Volume 15 1906 > Volume 15, No. 1 > The tipua-kura, and other manifestations of the spirit world, by Lieut.-Col. Gudgeon, p 27-57
THE TIPUA-KURA, AND OTHER MANIFESTATIONS OF THE SPIRIT WORLD.
AT the present time it would be difficult to find one European who could give a coherent account of the Maori theory of the spirit world. The reason is obvious—the modern Maori knows very little more than his pakeha friend, and the few remaining tohungas have either been badly instructed or they have forgotten the ancient lore of their people. The real Maori view of this subject can only be gathered from remarks that escape them in ordinary conversation, and these, however peculiar they may appear to us, are not irrational.
“The god of whom I speak is dead,” said a witness in the Native Land Court. The Court replied, “Gods do not die.” “You are mistaken,” said the witness, “gods do die unless there are tohungas to keep them alive.” Here we have a thoroughly Maori idea, but it is not new. The sentiment is almost identical with that which an ancient writer puts into the mouth of a heathen deity—“When the people cease to believe in you as gods, you are dead,” Fortunately the Maori has not ceased to believe in his ancient gods and their natural allies and attendants—the taniwha. tipua, and kura—not to mention the minor manifestations of the powers of the outer world. All of these have been kept alive by the tohungas, and are very much in evidence.
The word “tipua” may sometimes be translated by our word “demon,” for it does occasionally bear that signification, but more often it would be better rendered by the expression “uncanny thing.” All that is out of the common or that would seem to possess - 28 unaccountable powers or virtues may justly be dubbed a tipua; and under this heading may be included stones, trees, or even fish—provided always that the appearance of the thing in question is sufficiently curious. We may take for example “Hine-ngutu.” This tipua is a simple knot of totara wood; but Maori tradition asserts that it has for ages, beyond even the memory of tradition, revolved in regular circles in a pool of the Wheao River, but, unlike all other pieces of wood, has been unable to escape down stream. It is this successful conflict with the ordinary laws of nature that has established the right of Hine-ngutu to be considered a tipua. I have heard Maoris assert that they have experimented by throwing pieces of wood into the same pool, and that these, after following Hine-ngutu for a few revolutions, have drifted down stream, leaving this uncanny totara knot to continue its never-ending course. Hine-ngutu has mana of a sort, and is popularly supposed to resent any liberties taken with her. On a certain occasion a party of the Colonial forces out on the war-path succeeded in noosing this tipua, and fished her up for examination. She was of course returned to her natural element without delay, but none the less the Maori portion of the force freely stated their conviction that misfortune would be the lot of some one or more members of the party; and sure enough, within two hours heavy and unexpected rain fell, to the great satisfaction of the Maoris, who felt that they had escaped somewhat easily the wrath of an outraged tipua, and were, moreover, by no means displeased to find the unbelieving pakeha so decidedly in the wrong.
As for fish tipuas, I have heard of but one, and that was a most marvellous kahawai known to posterity by the name of Pururau. This tale may perchance be classed among “big-fish” stories; but the tradition is that this tipua was first seen near Whangaparaoa, in the Bay of Plenty, and was easily recognised by the fact that a small tree grew from the back of its head, part of which was always above water. This uncanny fish was followed by a man and woman—Tanepatua and Mamoe—who for some reason had devoted themselves to its capture, and carried with them a net of great mana and sacredness, suitable for so great a purpose.
This patient and long-suffering pair followed their prey for months, but were unable to effect its capture until they reached Waingongoro, on the west coast of the North Island, where they were at last successful. The woman Mamoe is said to have cohabited with Te Hokato of Whanganui, and this fact enables us to fix approximately the date of the capture, inasmuch as there have been thirteen generations since the time of Te Hokato—probabiy three hundred and fifty years.- 29
Of quite another type is the Tipua Ruawhango, who is popularly supposed to occupy a cave to the south of Kawhia. Presumably Ruawhango is a spirit, but no one has ever seen it. All that is known is this: that its voice has often been heard warning those who came to gather shell-fish to desist from injuring the offspring of the tipua. I have not heard that any one required a second warning, and therefore this guardian of the pipi-beds has not found it necessary to personally interview intruders; and for this reason nothing is known of the social history or personal appearance of Ruawhango.
One of the most interesting of all tipuas is a rock called Uenuku-tuwhatu, which may yet be seen near the mouth of the Awaroa creek, in the harbour of Kawhia. This famous stone was, and perhaps still is, the possessor of peculiar virtue, and of old had great repute among childless women, who were wont to repair thither in great numbers; and the efficacy of these visits may not be doubted, for there is yet a man living who is known as the son of Uenuku-tuwhatu. This is but one of many instances of Phallic worship among the Maoris.
Papakauri is an enchanted tree, whose history is even more mysterious than that of Papataunaki, related in a previous article. It is, moreover, surrounded by such a web of superstition of a truly unexplainable nature that it will be difficult to make myself intelligible to Europeans. I am, indeed, conscious that the pakeha side of my brain does not understand the tale as related to me, whereas on the Maori side it is clear enough. I think I have already remarked that tipuas are an exception to the rule, that all things are subject to the great laws that govern the universe. Tipuas obey no law, whether human or divine, but are somewhat amenable to karakias when uttered by a tohunga of reputation. With this preliminary warning, I will commence my tale by saying that at one period of its history Papakauri was a tree pure and simple, and that subsequently it became a tipua; but at what particular stage of its existence it changed its nature and became possessed of a spirit is not known. Still less is it known why it did all those things which I am about to record, and all of which are matters of history among the Ngati-Maru of Hauraki.
At that remote period when, as I have said, Papakauri was a tree, it grew and flourished at Opokura, near Okauia, on the Waihou River; but after many years it came to pass that this tree was uprooted, and lay where it fell for several generations, until a flood of more than ordinary magnitude floated the trunk down stream towards Hauraki. With the tree came a certain ngarara known as - 30 Hinarepe (probably a lizard), who, it would seem, was also a tipua, inasmuch as on its way down the river it landed at Te Konehu, a tunga uira 1, and there bit a stone which was the shrine of the lightning at that place. Now, this act had the greatest possible significance, since the mere fact of biting any object has the effect of depriving the person or thing bitten of his mana, and that mana is by such action removed to the biter thereof. Therefore this act of Hinarepe removed the mana (which in this instance was the lightning) from the stone at Te Konehu. This done, Hinarepe returned to Papakauri, and the two floated down stream until they reached Te Kairere, where the former landed and established another tunga uira with the lightning taken from Te Konehu, and when it had done these things the two tipua floated out into the Hauraki Gulf and touched at Hauturu (Little Barrier Island), where Hinarepe landed and passes out of this story.
Papakauri, deserted by its familiar spirit, returned to the Waihou River, and was moving quietly back to its old home at Okauia when it was seen by Maiotaki, a chief of the Ngati-Maru, who, being a man of experience, recognised that the log was a tipua of great mana, since it was moving up stream against the current; he therefore stopped it by a powerful incantation. Meanwhile, the chief Tamure at Okauia had missed his sacred tree, and had therefore opened up communications with his gods in order to ascertain the whereabouts of this errant member of the tribe. In a very short time he was told that his tipua was at Waihou, and he at once started off in his canoe in order to recover this much-valued spirit. While yet a long way off, at Huirau, he stood up in his canoe and chanted a most potent ngare (spell) of such mana that it even affected Maiotaki, who thus became aware that Tamure was trying to recover Papakauri. Then began the great struggle between the rival tohungas. In vain Papakauri struggled to free itself; the gods of Maiotaki held it fast until Tamure (who by this time had arrived upon the scene) had to confess himself vanquished, and yielded gracefully, saying, “You have our ancestor, behave generously to him.”
The dispute having ended amicably, Maiotaki invited Tamure to his village, and on the following morning permitted him to obtain a share of the lightning from the shrine at Te Kairere. This done Tamure covered his head with some of the garments which had been propitiatory offerings to Papakauri, and returned to Te Konehu, where he restored the lightning to the stone at that place. Certain - 31 it is that Tamure did not rob Te Kairere of all its mana for it is still a tunga uira. And the lightning never fails to record the occurrence of any serious misfortune to the chief descendants of Maiotaki. The flashes were seen on the instant that Kohu fell in battle at Otama-rakau, and the same omen of death and disaster marked the fact that Whaiapu had been drowned off the island of Waiheke.
