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Volume 14, 1881
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Art. II.—Contributions towards a better Knowledge of the Maori Race.


[Read before the Hawke's Bay Philosophical Institute, 8th August, 1881.]

—–“For, I, too, agree with Solon, that ‘I would fain grow old learning many things.’”—Plato: Laches.

On the Ideality of the Ancient New Zealanders.
Part IV.—On their Legends, Myths, quasi-religious Ceremonies and
Invocations, concerning the Kumara Plant

In a paper which I was honoured with reading before you last year, some account was given of the Kumara plant (Ipomæa chrysorrhiza), its use, high value, and manner of cultivation by the ancient Maoris, and of its several distinct varieties known to them: so much for the real concerning it.

[Footnote] * See “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XI., Art. V., p. 77; and Vol. XII., Art. VII., p. 108; also, Vol. XIII., Art. III., p. 57.

[Footnote] † “On the Vegetable Food of the ancient New Zealanders,““Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XIII., p. 3.

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I now purpose in this paper to lay before you somewhat of its ideal,—according to the notions and belief of the ancient Maoris.

In so doing I shall have to narrate much that is strange and highly figurative, if not sometimes fanciful; yet, in general, simply so, and containing nothing objectionable. And here it should be remembered, that while the specialities and dress of a myth or legend are always false, the legend itself always contains a kernel of truth. A mere invention scarcely ever becomes a legend. Narratives, such as some I shall bring before you, were by the ancient nations never wholly invented. And I think it will appear to the thoughtful mind that some of the main incidents involved in these stories were derived from legends based on real occurrences; disguised, partly intentionally and partly not so, through their having been handed down by mere oral tradition through a long course of ages.

It is well-known that the kumara is not indigenous to New Zealand, therefore it must have been introduced into the country at some past period; but when, whence, and by whom, is, I fear, wholly lost in the hoary ages of antiquity. And here I may remark, in passing, another peculiarity concerning this plant,—one that serves to increase the difficulty in pursuing enquiries after it, (one, too, that I have long felt), viz.—that its true native country is unknown. In many parts of the New World, and those, too, isolated and widely apart from each other,—as New Zealand, Tahiti, the Sandwich Islands, Easter Island, and intertropical South America,—this plant is, and long has been, assiduously cultivated, (as it was here among the New Zealanders when first visited by Europeans); but its real indigenous habitat whence it first sprang is still unknown.* In this respect it much resembles those other useful annual plants ever cultivated by man from the earliest historical times,—maize, wheat, barley, oats, etc.

And here I should also, perhaps, mention (in connection with the heading of this paper, or this series of papers), that its name, as far as is known to me, is, and ever has been, much the same, if not identically so, in all those lands where it was found a prized plant of cultivation by their inhabitants. And its Maori name of kumara may be a highly and very proper figurative one, well derived and full of meaning, and one quite in unison with the modes of thinking and of naming once so congenial to the ancient New Zealander, viz.—lord of the plantation, or cultivation, i.e. of all cultivated food plants; by the mere changing of the first letter k into t, as is not

[Footnote] * See Essay on the Maori Race, “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. I., § 53, xi.

[Footnote] † “It is singular that the Quichua name for sweet potatos, which I found in the high lands of Ecuador, is Cumar; identical with the Polynesian Kumara, or Umara, and perhaps pointing to the country whence the South Sea Islanders originally obtained this esculent.”—Dr. Seemann, in Flora Vitiensis, p. 170. See, also, my “Essay,” loc. cit., of an earlier date, § 53, pars xi.–xv.

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unfrequently done in their language; and not only so in Maori, but such a conversion of these two letters obtains more or less in the Polynesian dialects generally. This conjecture seems also to be borne out, or further supported, by one of the similar figurative names given to the fern-root,—infra.

In bringing before you some of the legends and tales concerning this valuable root, I shall relate them in the following order:—1. Some of their earliest traditions concerning it;—2. Some of the beliefs of the Maoris respecting it; and—3. One, or more, of their quasi-religious prayers, or spells, anciently used by them in their planting it; all of which, especially the last, are of great interest.

Of their earliest Traditions concerning the Kumara.

First, it has a place in their primitive cosmogony, wherein it is stated, that it descended from the first elements, (or first male and female pair, whence all beings and things came), Rangi and Papa—Sky and Earth, being one of their numerous progeny, equally so with the fern-root.* This, however, is denied by some tohungas (priests and skilled men), but mainly through the kumara being a tapu (tabooed, or sacred) plant, while the fern-root is not so; or, as I take it, the one is a plant only propagated through careful and particular cultivation and preserving, aided by charms; while the other is indigenous, common, grows wild, and is never cultivated; notwithstanding, the fern-root also carried a great and high figurative name, viz.—Arikinoanoa = little first-born lord, or lord of lesser rank, or lord of common things.

