika, called to Hoka (screen), who resided above, and said, “O Hoka! come down here, and let us enjoy ourselves.” He replied, “I will not come to you: Rona is a jealous god.” She again said, “Rona is gone out to sea. Now is the time for enjoyment.” Hoka came down, and with such velocity that his head levelled to the ground the fences and houses of Rona's settlement.

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He stayed with her, and at dawn of day returned to his home.

Rona returned from the sea, and threw the fish he had caught on shore, and the female servants went down and cleaned them, and brought them to the settlement and hung them up on the whata (stages put up, on which to keep food). Rona went towards his home, and while yet at a distance he observed that the fences and houses were levelled to the ground. He could not imagine what had caused such a disaster; so he questioned his wife, who had come out to meet him, what had done such damage. She said, “The wind caused the wreck you see.” Rona said, “When did such a fierce wind blow? I have not felt it.” His wife said, “Yes, there was such a fierce blast.” He said, “There was not any wind blowing out on the sea.” She said, “What of that, when there was such great wind here.” They went to their home, and on the following day, after the houses had been repaired and the fences re-erected, he again went to fish on the sea; and again his wife called to Hoka to come down; and he did so, and, as on the previous day, everything was again laid low; and when Rona returned he saw the same destruction as on the previous occasion, and asked his wife, “What has caused this?” She answered, “It was done by the wind.” He replied, “Perhaps such a blast was felt on shore, but there was no wind on the sea.” She said, “It was such a blast as is seldom felt.” On the following day the sea was exceedingly calm, and the canoes were made ready and the people went out in them to fish. But Rona went not on that day: he feigned indisposition and stayed behind, and, unknown to his wife, hid himself in his house. Rona heard his spouse call to Hoka, as she had done on the two previous occasions, and Hoka's response thereto; and Rona said within himself, “Ah! It was Hoka who levelled my fences and houses to the ground.” Rona heard him coming, and causing the same wreck as before; so he rose up and caught him, and cut some of his flesh off, and let him depart. That which he had taken from Hoka he cooked, and, under the name page 24 of some other food, gave it to his wife, who ate it. Rona now asked his wife to go for some water, as he was thirsty. She went, and two of her children followed her. They had gone far, even over many mountain ranges; but the water dried up as they proceeded. Rona now called and said to his wife, “Go. Yes, go far away. Go, you who have eaten that which gave you delight.” She did not then return, but was lost in the distance.

Rona now stayed at his home, and one of his daughters stayed with him. But again he went out to sea, and came back with much fish, and the men and women brought the barracouta to the settlement and hung them up on the food-stages. Thus Rona continued, to fish for many days, and the people had plenty to eat.

Now, the wife of Rona had wandered long and far, and at last arrived at the settlement of a strange people, where she stayed some time. One day she said to the children who had followed her, “Come, O children! Return to your father. You will not have forgotten him. You will recognize him at once.” She made a flat bowl of wood, and put the two children into it and set it afloat on the sea, and said, “Go; and when you arrive, as you are sure to do, at various settlements, listen for the voice of your father, and when you find him stay where he lives.” They started on their journey, and visited many settlements without success; but one day they saw some canoes at sea, the people of which were fishing for barracouta, and as they came up to the first canoe they overheard the people in it say, “Ah! here is a log of wood for us.” But it was so heavy that they could not lift it into their canoe, and they let it drift on. It drifted to another canoe, and the people attempted to lift it. The two children in the log said, “Let it be light,” and the men then lifted it partly up; but one said, “How light this log (or bowl) of wood is!” The two children heard this remark, and said, “Let it be heavy.” The log then became so heavy that the people let it drop back into the sea, and it floated away and page 25 went near to another canoe in which their father Rona was. Then the children repeated, “Let it be light; let it be light.” Rona saw the log and lifted it into the canoe, and put it down near the thwart on which he was sitting. Rona then went on fishing for barracouta, and caught so many that the log in the canoe was covered by the quantity of fish.

Rona and his people returned to the shore, and the women came and took the fish up to the settlement to his daughter; and Rona said, “There is a log of wood for you, which you can take and hang on a food-stage.” Some time after this the daughter said to Rona, “I will take outside the mat which I am weaving and work it as I sit in the sunshine.” As she was sitting weaving her mat she heard voices sing a song (she did not know it was the two children singing in the log), and this was the song they sang:—

O thou moon! who wast
Waited for, to rise above the horizon,
We two on the morrow
Shall be taken and killed
By our father,
Far from Uru-pahika-hika (our mother),
Tu(to)-te-ka(o)-rari, Tu(to)-te-korora,
Pipi, Ka(o)ru(r)e, and Wai-kura.
O thou moon! who wast
Waited for, to rise above the horizon,
We two, at dawn of day
On the morrow,
Shall be killed
By our mother
Tu(to)-te-koro-ri, Tu(to)-te-korora,
Pipi, Ka(o)ru(r)e, and Waikura.

