Art. XXV.—Maori Eschatology: The Whare Potae (House of Mourning) and its Lore; being a Description of many Customs, Beliefs, Superstitions, Rites, &c., pertaining to Death and Burial among the Maori People, as also some Account of Native Belief in a Spiritual World.
[Read before the Auckland Institute, 6th December, 1905.]
“Even as the moon dies, and then, having bathed in the waters of life, returns to this world once more young and beautiful, so let man die and revive.” Such were the words of Tane, offspring of Rangi, the Sky Father, and Papa, the Earth Mother, to Hine-nui-te-Po, Goddess of Death and Hades. But Hine of the Dark World said, “Not so. Rather let man die and return to Mother Earth, even that he may be mourned and wept for.” Hence we see mourning parties of the Maori people wailing for the dead. For what said the men of old?— “By tears and lamentation alone may [a natural] death be avenged.”
Having collected some few notes anent Maori eschatology from members of the Tuhoe or Urewera Tribe, it behoves me to put such together in the form of an article, for the purpose of
preservation, so as to place on record any hitherto unpublished matter which they may contain, inasmuch as the “weeds of Tura” have already come to me, and no man may know when he may drink of the waters of Tane-pi and lift the trail of Maui of old for the realm of Miru and of Hine.
Although my notes on some items are sufficiently numerous to give a fairly good idea of Native customs in past times, yet those pertaining to the ritual of burial and exhumation are decidedly meagre. Of the many incantations used on such occasions in the days of yore I have collected but few. This does not, however, affect the general reader, for such matter interests the specialist alone—he who seeks to understand the archaic expressions contained in such cryptic effusions of the ancient Maori.
These notes have been collected from the descendants of the original people of that part of the Bay of Plenty district lying between Whakatane on the coast and Ruatahuna in the interior. My reason for using the past tense in this paper is because many of the customs herein described have fallen into disuse, while others again have been modified since the introduction of Christianity.
A considerable amount of interesting information anent these matters may be found in the writings of the late Mr. John Whit, Taylor's “Te Ika a Maui,” and other works.
The matter contained in this paper is given as collected from the old men of the Tuhoe Tribe of Maoris, and is not made to support any pet theory of my own; for I hold that we who dwell in the dark places of the earth should confine our attention to placing on record original matter only, and carefully suppress any desire to theorise or generalise.
Mythical Origin Of Death.
In perusing ethnographical works we often meet with the statement that certain primitive peoples or races appear to be or have been imbued with the idea that death is unnatural; that in the dawn of time man was immortal, and knew not death until it was introduced by some accident, or offence committed against the gods. Among such peoples are invariably found singular myths to account for such introduction.
The Maori of New Zealand come under the above heading, as will be shown anon. In studying Maori cosmogony and anthropogeny we are first met with the statement that man is descended from immortal personifications—i.e., from Rangi, the Sky Parent, and Papa-tuanuku, the Earth Mother; also that from the same source sprang the sun, the moon, and the stars, who are termed the “whanau marama” (the Shining Ones, the Children of Light, who know not death). In the words of
an old Native, who was explaining to me the origin of death, “The people of the sky [i.e., the heavenly bodies], they do not decay, neither do they fall; they are not like the people of this world. As for the origin of decay among the people of this world, it was caused by the act of Tane in seeking the female element. Rangi, our parent [the Sky] said to Tane, ‘The female element is below. Above is the realm of life, of immortality; below is the realm of death, of decay, of misfortune.’ Hence, through that quest of Tane, came decay into the world. Had he not sought the female element, then would man have been like unto the multitude in the sky above—he would have lived for ever.”
Here we see that the Maori traces his descent from a primal pair, Sky and Earth, the male and female nature respectively, and also that the deathless Shining Ones, the heavenly bodies, had a similar origin. He saw that all these were immortal—“they do not decay, neither do they fall”—hence something must have happened in the dawn of time which caused man to decay, something that caused death to enter the world. The mind of the primitive Maori was equal to the task of explaining that cause. He evolved the myth of Maui and the Goddess of Death. The dead person is often referred to in funeral speeches as having been caught in the snare of Hine-nui-te-Po, the guardian of Te Po (Hades, the realm of darkness), she who drags men down to death. It was this Hine who first proposed that decay and death should be the lot of man (see first page of this article), and her proposal was opposed by Tane, or, according to some authorities, by Maui. “In regard to natural decay and death, it was proposed by our ancestors that man should die as the moon dies; for when the moon wanes and comes near to death he hies him to Te Wai-ora-o-Tane [the life-giving waters of Tane], in which he bathes and so recovers his youth and strength. Our ancestors said, ‘Let man so decay and revive, that he may return to this world.’ But Hine would have none of this. She said, ‘Not so; for man would not be mourned. Let man die as earth-born creatures die; let him return to our Earth Mother, even that he may be mourned and lamented’ (‘me matemate a one, kia mihia ai, kia tangihia ai’).” Then came the struggle between Hine and Maui, the attempt of Maui to gain eternal life for man being thwarted by the Goddess of Death.
An old-time saying of the Maori people (published by Sir George Grey in his “Maori Proverbs”) is this— “Me tangi, ka pa ko te mate i te marama”; which he translates, “Let us weep over him; he has departed for ever; if he had disappeared like the old moon we would not have mourned—he would have appeared to us anew after a time.”
Myth of Maui And Hine-Nui-Te-Po.
Maui is perhaps the principal representative of the age of heroes in Maori mythology, being one of the demi-gods who porformed wondrous deeds in the misty past, when man was young upon the earth. It was Maui who procured fire for mankind, who lengthened the day by chastising and binding the sun, and who is credited with many impish tricks, all of which the Maori delights to recount. But no reverence of any kind is paid to him.
As to Hine-nui-te-Po and her origin, it was in this wisc: Tane, one of the progeny of Rangi and Papa (Sky and Earth), sought his parent Rangi and asked, “Where is the female element?” Rangi replied, “The female element is below; the abode of life is above.” This may refer to Papa, the Earth Mother, whose place in nature is below the heavens, while above is the vast expanse of the heavens, the denizens of which know not death. It is evident that for many centuries the Maori mind has been deeply imbued with animism, as a study of their myths will prove to the inquirer.
One authority gives the following as the reply of Rangi to Tane: “The female element is below: it is the abode [or origin] of misfortune, of death. The realm of life is above. Our descendants shall not be as we are, and as are our grand-children—the sun, the moon, the stars, the Hinatore, Pari-kioko, and Hine-rauamoa—for they shall know death, the death of the lower world, and be mourned” (“Kia mate ao, kia mihia, kia tangihia ai”).
Whether the term used in this myth—i.e., “uha”—applies to the Earth Mother. or to Hine-nui-te-Po, who is said to have brought death to man by slaying Maui in a very singular manner, it is evident from a perusal of this myth that death and misfortune were supposed to have been caused by, or originated with, the female element.
Tane sought long for the female element, and in so doing he produced trees, shrubs, and plants, until he came to two beings named Roiho and Roake, who told him where to find woman. That woman was Kurawaka, who had been formed by Tiki by means of the tira rite. She was formed from the sacred mound termed Puke-nui-o-Papa, which represented the po, the realm of darkness, of oblivion, and sin. By Kurawaka Tane had Hine-ahu-one. He took his daughter to wife and had Hine-ahuarangi, whom he also married and had Hine-titama. Tane took her also to wife, until one day she asked, “Where is my father?” Tane replied, “I am your father.” So shocked was Hine-titama to learn this fact that she fled to the lower world, to Tane-te-wai-ora. She was pursued by her father
(whose full name was Tane-nui-a-rangi), but refused to return with him, saying. “Return thou to the upper world, that you may draw up our descendants to light and life; while I remain here below to drag them down to darkness and death.”
Here some Natives state that Hine-titama became Goddess of Death and of Hades, and was ever after known as Hine-nui-te-Po. Others say that Hine-nui-te-Po was a daughter of Hinetitama and Tumurangi. Yet again other versions give Hine-ahu-one as the one who became Queen of Hades, others that Hine-a-tauira (which seems to be another name for Hine-ahua-rangi) obtained that important post. However that may be, it is admitted by all authorities in this district that HIne-nui-te-Po is Queen of Hades, and the origin or cause of death. Descendants of Te Tini-o-Awa state that she had two younger sisters, Mahuika and Hine-i-tapeka, who were the personification, or origin, of fire. Mahuika was the living fire, the ordinary fire of this world, while Hine-i-tapeka (or Hine-tapeka) represented the fire which burns in the underworld, the tokens of which are the charred trunks of trees, and charcoal seen in deposits of pumice, as at Kainga-roa. When Maui, the hero, sought to obtain fire for man he sought Mahuika for that purpose.
