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Volume 12, 1879
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Art. XI.—Remarks on Mr. Mackenzie Cameron's Theory respecting the Kahui Tipua.

[Read before the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, 4th September, 1879.]

Mr. Mackenzie Cameron's extremely interesting communication, addressed to Dr. “Von Haast,* proves the importance of securing as large a collection as possible of the obsolete phrases and technical terms employed in the mystic rites of the Maori race. For it is highly probable, as I have had occasion before to remark, that the secret of this people's origin lies hidden in those now unintelligible terms, a secret to be hereafter revealed by the researches of the philologist.

The ingenious theory founded upon the few names by which the earliest inhabitants of these islands are known, is unsupported, as far as I am in a position to judge, by existing traditions, but that is no reason for rejecting the theory altogether. The fact that the words have lost their original meaning, though it may lessen, does not destroy their value to the philologist, who, if in possession of the symbol, may recover the idea it was once formed to express.

The resemblance between the traditions relating to the Kahui Tipua and some of the native myths of European and other nations, is so striking, that it seems necessary to place them under the same category. It would seem as if the sight of certain objects, or combinations of objects in nature, invariably suggested the same train of ideas to men who had only reached that stage of mental progress in which the imagination is stronger than the reason. These thoughts have found expression in wild and fantastic legends, in which whirlpools are transformed into voracious marine monsters, fountains into fair nymphs, mountains into enchanted giants. Such legends must, therefore, be very carefully handled by those who employ them to trace historical events.

Before considering Mr. Cameron's derivation of the name Kahui Tipua, it will be worth while to examine some of the principal legends extant relating to this mythical people. Those relating to Rongo-i-tua, Tamatea, Haumia, and Kopu-wai, will suffice for our purpose. Rongo-i-tua = Fame-from-afar, said to be the first visitant from Hawaiki, is evidently identical with the Rongo mentioned in Mr. Gill's work, “Myths and Songs of the South Pacific,” as a hero common to Polynesian mythology. He was Fame personified.

The Legend of Tamatea's wives, who were transformed by enchantments into stone, and the story of the impious servant's punishment, embody ideas with which readers of the Arabian Nights' Entertainments are quite familiar. The legend was either invented, or adapted from some more

[Footnote] * Trans. N.Z. Inst., Vol. XI., p. 154.

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ancient source, to account for the existence of greenstone, which differed from other stone, not only in kind, but in the manner of its distribution; only being found in particular localities, and only in blocks of small size. Any one familiar with Cook Strait will see the fitness of the name Kaipara-te-hau = The wind-sports, for any headland along its coast. Kopu-wai = Water-stomach, represented as swallowing the enormous volume of water which flows down the channel of the Molyneux, in his attempt to intercept the flight of Kaiamio, seems to point to some convulsion of nature similar to that which occurred some years ago in China, when a chasm opened across the stream of the Yangtsekiang and swallowed up its waters, leaving the channel of the river dry for hundreds of miles.

The Legend of Rongo-i-tua.

Rongo-i-tua (Fame-from-afar) was the first to arrive in this island from Hawaiki. He found the country inhabited by the Kahui Tipua, their chiefs were named Toi, Rauru, Hatoka, Riteka, Rongo-mai, Tahatiti, and Tama-rakai-ora. On seeing the stranger, they ordered food to be set before him; and the servants brought mamaku, and kauru, and kiekie, and all their choice delicacies, but Rongo-i-tua hardly tasted anything, and presently asked for a kumete, or bowl of water, to be brought. This he placed behind him, so as to conceal what he did. Then, unfastening his waist-belt, he took from it some kao, or dried kumaras, which he placed in the bowl, repeating all the time the following incantation:—


Ka rere, ka rere, te pito nei
Kei te puni puninga, te pito nei,
Kei te kore korenga, te pito nei,
Kei Maatera, kei Hawaiki.”

He kept feeling the kumaras, and when they were sufficiently softened, he mashed them into a pulp, and mixing them with the water, handed the bowl to his hosts. “When the Kahui Tipua tasted the sweetness of the mixture, they wanted more of the food, and asked their guest where he obtained it; he told them from across the sea. Soon after this, Tua-kakariki, one of their number, found a large totara tree on the beach, cast up by the sea. He measured its length, and found, after extending his arms along it ten times, that he had not reached the end of it. Delighted with his discovery, he hastened back to the pa. In the meantime, Rongo-i-tua reached the beach, and seeing the tree, mounted upon it, and deposited his excrement near the butt of it. When he, afterwards, heard Tua-kakariki claiming the tree by right of prior discovery, he told the people that it could not be claimed by Tua-kakariki, as it belonged to him long before in

[Footnote] *He harakia tenei na Rongo-i-tua mo te weteka o te tatua. Ko tenei tatua ko Mauhope (Fasten-waist) i roto te kumara i a Mau-hope.

