Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 34, 1901
This text is also available in PDF
(2 MB) Opens in new window
– 95 –


I had been getting some information regarding Maori religious rites from an old man of Tuhoe. When the interview was over he said, “I must mātāpuru, that the information I have given you may not return (recoil) and kill me.”

In the days of yore and the mana Maori, when the dread atua (demon) Tu-nui-a-te-ika (a meteor) was seen, the priests would at once proceed to mātāpuru—i.e., to perform certain rites and recite divers incantations or invocations in order to ward off the aitua, or evil omen. The mātāpuru is an excellent plan by which to avert the effects of magic. Should I hear that a wizard is in the vicinity I would at once proceed to mātāpuru. I tie a number of pieces of green flax round my body, arms, and legs—say, three or four on each. This is termed a “ruruku,” or binding-together of the body. I then

– 96 –

recite the mātāpuru incantation. The following is a specimen one; it is termed a “momono”:—

Monokia te waha o te tipua
Monokia te waha o te tahito
Me puru to waha ki pari a nuku
Me puru to waha ki pari a rangi
E ki mai na koe, he tahito koe
He koeke, he kai-ure.

This mātāpuru is performed by travellers before entering a village where they imagine they may possibly be in danger of being bewitched.

The karakia known as “titikara” possesses great powers of healing, and is most useful in restoring to life those apparently dead.

Another good item is the whakaeo. This word means “to deprive of power.” If you are attacked by a taniwha, or demon, you should at once pull a hair from your head and cast that hair towards your assailant, at the same time repeating the appropriate incantation, which is a variety of the tuaimu.

Here is another spell by which you may avert the evil omen of meeting or seeing the little green lizard:—

E tama!
E patu koe ki tua
E patu koe ki waho
E patu koe ki te hau e pa nei
E patu koe ki te papa e takoto nei
E patu koe ki te rangi nui e tu nei
Tau e riri ai, ko uta, ko tai
Ko tou ora
Ki te whai ao
Ki te ao marama.

The above is a whakaeo; it deprives the evil omen of power.

The following is said to be effective when you are in trouble with a taniwha, or water demon:—

Haere i tua, haere i waho
Haere i a moana nui, haere i a moana roa
I a moana te takiritia
Ki te whai ao, ki te ao marama.

But do not forget the hair.

The expression “whakaeo” is also applied to man; certain spells are recited or actions performed in order to deprive enemies of strength, vigour, energy, &c. Sometimes the medium of the tribal war-god will explain to the warrio is that a certain act must be performed in order to whakaeo the enemy.

A man dies and is buried. Something causes his friends to think that he has been bewitched. The priestly worker of mysteries takes the matter in hand. He proceeds to the grave, carrying with him a stalk of the rarauhe fern. Over

– 97 –

this he repeats one of the innumerable spells which come under the generic term of “hoa.” The stick is left there. If it sinks and disappears in the earth it is known that the person died through the power of magic, and also that all persons implicated in that dark work will perish before long. If the stick does not so disappear, then the person was not bewitched.

The sterility of the women of Ngati-whare, of Te Whaiti, is said to be the result of magic spells of Ngati-awa Tribe.

The following is a karakia repeated in order to avert any misfortune, sickness, trouble, &c., which may be lurking about—i.e., to preserve the people from all harm:—

Tua mai te whiwhia, tua mai te rawea—oi
Hao ki uta, hao ki te rangi nui e tu nei—oi
Haere ki waenga tapu
Tapu ihi, tapu rangi, toro i rangi
Tonoa mai te Pu, tonoa mai te More
More ki tua, More ki waho ra
Hukia mai te thi
Hukia mai te hata papatea
Korihi te manu, korihi te po, te ata haea.
Huna mai te ruruku, kohera mai te ruruku
Uru ki tua, uru ki waho
Kei te awhenga, kei a tutakarewa.

I can accomplish the slaying of a person by going to the tuahu, or sacred place, and taking therefrom food which has been placed there for the gods, or some of the remains of meals partaken of by a first-born child, which remnants are also there deposited. I bring the same away and put it among the person's food that he may eat thereof. will perish.

When travelling it is always desirable to protect yourself against magic, and you can do this by means of the whakau rite. The people of the land may bewitch your food, or work some other evil art. You take a small portion of cooked food and repeat over it:—

To kai ihi, to kai ihi
To kai Rangi, to kai Papa
To kai awe, to kai karu
To kai ure pahore
Tiritiria makamaka
Kia kai mai te ati tipua
Kia kai mai te ati tawhito
E kai, e horo o tatau kaki
Kia kai nuku tatau
Kia kai rangi tatau
Kia kai mātāmua tatau.

Enough said. If any one has been bewitching you his magic spells will recoil upon his own head and slay him.

When in your sleep your waiua (spirit) goes forth from your body and wanders about, it is ever seeking to discover

– 98 –

any danger that may be threatening you, its physical basis. Should it discover that some person is bewitching you, it will at once return and you become aware of the fact. So soon as you awake go at once to the tuahu, or sacred place of the village, and stand there; but you must face in the direction of the place where the wizard lives, and then, stretching forth your hand, you repeat the charm beginning “Whakataha ra koe e te anewa o te rangi e tu nei” (Pass by thou whirlwind of the heavens, &c.). Having finished that, you then repeat the tuaimu charm, which has a most enervating and dangerous effect upon your enemy:—

Te imu kei te ruhi
Te imu kei te ta, kei te anewa
To ringa i tu, to ringa i pe
Pepehi nuku, pepehi rangi
Rere taka o rangi ki waho
Kaki whatiia
Tuku tonu, heke tonu
Te ika ki te Po
He ika ka ripiripia
He ika ka toetoea
He ika ka haparangitia
Muimui te ngaro, totoro te iro
Mau ka oti atu ki te Po
Oti atu ki te Po wherikoriko.

The wind known as “Te Aputahi-a-pawa” is most boisterous. It begins with a gentle wind, known as “hau mātāriki,” but after continuing for some time it becomes most fierce and is dangerous. Hasten at once to the water, to your mother Wai-nui, and stand therein. You have brought with you a piece of dead ember. You take this in your left hand and pass that hand under your thigh. Enough, the fierceness of that wind will at once abate.

Heoi! You have now seen how beset by dangers is man's path through life. You have also learned how to avoid such dangers. But the way is thick with snares and pitfalls; relax your vigilance for a few brief moments and the workers of evil shall fasten upon you. Above all, revere the laws of tapu. Keep green the memory of your ancestors, for of such are the gods of the Maori. They can save you from danger or send you down to Hades.

The long, weary fight against superstition which you have waged for many centuries, through sorrow and darkness and much suffering, it has just commenced here. Old Waihui, a frail survivor from the days of the levelled spear, when she heard of the marvels of the white man's hospital, said to me, “Oh! and if we had taken my son there he might still be with me.”

And so the struggle goes on.