Volume 6 1897 > Volume 6, No. 3 > The legend of Para-hia (taniwha), told to W. H. Skinner by Tu-tanekaha, p 156-157
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- 156
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THE LEGEND OF PARA-HIA (TANIWHA.)

IN the days of our ancestors, a great taniwha (monster of the lizard kind), whose name was Para-hia, lived near Otuhira. He was lord of all these lands, and his home was a rua (cave or hole) near the top of the ridge above where his remains now lie. My father told me when a boy that, in going up the Otuhira looking for eels, he had seen the remains of Para-hia lying there, so that we of Ngati-Maru have come to the conclusion that Para-hia is now dead.

But I will tell you how our ancestors found out the home or residence of this taniwha (Para-hia). They wished to extend their cultivations by clearing the bush at this place, and for this purpose a flat toward the top of the ridge was fixed upon as a suitable place, being sheltered from the south winds by the ridge behind, and with sloping ground towards the north-east. Our ancestors had gathered for the purpose of clearing the bush, and the tohunga (priest) was uttering his incantations so as to prosper the work, as was usual in those days, when suddenly the heavens became overcast, and a great tempest arose, the lightning flashed, and the thunder crashed around them, together with a terrible storm of hail. The people, terrified, fled for shelter to an opening in the face of the hill close at hand. The storm continued with great fury, and noises were heard coming forth from the cave, into which they had fled for shelter. The tohunga (priest) perceived that some great infringement of the tapu had taken place, and further, he became aware (guessed) that this was the home of the great monster (taniwha) Para-hia. So taking some food and uttering his most powerful incantations, he advanced alone further into the cave, and placed the food on the floor as a peace-offering to quiet - 157 the anger of the monster. By the aid of his powerful prayers, the tohunga succeeded in quieting the anger of Para-hia, and the storm suddenly ceased. The people then returned to their homes by the river, and from that time to this no Maori, excepting the tohunga, has dared go near the cave of Para-hia.

After this event, and down to the time when we knew Para-hia to be dead, it was the custom of the tohunga to offer the first-fruits of all our ancient food to this taniwha, to propitiate him in the people's favour. For instance, when the kumara or taro crop was fit to be gathered in, the priest went into the garden, and taking one, the first to be dug of the season's crop, went forward alone to the entrance of Para-hia's residence, uttering his prayers and incantations. These were said to give warning of his approach, and at the same time to calm the anger of the monster; for the consequences would be dreadful indeed should his anger arise. Having gained the cave, the kumara or taro was laid at the entrance, and after certain other prayers, the priest returned carefully to the village.

This sacrifice was offered in the same way when the first bird of the season was speared, or the first fish caught, and so on through all the old Maori food. If this sacrifice was not offered, the wrath of Para-hia would arise, and as he was lord of all these lands, he would blast the kumara or taro crops, or the bird-spearing and snaring or eel-fishing would be a failure.

This is the story as told by Tu-tanekaha, and he refused absolutely to go near the hole or cave of Para-hia. A similar taniwha is said to reside at the base of the cliff called Haumea-nui, on Junction Road, near Nga-korako, Purangi, Taranaki.

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