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Hawaiki, from which place it had followed him; and that if they went and examined it, they would find his private mark upon it, made before leaving home. The discovery of the excrement settled the question of ownership in favour of Rongo-i-tua. The tree was subsequently split in two, and out of each half a canoe was made; one, called Manuka, because of the disgust expressed at the sight of the excrement,—the other, Arai-te-Uru. Manuka was first finished, and the Kahui Tipua, impatient to possess the kumara, sailed away to Hawaiki in search of it. They obtained a cargo, and returned; but, on planting them, they were disappointed to find that none grew. In the meantime, Rongo-i-tua sailed away on the same errand in Arai-te-Uru. On reaching Whanga ra (sunny cove), the place in Hawaiki where the kumara grew, he ordered his men to surround the chief's house. They heard the people inside repeating the kumara charms and incantations. “Ah,” said Rongo, “those karakias are what you need. Learn them.” After listening for awhile, he and his men acquired the knowledge they needed to ensure the successful cultivation of the kumara. There were three divinities who presided over the kumara plantations—represented by three posts or sticks, which required to be set up in every field. They were named,—Kahukura (a male), Maui-i-rangi (male), and Marihaka (a female). Before these, the karakia kumaras were repeated, and little offerings of koromiko leaves presented. Any error made by the tohunga in performing the sacred rights, while kumaras were being planted or taken up, resulted in the death of the priest, and the destruction of the crop by the offended divinities. Rongo-i-tua sent his canoe back under the command of Pakihiwi-tahi and Hape-ki-tuaraki, while he remained for awhile in Hawaiki. The voyage was safely accomplished, and the cargo partly discharged; but Arai-te-Uru was eventually capsized off Moeraki, and lost, the remains of the cargo being strewn along the coast, where at low-water it may at this day be seen. Rongo, desiring to return, stepped in one day from Hawaiki to Aotea-roa. The Kahui Tipua first saw a rainbow, which suddenly assumed the form of a man, and Rongo stood amongst them; hence, he was ever afterwards known as Rongo-tikei, or, Rongo, “the Strider.”*.

The Kumara and Aruhe were the offspring of Huruka and Pani. Aruhe (fern-root) was the ariki, or lord, because it descended from the backbone of its parent; while Kumara having comde forth from the front was the inferior in rank.

The husband of Pani wondered greatly how his wife procured their food. He watched her one day go down into the water and rub the lower part of her stomach, and then he soon afterwards saw her filling baskets with

[Footnote] * According to some authorities, this occurred at his first appearance in New Zealand

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kumaras and fern-root. Ah, he exclaimed, it is from her inside that our food comes, so the old waiata says:

“Descended from the back, the great root of Rongi,
Descend from behind, the fern-root,
Descend from the front the kumara,
By Huruki and Pani,
Then it was nourished in the mound,
The great mound of Whatapu,
Great mound of Tauranga;
There was seen the contemptuous behaviour of Tu,
There they were hungered after,” etc., etc.

Alarmed for the safety of their children, Huruki and Pani bid them hide. themselves; and so Papaka-fern went to the mountains, Kohuruhuru-fern went, to the forests to listen to the songs of the birds, Taroa-fern went to the sea-shore to listen to the trampling of the surf, and Papawai-fern went to the river-bank to listen to the eels flopping at night in the water.

From the ancient waiatas we learn, that Toi taught people to eat fern-root and the stem of the in palm; hence the proverb, “Te kai rakau a Tai”:—That Rongo-i-tua introduced the kumara:—and that Tukete in his canoe, Huruhuru-manu, (bird-feather) achieved the reputation of being, like Kupe and Tamatea, a great navigator.

The Legend of Tama-tea, Pokai Whenua.
(Fair Son, the Circumnavigator)

Tama-tea, being deserted by his three wives, Hine rau-kawa-kawa, Hine rau-haraki, and Te-kohi-wai, sailed all round the island in search of them. And he shares with Kupe the credit of giving, names to the various places along the coast; the promontory at the base of the On-Lookers, for instance, is known as the Koura fire of Tama, he having landed there to cook craw-fish. On reaching the southern extremity of the island, he continued his voyage up the west coast. At the entrance to every inlet he waited and listened for any sound which might serve to indicate the whereabouts of the runaways. But it was not till he arrived off the mouth of the Arahura river that he heard voices; he immediately landed, but could not discover his wives, being unable to recognize them in the enchanted stones which strewed the bed of the river, and over which its waters murmuringly flowed. He did not know that the canoe, in which his wives escaped, had capsized at this spot, and that they and the crew had been changed into blocks of stone. Accompanied by his servant, Tamatea proceeded inland towards Mount Kaniere; on the way they stopped to cook some birds which they had killed. While preparing the meal the slave accidentally burnt his finger, which he

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thoughtlessly touched with the tip of his tongue; this act, as he was tapu, was an awful act of impiety, for which he was instantly punished by being transformed into a mountain, ever since known by his name, Tumu-aki. Another consequence of his awful crime was that Tamatea never found his wives, whose enchanted bodies furnish the Maori with the highly valued greenstone, the best kind of which is often spoilt by a flaw known as tutae koka, or the dung of the bird the slave was cooking when he licked his burnt finger.