I may explain that the expressions tunga uira or rua kanapu are used to denote places where lightning is frequently seen to quiver as though hanging over that particular place, and these names have reference to one of the most deeply seated of all Maori superstitions, viz., that every tribe of mana has one or more places where, in the event of actual misfortune happening to the leading members of the tribe, the lightning is seen to flash like a column downwards to the earth. It is said that the lightning does even more than this, that it will actually foretell coming misfortune, and that tohungas who are learned in such matters could, by the appearance of the flashes, determine whether the misfortunes were present or to appear in the near future. Should men of the tribe be absent on some distant warlike expedition and meet with a serious reverse, the lightning would in such case notify the fact to those remaining at home. Tunga uira are not always tribal; in some cases where the family is of exalted rank, it will be found that they are the proud owners of a place of this sort in their own right, and I need hardly say that it is a very great distinction, for if a family has a tunga uira it is proof positive that their rank and social status is recognised not only by the powers above but also by those of the nether world.
Flashes of lightning seen over one of the peaks of Wharepuhunga were of old regarded as an evil omen for the brave tribe of Ngati-Raukawa, and the same phenomeua seen over the hill known as Te Ihu o te Heruheru was an omen of death for the family of Wahanui. In all such cases it was held that the lightning spoke as a god to the people of the land.
Within or near the boundaries of the Tuhoe country there are no less than three trees that possess mana of a very high class. Trees that are said to possess powers that would seem to indicate that the Maori, like all other people of the east, had at one period of their history a tendency to worship the reproductive powers of nature.
One of these objects of veneration, a pukatea tree known by the name of Puta-tieke, once grew in the gorge of the Otara river, at no great distance from Opotiki. This tree was hollow and was used as a place of deposit for the bones of the illustrious dead of the Panenehu tribe; so much so that when the tree fell to the ground some thirty years since it was found to be absolutely full of skeletons, and it seems - 32 possible that the sacredness of these bones may have communicated itself to the tree and hence the mana of Puta-tieke. This is, of course, a mere suggestion, but whatever the cause, certain it is that the pilgrimages of childless women to this shrine were made with the best possible result.
Of even greater reputation than the last is a hinau tree, which may yet be seen growing on the banks of a stream called Horomanga-o-po, about six miles from Fort Galatea, the tree itself being known as Hunahuna-a-po. As to this tipua, there is a tradition to the effect that it was brought to New Zealand in the canoe Utupawa, by Kuiwai and Haungaroa, on the occasion of their memorable journey from Hawaiki, when those women came to warn Ngatoro-i-rangi that he had been cursed by Manaia. This tale is interesting, but I think the Maoris have no faith in it, most certainly I have none, for the reason that the object of the two women in bringing the sapling is not mentioned, and Maoris do nothing without a definite object. They are, however, unanimous on the following points: that the tree is divided close to the roots into two stems, one of which is termed the peka maroke, or withered stem, and the other the stem of life. Any woman who might desire to test the virtue of Hunahuna-a-po would proceed thither, accompanied by her husband and a tohunga of the tribe owning the tree, and when within a short distance of the sacred place would be carefully blindfolded and ordered to advance alone and embrace “the giver of live,” while the tohunga invoked the aid of his ancestral gods, and closely watched the proceedings in order that he might be in a position to predict the result of the ceremony, which same, under ordinary circumstances, would seem not to have required a prophet, inasmuch as if a woman had by chance embraced the withered stem, she must necessarily abandon all hope of offspring.
In the course of this ceremony there were many matters that required careful observance in order to ensure success, but these need not be mentioned in this article. We may, however, assume that all things being equal, the tree had mana, for at Galatea there is a son of Hunahuna-a-po still living who is known by the name of Te Aria-te-Hinau, and as he has both children and grandchildren the tree may be said to be incarnate in their persons, and hence we have an instance of genuine mana Maori surviving even at the present day.
At Ohaua-te-rangi, in the Ruatahuna valley, there is yet another hinau tree of even greater mana than the foregoing. This tree is known as Te Iho-a-Kataka, and it has been held to be sacred from the earliest period of Maori history, and a good and sufficient reason given for the alleged sacredness. According to tradition, the ancestor - 33 Irakewa left Hawaiki on the back of his ancestral taniwha, taking with him the iho 2 of his grandaughter Kataka, and, following the custom of his ancestors, on his arrival in New Zealand, chose this particular tree whereon to hang this family relic. Some two generations after this event the Mata-atua canoe arrived, bringing among others, Taneatua, the father of Kataka, who proceeded inland at once in order to secure possession of unoccupied lands. During his travels chance brought him to Ruatahuna, and it came to pass that he sat down under this very hinau. Seeing that the berries were ripe he stretched out his hand to pluck them, but as he did so a voice spoke saying, “Let me not be eaten for I am the iho of your daughter Kataka.” Now, in those days it would seem that spiritual manifestations were not uncommon, and therefore Taneatua betrayed no surprise, but thrust the berry deep into the ground saying, “Ka whakato tamariki ahau”—I plant the seed from which children shall spring.” From these words it has come that this hinau tree has been endowed with special mana over childless women, and even at the present day the Tuhoe tribe wrap the iho of their children in the leaves of the aute, or raukawa tree, and hang them on the boughs of this most sacred tree.
Hinekura is a true tipua, for as much at the very best it cannot be said to be either ornamental or useful, but it is interesting. Hinekura is in fact a simple stone, red in colour, and if we may believe the tribes of the Wairoa, it may at any time be seen in the bed of the river of that name at no great distance from Opotiki. But however simple its appearance, its mana is very great, and will be manifest to the meanest comprehension when I say that though Hinekura has been frequently carried off by hostile war parties, yet no one has ever succeeded in retaining possession of this female tipua. The tale told is to the effect that she can only be held in bondage so long as the eye of the spoiler is upon her, let him but wink and thereupon both time and space are annihilated and Hine-kura has occupied her old and solitary position in the bed of the Wairoa River and is laughing at her would-be masters.
It will, of course, be understood that I do not undertake to describe all the tipuas or kuras of my acquaintance. Such a task would be herculean. The most that I can do under the circumstances is to classify them and introduce the leading members of each family, to what I hope may prove an appreciative public. With this preface I introduce the “Whatu-kura-a-Tangaroa,” the most illustrious of all the kura clan. I must however, explain the specific - 34 difference between a kura and a tipua. The explanation is simple. The first named is useful, the second is merely uncanny.
The Whatu-kura is an heirloom of the Whanau-a-Apanui tribe, still in their possession, and held in the highest veneration by that people. Like Hinekura, it is a red stone, but there the resemblance ceases, for the Whatu-kura has been carved by the hand of man, or rather of woman, in order to represent a Phallic emblem. This kura is rarely seen at the present day, indeed it is only exhibited on great occasions, such as the death of a man of rank among the Whanau-a-Apanui. In such cases it is suspended from the over-hanging gable of the tribal council house, at least such was the procedure in 1895, when Paora Ngamoki died.
The life history of this kura is peculiar, the tradition being that it was brought from Hawaiki some 500 years ago by the ancestor Motatau-mai-Tawhiti, when the “Tauira” canoe brought that man and his following to New Zealand. So, also, the manner in which the Motatau family became possessed of the prize is distinctly outside the pale of ordinary experience. It would seem that a certain woman named Hine, having made a basket net, sent her two young daughters, Hine-titama and Hine-ahu-one, to cast the net into the sea in order to catch fish for the household. The girls followed the usual course, and when from certain indications they expected to find fish in the net they pulled it up, but found only a red stone. This stone they cast into the sea, and again lowered their net, but with no better fortune, for they drew up the same stone. This procedure was repeated several times, until the girls became alarmed at the pertinacity of the tipua, and returned to the viliage and related their adventures, half believing that the mother had been practising magic art at their expense. When they had finished their tale, Hine asked, “Where is this stone?” and was told that it had repeatedly been thrown into the sea, where it then was. On receiving this reply Hine expressed her strong disapproval. “That stone,” said she, “was your ancestor, and should have been brought to me; go again and endeavour to catch it.” The order was obeyed and the Whatu-kura captured without difficulty and brought to Hine, who, after a careful inspection, said, “This is a very great treasure, and by its aid large quantities of fish will be caught, provided that it be carved in a suitable manner.” She then showed her daughters how the kura should be carved, and when this had been done to her satisfaction, she sent her daughters to the beach which is called Tapa-tai-roa-o-Hawaiki, and there, with appropriate invocations to Tangaroa, the Whatu-kura was thrown into the sea at the spot known - 35 as Hariki-o-Tonga, with the result that 3000 fish were taken at one haul.
