Volume 6 1897 > Volume 6, No. 1 > The Moriori people of the Chatham Islands: their traditions and history, by Alexander Shand, p 11-18
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UPON the birth of a child, the Morioris used various rites and ceremonies, each having a separate name, but all included in the general term of tohi or tohinga.1 In the case, more particularly, of such as were considered to be of rank or importance, it was the usual custom for one of the senior relatives in the hapu2 (or family) to claim the right to tohi (baptise) the infant. The expression of this claim having been conveyed to the parents, it was admitted as an unquestionable right, and after due consultation, a date was fixed. This was one of the nights of the moon (it is hardly necessary perhaps to remark that a “night of the moon” is the same as a day of the month) which was chosen as far as could be judged, to ensure fine weather for the ceremony. Time sufficient was allowed for all parties to assemble, the relatives who claimed the right to tohi, as well as the relatives of the child, who had to prepare food to be eaten after the performance of the tohinga. Such food was termed a tchuaporo (tuaporo, in Maori); it denoted the removal of tapu from all concerned in the matter.

To indicate the actual removal of tapu, in places near the Whanga lagoon, eels were roasted and eaten; but those living near the sea used fish. This was followed afterwards by any other food they might be possessed of. According to one account, previous to the tohinga, the mother was not tapu, had she been so, it would have been very inconvenient, as in some cases the child was allowed to grow to three, four, and even six years of age before the tohinga was performed; more frequently it occurred when the child was young and an infant in arms. According to another account the mother was tapu until the tohinga of her child, regarding which, from the evidence of the - 12 karakias, there appears to be a slight conflict. Thus, the takauere was used when on birth the ngaengae, or navel cord was cut; if a child of consequence (whether boy or girl), this was done by either the paternal or maternal grandfather, as the case might be. For this purpose a pipi shell was used, when part of the cord so cut, with the shell used in the operation were tied together (apitikia) and hung up, or placed in safety until the tohinga proper took place in the house where they slept, but in which they did not eat, as eating, both with Maoris and Morioris, was not permissible in a sleeping place.

According to Hori Nga Maia the ceremony of tohinga occupied two days; the first was called, ta ra o ro motuhanga wa (the day of the divided space), but another name for which was ko ro motuhanga o ro tuahu (the setting apart, or consecration, of the tuāhu).3 On the first day the incantations used were Ka One, the sands (to be trodden in the future by the child). The incantations named Tuāhu and the Takauere, were used on the first day, and beyond this statement the method of procedure was not explained. The incantation of the Tuāhu was not obtained.

Ka One.4
1. Te one no Uru, no Ngana, no Iorangi e-ra ia,
Kei tōngia5 te one, tōngia te one e, tareae-i-ae,
Whati te rangi, whati te rangi, tu tatau tareae-i-ae, tu tatau tarea.
2. No Tu, no Tane, no Rongo, no Tangaroa, e-ra ia.
Kei tongia te one, &c.
3. No Tahu, no Mokō, no Maroro, no Wakehau, e-ra ia.
Kei tongia te one, &c.
4. No Ruanuku, no Taputapu, no Rakeiora, e-ra ia.
Kei tongia te one, &c.
5. E puke,6 e puta wai, ta ihi, ta mana, tc hā, tĕ whakaariki.
Kei tongia te one, &c.
6. No Rongomai-whiti,7 no Rongomai-rau, no Rongomai-ta-uiho-o-te-rangi.
No te whakaariki, ko ro Tauira te one
Whati te rangi tu tatau tareae-i-ae, tu tatau tareă.
7. E puke wai, e puta wai, ta ihi, ta mana, tc ha, te whakaariki ra-i.
Kei tongia te one tareae-i-ae, whati te rangi tu tatau tareae-i-ae.
Whati te rangi tu tatau tareă—nĭ.8
The Sands.
1. 'Tis the One of Uru of Ngana of Iorangi, behold it.
Let not the One be desecrated, let not the One be desecrated; shout forth,
Let the thunder peal, let the thunder peal; stand we, shout forth, stand we, shout forth.
(Verses 2, 3, 4 recite as usual other names of the “heaven-born.”)
- 13 5. E puke, e puta wai, the radiance, the power, the holiness, the first-born. Let not the One be desecrated, &c.
6. The One is that of Rongomai-whiti, Rongomai-rau, Rongomai-ta-uiho-o-ta-rangi.
That of the great lord, and that of the acolyte,
Let the thunder peal; stand we, shout forth, stand we, shout forth.
7. E puke wai, e puta wai, the radiance, the power, the holiness, the first-born, behold it,
Let not the One be desecrated; shout forth, let the thunder peal; stand we, shout forth.
Let the thunder break; stand we, shout forth—Nĭ.

