Volume 83 1974 > Memoir No. 40: Tapu removal in Maori religion, by Jean Smith, p 1-47
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Memoir No. 40
Supplement to The Journal of the Polynesian Society

PART 1: PAGES 1—42


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  • Introduction 3
  • Chapter 1 Rites of Passage: Birth, War, and Death 9
  • (i) Birth 9
  • (ii) War 11
  • (iii) Death 13
  • Chapter 2 Tapu Removal in Ritual 21
  • (i) Social and Religious Passage 21
  • (ii) Tapu Removal and Passage 22
  • (iii) Tapu and the Gods 25
  • (iv) Agents of Tapu Removal 28
  • (v) Tapu Removal and Subjugation 33
  • (vi) Tapu Removal and Fixation 40

This study is a revised version of a thesis submitted for the degree of B.Litt. in the University of Oxford in 1971. I am grateful to my supervisor, Mr. P. Gathercole, for his help and encouragement; also to Miss M. Orbell, Dr. G. Lienhardt, Dr. M. Young and my husband for comments and suggestions.

Maori words which are now part of New Zealand English are not italicised.

In quotations as well as elsewhere, long vowels in Maori words are doubled.

J. S.
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This study is an attempt to relate together meaningfully some of the most important Maori ideas connected with tapu removal.

In a study based on secondary sources it is of course the nature of these which dictates the type of research which is possible. The chief characteristic of the ethnographic record for the Maori is that very little of it was based on first-hand observation. By 1840 Maori life was substantially different from that which Cook saw. All the fullest records were written after this date and were reconstructions of the past derived from the memories of old Maoris. The kind of knowledge that both the Maori and the ethnographers were interested in conserving was that of tribal history, legends, myths, other beliefs and rites, and it is this which constitutes by far the greater part of the material on the Maori. The records do not on the whole present a picture of a functioning society, either that of the past or that contemporary to the ethnographers. 1

The most important collectors of Maori myth were Grey and White. Grey gathered his myths in the 1840s by supplying old chiefs with blank books in which they could dictate their knowledge to literate Maoris. He took enormous liberties with the texts he collected in this manner. He omitted passages which revealed that the authors were familiar with European culture, and he altered the construction of sentences. Worst of all, he rearranged and combined material from different sources in order to present what he considered to be a complete myth in a logical order. 2 Fortunately, Grey's myths have been unscrambled, 3 and where they have been used in this study I have given their sources.

White was one of the earliest ethnographers who knew the Maori really well (he lived at Hokianga throughout the 1840s). His six-volume collection of myths and legends is the fullest work of this kind available to us. Unfortunately White was untrustworthy as an editor. He rewrote many of the Maori texts making stylistic changes and adding explanatory material concerning Maori beliefs and customs. However, he did not alter the main events in the stories, nor did he expurgate the Maori text or leave out obscure passages. 4 For these reasons I think that the use of White as a source for the bare bones of a myth must, until more of the manuscript surviving in New Zealand libraries is edited and published, be considered justifiable if not ideal.

Further information about individual sources and the circumstances in which material was collected has been given where possible and relevant - 4 in the course of the study. But it is necessary to consider the most important and prolific of the Maori ethnographers, Elsdon Best, in a little more detail.

Best went to the Urewera country in 1895 and he lived there over a period of 15 years. Although the Urewera country was one of the last areas of New Zealand to be opened up and the Tuuhoe way of life was still relatively intact, it should constantly be remembered that Best was collecting his material almost 50 years later than the first ethnographers such as Grey, White, Shortland and Taylor, and well over a century after contact. However, most of the beliefs and practices he recorded conform in outline to those in earlier records and yet are recorded in more detail and with greater thoroughness.

Some of Best's material, however, must be considered with caution. Best thought more highly of the esoteric than of the exoteric aspects of Maori religion. According to his biographer, “Best saw himself as an explorer engaged in a ceaseless quest for an elusive ethnological Eldorado he called ‘the golden kura (treasure) of the Maori’ — the esoteric aspects of primitive lore which he believed contained the key to understanding the origin and development of the race”. 5 What Best considered to be the esoteric Maori religion centred on belief in the high God, Io. Buck and others, however, have shown that the cult of Io was definitely a post-European development, 6 and the Creation myth involving Io which Best published in Maori Religion and Mythology 7 certainly reveals the influence of the Bible. This is not to say that it is not a Maori myth. The Maori were selective in their borrowing, and what they borrowed they transformed. However, it has not been used in this thesis because in certain important respects it differs from the popular and widespread Creation myth which is summarised on pp. 44-5. 8

Best not only wanted to prove that the Maori had a high God; he also wanted to prove, in contradition to earlier ethnographers, that they had marriage rites. Biggs, however, has shown that the marriage rite he recorded was of post-European origin, 9 and one must assume that the Maori invented it either through unwillingness to display ignorance or in a spirit of rivalry.

The reliability of individual sources may be questioned, yet when all are considered together and compared with one another the result is an impressive body of mutually consistent and supporting knowledge.

Evans-Pritchard said in his book on Zande witchcraft, “I have tried to explain a fact by citing other facts from the same culture and by noting interdependencies between facts.” 10 This is the method I have tried to follow in this book. Within the field of tapu removal “the facts”, which are really ideas for the most part, are of such an order that it is possible - 5 to begin to piece them into a meaningful picture, but I do not pretend that such a picture can be systematically completed. Johansen expressed similar frustration when he wrote, “It is a pity and unfortunately only too characteristic of our sources of Maori religion that they so often leave us in the lurch on points as to which our imagination easily induces us to believe, perhaps rightly, that they were the very most interesting ones.” 11

The material on Maori religion is essentially a Maori picture of their religion; apart from a little information, mostly in the form of historical incident and anecdote, we have no exact knowledge of its social context. Recently some anthropologists have been attempting to reconstruct a pre-European “reality” for some aspects of Maori life, 12 but with regard to religion I think this would be well-nigh impossible. To tell what relationship incidents in legend, traditional history or even recent history had to normal life is difficult. I wholly disagree with Biggs, despite the reservations which he makes, when he says of an incident from historical tradition, “When we are told that Te-Kawa-iri-rangi married the twin sisters Maa-rei and Maa-roa we may assume initially that the sororate was permissible.” 13 I believe that one can only show the relationship of idea and fact when both are available, and that in the absence of facts the only meaningful context in which ideas can be placed is that of other ideas. Moreover, for this type of study the records have considerable advantages; the fact that the ethnographers were not describing what they saw probably meant that far more of the Maori world view was recorded, frequently verbatim, than might otherwise have been collected.

The validity of intellectualist analysis has been questioned. Mary Douglas, for example, has said that “It should never again be permissible to provide an analysis of interlocking categories of thought which has no demonstrable relation to the social life of the people who think in these terms.” 14 This statement is in accordance with her view that metaphysics is a byproduct of practical concern, where by implication she equates “practical concern” with “social concern”. 15 While I agree that by showing the relationship of a metaphysical system to problems of practical concern the anthropologist can reduce the danger of imposing his own categories on the material studied, I do not agree with the equation of “practical concern” with “social concern”, and I shall show why in relation to Maori religion.

From the days of the earliest ethnographers to, most recently, Johansen's book The Maori and his Religion, 16 the most common approach to Maori religion has been to try and answer such questions as “What is tapu? Mana? Wairua?” The best of these studies, such as Johansen's, have involved the accumulation of as many different uses of these concepts as possible. But after this has been done, in the subsequent leap of the imagination from Maori to Western concept the discussion usually falls - 6 into a metaphysical vacuum. White, for example, after listing some uses of the word “mana” concludes, “It will be seen therefore that mana expresses in its many shades of meaning nothing more or less than the unseen determination of that uncontrolled something — the human mind.” 17 Johansen uses such concepts as “fellowship”, “the holy”. Moreover, another characteristic of these studies has been the temptation to define a concept by its lowest common denominator — which, in the case of tapu, Johansen suggests is “requiring consideration”, 18 While this may be true, as a definition it is not particularly useful.

One of the reasons for the inadequacy of this type of study is that the questions asked of the material are not phrased in terms of practical concern. Tapu, for example, was not in itself an object of much speculation on the part of the Maori. The concept was involved in many different fields of practical concern (for example, status relations, the explanation of misfortune, the preservation of property), and it may be an unwarranted assumption that there was something significant in common between all the different uses of the concept apart from the ultrahuman sanction which was ultimately involved.

With these considerations in mind, I have selected for study an aspect of Maori religion which was of practical concern to the Maori, namely tapu removal. The expression “tapu removal” is the translation given to a large number of Maori words which are the names of rituals or else are used to describe their nature. The occasions and aims of these rites varied widely. They included baptism and funerary rites, rites performed to cure sickness, to protect from sorcery, to endow men with courage, to control the weather, to enable pupils to retain acquired knowledge, to abolish the restrictions necessitated by house and canoe building and for many other reasons. All these different ends were achieved by means of the ritual removal of ultrahuman influence from human life. It also was in terms of the removal of tapu (albeit a protective tapu) that misfortune was explained. 19 I think that it would be unreasonable to treat problems such as these as “the appanage of social institutions”, 20 for by their nature they show that man's relationship with the gods could be as much a problem of practical concern as his relationship with other men.

In this study I have described passage between the ultrahuman and human worlds, both as achieved in ritual and as described in myth, when it can be shown to bear a relationship to ritual tapu removal. I have also described, in both actuality and myth, the non-ritual removal or violation of tapu. This can be futher distinguished as tapu breaking and hara. Hara is defined in Williams' dictionary as “to violate tapu intentionally or otherwise”. 21 For analytical purposes it is useful to distinguish the “intentional” from the “otherwise”. Hara is primarily the explanation of - 7 misfortune (in contrast to ritual tapu removal it deprives a man of his protective rather than his destructive tapu), and is hence not usually intentional. Acts of hara which were intentional and which did not necessarily result in misfortune I have therefore described as tapu breaking.

The study begins with a description of tapu removal in ritual. My approach to ritual has been to consider what different rituals have in common rather than to examine them individually. I have done this for the following reasons. Ritual is one of the aspects of Maori religion for which the ethnographic record is most unsatisfactory. Descriptions of Maori rituals, particularly those of Best which in many cases are the fullest, reflect very clearly the way in which they were derived from the memories of a few old informants. They are fragmentary, and sometimes contradictory. As will be seen from the descriptions contained in Chapter 1, on some points they are brief to the point of obscurity. The native exegesis on them is sparse, and does not always reflect pre-Christian Maori thought.

An important part of Maori rituals were the karakia (incantations). These contained so many words and expressions which his informants could not explain that Best did not usually attempt to translate them. White's translations of karakia are very free and Taylor's frequently betray misunderstanding. For these reasons the analysis of individual rituals would be difficult.

By considering all the various descriptions of Maori rituals, however, the following factors emerge. Firstly, tapu removal was central to Maori ritual of all types. For example, in a birth ritual a child was removed from the tapu of its birth; in a ritual to achieve abortion, the tapu of the foetus was removed; in a ritual to encourage a man, the tapu of his fear was removed; and in a ritual to control a wind, the tapu of the wind was removed. Secondly, the same agents or methods of tapu removal were used on widely differing ritual occasions. For example, contact with cooked food, or the eating of it, occurs in almost every ritual. Finally, the material reveals a wide area of agreement on the types of meaning which were attached to these acts of tapu removal. After describing some important tapu removal rituals in Chapter 1, I therefore describe in Chapter 2 the ideological context of acts of tapu removal.

Because of the inadequacies of the source material, not only is it more reliable to study what rituals have in common rather than the nature of individual rituals, but it also contributes to a greater degree of certainty if one can study themes and ideas which run through both ritual and myth. The description and analysis of the relationship between myth and ritual in such a way that each adds understanding to the other is probably one of the most fruitful approaches to Maori religion that can be made. It is an approach which has been followed with interesting and valuable results in Johansen's book Studies of Maori Rites and Myths, 22 in which he shows the relationship of agricultural rites to the myths which are referred to in them. In Chapters 3 and 4 of this study, I have analysed two important Maori myths in which the sequence and the nature of the acts bear significant relationship to those of the rituals earlier described.

