Volume 10 1901 > Volume 10, No. 1, March 1901 > Spiritual concepts of the Maori: Part II, by Elsdon Best, p 1-20
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The Journal of the Polynesian Society.
VOL. X. 1901.
Part II.1
Kumanga Kai.

THIS is the feeding of the apa hau, a ceremony performed by the medium. It was thus described to me by Paitini Wi Tapeka of Tuhoe:—“My father dies, his wairua goes to the Reinga, the kumanga kai remains as an atua for me (moku). When it is fed by me the food will be consumed; we cannot see the atua consuming it, but we see that no food remains in the hand (of the medium). Then we know that the atua is there and has devoured that food. Hence the term kumanga kai. I would feed that atua of mine whenever I felt inclined so to do. The food is usually held in the closed hand, when the hand is opened no food remains.

Should your father be a medium of the kumanga kai, the Maori atua, the same office will probably be transferred to you (whakaukia). This would be done by the aged father laying his hand on you and speaking in a peculiar manner, that is to say, no words are distinguishable, it sounds like nonsense (korero porewarewa). That is all, the atua will now pass to you, his son. Then should anyone insult - 2 you grievously (kai upoku) you will know all about it; though tha person may be afar off, your atua kumanga kai will acquaint you. When you see that person you will say to him, “You have cursed me. It has been divulged to me as I slept. Do not conceal your sin, but make amends to me, lest you perish.” He will then hand to you some article, probably a greenstone ornament, in order to save his life. That ornament will then be “fed ” (given) by you to your atua. You hold it in your closed hand and repeat a karakia, your hand trembles violently and on your opening the same the greenstone has disappeared. Only you, the medium of the atua, can see the same, other people cannot. After a time the person who cursed you may express his desire that the ornament be returned to him, and this will be done. You, the medium, will then repeat your unintelligible talk and call upon the atua to return the article. Bystanders will merely see you gazing into space, looking for the wairua bringing back the greenstone, but you are the only one who can see it coming, the others will only see the article when it is deposited before you by the atua. I once saw an old woman place a half-crown in her hand, which was covered by the hand of a bystander. She repeated an incantation and told the man to lift his hand. The coin was gone. She then brought it back again by means of the same process.

Bystanders, when the medium is calling upon his atua to return any article, will gaze intently at the ground in front of the medium, in order to see that article deposited there.”

The above would appear to be but a common illustration of sleight of hand, but a more interesting illustration may be noted in the Journal of the Polynesian Society. The expression kumanga iti means “a sparing eater.” If the offering to the atua can be concealed in the closed hand, then the term is well applied. Sometimes, however, a bird was selected, which same would be wrapped in the cloak of the medium when being offered. Should any of the bones of the bird remain in the cloak after the ceremony, that was considered an evil omen.

The medium could send his atua to fetch articles from far distant places. The terms atua apa hau and atua kumanga kai were equally applied to these spirits of the dead which, after death, protected their living descendants. Pio, of Ngati-Awa, says that the atua would be sent to recover any article taken by an unauthorised person. The priests would collect at the sacred place of the village and the atua would be seen flying through the air, bearing the article in its mouth.


The mauri of man has been termed the “breath of life,” or spirit of life. It is sometimes described as the soul, but cannot be looked - 3 upon as the sole seat of feelings, which were usually seated in the stomach and, to a certain extent in the heart (manawa). At the same time, sudden emotion such as fear affected the mauri, for oho mauri means to be startled. As we have seen, if a native be suddenly awakened, he will probably say: “Ka oho mauri ahau i a koe,” i.e., his mauri was startled. Our expression, “my heart was in my mouth,” would be expressed as oho mauri by a Maori. Mauri might be termed the spark of life, or the physical life principle. The name mauri does not apply to any organ of the body, but is given as meaning the heart as the seat of fear, and the example given in Williams' Dictionary is “Ka oho taku mauri i te puhanga o te pu”—my mauri was startled by the firing of the gun. The word tokomauri means hiccough, and also “to excite one's affections.” “E mataotao ana ko te mauri”—(It was cold, was the mauri)—was given me as the cause of hiccough. To a certain extent the mauri was the seat of emotions, that is of fear and probably of love (see tokomauri). The stomach is looked upon as the seat of anger by the Maori. In Tregear's Dictionary we have, mauri=life, the seat of life. In Tahiti and Mauke Island, it means a ghost; in Samoa, the heart. Also mauri has been given me as =zoe=life.

The following words were repeated when a person sneezed: “Tihe mauri, tupu mauri roa ki te wai2 ao, ki te ao marama, tihe mauri ora.” Sneeze mauri, grow enduring mauri, in the world of being, in the world of light. These words are repeated to avert the evil omen a sneeze betokens. The Maori connected sneezing with the mauri. Another version of the above may be seen in White's “Ancient History of the Maori,” vol. iii, p. 24.

The concluding words of an ancient invocation to restore the dead (whakanoho manawa) are as follows:—

Tukua atu tame kia puta ki te ao;
He ohorere te tokomauri
Tihe mauri ora ki te ao marama!
Allow this son to come forth to the world;
With sudden start, the tokomauri,
Sneeze living mauri, to the world of light.

Here the priest calls upon the living mauri to show its return to the world of life by sneezing.

The Greek thymos more nearly equals the Maori mauri than any other term I have met with. It is that which moves within us, as in sudden fright. Like the thymos, the mauri ceases to be at the death of the body.

Presence of mind in danger would be termed mauri tau—a settled mauri, by these natives. But fear or nervousness would be oho mauri - 4 or manawa rere. The mauri or activity within us is startled in a sudden fright.

