Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 34, 1901
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Rua-iti, or Rua-torino.

This is another method of destroying life by magic spells acting upon the human hau. Ngati-awa Tribe describe the

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rua-torino as being a mound of earth formed in human shape by the priest. In this supposed human body he makes a hole, and then recites his spells of magic, in order to cause the spirit of the subject to descend into that hole, where it is affected or destroyed by the spells of the priest.

Tuhoe describe the rua-iti as follows: The priest makes a hole in the ground. This is the rua-iti. He has already obtained a piece of cord, the property of the subject, obtained by theft. He holds one end of the cord in his hand and allows the other end to trail down into the hole. He then repeats a spell to cause the wairua, or spirit, of the subject to descend the cord into the rua, or hole, where it is confined and destroyed by an incantation known as “kopani-harua.”

If a man finds out that some one is trying to destroy him by means of magic, his atua, or familiar demon (probably the spirit of his father or of an ancestor) will warn him, or his own wairua (spirit) will discover the fact that a magician is “meddling” with its physical basis and so return and warn the same (this refers to dreams: a person dreams that he is being so treated; to the Maori it is his spirit which has seen it); and he, the subject, will despatch a person to obtain a piece of any kind of cord belonging to the wizard. This cord is the medium between the subject (who now becomes an active agent) and the magician. The person makes an incision on his shoulder and smears the blood therefrom on the cord, which he then burns. I have not the special incantation here used. This rite is to ward off the spells of the magician who has bewitched him, and if it has sufficient mana it will destroy him. The performer must then whakanoa or lift the tapu from himself. To effect this he will obtain the services of a ruahine, a woman who is employed to make common people, houses, &c., under the influence of tapu. He cooks a single kumara and hands it to the woman, who eats it, while more invocations are repeated. Another way is to place the kumara under the threshold of his house, which the ruahine then steps over.

In war, when flying from an enemy, the pursued would turn and score a line across the earth or water behind him, at the same time repeating a karakia, which is said to destroy the pursuer so soon as he crosses the aforesaid line. When it was known or suspected that a war-party was approaching in order to attack a fort or village, the priest of the latter would go forth and bury a kumara (sweet potato) under the trail by which the enemy was supposed to approach. When such enemy crossed that spot they would be assailed by the pahunu or mahunu, a loss of nerve, an indefinable fear, produced by the spells of the priest recited when burying the kumara. Sometimes a spear would be laid across the track

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with the same object in view. of course, the hoa rakau charm was repeated over the weapon thus deposited.

In the far-back misty past, when gods and men mingled and deeds of passing strangeness occurred, it was Maahu who strove with Haere-atautu, their weapons being the magic of old. This was probably after the separation of Maru, Haere, and Kahukura. Both those beings were destroyed, each by the other. Haere (a rainbow god) was lured by Maahu to the paepae, where he was entered by Noke, the earthworm, and so destroyed; while Maahu of old was lured by Haere into the calabash known as Tipoki-o-rangi and therein destroyed.

When travelling through an enemy's country always walk in the water as much as possible, so as to avoid leaving your footprints on earth or sand, the hau (personality) of which might be taken by an enemy and used as an ohonga, or medium, through which to destroy you by his dark spells. Also be careful not to expectorate as you traverse a trail or cast away any article you have touched, for any of these articles may serve as a medium for the rites of magic. Again, when in mixed company, of whom you are not sure that a member thereof may not bear you ill-will, never rise from a seat without putting down your hand and “scooping up” therewith any fragments of your hau, or personality, which may have adhered to the seat. It is not well to neglect these precautions.

A priest or magician of sufficient mana, or power, can cause a flood by means of an invocation known as tukurangi, addressed to Para-whenua-mea, the origin and personification of floods or flood-waters. He can also cause a flooded river to subside. To do this he would take in his hand a stone, over which he would repeat his karakia (charm, &c.). He would then cast the stone across the flooded river. The tohunga rua-nuku had also incantations in his budget wherewith to blast trees, to shatter rocks, and many other marvellous things.

When invited to a feast it behoves one to be cautious when the presents of food are placed before you, for maybe that food has been bewitched by some evilly disposed person, and it is well to avert (whiti) the misfortune. You know, of course, that when the long heap of food is placed before guests the right-hand end as you face it is the kauru (head) and the other end the take (base). Before commencing to eat, your priest or man of knowledge will rise and, taking the basket of food from the extreme right, or kauru, he will place it on the extreme left, and shift the one on the left to the extreme right. This is a whiti ora, an averting of misfortune.

If you should happen to wound yourself—say, a cut by an

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axe—you should instantly rub the axe on the wound and repeat the charm known as “whai motu.” If in walking you trip and hurt your foot, repeat the words “Tina ora.”

Mawake, of Kawerau, waxed old and died. He was buried at Waitaha-nui. After some time one Manaia was strolling past that spot and possessed himself of Mawake's jaw-bone, out of which he fashioned himself a fish-hook. One day Manaia and his people went out to sea to fish. As they lay fishing on the banks a fish leaped from the sea and dropped into the canoe of Manaia That fish was an aho. Then the demons of the sea rose and utterly destroyed that people. Behold the power of the gods!

The custom of protecting crops or fish or forest products, or flax or ochre springs, &c., by means of a rahui was widespread in Maoriland—in fact, a universal custom. A post, termed pou rahui, would be set up and a bunch of fern or weeds tied thereto as a token of the rahui. Sometimes the head of a slain enemy was so used. When Tuhoe slaughtered Ngatirangitihi at Rere-whakaitu they brought back to Rua-tahuna the heads of many chiefs. That of Tionga was taken to Tarapounamu and there used to guard a famous bird-snaring tree.