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In the last two chapters, I have approached tapu removal from the standpoint of the tapu remover. Horton has said that it is almost impossible to make an intellectualist analysis of belief statements without doing some sociology in the process, because religious theories are theories about society. 23 This is true of tapu removal, and in the last chapter I show how stories and myths about the relationship of elder and younger brother express ideas about the relationship between tapu breaking and hierarchy in both social and religious spheres. 24 In the social sphere, the conflict between an ascription-oriented elder brother and an achievement-oriented younger brother reflects kinds of tensions which might possibly have occurred in a warrior society hierarchically organised. In the religious sphere, the elder and the younger brother fulfil a similar function to their social one; the younger brother is associated with the pollution of the gods, while the elder brother is associated with their prestigious superordination.

I have approached tapu removal, therefore, from three main angles which, although they overlap to some extent, can be summarised as: 1. Tapu removal in ritual; 2. Tapu removal in myth; 3. The tapu remover. Finally, as far as possible I have tried to investigate certain important themes from each of these angles, the main theme to be so discussed being the relationship of purity and pollution. Thus I have compared the pure and the polluting aspects of tapu removal in ritual, in myth, and as they concern the tapu remover.

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(i) Birth

The ritual which took place after the birth of a child is called tuuaa (to remove a tapu, to name) or tohi (to cut, to separate). The accounts of birth rituals vary considerably, 25 but the variation is probably due more to tribal and local differences than to inaccurate recording; the accounts agree approximately in their chief features and reveal the same underlying purpose, the removal of the child's tapu. This involved the separation of the child from the Poo (the world of darkness), and its incorporation into the Ao Maarama (the world of light). The separation centred on the severing of the umbilical cord, and was a moral as well as a cosmological separation: “When a child's iho (umbilical cord) is severed the priest recites certain karakia to cause maarama (clearness) to enter the child and also to cause all poouritanga (sluggish intellect, darkness) to be cast out with the severed pito (end)”. 26

According to Smith, the umbilical cord was frequently cut off with a club, the idea being that the child would become a warrior. 27 The umbilical cord was severed at the wai tapu (tapu water), where the child was also sprinkled with water, or immersed, and named. Karakia such as the three that follow were recited “to lift the tapu and to endow the child with strength, health, a clear mind, wisdom, and bravery”: 28

1. Lissome be the boy through the tuuaa
Quick to anger through the tuuaa
To wield the spear through the tuuaa
Let the boy be fierce through the tuuaa
To bear weapons through the tuuaa
To carry the halbert through the tuuaa
Now does the tuuaa affect this child
The tuuaa of the ancient elders
Now does the tuuaa pervade, the tuuaa of the higher priest
Now does the tuuaa prevail, the tuuaa of emersion
To the world of being, to the world of light. 29
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2. Rely on the powers below, the powers above
[For] thy strife shall be all above, all below
Those thou shalt kill and exercise thy courage [against]
Are [the powers] of the great heavens that stand above
And the earth that lies here below,
Call on the first heaven,
Call on the second heaven
When thou doest exercise thy warlike spirit
Be brave indeed. 30
3. Baptized are thou child with the water of Tuu-tawake
Prattles the child in the water of Tuu-tawake
Strives the child with the water of Tuu-tawake
Fierce is the child with the water of Tuu-tawake. 31

After the water rite, the ovens were opened. The umu whaangai, 32 which “fed” the tapu of the child, was eaten from by the ruahine (high-ranking female employed to remove tapus). Then the people became noa (free from tapu). 33

The following is a summary of a description of the tuuaa rite by Shortland. 34 Two fires were kindled, one for the ruahine and one for the atua (gods), and fernroot was cooked on them. The tohunga, priest, took the child and said:

Breathe quick thy lung
A healthy lung
Breathe strong thy lung
A firm lung
A brave lung
Severing 35 for your bravery
Severing for tilling food
Severing for wielding the weapon
Severing for warding off
Severing for seizing the first man
Severing for storming the pa . . .
The boy infant is stept over
The boy infant is climbed over 36
The boy infant is lifted in the arms
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The boy infant is free from tapu
Cause this karakia to flow gently
To the pukenga
To the waananga
To the tauira 37

The ceremony of poipoi (waving) then followed. The tohunga took up the fernroot cooked for the atua, and waved it over the child, saying, “This is for the tipua, 38 for the pukenga, for the waananga, eat it! It is the food cooked for you to eat”. This fernroot was then deposited on the sacred place. Afterwards the ruahine took the child in her arms, waved over it the fernroot which had been cooked in her fire, then touched the different parts of the child's body with it. She was then said to eat this fernroot, but she actually only spat on it and threw it on the sacred place. The child was then free from tapu.

(ii) War

Like the birth ritual, the war rituals which were performed before and after battle were called tohi. Although the tohi performed before war placed the tapu on the warriors and that performed after war removed it, the two rituals were similar in form, both being aimed at separation (tohi means “to cut”, “to separate”). Before battle, the purpose of the tohi was to separate the men from hara and from other evil influences which might induce death or defeat, and to place them under the war tapu and give them courage. 39 After the battle, the warriors were separated from the war tapu while their courage was retained and fixed. 40 The symbolism of the ritual acts of both war tohis could be described in the words of the birth karakia (p. 10) as “severing for your bravery”.

The tohi taua before battle 41 was performed at the wai tapu (tapu water). The participants were naked except for some branches tied around their waist. The warriors squatted at the water's edge while the tohunga stood in the water between two strips of flax representing the legs of a man. 42 The tohunga dipped the end of a karamuu (copromosa) branch in the water and tapped the right shoulder 43 of each man with it while he recited a karakia to make them brave.

According to Gudgeon, the warriors stood with one foot on land and one in the water. The tohunga sprinkled them with water and chanted “Unloose [the sins] with water that they might be unloosed” (wetea ki te wai, kia wetea). 44

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The warriors' hair was cut at the wai tapu. 45 The tira ora, 46 a rite which was performed on many occasions, was also performed there. The tohunga formed two small mounds of earth which were called tuuaahu-a-rangi (the sacred place of heaven) and pukenui-a-Papa (the mons veneris of Earth), and he stuck two branches into them. The tira ora (wand of life) was stuck into the tuuaahu-a-rangi, and the tira mate (wand of death) into the pukenui-a-Papa. The former mound and its wand represented the male, welfare and life, while the latter represented the female, misfortune and death. The tira mate was made to absorb all the warriors' errors (hee) and offences against tapu (hara), and was cast down, while the tira ora was left standing. The object of this rite was to wipe out all evil from the warriors (hei muru i ngaa hee, i ngaa mate) so that they were in a fit condition to be placed under the extremely strict tapu of Tuu. 47 The tohunga then appealed to the atua to disclose who would be killed, and the wairua (spirits) of such men hovered over the tira mate. These men were warned not to fight. The tohunga then erected a karakia maakutu 48 to weaken the enemy.

The tapu was placed on the warriors in the horokaka rite. 49 A single kumara, or sweet potato, was cooked on the sacred fire as an offering to the gods, and was eaten by the priest. The remnants of the food cooked on this fire were taken with the party, and were given to the warriors before battle to stick in their girdles to make them clear headed (hai whakamaarama i te ngaakau). 50

On the return of the war party, 51 the home tohungas met it at the tuuaahu (sacred place) and the head tohunga cried,

From whence has Tuu come?

The priest of the party replied,

Tuu comes from the seeking
Tuu comes from the searching.

In White's version, priestesses (ruahines presumably) asked,

Is Tuu appeased? Has Tuu been great?
Has Tuu received? Is Tuu enriched?

and the warriors answered,

Tuu is great as heavens above
He is appeased, he rests in joy. 52

The bearer of the mawe (an article, such as hair, representing the defeated - 13 enemy) placed it on the tuuaahu, 53 and the following karakia was recited:

Now are the preparations made
To lift the tapu from the warriors,
The smoke of earth, the smoke of heavens,
The smoke of the victory is with me,
Where shall my weapon strike?
My weapon shall strike Te Makaka,
Where shall my weapon strike?
It shall strike the pouahu 54
Where shall my weapon strike?
It shall strike at Whakatane
Uplifted is the tapu all over
Peel off the influence of Tuu
The afflictions of Tuu.

The party then went to the wai tapu, where the priest performed the whakahoro rite to lift the tapu from the warriors. This was similar to the tohi before battle. The next morning the rite called the hurihanga takapau (turning of the floor mat) was performed. The tohunga kindled two fires, the horokaka and the ahi ruahine. At each of these he roasted a single kumara. The priest ate the kumara from the horokaka, and handed that of the ahi ruahine to the ruahine, who ate it, and thus completed the whakanoa (tapu removal). The warriors were then free to eat food and mingle with the people. According to White, the warriors were not allowed to describe the war until they had eaten, or Tuu would be insulted. 55

(iii) Death

According to Tregear, the children of a dying man stood round him and at the moment of death, pulled and broke the lines of flax attached to his mat. If any line remained whole, that particular mourner would become sick. 56 Best records that a tuku wairua (soul despatching charm), also called wehe (to separate), was recited over a dying man. A similar rite was the hirihiri, in which an ara atua (atua path) was provided for the soul to leave the body, and a karakia was chanted to help it depart. 57

After death, the corpse was properly prepared and laid out in state. The tangi, or mourning, then took place, and the mourners lacerated themselves. According to White, after the corpse of a warrior killed in battle had been prepared, an old man ran, yelling, out of the house of the dead, danced for a while, then ran up to the corpse and stuck a spear by it, saying, “That is one for Tuu”. The old men of the tribe then formed into a square, and holding fernstalks with the hair of their enemies attached to them, - 14 walked up to the corpse. The priest chanted a pihe (dirge), and the warriors sang the chorus, “Tuu is enraged and Rongomai descends”. 58

According to Best, popoa (sacred food) was offered to the corpse before burial. When the burial party returned to the village, their tapu was lifted in a rite which involved immersion in water, followed by a feast in which popoa was eaten by the ariki (chief) and tohunga of the community. 59

A form of the tira ora rite was sometimes performed after burial. The tohunga set up the tira mate (wand of death) in the water, and recited the following over it: “Thou wand of Poo (Night, The Underworld), the great Poo, the long Poo, the dark Poo, the unseen Poo, the unsought Poo; stand there, ye wand, wand of Taane, wand of the Poo. Begone for ever to the Poo.” This karakia despatched the soul of the dead to Poo. The priest then erected the tira ora (wand of life) in the water, and recited over it: “Thou wand of this world, the great world, the long world, the dark world; stand there ye wand, the wand of Hikurangi, the wand of this world, of the world of light. Remain in this world”. This karakia was to preserve the welfare of the living. 60

The following is Shortland's description of a soul-despatching ritual performed after burial. The tohunga placed a stalk of toetoe (plume grass) or rarauhe (bracken) near the grave in the direction of Hawaiki, the land of spirits, so that the spirit might go in the straight line of those who had died before. This was named a tiri; 61 it was also placed near where the man had died, in order that his spirit might return as an atua for his living relations. The following was the karakia which the kaupapa (spirit medium) recited to persuade the spirit to climb the path of the tiri.

This is your path, the path of Taawhaki;
By it he climbed up to Rangi,
By it he mounted to your many,
To your thousands;
By it you approached,
By it you clung,
By it your spirit arrived safely
To your ancestors.
I now am here sighing,
Lamenting for your departed spirit,
Come, come to me in the form of a moth,
Come to me your kaupapa,
Whom you loved,
For whom you lamented.
Here is the tiri for you,
The tiri of your ancestors,
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The tiri of your pukenga,
The tiri of your waananga,
Of me this tauira (disciple). 62

Until their tapu was removed, the near relatives of the dead were not supposed to eat food during daylight. They ate at night, or if they were forced to eat during the day they would do so under the shadow of a branch. After burial, the mourners' tapu was removed by aspersion at the wai tapu (tapu water). By this means their grief and their mournful longing were effaced (horoia atu). This rite sometimes included ceremonial hair cutting, and sometimes human sacrifice. 63

The fullest description of a tapu removal rite for mourners is given by Shortland. 64 This rite is one that is said to have been performed for an ancestor of the Arawa. Although Shortland does not give the Maori text with his translation, internal evidence points to its reliability, for despite some obscurities the central themes are clearly apparent, and they conform to those of other tapu removal rituals. I have given it here almost in full, not only because of its interest but also because it is one of the longest and most detailed accounts of a tapu removal ritual.

