Volume 34 1925 > Volume 34, No. 134 > Te Toka-tu-whenua. A relic of the ancient Waiohua of Tamaki, by George Graham, p 175-179
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- 175

[In the following paper Mr. Graham draws attention to what may be termed a sacred stone. Such stones represent a not uncommon feature of old-time Maoriland. Rough, unworked stones were often employed as shrines or abiding places, temporary or permanent, of spirit gods whose protective influence was considered desirable. Sacred stones were also known in far-sundered isles of Polynesia. Evidence from Tahiti and the Hawaiian Isles seems to show that the departmental deity Tane was represented by stones in various places. For-nander tells us that the “Stones of Tane” at Hawaii were anointed with oil and covered with a piece of black bark cloth. When we remember that Tane was essentially the Fertiliser and forbear of man, this carries us back to the “black-cloaked Priapus” of the far west. Certain stones at tapu places of the Marquesas Isles were anointed with oil, and the Rev. T. G. Hammond tells us of a carved stone at a certain place in the Taranaki district that was, in former times, anointed regularly with oil and covered with a garment. In India oil was poured on certain stones as an offering, but we know not the object of the act as performed by the Maori. The subject is an interesting one and worthy of further study. The tapu stone at Kawhia known as Uenuku-tuwhatu possessed fertilising powers appreciated by women. The rudely fashioned stone phalli of Taranaki seem to have been utilised as fertilising agents, in connection with the kumara (sweet potato) crops.—Editors.]

IN the vicinity of the tea kiosk at Cornwall Park, Auckland, stands a curious relic of ancient times. This is a basaltic column mounted on a stone cairn. It bears a brief inscription to the effect that it is a Maori “Kumara god” of the ancient Waiohua tribe of Tamaki. It may be of some interest to put on record what is known of this memento of an almost forgotten past.

When the Auckland Isthmus first began to be occupied by the pioneer settlers in the '40's this stone stood on the brow of the hill Te One-kiri on the eastern side of the Three King's Road, on what was then known as “Cleghorns' Farm.” Here it had certainly stood from pre-European times. Its history and how it came there, however, were - 176 matters of conjecture. Some time about 1865, the stone was dislodged by some adventuresome spirit, and it rolled down the hill slope coming to rest near the road side. There it rested for some 40 years an object of curiosity to passers by.


In the year 1900 the late Sir J. Campbell, being interested in all matters appertaining to the Maori history of the district, had the stone removed to Cornwall Park. Later on his trustees caused the stone to be set up in its present position, so that it might be permanently preserved.

At the time Sir John caused enquiries to be made with the view of getting some facts as to the history of the stone, but the endeavour was not successful.

It was not till 1909 that I secured a definite account of this stone from the Kaipara and Waikato chiefs assembled at a house-christening festival at Paremoremo (Upper Waitemata). At the assembly in question, the time was spent - 177 by the prominent men present in speech-making, as is usual on such occasions and giving the history and tribal pedigrees for the edification of all present that cared to listen thereto.

Some of these narratives were then noted down by me. The following is an epitome of a speech made by old Eru Maihi, a Ngati-Whatua chief of high rank, a lineal descendant of many famous men of his tribe and people. I select that part of his speech referring to this stone.

Now let me speak of one other of our ancestral canoes, Moe-kakara. Tahuhu was the chief. He landed near Te Arai, so-called because Tahuhu there set up a temporary shelter (arai). He there also set up this stone found there as a tuahu (altar), and made the ceremonial offerings to the spirits of the land, so as to prevent offending them, as also to safeguard his folk against the witchcraft of the people of Kupe and Toi, who already lived thereabouts.

This stone was thereafter known as Te Toka-tu-whenua and became a famous tuahu or ceremonial place, as also an uruuruwhenua (a place at which visitors to a locality make their offerings before going into the village of a local people). There were also many other ceremonies observed in respect of children, their birth and christening, the planting and harvesting of the kumara, as also fishing and hunting—rites of the olden regime. Such was the nature of a tuahu, and every village of importance in former time had such a ceremonial place.

Now Tahuhu came to Tamaki, and lived for some time at Otahuhu, hence the name of that place. His children were the Ngai-Tahuhu. They coveted the territory of their neighbours and quarrelled with the descendants of Te Kete-ana-taua who lived at Te Tauoma (Tamaki West district). Tahuhu died of witchcraft, at the pa at Mount Richmond, Otahuhu, and he was interred at Te Arai (circa. A.D. 1375).