The above post had no power in itself to punish poachers, but an object, such as a stone or branch, &c., was used as a whatu (kernel, an object to absorb the magic power), and was termed a “kapu.” Over this the incantations were repeated which had the power of destroying any person who interfered with the things protected by the rahui. The kapu, or whatu, was concealed near the pou rahui.

Waro rahui is another term used. “Waro” means a pit or chasm. A Maori would say, “A waro was dug that those who went to steal might descend thereby to death.” It by no means follows that any pit was dug. The pit was the power of the spells of magic by which poachers and thieves were slain; that was the real pitfall. Such is one of the beauties of the Maori tongue. A person often means something totally different from what he says.

But, apart from the rahui, if it was found that poachers were snaring birds in a forest where they had no right, an offence known as “kai haumi,” search would be made for some of the feathers that may have fallen from the birds taken. These would be taken to the priest of magic, to act as an ohonga, or medium, between the incantations of the priest and the subjects; and trouble lay before the kai-haumi gentry.

The causes of magic spells being employed were innumerable. Among others were quarrels concerning women, contentions between men as to items of ancient history, &c. jealousy, envy, and other causes too numerous to mention.

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One of the earliest acts of magic (makutu) on record is the act of Maui when he caused Irawaru to assume the form of a dog. The cause of this act was that Whatu-nui, wife of Maui, had received attentions from Maui's elder brother, Maui-mua.

Kākā, a chief of Kahungunu Tribe, derived his name from the following circumstance: A leading chief of the tribe had been slain by a priestly magician named Moeroa, who, in conjunction with one Meke, of Te Wairoa, obtained some kākā birds and performed over them their magic rites, and then sent them to the above chief, who, eating of them, died the death. It was then that Kawatiri took the name of Kākā, in order to keep green the memory of that killing.

Another good way in which to dispose of enemies is to obtain one of the (cooking) stones from their ovens. You then have certain spells recited over this by a magician and return the stone to the oven. When next those people eat food that has been cooked in that oven—he parekura! there will be trouble.

Sometimes bitter wars arose in consequence of acts of makutu, or witchcraft. When Ngati-maru, of Hauraki, raided the eastern shores of the Bay of Plenty they took back home with them numbers of Ngai-tai and Ngati-ira. Some time after this Te Whata, son of Tu-te-rangi-anini, of Ngati-maru, died, and Ngai-tai were accused of having bewitched him and so caused his death. Ngai-tai denied the truth of this, but said that Te Aitanga-a-mahaki had done so. Whereupon an expedition of Ngati-maru sailed from Hauraki, under the chiefs Tu-te-rangi-anini, Te Popo, and Te Rohu, to square matters up. After their departure Ngati-ira and Ngai-tai evolved the idea that Hauraki was a good place to migrate from. They therefore left, and returned home by an inland route through Tuhoeland, eventually reaching Torere. The Ngati-maru party attacked and defeated Ngai-tai at Parepaopao. One account says that they went on and attacked Te Aitanga-a-mahaki, a Turanga tribe. Before returning home Ngati-maru also defeated Te Whaka-tohea, the fight being known as “Paenga-toitoi.”

We have seen that when a person is taken sick he is taken to the waterside in order that the warlock may discover, by magic arts, the cause of the illness. Possibly you would like to know why a sick person is taken to the water. The reason is this: Wainui (the personification and origin of waters) is an ancestress of man, hence man is taken to her to be saved. And whether is his ailment a house, or a bed, or a sacred place, or a cacodemon, or a burial cave, there shall it be made clear—i.e., violation of tapu places.

There is another way in which the arts of makutu, or

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black magic, are used. When a man has served his time as a learner of the sacred history, religious rites (including magic), genealogies, mythology, &c., of his tribe, the time then comes when he must make some sacrifice in order to give power, force, mana, to the magic rites which he has learned during his novitiate, taught to him by the learned priests of the tribe. The teacher is not paid for his services by the pupil (tauira); the only payment made by the latter is the sacrifice above mentioned. The priest who taught him will tell the pupil that he must now, by his newly acquired magic powers, destroy one of his relatives—his wife, or father. or brother, &c. This is done, and the rites of the pupil will thus have due effect afterwards. Sometimes the pupil would first be given a stone, over which he would recite one of the numerous incantations which come under the generic term of “hoa.” He would then cast the stone down on the ground, where it would be shattered. Should it not break, however, then his learning has been in vain, his karakia, or charms, will not be effective.

To prevent an enemy from passing up a river in canoes a pole is stuck in the river-bed, and a bunch of fern, &c., tied on to the part of the pole above water. After certain magic spells are recited over it any enemy passing up the river above the pole will be afflicted by divers disorders. Also, when a tribe wishes to prevent eels from going up a river beyond the limit of the tribal lands they set up a similar pole. A totara log in the river Rangi-taiki, at Nga-huinga, held this magic power until it was interfered with by the godless soldiers of Fort Galatea.

The evil eye (titiro makutu) is believed in by the Maori. When bathing one day at Rua-tahuna I was amused when a small child said to me, “I titiro makutu a poti ki a koe, i a koe e kaukau ana” (The cat was looking upon you with an evil eye whilst you were bathing). Fortunately I felt no evil effects from the evident hostility of her cat; possibly my immunity from trouble lay in my knowledge of the art of mātāpuru.