It appears from different statements that the Takauere was used twice—first on the birth of the child as above described, when the pito-ngao or ngaengae was cut, and again on the tohinga ceremony, when the pipi shell, with the part cut, were produced on the recitation of the incantation as hereunder:—

Ko tākauere Whiti, ko takauere Tonga,
Ko te anga9 mahuta, ko te anga pakutē,
Ko te anga tu ro, tu ro ki Hawaiki—
Tukunga iho, hekenga iho,
Tukunga o te morimori,10 hekenga o te morimori,
Tukunga o te maru-po,11 hekenga o te maru-po,
Te rerenga o te maru-po,
Ka eke ki raro ki a Takurua. E tapu te pou-iti.
'Tis the takauere of Whiti, 'tis the takauere of Tonga,
'Tis the growing stomach, 'tis the healed stomach,
'Tis the stomach standing yonder, standing yonder in Hawaiki—
Handed down, descended down,
Dandling handed down, dandling descended down,
Giving of the power of night, descent of the power of night,
It descends beneath to Takurua. Sacred be the child.

The tapu of the mother, as far as can be ascertained, apparently only obtained at the birth of the first-born child, which if a son, and succeeded by a daughter, necessitated the repetition of the ceremony, it being considered in such case that the rites were insufficient for both, and until the tohinga was over the mother might not carry food. The explanation of the divergence in these accounts seems probably to be, that the custom was not always uniform. In the case of children of rank the rites would be duly carried out without any great delay, while the lapse of time in some cases showed that they were evidently lax in enforcing the rules, or it was not considered of importance to hasten the ceremony. Preferentially the time most favoured for tohinga was when the child was in the arms, and beginning either to creep or walk, and this, from all that can be ascertained, appears to have been the general custom, the other cases being the exception, as where those of inferior rank were frequently baptised earlier.

The day having been arranged for the performance of the ceremony, on the previous one, certain children were sent to collect the soft inside - 14 shoots (rito) of pingao (Demoschœnus spiralis). These, when obtained, were laid round, butts upwards, in rows on some small sticks about two feet more or less in length, and tied on like thatch, which sticks thus decorated were called ka tchua (tua, in Maori), and their ends were pointed a little by the use of pipi shells. A site, called the tuāhu (generally the one where former baptisms had taken place, and near the homes), having been selected the tchua were there driven in in two parallel rows, as far as can be ascertained, about six to eight feet in width, by about ten feet in length. This kind of tuāhu was equivalent to the Maori ahu-rewa, but this latter had none of the dread effects of tapu, inherent in the real tuāhu, or burial-ground, or the tuāhu whangai-hau, where war-rites took place.

As witnessed by Hirawanu Tapu about sixty years ago, on the day of the ceremony, into the above described enclosure stepped the tohunga, or performer of the ceremony, with his tauira, disciple or acolyte (who was being initiated in the sacred rites) at one end, with the mother holding the child at the other end and facing the tohunga. The duty of the tauira was to hold a puwai, or funnel-shaped water vessel made with the inside tender leaves of flax, tightly wrapped spirally upwards from a point below. Around this a cage-like frame-work was made to support it, with a cross-piece tied on as a handle. This the tauira held in readiness. The tohunga then recited the tchua known as Tchua o ro wai, also called Tchua o Tane-matahu, a name said to have been given by Rangi and Papa—Tăhu, with its variants atăhu and matăhu,representing marriage and its attributes. Dipping his hand into the puwai presented by the tauira, and with the water wetting the forehead and face of the child, the tohunga used the words of the tchua as follows:

Ooi, tenei tchuā, tchuā koi runga;
Ra tch ahunga,12 ra tch aponga, ra te whakatipu tangată,
Ki te whai-ao, ki te ao-marama.
Whakatika13 tchua, whakatona14 tchua,
Whakatika ki mua, whakatika ki roto,
Whano15 te whai-ao, whano te ao-marama, whāno ta uiho.
Tena tchua ka eke, tena tchua tongihi16 te here mai na,
Ko tchū' o ro wai.
Ooi, this is the tchua, a tchua from above;
Behold the heaping up, behold the gathering together, behold the growth of man,
In the world of existence, in the world of light.
Let the tchua arise, let the tchua develope,
Let it ascend before, let it ascend within,
Proceed the world of existence, proceed the world of light, proceed the intent.
Behold the tchua pervades, behold the oldest tchua coming hither,
'Tis the tchua of the water.