When Captain Cook visited Whitianga (Mercury Bay) the natives took the Europeans to be gods or demons, and were much surprised to see them eat shellfish and other foods of this world. Old Taniwha in describing the same, many years after, said, “When we saw they ate sweet potatoes and fish and shellfish, we were startled (ka oho mauri matou) and said, may be these are not demons such as our atua, for they eat of the foods of this world.”

The Rev. R. Taylor translated mauri as “the living soul,” but “the breath of life” is a better term, and thymos the best of all.

The mauri ora (mauri of life or living mauri) is a common expression, it denotes the sacred spark of life. Should it become noa or void of tapu, the person's life is in danger. The mauri of the early converts to Christianity was often made noa by means of washing the head with water warmed in a cooking vessel, which was to the Maori practically the same as bringing food, into contact with the most sacred part of the body, food, especially the cooked article, being a most degrading thing to the Maori mind. By many natives this degradation of the sacred mauri ora is looked upon as the cause of the decadence of their race. Even in cases of illness the natives of Tuhoe-land decline to wash or bathe in warm water, as the only means of heating the same is to put it in a cooking vessel. They have no such feeling about bathing in a hot spring. In olden times the mauri of a newly born child was made sacred (tapu) by means of a rite performed by the priest, and at the same time a hewn post, termed a tuāpā tamariki, would be set up, as a sort of material mauri or talisman, to protect the child. It averted death and misfortune and endowed the child with health, strength and prestige (măna). That is, it was the material representation of those qualities which were instilled into the child by means of the ceremonies and invocations of the priest. The tuāpā was also known as a tira ora. Another style of tuāpā was set up on the death of a person, and at which rites were performed to prevent the wairua of the dead from returning to annoy or injure the living. Still another tuāpā was set up at which a simple ceremony was performed in order to avert ill luck from fishers and fowlers.

The connection between the mauri of man and the mauri, of land or of a forest, is interesting. The human mauri is an activity, an immaterial element, a sacred spark, which may however be represented by a material object, as the tuāpā and other examples.

The mauri ora of the Mātātua canoe (the “Mayflower” of Ngati-Awa and other tribes) was left at Whakatane. Its aria or visible form or representation, was a manuka tree. It is always mentioned - 5 in invocations recited to restore a sick person to health, i.e., persons of the above tribes.

We are now drifting away from the human mauri and are entering the realm of material mauri.

The ark of the covenant of the Hebrews was a mauri in one sense. It was also the ariā or symbol of the divine presence—“When the Philistines defeated the Hebrews, they carried off in triumph the ark of the covenant, that symbol of the divine presence, without which it were vain for Israel to appear in battle.” This is purely Maori. Again, “Then came the great time of shame for Israel”—naturally, for they had lost the mauri of their fighting god.

Stones, carved into curious forms, were used by fishermen to attract fish. They were termed mauri or whatu moan.3 They were dragged through the water and the fish were said to follow the same. The coast tribes appear to have had a custom of keeping the mauri of the ocean, or rather the material representation thereof. The sea mauri of tne Whanau-a-Apanui tribe is a rātā tree, standing near the mouth of the Motu river, where it enters the Bay of Plenty. The first caught fish of the season were deposited at that mauri and appropriate invocations repeated. It was in fact a first fruits offering.

The mauri of the Mātātua canoe is said to have been a piece of fern (or fern-root)—mākăkă (cf. takaka in Williams' Maori Dictionary). A piece of this species of fern would be bruised and placed upon the affected part of a sick person, and a charm repeated, in order to find out the cause of his illness. The above mauri represents life and health.

The mauri of the Ngati-Apa tribe is a stone, situated near Te Whaiti. The mauri of the Rangi-taiki river is a large stone lying in the bed of the river, near Galatea. Another kind of mauri was a stone set up on the margin of a kumara (sweet potato) cultivation, which stone, after having sundry karakia repeated over it, would cause the kumara to bear well.

The mauri of the sea is sometimes a stone, which is imbued with the productiveness of the ocean by the karakia of the priests, that is it represents the same. Together with it is concealed the gills of a kahawai, or whatever the principal fish of that sea is. This mauri preserves the productiveness of the ocean, causes fish to be plentiful, and the fishers to catch many.4

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The forest mauri has already received our attention. We have shown that its function was to protect the productiveness of the forest. It represented the ora (life, health) of the forest as we have seen that the health, vigour, &c., of a child, was represented by a material mauri.

The forest mauri was sometimes a hollow stone in which was placed some hair or other article. The whole would be wrapped up and deposited at the base of a tree or by the side of a stream. If placed at the base of a tutu (tree on which birds are trapped) the birds will resort to that tree in great numbers. Sometimes a lizard (moko-tapiri) was placed as a guard over the mauri. When a bird's wing (kira5) was used as a mauri, it was usually in conjunction with a stone. Should a hostile priest succeed (by the arts of magic) in discovering the forest mauri, he would repeat these words:—

“Tohi mauri, tohi tiaki,
Wetekia te hau e here nei i te mauri,
Homai ki au,
Kia whangaia ki te toa, ki te ruahine.”
“Sever mauri, sever guardian,
Release the hau that binds the mauri,
Give unto me,
To be served to the braves, to the priestess.”

In the second line of the above, “Release the hau which binds the mauri,” we have evidence that the mauri is the representation of the hau of the forest.