When the tidings of this miraculous draught of fishes reached the tribes of Hawaiki [i.e., Hawaiki in N.Z., not the Fatherland, is, I presume, intended—Ed.] a certain man named Kaurepa, taking advantage of the absence of Hine, requested her daughters to show him this wonderful kura. When it was handed to him he rubbed it against his nose, and then requested the girls to hang it up, so that all might contemplate the treasure at their leisure. Under various pretexts he persuaded the girls to accompany him on the road to his village, and en route managed to leave them so that he might return by a short route to the house and carry off the kura. When Hine missed the kura she asked who had visited their village, and was told that Kaurepa had been there. Then said she, “That man has stolen the Whatu-kura, but first go to the sea and seek information from the fish, they will make the matter clear to you.” The first fish interviewed by the two girls was the kumukumu, who frankly admitted that he knew nothing of the theft; they then asked the kahawai, who replied, “The stone is concealed about the person of Kaurepa.” Fortified by this evidence the young women sought out the culprit and charged him with the offence; but that hardened offender not only denied the charge, but called on the girls to bring him face to face with his accuser. Here, however, he fared badly, for the kahawai not only repeated his original statement, but also indicated where the stone was hidden. On this Kaurepa made a virtue of necessity by admitting his guilt and handing over the stone to its rightful owners.
I may point out that the tribe feel no anxiety lest this relic of the past should be lost by reason of the sudden death of the custodian, for the Whatukura has a familiar spirit in the shape of a bird called the tieke, whose duty it is to ascertain and disclose to the person lawfully entitled to the custody the hiding-place of the Whatukura-a-Tangaroa.
It is the proud boast of the Whanau-a-Apanui tribe that they possess the two most famous kuras of the Maori people—viz., Te Whatukura and the Kura-o-Taininihi—and they claim that both were brought hither in the Tauira canoe. To the latter statement the Arawa demur, for they claim Taininihi as one of the crew of their own canoe, and relate that they first sighted the coast of New New Zealand in the neighbourhood of Whangaparaoa, where the brilliant crimson blossoms of the pohutu-kawa tree so excited the admiration of Taininihi that he took off his kura (head-dress) and - 36 threw it into the sea, with a remark that it was old, and that new ones might be had in this land merely for the trouble of gathering.
The meaning of the word “kura” is not always clear; in some instances the word has a religious application, and in some an occult meaning, such as in the expression “kura huna,” which is used by the Maoris in the same sense as we use the expression “philosopher's stone.” In this instance the word is used to denote the parekura or war-bonnet of the Polynesians, a few specimens of which remain, and all of which are ornamented in front with the red feathers of some bird. This particular kura was cast ashore in the territory of the Whanau-a-Apanui, and there found and appropriated by one Mahina, of the Uri-o-Toi, or ancient inhabitants of New Zealand. About seven generations after this event we hear of this kura in the possession of the Hauiti tribe of Tologa Bay, where it was saved by Tutae-maro on the occasion of the storming of the Tohoroa pa, when Tautini was slain. Long after this we hear of it being in the possession of the Whanau-a-Apanui chief Pakipaki-rauiri, with whom, according to the Ngati-Porou, it was buried. This is merely an idea of the Ngati-Porou, which may be taken for what it is worth, for it may be that the Apanui people still have it in their possession. Whatever the present condition of the kura of Taininihi may be, it is clear that at one period it possessed mana in a high degree, and that the sacredness of the kura communicated itself to the receptacle in which it was kept. According to Major Rapata, of the Ngati-Porou, the kura was kept in an oblong gourd, or something resembling a gourd, which had been brought from Hawaiki, and had become so sacred that when removing the lid to take out the kura the eyes of the man so engaged were carefully averted in order that no offence might be given to the atua within the gourd.
When on the war-path, this enchanted head-dress was invariably worn by the chief of the family to whom it belonged, and was of exceeding value to the tribe, inasmuch as by the changing hues of its colour the tohungas could foretell the result of the coming battle. If it glowed with a rosy crimson, success was assured; if, on the other hand, its hue faded to a pale pink, then certain defeat could only be avoided by a hasty retreat until such time as the kura regained its colour and the omens were favourable.
Another kura of historical renown is that known as the “Kura-o-Tuhaeto.” Presumably this also was a head-dress, and at one time belonged to the Wairoa tribes of Hawke's Bay—that is, to the descendants of Ruapane, for the junior members of the Kahungunu were hardly likely to own a kura; but whatever the origin, it may - 37 not be questioned that the Kura-o-Tuhaeto had mana of a very unusual description. We are told that when the warrior Tapuae invaded Poverty Bay, he kept his presence carefully concealed until he could deliver his attack, and this disposition prevented his men from roaming about in search of food, so that they were nearly starved. In this extremity the chief ordered the kura to be exhibited to his followers, and, according to tradition, as the men looked upon this tribal heirloom the pains of hunger left them, and they felt marvellously invigorated.
As for “Tipoki-o-rangi,” I find it rather difficult to classify this member of the outer world. It is too useful to be called a tipua, and it is not quite a god; but I think the Maoris would bo inclined to regard it as such, or at any rate as the shrine of an atua. Briefly, Tipoki-o-rangi is a gourd that has been cut in halves so that the upper portion forms a lid for the lower. This gourd, for some unknown reason, has been chosen by a very potent atua as his shrine, and this spirit it is that the Arawa invariably consult when about to engage in any very difficult or dangerous work. During the early part of last century the kaupapa or medium of this spirit was one Ngawene, the father of Hamuera Pango, of Rotorua; but in more ancient times Te Rore was the high priest who expounded all the signs vouchsafed by the god. The method adopted in order to ascertain the probable fate of a war party was as follows: The lower half of the gourd was filled with water, and the tohunga in charge of the proceedings invoked the aid of the deity until the surface of the water became agitated and small wavelets rose and fell. If none of the water was spilt, then it was an omen of complete success for the Arawa; if it flowed over one side of the gourd only, it was an intimation that both sides would suffer severely; but if it flowed over all round the gourd, it was clear to all that the Arawa war party would be destroyed.
Tipoki-o-rangi is not the only oracle of the Arawa. Shortly before the Mataipuku fight in 1836, when Te Waharoa and his allies were known to be marching on Rotorua, the Arawa consulted their famous atua, Te Makawe, with the result that it was clearly predicted that if they fought outside their pa on the first day of the attack they would be badly beaten. Ngahihi and Korokai explained the whole matter very clearly to the tribe, but some of the younger chiefs, with all the arrogance of the true Arawa, declined to listen or obey the oracle. Then Korokai called on Te Purewa, a famous chief of the Tuhoe, to consult his familiar, a lizard called “Peketahi.” Te Purewa stood up and, in the presence of all, sent his atua away, probably to gather information; and when the lizard god returned - 38 it was in a dying condition, and the chief exhibited it and warned the warriors on no account to leave their pa while the omens were against them. But who can hold headstrong men? When Te Waharoa appeared, Mataiawhea led out the Ngati-Tura and Ngati-Ahuru, and lost not only his own life, but those of about sixty of his followers also. The warnings of the gods may not be disregarded with impunity.
Maori superstition does not limit itself to the taniwha kura and tipua only; the tendency to believe in the supernatural is very wide indeed. For instance, the Maori firmly believes in the sacredness of the eldest born of the ariki (or agnate) line of the tribe—that is, of the senior line of descent in the tribe; and from this conviction we can trace the origin of all their ideas connected with the tapu and mana of chiefs. If, moreover, we examine critically into these matters, we shall find that the Maori view is both well founded and logical, inasmuch as the sacredness of the ariki is due to the fact that he is, by virtue of his birth, the shrine of an hereditary atua, and therefore his power or mana is superhuman; and for the same reason, anything brought in contact with his sacred person would also become sacred, and therefore dangerous to mere common humanity.