Now, the fire seems to have been contained in the body of Mahuika herself, or in her fingers. The names of her five children given above are those of the fingers and toes, beginning with tako-nui, the thumb, or big toe, down to toiti, the little finger or toe. These were the fire children, or offspring, of Mahuika, whose name is viewed as a synonym for fire. The names of Hine-tapeka's offspring imply firebrands and charcoal.
When Maui applied to Mahuika for fire she pulled off one of her fingers and gave it to him. This finger was fire. Maui took it aside and promptly extinguished it, after which he returned and demanded again the fire of Mahuika, which was granted him. This also he extinguished; and so on until he came the fifth time, when the enraged Mahuika plucked off her last finger and cast it at Maui. The fire raged fiercely and pursued Maui, who was almost consumed by the same, when he bethought himself of calling upon his ancestors to cause the heavy rains to fall, which soon extinguished the pursuing fire. The remnants of fled to the woods and took refuge in the kaikomako
and some other trees, from which the Maori people procure fire by the hika, or generating process.
Then it was that Hine-nui-te-Po resolved to avenge the destruction of the progeny of her sister Mahuika. To prepare the way, and to render Maui susceptible to her designs, she had recourse to magic, for it had come to her knowledge that Maui had designs against her. She sent one Kahukura (a butterfly) as a messenger to obtain the aria* of Maui, in the form of a drop of his blood. But Maui slew the messenger with a slap of his hand. Then Hine despatched Waeroa (the mosquito), but Maui heard the insect humming and destroyed it. Then Tuiau (the midge) was sent, and death was the lot of Tuiau. But when Hine sent the silent Namu (sandfly), success was won, and she obtained a drop of the blood of Maui, over which she performed certain rites of magic to enable her to take the life of Maui.
At a certain time the thought came to Maui that he would strive to gain eternal life for man, that man might revive from decay as the moon does. He called together his people—the forest elves, the birds, and the multitude of the Mahoihoi—and explained to them his design. They said, “Maui, you will perish. Beware! Your spirit has been taken by Hine-nui-te-Po.” But Maui persisted, and so he and his people fared on until they found the dread Goddess of Hades, who was asleep. Said Maui to his folk, “You must be very careful not to laugh while I enter the body of Hine, lest she awaken and slay me. When I have gained [or obtained] her manawa, then all will be well. Do as I say and Hine [or her power to inflict death upon mankind] shall be destroyed.” Then Maui essayed to enter the body of Hine by the passage whence man is born into the world. But when he had half entered, the strange sight was too much for Piwakawaka (the fantail, a bird), who laughed aloud. Hence awoke the dread Goddess of Death, who, by closing her puapua (? labia) caused the death of Maui. So perished Maui, the hero, he who performed marvellous deeds, but who succumbed in his effort to gain eternal life for man.
(Ka ki atu a Maui ki ana iwi, “Kei kata koutou ki ahau. Mehemea ka uru ahau ki roto i nga puapua o Hine-nui-te-Po, kei kata koutou ki ahau. Ki te kata koutou, ka mate ahau; ki te kore e kata, ko ia ka mate i a au. Kia taea ra ano e ahau tona manawa, katahi ka hamumu ai koutou.” Katahi ka tukua kia ngaro ki roto i nga kuwha o Hine-nui-te-Po, tu maro ana te nanakia i roto i nga kuha (kuwha) o Hine. Na, kua heke iho a Maui, ka tae iho ia ki nga puapua o Hine-nui-te-Po, e tuhera (tuwhera)
[Footnote] * Aria=semblance. This blood would be used as an ohonga. (See Transactions, vol. xxxiv, p. 75.)
ana. Kihai i kata. No te tomokanga atu ki roto, katahi ka kataina mai e te moho-tupereru, katahi ka whakakopia mai nga nga kuwha o taua wahine, mate tonu iho a Maui. Ko Maui tenei ka mate i a Hine-nui-te-Po.)
In this version it is the moho bird which causes the disaster to Maui and the genus homo.
In an account of Maori magic given by an old Native of Ngati-Awa (tribe) I note the following passage: “Me waiho ko te tawhito o Hine-nui-te-Po, ko tena te atua i patua ai te tangata nana i raweke a raua tamariki ko tona taina.” The tawhito of Hine-nui-te-Po was the demon that destroyed the person who slew the children of her sister and self. This word “tawhito” is a very ancient sacerdotal term for the organs of generation in man (membrum virile)
The object of Maui in entering the body of Hine was to gain her manawa, a term which is applied to the heart, and also the breath (manawa-ora, the life-breath). In failing to effect this he lost the chance of acquiring eternal life for man, while Hine, in triumph, not only slew Maui, but carried out her will as to the introduction of universal death into this world. As her word was to Tane of old, ever she drags man down to the realm of death.
Some Native authorities state that it was Maui who argued with the Queen of Hades as to whether death should or should not be allowed to enter the world, and also that Maui had deeply offended her by interfering with her connection with Tuna, the eel-god. Maui decided, they say to slay Hine on account of her practice of magic arts, by which means she destroyed many people. Her word was,—
Ka kukuti nga puapua
Ka whai toremi.
The drop of Maui's blood obtained by Hine was used as an ohonga, or connection between her rites of magic and the person of Maui. (See vol. xxxiv of the Transactions, p. 75, for an explanation of this matter.)
The meaning of this singular allegorical myth may not be clear to our minds, for we have attained to a different plane of thought from that occupied by primitive man. We do not, and never will, understand the inwardness of the primitive mind. The time for us to do so has long passed away. But ever in Maori magic rites—barbaric ritual of a deeply superstitious people—may be noted the strange belief that the female genitary organs are allied to death and misfortune, while the male organ was resorted to in order to save man from disaster, from the charms and spells of magicians.
In an old invocation or incantation repeated by the priests of old in order to relocate the breath of life in an apparently dying person we find the following:—
Kai hea te pu o te mate?
Kai runga, kai raro
Kai te hikahika nui no Hine-nui-te-Po, &c.
(“Where is the cause or origin of death? It is above and below. It is in the organ of Hine-nui-te-Po.”)
A singular discourse delivered by an old Native to myself puts a somewhat different complexion on the story of Tane seeking the female element. He said, “I will speak of life and death. When Tane approached his parent Rangi, in his search for the female sex, Rangi said to him, ‘The whare o aitua [abode of misfortune or death] yawns below, while open above is the whare o te ora [site of life, &c.].’ The former term implies the female organ, while the latter expression is applied to the ears, eyes, nostrils, and mouth. Now, when Tane found woman he was ignorant of the laws of procreation and of copulation, hence he mistook the purpose of the ears, nostrils, &c. Now, if Tane had not interfered with the whare o te ora, death would never have approached man; he would have retained life for ever, even as do the children of Tangotango, who are the sun, moon, and stars.”
It will be noted that the above notes really contain two accounts of the origin of death, which may perhaps be accounted for when we know that these isles were not settled by one migration of Polynesians, but by at least two, whose myths and traditions may have differed somewhat. Moreover, I am becoming imbued with the idea that many such origins or myths bear a twofold aspect as recorded in Maori tradition, the one being of a sacerdotal character, retained by and known to but a few persons, such as the priests and chiefs; while the other version is the popular one, known to all members of the tribe, and appears conserved in the folk-lore of the people, often interwoven with the doings of some popular old-time hero.
The adventures and deeds of such beings as Maui, Tawhaki, &c., are common property, told around any camp-fire, or in any place where Natives are gathered together. No reticence marks the imparting of such folk-lore tales to Europeans. But how different, and difficult, it is to acquire any matter pertaining to the real old-time religion, the cult of Io, the collector alone knows.
The underworld, or Hades, to which the spirits of the dead descend, is termed the “po,”, a word which also means “night.” Pouri=dark; uri denotes blackness or very dark colour
This underworld of the dead will be treated of later on, but I wish to state here that the “po” is a term often used as a synonym for death. In like manner the expression “ao marama” (light world, or world of light) is employed to denote life, the world of life, this world we live in. Hence “light” and “life” are, to the Maori, equal terms, as also are “darkness” and “death.”