On the death of his father Tuhoro, Ihenga went to his father's brother, Kahu, to have the pure 65 and horohoro 66 ceremonies performed to remove his tapu. After bathing, Kahu cut Ihenga's hair; this was part of the pure ceremony. The mauri (sacredness) of the hair was fastened to a stone representing an ancestor, and was placed on the tuuaahu. The next morning the pure was finished. Kahu chanted:

Complete the rite of pure
By which you will be free from
The evil influence of Poo
The bewitching power of Poo.
Free the canoe 67 from sacredness, O Rangi;
The canoe of stumbling unawares, O Rangi;
The canoe of death unawares, O Rangi
Darkness for the tipua (demon), darkness
Darkness for the Ancient-one, 68 darkness.
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Some light above,
Some light below.
Light for the tipua, light.
Light for the Antient-one, light.
The uwha 69 is held aloft.
A squeeze, a squeeze.
Protection from Tuu.

After this, they went to partake of food, and the oven of the kohukohu 70 was opened. While the oven was being uncovered by Hine-te-kakara she took care to turn aside her face, lest the savour of the kumara and the steam of the sacred oven should come near her mouth, lest evil should come to her. She did not even swallow her spittle, but constantly kept spitting it forth.

When the food was set before Kahu and Ihenga, Ihenga took up some of the kohukohu in which were wrapped two kumaras, and held it in his hand while Kahu chanted the following karakia:

Rangi, great Rangi,
Long Rangi, dark Rangi,
Darkling Rangi, white-star Rangi
Rangi shrouded in night.
Taane the first, Taane the second,
Taane the third [etc., to the tenth].
Tiki, 71 Tiki of the mound of earth,
Tiki gathered in the hands,
To form hands and legs,
And the fashion of a man,
Whence came living men.
Toi, Rauru, Whetima, Whetango, Te Atua-hae,
Toi-te-huatahi, Tuamatua, Houmaitahiti, Ngaatoroirangi,
And your first born male
Now living in the light of day. 72
Kahu then proceeded with the direct male line. . . . There ended the recitation of Kahu, and he went on to his own proper line:
Houmaitahiti, Tama, Tuhoro,
And to your offspring born to life,
And to the light of day.
This is your kohukohu of the horohoronga,
To make light the weight of the tapu.
He is free, he is released from tapu.
He goes safely where food is cooked,
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To the evil mighty spirits of Night,
To the kind mighty spirits of Night,
To the evil mighty spirits of Light,
To the kind mighty spirits of Light.

Then the kohukohu was offered as food to the stone images, and was divided for Houmaitahiti, for Ngaatoroirangi, for Tamatekapua and for Tuhoro, and was pressed into their mouths. 73 This being done, Ihenga took up another kohukohu and held it in his hand, raising it aloft, while Kahu chanted the following karakia:

For Hine-nui-te-poo, 74
For Whati-uri-mata-kaka,
For the evil old woman of Night,
For the kind old woman of Night,
For the evil old woman of Day,
For the kind old woman of Day,
For Kearoa,
Whose offspring is born to life,
And to the bright light of day,
This kohukohu is offered for you,
The kohukohu of the Ruahine.
He is free, he is no longer tapu.

The female atuas were then fed with the kohukohu as in the former case. Then part of the kohukohu was offered for the mother, Whakaotirangi. 75

Turn away Night, come Day.
This is the kohukohu of freedom,
And deliverance from tapu.

This done, Ihenga took up another kohukohu and held it aloft in his hand, while Kahu chanted thus:

Close up Night, close up Day,
Close up Night as the soft south wind.
The tapu of the food
And the mana of the food,
The food with which you are fed,
The food of Kutikuti,
The food of Pekapeka,
The food of Haua-te-rangi.
I eat, Uenuku eats.
I eat, Kahukura eats.
I eat, Rongomai eats.
- 18
I eat, Ihungaro eats.
I eat, Ituparoa eats.
I eat, Hangaroa eats.
I eat, Ngaatoroirangi eats.
I eat, Tama eats.
This ended, Kahu proceeded thus:
If I fall from the precipice,
Let me not be harmed.
If I fall on the brambles,
Let me not be scratched.
If I eat of the maihi 76 of tohunga's house,
Let me not be harmed.
Be thou undermost,
While I am uppermost.
Give me your mana to strike down.
Close tight your spirit-devouring teeth,
Close tight your man-devouring teeth.

Then Kahu spat on the kohukohu, breathed on it, and offered it to Tama (that is, to the image of Tama). Kahu and Ihenga then ate the food cooked for them in the sacred oven. Ihenga ate with a fork, while at the same time he fed Kahu with his left hand. Twenty days later, Kahu sent Ihenga to catch fish, to complete the ceremony of removing the tapu. Two ovens were prepared — a sacred oven for the tohungas and a free oven for the tauira (those being instructed). The tohungas on the right hand fed each other by hand, and the tauira on the left ate freely their unsacred food. Then they were no longer tapu.

In some areas, approximately four years after the original burial the exhumation of the bones of the dead (hahunga) took place. 77 The disinterring and cleaning of the bones took several days. At the end of each day, the workers had to strip and immerse themselves in a river while the tohunga performed a tapu removal ritual over them. 78 When the bones had all been collected and cleaned they were painted with red ochre, decorated with feathers, and put on display. The people who had gathered for the hahunga ceremony welcomed the arrival of the bones with wailing and dirges (tangi and pihe). 79

After the bones had been reinterred, the tapu of death was finally removed through the pure rite. The most important part of this was a ceremonial feast. 80 Over a long period of time an enormous amount of food had been collected, and the whole tribe or sub-tribe was invited to the feast. The following is a summary of Best's description of the feast. 81 - 19 The food was cooked in several ovens. Each one was for people with different types or degrees of tapu, and it was an extremely serious offence for a person to touch or eat food from an oven which was more tapu than his own. The following ovens were those used in a Tuuhoe pure rite:

1. Umu Tuuaakaha Food for the high priests
2. Umu Pootaka Food for the lower priests
3. Umu Whaangai Food for the ariki of the tribe (the most tapu of all)
4. Umu Ruahine Food for the ruahine employed in the whakanoa
5. Umu Pera Food for the warriors
6. Umu Tukupara Food for the common people

Before the feast began, the priest performed the whakauu rite over the food, to remove its tapu and so enable the people to eat it. 82 The rite also lifted the excess tapu from sacred persons, such as tohungas and arikis. Should the people eat before this rite had been performed, the food would turn upon them and destroy them. The priest took a small piece of food and offered it to the gods to give power to his invocation. He then took another offering, and holding it over the food, recited:

Your food of dedication
Your food Rangi, your food Papa
Your sacred food
Your food of the resting place of the corpses,
Your food of power
Your food of the pulpy consistency
Your food of the exposed member
Your food of the high born
Your food of the corpse's resting place
Extend thyself O rainbow in the heavens above
The power which you have given my member is of old
From the tapu all powerful, from the tapu of great influence
Bow down and prostrate yourself before the gods.

The priest then lifted the food to his mouth, and said:

Let us eat, eat, eat! E kai taatau, e kai, e kai!
Let us eat of the power of the heavens Kai atu taatau ki ngaa ihi i te rangi
Let us eat of the sanctity of the heavens Kai atu taatau ki ngaa tapu i te rangi
Let us eat with the men of learning Kai atu taatau ki ngaa ruaanuku
Let us eat of the food prepared for the exhumation Kai atu taatau ki ngaa rua kooiwi
Let us eat beside the resting place of the corpses Kai atu taatau ki ngaa rua tuupaapaku
Let us eat with the sacred gods Kai atu taatau ki ngaa atua tapu
Let us eat with the celestial powers Kai atu taatau ki ngaa mana i te rangi
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Let us share the misfortunes Mate rouroua tiritiria, makamaka
That the descendants of the gods may partake of it Kia kai mai te ati tipua
That the descendants of man may partake! Kia kai mai te ati tawhito!
Eat, eat! E kai, e kai l
Let our throats be speedy E horo, e horo oo taatou kakii
That we may eat of things terrestrial Kia kai nuku taatau
That we may eat of things celestial Kia kai rangi taatau
That we may eat [in the manner?] of the high born Kia kai maataamua taatau
That we may partake of a portion which is sacred! Kia kai waahi tapu taatau! 1
1   These two translations are by N. K. Hopa 1966:282-4. But as Best considered that parts of them were too obscure to translate (Best 1924a:2, 73) they should be treated with some reservation. Hopa has translated lines 4 and 6-8 differently from the rest of the karakia, where kai atu taatau ki is transitive. In view of the generally aggressive nature of tapu removal which will be described in subsequent chapters, I see no reason why the verb should not be transitive in these lines also. Moreover, as the food which the priest holds to his mouth has, in the previous karakia, been identified with Rangi, the high born, the resting place of the corpses, etc., it would be possible to translate line 6, for example, as “let us eat [the food] of the resting place of the corpses”, and other relevant lines similarly.

The feast could then begin.

- 21

In this chapter, having distinguished religious from social passage, I indicate the importance to the Maori of achieving passage between different states of life through rituals of separation. I then give a brief description of those aspects of the ultrahuman world which are necessary to an understanding of tapu removal. The rest of the chapter is a description of some of the more important aspects of the method, nature and aims of tapu removal in Maori ritual. It compares pure and polluting agents of tapu removal, shows how pollution of a tapu is accomplished purely and safely by pure people, indicates the relationship of pollution to strife, and finally, shows how objects or qualities can be retained or “fixed” in the human world by separating them from their ultrahuman source.

(i) Social and Religious Passage

In this chapter I analyse Maori rituals in terms of the beliefs on which they were based and not in terms of their social context. Yet Gluckman, in criticising Van Gennep, has said that “the modern anthropologist” shows that rituals are “to be understood in terms of the social relations which are involved in rituals.” 83 The nature of the material on Maori ritual is such, however, that this approach could not be used. I shall show briefly how the Maori differentiated social and religious passage, and why their rites of passage should be understood in religious terms.

Since Van Gennep, the term “rites of passage” has chiefly been applied to life crisis rituals rather than to other kinds. In this way marriage and initiation, which are indisputably cases of social passage, are grouped together with birth and death rituals, which, although they involve alterations in social status, do not constitute passage between two social groups. Among the Maori, passage between ultrahuman and human worlds was ritualised, and passage within the social world was not. The Maori had no initiation rites, and in marriage and accession to leadership the only formal element involved was that of public ratification; there were no religious rites. 84

To turn to those rituals which I have described as marking religious passage, the rituals described in the previous chapter appear to lack any distinctly social dimension. The reader has only to compare Firth's description of Tikopian birth rituals 85 with that of Maori birth rituals on - 22 pp. 9-11 to be struck with the enormous difference between them. Kin relationships and gift exchanges feature very largely in Firth's description of birth rituals; purification is mentioned only once as a “minor event.” 86 In contrast, accounts of Maori rituals, including those of birth, very rarely contain any mention of the kin relationships of those involved. Best's description of the ceremonial gathering of father's and mother's relatives at birth and the giving of gifts to the child is unique, and comes from a highly suspect source. 87 Consequently, a Maori birth ritual must be understood in terms of the explicitly religious purpose of its component acts, the removal of a child from its ultrahuman origin and the incorporation of desired qualities. In this way, birth rituals have more in common with the ritual performed at the felling of a tree, which can scarcely “be understood in terms of the social relations which are involved”, than with marriage, which can be so understood.

In stressing the religious basis of Maori rituals I do not wish to give the impression that they had no social aspects. If the description of Maori rituals had been based on the observation of socially conscious ethnographers, rather than on the memories of religiously inclined Maoris, we might have had a far clearer idea of their social dimension than we actually do have. Two social aspects of Maori tapu removal rites may be mentioned here. Firstly, some rituals, for example that of the hahunga (exhumation), were the occasion for big feasts, which had, of course, important social functions, such as the gathering together of the various divisions of the tribe. 88 Secondly, rituals performed for important people or objects had the effect of honouring them. These social aspects cannot, however, explain the form a rite takes. For example, when a female steps over a child in a birth ritual (see p. 10), in any other context this would have the effect of dishonouring the child. Acts such as these must be explained in ideological terms.