Among the natives of Tuhoe-land all rites and ceremonies pertaining to the lands, forest or tribal homes, are performed at a sacred fire known as the ahi taitai. When it was desirable to attract birds to the tribal forests the following invocation was repeated by the priest:

E Papa e takoto nei! E Rangi e tu nei!
Homai te toto kai tangata,
Kia rurukutia, kia herea,
Kia mau te mauri.
Te mauri o wai? Te mauri o Tane—
Tane-tuturi, Tane-pepeke;
Whakamutua kia Paia; nano, i toko te rangi;
Na Tu-mata-uenga i here te kai.
O Earth that reclines there! O Heavens that stand above!
Give the man-eating blood,
That it may be bound, be tied,
To hold the mauri.
The mauri of whom? The mauri of Tane—
Tane kneeling, Tane springing.
Cease (giving) to Paia; he (Tane) propped up the heavens,
But Tu-mata-uenga bound the food.

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Tane here mentioned is the tutelary deity or genius of forests and birds.

Even as the mauri of man may become noa (void of tapu, common), so may the mauri of lands or forest become virtueless. When going hunting, no cooked food may be carried within the forest or the mauri of that forest would become unclean (tamaoa). Uncooked food may be carried, it has not the degrading qualities of the cooked article. When a hungered, the hunters or fowlers may cook and eat food, but if there be any of the cooked food remaining, they may not carry it away, it must be left. Should the forest mauri become common or contaminated, the birds will assuredly leave that forest, or they will no longer be numerous there.

Should you ask a Maori to exert himself immediately after a meal, he will probably say, “Taihoa! kia tau te mauri o te kai”—i.e., Wait until the mauri of the food has settled.

The term mauri might also be compared with tu-ora, with pa-whaka-wairua and with măna. As an instance of the latter—see A.H.M. vol. i, p. 6—“Kotahi tonu ano te wahine ki taua whare (the whare-kura), hei te wahine tapu, hei pa mo te mauri.”6 Here mauri equals măna, i.e., the prestige and power of the sacred house wherein ancient history, &c., was taught.

We have used the term whatu as a generic term for a species of material mauri. The manea of a house or home is so termed. Also when a forest, or stream, or beach, or crop is preserved by means of a rahui—the power or măna of that rahui is not represented by the pole set up, but by a whatu (generic term) known as a kapu. This is probably a maro, or branch of karamu, which is concealed near the rahui post. This kapu or whatu is imbued with the power (destructive) of the rahui, and really acts as a destructive or active and aggressive medium, as the mauri of a forest, &c., is a passive medium which holds or retains life, health, &c.


Manawa means the breath, also the heart, and is used by some tribes for the belly. There are also numerous compound forms, as manawa-nui=stout-hearted, manawa-reka=pleased, manawa-kino or manawa-rau=uneasy (of the mind). The manawa or heart (organic) I have heard described by a native as being the origin and seat of all knowledge, power, intellectuality, it is the origin of mental and physical strength, it imparts strength to the ngakau to love or hate, &c. The above statement does not imply that the Maori was ignorant of the uses of thew and muscle, for he was not. But he recognised that - 8 they must be backed up by a stout heart, otherwise they are of little avail. “E waru nga pu manawa,” is an old saying. The eight pu manawa are the eight talents of man. They were necessary attributes of a chief. They were (1) industry—in cultivating or obtaining food; (2) the power to manage and mediate, to allay troubles; (3) bravery, courage in war; (4) generalship, a good leader of men, in war; (5) knowledge of the arts of carving, &c.; (6) generosity, kindness; (7) knowledge of house, fort and canoe building; (8) knowledge of tribal boundaries. The term pu manawa applies to innate talents, inherent in the individual.

The manawa is also referred to as the seat of the emotions. The term manawa-wera (hot or seared heart) applies to anger. Te kuku o te manawa denotes the object of affection.

Manawa is also used to denote strength, support, or stamina. As old Tamarau watched a white man dispose of three large glasses of beer in quick succession, he remarked, “Ko te manawa o te pakeha, he pia”—the strength or support of the white man is beer.

When Rongo-maui stole the original kumara (sweet potato) from Whanui (the star Vega), he brought them to this, the ordinary world, and cultivated the same. When they grew and flourished, then Whanui said to the people of the heavens, to Anuhe (a caterpillar which eats the kumara leaf), to Toronu, to Moka (a caterpillar), “Go you below to Rongo, who will be as a support for you” (hei manawa mo koutou). That is, these creatures were to prey upon the kumara, which they ever have done. Such was the revenge of Whanui for the theft of the kumara by Rongo-maui.

Manawa is the name of the longest finger of the hand, the finger names being takonui (the thumb), takoroa (index finger), manawa, mapere and toiti.

The following remark contains another use of the word, “E hiakai ana ahau, kaore aku manawa korero,” i.e., I am hungry, I have no heart for talking.

The various Polynesian comparatives of this word as given in Tregear's Dictionary are of great interest, and throw much light on our subject, the three principal meanings of this word throughout Polynesia being breath, the heart and mind.

The terms wai manawa whenua and komanawa wai are applied to springs of water gushing forth direct from the earth in volume, no small sources of the same are visible. With manawa may also be compared the old Maori word manatu (konatu), not found in our dictionaries but nevertheless a genuine Maori word.

Manawa-ora, the Life-Breath or Breath of Life.

Having treated of the more material manawa we will now give the Maori idea of manawa as meaning the breath, and Manawa-ora the - 9 life-breath. Ta=to breathe, ka ta toku manawa. Also ta-ngaengae, a word used in an invocation repeated over a newly-born child:—

“Kia toa ai koe, ta-ngaengae
Ki te patu tangata, ta-ngaengae,” &c.7

The above karakia will be found in Sir G. Grey's “Nga Moteatea, &c.” Ngaengae (naenae in the Mātātua dialect) ka naenae te manawa=out of breath, panting, as after exertion.