A natural death is termed “mate aitu,” or “mate tara whare,” sometimes “hemo-o-aitu.” Suicide is known as “whakamomori.”
In the very old myth of Mahu and Haereatautu mention is made of Noke, the Worm of Death. This Haere was one of the rainbow-gods of the Maori. He was taken by Mahu to a paepae (latrine), where Noke entered his body and caused his death. This myth, as obtained, is too fragmentary to carry any explanation with it.
How The Maori Dies.
As a rule the Maori meets death calmly and without betraying fear, but not cheerfully. (Who does?) He had no belief in any future state of happiness, in any realm of peace where the spirits of the dead abide amid either sensual, social, or intellectual pleasures; no spiritual happiness and contentment awaited him after death. His mentality had not evolved any form of belief in judgment of the soul after death, in any system of reward or punishment in the spirit-world for virtuous conduct or sins committed while in the flesh. Hence he had no fear of future punishment, of suffering in the next world for sins committed in the world of life. No priest terrorised imaginative minds with threats of awful sufferings after death, or demanded any form of payment for services rendered in averting such sufferings. To state, however, that the Maori possessed no system of ethology, as some writers have done, is quite wrong. His moral code differed considerably from our own, hence, with Western obtuseness, we cannot grasp it, or even recognise it. To discover and study that system you must examine the working of the laws of the tapu cult, the intricacies of which have never yet been fully explained by any writer. Sin to the Maori was invariably connected with some infringement of tapu. No man in olden times was allowed to take part in any sacred or important undertaking until his mind, or heart, had been purified by means of a very singular and sacred religious rite, which imparted to him moral, mental, and intellectual cleanliness. In the days that lie before we will endeavour to explain these matters.
The old-time Maori generally met death bravely on the battle-field, even when put to torture by enemies. When dying from disease or natural decay they do so calmly, and even in an apa-
thetic manner. One does not notice in the Maori so situated any of the keen desire and struggle to live so often noticed among white people. His mind is too deeply imbued with fatalism for that. When stricken with illness, real or imaginary, the gloom of Te Po seems to already envelop him. More especially is this noticeable when a Native believes that he has been bewitched. Once let him get this idea fixed in his mind and his doom is sealed; he will surely die ere long. I have known such cases in this district during the past few years.
When a person fell ill he was almost invariably taken a little way from the village, and either a miserable shed of brush or palm-leaves erected over him, or he was simply left in the open. He would not be allowed to die in his house, on account of the intense tapu which pertained to death. If he did so, then the house could no longer be used, for it would be tapu, and would simply be left to decay. In former days, when fighting was of common occurrence, it often happened that a fortified village would be deserted on account of the blood of its occupants having been spilt there while defending the same against an enemy. In such a case, if no local priest was deemed sufficiently high in his profession to lift the tapu from the blood-stained defences, then the garrison deserted that place and built another fort elsewhere. When Te Kanapa and others were shot at the Mana-tepa Fort, at Ruatahuna, in the early forties, that strong-hold was deserted by the garrison on account of blood having been shed therein. The forts known as Te Tawai and Te Kape, in the same valley, were deserted on account of certain people having been buried therein.
For the reasons above stated, the Maori usually died in the open air. When death was seen to be near, the sufferer was generally carried to the marae, or plaza, of the village, and there laid on some mats on the ground, either without covering (if fine weather) or with but a rude shed over him, which shed would probably be open at the sides. At the present time a tent is usually used for the purpose. But often they die absolutely in the open.
In many cases when nearing his end a person would say that he would die at a certain stated time, which he usually contrived to do. The people of his village, as also others, probably, from adjacent settlements, would gather at such time on the plaza before the dying man's couch and there await his dying words—i.e., his advice, injunctions, behests, &c., as also his farewell greeting to his tribe. Such speeches are termed “oha,” “poroaki,” or “poroporoaki.”
When old Whakamoe lay sick unto death by the shores of Waikare-moana, a Native Land Commission was expected to
soon arrive at that place. The old man informed his people that he would not die until he had welcomed the Commissioners. Days ran into weeks, and the Europeans had not yet arrived. But Whakamoe clung to life, and kept his word; for one morning the waiting people saw canoes crowded with people leave the dark shadows under Huiarau and glide across the calm, bright waters of the rippling sea. When the visitors—European and Native—marched into the village plaza the world-weary old warrior was waiting for them. He lay on his last couch, on the ground, his relatives near him, and then was heard his voice uttering the old-time greetings of the Maori people as he welcomed the visitors from the outer world and the vale of Ruatahu-na. After this greeting he addressed his tribesmen, advising them as to how to conduct their affairs, and commending the visitors to their care and hospitality. And then he bade farewell to his people, and so fared forth upon the great unknown ocean, like the children of Pani of old.
A Native prefers to die in the open air: He mihi ki te ao marama te take. Ka mihi ia ki te ao marama ka whakarerea e ia. The reason is, he likes to greet the world of life and being. He greets the world he is about to leave. If a sick person asks to be taken out into the open, that is viewed as a sign of death being near. Sometimes, however, a person is not brought out thus into the open. The passing-away of a person, the last hour, is termed “whakahemohemo.” But even if a person died under shelter, yet the body would be exposed in the marae (plaza, court) after death for the mourning ceremonies, the lying-in-state—of which more anon. In the case of persons of low birth (ware), many rites and customs were omitted. He was a nobody, a person of no importance. But little ceremony pertained to the death of a ware.
Sometimes when a person of importance was nigh unto death a human sacrifice would be made. One of his relatives would slay a person as a “koangaumu,” as it is termed, the body being known as an “ika koangaumu” (sacrificial fish, or victim). The idea was an exaltation of the sick person. The body of the sacrifice was eaten, a portion of the flesh being given to the invalid. It is said that the act of slaying a person would serve the purpose of allaying the grief of the sick person's relatives, who expected soon to lose him.
The Maoris believe in omens innumerable. Signs of coming disaster, as a defeat in battle, or the death of a chief, are numberless. If a comet (known as “Tu-nui-a-te-ika”) was seen, persons would ask, “Who is the striken one?”—for such was a sign of death. Some tribes or clans had tribal or family banshees, such as Hine-ruarangi, of the Ngati-Whare people.
These omens will not be inserted here, on account of their excessive number. Also, many of them have been published already in my paper on “Omens and Superstitions of the Maori.”*
We will now attend the bedside of the dying Maori and see how he fares when caught in the “snare of Hine-nui-te-Po,” as the saying has it. We will note his thoughts regarding death and the spirit-world; we will look with his eyes on strange rites, and stand by the priest who aids his soul to quit the wrecked body; we will follow him to the underworld and commune with the gods of Hades: and you shall see a man who dies calmly, and in times of stress—as under torture—bravely. For his mind has not been terrorised for long centuries by pictures of eternal suffering after death. His priests, in one respect, could teach us one grand lesson. He has not been taught to fear the here-after.
The end is near. The sick person has been carried to the plaza of the village home or fort; his relatives and friends are gathered here to hear his last words. If he be an important person, practically the whole tribe are present—at least, all those dwelling near by—though I have seen Natives travel forty miles over rough bush trails to see their chief die and to hear his last words. If he had been taken ill away from home his relatives would carry him thence on a litter, so that he might die on his own land and among his own people—a very desirable thing among Natives. I have seen men so carried over the roughest forest ranges.
The dying man would be found lying on some mats placed on the ground, and covered with the scant clothing of primitive man, probably a cloak woven from the fibre of the so-called flax (Phormium tenax). When a Maori dies, such of his clothing as may have been used by him or have been in contact with him during his illness is either buried with him or burned at his death. In former times they possessed nothing in the way of clothing similar to European garments, but merely cloaks, capes, and kilts. Since the Natives have adopted European garments, relatives of a person near his end will often say to him, “Put on your clothes,” and will assist him to do so. He thus dies in them, and is buried in them. If any such are left they are burned. But if he has any spare clothing packed away, such is not destroyed at his death, but is taken by relatives. Also, the vessels used to cook food in for a sick person, if his own property, are often destroyed at his death. They are destroyed for the same reason that his clothing was burned—lest others use them; for death has its
[Footnote] * See “Journal of the Polynesian Society,” vol. vii.
tapu, as has birth. In entering and leaving the world man is under strong tapu
But the tribe is waiting for the last words, the dying speech of our tupapaku (sick person). They have gathered to attend his death-bed—i.e., to whakahemohemo him. Prior, however, to this last farewell the sick man has called his family around him—i.e., the gens, or family group—and has expressed to them his wishes as to the disposal of his personal property, his interests in tribal lands, &c., so that no trouble may ensue in regard to the same after his death.