In this recitation the tauira joined if he knew the form; but in some cases (apparently when he was considered proficient), he was allowed by the tohunga to sprinkle the child's forehead, the tohunga - 15 first touching the tauira's hand as a sign to ratify his act; he then recited the tchua, in which the tauira joined. If the child when sprinkled was lively (kăpăkăpă) and crowed, putting forth its hands to meet the tohunga, it was hailed as a good omen, and they said, “Hoka-hoka17 tama i tona wai,” “The child plays with his water” (of tohinga).

For such as were intended to be fishermen and seamen there was another tchua used, called ko tchua o tai (the tchua for the sea); but unluckily the incantation was not obtained. These ceremonies being completed, the next one used was the tira, or tira-koko, which was the name given to the incantation used upon the planting of a tree, symbolising the growth of the child. The tree used chiefly was the inihina (mahoe in Maori), which generally took root easily; but sometimes others were used. The tree when pulled up was first laid on the head of the child before planting, and it was afterwards called, te lira o mea (the tree of such a one). If it did not strike, no remark was made.

The following is the incantation called tira-koko, the meaning of which appears to be, a tree or sprig planted and belonged to—(?) dedicated to—Tane-Matahu.

Manaka mai te tira i uta,
Manaka mai te wheau i uta,
Manaka mai te aka i uta,
Manaka mai te tira i uta, ka uwauwe (=ueue)
Uea mai i ru putake me re pu kerekere, kia mahuta ai,
Tena taki mahuta te kawa, 18
E tai na tutakina, takina, uea whenua.
Let the growth increase of the tree on the shore (or land),
Let the growth increase of the household on shore,
Let the growth increase of the roots on shore,
Let the growth increase of the tree on the shore. It is shaken,
Shake it in the base and the dark stem, that it may shoot forth,
See the kawa springs and shoots forth,
Beat down, close over, let it spring up, shake (open) the soil.

After the recitation of the tira-koko, came the wai-whaka-tiputipu (waters causing growth) and ro wai (the waters), but neither of these incantations were obtained, although when those given were obtained, they were said to be the chief ones used, and were succeeded by the tangaengae, as hereunder:

Ka whano, ka kimi pokai i amio, tangaengae,
Ka whano, ka ruku, tangaengae,
Ka whano, ko ro' to moana, tangaengae,
E ko tangaengae, tangaengae tahoreia.
Thou shalt go searching, wandering, circling round, tangaengae,
Thou shalt go and dive, tangaengae,
Thou shalt go to the sea, tangaengae,
Oh 'tis tangaengae, tangaengae, let it fall.

- 16

This tangaengae is very short, and is the only one which closely resembles the Maori form of tohi as given in Sir G. Grey's “Moteatea and Hakirara,” (pp. 75 and 78). The tangaengae being recited, the ceremony of the whătă was performed by a number of boys and girls assembled for that purpose, some of whom were often relatives of the infant. These children waited outside the tuāhu during the tohinga, each wi h their whata (a short stick, to which a piece of sea-fish, or eel was suspended by a short string). They then all went a little distance off, about forty or fifty yards, whence they raced back, laughing merrily and often tumbling down in trying who would be first to touch a post outside the tuāhu. According to some accounts the whatas were put inside the tuāhu. After this they stuck their whatas in the ground, whilst a separate fire was made, one for the boys and one for the girls (it being unallowable for the sexes to eat in common), at which they roasted their respective whatas, and then ate them, thus removing the tapu. After this the tchuaporo called the Whata-a-Tamahiwa was recited:

Ko Tchuaporo.

1. Ku wai ana tarewa? Ko Tu ana tarewa,
Ko Rongo ana tarewa,
Tarewa tĕ whătă o ta ihi, tarewa te whata o te mana,
Tarewa tĕ whătă o tc ha,
Tarewa tĕ whătă a te pu hangonongono i tche rangi,
Tarewa tĕ whătă a Tamahiwa.19
2. Ko tchuaporo i Whiti,
Ko tchuaporo i Tonga,
Ko tchuaporo o tch Ariki.
1. Who is suspended? It is Tu20 who is suspended,
It is Rongo21 who is suspended,
The whătă of dread is suspended, the whătă of power is suspended,
The sacred whătă is suspended,
The holiest whătă is suspended in heaven,
The whătă of Tamahiwa is suspended.
2. 'Tis the tchuaporo in Whiti, 22
'Tis the tchuaporo in Tonga,
'Tis the tchuaporo of the Lord (or senior chief).