So, also, the Maori believes in the mana that is said to be hereditary in all of the descendents of certain ancestors, of which I can give no better instance than that of the Waitaha, a small tribe of the Hauraki Gulf, who are also known as the Whauwhau-harakeke. 3 The mana of this tribe is said to have been derived from a woman named Irakau, and those who can appreciate her illustrious descent will readily understand why she should have possessed mana in a high degree, for she was a veritable descendent of the sea-god, Tangaroa, not to mention other minor deities. On this point I will not expatiate at any length, as I may have to refer to it again. I need only say that Irakau had mana over all the fish of the sea, including the whales, and that this unusual power was transmitted to her descendants. I have been told that Irakau derived her mana from her father, Rakataura, who was himself a great wizard, and had already proved his superiority to ordinary men by preceding the Tainui canoe in her voyage to New Zealand, seated on the back of his ancestral taniwha, Pane-iraira. I am also aware that Irakau can claim descent on the mother's side from Wharewharenga-te-rangi and other famous ancestors who belonged to the ancient tribes of the North Island, and therefore I am not prepared to indicate the exact - 39 source of her mana, though I freely admit its existence.
The power of the Whauwhau-harakeke is, so to speak, localised at the “Mauri ika-moana,” of Rangiriri, on the shores of the Hauraki Gulf; and I may explain that the word mauri signifies an altar, or better still, a shrine, and therefore we may interpret the expression as “the shrine of the sea-fish.” All birds or fish have their mauri, before which the tribal tohungas must invoke the aid of the gods whenever the tribe has resolved to go forth to catch either birds or fish, for without these preliminary rites the mere efforts of man would indeed be futile.
The mauri of which I now write is a small sandbank, in shape somewhat resembling the back of a whale, and hence it is known as the “Iwi-tuaroa,” or back-bone. The head of this so-called fish is directed inland and the tail towards the sea, the whole being overgrown, and the shape preserved by the creeping grass called matie. From the most ancient times this sand hummock has been regarded not only as a sacred place, but also as a veritable ika-moana (sea-fish). It was here that those descendents of Irakau (who had touched the dead or had attended the sick, and thereby become dangerously tapu) would resort in order to purify themselves by ablutions and ceremonies suitable to a people who could boast that they were of the kawei ika-moana (genealogy of the sea-fish).
When a member of the Whauwhau-harakeke died, the relations were most careful that no leaves of green flax were used to bind up the body in the orthodox position for burial. On these mournful occasions only the carefully dried leaves of phormium tenax or cordyline were used, for as much as any breach of this rule would have prevented the whales attending the funeral feast. So, also, when the corpse was carried to its last resting place, the bier was tied together with dried flax, to the end that no offence might be given to the sea fish, who, all things being equal, would shortly be stranded in order to supply food for the feast. To ensure this happy result great care was necessary. For instance, those whose duties compelled them to come in contact with the dead, would purify themselves at the mauri ika moana, but would return by the inland side of that shrine, and carefully avoid the path between the shrine and the sea. On the third or fourth day after these ceremonies, a school of whales would be seen heading for the shore at the Iwi-tuaroa, led by a fish known as the Ika tapairu, viz., the leading or directing fish, whose rôle it was to pilot his friends in such a manner that they could not avoid being stranded. Nor would he leave them until they were helplessly at the mercy of the tribe. Then, his work being accomplished, he would wriggle out of the shallow - 40 water and swim away rejoicing. When the Ika-tapairu had played his part in this tragedy, the tohunga of the Whauwhau-harakeke would walk slowly towards the sea, muttering as he went an invocation suitable to the occasion, addressed to Tangaroa (the Maori Peseidon), and, having reached the sea, would there swallow a mouthful of salt water, after which act of homage it would be impossible for any fish to escape the tender mercies of the children of Irakau, unless indeed by their own default.
The rules observed on these occasions were very strict, no unseemly selfishness or quarrelling was permitted, and if any one member of the tribe was prevented by another from obtaining his just share of the spoil, it was the duty of the injured man to go direct to the chief priest of the mauri and relate to him the circumstances of his injury. Then, if the priest was satisfied that there had been greediness or selfishness on the part of anyone, he would proceed forthwith to the fish in dispute—which might, perchance, have been partly cut up and a portion in process of cooking—and would there offer up the karakia, called a toko, as follows:—
Ko te toko o Tane-mahuta, te toko o Rangi,
Te toko o Tinirau, te toko o Manaia,
I tokona ai Tangaroa ki tai ra;
Nau mai e hoki, kei taona pukutia koe ki te Rangi
Pokokohua, kei taona koe.
After this karakia, no matter how distant the deep water might be, or how mutilated the fish, it would begin to wriggle head and tail alternately until it reached the sea; nor could this escape be prevented, no matter how many ropes might have been attached to the fish as a precaution against such accidents, for the men holding the ropes would be tumbled in heaps, one over the other, and the whale would find its way back to the “Puna a Tinirau” at Rangiriri, which, as all the world must know, is the centre of the fish world.
In the event of any portion of the aforesaid fish having been cooked before or during the quarrel, its flesh would have no more nourishment in it than so much decayed wood, indeed, I have been told that it would be so tasteless that no one could possibly eat it. No reproach would be uttered against the selfish man who had caused this loss to his family and the tribe generally. His punishment would be the silent reprobation of the tribe, who, being a primitive people, with minds as yet unwarped by politics, held strong, though peculiar opinions on the subject of right and wrong.
This tradition as to the mana of the Whauwhau-harakeke discloses the fact that the death of any member of the tribe was not a condition precedent to stranding of whales in the vicinity of the Iwi-tuaroa, for if any tohunga happened to wound himself, or be - 41 wounded, and washed the blood off near that sacred shrine, that very day would see one or more fish stranded. At least, such would have been the case up to the year 1845 or thereabouts, for since that date, says my informant, no Maori tribe has preserved its mana.
My tohunga friend is, however, of opinion that the descendants of Irakau have retained their mana in one matter, and that is in immunity from death by drowning. Provided always that the parents of the person in danger of such death had not neglected to instruct their child as to the mode of procedure in such cases. Suppose, for instance, that my friend—who is perhaps the only tohunga left to his tribe—were to find himself shipwrecked in mid ocean. In such a case he would, as a warrior and learned man, call out in a loud voice. “E toku tini i uta me toku mano i te wai: ko au tenei, ka mate au. E koro ma e! tikina mai au kawea ki uta. 4 At this call the taniwha Ihu-moana would instantly appear, and would be recognised by the fact that he has a hollow place at the back of his head large enough to hold several men, an admirable dispensation of nature, enabling the taniwha to dive under drowning men and cleverly catch them in this well-like cavity. This benevolent monster has never failed to bring the descendants of Irakau safely to land, provided always that those whom he sought to save had the decency to refrain from doing certain things, which my friend the tohunga classes under the head of “keeping their mouths shut.” For instance, there must be no expectoration in mid ocean, no matter how nasty the salt water might be, for that is a matter that no well-conducted taniwha can submit to. Furthermore, when Ihumoana and his human freight have reached the shore, it is beyond all things necessary that those saved should recognise the assistance given by Tangaroa to his descendants. The shipwrecked men were required to gather a handful of seaweed from the shore and carry the same a short distance inland, and there deposit it with appropriate thanks-giving, while they there gathered some weeds or grass which they cast into the sea as a solemn offering to Tangaroa. Should this ceremony of thanksgiving be forgotten or neglected, then such careless or unbelieving men would do well to remain for the future on dry land, for the reason that if they should subsequently require the services of Ihumoana, they would call upon him in vain; for such is the nature of Maori gods that however loving or generous they may be in their dealings with men, they none the less will require some recognition of the benefits they may confer.- 42
As to the mana of the Whauwhau-harakeke, my friend speaks with no uncertain sound. He says, “Only those persons of the kawei-ika-moana who forget to call for assistance, or are ignorant of the proper method of so doing, by reason of a neglected education, can be drowned at sea; and therefore it was that when the Maori King Tawhiao contemplated a journey to England, he turned a deaf ear to the remonstrances of Sir George Grey, who pointed out that Tawhiao was about to leave during the stormy season. The king knew that he was a descendant of Irakau, and as such had mana over the great fish and taniwha of the seas, and therefore could not be drowned, for no matter where he might be wrecked Ihumoana would be at hand, and would, within three days, bring him safe and sound to the shores of New Zealand.”