It must here be borne in mind that the Maori, being unacquainted with any graphic system, made all important arrangements such as the above by means of explaining them in a formal speech to his people or tribe or subtribe. The disposal of his property by a dying person in the above manner was equivalent to the making of his will. Such an arrangement would stand good, and be respected by the people, because it had been explained in the presence of the tribe or clan, as custom demanded. It was therefore a legal act.
“I speak of the days of old. When a man was near death, his people collected around him when they knew that he was about to leave them. The people assemble before him in the marae [plaza], they greet their passing chief: ‘O sir, greetings to you! We wish you to speak to your tribe, to your family, to your offspring.’ The patriarch speaks: ‘When my face is lost to your sight, live peacefully with each other. Ever remember the persons who brought evil, and peace, into this world, as seen in Aotea-roa [New Zealand]. The evil came from Tu and Tangaroa, from Tane and Tawhirimatea; while peace and prosperity originated with Rongo and Haumia, with Ioio-whenua and Putehue. This [peace] is what you must hold to and preserve, as a means of salvation for the tribe in the time that lies before, as a treasure for the people, as a means towards peacefulness. Then shall the result be a treasured home, domestic peace, and a peaceful land. Troubles shall not assail you.’ Before the people of Hawaiki came hither to Aotea-roa peace prevailed in this land, and the men of old strove to preserve such peace. Observe the words of Toi the Wood-eater, when he, a dying man, addressed his peoples. The tribes of Toi were assembled to say farewell to him, the lord of many clans. There were seen the Tururu-mauku, the Tini-o-te-Marangaranga, the Tini-o-Tuoi, the Rarauhe-maemae, the Kokomuka-tu-tara-whare, the Raupo-ngaueue, and many others. The Maranga-ranga greeted the old chief: ‘O sir, greetings to you!’ And Toi said, ‘Be careful to preserve the peace and prosperity handed down to you by your ancestors. Respect the behests
and trusts of your people who have gone before.’ The Tuoi arose: ‘O sir, the father of the people, the holder of the tribe, salutations to you!’ And Toi replied, ‘Hold to the welfare of your people, preserve it for the generations to come.’ Arose the Raupo-ngaueue: ‘O father, we greet you—you who nurtured the people that they might retain life in this world.’ Said Toi, ‘My words to you shall not differ. Your salvation—it is the advice given by Puhao-rangi and Ioio-whenua—the welfare of the tribe, preserve it.’ So died the famed Wood-eater, Toi of Ka-pu-te-rangi.”
It must not, however, be supposed that the last words of a Native chief were always of the above nature: far from it. The much-quoted Toi was the high chief of the tangata whenua, or original people, of the Bay of Plenty district, a people who were not, apparently, of a warlike disposition, in which respect they much differed from the later migration of Polynesians to these shores.
A leading feature in such valedictory addresses of a dying chief to his people lay in his strenuous urging of them to avenge such defeats, or murders, or insults as had been suffered by his tribe, and which accounts were not yet “squared.”
The term “oha” is applied by the Maori to all wishes, instructions, and advice of a dying person, as also to the property he leaves to his descendants. It also applies to his widow and to the tribe (Ko te hapu, he oha na te tangata rangatira kua mate). Williams's Maori Dictionary gives: oha = to greet; maioha = to greet; koha = parting instructions, respect, regard, a present, gift, &c.; oha = a relic, keepsake, a dying speech; whakatau-oha = to make a dying speech; oha = generous, &c.
Dying people are sometimes farewelled by the assembled people before they expire, but most of such speeches are uttered when the body is lying in state—i.e., after death. The tangi (wailing) also sometimes commences when the person is in extremis. The farewelling remarks of the people at this time, however, are as a rule not long speeches, but brief, sententious remarks, pregnant with mytho-poetic ideas and the mentality of a primitive people: e.g., “Haere ra, E Pa! Haere ki ou tipuna. Haere ki Hawaiki. Haere ra. E te pa-whakawairua! Haere ki Paerau.” (“Farewell, O father! Go to your ancestors. Depart to Hawaiki. Farewell. O the pa-whakawairua! Go to Paerau.”)
The terms “Hawaiki” and “Paerau” are in such cases used to imply the spirit-world, or perhaps the fatherland of the race in the sense of its being the place where the genus homo originated.
At other times the wailing commenced when the breath left the body.
The O-Matenga And Wai-O-Tane-Pi.
We will now glance at the singular custom of the o matenga (food for the death-journey), the supplying of food to a dying person for the long journey to the underworld, the realm of the dead. “O” is a term applied to food carried on a journey; “matenga” denotes the time or circumstance of dying. Apart from this “death (or dying) food,” the spirits of the dead are often spoken of as partaking of food in the land of spirits.
“Just before death, or perhaps the day before, a dying person often asks for some article of food which he fancies he could relish. That food is obtained; it is eaten: then death ensues.” The food so desired would be obtained for the sick person, however distant or difficult to procure.
Perhaps the favourite foods as o matenga desired by the men of olden times were — (1) human flesh; (2) earthworms (toke); (3) dog's flesh; (4) rats (kiore).
If when a person of rank was near death he desired to partake of human flesh as an o matenga, a party of his people would sally forth and slay a member of some other clan or subtribe of the surrounding people, or a member of another tribe. The body was cleaned, dismembered, and brought to the village home, where it was cooked in a steam-oven. A portion of the cooked flesh was partaken of by the dying person as his last meal in the world of life; the balance was eaten by the people.
When the war-party of Te Whakatohea Tribe, under Makawe and Heretaunga, attacked the people of Te Papuni, slaying Mahia and others, the chief Makawe was seriously wounded—so much so indeed that he was soon brought to his death-bed. When near his end Makawe called upon his people to provide him with an o matenga of human flesh. Thereupon a party of warriors attacked a village at Puke-taro, slaying several people. The heart of one of these victims was carried back to the Whakatohea camp at Te Huia. But Makawe had already passed beyond the need of o matenga in this world. Anyhow, that article would not be wasted.
Earthworms were another favourite o matenga in days of yore. The generic term for such is toke (or noke), but there are many different varieties, each having its distinct name. The two favourite kinds for the above purpose were the whiti and kurekure.* They were stoneboiled in vessels of wood or stone, and certain herbs (greens) mixed with them prior to being eaten. It is said that the sweet flavour (tawara) of this food remained on the palate for two days after the consumption
[Footnote] * The kurekure is Tokea esculenta, named by Professor Benham (See vol. xxxv of the Transactions, p. 64.)
thereof. So prized was this article of food that it was reserved for the chiefs. Hence it was termed a chief's death-food.
When Mura-kareke, a famous ancestor of the Tuhoe Tribe, came to his death-bed at Raorao-totara, a dog was killed, that its flesh might be utilised as an o matenga for him.
The flesh of the frugivorous native rat was also a much esteemed article of food, and often used for the above purpose.
Regarding the Native habit of changing personal names when any important event occurred, this often takes place when a person dies. In many cases such new name is taken from the o matenga, or last food partaken of by the invalid. The last thing so eaten by a person at Te Waimana was an orange, or “arani” in Native pronunciation. Hence a relative gave his newly born child the name of Te O-arani — i.e., the orange o matenga, or the orange journey-food. Hatata, an old man of Rua-tahuna, recently assumed the name of Kuku because his grandchild ate some kuku (mussels) just before death.
A person at Rotorua partook of some ti-ta-whiti (a species of Cordyline) as a last food, therefore a relative assumed the name of Te O-ti. In another case, at Ruatoki, the final thing taken by the sufferer was a cup of tea (“ti” in Native pronunciation), hence a related child was given the name of Te O-ti. In some cases the last thing taken is a dose of medicine, or some stimulant. Hence the local names of Pua-wananga (= clematis; a medicine concocted from this was the last thing swallowed by a relative); Te O-parani (parani = brandy); and many others, too numerous to mention. These last three cases, however, should come under the heading of the wai o Tane-pi.