(ii) Tapu Removal and Passage

The rites which are described in the previous chapter reveal the three stages of passage described by Van Gennep, namely separation, margin, and incorporation. Particularly clear are the acts of separation at the beginning of each rite, for example hair cutting, lustration and soul despatching and the act of incorporation at the end of each rite, eating. In this chapter, however, I am concerned with the meaning these ritual acts have for the Maori, and shall show that eating, like the ritual acts which preceded it, was primarily aimed at separation. Separation usually involved incorporation, and even where a ritual was aimed specifically at incorporation, this end was achieved through acts of separation. Consequently, passage from one state of life to another was achieved by a series of acts which were all directed at separation, but which for the most part also involved incorporation. The concept which appears most frequently to - 23 describe the nature of this passage is tapu removal. These statements can be illustrated by a brief summary of the rites described in the previous chapter.

In the tohi or tuuaa rites performed at birth, both the cutting of the umbilical cord and the child's immersion in water involved the removal of its tapu and the incorporation of desirable qualities. Similarly, the umu whaangai which terminated the birth ritual and involved the eating of food by the ruahine is described as removing a tapu and giving a tapu.

Before war, the tohi rite was performed to separate the warriors from hara and to encourage them to brave deeds. It is significant that courage was not envisaged as a gift begged from the gods. For the Maori, a positive was most typically achieved through the negation of a negative. Thus the occasion of the warriors' encouragement was the removal from them in the tohi rite of the hara and other evil influences which could induce nervousness and defeat. The tira ora rite, also performed before war, in which the pole of death was knocked down and the pole of life left standing, provides a further illustration of this tendency. The tapu was placed on the warriors in the horokaka rite, which involved the eating of a sacred offering. The semantic evidence indicates that like the tohi, this was a removal as well as an incorporation of tapu, for horo means “to crumble down” as well as “to swallow”, while whakahoro means “to cause to crumble down” and “to free from tapu”. 89 After a war, the tohi and horokaka rites were again performed, this time to remove the war tapu but retain the warriors' courage. Thus, both entrance to a war tapu and departure from it were achieved through very similar acts of tapu removal.

Death rituals conformed to the same pattern. They aimed at removing the dead man's spirit from the world of the living, and removing the living from their association with death. Moreover, the ritual which finally reincorporated the people into life was also a tapu removal ritual (the pure rite).

Tapu removal was not, however, confined to important life crises. Life involved many other dangerous passages which could only be achieved successfully through ritual. Indeed, it might be true to say in Van Gennep's words that “Life itself means to separate and be united” 90, although for the Maori it would perhaps be more correct to say, “Life itself means to separate”.

The Maori regarded life not as an evenly developing process but as a discontinuous series of states. A man did not grow old, old age entered into him. “Tura's weaknesses have touched you, the aituaa sits secretly - 24 in you.” 91 Trees which changed the form of their leaves at different periods of growth were called by different names. 92 The passages which separated the different stages or states of life, whether they were spatial, manufacturing, organic, or of any other type, were dangerous. They were dangerous because they connected the natural and the cultural, the known and the unknown, life and death. Ideally, the Maori would have preferred that there were no passage, that men were like the stars, separate from one another, whole and unchangeable. 93 Instead, life was seen to be composed of dangerous passages. However, these passages could be achieved through tapu removal ritual in a way which not only circumscribed their danger but also ensured benefit to man. It was only when men violated tapu (hara) that the danger of failing to keep separate what should be kept separate was realised.

In the context of passage, tapus are relative. They are those states that are entered into, or departed from, in ritual tapu removal or hara. 94 The possible etymological meaning of tapu as “marked off” would in many ways seem a particularly apposite one. 95

To illustrate these statements, let us take first a possible sequence of events from warfare: a tapu warrior entered the war tapu through a ritual of separation. While under the war tapu, he committed a hara, and was plunged into a tapu of nervousness which was removed by a ruahine stepping over him. But he was now tapu because a woman had stepped over him, and this tapu was removed by a priest. 96 After the battle the tapu of blood was removed from his hands, and on his return home the war tapu was finally removed and he was returned to his normal tapu.

To take another example, there was a tapu removal ritual before cutting down a tree, before removing it from its stump, and before using the house or canoe made from it. Before and after these rituals various tapu rules had to be kept.

The Maori themselves recognised this pattern of states and intervening passages in the saying “Rongo tapu hingahinga,” which literally translated means, “the tapu of Rongo (the kumara) falls frequently or in numbers as on the battlefield”. Best said that this meant that “the tuber frequently changes its condition, being tapu at some periods, as when growing, or stored; and noa or free from tapu at other times, as when being conveyed to the store pits, and when cooked”. 97

The ritual circumscription of spatial passages followed the same pattern. When going on a journey one performed a rite to ward off the evil influences which might affect one, and on returning one removed the tapu - 25 of the people one had visited, or if landing on shore, the tapu of the sea. Walsh describes how the visitors to a haakari (feast) counteracted the tapu of their hosts' food, while their hosts counteracted their visitors' incantations, and the visitors then performed some more counteracting ritual. 98 The same concern for separation was shown even in parting greetings, when the person staying said, “Go!”, and the person departing said, “Stay there!”

The above description of passage shows how important separation was to the Maori. Separation meant purity and life, and confusion impurity and death. As we shall see, this is a theme which is much harped upon in myth. For example, the separation of Heaven and Earth brought life and light into the world, while the incest of Taane, the progenitor of man, was the cause of death entering the world. Moreover, it was not only the cosmos, a man's progress through time and space, agricultural and other processes which were organised according to the principle of keeping separate the different states of life; Maori society was organised on similar lines. It was a hierarchy in which men maintained their tapu (which involved both their safety and their status), just as they maintained their fortified villages, by protecting their boundaries. Tapu rules regulated how they ate, with whom they ate, and what they did with the remnants of their meal or anything else that belonged to their persons.

(iii) Tapu and the Gods

The power of tapus derived from the gods. 99 To infringe a tapu was to anger the gods and to expect their displeasure. Inversely, a misfortune such as illness was the work of the gods, and proved that a tapu had been broken.

Sometimes a tapu was believed to derive from one particular god; the tapu of war, for example, derived from Tuu, and the tapu of death from the dead man, who through his death had become an atua (god). However, this is by no means always true. As regards India, Dumont and Pocock have said that belief in gods is relative and subject to belief in purity and impurity. 100 The same could be said of the relationship of Maori gods to tapu. It is significant that Te Matorohanga said that “the tapu was all important — the first of all things; without it none of the powers of the gods were available. . . .” 101 When tapus were ritually removed what was primary was the unwanted condition or state hindering the continuation of life, whether it were that pertaining to illness, war, birth, a lesson, a tree stump or the construction of a house; these tapus, however, manifested the power of the gods, as their infringement would too clearly prove.

The Maori word most commonly translated as god is atua. But as Best noted, this word was seldom used to describe the primal gods, the children of Rangi (Heaven) and Papa (Earth): Taane, Tuu, Rongo, Taawhiri and - 26 Haumia, who were more usually described as ancestors (tuupuna). There were many ways in which the primal ancestors differed from other Maori gods. Most Maori gods were human ancestors, but the primal children were ancestors who had never been human. These gods could represent the whole category of nature over which they presided, or any constituent element of it. Taane, for example, presided over trees, birds and insects and could punish offences committed within his department, such as wrongful tree felling; but he was also “the timber from which are fashioned canoes and dwellings” 102 — when a Maori cut down a tree he might say “Taane has fallen”. 103 Similarly there was a difference between the Tangaroa the Maori caught as fish, and the Tangaroa who punished with storms infringements of his tapu; and between Rongo as kumara, and Rongo as god of agriculture. 104 The point to be emphasised here is that as nature, the ultrahuman was both more powerful and less powerful than man. It was manipulated by man, but man in his turn could be manipulated by it.

The primal ancestors provided a classification of man's world at a high level of generality which was common to all their descendants. They were not, however, active in man's affairs in the same way that other, more localised gods were. Although the mana and tapu of Tuu were essential in wartime, it was some other god, such as a tribal atua or the spirit of a still-born child, who was consulted as an oracle. I think it is this executive power, the ability to help or harm — particularly the latter — which characterises atua when the word is used in contradistinction to the primal ancestors. 105

The ultrahuman world was the source of good fortune and of misfortune. There were pure and protective tapus, and there were impure and destructive tapus. I shall consider the former first.

Tapu men derived their tapu from their ancestors, the gods, who dwelt in them. “The tapu and the divinity are constantly inherited by the descendants in this line.” 106 The more direct a man's descent from the gods, the greater his tapu, the higher his rank. 107 A man's atua helped and protected him, particularly through the sending of omens, and when a man was extraordinarily successful his power was attributed to his atua. 108 When men undertook important endeavours such as war, house building, fishing and agriculture, the strict observance of tapus would ensure success. In relation to the gods, therefore, this type of tapu meant protection from misfortune. In relation to men, it meant status; and a pollution of a man's - 27 tapu by another man was usually regarded as an insult rather than as a vital misfortune. 109 It was, however, the danger aspect of pollution, the fact that pollution of a man's tapu was an insult to his gods, that sanctioned revenge. 110

The ultrahuman world was also the source of misfortune. According to Best, the generally understood meaning of the word atua was “malignant power”. 111 Similarly, tapus, however necessary, were dangerous and restrictive. Indeed, the negative form of most Maori rituals and the words of many of their accompanying karakias suggest that tapus were perhaps more readily associated with misfortune than good fortune. White men, it was considered, thrived because they were tapu-less. 112

The destructive aspect of tapu revealed itself when men committed hara. Hara caused tapus to “turn against you” (kaupapa whiti) 113. The man's atua left him, and he was defenceless against danger. 114 Or, alternatively, he was possessed by a destructive atua. According to Shortland, a neglect of tapu caused the atua of the family to punish the offender by sending some infant spirit to feed on his body. 115 These infant spirits (atua kahu) were the most aggressive and polluting type of man-eating god (atua ngau tangata). They were the wairua (spirits) of abortions who had entered an animal such as a lizard. Such a god was therefore doubly marginal and polluting; it was an incomplete human being in a marginal animal (a lizard was an ika whenua or land fish).

Pure and impure tapus were multi-referential. Their two most important spheres of reference were vitality (that which pertained to life and death) and status. As we have seen, the tapu of a man involved his status and his life. This type of tapu was protective but very vulnerable. An impure tapu, on the other hand, did not relate primarily to status; women (with the exception of women of high birth) and slaves were noa, free from tapu, of no moment, ordinary. However, through the impurity of their sexual organs, women shared the powerful and destructive nature of an impure tapu. Thus the two sexes were associated with the two types of tapu. Man, who was descended from the gods, was associated with ora (life) and ao (day). Woman, who was descended from Papa (Earth Mother, wife of Rangi), was associated with mate (death) and Poo (Night). Poo was the period of time when Papa's children moved within her womb, and had as its counterpart human pregnancy. It was also the underworld to which men returned in death. 116 These associations formed the basis of many of - 28 the ritual separations of life and death described in the previous chapter. 117

It should be remembered, however, that these two types of tapu, the pure, heavenly, ancestral and protective tapu, and the impure, earthly, organic and destructive tapu, were not so much different types of tapu as different aspects of the one ultrahuman world, reflecting the ambivalence of man's attitude toward it. Although there were some atua which were particularly malevolent and polluting and some which were primarily benevolent, the main feature of the ultrahuman world as a whole was its dual nature. Similarly, the tapus which the Maori removed in tapu removal rituals had two aspects. A dead man was both a corpse who descended into the earth, and an ancestral spirit who ascended to heaven. 118 Man was born out of the womb and Poo, but this was also the world of his ancestors. Finally, as I have described above, Taane, Rongo, and other parts of nature were both strong ancestors and edible food.