Tahuhu's hapu then returned to Te Arai, leaving some of their people inter-married with the Wai-o-hua of Tamaki, who were known also as Ngai-Tahuhu.

Now Te Ao-matangi, Tahuhu's great-grandson meditated on the death of his ancestor and attacked the Wai-o-hua (circa A.D. 1475). This was followed by the attack on the Kawerau and Ngati-Rua-ngaio of Te Arai by the Wai-o-hua people led by Taimaio. It was then that this stone tuahu was taken from Te Arai to Tamaki and set up in several places. In the days of Huatau (circa. A.D. 1660) it - 178 was placed eventually on the ridge at Te One-kiri near Te Tatua (Three Kings).

Owing to its being carried from one place to another it was also called Te Toka-i-Tawhio (the stone which has travelled all round).

Some of the people murdered by Kiwi Tamaki at Kaipara were of the Ngati-Rua-ngaio, their remains were placed on this stone at Te Tatua, hence the name of a chief-tainess of that people Te Toka-i-Tawhio, she was the grandmother of Te Tirarau and the name was given so as to obtain revenge.

Thus it was that when Ngati-Whatua invaded Tamaki (about 1790) that the Uri-o-Hau tribe assisted and it was Taramai-nuku of that tribe who destroyed the Three Kings fortified villages. He took away the hau (prestige) of that tuahu by a ceremony performed for that purpose.

From the time of the conquest of Wai-o-hua that tuahu was disused, for that people were driven away and their homes all destroyed and abandoned.

Now understand; this custom of setting up a tuahu was the custom of olden times. At Hokianga may be seen the stone tuahu of Kupe; at Moehau may be seen that of Tama-te-kapua. Each canoe and tribe had its tuahu. When the Maori ceased to observe the safeguarding ceremonials of ancestral times they then began to lose their prestige and disappear before the pakeha. It was not war that brought this about. The ills that caused the disappearance of the Maori were the effect of neglect of ancient ceremonials.

This is part of an incantation used when performing the ceremony of uruuru-whenua by strangers visiting a district before the tuahu of the people whom they are visiting:

Manawa mai ai te putanga a te ariki
Manawa mai ai te putanga a te tauira
Ka eke ki Rongo-rupe
Ka eke ki Rangi-tahuahua
Tenei te whatu kei au.

The setting up of stones for religous ceremonials is of course a custom observed by all primitive races the world over, and has been so from very ancient times. There are in respect of such stones numerous references in Maori history. Some such stones are stones specially erected for the purpose of a tuahu—or they may be stones which are naturally in situ. Such were the still extant Pohatu-roa at - 179 Whakatane; or the mid-harbour rock Te Mata at Auckland, from which the Auckland Harbour is named, Wai-te-Mata. These were two of many famous tuahu where uruuruwhenua and other ceremonials were performed in those districts.

Since recording the above (in 1900) I have recently been shown by Mr. R. W. Firth a photo of a very similar columnar stone standing within the earthworks of the Korekore pa, Waitakerei ranges. 1 The people who occupied this district were the Kawerau tribe, people who arrived in New Zealand many centuries before Ngai-Tahuhu. They became closely allied to the Ngai-Tahuhu people by inter-marriages. I understand that somewhere near Muriwai there is a basaltic column formation, which may be the place whence these stones were originally obtained.


Tamaki is the old name of the Auckland Isthmus. We note the same name in Tamaki nui a Rua, applied to a considerable area of land where the Seventy-mile Bush formerly flourished.

Kumara.—The sweet potato.

Pa.—A fortified village.

Hapū.—A sub-tribe.

Hau.—The hau of land may be termed its vital principle. Prestige is better expressed by the term mana.

Pakeha.—Europeans are so termed by the Maori.

Rongorupe and Rangitahua.—These are the names of two isles of the ocean at which certain vessels tarried when on their way to New Zealand. Rangitahua is known to the natives of Rarotonga, and has been identified as Sunday Island of the Kermadec Group.

Pohaturoa at Whakatane is a massive column of rock on the raised beach whereon the township is situated.

1   See Plate 1 (Figure 3), The Korekore Pa, by R. W. Firth, M.A., Vol. 34, No. 1, of this Journal.