Another curious old legend has the following:—“This is the reason why the kumara was never joined together with the fern-root. The Kumara is Rongomaraeroa, and the Aruhe (fern-root) is Arikinoanoa; they are both children of Sky and Earth. Rongomaraeroa, or the kumara, was placed as an atua (superior being) to Tumatauenga, or the man; so that, in case the foe should come against him, the kumara should be ceremonially carried forth and laid in the road the war-party was to come, and there spells were also uttered, through which the war-party, in coming on over the sacred and charmed kumara, would be sure to be defeated, and caused to retreat, through their sacrilegiously trampling on the sacred kumara and spot, etc.

[Footnote] * See “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XIII., p. 23.

[Footnote] † See, below (p. 37) for meaning of this, etc.

[Footnote] ‡ Hence, war-parties by land were careful not to travel over the old roads or common tracks, if there were any. See my paper “Historical Incidents and Traditions,” Part II., Uenuku, and the note there, (p. 14 supra).

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That the kumara must have been known to the Maoris from very ancient times (from their historical traditionary beginnings, or even earlier times), may be also logically inferred,—(1) from their ancient common belief, that their deceased ancestors (chiefs) fed on it in the nether world, the Maori Hades (Reinga); and (2) from their strange stories of persons who had been ill and had died, and had gone thither, and came back again to life, bringing kumara with them (though generally losing them by the way!); and (3) from their state during dreams, when they firmly believed that the spirit left the body and wandered at will, sometimes even visiting the nether world, when, of course, it saw goodly visions of kumara; and (4) from the marvellous exploits of their pre-historic hero, Tawhaki, who, among other things, having climbed up into the sky, visited his ancestress, Whaitiri, who was blind from age, and on his arriving at her place of abode, he found her engaged in carefully counting her seed-kumara roots.*

Another quaint old ancient legend concerning the kumara, which partakes a little more of the historical element, runs thus:—

The Story of the fighting of Tumatauenga with his elder Brother Rongomaraeroa.

(Literally translated.)

Their angry contention arose about their kumara plantation; the name of that plantation was Pohutukawa. Then Tumatauenga went to see Rurutangiakau, to fetch weapons for himself; and Rurutangiakau gave to him his own child Te Akerautangi; it had two mouths, four eyes, four ears, and four nostrils to its two noses. Then their fighting began in earnest, and Rongomaraeroa with his people were killed, all slain by Tumatauenga. The name given to that battle was Moenga-toto (sleeping-in-blood, or bloody sleep). Tumatauenga also baked in an oven and ate his elder brother Rongomaraeroa, so that he was wholly devoured as food. Now the plain interpretation, or meaning, of these names in common words, is, that Rongomaraeroa is the kumara (root), and that Tumatauenga is man.

A remnant, however, of the Kumara (tribe) escaped destruction, and fled into a great lady named Pani to dwell; her stomach (puku) was wholly the storehouse for the kumara, and the kumara plantation was also the stomach of Pani. When the people of her town were greatly in want of vegetable food, Pani lit the firewood of her cooking-oven, as if for cooking largely, and it burnt well, and the oven was getting ready. The men (of the place) looking on, said, one to another, “Where can the vegetable food

[Footnote] * See Grey's “Polynesian Mythology,” p. 70: there, however, it is stated that they were “taro roots” which the old lady was counting; who, also, there bears a different name, or nick-name, Matakerepo—Totally blind, from her blindness. This is the only instance I have ever heard of taro being used for kumara-roots.

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possibly be for that big oven, now being prepared by that woman?” They did not know of her storehouse, she herself only knew. She went outside to the stream of water, and collected it (the food) in two gatherings only (or, two scrapings together with her hands); she filled her basket, and she returned to the village (pa), to place her food in the oven, and to attend to the baking of it; and when the kumara was properly cooked, she served it out to her people, distributing it evenly. And thus she did every morning and every evening for many days. Now the vegetable food of the time of war is fern-root (pounded and prepared in a mass), which (root) the Maoris commonly call, the Permanent-running-root-of-the-soil. In the morning of another day, Pani again went and lit the fire of her cooking-oven, to bake food for all her people; then she went outside, as before, to the stream of water, and seizing her big basket she sat down in the water, groping and collecting beneath her with her hands. While she was thus engaged in gathering the kumara together, there was a man hidden on the other side of that stream, his name was Patatai, and he was a moho; he, seeing her and her doings, suddenly made a loud startling noise with his lips (such as Maoris make to startle wood-pigeons), which Pani heard, and was wholly overcome with shame, at herself and her actions having been seen. The name of that water was Monariki. The woman returned crying to the village, through her great shame; and hence it was that the kumara was secured for man. The name of her husband was Mauiwharekino. From Pani came the several sacred forms of words (nga karakia) used ceremonially by the wise men (tohungas) at planting and at harvesting the kumara. It was Tumatauenga who destroyed the kumara, lest the strengthening virtues of Rongomaraeroa should come down (or become known) to the habitable earth (or to this land).