The ta of tangaengae is probably ta=to breathe, though both ta and ti are causative prefixes in the Tuhoe dialect.8

Manawa=breath may be allied with anima and pneuma in that sense. But the two latter terms seem to have also meant or represented the infinite in man or the spirit of man—in a certain culture stage. Manawa does not bear such a meaning in Maori, but the manawa ora or life breath is used in a similar manner to the expression, “the spirit has departed.” Manawa as the seat of feelings, of emotions, is doubtless allied to manawa=breath, for the reason that it would be noticed that a person had no feelings, or could express none, after death. In like manner manawa=the heart, would be presumed to be connected with the breath for the reason that the heart was known to cease to beat when the breath left the body. But the breath would not be connected with the wairua because it would be noticed that a person still breathed while asleep and during the time when his wairua was absent, i.e., while he dreamed. By these checks in their search of the knowledge of life and the spiritual nature of man, a primitive people would be inclined, not to deny a spiritual nature to man, but rather to assign too many spirits or essences to the same.

A slow process this growth of the concept of the soul of man, yet primitive man advanced far on that difficult road, farther than we seem inclined to give him credit for. It is amazing what difficult problems so-called savages have assayed to think out. They would note that the heart and other organs perished at death, but that the breath was not seen to perish, hence the term manawa ora. Theophilus said: “If I speak of God as a spirit, I mention his breath.”

In describing the forming of Adam from earth, old Pio of Ngati-Awa said: “Ka whakahangia atu te manawa ora, kua ara mai a Arama”—the breath of life was breathed into him and Adam arose.

It is said that when Maui the demi-god essayed to gain eternal life for man, he proposed to do so by entering the body of the goddess of Death and abstracting her manawa, presumably the breath of life.

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I have heard it stated by old natives that in cases of extreme illness, the breath of the invalid flutters (kapo) in the nostrils only. Kai te ihu o te tupapaku te manawa e nga ana, kua kore kai raro.

This leads up to a most important belief and rite of the old time Maori, viz., the restoration of a person apparently dead, to life and health by the ceremony of whakanoho manawa, the instilling of the breath of life into the body by means of karakia (invocations, &c.).

There were many of these invocations recited in order to bring the life-breath back to a dead person, or one apparently dead, one such was known as Titikura.9 “When a person had passed,” says the aged Hamiora Pio, of the Ngati-Awa tribe, “the priest would proceed to implant (or re-introduce) the breath of life into the body. And this is the invocation:—Enough! The person recovers, the eyes open, the priest remains in charge of his patient. In two days the person is able to eat, and the horohoro rite is performed (to take the tapu off).

Ko to manawa, ko taku manawa, Thy breath, my breath,
Heuea mai, tutakina mai to manawa, Open out, close up, thy breath,
Hoki mai ki roto nei; Return inside then;
He urunga, he tapu, It enters; it is sacred;
Kei te whiva, kei te taia; It flays, it strikes;
Mata taitaia te atua e patu nei, Slain be the atua that kills thee,
Haere i tua, haere i waho, Begone behind, begone outside,
Haere i te Pu, haere i te More. Begone to the stem, to the root (of all things).
Ka whiwhia, ka rawea. It is possessed, acquired.
Ka puta ki te whai (wai?) ao, Come forth to the world of being,
Ki to ao marama, To the world of light,
Ko rouora. The restored life.

The whakanoho manawa was also repeated over a new-born child, but it differs from the other. It seems to refer more to manawa as= the heart than manawa=breath:—

To manawa te hotu nuku, Thy heart with earth-sobs (beats)
To manawa te hotu rangi, Thy heart with heaven-sobs,
To manawa ko toku manawa, Thy heart, and my heart,
He manawa ka turuturua. A heart that is firmly placed.
Ki tawhito o te rangi, As the ancients of heaven,
Te aua iho, te aua ake, Far below, far above,
Oi, ko taku manawa. Oi! my heart!

In the case of a hau whitia (already described) H. Pio states:— “Kaore e roa, kua pa te mate, ha hemo. Ka hirihiritia te manawa o te tupapaku. Kotahi koe ki te taonga o mea, i whiua ketia e koe te utu. Katahi ka hoake te manawa o te tupapaku, ka whete nga kanohi, ka ngaro.”

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The expression, Ka puha ake te manawa, means “to breathe out, to expire,” the last breathing out of a dying person.

Ha=to breathe, means also strength.

I have heard the following remark made in speaking of a dead person, “The manawa ora has departed, the ahua (likeness, semblance) alone remains.”

The term manawa ora is sometimes used in the following sense:—When the Pu-taewa accused Maku of assaulting Piki, I stated that I had seen the trouble and that Piki struck the first blow. Maku said, “Yes, you are my manawa ora” (“Ae, ko koe taku manawa ora).

In White's “Ancient History of the Maori,” vol. 1, p. 146, are some interesting items regarding the manawa, wairua, &c. In one paragraph occurs, “Ko te manawa . .… ko te putake tena o te wairua”—the manawa is the cause (or origin) of the wairua.

Kehua, or Whakahaehae.

The kehua may be termed the Maori ghost. Kehua are the spirits of the dead, and which revisit their former haunts of this world and make things unpleasant for the living. Their presence is said to be made known generally by a whistling sound. Kehua are the wairua of the dead, and which appear to return to earth at night time. When one of the native sawyers on the road works at Rua-tahuna was killed by a rolling log at the sawpit, the natives were much afraid of passing the scene of the accident at night time for a long while after. This fear was explained to me by a native. A person may have no bodily or personal fear of the place, but his wairua will fear the wairua of the dead, hence fear affects the man through his wairua. Some say that the wairua of a dead person remains here as a kehua or atua whakahaehae until the body is buried, it then descends to Hades. The kehua were apparently identical with the lemures of Western mythology.