The above sentence contains the opinion of a very learned man, whose name he forbids me to disclose, lest his fellow tribesmen should learn that he had given me information that ought not to have been furnished to a mere pakeha. He, I may say, is a man of reputation, one of the few remaining tohungas who are capable of explaining the myths that obscure the truths contained in old Maori tradition, and hence it is that he is exceedingly cautious lest he should be accused of having been paid money for the information given.
Very deeply rooted in the Maori mind is the belief that the spirit of departed ancestors are in constant attendance upon living man, always subject to the proviso that the men have sufficient mana to warrant the attendance of the ghost folk, the evidence of such a man possessing the required mana being manifested to the world by the fact that his action was governed by common sense and prudence. Under such circumstances, any man has a right to demand and expect assistance from the spirits of his ancestors. These spirits are benevolent by nature, for they were once men; but in the Maori conception of Nature there are supernatural beings who, in spite of their semi-human appearance, are wood demons pure and simple, and not to be confounded with the turéhu, or red-headed dwarf folk. The latter are described as a simple, harmless race, who fear the light of day above all things, but whose deeds of darkness were ever of the most harmless description, even though it be admitted that they did occasioually carry off women and children. Such people have, in the opinion of the Maoris, survived until comparatively recent times, frequenting the dark forest-clad valleys of mountains, such as Pirongia, Moehau, and other places untrodden by the unsanctified foot of the white man. As to the wood demons, the tales told are most amusing, more especially when related by a trained Maori orator, with all the dramatic force - 43 natural to the man and his language. The legend of Tukoio and the atua is an instance; but it is not possible to reproduce the tale as I have heard it from the lips of Tuao, chief of Upper Whanganui, for the English language does not altogether lend itself to such fantastic tales. The Maori is more suitable, because more ornamental; moreover, it lends an air of truthfulness to the narrative which will be found wanting in our more prosaic tongue.
It would seem that this Tukoio—who, by the way, was an ancestor of old Tuao—was engaged in spearing birds in the dense forest that fringes the banks of the Whanganui River, and while thus employed saw moving towards him that which appeared to be a mohoao (wild man), whose long hair trailed upon the ground. For some time the chief watched this strange being, himself unobserved, and noticed that though unprovided with weapons, the demon darted out his very long arms at each bird that came within reach, and never failed to transfix it on his long finger-nails, which were as sharp as spear-heads. Now, Tukoio had been born and bred in the midst of danger, and, as a descendent of Ruatupua, could fear no living man, but none the less he trembled in the presence of this strange being, and would have retreated had such a course been possible; but it was not, for his first movement riveted the attention of the atua, who charged him without the least hesitation. Tukoio recovered his courage at once, and met his foe half way; with his left arm he parried the thrust made at him, and with a single sweep of his greenstone axe severed the atua's arm at the wrist. Little cared the demon for this misadventure, for, crying “I have still a stump,” he again thrust at Tukoio, and by so doing lost his arm at the shoulder. In this way the combat continued until the demon had lost both arms and legs, and then Tukoio ended the fight by dragging his foe to a big root whereon he cut off his head. A very joyful man was our chief as he gathered up the long hair and threw the head over his shoulders, for no man might deny his prowess while he could produce such a head; and therefore he resolved that the head should be most carefully dried in an oven and preserved among the tribal heirlooms. But as he strode along with his ghastly burden the head spoke, saying, “E tama ma; kua toto au” (my children, I am being dragged off). This exhibition of supernatural power was too much for Tukoio's nerves. It was not within his experience that severed heads could speak; he therefore hastily abandoned his trophy and fled in panic to his tribe, to whom he related his surprising adventures. Each warrior seized his weapons and followed his chief to the scene of the combat, but to their great astonishment neither head, arms, legs, or body were - 44 to be seen. Only a great pool of blood testified to the truth of Tukoio's tale. A close search was then instituted and the fact made manifest that the demon, aided by his wife, had succeeded in joining himself together, and that both had taken refuge in a cave on the hill known as Puke-tiotio. From this place they were smoked out, for, says Tuao, “There is nothing so objectionable to a god as fire”; and hence the dislike to have cooked food brought near any place sacred to them—unless, indeed, the food be dedicated solely to their use by those tohungas who are the servants of the gods.
“Hurry is the devil,” says the Arabic proverb, and verily there is truth in that proverb, for I find that I have neglected to mention one of the most important of the numerous branches of the great tipua family. I allude to the birds, forasmuch as it is a matter of tradition that certain members of that family have displayed rare qualities, bordering on the marvellous or, indeed, the supernatural, and have thereby qualified themselves for inclusion among the tipua clan, or perhaps among the atuas.
The celebrated tui bird (Tane-miti-rangi) is an instance of bird mana. This tui was the familiar spirit of the chief Iwi-katea, who lived in the Hurumua pa at Te Wairoa, Hawke's Bay. Tradition alleges that this bird was possessed of more than human intelligence, for not only had it an extensive knowledge of those karakia which compel the assistance of the gods in any human project, but it also possessed the highest form of mana, the evidence of which is the power to slay human beings by the rites of whaiwhaia (witchcraft). For these reasons Tane-miti-rangi was greatly coveted by the neighbouring chiefs, one of whom (known to tradition by the name of Ngarengare) was so ill-advised as to take advantage of the absence of Iwi-katea and most of his merry men and attempted to carry off the bird by force of arms. Far better would it have been for Ngarengare had he left this demon bird alone, for the Maori Nemesis is swift to act, and very soon that chief found himself a fugitive among the Whatumamoa, of Hawke's Bay, most of his followers having been ignominiously slain by the disciples of Tane-miti-rangi.
Another very famous tui was that known to the Waikato tribes by the name of Takaha. This bird was owned by the people of Maunga-tautari, and as an instance of its remarkable sagacity it is related that when the Bay of Plenty chief, Apanui, visited Maunga-tautari, the people of the pa asked one another, “Who is this stranger”? I need hardly say they did not ask that question of Apanui, for no Maori of old days could possibly have committed such a breach of good manners. They would have murdered him - 45 without compunction; but that is quite another matter—a mere question of environment. The situation was embarassing, but fortunately the bird heard his friends debating among themselves, and solved the difficulty with these words, “Uia te manuhiri me kowai te kuti, te whera, te haua, ko Apanui.” By this speech the Waikato learned the identity of their famous visitor, and were so much pleased that they then and there made him a present of the bird, and shortly after gave him a wife from their tribe, for such was the hospitality of those days.
The birds I have described so far have been classed as tipuas by reason only of their great sagacity, bordering closely on the marvellous; but there are other birds which would seem either to have been spirits of departed ancestors or absolute monstrocities who may not be classed as tipuas, from the fact that they were in a measure useful to the tribe whose fortunes it pleased them to follow.
Of this nature was the celebrated Kai-a-te-Hihi, a parrot with two heads who, it is said, was the guardian spirit of Wharo, sur-named the man-eater, an important chief of the two tribes Ngati-Maniapoto and Whanganui. The value of this two-headed parrot will be recognised from the following tradition: After the Ngati-Maru had murdered the great warrior, Tu-Te-Mahurangi, Whanganui and Ngati-Tama rose to avenge the outrage, and under the chiefs Tangi, Te Pomua, and Whakaneke attacked the Ngati-Rora, at Parepare. There they slew many people, including Te Ngarara-moerua, and in order to assuage the grief of the family of the murdered chief they took the heads of the slain to his sister, Pare-tuhaia, who lived at the Wairere pa with her husband, the Wharo aforesaid. Now, Wharo being a man nearly related to both parties, was to either of the belligerents a man of importance, foras-much that his kinship prevented him from taking an active part in these tribal quarrels; but he recognised that his wife was deeply interested in this particular war-party, and therefore sent her to point out a place where they might camp. While thus engaged, a message came to Pare from her husband, saying, “I have seen Kai-a-te-Hihi on the wing—the bird that never flies unless urged thereto by the spirits of men who are about to die. His appearance is a sign of death and disaster; it will, therefore, be well to warn your relatives to be on their guard.” This timely warning put Whanganui on the alert, and no precaution was neglected, for such warnings are from the gods. Sure enough, at grey dawn on the following morning 600 Ngati-Maniapoto fell upon the handful of Whanganui, anticipating an easy victory. But the gods do not always favour the big battalions; nor did they do so on this occasion, - 46 for of the Ngati-Maniapoto the chiefs Hore, Ngaihi, and Rangi-tuataka were slain, the latter being the ariki of all Waikato, and of all the chiefs of note; only Wahanui saved his life by hasty and ignominious flight.