For the probable time of Pani, see Genealogical Appendix, p. 33, (supra) “Historical Incidents and Traditions.”

Explanatory Notes to the foregoing.

The names and personages here mentioned are to be first noticed.


Tumatauenga* was the favourite and powerful son of Rangi and Papa (Sky and Earth); his name may mean, Lord-(with-the)-fierce (or strongly-emotioned)-countenance. Rongomaraeroa means, Fame-resounding-(in)-long-open-courts (or squares). Courts, here, are the fenced-in open plots before the several chiefs' houses in a town (pa), and have just the same meaning as “gates” in Oriental language, or of forums,

[Footnote] * See Grey's “Polynesian Mythology,” pp. 4–13, for much concerning Tumatauenga, with Western embellishments.

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public- or market-places, with us. Rongomaraeroa,—though, sometimes, under an abbreviated or different name,—was always considered to be the patron, precursor, or master of the kumara.


Pohutukawa,—the name of the sea-side tree in the North Island (north of Table Cape), Metrosideros tomentosa; also, of a variety of the kumara with reddish flesh, something like the colour of the wood of that tree; and the name (according to some legends) of the first kumara on the West Coast; and, also, of an old variety of kumara, universally known in the North Island.


Rurutangiakau,—this quaint and ludicrous figurative name, literally means, (The)-owl-crying-(by-the)-rocky-sides-(of-the)-sea! It may, however, also, mean, (The)-thicket-(by-the)-resounding-sea-cliffs; or, (The)-sheltered-resonant-clump-(of-the)-sea-side. (The word ruru being equally common for owl, and for shelter, or sheltered; and here given by metonymy to the wood, or thicket, which yields the shelter.) I incline to this last meaning, in connection with the name of “his own child” (see, No. 4, infra); which tree also often grows on dry spots near the sea. The sea-side name is also quite in keeping with the former name of Pohutukawa.


Te Akerautangi,—the rustling-leaved-ake (Dodonæa viscosa), a small tree, so-called from the sounding of its harsh dry leaves striking against each other when set in motion by the wind. (Another proof of the high discriminating faculties of hearing and of observation of the ancient Maoris.) Of the hard wood of this tree (their hardest), their digging-spades (koo) used in planting the kumara, and their staffs of rank (taiaha, and hani), sometimes used as weapons of offence, were made.* This “child” of the thicket, is such a digging-spade, or staff, carved and ornamented in the usual manner, as described, with its four eyes, etc. There is, however, something more here, hidden,—some esoteric meaning,—in the Janus-like ornaments of those implements,—especially in the one used only in cultivation,—indicative of a looking-both-ways, and of working diligently,—and that, too, always under strictly tabooed regulations.


Pani,—this word has several meanings,—(1) To paint, daub, anoint, etc.; (2) To close, or obstruct, an entrance, way, etc.; (3) To be friendless, forsaken, to be deprived of parents, etc.; also, a widow, orphan, etc. Possibly here it may be taken to indicate that this personage, Pani, was at first

[Footnote] * This is commemorated in their poetry, thus:—

—–“Ko ta namata riri,
He kahikatoa, he paraoa,
He Akerautangi.”

[Footnote] The fighting weapons in the days of old were (made of) the kahikatoa (wood), and sperm-whale bones, and the akerautangi (tree).

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a widow of rank (one of those whose husbands were killed in those fightings before related), who had by her prudence, economy, and forethought secured the kumara; or it may indicate that the kumara, the child so saved by her, was itself an orphan there; and, as is not unfrequently the case, the name for it was given to, or taken by, its preserver patroness, or mother. I incline to this latter conjecture. (See, below, The Invocation to Pani, and notes there.)


Patatai,—whether this was a man, or a bird bearing that name, I cannot definitely say; for the word “moho” means,—(1) the various birds of the Rail family (of which there were several species),—generically, or as a natural class,—of which one species also bears the name of patatai, and of moho-patatai;—(2) a wood- or bush-man; a man, a remnant, a survivor of some unfortunate tribe or family, living far away from men, through fear, solitarily in the “bush” Both man and bird are now alike extinct. I am, however, inclined to believe that a man was intended, who, probably, obtained that name from his so solitarily acting, concealed, rail-like, among the rank untrodden vegetation on the margin of the stream.