Rona's daughter went to her father and told him what she had heard. He came and heard the children in the log of wood still singing the same words. The fastenings which held the log up were untied and it was let down; but all concerned in this act were consumed by fire—not one escaped but Rona—and all the food of the settlement was burnt up.

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Rona after this lived for many days all alone. He then determined to go to the sun; but he could not get near it. He then attempted to join himself to the moon. In this he succeeded, and began at once to eat the moon, and this he continued to do until the moon was all consumed.

Rona. (Nga-Puhi.)

This is the legend of Rona (confine with cords). One bright moonlight night Rona was sent to fetch water from the stream for her children. In her hand was the basket which contained the gourd in which the water was to be kept. On her way the moon suddenly disappeared behind a cloud. The road being narrow, and roots of trees and bushes intercepting her in her journey, she kicked her foot against a root. This made her angry, and in her rage she cursed the moon, saying, “You cooked-headed moon, not to come forth and shine!” These words displeased the moon very much, who at once came down to the earth and seized her, and was taking her away. Rona caught hold of a ngaio-tree (Myoporum lætum) which was growing on the bank of the stream; but the moon tore the tree up by the roots and flew away, taking Rona, with the tree held in her death-like grasp, and the gourd in the basket, far up in the sky. Her friends and children, thinking she was long away, went in quest of her. Not finding any traces of her, they called, “Rona, O Rona! where are you?” She answered from the sky, “Here I am, mounting aloft with the moon and stars.”

Roanga-Rahia and Ruru-Teina. (Nga-i-tahu.)

Roanga-rahia (led far) was a woman of such remarkable beauty that she became the object of admiration and envy in all the surrounding tribes. There were certain brothers, the youngest of whom was named Ruru-teina (the sheltered last born), living at a distance, who, when they heard the fame of this young woman, determined to go and see her, each one in secret resolving to obtain her as his wife.

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They prepared a canoe, and proceeded to the home of Roanga-rahia. When they had hauled the canoe up beyond the action of the sea they went towards the settlement. On the way they met some children who were amusing themselves with whipping tops. Ruru-teina asked them which way they should take. The children answered, “By the path that leads in front of the house of Roanga-rahia.” On their arrival at the settlement they were entertained with food. In the evening the elder brothers said to Ruru-teina, “O Ruru! do you take care of our garments, and look after all that is in the canoe, and provide all that is necessary for our comfort during our stay here.” While Ruru-teina was following these instructions, the elder brothers went to the meeting-houses of the settlement, and associated with the people. Having thus seen all the tribe, each took a wife, supposing, as he was told, that he had secured the famed beauty. But when his brothers had thus been deceived by the young women, Ruru-teina went to the house of Roanga-rahia and her mother, Hine-te-rangi-atahua (daughter of the beautiful heaven). The mother left the house, and said she would call her daughter when the day dawned. Some of the tribe, having heard the noise made by the door of the house being drawn back, called out, “Who is that opening the door of the house of Roanga-rahia?” The mother answered, “It is I, Hine-te-rangi-atahua.” Ruru-teina slept in the house of Roanga-rahia that night, and at dawn, as was the custom, the vassal called aloud, “Day is dawning,” and Ruru-teina left the house, and went back to the place where he had stored their mats, and lay down on them. He was soon joined by his elder brothers, each of whom asserted that he had obtained Roanga-rahia as his wife, and she was going back with him to his own home. Ruru-teina acted in the same manner all the time they remained in the district. The time came for the return home. On the night previous to the departure, Ruru-teina said to Roanga-rahia and her mother, “You two must come with me, and I will put you on board of our canoe.”

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But Hine-te-rangi-atahua refused to leave her home, and sent a vassal in her stead. Ruru-teina took Roanga-rahia and the vassal and secreted them in the cabin (pakokori) of the canoe which he occupied. His brothers, with their wives (each declaring that she was Roanga-rahia), came with the mats, and they embarked and set out on the return journey. Having gone far, they landed to cook some food; but, having no fire, and seeing smoke issuing from the settlement of Ngarara-hua-rau (reptile of varied appearance), the elder brothers said, “O Ruru-teina! go and fetch some fire.” At first he was unwilling to go, for fear of any one opening the cover of his cabin, and discovering his wife and her attendant; but at last he went, and found at the settlement Kiore-ti (squeaking rat) and Kiore-ta (beaten rat), of whom Ngarara-hua-rau asked, “O Kiore! who is this coming?” He answered, “It is Ruru.” She asked, “What has he come for?” He answered, “To obtain fire.” She came up to him, and just as he was about to depart she put her tail round him, and held him, and he had to stay with her. Then he heard another name by which she was called—namely, Te Karara (Ngarara)-hu-ara (the reptile making a noise in the path).