On my asking one old native what kehua were, he replied, “Demons which inhabit space, the spirits of the dead which return as ghosts.”

While camped at a native village one night, where a person had just died, I slept in a hut with a couple of visitors (natives). They heard, or imagined they heard, the kehua of the dead person making a whistling sound, and instantly left the hut and finished their slumbers in the large house where the rest of the people were sleeping. Needless to say, the ghostly visitor did not disturb me at all.

In speaking of the aboriginal jungle dwellers of India, a writer says:—“They practise magic and sorcery. Some bury their dead with the face downwards to prevent the spirit escaping and becoming a Bhut, which would cause malignant diseases.”

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A breath of warm air felt while travelling at night, is said to betoken the near presence of a kehua. It is looked upon as an evil omen (aitua).

In some parts the term kikokiko appears to be applied to kehua. Among Tuhoe this expression was applied to such atua (gods, demons) as Te Po-tuatini and Tunui-a-te-ika.

Thus we see that the kehua is equivalent to the larvœ or lemures of the Romans.


The word signifies: the bowels, viscera, and also the heart as the seat of affections. With the Maori the stomach is the seat of anger. The ngakau is the seat of affection, of mental pain, of thought, so say my wise elders of Tuhoe. In speaking of entering the whare maire (or house of teaching) as a student in his youth, old Pio said, “It was there that my ngakau acquired a knowledge of our ancient history and customs. Here ngakau=mind. My aboriginal friends in camp were quarreling one day. An old man surpassed all others in virulent language. His nephew said, “You should not speak in that manner; leave such talk to the young people. You are (possessed of) a mature mind (he ngakau pakeke koe).”

In time of war several rites were performed over the fighting men—kia marama te ngakau—that is to render them clear-minded, resourceful, quick to grasp a situation. Invocations were repeated over newly born children—kia marama ai te nga kau.

In olden times should a person inadvertently seat himself on a place used by women as a seat or sleeping place, he will lose his acuteness of vision as a seer of the supernatural (ka kahupotia). To avert this calamity he must perform the whakaepa rite—kia marama te ngakau me nga kanohi—that the mind and eyes may be clear.

It is interesting to compare the ngakau and its functions with the phrenes, as used by Homer (see Max Müller's Anthr. Religion).

If a Maori is sad, downhearted, or labouring under a sense of injury, he will say, “ka pouri toku ngakau.

Whaka-ngakau means—to bear malice, to wish evil to a person, to take to heart; whaka being a causative prefix.

Ngakau=kara=tiwha, is a material token sent by a tribe to another tribe, whom they wish to join them in a battle raid. The people receiving this ngakau are thus asked, without words, to join in the attack.

The word ate(=the liver) is sometimes used as =ngakau, as “kua pawhara taku ate i te aroha.” We thus see that the heart (manawa), the ngakau and ate are all used as =seat of affections. Kopu is a word meaning the stomach, the term kopu-rua (two stomached) is applied in - 13 war to a person who, being possibly related to the enemy, is loth to join in the fight or to inflict an extreme punishment on a captured foe.

Should a priest wish you to inherit his knowledge and power, he will prepare you in a proper manner, and when he dies you must bite the big toe of his left foot. He is buried, and you must refrain from taking food for eight days. On the eighth day the stomach of the dead priest will burst, and all the knowledge that he possessed will enter you.


The word hinengaro signifies, some portion of the intestines, seat of the thoughts and feelings, the heart (fig.). This is an ancient Polynesian word, although not used by the Tuhoe tribe, from whom my notes on these subjects are derived. The Polynesian comparatives are interesting.

Ka ohorere te hinengaro o te wahine ra ki te ahua he o tana tane.’ (A.H.M., vol. ii, p. 116). Here the hinengaro is startled or leaps up, as does the mauri.10


In Williams' Dictionary ata and wairua are both given as meaning “shadow,” ata bearing also the meaning of “reflected image.” Among Tuhoe ata is used for the reflected image, and wairua=shadow, as cast by light. Wai whaka-ata=a pool of water used to reflect the image of a person, the “looking glass” of the old time Maori. I fail to note that the shadow of man is connected with his spirit, by the Maori, albeit both bear the same name. I have heard that, in former days, if the shadow of a high and sacred chief fell across such a place as a food-store, that store would be destroyed. I have been unable to collect any evidence in support of the meaning given in Tregear's Dictionary to ata, viz., the spirit, the soul. But I can quite grasp the Samoan ata—the emblem of a god—which is clearly connected with the ata of our natives.


The meanings assigned to this word in Maori dictionaries include the following: form, appearance, likeness, character, resemblance, also ahuahua=to resemble. When speaking of the ahua of an object being taken, I prefer the term “semblance,” and sometimes “personality,” or “representation,” to describe the meaning of ahua. The above terms seem preferable to “spirit,” “essence,” as given by Mr. Tregear in the translation of his following sentence: Ka tangohia e te patu-paiarehe te ahua o nga whakakai. I can obtain no proof that ahua= - 14 the spirit or essence of a thing, as I understand those terms. From explanations given me by many natives in reply to many queries of mine, I gather that the ahua is the semblance or personality, and is taken for various purposes, some of which have already been described. I am free to confess that the above difference in definition looks somewhat like hair-splitting. Again, quoting from the same authority—ahua=an altar—I have not been able to obtain this meaning of the word from the natives. But the ahua or personality or semblance of a god is represented by a carved stick or other object, which is kept at the tuāhu or altar.