Mauiwharekino,—Pani's husband, Maui-(of-the)-evil-house. There were several heroes of old named Maui; this one, however, is distinct from the great hero, who bound the Sun, and who fished up the North Island, etc., etc.*


Tumatauenga's destroying the kumara may here indicate,—(1) that man, at first, did not know how to cultivate and to preserve that valuable root, through ignorance; and (2) that fierce fighting man was an enemy to the quiet cultivator, and cared nothing for the arts of peace,—showing plainly, in other words,—“Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their paths; and the way of peace have they not known.”

Some of the more prevalent Beliefs of the Maoris concerning the Introduction of the Kumara into New Zealand.

These vary considerably in detail with almost every great tribe, or people, of New Zealand,—as to the time when, the persons by whom, the name of the “canoe” (waka), and the name of the sort, or kind, of kumara brought; also, its having been purposely sought or fetched from

[Footnote] * In another ancient legend of Pani (principally found in the more northern parts of New Zealand), it is stated that Tiki was Pani's husband. Tiki, also, being the first man, or progenitor, or precursor of man. In Dieff., Vol. II., pp. 47, 116, this is noticed. Dieffenbach obtained this information at Kaitaia Mission Station.

[Footnote] † See a similar figurative indication in the ancient legend respecting the beginnings of the fern-root, “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XIII., p. 24, first three lines.

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abroad; or casually brought into New Zealand. And here I should mention (lest it might be considered to be a matter of small moment), that with the Maoris, the name or names of the persons (chiefs) engaged,—including their wives, their canoes, their paddles, and their balers; and also the name of the plantation first planted, and even of their wooden digging-spades used,—is almost everything! Many of them are said to be still preserved in their legends, and with them (the Maoris) their possession is unanswerable!


According to the Maoris of the East Coast (Table Cape to Cape Runaway), especially the large Ngatiporou tribe,—a New Zealand chief named Kahukura went in his canoe from New Zealand to “Hawaiki” to fetch the kumara for planting. Arriving there, he found the kumara-crop had been already harvested; but he turned-to and cut down a portion of the cliff where the kumara grew spontaneously; when, aided by his powerful spells, the kumara fell, and soon filled his canoe, which was called Horouta. This done, he again laid his spells on that spot, to stop the kumara from falling down the cliff, and then brought the kumara with him to New Zealand. On returning to the East Coast, he first landed at Cape Runaway, where he first planted some of his kumara; thence he carried them, coasting south, to Waiapu (East Cape), to Poverty Bay, to Table Cape, to Hawke's Bay (south side), and across the straits to the coast between Cape Campbell and Kaikoura:—“all this distribution of the kumara to those several places, was done by that one person Kahukura.” This statement, however, is stoutly denied by other Maori tribes, especially by those residing on the West Coast, and at the Thames. Here the names of both the chief and his canoe should be noted; that of the chief being one of the Maori names for the rainbow, and that of the canoe meaning, (The)-falling-down-(of-the)-mainland (cliff). Also, a statement which is firmly believed by the Maoris, and which I have often heard from several of them, who asserted they had themselves seen it, namely,—that at Cape Runaway the kumara grows indigenously,*—that is, without annual planting; the scattered small tubers left in the ground in the cultivations invariably spring the following season, which they never do anywhere else, and this, they say, is another proof of the first imported kumara having been planted there. From the very favourable position, however, of the sea-side lands inside Cape Runaway, lying so far to the east and so protected from the south, such may very well be accounted for naturally.


According to the Maoris of the West Coast, the kumara was first brought by their progenitor, Turi, in his canoe named Aotea, on his emigrating from “Hawaiki;” when he came to New Zealand, and landed

[Footnote] * See this alluded to, in Grey's “Polynesian Mythology,” p. 143.

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and remained there at Patea on the West Coast. He also, they say, brought with him on that occasion, the other cultivated edible root, the taro (Caladium esculentum), and the karaka (Corynocarpus lævigata), also the swamp-bird, pukeko (Porphyrio melanotus), some green parrots (Platycercus pacificus, and P. auriceps), the Maori rat, “and many other good things for food.”* Unfortunately, however, for them, nature is against them, for the karaka-tree is believed to be purely endemic; so also are the two green parrots, and the blue rail, pukeko.