“A person is near death; he has ceased to partake of food, but can still take fluids. When he nears his end the sick one says, ‘Give me some water.’ That is the wai o Tane-pi, the last drink on his road to the realm of darkness.” This expression, “the water of Tane-pi,” is applied to the last drink taken by a dying person. It is a liquid o matenga. The term “wai o Tane-pi” is applicable to death. It was just cold water, the only beverage of the Maori in pre-European days.
When a man was near death he might say, “O that I might drink of the waters of [such a stream]!” and that water would be obtained for him, that he might drink thereof ere he passed away.
When Te Maitaranui (of Tuhoe) and Te Roro (of Ngati-Manawa) were slain at Te Reinga such an incident occurred. Te Roro fled, but was pursued and caught. Seeing that his end had come, he said to his captors, “Taihoa ahau e patu, kia inu ahau i te wai o Kai-tarahae” (“Do not slay me until I have drunk of the waters of Kai-tarahae”). Kai-tarahae is the name of a
stream which flows into the river at the Reinga Falls. Te Maitaranui remarked, “He manu hou ahau, he kohanga ka rerea” (“I am but a fledgeling bird, a nest just forsaken”). This was in allusion to his youth, which did not, however, save him.
The origin of the name “Tane-pi” is not clear. Another form is wai o Tane-here-pi, which may be the same thing, or connected with it. When the Ngati-Tai people attacked the Panenehu at Wai-kurapa they slew the two children of Tu-namu—Tai-auhi-kura and Tu-auhi-kura. When their father heard of the death of the children he exclaimed, “Having fed you on the wai o Tane-here-pi, I thought you would have been strong enough to take care of yourselves.”
The term “whakamaui” implies the rallying and recovery of a person apparently dying—“Mana ano e whakamaui ake” (“He may possibly rally round”). The origin of this expression is a feat performed by the old-time hero Maui. At one time during his adventurous career he was captured and slain, some say by Hine-nui-te-Po. But the slayers of Maui reckoned without their host, for the spirit of Maui entered into his body again, and he came back to life.
Manawa kiore : This expression implies the faint breathing of a dying person who is past speech.
Of a person in extremis a Native will say, “Kai'te ihu o te tupapaku te manawa e nga ana, kua kore kai raro,” or “Te manawa o te tupapaku kei te ihu tonu e kapo ana”—meaning that the faint breathing is only noticeable by a slight fluttering or movement of the nostrils; the heart pulsates only at the nose.
The final expulsion of breath by a dying person is termed the “puhanga ake o te manawa” (“There is one final expulsion of breath, the eyes stare wildly, it is death”).
Hirihiri; Ara Atua.
Of the many rites performed over a sick person by the tohunga, or priest, I shall not here speak, inasmuch as I have already put them into the form of a paper which was forwarded to the late Dr. Goldie, and which will appear in the forthcoming volume of the society's Transactions, together with many other items concerning Native treatment of disease, &c. There is, however, one rite, as performed by priests over dying persons, which has a place here, and that is the assisting of the soul or spirit of man to leave his dying body. This rite comes under the term of “hirihiri,” which expression needs a few words of explanation, inasmuch as it has several bearings. The hirihiri taua is a ceremony performed over warriors about to lift the war trail, and has been described in a former paper. Another hirihiri is that peculiar rite by which a demon which causes disease
by entering the body of man is forced by priestly arts to leave the sufferer's body and take itself off. The hirihiri of which we now speak is a rite the performance of which assists the soul of a dying person to quit his body and wend its way to the land of spirits. One of the objects of this ceremony is that the departing spirit may be induced to pass straight to spirit-land, and not remain in the vicinity of its former physical basis to afflict the living.
In the performance of this peculiar ceremony the priest suspended over the mouth of the dying subject a piece of the harakeke leaf (Phormium tenax), or a blade of some sedge-like grass, or of tutumako. This was the ara atua, described by me in Dr. Goldie's paper. By it the passing soul was supposed to leave the body, and was assisted to do so by means of an invocation recited by the attendant priest, and termed a “hirihiri.”
So soon as the breath of life has left the sufferer's body the wailing for the dead is commenced by surrounding relatives. Since the introduction of firearms a custom has obtained of firing guns when a person dies, and also during the mourning ceremonies which follow. This is termed a “maimai aroha” (token of affection).
The eyes of the defunct are closed by a relative.
When the sound of gun-firing is heard at a place where it is known a person has been lying ill, then it is understood that he is no more, and people may be seen wending their way from adjacent settlements to that place, in order to join in the wailing (tangihanga) for the dead. Sometimes guns are fired just prior to death, when it is evident to the attendants that he is passing away.
In former times it often occurred that on a man's death his widow or widows would commit suicide—usually, perhaps, by hanging themselves, or by throwing themselves over a cliff; but in later times, often by means of firearms.
So soon as the death of a man occurred his body was “trussed” for burial—i.e., before it became cold; albeit it would not be buried for some days. This “trussing” process, styled “rukuruku” and “korukuruku,” consisted in crossing the arms on the breast and drawing the legs up until the knees rested on them, under the chin. A cloak was wrapped round the body, and the limbs retained in the above-described position by means of a cord lashed round the body. The bodies of women were also manipulated in this manner.
No description of Maori eschatology would be in any way complete without some reference to the custom of human sacri-
fices pertaining to the death of members of the chieftain class. As old Tutakangahau put it to me, “A person was slain for a dead chief, as a koangaumu [see ante]. A person of another hapu [subtribe] would be killed for the purpose, and ever after the people of that hapu would be subjected to such remarks as, ‘You were the human sacrifice for my ancestor.’ This custom of sacrificing a person was an exalting of the dead person, a making much of him.”
If it was believed that the dead chief had been bewitched, then the person who it was believed had bewitched him, and so caused his death, was selected as an ika koangaumu, or sacrifice, or perhaps another member of his tribe if the real culprit was not available.
There were two purposes for which persons were slain, in cases where no witchcraft was suspected. Men were killed to provide human flesh for the funeral feast, but these were often slaves of the tribe, and the butchering of them was not a ritual performance. But the putu kai was a very different thing. A person of good rank, perhaps a relative of the defunct chief, was slain as in exaltation of, and a token of respect to, the dead. In this case, however, the body of the sacrifice was not eaten. The sacrifice was sometimes selected from the same subtribe as that of the dead chief, but more often from a different one. He would not necessarily be slain at the home of the deceased chief, nor yet his body be brought there. But a party would go forth and slay him wherever they might find him, among his own people, and simply leave the body lying where death overtook it, for his friends to bury.
I have failed to obtain any confirmation of a statement made by some writers that these persons were sacrificed at such a time in order that their spirits might attend that of the deceased chief to or in Hades, and that men of rank were never slain for the purpose.
Mourning For The Dead.
When a Maori dies the body is laid out on or near the marae (plaza) of the village for several days before it is buried, and it is during this period that the mourning is carried on. The corpse is laid upon mats of woven or plaited fibres of New Zealand flax, or of kiekie (a climbing plant with leaves which contain a strong fibre), and is covered with a Native cloak woven from the fibre of Phormium tenax, or New Zealand flax. Possibly a rude shed may be erected in which to so place the body. In modern times a calico tent is often used. In this way is the corpse exposed to view prior to burial, and before it assemble the mourners, save the near relatives, who are grouped near and on either side of the body. In the case of a person of
the chieftain class, the corpse is decorated in various ways, and his weapons are suspended near his body, or laid by the side thereof. It is, in fact, a lying in state.
To describe this lying in state a Native will say, “Such a person is lying on the atamira,” or “The corpse is lying on the atamira.” The Maori dictionaries give this word as meaning “a low stage on which a dead person is laid out, one end being elevated for the head.” However, it is now merely a figurative expression, no stage being used, but only mats. In former times the bodies of members of the rangatira or chieftain class were covered with fine ornamented cloaks. The hair was dressed carefully, and prized plumes were placed therein. The garments, &c., actually lying on the body, or in which it was wrapped, were buried with it. Those cloaks or weapons hung near the corpse were not so buried.
At the present time a corpse is either laid out straight, or is propped up by and leans against a supporting structure.
If at death it was noticed, in former times, that one or more fingers of the dead person were extended, that was taken as a sign that a like number of his relatives would die ere long.