(iv) Agents of Tapu Removal

Just as a man's protective tapu was removed through pollution in hara, so the most effective way of removing a destructive tapu ritually was through pollution. The two most important agents of pollution were cooked food and the female. Cooking and the vagina were the means whereby food and man were transferred from the ultrahuman to the human world. Hence their ability to remove both protective and destructive tapus.

To consider first cooked food. Cooked food was associated specifically with the human world, whereas the gods typically eat only raw food. Cooking deprived food of its tapu, it made it noa. The eating of cooked food completed the process, and was thus primarily an act of removal and, as we shall subsequently see, an act of aggression, rather than an act of incorporation. Because of the polluting effects of cooked food, tapu men normally tried to distance themselves from it. For example, the most tapu men did not touch their food for fear of endangering their tapu, and when men undertook tapu tasks they fasted. To bring cooked food into contact with something tapu was the most usual way of committing a hara; but again, to remove the resultant tapu in tapu removal ritual, cooked food was used. The cooking of food and contact with it or the eating of it was the most common method of tapu removal. Usually it constituted either the chief part of a tapu removal ritual or its termination.

The vagina acted in a very similar way, for this, too, mediated and could hence separate the human and ultrahuman worlds. The vagina is te ara mai o te tangata (the pathway of mankind), the path whereby man leaves the womb, which is associated with Poo (the world of darkness), and enters - 29 the Ao Maarama (the world of light). But it is also the path of death, being called te whare o te mate, o aituaa (the house of misfortune and death), for it was the vagina that squeezed Maaui to death and thus brought death into the world.

Like cooked food, the vagina was the agent of both hara and ritual tapu removal. For example, if a woman passed over the place where a canoe was being made, the gods deserted that spot because the female organ had desecrated its tapu. 119 However, one method of removing a tapu and retrieving life was to pass again through the vagina. For example, to remove the tapu from a new house the ruahine sat astride the ridgepole, an act called whakaputanga. 120 (Among the meanings of puta are: “opening”, “vagina”, “blister”, “escape”, “move from one place to another”, “pass through in or out”, “come, come out”, “be born”.) 121 Best's informants, too, told him that a woman was employed as ruahine because she brought man into the world. 122 When a ruahine ate tapu food in tapu removal rites she was therefore in two ways an agent of polluting humanisation.

Another common method of removing a tapu was the ngau paepae rite. This was performed to cure sickness, to protect from maakutu (sorcery) and to remove other tapus, and it involved the biting (ngau) of a latrine beam (paepae). The beam, like the vagina, separated day and night. In the words of Tutaka, “The beam is a separating beam. The other side of the beam is called kouka. It is night (Te Poo), it is Hine-nui-te-poo. Everything perishes there.” 123 The beam could be used to transfer people not only from death, but also into death, in maakutu. “If the spirit (that is, the wairua of the one who is to be bewitched) gets to the other side of the beam, it is killed.” 124

In addition to excrement, there were other polluting products of the body's margins which were able not only to pollute protective tapus but also remove destructive ones. Urine, for example, could be used either to cure wounds and ailments or to humiliate an enemy and deprive him of power. 125 Saliva had similar powers. 126

To sum up, the role of agents of pollution may be represented thus:

Family Tree. Pure tapu (Life)., Ritual tapu removal, Vagina cooked food Latrine beam etc., Hara and Maakutu, Impure tapu (Death)
- 30

From this description of polluting agents it is clear that for the Maori purification was not achieved through the transference of purity, but by the counteraction of impurity through powerful means. This applies not only to polluting agents of tapu removal, but also to pure ones, such as hair and the penis. Although these latter were, like the polluting agents already considered, marginal and powerful, they were pure in that they could remove only impure and unwanted tapus not pure ones in the way that the vagina and cooked food could. The purity of a man's hair and penis was, however, different to that of his head. A man's head was extremely vulnerable to pollution; its purity reflected the vulnerability of success and status. Hair, too, was vulnerable to pollution, but it had the power to remove tapu, as had also the penis. 127 Hair, for example, was used in a rite to cure insanity, and it could also repel taniwhas, or sea monsters. 128 The penis was used in the kai ure (“Attack the penis”) rite to avert maakutu; if a man suspected he was being attacked by a sorcerer, he retired to a secluded spot, grasped his penis with his left hand, and recited a kai ure karakia such as,

Attack the penis!
Death weaken and pass by!
Let what you attack
Be my penis. 129

The penis could also be used instead of the vagina to remove nervousness before battle. In this case the nervous person passed between the legs of his ariki or tohunga. 130 According to the Maori, the penis and hair were used in such rites as the above to impart mana to karakia. 131

Male hair and the penis were not, however, such powerful repelling agents as their female counterparts, and when they were used instead of these there was often some special reason for their use. For example, the penis was used to remove nervousness during wartime when a woman was not available. 132 Similarly, a factor in the use of male hair to subdue taniwhas may have been the fact that women did not frequently go out in sea-going canoes. When they did go, it was their hair which was used. 133 Finally, one factor in the use of the penis in the kai ure rite to avert maakutu may have been the need for secrecy.

Pure and polluting agents of tapu removal can also be compared in the context of the rites of passage described in the previous chapter. In these, pure acts of separation preceded polluting acts, but both were aimed at the removal of tapu. In lustration, the water absorbed the tapu, which was then carried away. 134 In the tira ora rite, the tira mate was made to absorb - 31 the tapu and was cast down. The tapu could also be removed along an ara atua (atua path) such as a stalk. The cutting of hair and of the umbilical cord were other methods which were used. In no important rite of passage, however, was a tapu finally removed until tapu food had been cooked and eaten.

The cooking and eating of food could be seen merely as the way in which the rite was completed and its participants reincorporated into normal life, but they were far more than this. Just as the vagina was a more powerful agent of tapu removal than the penis, cooked food was a very much more powerful agent of removal than water. Whereas many rites consisted entirely of the cooking and eating of food, there were very few rites in which a tapu was removed solely through pure separation. Indeed, according to Best, the terms ahi (fire) and umu (oven) were used as we employ the word “rite”. 135 Cooking and eating were so important because they transformed the ultrahuman into the human. In Best's words, “cooked food is the very antithesis of tapu”. 136 In contrast, when water was used in tapu removal rituals it came from the wai tapu (tapu water), and was not therefore antagonistic to a tapu in the same way that cooked food was. Polluting agents were able to repel impurities on their own plane. In Lévy-Bruhl's words, they were the “counter impurities” of impurity. 137 For example, if a Maori found a lizard on his path he would avert the omen by killing it, then getting a woman to step over it. 138 Here, something marginal and polluting within the ultrahuman world was counteracted by something marginal and polluting between the ultrahuman and human worlds.

I do not think that it is possible to tell what meaning the typical sequence of pure and polluting separation in rites of passage had for the Maori by studying the rituals alone. The sequence is, however, an important feature of the Creation and other myths, and its meaning will be discussed in the course of their analysis. One possible aspect of the relationship can be tentatively raised here. The pollution of the gods, even when effected ritually, was difficult and dangerous; the officiating priest had to be a man of mana, and any mistake in the recitation of karakia could be fatal to him. One reason for acts of pure separation before the pollution of a tapu might therefore have been to weaken the tapu to such an extent that it could be polluted safely. One such act that was probably performed for this reason was the propitiation of the gods.

Propitiation was of central importance in tapu removal rites. In the horohoro rite described on pp. 16-18, for example, the core of the ritual was the offering of cooked food to the ancestors, followed by the eating of cooked food by man. A typical example is a karakia recited on the removal of tapu from a tree which was to be made into a canoe:

You will eat O Taane
I will eat O Taane
Thus will the teachers be freed
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Thus will the wise ones be cleansed
And thus I the disciple will be freed. 139

In one sense the propitiation of the gods was a pure act, an act of pure resacralisation rather than of polluting desacralisation. When the gods were propitiated a tapu fire was kindled, food was cooked, the cooked food absorbed the tapu, and the food containing the tapu was offered to the gods. If the person conducting the rite was of sufficient tapu, the offering to the gods was eaten by him as their representative. 140 Similarly, in many rites the tapu food was eaten by the ruahine. Best said that the cooked food “removes or absorbs as it were the tapu which is then transferred to the ruahine who represents the tapu spirits of ancestral beings”. 141

In this way, the tapu belonging to the heavenly ancestors could be sent back to them through the mediation of the people who were genealogically most closely connected with them. Shortland, for example, wrote:

“The heads of families in both male and female lines are regarded by their own family with a veneration almost akin to that of their atua. They form as it were the links of connection between the living and dead and the ceremony of releasing anything from the restriction of tapu cannot be perfected without their intervention.” 142

Similarly, one of Best's informants said “Do not omit these aho ariki (genealogies of arikis) in tapu lifting rites and sacred offerings.” 143

But there was another dimension to the offering of cooked food to the gods. The gods were not only ancestors, they were also nature, man's food. The cooking of food polluted its tapu. The offering of cooked food to the gods did not just transfer the tapu to them, it also polluted them. In so far as the ariki and ruahine were the tapu representatives of their ancestors, the eating of food could be seen as a pure act of transference; but in so far as the ariki was a man and the ruahine a polluting female, the eating of food by them was an act of pollution. In this way, what was in effect an act of polluting desacralisation was made to appear to the gods as if it were an

Family Tree. Resacralisation or pure transference, Desacralisation or pollution, Heaven, Tapu medium e.g. ariki and ruahine, — Tapu Heavenly ancestors, Earthly nature, — cooking and eating by man, Noa
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act of pure resacralisation or propitiation. Thus pollution was accomplished purely and safely.

(v) Tapu removal and Subjugation

It may seem strange that cooked food, being so polluting, should play such a prominent part in prestigious rituals conducted by high-ranking people. But it must be remembered that to pollute someone else ritually is completely different to being oneself the object of pollution. The ritual pollution of a tapu has the opposite effect of hara — subjugation of the gods, rather than by the gods. Purification, with its connotation of cleaning away dirt, would be a very misleading translation of Maori words for tapu removal. A tapu is not just a manipulable condition or state, it derives from the gods with whom a man can fight. To cook and eat tapu food does not just pollute a tapu, it conquers it. The word whakanoa means not only “to make free from tapu”, but also “to bring within one's power”. In the tapu removal karakia (p. 18), the gods are addressed with the words,

Be thou undermost
While I am uppermost.

When the ariki polluted the gods with an offering of cooked food, therefore, he was in effect depriving them of power. Moreover, the offering could also be seen as a gift placing the gods in an inferior position. 144 In both ways, propitiation was an act of control. The following taumaha illustrates this, a taumaha being an incantation recited when food was offered to the gods and thereby freed from tapu. This one was recited when the first bird was roasted for the gods:

Blessings on the embers, on the rake, on the poker
Doomed to die, doomed to be destroyed
The tapu is taken from Tupa, cleansed is Rakai-hika
Cleansed is the adjunct to the taamoe ritual 145
Now does the thanksgiving (taumaha) arise over thy hands
Yield to the thanksgiving
Be extinguished by the thanksgiving. 146

Hair, like food, was used in tapu removal rites as an agent of control disguised as an act of propitiation. For example, while one account describes a taniwha departing after he had been appeased by a gift of hair, 147 another account says that hair was thrown at a taniwha, thus depriving him of strength. 148 Maori words with connotations both of control and propitiation include: here “to tie, bind”, “to conciliate, propitiate”; whakaepa - 34 “to cast, throw”, “to conciliate, propitiate”; 149 whakawhere “to induce, prevail upon, propitiate”, “to oppress, maltreat”; whakatahe “abortion”, “sacred food offered to atua”, “to cause to abort”, “to clear of obstructions”.

If the significance for the Maori of the cooking and eating of food in ritual is to be properly understood, it must be seen within the context of a warrior society. The Maori did not only eat their gods, they also ate each other. I wish now therefore to consider the role of strife in Maori ideology, before returning to consider in more detail tapu removal as subjugation.