The Thames Maoris deny all the preceding, and assert that the kumara was first brought from “Hawaiki” by the chiefs Hotunui and Hoturoa, in their canoe called Tainui, which they say was also the first canoe of emigrants thence to New Zealand. Or, as some others say, the kumara was brought by the lady-wives of those two chiefs, named Marama and Whakaotirangi, together with the hue (Cucurbita sp.), the aute (Broussonetia papyrifera), and the para (Marattia salicina),—and, also, the karaka; but this last plant grew accidentally, as it were, the timber having been shipped merely as skids to be used for drawing up their canoe on their landing. Those identical poles, or skids, planted by them, and now grown into trees, are still shown at Manukau! (A suitable match for Dr. Hector's newly-discovered plant at Kawhia—Pomaderris tainui,—of which a similar legend is told.) A portion of this story is so good that it deserves to be fully translated. I therefore, give it.

“When the canoe, Tainui, had been dragged across the portage at Tamaki (near the head of the Hauraki Gulf), and reached Manukau (on the West Coast), they coasted south to Kawhia; landing there, those two ladies (Marama and Whakaotirangi) proceeded to plant the various roots they had brought with them from ‘Hawaiki.’ This they did in two separate plantations, at a place called Te Papa-o-karewa in Kawhia; but when those several roots sprung and grew up, they all turned out differently. Of those planted by Marama, the kumara produced a pohue (Convolvulus sepium), the hue produced a mawhai (Sicyos angulatus), the aute produced a whau (Entelea arborescens), and the para produced a horokio. All the plantings of Marama grew wrong

[Footnote] * See Grey's “Polynesian Mythology,” p. 212, for this in part.

[Footnote] † See “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XI., p. 428.

[Footnote] ‡ Here, the correct natural discrimination of the old Maoris, in according plants of a similar appearance and manner of growth to those planted, as their simulated substitutes in mockery, is very apparent, and is worthy of a brief passing notice. Indeed, the first two counterfeits belong severally and botanically to the same natural order (and one of them to just the very same genus) as the two plants which had been planted and failed. The third counterfeit, Entelea arborescens, though far separated botanically, has been often planted by Europeans in the early Napier gardens as being the real aute (Broussonetia papyrifera), and called, also, by its name, “Paper Mulberry;” there being a great common superficial likeness in the leaf, bark, size, etc., of the two shrubs. While the fourth counterfeit is evidently a fern, and very likely one of the large common tufted thick-growing coalescent ferns,—e.g., Polypodium pennigerum, Lomaria discolor, or L. gigantea, the smaller Dicksoniæ, etc. The Maori name of Horokio is now variously given by different tribes to different plants.

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and strangely, and that was owing to her having transgressed with one of her male slaves. But the plantings of Whakaotirangi all came up true to their various sorts, and from them the whole island was subsequently supplied. Hence, too, arose the proverb, which has been handed down to us,—‘Greatly blessed (or gladdened) art thou, O food-basket of Whakaotirangi!’* So let all Maoris know, that from the canoe Tainui came her kumaras, her hues, her autes, and her paras, and her karakas (which last, sprang from the used skids which her crew had brought away in her), and, also, her kiores (rats).”


Another still more strange and far-fetched tale, concerning the introduction of the kumara into New Zealand, is also related by the Maoris of Hawke's Bay (south), which may also be briefly mentioned here, if only for its singularity. A chief of old, named Pourangahua, was getting his canoe ready to go to sea, to seek some better-relished food for his infant son, Kahukura; the child having rejected with fearfully loud noises its own mother's milk, also the soft liver of the fish kahawai (Arripis salar), with which it had been fed. (From that liver, however, so rejected by him, sprang the flying-fish.) The canoe being dragged down and all ready, the chief, Pourangahua, returned to his house for something forgotten, and while absent his four brothers-in-law (Kanoae, Paeaki, Rongoiamoa, and Taikamatua), embarked in the canoe and sailed away. Pourangahua, nothing daunted, went after them on a canoe (or float) made of a duck's feather; a squall, however, coming on, he was soon sent to the bottom! Emerging to the surface, he swam and battled away against the seas, and finally got on to a whale's back, on which he managed to keep himself by means of his powerful spells. Afterwards, he met his own canoe with his brothers-in-law returning, he joined them, and on reaching the shore, and calling the kumara which they had brought by its own proper and special name of Kakau§ (to which the kumara itself answered, by asking, “Who he was that had spoken—or divulged—its name?” etc.), he obtained from

[Footnote] * This circumstance, however, is very differently related in Grey's “Polynesian Mythology,” p. 142.

[Footnote] † Same name as under (a.) supra.

[Footnote] § Curiously enough, this is the same special name that is given to the kind of kumara said to have been brought from “Hawaiki” by Turi in his canoe (b., supra). See Grey's “Polynesian Mythology,” p. 212.

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them two roots of kumara, which he planted with the proper charms and ceremonies, and from these the whole country was in course of time supplied, so that both his own son, Kahukura, and all besides were amply fed with this good vegetable food.