In the tohinga of females the ceremony varied a little. The following description was given to me by Apimireke of the tohinga of his daughter Tarakawhai (in Maori Tarakahawai) at a place called - 17 Rangĭwĕ near Waitangi. In this case it appears that the tchua were placed in double rows on the tuāhu, each pair leaning over and crossing each other at the top, otherwise the proceedure appeared to be much the same. The Tchua o ro wai was used first, then Ka Tai, otherwise the tchua of the sea, next the wai-whakatiputipu, then ka wai; which ended, the child was taken from the tuāhu and handed to the mother in her house, where the Takauere was recited, then Te Hina.

The accurate details not having been given, it appears uncertain if the mother took the infant in this instance to the tuāhu or not, presumably the tchuaporo was used in the ordinary manner to end the ceremony.

In the ceremonies relating to Tiki (the first-created man), of which only a very fragmentary account was given by the old men, there appears to be a close resemblance to that of the tohinga, if it was not really a variation of the same ceremony. Neatly carved figures of birds were made out of akeake wood, twenty or more in number, and these were placed in parallel rows on the tuāhu, which was generally the place where the same kind of ceremonies had been performed before. At one end of the tuāhu a carved figure of Rongomai-tuatanga (Rongomai of the baptismal service) as the presiding deity, in the case of the Kekeri-one people, was placed; while other parts of the island adopted another Rongomai. If the old material of former ceremonies was rotten, it was placed in heaps, but if sound it was used again. Generally the ceremony took place each year, but in some cases two and even three years elapsed before its renewal; its duration was three and even four days, which were called: Tg ra o tch ehei (day of the evening); ta ra o ro păpă (day of the foundation); ta ra o t' whainga (the day of the following); and a fourth, ta ra o t' whakarōrō (the prolonged day). The chief tohunga did not eat during the ceremony, but the others did so freely.

There evidently were some ancient stories and ceremonies relative to Tiki, common to Maoris and Morioris, the knowledge of which has been lost with the old men of the last generation; traces of this are to be seen in the old karakias and waiatas preserved in Sir G. Grey's “Moteatea and Hakirara,” in the allusions to Tiki, as “Tiki heaped up,” “Tiki gathered together,” “Tiki with hands formed,” “Tiki with feet formed,” “Tiki the ancient lord” (ariki), or more possibly in its primal sense, first-born, man-created. These references appear to show that they were part of an old Creation legend. For further reference to Moriori traditions of Tiki, see Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. ii, p. 127.

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[Page of footnotes]

1  —Tohinga has been rendered here “baptism,” as the nearest equivalent in meaning, as well as in fact.
2  —Hapu is used here in its Maori sense, of the blood relatives and connections of a family. It does not appear to be used quite in the same manner in Moriori.
3  Tuāhu, the place where all sacred ceremonies were performed, and usually translated from the Maori word as “altar,” used as a convenient term only. There were several kinds, each used at some particular ceremony.
4  —Ka One. It seems questionable whether this may not also imply the earth, as well as meaning “The Sands.” The central idea is of invoking a blessing on the child, that he might grow and prosper to tread the sands, or earth, in the future.
5  —Tongia. Although the meaning given is asserted to be correct, there appears to be some doubt, in the absence of other examples of the exact meaning of the word.
6  —E puke, e puta wai. Referring to the generative parts of the mother.
7  —Rongomai. That the One was under the care of the god, under his various appellations as War-god, the many-sided Rongomai, and Rongomai the core of heaven.
8  —Nĭ. The only explanation of this word was that it was a song-ending.
9  —Anga=ngakau or puku in Maori. Mahuta=“risen,” generally; but “growth” in this case. Paku-tē(a), healed and white, like a scar.
10  —Morimori, dandling or nursing; implying that, as of yore, these things (begetting and nursing children) had happened, so it was then.
11  —Maru-po, power or influence of night.
12  —This line is an allusion to the Creation legend.
13  —Let the influence of the tchuā arise and pervade.
14  —Let the tchuā bud or sprout.
15  —Indicating the growth of the child.
16  —Eldest; implying the dignity of the tchuā.
17  —Flapping his hands like a bird.
18  —Kawa. Although this means a ceremony, it also implies a healing, spiritual, or beneficial influence.
19  —Te Whata-a-Tamahiwa, a comet. As the previous line refers to the supposed suspension in heaven, the simile is continued by likening it to a comet.
20  Tu, one of the original and ancient gods, son of Rangi and Papa; here representing man.
21  Rongo, one of the original and ancient gods, son of Rangi and Papa; usually emblematical of all foods, the kumara especially.
22  Whiti and Tonga, sometimes translated sunrise and sunset, or the east and west; but it is a question, in many cases, if the words do not refer to Fiji and Tonga, in both of which groups there are reasons for thinking the Polynesians sojourned for a lengthened period.—Editors.