It will be noticed that each of the demon birds I have described had its own special use or peculiarity, thus the appearance of Kai-a-te-Hihi was simply a sign of war, and pressaged no special disaster to those to whom it appeared. It is, however, otherwise when the demon kawau (cormorant) of the Tuhoe tribe makes her appearance. This bird is known as Hine-Ruarangi, and tradition is responsible for the assertion that she was at one stage of her existence a daughter of that ancient ancestor Toi, the wood eater, and therefore ancestress of all Tuhoe, they being better known as the Ure-wera. Tradition does not say how or why the transformation from the woman into the cormorant was effected, but it is probable that when the woman died her spirit chose to take that particular form of re-incarnation; only one thing is clear, that ever since the death of the woman misfortune or death has been the doom of any member of the tribe to whom she appeared in her cormorant form. Whenever she leaves her haunts in the dark valleys of Tuhoe-land and is seen to fly over either village or war party, so surely will the chief of that village die and great disaster overtake the war party. Of this baleful influence many instances might be given, but as Mr. Best has already written in the “Otago Witness” on this subject, I will refrain from repetition.
I have already mentioned that under certain circumstunces duly set forth, Maori gods will assist men in their worldly undertakings, but it must not be inferred that they are always complaisant, they can and will punish as well as reward. There are traditions that show that any infraction of the law of tapu will be punished with remarkable promptitude.
The tale, as I have heard it, shows that there was a god called Te Ririo, whose abode was at Te Matahina, on the slope of the Kaimanawa Mountains. Now, this god carried off Te Hau-kopeke, a member of the Ngati-Awa tribe, and was moved to this act of unceremonious abduction by the fact that the said Hau-kopeke had eaten the sacred food called te matatapu. I may here explain that the matatapu is food that a tohunga may dream of as having been presented to him by the gods. This food may be a man or a pig or, indeed, anything eatable whatsoever, so long as the fact that it would presently come into possession be revealed in a dream. When it was made manifest that such a gift would be made, then it behoved the tohunga to bear the fact carefully in mind, so that when in due - 47 course the gift came to hand, it might be solemnly dedicated to the use of the god who had, without doubt, provided it for the benefit of the tribe. The system in plain English was, that the god should partake of the essence of the food and the tribe of the substance thereof, an arrangement that suited both parties. If, however, the tohunga, whether from neglect or impiety, failed to perform the ceremony of whangai hau over this food, then he might fairly be said to have eaten the matatapu. Such was the case in this instance; Te Hau-kopeke had neglected the ceremony, and had thereby incurred the anger of the god Ririo.
It is not alleged that anyone saw the old tohunga carried off, but his cries for assistance were heard as he was whirled through the tree tops on his aerial journey towards the Kaimanawa Mountains. When the tribe realised their loss, the old men and tohungas assembled round the tribal tuahu (altar), and there, standing in a circle at intervals of a fathom and a-half, girt about with fern leaves, they remained in an attitude of supplication, awaiting the pleasure of the angry diety. For seven nights Te Hau-kopeke was missing, and for all that time the priests and elders stood round the altar silent and without food; but on the seventh, day Te Ririo took compassion on these obstinately holy men, and returned Te Hau-kopeke to them, not in any spirit of love or gentleness, but with little ceremony, seeing that he was thrown through the tops of the low trees, and fell heavily to the ground just outside the kainga. Small cause for wonder that the old man had one thigh broken, and, according to this veracious chronicle, he was otherwise injured.
To the belief that it was good policy to propitiate the tribal god, we may trace the origin of those instances of human sacrifice of which we have record among the Maoris. Probably this custom was more common in Polynesia than in New Zealand, for the true Maori, notwithstanding his ferocity of character, did not lightly sacrifice men or women; his mind was of the practical order, and did not permit him to waste men for merely prospective benefits; but there were occasions on which it became the duty of the tribe to sacrifice some one or more persons as a whangai-atua, in order to give eclat to some great tribal work. When Ngati-Whakaue rebuilt their great pa at the Pukeroa, all the tribes in that vicinity lived for a while in a state of apprehension, for they knew full well that some victims would be required to sanctify the work, nor did they breath freely until the blow had fallen on Ngati-Tura.
Occasionally these sacrifices were dictated by mere vanity and love of notoriety, for it is recorded in an old song [see J. P. S., Vol. xiii., p. 158] that when Taraia migrated from Turanganui - 48 to Hawke's Bay he, after conquering the ancient tribes of that land, built a house, and in order to impress his subjects with a due sense of his mana, caused his infant daughter to be placed under the main post of the house. By this act Taraia acquired a cheap but useful reputation among the neighbouring tribes. I say cheap because it has been shown in the Native Land Court that though Taraia did probably order this barbarous thing to be done, yet it was not carried out, the child was rescued by one of the workmen, who secreted her until she had grown to womanhood, when he took her to wife and lived happily ever after. Meanwhile neither the house nor Taraia were a bit the worse for the rescue; the matter was kept quiet, and the father's reputation as a savage of the very first class was preserved.
A lavish sacrifice of human life has lately been disclosed on the ancient site of the pa called Tawhiti-rahi, that is on the proper left bank of the Opotiki River. The present owner of this place, while levelling the old ditches of the fort, thought it advisable to dig up the buts of some old puriri (Vitex littoralis) posts that had at one time supported the palisades of the pa. These butts, though nearly two feet in diameter, and of a wood that is held to be almost indestructable, were, with the exception of a small core, found to be mere dust. But the levelling revealed the interesting fact that no less than thirteen skeletons were found in such positions as to warrant the belief that they had been placed in the holes at the same time as the posts, and were probably buried alive. The Maoris of Opotiki have occupied the district for the last ten generations, but have no traditions as to these skeletons, they, however, assert that Tawhiti-rahi was built by those whom they drove away from the district. That the original pa was of very ancient date may be inferred from the fact that the bones I have mentioned crumbled into dust after a few days' exposure to the air; only the teeth remained intact, covered with beautiful white enamel, but so worn by the constant chewing of fern root that in many cases the fangs extended upwards within a sixteenth of an inch of the surface of the teeth. From this fact I think that we may assume that even at that remote date the strong common sense of the Maori had asserted itself, and that they had selected only very old people to endow the palisades of their pa with the mana required.
The sacrifice of human victims may, in certain cases, become a matter of necessity, in order to ensure the safety of the tribe, if it had experienced serious reverses in war. In such a case it became a matter of life and death to those concerned, that the tribal deity should be propitiated and his concurrence obtained to their schemes. - 49 During the war between the Ngai-Tai tribes and the Whakatohea, of Opotiki, the latter were twice defeated with great loss. Now, from the Maori point of view, such a disaster could have resulted only by reason of the anger or indifference of their tribal god, and hence that deity had to be propitiated, no matter how great the cost. In this extremity the tribe consulted their great priest Puna-hamoa, and he, after a long consultation with the powers of the nether world, announced that all of the half-caste Ngai-Tai then living among the Whakatohea must be sacrificed to appease the wrath of the god Tama-i-waho. The tribe consented to be guided by the priest, and repressing all feeling for those so nearly related to them, slew the half-castes. This action had the very happiest results, for when the two tribes next met in battle at Te Ahi-tarakihi, the Ngai-Tai were terribly defeated, and in the next affair at Te Awahou were almost wiped out of existence.
Very whimsical tasks were occasionally imposed upon the tribes by their gods. Just before the fight at Te Awahou, Puna-hamoa intimated to his people that they would be victorious, but that Tama-i-waho required that the last thing killed on that day should be a fish. Accordingly, when the Ngai-Tai had been pursued and slaughtered as far as Torere, the whole army of the Whakatohea devoted itself to fishing, and did not desist until it had caught a kahawai, which was forthwith offered to the god in order to avert future ill-fortune.