A still more romantic version of this last story is the one held by the Urewera tribes living in the mountainous interior, which would be hardly worth relating were it not for their isolated situation, shut up far away from other tribes among the mountains and forests, and for the fact of its containing several of the very special names of the prized varieties of kumara formerly cultivated by the Maoris, both North and South: those very varieties, too, belonging to the widely different sorts—showing their antiquity. They say,—“that Pourangahua went after his brothers-in-law to ‘Hawaiki;’ that his canoe being gone, he went thither on two pet birds, named Tiurangi and Harorangi, the property of a chief named Ruakapanga, who lent them to him for the occasion. That Pourangahua brought away thence from two cliffs, called Pari-nui-te-ra, and Pari-nui-te-rangi,* the following seven varieties of kumara, viz., Kawakawatawhiti, Toroamahoe, te Tutaanga, te Kiokiorangi, te Tutaetara, te Monenehu, and te Anutai. That the roots brought to New Zealand by Pourangahua lived and flourished; but that those which had been brought by his brothers-in-law did not grow.”

I remember well, when first travelling in those parts in the interior, 43 years back, (being the first European visitor among them), the many questions respecting the kumara and its first introducers which were put to me by the tohungas, “as posers to test my knowledge,” (as they subsequently informed me), and their great earnestness respecting them.

A Charm, or Invocation, used at the Planting of the Kumara Roots.


Now (is) the planting-season favourably indicated from the sky (of the) mainland;


Now (is) the season (for) planting favourably indicated from the sky (of the) ocean.


Verily, and now it is from (or according to) Raukatauri, together with Raukatamea,


(And) Maitiiti, (and) Marekareka:—


Ye sought it out;


And it was divulged (or caused to creep silently) abroad by thee

[Footnote] * Great-cliff-(of-the)-sun, and Great-cliff-(of-the)-sky. The name of a high cliff on the East Coast, between Tolaga Bay and Poverty Bay, is Pari-nui-te-ra; this is, also, Cook's Gable-end-foreland.

[Footnote] † See “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XIII., pp. 34, 35. In the list there given, however, there is Anurangi for Anutai; but the root-meaning of both words is the same.

[Footnote] ‡ One MS. has it, Mahitihiti.

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At Waeroti (and) at Waerota.


At early dawn let the attendance here be numerous;


Let the appearing of the sun be waited for here;


Be ye all coming-in hither from every-where round about.


Here, indeed, shall be Regular-Distribution (of seed);


Here, Abundance (of seed);


Here, Visiting-little-hillocks (with the seed).


The little hillocks shall be all severally visited,—


Throughout—through all—far on—round about.


Thinly-encumbered (or scantily clad with earth),


O Son of noble birth!


Incline thyself towards the warm sea-breezes;


Thy face shall be favourably marked with the waters causing vegetable growth;


Be (thou) soon seizing, grasping the soil with thy rootlets,


Even as a bird lays hold,—or grasps,—(with its claws);—


For thou art naked, unclothed, having only thy skin!


Therefore, be thou seizing, laying fast hold (of the earth);


For thou art naked, possessing only thy skin!


Whence shall the future fruit,—or increase,—be obtained?


Let the proper fruit,—or increase,—be seized, be laid fast hold of through me;


That is, the proper fruit,—or increase,—from without;


That is, the proper fruit,—or increase,—with Pani,—or, which Pani has in her possession.


O Pani! O! come hither now, welcome hither!


Fill up my basket (with seed kumara roots) placed carefully in, one by one;


Pile up loosely my seed-basket to overflowing:


Give hither, and that abundantly!


Open and expanded awaiting (is) my seed-basket:


Give hither, and that abundantly!


By the prepared little hillocks in the cultivation (is) my seed-basket placed;


Give hither, and that abundantly!


According to the spell of Space (is) my seed-basket awaiting;


Give hither, and that abundantly!


By the sides of the borders of the plots (in the) cultivation, (is) my seed-basket placed;


Give hither, and that abundantly!


By,—or according to,—the proper form of power and influence,—or potential power,—(is) my seed-basket placed;


Give hither, and that abundantly!


The (doors of the) row of seed-kumara store-pits are not yet closed hitherwards;


The floors of the same are not yet in view, or seen (lit. met—with the eye).


Let all the roots (for planting) be spread about carefully.


Let the whole be everywhere properly done.


Now, jump! move your legs and arms briskly;


Carry the roots for planting throughout the plantation.


Go forth! (ye) selected food-bearing seed (of) Whaitiri, into the plantation;


(There) to be carefully set in the soil one by one.


Let the fruitful seed go hither and thither;

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Let them be carefully carried about.


Be (you) diligently occupied in planting carefully.


Planted, verily planted (are the seed of) my baskets.