Ahua as form, shape, figure, seems to=the Greek eidos. “Katahi ka whakaahua i a ia ki te kereru,”—then he formed himself into a pigeon, i.e., took the form of the same. (Story of Maui).

But it is ahua as “semblance,” or “personality,” that we have to deal with.

Whenever Hakopa, a withered old warlock of Tuhoe, who fought against us at Orakau, meets me, his invariable greeting is, “Greetings to you, the ahua of the men of old.” His meaning is that I am the semblance, or am endowed with the personality of the old time Maori, on account of my incessant search after the history, customs, &c., of bygone generations.

When the child Marewa aforementioned died, she was carried to Maunga-pohatu for burial. As I left that place to return to my camp, her mother said to me, “Farewell! Return to Marewa.” Although I was actually leaving the child behind me, yet her ahua, or personality was with me, and, as it were, permeated my camp, where she had spent much of her time. In like manner her companions were not allowed to return to school for some time after her death, as the ahuatanga of Marewa was upon them.

When camped in the Rua-tahuna valley two years ago, a case of modern sorcery came under my notice. Pa, of Mātātua, had some money stolen from a box in his hut. He at once started to consult an old wise woman living in the Ngati-Pukeko country, sixty miles away, taking with him the ahua of the stolen money. This ahua was a single coin which had been overlooked by the thief. Its function was to act as a medium between the magic of the aged one and the thief. The particulars of the interview are somewhat disappointing. Pa was told to purchase a bottle of spirits, the bottle must be of black glass and round in form, not flat as a flask (note the modern trail of the serpent, a flat flask of spirits contains much less than a round bottle of the same). On being admitted to the awful presence, he placed the bottle before the old lady and put the coin on the top of the bottle. The exponent of the black art then began to porewarewa (talk foolishly) and finally informed Pa that his money had been stolen by a light- - 15 haired girl, who had hidden the same. I felt for Pa, inasmuch as there are several families of light-haired girls at Mātātua, and I knew the troubles that lay before him.

In the case of the taitai or ika-purapura, already described, the ahua of the people instilled into same, was evidently their personality. It was also the personality which was protected by the whata puaroa (see ante). In various notes gathered at first hand from natives, and referring to the slaying of people by magic rites, ahua seems to be synonymous with hau. And rightly so, for the hau is but a most vital personality.

We have also seen how the ahua of land is represented by a material token such as a stone.

Ahua of disease or illness. One of the many duties of the Maori priest of old was the curing of the sick. One of the ceremonies performed was for the purpose of removing the ahua of the disease. Taking a piece of the herb puha, the priest would pass it round the left thigh of the sick person and then wave the herb in his hand towards the sky, at the same time repeating an invocation. The ahua of the disease or illness passes from the invalid into the herb and leaves the same and passes into space when the priest waves his arm.

Food offered to the gods or to the dead was not, as a rule, thought to be eaten, but the ahua thereof was absorbed by the gods or dead.

The ahua of a battle was taken by the successful side and over it the priest would repeat invocations in order to render the enemy powerless to avenge their defeat (hei whakaeo i te hoa-riri). The representation of this ahua would probably be a handfull of grass or weeds plucked from the battle-ground. The battle is emblemised in that bunch of grass. This rite was performed by the priests of Tuhoe after the battle of Te Kauna in 1836, to prevent Ngati-Awa from avenging their defeat.

Ahua of conquest. “I noho ratau ki runga ki taua whenua hai pupuri i te ahuatanga o te raupatu.” They settled upon that land in order to retain the ahua of the conquest.

The term ahua appears to be often used for ariā. “Te ahua o Tamarau he pakura”—the ahua of (the god) Tamarau is a swamp hen. In another version the term ariā is used.

The ahua of man protected by the whata puaroa or ahurewa was really a mauri, after the necessary rites were performed.


We are now wading in deep waters. The difference between the ahua and the māwe of a battle or victory, may have been passing clear to the priests of old, but it has cost me many hours pondering to discover the same. We have seen that the ahua was taken in order - 16 to weaken the enemy, whereas the māwe of a battle was taken in order to strengthen the takers thereof, i.e., the conquering army. This explanation was obtained, of course, from the natives and has rather upset a conclusion that I had arrived at, viz., that the māwe is the material representation or emblem of the immaterial ahua of a victory; in the same manner that a material mauri represents the ahua or hau of man, as we have seen. Indeed, I am not yet convinced that my theory is untenable; in the years that lie before this question may be settled.

The māwe of a battle is usually a lock of hair taken from the head of one of the slain. When a victorious party returns from war, the person bearing the māwe marches in front, as the column advances to the sacred place of the village. At this sacred spot are gathered the priests, the chief one calling out, as the column approaches, “From whence comes Tu (god of war)?” The answer is given, “Tu comes from the seeking, &c.” The bearer of the māwe then advances and lays it upon the tuāhu (sacred place of the village), and various rites are performed.

During the fighting about Waikare-moana one Horotiu slew six of the Wairoa natives, and took out the heart of one of them and carried it to a priest at the Matuahu fort on the lake. This heart was the māwe of the victory.

After Rangi-te-ao-rere had defeated Kawa-arero of Mokoia Island, Rotorua, in battle, he took from one of the slain a lock of hair (taio makawe) as a māwe, and bore it to the great and famous altar of the Mātātua tribes, at Whakatane.

When Maui, of immortal fame, drew up this land from the depths of the ocean, he found that the task cost him a severe struggle. Having won, however, and secured his great capture above the water, he took the māwe thereof back to Hawaiki, the fatherland. In that case the māwe, was a portion of the soil of the newly won land.