War was for the Maori he tohu rangatira, a mark of nobility. 150 “Strife” (paka), said one Maori, “is the most important thing remaining in this mortal world.” 151 The Christian idea of loving one's enemies was entirely alien to the Maori. Hongi considered Christianity to be a religion possibly fit for slaves, but irrelevant for warriors. 152

Strife was an idiom in which the Maori described their world. Aetiological myths are usually in terms of strife. For example, when the families of cockles and mussels quarrelled, the cockles dug themselves into the sand. The mussels attacked them, but when they thrust out their tongues these became clogged with sand, and they were thus defeated. 153 Again, the Pounamu tribe (greenstone) fled from Hawaiki because of their enmity with flint and grindstone. 154 But flint and grindstone followed after them, and so are used by the Maori “to help him subdue the stubborn Pounamu”. 155

Thus the war between man and god is not the only war there is. The elements of nature are themselves at war with one another, and, as in the above example, man is aided by their antagonism. Another example is that of the warfare between Taane and Tangaroa which was caused by Taane sheltering the children of Tangaroa, the reptiles:

“Taane supplies the offspring of his brother Tuu-matauenga with canoes, with spears and with fish hooks made from his trees and with nets woven from his fibrous plants that they may destroy the offspring of Tangaroa; whilst Tangaroa in return, swallows up the offspring of Taane, over-whelming canoes with the surges of his sea, swallowing up the lands, trees and houses that are swept off by floods, and ever wastes away with his lapping waves the shores that confine him. . . .” 156

Not only does Taane help man against Tangaroa, but Tangaroa helps man against Taane. In the building of the Te Arawa canoe, the axe used to chop down the chosen tree was dipped in the sea. In the tapu removal ritual performed when the trunk was hauled away from its stump, the karakia chanted included the following words. - 35

I have struck it [the tree] with the axe
Of the sounding seas
I have mounted up on the great
Foaming girdle of the sea god Tangaroa. 157

Strife is based on the principle of utu, which means to make return for anything, to pay: either a gift with a return gift, or an insult with vengeance. 158 Just as the return gift should be greater than the initial one, so is the initial insult paid back with interest in revenge. Hence the proverb “a little dispute, a great revenge”. Thus the most important element in vengeance was, as Lévy-Bruhl has pointed out, the necessity to meet action with counteraction. 159 The principle of utu was of pervasive importance in Maori life. Misfortunes, for example, whether they were humanly or divinely caused, had to be counteracted.

Misfortunes such as sickness, fear, grief and thwarted love were imaged as attacks from outside, which in many instances is the same as saying that they were ultrahuman in origin. A woman whose husband had just died sang that she was possessed by memories of him. 160 Similarly, a forsaken women called her lover an atua when she sang:

And the cliff of Mitiwai is fading away like smoke.
Beneath [that cliff] is the god of my love (atua e aroha nei au).
Have done, spirit (wairua), the work of intrusion. 161

Fear also was an external intrusion, being caused by the influence of a hostile spirit. 162 A man was not therefore morally responsible if he lost his nerve before battle, and according to Johnstone there was no such thing as cowardice among the Maori. 163 All these emotions could be removed by tapu removal rituals. Fear was removed by stepping between the legs of an ariki or ruahine, while grief and love could be removed by lustration. 164 In this way a man's experience was made subject to him, instead of he to it.

Even where a misfortune was humanly caused, and had therefore to be revenged, the misfortune was also a tapu which had to be removed. For example, the pollution of a curse or insult was removed in a rite which included the sweeping of the spirits of the insulted man's enemies into a pit. 165 Similarly, an unnatural death necessitated both tapu removal and revenge, and the rite of tapu removal provided an occasion for a man's expression of anger (see p. 13). It is also significant in this context that Polack wrote that “In the South West part of North Island the surviving relations discharge several rounds of ball cartridge towards the villages of their enemies, for the soul to lie at rest, and which alone can dissolve the tapu.” 166

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It was a terrible thing for a Maori if he was unable for some reason to revenge an insult. There was a special word, whakamomore, which described the brooding state of mind caused by such an inability. One Maori said of the missionaries that “they were very solemn and had a gloominess about them as if all their relations had been eaten and they were powerless to get revenge”. 167 In such a state of mind it was only by some desperate act of violence that a Maori could recover his self-respect. 168

Accidents too had to be counteracted. If a man let a child fall into the fire or if he fell off his horse, utu for the misfortune was gained through the institution of muru, or plunder. 169 Baucke gives the meaning of muru as “obliterating by violent friction, destroying, cleansing and exacting retribution by force”. 170

This description of utu shows how important it was to the Maori to counteract the aggression of misfortune, whether through ritual tapu removal, revenge, or muru, all of which were closely analogous forms of utu.

For the Maori, aggression was closely associated with cooking and eating. Their world was not only one of mutual strife but also one of mutual consumption. According to Hochstetter, “the chiefs of the Bay of Islands answered the missionaries as these were lamenting about the monstrous custom of man eating: ‘large fishes eat up small ones; dogs eat men; men dogs; dogs each other; birds each other; one God another’.” 171 Cooking and eating, and fighting and killing provided almost interchangeable idioms. Paka, for example, means “to cook” and “to quarrel”; maruu means “cooked”, “bruised”, “killed”; ngau means “to bite” and “to attack”, and kai, “to eat”, has similar connotations (see p. 30); horo means “to swallow” and “to cause to crumble down”; iki means “to consume” and “to devastate, sweep away”. To cook and eat something was to conquer it, or else was a sign that it had been conquered. Hence to pollute a man's tapu with cooked food was to deprive him of mana and place him in the relationship of victim to his victor. Conversely, a man who was conquered or killed was “fit for food” 172. “The god is gone and Hapopo (the body so-called in times of war) may be eaten.” 173 Or if he were enslaved, he was still liable to be eaten at any time.

All tapus, whether protective or destructive, involved subjection to the gods, and it is very significant that Kararehe described tapus as feeding on man. 174 Metaphorical expressions relating to cooking and eating were among the commonest types of metaphor the Maori used. A man who climbed trees was food for their roots. 175 A man who felt humiliated called himself a cooked potato. 176 Sexual intercourse was described in - 37 terms of eating (te kai a Tiki and kaikaiaatara). Considering that sickness, especially stomach ache, and death were evidence that man really was eaten by the gods, metaphors of eating must have had far deeper emotional significance for the Maori than equivalent metaphors have for us. Moreover, eating constituted an idiom in which the Maori could relate together all types of disparate relationships which they understood in terms of subjection. In ritual one sees how eating formed part of a symbolic system which was useful not only expressively but also instrumentally. Tapu removal hinged on the eating idiom. If a man saw himself as being eaten or otherwise subjected by the gods in tapus, in tapu removal it was he who ate the gods.

Let your atua and your tapu
Be food for me to eat 177

If a man committed some act of hara, one way of removing his tapu was to bite the latrine beam in the ngau paepae rite. The following is the beginning of a karakia chanted on such an occasion.

Bite the beam, bite the terror
Bite the head of the atua
Bite the heavens above
Bite the earth below. 178

The following are further examples of ways in which the Maori controlled the gods by aggressively polluting them. First, a legend:

A certain tohunga was insulted by someone, so he sent a man to take away the mana of their tribal ancestor, a taniwha, or sea monster, by putting cooked food at the mouth of his den. The taniwha was thereby forced to come to the tohunga, who ordered him to eat the offender. 179

Ritual control was exercised in a similar fashion. Winds could be deprived of power by a woman calling them pookokohua (cook head), a terrible curse' 180 Another way of controlling the wind was to recite the tuuaaumu karakia which ended with the words “A fish cut open, a fish cut up, a fish disembowelled”, meaning that the wind was to be treated in the same way as a human enemy for the oven. 181

To procure an abortion, a woman would take some cooked food to a tapu place or put it in contact with a tapu person. This would pollute and kill the foetus. 182 To ward off maakutu on a journey, food was cooked on a special fire in the whakauu rite, part was eaten, and part was placed in the travellers' belts. 183 Cooked food was also used to scare away patupaiarehe (sprites) and other mischievous spirits. 184

The most extreme method of controlling the gods in this way was to cook and eat them. Thus lizards, which were atua ngau tangata (man- - 38 eating gods), were on occasion ceremonially eaten. When Downes asked the Whanganui why they killed the personification of an atua, they answered: “You say in the Bible we are to resist the devil, we therefore resist him by killing him.” 185 Hammond, also referring to the West Coast tribes, said that if an atua or image was injuring the people it would be put in a fire on which food was cooking, the ariki would repeat incantations, and all the members of the tribe would then eat the food. 186

Even where a tapu was a protective one, the rite of tapu removal was frequently aggressive. Smith states that the war song (tau) of Whakatau was used as a kawa whare or incantation to remove the tapu of a new house. It begins:

Tuu with anger shakes in the sky
Listening here to me
To the warlike spirit in me. 187

Moreover, Taylor twice mentions that a tapu (that of a pot and a canoe) was removed by a tuupeke (war dance). 188

Food was also treated as an enemy. Johansen has analysed in detail the individual steps of the kumara ritual and their mythical allusions, emphasising the attitude of cunning, vengeance and enmity with which the Maori manipulated the kumara through the different stages of agriculture. For example, the myths which correspond to the taking of seed kumara from store are those of the stealing of the kumara from Hawaiki, and the stealing of the kumara by Rongo-maaui from his elder brother Whaanui. 189 The removal of tapu after planting correlates with a myth of vengeance: “The necessity of turning from the sphere of the planting, consecrated by the kumara, to the workday thus forces the Maori to violate the kumara and appear as its enemy The hostility and the violation are envisaged as an act of vengeance. This is natural, partly because this offers a kind of higher reason for an otherwise questionable act, partly because altogether vengeance is a culminating point in the life of the Maori.” 190

From this discussion it can be seen how fundamental utu was to tapu removal. One of the most significant features of utu was the instability it involved. When a Maori misused power, tapus, or customs, these were frequently described as “turning” upon him. 191 Similarly, the food man ate could turn and eat him. There is a proverb on appetite: “Flyblown or not give it here to me; I will eat the maggots now for eventually they will eat me.” 192 An old chief said to Puhihuia: “Man eats food but at times it kills him.” 193 A certain tribe ate a dog but the power of the dog turned on them and caused them to become doglike. 194 Maning - 39 records the case of a slave who unknowingly ate the remnants of a chief's dinner. “No sooner did he hear the fatal news than he was seized by the most extraordinary convulsions and cramps in the stomach which never ceased till he died about sundown the same day.” 195

Thus while ritual eating of tapu food was an act of subjugation, wrongful eating of tapu food resulted in subjugation by the food. To eat food could result in life or death.

This picture of the aggressive relationship between man and god is quite different from that given by Johansen, who remarks that “What makes the tapu customs an institution is . . . a profound respect for life, an awe in which now honour, now fear stands in the foreground”; that “Before the tapu of life the Maori stands with sublimity in his mind”; and that tapu “corresponds to our ‘the holy’.” 196

Tapus varied in nature and in aspect, and the Maori attitude to them varied accordingly. Johansen is wrong, therefore, to make such unqualified generalisations as the above. I do not think that his descriptions apply to more than a very limited aspect of the Maori attitude to tapu. For example, his strongest evidence — “When Canopus rises in the East the people recite liturgies, they weep, they are moved, they greet it, for Canopus is a tapu star” 197 — is not typical of the Maori attitude to all tapus. The Maori had a special relationship with stars 198 which was very different to their relationship with other aspects of the ultrahuman world, for example, the death-dealing lizard.

The other examples given by Johansen in support of his statements relate, in my opinion, to human rather than ultrahuman prestige. 199 It is significant that the Maori were not as shocked when Maning touched the skull of one of their ancestors as when he broke the tapu which resulted from his having touched it. 200 His fault was not failure to show a “profound respect for life”, but failure to show respect for himself.

Even where there might appear to be something in common between the concepts of “the holy” and “tapu”, for example the fearful aspect of both, I think it is wrong to apply a concept with such an entirely different cultural origin to the Maori. The fear a Christian might have of a single, exalted, omnipotent deity would be quite different to that of the far more pragmatic attitude of the Maori towards their very different gods.