Spread open, empty, verily scattered around, (are) my (empty) used seed-baskets!


Above (there) in the sky (thou art) far away out of sight, hidden;—


Give, therefore, here in this place, as a reward


Of the believing this,—or our making it (to be) real and truthful,—


And let it be alike truthful and real (to us);


Yes; just so, indeed.

(The figures beginning each verse, are added merely for the sake of reference:—See Analysis, infra.)

Few subjects among the many of this class known to me have afforded half the satisfaction I have obtained from this one; but I have only gained it through a long, patient, and tedious amount of heavy labour! The translation of this semi-poetical charm, or invocation, being exceedingly difficult, owing to so many archaisms, allusions and ellipses. Desirous, however, of laying it before you in its original beauty—of meaning and arrangement—I have studied to translate it as literally as possible, consistent with perspicuity and the dissonant idioms of the two languages.

Of the various spells, etc., anciently used in planting the kumara, that I have acquired from several tohungas during many years, there are no less than three which contain this direct invocation to Pani; and while the introductory words of those three forms vary a little, the kernel—the invocation itself—is almost literally the same in them all! This circumstance, together with its evident antiquity (as shown from their genealogical tables), the fact of its being one of the very few known forms of direct invocation to any being or personification ever used by the ancient Maoris,* its poetical structure, and its regular fitting and progressive disposition,—make it a subject of extreme interest if not of importance.

Those charms, when used, were always muttered in an under-tone by the tohunga, who performed this duty while walking about the plantation, solus. This one, used in the spring, at the first planting season, serves to remind us of the vernal sacrifices and prayers of the ancient Egyptians and Romans, and other ancient Northern nations; and like those by them, it was used to precure fertility; and when simple, (as in this instance), they may be regarded as among the most beautiful and becoming of the rites of natural religion.

[Footnote] * I should, however, also state, that besides those three charms, or invocations, already mentioned, containing direct invocations to Pani, I possess, among several charms, etc., from the North, another charm used for the restoring of a sick person to health, in which Pani is also invoked together with her husband Tiki, and both simply and separately called on to grant health to the patient.

[Footnote] † Virgil, Ec. V., 74, 75: Georg. I., 335–350.

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For this purpose, also, another strange plan was long observed by the Maoris of the interior. A portion of an ancient relation I received from them runs thus:—“Tia* and his party” (who, it is said, had come to New Zealand from “Hawaiki” in the canoe Arawa), “did not return from Taupo (inland), whither they had gone, to Maketu (on the coast); they all died inland at Titiraupenga, where their bones and skulls long were, and were, indeed, also seen by the Maoris of this generation just past. Those skulls were annually brought out, with much ceremony, and placed in the kumara plantations, by the margins of the plots, that the plants might become fertile and bear many tubers.”

Captain Cook also relates, that in the plantations of kumara at Tolaga Bay, which he and his companions visited (on his first voyage to New Zealand),—“they saw there, a small area of a square figure, surrounded with stones, in the middle of which one of the sharpened stakes which they use as a spade [koo] was set up, and upon it was hung a basket of fern-roots: upon enquiry the natives told us, that it was an offering to the gods, [?] by which the owner hoped to render them propitious and obtain a plentiful crop.” This is in the main correct, as I have myself proved,—omitting the words “an offering to the gods.”

It is just possible, that the kernel of this charm or invocation to Pani, may be among the very oldest known!

And here, to make it still more plain, I will just briefly give a simple analysis of the contents of this Invocation, with a few explanatory notes; through which, I think, its suitability, beauty, and regularity, will be the more clearly perceived.



A statement of the celestial signs of Spring being fortunate, or favourable, for their work, according to tokens discerned by the tohunga from over both land and ocean: lines, 1–2.


Of their work being begun according to old descended custom; mentioning the names of four of Tinirau's eight sisters,—who were sent over the sea in their canoe to carry off Ngae (or Kae) for his theft of Tinirau's pet whale. Possibly they were here mentioned, on account of that memorable night of high glee and jollity spent in all manner of games by those women and their assistants, through which plan they also succeeded in detecting and carrying off Ngae;—the bare mention of this always caused pleasing mirthful ideas to the Maoris and was just as politically useful to the working-class among them at the beginning of their heavy annual working-season, as the festival

[Footnote] * Tia's name is mentioned in connection with the Arawa, p. 146, Grey's “Polynesian Mythology.”

[Footnote] † First Voyage, Vol. III., p. 472.

[Footnote] ‡ See Grey's “Polynesian Mythology,” p. 90.

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of the Carnival in some countries preceding Lent! “Waeroti and Waerota” are the names of two places out of New Zealand (real or mythical) not unfrequently referred to, in this way, in their old poetry and myths; and often in conjunction with “Hawaiki” lines, 3–7.