The most politic and useful of all the superstitious institutions of the Maori people is that which involves the rites of tapu. It has always seemed to me that this institution, with its far-reaching ramifications, must have been the conception of a very gifted mind, for, as a governing factor, it is very superior to the Hindu institution of caste. It must, moreover, have been initiated during a period of civilisation, to which the Polynesians have long been strangers, but with which at one period of their history they were sufficiently familiar.
The highly civilised European, who is prone to assume that he alone of all men is without superstition, can have no conception of the value of the tapu to an old-time Maori community. Let us, however, consider the subject, remembering that in the Maori tribe we had a condition of society that can hardly be said to have existed elsewhere. The Maori was a man whose traditions and education tended only towards two ends—viz., obedience to the gods and man-slaughter. They were a people proud of their descent from those very gods, whose paternal care had enabled their forefathers to cross the broad “Sea of Kiwa” with impunity, and perform feats of - 50 navigation that are without parallel in modern times, and only to be equalled by the Vikings of the North Sea. But they were a haughty democracy, and, notwithstanding the natural respect felt for the eldest born and for unblemished pedigree, would not hesitate to depose their own chiefs when the occasion appeared to demand extreme measures. Moreover, the Maoris had neither written laws nor police, and were deeply impressed with the dangerous conviction that it was not only a duty, but also a virtue, to uphold their blood relations against the whole world, no matter how heinous the offence of those relatives may have been against the unwritten law or customs of the country.
It will be freely admitted that such a race of men would, under any circumstances, be difficult to manage, and yet we find that in their own pas or villages they were as obedient, orderly, and law-abiding as any statute-ridden Anglo-Saxon; and that such order prevailed among such a fierce and turbulent race ought to be susceptible of explanation, and I hold that the power of the tapu was the chief factor by which the difficulty was solved.
There are many forms of tapu, each of which has its own special value; but the greatest among them is the personal tapu, which must necessarily accompany high birth, and which is almost invariably combined with the mana that the gods never fail to bestow upon those whom they select as rulers of men. A chief of this type would of course be dangerous to his own tribe, foras-much as mere contact with his followers and inferiors would probably slay them out of hand very much as the lightning may blast a tree. Be it remembered that such a man, being the eldest son of many generations of eldest sons, had for unnumbered generations been sacred, and was therefore surrounded by a halo of tapu, regarded with the utmost veneration by his people, and obeyed in all lawful things without question or murmur. Had the power of the tapu ended here, it would still have had important results, for, as I have said, the Maori is naturally impatient of control, and prone to acts of violence on small provocation, and hence a giant stride had been made in the art of government when the man who became chief of his tribe by right of both heredity and election was also invested with a sacred character. In such a state of society the fear of death did not exist as a sentiment; but the fear of the tapu did, and therefore the Maori obtained the restraining principle, without which peace and order could not have been ensured among the many families of which the tribe was composed.
Occasionally whole districts were declared to be tapu on very slight and on what we should deem to be insufficient grounds. - 51 Suppose that a child had been drowned in any river and the body not immediately recovered. That river would be declared tapu, and, in addition, the parents would by the law of muru be robbed of all personal property, as a gentle and salutary warning to be more careful of the tribal property, for such was the position held by a child.
I do not contend that every imposition of the tapu conferred a benefit on the tribe, but I do hold that this ceremony had the effect of a mental discipline, teaching the Maoris the greatest of all lessons—that of self-denial and subordination. The subject is one that might be treated at some length, but I do not now propose to do more than mention it in connection with other Maori superstitions.
In addition to the very natural dread of the avenging spirit-world that was undoubtedly felt by those who had broken the tapu, they had also the certainty before them that any act of desecration or even infringement of the law of tapu would be promptly avenged by the secular arm of the tribe. During the Waikato war a very great chief of the Ngati-Maru, of Hauraki—Te Moananui—proclaimed a tapu over the road at Wai-patu-kahu. This was probably done to annoy those members of his tribe who wanted to join the Waikato against the pakeha, since it forced them to make a long detour; but whatever the reason, it certainly did inconvenience a good many people, who nevertheless submitted gracefully, excepting only one, Reihana Te Putu, an influential chief of Ngati-Whanaunga, who, being on his way to Waikato, and presumably in a hurry, ventured to ride across the tapu. Unfortunately for him he was seen and pursued and his horse shot under him, and though he succeeded in escaping, three more shots were fired at him as he fled for his life. Let no one think that Reihana felt that he had been ill-treated; on the contrary, he felt the greatest possible respect for the way in which Ngati-Maru guarded the tribal mana.
The Maori is second to none in his belief in the efficacy of charms, especially those which are supposed to govern love affairs. Indeed, their creed amounts to this: that given a tohunga with the requisite knowledge and mana, any man could be made to love any woman, and vice versa. I have myself heard of two historical instances of this nature, and in each case the method adopted was the same, and sufficiently curious to warrant the narration of the tradition.
Seventeen generations ago there dwelt on the Titirangi Hill, near the present town of Gisborne, a chief called Tahito-kura. Now, at one of the many gatherings of the Turanga tribes this man had - 52 seen a girl of the Pane-nehu clan, from the Bay of Plenty, whose name is known to posterity as Tao-putaputa, and had fallen deeply in love with that young woman. There is an air of truthfulness about this tale which is quite in accord with the old proverb, “that the course of true love never does run smoothly,” for Tao-putaputa was about the last woman on whom our chief should have set his affections, inasmuch as the relations existing between the two tribes were somewhat more than strained, and therefore he dare not approach his lady-love, and had no means of pleading his suit. Under these embarrassing circumstances, he had recourse to the ancient priestly lore of his ancestors, for he was fortunately a man learned in the karakia of the Maori people, and could therefore call upon the powers of the outer world to aid him. To this end he procured a sea-shell and breathed over it certain incantations, which had the effect of inducing a spirit to enter therein. He then threw the shell into the sea at the mouth of the Turanga River, using these words, “Speed thee as a messenger to my love; be not dismayed at the raging sea or breaking waves, for thou art the messenger of a chieftain's love. Let the south wind speed thee, and the north wind favour thee. Depart for Opape” (the home of the Pane-nehu). Now, it was the work of the women of Opape to gather shell-fish from the rocks and sandy bays when the tide was low, and therefore Tao-putaputa and her companions were so engaged when they noticed an exceedingly fine shell. Each of the women in turn picked it up and examined it and threw it away, until at last Tao-putaputa took it in her hand. Then the spirit knew that it had found the right woman, and would not be denied. In vain the girl threw the shell from her, in whatsoever direction she turned there was the shell; the other women had gathered food for their families, but for her there was only this demon shell. “Alas,” said she, “I am haunted by a mischievous spirit, and must suspend the shell round my neck to keep it out of my sight.” By this means she was able to see and gather other shell-fish; but the spirit was hard at work, and soon the girl became restless, and experienced an indescrible longing for something—she knew not what. That night, however, the object of her desire was revealed to her, for in her sleep she saw Tahito-kura, and from that moment he was ever in her thoughts. At last, so strong was the impulse that she deserted her tribe and, travelling alone through forests and over mountains, reached Turanga-nui, where she found her lover and became his wife and the ancestress of all the people of the East Coast.
A very similar tale is told of one Reipae, a chieftainess of the Ngati-Apakura. This woman was seen and beloved by one of the - 53 Nga-Puhi, who being unable, for tribal reasons, to communicate with the object of his affections, caught a hawk, and by the power of his karakia, compelled it to fly into the Waikato country, where it found Reipae and other women of the tribe sitting outside their houses. The hawk hovered over them until it had attracted attention, and then it dropped a feather that fell upon Reipae. Within a very few days the woman realised that she must follow the fortunes of the Nga-Puhi chief, of whose very existence she had but lately become cognisant. Impelled by this sentiment she journeyed northwards, alone and unattended, until she reached the object of her affections.
In each of these cases the leading idea would seem to have been that mere contact with something that had been charmed for a special purpose, would induce the frame of mind desired. The same idea governs the course pursued by a wizard, when he is bent on bewitching a victim to his death; only in this instance it is necessary to procure an article that has belonged to the doomed person, no matter what it may be. This object is called an ohonga, and by its means the hau or spiritual and intellectual essence of the victim is acted upon, and his or her death effected.