It is difficult to describe attitudes, but I consider that the material given in this study indicates that the Maori relationship with the ultra-human was less like the respectful relationship between inferior and superior persons than like the potentially aggressive relationship between different communities who were now friends, now enemies, now victors, now victims. Atuas caused life and death; sometimes they were more powerful, sometimes less powerful than man. They could be taxed with - 40 malignity and dissimulation, 201 they could be foiled and polluted. The Maori had no interest in a dictatorial god on a pedestal — The pakeha makes statements “of unsupported evidences as to what is pleasing to his Creator . . . now, our gods made the earth, just as we required it, no more and no less.” 202

Thus in so far as the most important aspect of Maori atua was their manipulability, the Maori attitude to them could not be described as one of awe or respect. The Maori might have shown respect to Rongo during the period of growth when he was in a position of power, but they scarcely showed respect by eating him.

(vi) Tapu Removal and Fixation

The other aspect of tapu removal which I wish to consider here is what might be described as fixation. The world the Maori lived in was extremely fickle. Anything which came from the gods could be removed by the gods. Whenever the Maori acquired anything, therefore, whether courage, learning or potatoes, they cut it off from its ultrahuman source, lest it slip back there, and by so doing fixed it firmly in the human world. Tutaka, for example, who brought the knowledge of the kumara to New Zealand, was slain in order to prevent the mauri (life principle) of the kumara from returning to Hawaiki. 203

Fixation was thus particularly important in tapu removal rites which followed human achievements. Before battle the purpose of the tapu removal ritual was to encourage the warriors, while after battle tapu removal rites fixed their courage. For example, in the whaangai hau ritual performed after a battle, the hair or heart of the slain enemy was offered to the gods. The purpose of the rite was to remove the tapu of battle and to fix the warriors' courage. 204

The best-known example from myth of fixation by tapu removal is the story of Rata. The following version is from the Ngaai Tahu. 205 Rata decided to revenge the death of his father, and he therefore cut down a tree for a canoe. On returning the following day, he found that the tree was back in its original position. He cut it down again, hid himself, and watched while the Hakuturi (birds) and the Roro replaced the tree. Rata then said, “You are mischievous beings to put my tree back in its old position.” They replied: “You unceremoniously laid your ancestor low. You did not acquaint us first, then you could, without any interruption, have severed the neck and laid low your ancestor Taane-mahutu.” They told Rata that he should place some fern on the stump of the tree, and that he could then take the trunk. The Tainui had a similar story: a tree is cut down by Rakataura, but is returned to its position by birds. A female - 41 priest tells him to place her menses on the stump, and when this is done the tree remains fallen, for the pollution of tapu fixed the work of felling. 206

By taking such an unlikely event as the return of a fallen tree to its original position, rather than more likely but analogous events such as the disappearance of birds or fish from a particular area, the myth highlights thefickleness of the ultrahuman world and the importance of ritual action to counter it.

Descriptions of tree felling rites reveal analogous features to the Rata myth. It would be stupid to suggest that the Maori were concerned to prevent the tree they had felled from rising up again, but the fixation they achieved in preventing Taane from taking revenge is analogous 'to that in the Rata myth. The Waikato, like Rata, placed fernfronds on the stump of a fallen tree. 207

Tutakangahau, one of Best's Tuuhoe informants, describes how the first chip was burnt on a tapu fire at a distance from the tree. Then many chips were collected, and a fire was kindled at the base of the tree. The chips were burnt, and food was cooked. “This rite takes the tapu off Taane, to prevent him punishing the tree fellers. . . . When the food is cooked then the taumaha rite is performed. This not only completes the lifting of the tapu from the food, the work and the workmen, but is also a pou (it strengthens and supports the workmen) and it wards off evil influences and sickness from the workers and prevents them from becoming unduly wearied. It makes them intelligent and clear minded at their work.” The people could then eat and continue their work. 208 Among the meanings of pou are “post”, “support”, “teacher”, “fix”, “elevate upon poles”, “establish”. Significance is also added by the fact that Taane separated Rangi and Papa and created light by setting up poles between them.

Another example of fixation of achievement through tapu removal is found in the myth of Te Tatau-o-te-poo. 209

Te Tatau-o-te-poo was the door of death or the underworld guarded by the goddess Miru. Ihenga and Rongomai descended there by rope and learnt incantations, maakutu, dances and games from Miru. Because they had made the rope from Tau's flax, Miru told Tau to cut the rope so that they might have no way to return to the upper world and so that she would be able to kill them. But Ihenga was warned of this plan by the appearance of Miru, which was quite changed, so the party leapt forward, and only two laggards were caught as Miru shut the door. But in revenge, Rongomai and his people burnt Miru and Te Tatau-o-te-poo, and Ihenga sang a warsong (tau) of revenge. Like the tau on p. 38, it undoubtedly aims at tapu removal. This, for example, is part of it:

Why not cast down to deepest darkness
Down to the night of Hine-ruaki-moe
Lest they live to trouble me

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That onward goes to lay — to effectually quell [the powers of Miru] and the song ends:

Nor did he [Tau] let down [the rope] that I might escape
By the strength of Ihenga and Rongomai
Twist then a rope, a rope to bind the earth
A rope to bind the heavens
Oh! Ancestors of Whiti!
Affix it, that it may be fast! fast!
Collect then! Sweep [them] off

Then Ihenga said, “We must wander and grope, O people! And where shall we come out, seeing that we are as dead?” Ihenga and Rongomai eventually returned to Hawaiki; but the greedy among their party consumed their food and died, and one man, who did not distinguish propitious and unpropitious times for journeys, started off in bad weather and was drowned.

This myth can be considered in two parts. First, there is a human achievement involving an incursion into the ultrahuman world. However, the gods from whom man derives benefits are fickle. Just as food that is eaten wrongfully can turn and eat the eater, so the means of success (the rope) can become the means of failure (the rope is pulled up), and the source of knowledge (Miru) can kill one.

To prevent this happening, therefore, the tapu must be removed; man must get out of the ultrahuman world with his achievement, and break all connection with it. Thus, in the second part of the myth Ihenga's party leaps out of Miru's house, a payment (corresponding to a tapu removal offering) is enforced, but in return Miru is killed. The killing of Miru separates the party from her, and fixes their achievement; this is brought out in Ihenga's tau: “A rope to bind the earth / A rope to bind the heavens. . . .”. Thus the rope which would have disconnected them from the human world is now used to disconnect them from the ultrahuman world (that is, the rope is a connecting agent which, like food and the vagina, is also the agent of the two modes of disconnection, hara and tapu removal).

The equivalent situation in real life with which this myth can be compared was the tapu removal ritual performed on departure from the Whare Maire (House of Learning), when the pupil had to disclose his powers by shattering a stone and killing a person. Should his charms fail, “they will turn and afflict him, the pupil. If the teacher priest be a very old man, near unto death, he will tell his pupil to divulge or disclose his charms against him, the priest.” 210 Tutaka said that “the person is slain in order to retain the acquired knowledge”. 211 Here, therefore, as in the myth, an achievement could turn upon one if it was not cut off from its source, and it is significant that the teacher, like Miru, might be the one to be sacrified in the tapu removal rite fixing the pupil's achievement.

(To be continued in March 1975 issue)