The mats on which a person lies at death are burned. If he dies in a hut it must be burned, or deserted as tapu. These precautions are taken in order to prevent the spirit of the dead from returning to trouble the living.
In addition to his weapons, fine garments, &c., exhibited on a person's bier as a sign of his chieftainship, it was also a custom of yore to so display any prized heirloom or treasure of the tribe with a similar view. But the defunct one must have been a person of importance in the tribe to allow of such a procedure, for many of such ancestral treasures were looked upon as being sacred. Any person so depositing a prized family heirloom on the bier for the period of the lying in state paid a great token of respect to the dead.
When a person was lying in death in former times, should he fancy that he had been bewitched, and so done to death, one would take a fernstalk in his hand and strike the body with it, saying at the same time, “Anei to rakau; anei to rakau hai ranaki [rangaki] i to mate” (“Here is your weapon; here is your weapon wherewith to avenge your death”). This act was to incite the wairua (spirit) of the dead person to turn upon the bewitchers and destroy them. (E whakatara ana tena i te wairua o te tupapaku kia haututu, kia tahuri ki nga tangata nanai raweke.)
In Major Heaphy's account of the Natives of Port Nicholson as noted in 1839 he speaks of the fight near Wai-kanae known as “Te Kuititanga.” “We entered the pa [fort] about three hours
after the fight was over. The chief, killed by a musket-ball, lay in state on a platform in the large enclosure [marae]. His hair was decorated with huia feathers, a fine kaitaka mat [cloak] was spread over him, a greenstone mere [battle-axe] was in his hand, with the thong around his wrist; his spear and musket were by his side. The bodies of slain persons of inferior rank were lying in the verandahs of their respective houses, each covered with the best mat [cloak], and with the personal weapons conspicuously placed beside,” &c.*
As observed, so soon as the breath of life departed the wailing for the dead was (and is) commenced by those present. Silent grief is not thought much of by the Maori. When the people of neighbouring settlements hear the gun-firing, or lamentation, they repair to the scene. The relatives of the dead are nearest the body, the other portion of the assembled people are standing further from it, but at one or both sides, not in front of it, and facing the direction in which the mourning party will march on to the marae, or village courtyard or common. They are perfectly silent, save a few old women, who are in advance of the main body, and, with bowed bodies, are weeping and wailing in an extremely doleful manner. No cry of welcome is heard. The mourning party march up in column, very slowly, and utter no sound. When within a distance of 30 yards, more or less, of the village people, and facing them and the corpse, the column halts, and then the tangihanga, or crying for the dead, is commenced by both parties. No word is uttered, but the mournful crying and wailing has a most lugubrious sound. A Maori can open his tear-fonts at the shortest notice, even when attending the obsequies of his greatest enemy, for whom he has neither liking nor respect. They have a poor opinion of the silent grief of the white man, and express doubts as to its genuineness. A Maori enjoys a tangi, certainly if the defunct person is not a near relative or friend.
The mourners do not look at each other, or at the opposite party, during the crying, but usually look downwards. The tears simply stream down their faces; also their noses have an unpleasant habit of running copiously at such times. Hence the old-time saying, “Ko Roimata, ko Hupe nga kai utu i nga patu a Aitua” (“Tears and Hupe† are the avengers of the strokes of misfortune”—i.e., of death). This expression is often made use of in funeral speeches. A Maori mourning party is not a pleasant sight.
This scene continues for some time. Those seen by myself were continued for varying periods, from half an hour to per-
[Footnote] * See “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,” vol. xii, pp. 38–39.
[Footnote] † Hupe: Discharge from the nose is so termed.
haps two hours. But a similar scene would be enacted on the arrival of every fresh mourning party, which might arrive, at ever widening intervals, for a year after the death of a person.
During the tangihanga or weeping there are usually several elderly or old women who advance to the space between the two parties—i.e., who place themselves in front of their respective parties—and there, with bowed bodies and outstretched, quivering arms, appear to act as chief mourners, though they may not be the nearest relatives of the deceased then present. This is termed “tangi tikapa.” These few persons occasionally wail forth a line of some dirge, and then recommence their wordless wailing sound.
Another custom much in evidence formerly at such times, but now discontinued, was the haehae, or laceration of the body by mourners.
“A Maori dies. The people collect for the wailing. The nearest relatives of the dead show their affection by lacerating their bodies, faces, arms, and legs until they are scored all over. It was a token of affection. Though the dead be male or female, daughter or son, that was the sign of affection of our ancestors. The greatest sign of their affection was the preserving of the head of a relative and carrying it about with them. But Christianity put a stop to that. The laceration of the body was done with obsidian [flakes]: hence these words in an ancient dirge, ‘Homai he mata kia haehae au’ [‘Give me obsidian, that I may lacerate myself’].”
This custom of cutting the body was practised by near relatives of the dead only (among the Tuhoe Tribe). These mourners presented a gruesome sight, stripped to the waist, blood streaming from numerous gashes made by the keen obsidian (mata).
Anent this cutting of the body at funeral obsequies, Andrew Lang, in his “Making of Religion,” looks upon it as being practised as a counter-irritant of grief, and a token of recklessness caused by sorrow. The Maori ever gives the one explanation thereof—He tohu aroha—a sign of affection or sympathy. As the word of old was “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead,” so has the custom died out in these isles.
Another custom among these Natives is that of presenting gifts to the bereaved clan or relatives of the deceased. Such gifts are termed “taonga kopaki” (taonga = goods, property; kopaki, as an adjective = wrapping, enveloping, covering). Some of the persons who join the visiting mourning parties will bear with them such articles as fine cloaks, polished greenstone ornaments, &c. After the tangihanga, or wailing, is over such persons will step forward and present their gifts, laying
them on the ground in front of the assembled people of the place. This is a token of sympathy, of condolence.
“Friend, a further word. When a Native chief dies we do not merely lacerate ourselves, but also collect food to take to the obsequies for the dead; also fine garments, and jewels [greenstone ornaments]. Those who are mourning for the dead are stripped [to the waist]. They lacerate themselves. Their eyes glare wildly. When the lamentation is over the gifts are handed over—namely, the taonga kopaki. Then the greeting to the dead commences; he is farewelled. Also are greeted, and sympathized with, the living relatives of the dead.”
It is also a custom for mourners to carry at such times green boughs of trees or shrubs in their hands, and to wear on their heads fillets or chaplets of green leaves, &c. I have heard it stated by Natives that in former times it was not the custom to invite people to come and mourn for the dead, as is often done now by the relatives. It was left for people to so come of their own initiative, prompted by their sympathy. The kiri mate (an expression applied to relatives of a deceased person) would announce their intention of so going, and others would accompany them.
“Our ancestors desired that man should die as the moon dies—that is, die and return again to this world. But Hine-nuite-Po said, ‘Not so. Let man die and be returned to Mother Earth, that he may be mourned and wept for.’ Hence it is that we see the Maori people going to greet and weep for those who have died by the house-wall. And those also who have died by drowning or other accidents, there is but one way to avenge their deaths, and that is by lamentation. The only return is that of greeting, of weeping. The mourning parties go forth to wail for the dead, and thus is death avenged [equalised].”
When the visiting mourners are making speeches on the plaza, after the wailing is over, they speak directly to the dead, and not in the third person. They ever speak in eulogy of the deceased, of his good qualities, his generosity, hospitality, courage, &c., frequently crying him farewell, and using many peculiar expressions, figurative, mytho-poetical; quotations from ancient myths, proverbial sayings, and aphorisms. Extracts of an allegorical nature culled from old-time lore, dirges and laments for the dead, are all introduced into their speeches. The companions of the speaker will join in many of the songs, perhaps in all, but the village people will not join in rendering those of the visiting mourners, nor will the latter join in those of the village people. After the wailing is over and the speeches are commenced the people usually sit on the ground, only the speaker standing, except when a song is sung, when those who
join in it all stand up, usually grouping themselves together, and always facing the opposite party.
The people of the place where the dead person is lying are the first to rise after the wailing is over and deliver speeches. The principal persons only of either side deliver such formal speeches. When the first speaker has finished another arises, and so on. When the last speaker of the home people has finished there is a short pause ere the first speaker of the visitors arises. This is to make sure that the home people have finished speaking.