When Ira-tu-moana, of old, slew Tu-mahoka, whom he found stealing fish from his net, on the seashore, the māwe taken by Ira was Te rimu o Tangaroa, i.e., a piece of seaweed. Also when the same Ira slew the great monster Tarakura at Te Awa-a-te-atua, he took the māwe of that victory to his tuāhu at Hako, near Te Umu-hika.

I have also heard, in a few instances, the māwe spoken of as being taken before a fight begins. The war party sallies forth. When near unto the fort (of the enemy), a single man goes forth under cover of night, to obtain a piece of (the material of) the fort, such as a piece of the vines used to lash the palisades. This is taken to the priest as a māwe.11

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Should the expedition be fortunate enough to possess a priest who is a medium of the god Tamarau, then that agile and wing-possessing god is despatched to obtain the māwe of the fort or the people therein. The māwe will probably be a piece of hair from the head of one of the inmates of the fort. Over this māwe the priest of the attacking party will perform rites to render certain a victory over the enemy.

In this last form the māwe seems to be somewhat similar to the ohonga before mentioned.

We have already noted that the ahua or semblance of stolen property is sometimes termed māwe.


The meanings assigned to the word ariā in Williams' Dictionary are “be seen indistinctly,” “appear,” also “likeness, resemblance,” and “imaginary presence connected with anything which one may have touched, &c., and which therefore might serve as a medium to convey the effect of a charm to the person for whom it was intended.”

For an illustration of this latter meaning see the Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 2, p. 103, where it will be seen that the ohonga taken as a medium in witchcraft is the ariā of the person to be operated on. In this respect ariā seems to be equal to ahua. When, in the days of the demi-gods, the great struggle for supremacy took place between Maui and Hine-nui-te-Po, it was to obtain the ariā of Maui that the goddess of death sent her messengers, the waeroa (mosquito), the tuiau (midge), and the namu (sandfly). This ariā was a drop of Maui's blood, obtained by the sandfly, and was used as an ohonga to destroy Maui (see ante).

But ariā also means the material form, or form of incarnation of an atua (god, demon), the form in which it is visible to mortal eyes. In this way also it is applied to material tokens of persons who had no claim to demonship, or to rank as atua.

When Tawhaki, the man-slayer, went exploring the wilds of Tuhoe-land some nine generations back, he found Wheterau, a chief of the ancient Ngati-Ha, living at the junction of the Waikare and Whakatane streams, and promptly slew him. The ariā of Wheterau is still seen at that place, in the form of a stone, as I myself have seen.

Tane-atua, a semi-divine gentleman, who appeared on these shores in a mysterious manner about eighteen generations ago, and who appears to have had no visible means of support, amused himself by making apparently aimless expeditions from place to place in the realms of Potiki and of Te Hapu-oneone. He married Puhau-nui of Nga-Potiki, and these two produced some most extraordinary offspring. First they had Ohora and Kanihi, who were twin atua, their ariā being the two streams of that name near Rua-toki. Next came Mariko and Mawete, also twins. Mariko had Okiwa, whose ariā is a dog (kuri) which is said to be heard baying in the dead of night in the canyons - 18 of the Whakatane river. The breath of the dog is the local wind, known as the Okiwa, which frequently blows down the valley. The next child was Tamoe-hau, whose ariā is a tree. The next was Rongo-te-mauriuri, whose ariā is a small lakelet on the summit of the sacred mountain, Maunga-pohatu. The next was Takuahi-te-ka, whose ariā is a rock in the Whakatane river, near Hana-mahihi, the same being an uruuru-whenua of old. After this the children born to this pair appear to have been ordinary barndoor specimens of the genus homo.

In the story of Hape the Wanderer, his son Tamarau took a portion of the hair of his defunct sire as the ariā of his wairua, and also one of the foot bones as the ariatanga of his manea (see ante).

Ariā of Sin, Death, Misfortune. In a certain rite performed by the priest before a party entered into battle, two mounds of earth were formed by him. One of these was termed Tuāhu-a-te-rangi, and on it was placed a wand or stick of the sacred karamu shrub. This wand was called the tira ora, it was the ariā of life, health, and of a clear mind. The other mound was styled Puke-nui-a-Papa and the wand thereof was the tira mate, it was the ariā of sin, death, evil and misfortune. The rites and invocations of the priests caused the sins, evil deeds, transgressions of the laws of tapu, &c., of the warriors to be absorbed by the tira mate, leaving the warriors free from such errors, and their effect on the mind and body. They would be thus rendered clear-minded in the coming fray, fertile in resource and endowed with strength of arm, keen vision and presence of mind. The priest then cast down the tira mate, leaving the tira ora standing in triumph. It is of interest to note that Puke-nui-a-Papa represents the female sex and sin and death, while Tuāhu-a-te-rangi stands for male sex, for life, health, and all things desirable. It is an old story with the sons of man.

The mauri ora at Whakatane (see ante) the sacred manuka tree, was the ariā of life and health.

Ariā of atua. As already stated the ariā of an atua is the form of incarnation of that atua. Below are given a few names of old Maori atua, together with their ariā:—

Tu-nui-a-te-ika the ariā thereof is a wood pigeon (kereru)12
Te Huki-ta ” ” ” lizard
Tama-i-waho ” ” ” star
Makawe ” ” ” a shooting star
Te Iho-o-te-rangi ” ” ” a lock of hair
Tamarau ” ” ” pakura (a bird)
Te Ihi-o-te-ra ” ” ” whe (mantis, insect)
Kahutia ” ” ” kaeaea (sparrow-hawk)
Moekahu ” ” ” kuri (native dog)
Uenuku rainbow
Haere ” ” ” ”
Kahukura ” ” ” ”
Reko ” ” ” owl (ruru)
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In like manner divers ancestors have their ariā or form in which they appear to mortal eyes, such as Hine-ruarangi, whose ariā is a kawau or cormorant. Again Hine-pukohu-rangi is the personification of mist and fog, represented by her ariā in the white mists of the forest ranges and vales; while the ariā of Hinewai is the light misty rain of which she is the personification.