An umu (oven) was heated, and food cooked. Some of it was besmeared by scales from the body of Ngarara-hua-rau, and placed before Ruru. After they had partaken of it, and Ngarara had left, Ruru asked Kiore-ti and Kiore-ta, “Is this woman always like this?” They said “Yes.” He said, “Well, all the food set before us was covered with her scales.” They said, “Do you really think this creature is a woman? Why, she is a god.” Ngarara overheard these words, and called, “You will be dead today.” Kiore-ti and Kiore-ta then instructed Ruru to depart; but Ngarara called again, “To-day you will be killed.” She stood up to make an attack on Kiore-ti and Kiore-ta. Kiore-ti ran into a stone, and Kiore-ta ran and hid himself in the figure on the front gable of the house. Ngarara went and scratched at the stone in which Kiore-ti was hidden; Ruru thus had time to page 29 get away, and when Ngarara saw him running she pursued him, calling, “Come back, O Ruru! come back. I shall not follow now, but on a misty day I shall be with you.” He ran till he arrived where his elder brothers were. They built a house with only one window in it, and made nooses and figures of men on it, and after he and his brothers had consulted, Ruru went into the house and hid himself, and on a day when it was misty, Ruru's friends called on the gods to assemble. The gods of the ocean came with kelp from the sea. Ngarara-hua-rau also came, and when she had got near to the house Ruru had made, she called, “O Ruru! where are you?” He answered, “Here I am.” She said, “And you thought that by running away you could escape from me!” She went into the house, and, putting her tail round it in a circle, she caught Ruru. But, hearing a noise outside, she said, “O Ruru! what is that noise?” He said, “Oh! it is your brothers-in-law cooking food for us.” Again she heard the noise, and asked what it was. Ruru said, “It is your father-and mother-in-law cooking food for us.” But the noise was occasioned by Ruru's friends heaping up wood all round the house, to which they put fire, and the house was soon enveloped in smoke and flame. Ruru escaped by the window, and closed it after him, and the old woman was heard to scream with the heat. The house fell in, and made her scream the louder, and exclaim, “O Ruru! Thou deceitful, with the flame of fire! O me!” All the people were now standing round the house with weapons, so that every scale of the old woman might be burnt; and if one jumped out it was thrown back into the fire. But two scales did escape—one to Puke-rau-aruhe (hill of the fern), and the other on to Poro-rimu (the block of moss). One of these scales sang this song:—

O hill of the fern!
Am I so ill-looking?
O beloved!
Oh! Evil to forget
Me in the midst of flame!
Oh! woe is me!

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Ngarara thus died, and these two scales alone survived of her. Ruru now became a man again, and he put off the wooden covering in which he had clothed himself to battle with the old woman.

He and his brothers then went to the home of their father and mother, where a feast was made in honour of them. When evening came the father and mother asked Ruru, and said, “Now, here are the wives of your elder brothers: you alone have not obtained a wife.” He answered, “Yes, I alone am without a wife.” But he said to his mother, “Has any one been to my cabin in the canoe?” She said, “No; and who should dare to go to your cabin?” He said, “Can you go to my cabin?” She went and opened the door, but was so astonished at the sight that she shut the door and ran back to her husband and said to him, “You cannot imagine the beauty of the wife of our last-born.” He asked, “Is she a great woman, or a woman of high rank?” They came to Ruru, and Ruru asked his mother if she had been to his cabin in the canoe. She said, “No, I have not dared to go, as I was afraid of the women.” He said, “And if they do frighten you, you should have gone in.” She went again and saw the two women; but tears were in the eyes of Roanga-rahia. They had been living on preserved koko (tui or parson-bird) : all of the two calabashes they had brought had been consumed. The two women were taken to the settlement. Ruru said to his mother, “When day dawns do you go out and call aloud, ‘I did think that Ruru-matua had got the famous woman for his wife; but I find the veritable Roanga-Rahia is wife of my last-born.’” She did so; and the elder brothers came to see Roanga-rahia and her beauty, and they went back to their wives, and beat them for their deceit and falsehood, and left them.

Pungarehu and Koko-Muka-Hau-Nei. (Nga-i-tahu.)