A direction to the workmen to be ready early; another indication of their industrious agricultural habits: lines, 8–10.


A promise, that what was really necessary, on the part of the owners, or chiefs, should be there, allegorically personified: lines, 11–13.


That the work should be throughout regularly performed: lines, 14–15.


A quiet, stately, fitting address, abounding in natural truths, made to the kumara sets, personified,* about to be planted; reminding them whence their beneficial growth, etc., were to be obtained: (1) from nature, the sea-breezes or summer-winds, and rains; and (2) from their own action,—growing and holding-on to the soil; great need of this advice, as they were always planted in the tops of raised light gravelly hillocks: lines, 16–24.


The question proposed,—Whence the crop, or future increase? (Carefully note the response, made by the tohunga (priest),—the old, old, story! semper idem): lines, 25–28.


The invocation proper to Pani; note its great simplicity, its gradations, and its recurring refrain, repeated regularly six times: lines, 29–42. (The tubers were to be placed “carefully and loosely, one by one,” into the seed-baskets, because they had commenced sprouting, and the sprouts were of slender and delicate growth.)


A premonition to the working-party: here are two statements made to the workmen, as if from a pilot, or master, occupying a more commanding situation, each one pregnant with suitable meaning: (1) the doors not yet being closed, and (2) the bare floors not yet exposed to view; meaning, the seed not all planted, the work not yet finished: lines, 43–46.


The command to the working-party, to act on the favourable moment: lines, 47–48.


Again an address to the kumara sets, still personified; as if mollifying the command just given (somewhat of a lowering nature), and reminding them of their ancient heavenly origin: lines, 49–50.


Another admonition to the working-party: lines, 51–53.


The work (viewed as) done: lines, 54–55.


A remark as to Pani's residence in the sky, out of sight: line, 16.


A reminder to Pani, to reward them after the manner of their own readily believing her,—or the ancient legend, etc.,—and, of their having acted upon it: lines, 57–60. (N.B. This is the earliest meaning, in this sense, of the word whakapono, that I have ever met with. It is now, and for the last 60 years, similarly used by the missionaries and others (also, in the Maori translation of the Scriptures), for faith;—the believing the matter spoken of, or taught;—the making-it-to-be-a-reality. A word, however, extremely rarely used in their ancient recitals.)

[Footnote] * See my conjecture, as to possible meaming of the name kumara, p. 34.

[Footnote] † See “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XIII., pp. 8, 9.

[Footnote] ‡ See, supra, pp. 35, 36.

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And here we should also bear in mind, that all this eminently peaceful industrious and pleasing agricultural work was the common yearly occupation of this people,—of the whole Maori nation throughout the North Island, by whom it was heartily loved and passionately followed.* To me, the consideration of the manifold useful patient and ornamental industry of the ancient New Zealanders,—their untiring interest, the pains, the love, formerly bestowed upon the scrupulous selecting, the perfecting, carving and decorating of almost all objects of daily use, even when the service itself was most common and material (including their wooden spades and axe handles, their canoe paddles and balers!), was truly wonderful; and all done without tools of iron or any metal, and ever without thought of pay or reward! And all that, too, amid the frequent disturbing and contrary heavy labours arising from fratricidal and murderous wars, building of forts, storming of towns, and general desolating violence, in which their strong natural and uncontrolled passions were too often wholly engaged.

In conclusion, another curious superstition relating to Pani, sometimes observed on the harvesting of the crop of kumara, may also be mentioned. At such seasons, a peculiarly shaped abnormal and rather large kumara root was met with, though by no means frequently (sometimes not one such in the whole cultivation), this was called “Pani's canoe“=Pani's medium, between her and the priest and the crop; and was consequently highly sacred, and never eaten by the people. To do so would be to insult Pani, and sure to cause the rotting of the whole crop when stowed away for keeping and winter use in the kumara store-house (a thing to be greatly dreaded); besides other serious visitations on the people. It, therefore, became the peculiar property of the priest, and was set aside to be cooked at a sacred fire as a kind of offering of first-fruits. The finding such a root was matter of great gratulation, for now it was made evident that Pani had heard and visited and blessed them. And as (from what I could learn) such a kumara root was chiefly, if not only, to be found when the crop was a very prolific one (which, indeed, was highly natural); this fertility was also taken as another proof of Pani's gracious visit, and, of course, placed to the account of the knowing and fortunate priest, who had initiated all things so well as to bring it to pass, and so to secure a good crop!

[Footnote] * See, “Trans. N.Z. Inst.,” Vol. XIII., pp. 5–10, 33, 34, etc.