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1   See also Biggs 1960:2-5.
2   See Biggs 1952.
3   By Simmons. Simmons 1966.
4   Orbell 1968: 114-5.
5   Craig 1964:67.
6   Buck 1950: 531-6. See also Johansen 1958:36-63.
7   Best 1924b: Part III.
8   Perhaps the most significant difference is that Taane is not eaten in the later version of the myth. This, together with Io himself, bears witness to a promotion and distancing of the Maori gods probably due to Christian influence.
9   Biggs 1960:40-53.
10   Evans-Pritchard 1937:5.
11   Johansen 1958:188.
12   Biggs 1960; Vayda 1960.
13   Biggs 1960:8.
14   Douglas 1970:303.
15   Douglas 1966:91.
16   Johansen 1954.
17   White 1885:217.
18   Johansen 1954:186.
19   In this way tapu removal satisfies Evans-Pritchard's test of what is the dominant motif of a people's philosophy. Evans-Pritchard 1956:315.
20   Douglas 1966:91.
21   Except where otherwise stated, the source for all the meanings given for Maori words is Williams' Maori dictionary (Williams 1957).
22   Johansen 1958.
23   Horton 1968:632.
24   In the context of Maori ideology it is useful to have terms which distinguish man: man from man:god relationships, and it is in this sense that the words “social” and “religious” are contrasted throughout this study.
25   White 1885:119-25; Shortland 1856:144; Taylor 1870:184-6; Best 1920a:20-2; Best 1906:147-162.
26   Best 1898:630.
27   Smith 1897:82.
28   Best 1920a:20.
29   Best 1920a:20-1.
30   Ibid., 22.
31   Ibid., 22.
32   Umu means “oven”. Whaangai means “feed” or “offer food to atua”. In tapu removal rites the offering to the gods was often offered to a person of rank as their representative. This was not only part of the tapu removal process but had the effect of honouring the person involved. (Yate 1835:88; Polack 1838:238; White 1885:139; Tregear 1904:218). I think it is in this sense that the description of the umu whaangai as “feeding” the tapu of the child must be understood.
33   Best 1906:158.
34   Shortland 1882:40-2. Shortland lived in the South Island in the 1840s. He won considerable acclaim in his lifetime as a Maori scholar and linguist.
35   The severing of the umbilical cord is referred to here (Shortland).
36   The ruahine steps over the child and holds it in her arms (Shortland).
37   Pukenga and waananga are the spirits of those who when living knew powerful karakia. A tauira is a living expert of such karakia (Shortland).
38   Tipua is the spirit of one whom when living was noted for powerful karakia (Shortland). Williams gives its meaning as “demon”.
39   Best 1903:65; Gudgeon 1905b:123-4.
40   Best 1902a:24.
41   Best 1903:65-72; Taylor 1870:186-7.
42   This may well have a double significance. The Maori word for “legs” is waewae meaning also “to divide”, while the proximity of the penis, which was closely connected with both courage and the removal of tapu, was probably also significant.
43   This was the male side (tama taane) representing a man's mana.
44   Gudgeon 1905b:123-4.
45   According to White, when the priest had cut the warriors' hair he chanted over them a karakia beginning “Here is the power, the power now given . . .” White 1885:168.
46   Best 1903:68-9.
47   God of warriors.
48   Maakutu is usually translated as witchcraft but as it is conscious rather than psychic it is translated here as sorcery, although this, too, is not a very satisfactory translation. For further information on the use of this term, see Best 1902c.
49   Best also describes the water rite as bringing the warriors under the tapu (Best 1924b:240).
50   Best 1903:70-2.
51   Except where otherwise stated, this description comes from an account by Best 1903:149-51.
52   White 1885:180.
53   According to Taylor, hair from the slain enemy was offered to Tuu. For his version of this ritual see Taylor 1870:190-91.
54   The sacred place (pouahu) at Whakatane was famous for its power and prestige and by invoking it all evils could be averted (Best).
55   White 1885:182.
56   Tregear 1904:387. White describes a similar ritual, but it was performed in the case of a woman and after death (White 1874:269-70).
57   Best 1924b:236.
58   White 1874:266-7. White is probably describing a specifically northern version of the tangi ceremony.
59   Best 1924a:2, 69.
60   Ibid., 69-70. See also Taylor 1870:222-3 and 226-7 and for commentary on this Johansen 1958:26 et seq.
61   Tiri means “Remove tapu from anything”, “Ara atua (atua path)”, “Incantation to drive out atua”.
62   Shortland 1882:44-5.
63   Best 1924a:2, 59.
64   Shortland 1882:57-62.
65   The pure was a ritual to remove tapu, performed on many occasions. It sometimes involved hair cutting, as in the above case, but frequently the word appears to be used like the word whakanoa to indicate that the purpose of a ritual was to remove tapu. For further information about the pure see Johansen 1958:79-80.
66   The horohoro, like the pure, was a ritual to remove tapu which was performed on several occasions; see for example the horokaka and whakahoro rites performed before and after war (p. 12 & 13). Usually these rites involved eating. Horo means “fall in fragments, crumble down”, “swallow”.
67   “Canoe” is probably a translation of waka, which also means “the medium of an atua”. Hence the canoe may refer to the tapu person who is to be freed from his tapu.
68   The “ancient one” is probably a translation of tawhito, a word which was often associated with tipua in karakias. Tawhito means ancient or original, and is also a sacerdotal term for both male and female genitals. Best considered that these two meanings were connected. The word was also used in a wide variety of contexts where the meaning it conveyed is obscure. See Best 1925c:1129-33.
69   Shell used for cutting hair (Shortland).
70   Chick weed in which the sacred kumara was wrapt (Shortland).
71   Tiki represents the male organ. In some myths he is the creator of man, in others he is himself the first man; for example, Gudgeon describes how Tuu created Tiki out of earth (Gudgeon 1905b:125-6). See also Best 1924b:81-2.
72   This karakia refers first to the creation of light by Taane, then to the creation of man. Finally the movement from death and night towards life and light was completed by the recitation of Ihenga's genealogy.
73   Hence the term horohoronga (swallowing) (Shortland). Williams translates horohoronga as “food eaten by the priest in the ceremony of horohoro”. At this stage of this particular ritual, however, the food is eaten by the ancestors. Horohoro means “Remove ceremonial restrictions”, “Be shattered.”
74   Daughter of Taane, original female ancestor, and goddess of Night.
75   “Kearoa and Whaka-oti-rangi being both sacred female ancestors — wives of Ngatoro and Tama, represented the ruahine, the swallowing of this food by whom was requisite in removing the tapu. The tapu of Kahu was supposed to be transferred to the kohukohu, and when this was eaten by the ancestral spirits the tapu was deposited with them” (Shortland).
76   Facing boards on the gable of a house. If wood from a sacred house was accidentally used for firewood, the person eating food cooked on the fire would be punished.
77   Although there are scattered references to the custom in other areas, the institution of the hahunga was apparently mostly high developed in North Auckland (Personal communication from M. Orbell 1973.)
78   Best 1924a:2, 71.
79   Yate 1835:139; Shortland 1856:147-9.
80   Best 1905:214. Best does not say what the rest of the pure rite consisted of.
81   Ibid., 215-7.
82   The whakauu rite was also performed by travellers to ward off maakutu (sorcery) and evil influences (see p. 37), and to dispel thunder (Best 1925c:881).
83   Gluckman 1962:14-5.
84   Biggs 1960:40-53; Firth 1929:95.
85   Firth 1967:31-78.
86   Ibid., p. 50.
87   Te Whatahoro. For comments on the description of birth rituals in Best 1929b see Biggs 1960:69.
88   The social and economic aspects of Maori feasts have been described by Firth 1929:299 et seq.
89   Other examples of entrance to tapus gained through acts of tapu removal are: entrance to the Wharekura (House of Knowledge) (White 1887-90:1, 9-10) and the placing of tapu on a pupil of weaving (Best 1898:627-9; Buck 1950:362). The bias of Maori ritual towards separation, and the fact that the tapus removed were typically malignant and polluting, could be correlated with the absence of rituals on occasions of social passage where incorporation was of more importance than separation. It is particularly significant that while the Maori had no marriage ritual, they did have a ritual to kill affection between a separated couple. See Biggs 1960:78-80.
90   Van Gennep 1960:189.
91   White 1887-90:4, 139. Translated in Johansen 1954:161.
92   Best 1920b:197.
93   See p. 52.
94   I believe that “state” has perhaps more connotations in common with tapu than any other English word, particularly connotations of condition, e.g. a perturbed state of mind or a disgust-inspiring state (“What a state this room is in”); and also: phase or stage; an estate or class in society; high station or seat of dignity; and property.
95   See Steiner 1967:31-2.
96   Tregear 1904:336.
97   Best 1925a:95.
98   Walsh 1902:104.
99   However it should be noted that in practice, many of the tapus imposed by men derived their power largely from the power of the men who imposed them. But such human sanctions were themselves inextricably linked with ultrahuman sanctions.
100   Dumont and Pocock 1959:34.
101   Smith 1913-15:1, 104.
102   Best 1925c:753.
103   Best 1924a:1, 129.
104   Although he was outside nature, the characteristics of Tuu were similar. He was the god of warriors, but the Maori also considered warriors themselves to be the living representatives of Tuu. Smith 1899:259. In the many karakia in which Tuu features it is quite clear that he represents warlike man. See pp. 12, 13, 38, 46 and White 1940:180-6.
105   However, there is some evidence indicating that the word atua could on occasions be used to describe a generic category of ultrahuman as opposed to human life.
106   Smith 1913-15:2, 165. Translated in Johansen 1954:187.
107   The most direct type of descent was through a line of first-born males.
108   Best 1925c:1055. See also Gudgeon quoted in Chapter 5.
109   See Taylor 1870:168-9.
110   Shortland 1856:115; Hammond 1924:82 et. seq.; White 1887-90:5, 208 & 222.
111   Best 1925c:1023.
112   Best 1904b:222. Although success was attributed to atua, it was really a human responsibility: mana atua (divine mana) was proved through mana tangata (human mana). Whereas, although men were responsible for hara, the ensuing misfortune was purely ultrahuman. For example, as fear was caused by atua there was no such thing as cowardice. See p. 35.
113   See Johansen 1954:186-7.
114   Best 1925c:1081.
115   Shortland 1882:31.
116   Best 1924b:33-4.
117   Note particularly the tira ora rite, p. 12. Maori dualism has been emphasised by several writers (Johansen 1954:221; Handy 1927:34-43; Schwimmer 1963:408). However, not all the dyads listed by these scholars as equivalent are strictly equivalent. The female, for example, does not equal death even though she is associated with it as the way of death. She is also the way of life (see below, passim). As far as death itself is concerned, a chief proponent of Maori dualism has himself shown that female ancestors were less commonly punitive than male ancestors (Schwimmer 1963:401 et. seq.). For a comparable view on the transection of Ndembu dyads, see Turner 1969:39-41.
118   Taylor 1870:220. However, beliefs varied as to where spirits went after death.
119   Best 1925b:59.
120   Graham 1921:170. According to Best, the tapu is removed from a new house by the ruahine crossing its threshold, while in the removal of the tapu from a new pa she sat astride the sill of its entrance gateway. Best 1924a:2, 341-3.
121   For other examples of the removal of tapu by the vagina see pp. 10, 24, 31. The ambivalence of the female in myth is discussed in Chapters 3 and 6.
122   Best 1927:111.
123   Best 1925c:1140. Translated by Johansen 1958:98.
124   Ibid. For further details and analysis of this rite see Johansen 1958:93-112.
125   Best 1940a:77; White 1887-90:4, 80 & 90; 5, 118. The power of urine to avert evil influence is illustrated by a Maori telling Best that the white man's vitality and longevity was “due to their ever keeping a koutu mimi (chamber pot) in their chambers when they sleep”. Best 1925c:1132.
126   Best 1924a:1, 274-5.
127   Similarly, although slaves were, like women, noa, they were not used to remove tapus. Their impurity, like the purity of a man's head, was one of status rather than of marginality.
128   Shortland 1882:32-3; Best 1924b:209.
129   Best 1924a:1, 296; Best 1925c:1132; Buck 1950:510.
130   Gudgeon 1905a:63; Best 1924a:2, 228.
131   Best 1924b:210 and 221.
132   Best 1924a:2, 228.
133   Best 1924b:209.
134   The Maori preferred running water to still water as an agent of purification. Water in a pot had the same type of vulnerable purity as a man s head, which might be the reason why the Maori considered Christian baptism improper at first (Best 1924b:215).
135   Best 1925c:1115.
136   Best 1924a:1,260.
137   Lévy-Bruhl 1936:346.
138   Best 1925c:1011.
139   Grace 1959:30.
140   Best 1925c:1056.
141   Best 1924a:1, 261. See also p. 17, footnote 51. It is difficult to resist the temptation to draw a comparison here with the crucifixion, in which Jesus' blood could be seen as the powerful agent cleansing sin and he himself as the pure medium bearing them away.
142   Shortland 1856:103-4.
143   Best 1925c:61. The recitation of genealogies was an important part of the horohoro rite (pp. 16-18) in which the tapu person was genealogically reborn fromh is tapu, while conversely the tapu was fed to his ancestors. See also the preface to White 1887-90: Vol. 6.
144   Following the distinction of offering and gift made by Firth 1963:12. There is some evidence that when a Maori received a gift he was placing himself in the power of the giver. For example, when Ngaati Hape accepted Papaka's sacred ornament they virtually bound themselves to give whatever he might demand in return, which was in the event the leadership of the tribe. White 1885:196. Although the full circumstances of this transaction are not given, the incident does illustrate the way in which gifts could be instruments of power.
145   Taamoe means “smother, repress”, “overpower”. The taamoe ritual was performed to unnerve or weaken an enemy.
146   Best 1897:51.
147   Kelly 1949:49.
148   Best 1924b:209.
149   Compare the throwing of a present to taniwha above and also the word tiri whose meanings include “to remove tapu” and “to throw a present”.
150   Baucke 1928:54.
151   MS. by Te Rangikaheke, translated by Biggs 1960:87.
152   Dumont D'Urville 1835:2, 388.
153   Best 1929a:63.
154   Probably Kanioro. See Best 1925c:844-5.
155   Beattie 1939:60-61. Beattie writes pounemu, not pounamu, but this is incorrect.
156   Grey 1885:5.
157   Grace 1959:30-2. See also Cowan 1910:172 for a similar karakia recited when a tapu was removed from a house. For further accounts of the war between Tangaroa and Taane see Best 1925c:755 and White 1887-90:1, 141.
158   For a discussion of utu, see Firth 1929:406 et. seq.
159   Lévy-Bruhl 1936:392.
160   Ngata 1961:215.
161   Shortland 1856:180.
162   Ibid., 82.
163   Johnstone 1874:23-4.
164   Best 1904c:61; Te Hurinui 1955-7: 267.
165   Grey 1885:104-5; White 1885:151 et seq.
166   Polack 1840:109.
167   McDonnell 1887:498.
168   For further details of whakamomore see Gudgeon 1906.
169   For a fuller description of muru see Firth 1929:393-4; Johansen 1954:140 et seq.
170   Baucke 1928:22.
171   Hochstetter 1867:213.
172   McDonnell 1889 “Personal courage of the Maori” Monthly Review, 1, 478 as cited by Vayda 1960:90
173   White 1885:178.
174   Kararehe 1921:174.
175   Brougham and Reed 1963:22.
176   Burdon 1941:87.
177   From a karakia to cure insanity. Shortland 1882:33. See also pp. 19-20.
178   Best 1925c:1138-9.
179   Wilson 1932:189-93.
180   Best 1925c:888.
181   Ibid., 888-9.
182   Best 1924a:1, 257.
183   Best 1924b:204.
184   Best 1924a:221-3.
185   Downes 1937:218.
186   Hammond 1899:92.
187   Smith 1910:36-8,
188   Taylor 1870:170 and 263. Note also the warlike nature of the tapu removal karakia on pp. 9-10 and 13.
189   Johansen 1958:127.
190   Ibid., 137.
191   Best 1904b:221. See also pp. 19, 27, 42.
192   Brougham and Reed 1963:4.
193   White 1887-90:4, 145.
194   Ibid., 190.
195   Maning 1893:124-5. Maning settled in Hokianga in 1833. His account of Maori life is sympathetic and very perceptive.
196   Johansen 1954:198-199.
197   Ibid., 198. Johansen's translation of White 1887-90:1, 45.
198   Best 1924c:125.
199   Johansen 1954:198-9.
200   Maning 1893:139-41.
201   Polack 1840:47; Henderson 1948:27.
202   Baucke 1928:203.
203   Best 1925a:105-6.
204   Best 1903:83-84; Tregear 1904:361; Taylor 1879:188. Other examples of fixation through tapu removal include the establishment or binding of a house (ruruku o te whare) on its completion (Cowan 1910:176-7); the fixation of a weaver initiate's knowledge (Best 1898:629); the retention of dexterity in a game (Best 1925c: 1087-8) and the fixation of mana through the pure rite (Best 1929b:28).
205   White 1887-90:1, 90-1.
206   Kelly 1949:34-5.
207   Cowan 1910:181.
208   Best 1907:247-8.
209   Kararehe 1898:59-63.
210   Best 1925c:1102.
211   Ibid., 1103.