The speakers of the home people will first address the visitors somewhat in this strain: “Haere mai, haere mai, haere mai. Haere mai te iwi; haere mai nga rangatiratanga; haere mai nga mana; haere mai ki te mihi ki to tatou papa e takoto nei. Kua hinga to tatou rata whakamarumaru. Ko te manawa ora kua riro, ko te ahua anake i waiho. Ko tenei, haere mai; haria mai nga mate o era kainga, utaina mai ki runga ki nga mate o tenei kainga. Ko tatou he morehu no aitua,” &c. (“Come hither, come hither, come hither. Come the people; come the rank, the prestige; come and greet our father who lies before us. Our sheltering tree has fallen. The breath of life has departed, the semblance alone is left. So now come hither, welcome; bear hither the troubles of other homes, join them to the afflictions of this place. We are but the survivors of misfortune.”)
When a speaker of the visitors rises he will first address the home people: “Call to us. Call the troubles of other homes. Call to the people who sympathize with you. It was said of old that man shall be caught, one and all, in the snare of the Goddess of Hades, that he shall be mourned and wept for. Hence we come hither. By tears and grief alone shall [a natural] death be avenged,” &c. Then, turning slightly, so as to immediately face the dead, the speaker addresses the body in the second person: “Toku papa, haere. Haere, haere, haere, haere. Haere ki te Po—haere ki te Po—haere ki te Po. Haere ki ou tupuna. Haere ki Hawaiki. Haere ki ou matua. Haere ki Paerau. Haere ra, te maioro te karia, te whakaruru hau. Haere ki Tawhiti-nui, ki Tawhiti-roa, ki Tawhi-ti-pamamao. Taku toi kahurangi, haere. Marua ana te whenua i a koe kua riro i te tari a Hine-nui-te-Po. Kua kore he tangata hai arai i te kino, i te aha, i te aha, i te aha,” &c. (“My father, farewell. Go, go, go, go. Go to the spirit-land—to the spiritland—to the spiritland. Go to your ancestors. Go to Hawaiki. Go to join your elders. Go to Paerau. Farewell, the breastwork of the people, the shelterer from piercing winds. Go to Tawhiti-nui,” &c. “My protector, farewell. Defenceless is the land since you were caught in the toils of the Goddess of Death. Remains none to avert evil,” &c.)
It will be observed how mourners farewell the dead to Hawaiki, to Paerau, &c. The latter seems to be a term applied to the spirit-world. But Hawaiki and the various Tawhiti are names of lands wherein the ancestors of the Maori sojourned in times long past away. Hawaiki, say the Native legends, is a far-distant land where originated the Maori race, hence the spirits of the dead are supposed to return to the primal home of the Maori, and are so farewelled by the living. hawaiki lies to the west, towards the setting sun, and the departing place of spirits is situated on the western or north-western parts of not only New Zealand, but also the isles of Polynesia inhabited by the Maori race.
“A Native dies. The living bid farewell to him. The cry is, ‘Go to Hawaiki.’ That was the permanent home of our ancestors, hence this ancient cry of farewell to the dead. Although dead, and separated from the living, that is the address to them, to those whom death has taken.” Here in this explanation, given by a Native, we see the Maori idea that spirits of the dead fare to Hawaiki, the cradle of the race, where man originated.
When a chief dies, the high mountains or ranges of his district are mentioned in such funeral speeches, for such natural objects, or some of them, possess considerable prestige. Such hills in this district of Tuhoeland are Maunga-pohatu, Te Peke, and Manawaru. “Ko Maunga-pohatu te maunga, ko Pohokorua te tangata o raro” (“Maunga-pohatu is the mountain, Pohokorua is the person beneath it”) is a common style of expressing this idea.
“Whare mate” is an expression applied to mourning relatives of the dead. The near relatives of the deceased would not take food until after the burial, except at night, and in secret.
A peculiar term, “makau”: This is given as = spouse, wife, or husband, in Williams's “Maori Dictionary,” but Tuhoe do not seem to use it in that sense. Here it is applied usually by elderly women to their children or grandchildren, perhaps only in laments or addresses to the dead, as, e.g., “Te makau a te ipo—e,” or “Mai ra te makau—e.” A great many endearing terms are applied to children in funeral speeches, as “my sweet scented necklet,” “my jewel,” &c. In like manner are men compared with, and addressed as, “the white hawk,” “the totara sapling.”
Some time after the funeral ceremonies are over, perhaps a month after or longer, sometimes a full year, according to inclination and leisure from crop-work, the relatives of the deceased will form a party and proceed to visit other places and other subtribes or tribes as an uhunga, or mourning party.
Their object is to kawe te mate (convey the death) to other divisions of the tribe, to the more distant relatives of the deceased. When they arrive at a village the party will go through the same weeping and lamentation as already described. The speeches also are of a similar nature. Should any member of the people visited have died recently, then he will be included in the tangihanga, or mourning; in fact, such weeping, mourning, and speeches will apply to all persons of the two parties who have died since such parties last met to mourn for their dead.
One occasionally hears of very singular customs connected with mourning for the dead. I insert here descriptions of a few such.
After the defeat of the east coast Natives at Maketu, the following lament was composed as a whakaoriori potaka (song sung to the spinning of tops). The people would collect together, many of them being provided with humming-tops of the old Maori pattern. The people would sing the first verse and then all cry out the words “Hai! Tukua!” The last word was the signal to the top-spinners, who simultaneously started their tops spinning. The moaning or wailing hum of the tops represents the moaning sound made by mourners for the dead. When the tops are run down they are restrung, and another verse of the lament is sung, the top-spinners waiting for the cry “Tukua!” before starting their tops off again. I have seen a party of Natives going through this singular performance.
Toia te roroa o te tangata—e
Ina noa te poto ki te oma i Hunuhunu—e
Nga morehu ma te kai e patu—e
Ko te paku kai ra mau, E Te Arawa—e
E ki atu ana Karanama, e noho ki tamaiti nei—e
Takiri ana mai te upoko o te toa—e
Koro Mokena, huri mai ki te Kuini—e
Koi rawerawe ana ou mea kanu kaka—e
Na Tamehana ano tona whenua i utu
Ki te maramara taro—e
Waiho te raru ki to wahine—e
The following is equally as extraordinary as the foregoing. When several men of the Ngati-Tawhaki clan of Tuhoe were killed in the fight at Mana-te-pa, at Rua-tahuna, about 1840, one Tu-kai-rangi evolved the following scheme as a lament for the dead, and to banish the sadness and gloomy feelings of the survivors. This proceeding would be said to avenge, or equalise, the deaths of the friends of the performers. Tu-kai-rangi erected two moari, or swings (giant's strides), one near Mana-te-pa and one at Kiri-tahi. The following song was composed and sung while the swings were used. Grasping the ropes of the swing, the performers sang a verse of the song given below and then swung off round the pole, one after the other. When they stopped another verse was sung, and again the people whirled round the pole, and so on.
Tu-kai-rangi, hangaa he moari
Kia rere au i te taura whakawaho
Kai te pehi Hiri-whakamau
Na wai takahia.
Taku aroha ki a Te Haraki—e
Nga whaiaipo a Te Hiri-whakamau
He taura ti—e
He taura harakeke
Nga taura o Te Hiri-whakamau
Another token of mourning in former times was the cutting of the hair. One way was to cut off all the hair very short with the exception of one patch, of perhaps 2 in. diameter, on the left side of the head. This was left the original length, of perhaps 2 ft. or less, and was allowed to hang down. It was called a “reureu.” I have seen a woman with her hair so cut when mourning for her dead child. This latter case, however, would probably not have occurred in former times, as Native women appear to have worn their hair short. Men, however, wore their hair long. A widow or widower would have all the hair cut off short. The hair cut off is buried with the corpse.
When a Maori dies, almost always a lament (tangi) is composed by relatives and sung during the period of mourning, usually when speeches are being made. Sometimes several are so composed for a single individual, if a person of consequence. Many old-time laments have been preserved for centuries, and are often extremely interesting, on account of containing allusions to the ancient history of the race. In fact, the laments and lullabies seem to be the most interesting of Native songs, and for a similar reason. Native laments of modern composition
are, as a rule, very inferior, or, if they are not so, owe it to the fact that they are composed by wholesale cribbery from ancient songs.