Pungarehu (ashes) and Koko-muka-hau-nei (dust of flax-scrapings) one day went out to fish for barracouta, and returned with their canoe laden. Their wives cleaned the fish, and loaded page 31 a food-stage with them. This was done for many succeeding days; but at last a storm arose and drove them far out on the deep ocean. They were driven on and on for days, till they came into shallow water, and landed on the shore of some strange land. They dragged their canoe up on the shore, and then went about seeking for wood by which to procure fire, but failed to procure it; so they took each a piece of the wood from their hooks and put it under their armpits to dry it, and then went to examine the country. They had not gone far before they saw footprints, and observed that one of them was of a club-footed person, who walked with the aid of a stick. This surprised them. By following up these footprints they were brought within hearing of the sound of axes in the forest. They went in the direction whence the sound proceeded, and saw men at work at some timber. They observed that every time one of the men made a chip fly from the log he followed the chip with his eyes. Pungarehu said to his companion, “O man! the eyes of these people are watchful.” His friend said, “It does not indicate any harm, as they have not yet seen us.” They went cautiously, and before these people had seen them Pungarehu had caught one of them, and held him.

They all sat down on the ground, and one of them asked Pungarehu and his companion, “Where have you two come from?”

They answered, “We came from the interior. The wind has carried us here.”

Again they asked, “But where do you come from?” Pungarehu answered, “We two came from Hawa-iki, from Tawhiti-nui-a-rua (the great distance of Rua).”

Then Pungarehu asked, “Where is your home?” The men said, “Our homes are yonder: come and see them.” They all went together. When they had gone some distance the men said to Pungarehu and his companion, “If any of our half-witted people come to meet and dance to us, and you laugh at them, they will kill you.”

When they had got to the settlement they saw the people of page 32 the Aitanga-a-nuku-mai-tore sitting up in the tawhara of the kiekie (fruit of the Freycinetia banksii). They went into a house, and food, consisting of the raw flesh of a whale, was set before them. The people of the settlement partook of it, but Pungarehu and his friend did not eat. Again, in the evening, food of the same kind was placed before them. There was no fire at this place.

In the evening there came to the house those who were to amuse the strangers. They had in their hands weapons made with sharp pieces of flint or shark's teeth lashed on to pieces of wood, and whilst they danced they sang,—

Now you laugh,
Now you don't;
Now you laugh,
Now you don't.

Had Pungarehu or his companion laughed they would have been cut up with the flint knives of the dancers; but they sat in silence, and the dancers left the house.

On the evening of the following day Pungarehu said, “Close the door of the house.” And when that was done he and Koko-muka took from their armpits the wood they had been drying, and by friction kindled a fire. When the fumes of the smoke got into the nostrils of the people, they exclaimed,—

Whispering ghosts of the west,
Who brought you here
To our land?
Stand up and depart.
Whispering ghosts of the west,
Who brought you here
To our land?
Stand up and depart.

Pungarehu and his companion now made an oven, and when it was heated they put some flesh of a whale in it and covered it up, and sat down till it was cooked. As soon as the oven was opened the people were attracted by the toko-whau (savoury smell), and came round Pungarehu and his friend, saying, “What a sweet smell!” The flesh was taken out of the oven and page 33 conveyed into the house, and then for the first time in their lives these people partook of cooked food.

On the following day they heated another oven and cooked some more flesh, and, having partaken of it, said each to the other, “Cooked food is sweet. We used to eat it raw.” Pungarehu said, “It is sweet. You are not men, but gods: you eat raw food.”

They then said to Pungarehu, “There is one thing which is an evil to us: it is a poua-kai (old-man-eater), a bird which eats man.” Pungarehu said, “Where do you go, that it can eat you?” They said, “If we go to fetch water, we are caught by it.” He asked, “Can you see it coming?” They answered, “Yes.”

They built a house, having a window as the only opening, and Pungarehu and his companion sat at this window. They saw the bird flying towards them with its head down, in the act of procuring its prey. Its beak came near to one of them; but he struck it with his stone axe and broke one of its wings, and with another blow he broke the other wing, and killed it. Then they went to see what was in the cave where the bird lived. They found the bones of men strewn all round it.

After they returned from this expedition Pungarehu and his companion began to long for their wives and children; so they went back to their canoe, and put her into the sea, and paddled away, and soon arrived at their home. They went up to the settlement, but found their houses had been deserted and smelt disagreeable. One said to the other, “Our house has been deserted, and perhaps all its inhabitants are dead.” They found another house however, where the people were all fast asleep around a fire. They went in and found their wives had each taken another husband, and was lying asleep beside him. One of the wives in her dreams sang this song:—

Just as eventide draws near,
My old affection comes
For him I loved

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Though severed far from me,
And now at Hawa-iki,
I hear his voice
Far distant, and,
Though far beyond
The distant mountain-peak,
Its echoes speak
From vale to vale.

When morning dawned, and the men and their wives arose, they saw Pungarehu and another lying near the fire in the centre of the house. Then one woman said to the other, “Why, there are our first husbands, whom we thought dead.” Then there was great rejoicing, and each woman ever after that lived with the husband of her youth.