Rua-tahuna is here the name of a district. The ariā of Rua-tahuna is a hill of that name. That is to say, the hill is the tino of Rua-tahuna, i.e., the place from which the name is derived.

The ariā of the gods was necessary to the Maori, the material, visible representation or symbol to which he might address his invocations, although his mind quite grasped the fact that such representation was not itself the atua, but merely the ariā thereof. It would therefore be inadvisable to apply the term idol to such ariā.

In regard to the word ariā, I have heard old natives of the Arawa tribe use the term arika instead of ariā. “He matakokiri tona arika-tanga.” This may possibly be the original form of the word, and the explanation of the long final vowel of ariā.

The late Mr. Colenso gives meanings of ariā as follows:— “Imagination, idea, notion, feelings,” also “significant sign of regard, respect, remembrance.” None of these terms meet the case of the ariā of an atua. But in ariaria, to resemble, to be somewhat like, we see something nearer the mark, and in ariariatanga=imagination, ideal notion, supposition, a still closer form.

In respect to ariā as indistinctly seen, I take the following from my note books:—“I kite tinana ahau i a ia, ehara i te mea i kite aria.” Also, “Mehemea e titiro ke ana oku kanohi, kai waho nei tetahi tangata e haere ana o to tatau whare, ko te aria i kite ake ahau e aria ana i waho (kaore e hangai tonu te titiro) koia taua ariā.”

Thus ariā bears a marked resemblance in meaning to icon (the Greek eikōn).

The word kohiwi resembles ariā in meaning. “Tona kohiwitanga, he rakau,” i.e., his visible form is a tree (in speaking of a tipua or supernatural being). The tree was the material form of that tipua, in which the same was visible to mortal eyes. The terms kohiwi, hiwi and koiki are applied to dry branches of matai and other trees, from which the sap wood has decayed, leaving only the hard heart wood. Again, kohiwi is applied to a priest or a person whose body is sacred or tapu, or the shrine (waka, medium) of an atua, as denoting the mortal or earthly body, apart from its sacredness. Koiwi is the skeleton and does not include the flesh, as kohiwi does.

This ends the list of terms which we were to explain, in regard to the Maori concept of the spiritual nature of man, and of various elements or essences of the human body, as also in support of the - 20 statement that the Maori of old was endowed with the power of abstract thought, a thing denied by some writers. For the Maori of yore was a firm believer in psychism and has, for countless centuries pursued the paths of knowledge in search of great truths, even as the light was given to him. In the pages of Homer and the unwritten archives of the Maori priests, we find terms conveying the same meaning, applied to the various conceptions of the spirit or life principle of man. The eidôlon of the far west is the ata of Polynesia.

The description of the many terms has led to divergences in order to explain various words and expressions, and also necessitated the descriptions of divers rites and ceremonies of old. This has made the article longer than originally intended. Many of the Maori terms are most difficult to assign a correct and precise meaning to in English.

No time has been spent in re-arrangement of the many notes herein contained, they have merely been grouped under the different headings. We who dwell in the dark places of the earth possess not the aptitude for forming well turned sentences or proper systematic arrangement. The rough notes are collected, and forwarded when roughly arranged, lest they meet with the fate of Pawhera of old.

For the Maori of Pani and of a swift passing world has been rudely awakened from a most strange mental state. He will not survive the shock, but will pass out with his wairua from a body that has become noa, and the life principle of which has lost its virtue. Even as a fatalist will he pass away, conservative and contemptuous to the end, leaving to the new race but little of his history, his thoughts, or his religious ideas.

And whether shall he cross the dark waters of Tama, to the baying of the three-mouthed hound, or drink of the waters of Tane-pi as he descends the rugged Reinga to the underworld, or perchance go down to the sullen shades of the Tawa-mutu, we will cry him Vale!

1  The author is not responsible for the translation of the karakias, the sense of which has been attempted, but they are extremely difficult, and would require long explanations in addition to make them clear. Possibly the meanings have sometimes been missed.—Ed.
2  Usually spelt whai; whai-ao, world of being, of possession of life.—Ed.
3  On the west, or Taranaki coast, they were called whatu, and are of a peculiar shape, something like the large spines of the Fijian echinus. It was the influence of the karakia repeated over these stones that made them effective.—Ed.
4  We are told that in the early years of the nineteenth century, when the Ati-Awa tribe migrated from Taranaki to Wellington, that there were no kahawai fish in that harbour. Consequently, the people sent back to Waitara for some of the sand of the beach, and then placed it in Wellington harbour. This sand contained the mauri of the kahawai, and from that time onwards there was plenty of fish there. So say the Maoris.—Ed.
5  Kira, the long feathers of a bird's wing.
6  One woman must be in the house (house of teaching, or learning), a sacred woman, as an “objective,” for the mauri.
7  See Journal Polynesian Society, vol. 8, p. 181.
8  And in many other dialects of Polynesia also.—Ed.
9  The same as Matitikura of other tribes.—Ed.
10  In several Polynesian dialects, hine-ngaro means, to wish, to desire.—Ed.
11  Usually the term ahua is used in such cases.
12  Also given as a star