Any article purporting to describe Maori manners and customs would be incomplete without some mention of the science of makutu (witchcraft), for there is no form of superstitious belief in which the Maori places more implicit reliance. He believes that there are certain persons who have power of life and death over others, and that they obtain this power by virtue of their knowledge of certain rites and forms of invocation by which malignant spirits may be compelled to enter into and compass the death of the bewitched one. My readers will probably regard this statement as a monstrous absurdity, but none the less it is a fact that I could, until lately, have removed any Maori out of my way by giving a sufficient consideration to some great tohunga in order to secure his friendly co-operation. In very obstinate cases I might possibly have had to let the doomed man know what I had done. It is well known that the late chief of the Ngai-Tai, Wi Kingi, a most intelligent man, believed that he had been bewitched, and died like a man and a Maori, killed by nothing but makutu.
There are some tribes in New Zealand who have but little knowledge of the science of witchcraft, but there are others, for the most part, the descendants of Toi-kai-rakau, the ancient people of the land, who are notorious professors of the black art. They are the Tuhoe, Ngati-Awa, the Ngai-Tane, of Waiapu, and the Whanau-a-te-Haemata. Naturally enough, I have, during a long residence among the Maoris, heard of many instances of bewitchment, but I - 54 know of no more interesting case than the following:—
A young chief, whom we will call Te Moana, being smitten by the charms of a certain damsel of the same tribe, became painfully aware that the course of true love seldom runs smoothly. The relations on both sides strongly objected to the match, and it came to pass that the lovers, with that strange obedience to the will of the majority, which is such a remarkable feature of Maori social life, agreed to part. Before doing so the girl drew from her finger the marriage ring of a former husband, and gave it to her lover, saying, “Keep this for my sake, but should you be the first to marry you must return it to me. If, however, I should be the first to marry, then you may keep the ring.” With this understanding the two parted, and very shortly after the young woman, whose feelings had evidently not been deeply involved, married clandestinely, and somewhat more than a year after her example was followed by Te Moana, but openly and in the sight of all men. Then the girl called on Te Moana to return the ring, but he held to their compact, and refused to deliver up the keepsake on the grounds that he knew that she had for months been privately married. On this refusal the girl vowed vengeance, and as a preliminary measure called to her aid a South Sea Islander named Friday, who had the reputation of being exceedingly learned in the black art. Now, this combination against the life of Te Moana was real enough, but it was not known to that man until revealed to him in a dream. That night, while in a dream-like trance, he saw the girl interview the Kanaka and offer him a reward if he would only bewitch the dreamer. Friday at first refused to take the matter in hand, saying, “I am living among these people and cannot betray them.” The girl was, however, importunate, and finally offered her ally ten pounds. This large sum of money effectively dispelled any scruples that Friday may have had, for in his dream Te Moana saw him go direct to a running stream, where he muttered the incantations suitable for the meditated crime.
On the following morning Te Moana related his matakite to all his friends and relatives, and announced that he was about to die, and having thus declared his intention, did absolutely depart this life on the third day thereafter. Meanwhile Friday, disturbed in mind by an evil conscience, and justly apprehensive for his own safety, had fled in the direction of Taupo; whither he was shortly after followed by certain relatives of the deceased named respectively Peke and Tahana. These men overtook the fugitive, and being without fear of any law whatsoever, either human or divine, tied him hand and foot, bound him securely to his saddle, and literally packed him back to the Otautu village whence he had fled, and where his victim was - 55 lying still unburied. About this period some busybody must have conveyed notice of Friday's capture to the authorities at Wellington, who on their part communicated with Mr. Kenrick, R.M., and probably requested him to enquire into the very irregular proceedings of Te Moana's adherents, and if possible save the man Friday. However it may have come to pass, certain it is that Mr. Kenrick appeared unexpectedly on the scene, accompanied by a gentleman whose knowledge of the people of that district and their language was invaluable at the time.
When the Government officers reached the village they found that all the neighbouring tribes had assembled to lament over the deceased, but Friday was not to be seen. Mr. Kenrick opened the proceedings by informing the mourners that the Government had received information to the effect that they had kidnapped Friday, and that he had reason to believe that the man was held in durance by them; he therefore demanded that the captive should be produced, in order that he might be questioned as to the treatment he had received. After much prevarication it was admitted that Friday had been captured, but every man agreed that they did not know where he then was. The general impression seemed to be that he had run away to the bush. One man went so far as to pretend to go in search of him, but this pretence was too thin. It was therefore made clear to the whole tribe that if Friday was not forthcoming it would be presumed that they had destroyed him, and in such case, however painful the duty might be, the kidnappers must be arrested. This speech simplified matters, and the Maoris, after a little further search, made for the sake of appearances, announced that Friday had been found, and that he would appear when he had completed his toilet. Meanwhile the Maoris employed the time at their disposal in cajoling or frightening their captive, for when at last he appeared and was asked whether or not he was in bodily fear of the Maoris, or wished to leave them, he replied doggedly, “Why should I fear them?” and added that he had no desire to leave. Under these circumstances nothing could be done, but when taking leave Mr. Kenrick warned the people of the village that they would be held responsible for Friday's safety, since, whatever their present attitude, he had no reason to doubt that their original intentions had been murderous.
It was subsequently ascertained that before Mr. Kenrick arrived in the village, Tahana had actually been told off to execute Friday, and that the ceremony only awaited the arrival of the last party of the deceased's relatives, who arrived before the Magistrate left the village.- 56
It may, perhaps, be asked why the culprit in this case should not have been executed, and to this I can only reply that in dealing with Maoris the Government of New Zealand have always been subject to fits of spasmodic virtue, during which they have done strange things.
Friday may be considered a very lucky man, as on such occasions the criminal does not always escape the penalty of his evil deeds, nor is he invariably protected by the Government of the country. He sometimes finds that such crimes are avenged in a very summary and complete manner. Only a few years ago at Mataora there occurred a case of witchcraft that ended in the death of a member of the Tuhoe tribe This man, whether with or without reason, believed that he had been bewitched, and so believing died, accusing a certain tohunga of having compassed his death. Now the Tuhoe are about the last people in the world that it is safe to injure, for sooner or later, satisfaction they must and will have, but, like all Maoris, they can bide their time whenever they find it expedient to do so.
It so happened that about the date of this man's death there was a party of the same tribe living in the neighbourhood of Mataora engaged in the congenial occupation of gum-digging, and these men conceived and carried out a carefully laid scheme of vengeance that was infinitely creditable to them as a Maori tribe. It was quietly ascertained that the men of Mataora would for a week or so be engaged in fishing on certain banks or shoals at some distance from the mainland, and, further, that the offending tohunga did not as a rule accompany the fishing-party. On this information they laid their plans, and after procuring a few large and one light swift canoes, they watched until the Mataroa fishermen were well away from the land, and then taking one of their prettiest girls as a decoy they paddled along the shore to the village.
On their arrival they were met by the tohunga and welcomed, and they then explained that they had come to visit their fellow-tribesman. This they did in order to throw the villagers off their guard, by professing ignorance of his death; and the tohunga fell into the trap by saying that the man they sought was some distance inland planting potatoes. Tuhoe pretended to be satisfied with the explanation, and fraternised with their hosts, the girl making herself specially agreeable to the tohunga, so much so that when they bade good-bye to Mataora, that functionary followed them to the beach. Here some of the visitors got their canoes afloat, while others lingered near the doomed man. Suddenly, at a signal from the canoes, the tohunga found himself on his back, tied hand and foot, - 57 and the next instant he was thrown like a pig into the before-mentioned swift conoe, which was at once paddled seaward, and when sufficiently far from land to make things certain he was ruthlessly thrown overboard and left to drown.
His murderers made the best of their way to their own country, satisfied that they at least had done their duty, and since that day no member of the Tuhoe clan has visited Mataora, nor, perhaps, would it be quite safe for any one of them to do so, for even though the relatives of the tohunga could be brought to admit the justice of the retribution, that admission could not affect the duty they owe to themselves and tribe to kill some man of the Tuhoe, and balance accounts a la Maori.
1 A place where lightning is frequently seen to flash.
2 Umbilical cord.
3 Those girt about with the leaves of the phormium tenax.
4 Oh my myriads of the land and my thousands of the water, behold I perish. Oh my friends come to my assistance and take me to the shore.