The higher forms of dirges for the dead are termed “apakura.” They may be called laments of a sacerdotal character, and often contain ancient cryptic phraseology of an old-time cult. The ordinary lament (tangi) for the dead is of quite different composition—in fact, they resemble ordinary songs, and are often so used.
The term “tangi taukuri” seems to apply to a lament wherein the composer bewails his own evil fortune, or that of his tribe. The tangi tikapa and tangi whakakurepe are modes of mourning, lamenting the dead, while going through various motions, such as swaying the bent body from side to side, quivering the hands with arms extended. Sometimes a weapon (patu or mere) is held in the right hand while going through the above genu-flexions.
I will now give two specimens of laments for the dead as illustration. The first was composed about eighteen generations ago, is a good specimen of ancient Maori composition, and contains many allusions to, and fragments of, old-time myths and history. My readers will regret to hear that it is incomplete, which accounts for its shortness. The second lament given is a modern one, composed about 1901 for a Native woman who died at Galatea.
He Tangi Mo Rangi-Uia, Na Te Matorohanga. (A Lament For Rangiuia, Composed By Te Matorohanga.)
E moe ana ahau i taku moe reka
Ka maranga kai runga i te po roa—e, o
I kukume tonu nei kia ngata te kanohi
Tena ra i a Tutapa-kahurangi
Puritia mai ra i te apai o te whare
Ka titiro iho koe, ka moe te kanohi
Ka tangi mai tona ihu, ka ngongoro tera
Ka waiho hai atua, ka tangi mai ki muri
Mauria atu ra e te au whakapeke a Tama-tukurangi
Ka paoa ki waho ra ki te Kopani—e,
Ki Te Kahu-o-te-rangi
Ko Te Ata-kaihia, ko Te Ata-hapara
Te ata ka pakaru, ka rere mai i te ra
Whiti ana i roto ra hai ohomauri hine
Ka tu mai te takahi ki a Tama-uru-rangi
Tomo atu, e hika! te tai o nui no rangi
I au e whiwhi—e, i au e nangara
Kauaka te rangi tapu taupurua iho
Ko te rangi tihore, ko te rangi waruhia
Kia marama koe ki te kete a Tane
I mauria mai nei hai tohu mo tona matua
Tataitia ra, tiwhaia i runga ra
Ki a Autahi, ki a Puanga raia
Ki a Takurua ra. Ringihia i te kete
Ko te Ika o te rangi ka ngako i runga nei
Ma Pua-hahana ra, ma Rauru, ma Wera
Tupatia iho ki te tihi o Tane
Ka mate i reira i a Tahu-kunia, i a Tahu-maero
Ko koe ra tera, e hika !—e—i.
Whiti Tuarua (Second Verse).Aue ! E hika ! Ki ou takanga nei
Ki nga marae ra
E kata haere ana ki te whatitoka nei
Hai atua kai ake mo roto i ahau
Ka tomo mai na koe te po tuauki
E ara ki runga ra, korero ki au
Kei noho puku koe te whare tahu
Ka maaha noa atu e roto i ahau
Akuanei, e hika! Te wetewete ai
Kia puta ra koe i te rangi tuatahi
He uri au no Tane
I hangahanga noa ra i a Hine-ahu-one
Ka tu te ringa, ka tu te waewae
Ka tu te mahunga,
Ka toro mai tona ure ki runga ki te tipuaki
Koia te tota—e—i.
Ka tapotu ki roto te kanohi
Ko te karu tena
Ki te pongaihu, ko te kea tena
Ki te waha ra, ko te mare tena
Ki te keke ra, ko te riko werawera
Ka hangai ki te tara
Me ko Hine-manuhiri, nana te kahurangi
Ko Hine-kapua-rangi, nana te kohatu
Ko Hine-a-tauira, ko Uru-rata—na—i.
Ko ngangara tana ka waiho ki te rangi
Ko te Ao-tu—e, ko te Ao-hore ra
Te Ao-taru-aitu, te Ao-mata-kaka
Mo-uriuri—e, Mo-rekareka ra
Mo-hiku-tu—e, Mo-hiku-tohe ra
Ko Tawakewake, ko Tawhangawhanga
Me ko Tama-ki-te-hau, ko Tama-ki-te-kapua
Te haerenga awatea ko Toi-te-huatahi
Ko ou tangata i te kai rakau
I te ponga, i te ti—e—i.
Ko Rauru tena ka tukua e koe
Kia mau, e hika ! Ki a Whatonga—e
Ki a Ruarangi—e
Ki a Pou-tiri-ao, ko Te Manu-tohi-kura
Ko Tane-hua-rangi, ka noho ko Rongomai-taha-nui
Ko Tama, ko Paikea
He tahuna akonga no te whenua
Ka whitia ki a Kahutia—e
Peka mai, e hika ! Ki a Pouheni—e
Ki a Tara-whakatu
Ko Tara-a-punga, ko Tara-paea-ra
Ko Rakai-te-uru, matua papaki—e
Ko Te Rangi-tautahi, me ko Tamakimaki
Ka waiho mo te nuinga te pito i a koe
Ki te po—na—i.
Whiti Tuatoru (Third Verse).Ko wai ra, e hika!
To mata i haere ai koe ki te Po?
Ko Turanga-wahine, ko Turanga-tane
Te mata tena o to tupuna
O Te Ao-ariki i te Manu-tukutuku
Ka hinga tona puta ko Wai-o-tira—e
I oma atu ra ki a Papa raia
I hurihia atu ra e Tane ki raro
Ka puta atu ki waho ko Ruaumoko—e
Tarewa i tona puta ko te Raukape ra
Ko Tama-reo-rangi ka kume i a tini
E waitohu ake ana ki te ao marama
Ka ngarue te whenua, ka ngaoko te moana
Ko te tumu o te rangi, ko te take o te rangi
Ko Maru-i-tauira, ko Maru-i-torohanga
Ko Maru-i-taura, ko Maru-i-tawai
Ko Maru-i-taketake, ko Maru-whakatupua
Ka ea ki runga ra, ko te Tumoremore
Ko te Tuhaha
Ko Rua-kapanga—e, te Manu-nui ra
Ko Rua-te-hohonu, ko U-wawe-ki-uta
Ko Kourunga ra, ko Tu-mauri-rere
Me ko Rongo-whakaata, ko Rongomai-hikau
Ko Hitamu-rira, ko Turourou ra
Ko te Ika-whakatu ki roto o Turanga
E he mai na koe ki to hou matua
I tipu ai ki te ao, i wehi mai na koe
Kati ra, e hika ! Hoki mai i kona
Pokaitia ra ki a Moetai—e
Kia rongo kau au ki a Kahukura-iti
Ki tenei tini ra, e taka i waho ra—e
Ko koutou tena, e tama ma e !
Whiti Tuawha (Fourth Verse).Moe mori, e hika !
I roto i te whare kino, i te whare pouri
He uea ake ra ka he to manawa
Ka titiro ki waho ra
Ki te waka hoehoe ki Wai-roro ra—e
Ka puta te parakipa kai to ihu
Mau i moe po, no muri i mate ai
I tukua mai nei ko te tonga hawai
Ko te tonga taupuru
Ka pupuru te atua ki roto ki a koe
Ka whaia atu na koe
I a te Ao-matangi, i a Katakata—e
I a Wheruru—e, i a Kiwa raia
Nana nei te moana, nana nei ngaru nui
Nana nei ngaru roa
Ka wawae i te peka kia maranga ia
Kia tiko whare ra
Ki a Honuhonu—e, ki a Kekerepo
Ka taka mai ki muri
Hai autu tangi, hai autu pawa ra
Ka mamao ki te rangi, taku rangi pea
Ka tau ki raro ra ki Waianiu ra
Hai to matua—e, hai a Te Hau-ori—e
Hai a Ngapata ra
Ma te Hiakai koe, ma Hine-te-ariki
Ko Pikihoro pea, ko Hine-uru anc
Koutou ra tena, e koro ma!—e—i.
Below will be found a modern lament for the dead, although, as now is usual, it is modelled upon ancient forms—or, rather, it was composed by wholesale “cribbing” from old-time songs. The Maori poet of to-day seems to depend to a very great extent upon plagiarism, and seems to have lost the art of composing such fine pieces as the above. Observe, in the above, the pathos of the opening lines of the second verse, where the composer mourns the loss of his daughter: “Alas, O maid, for your playings in the village—running laughing to the door! These memories remain to commsume me.”
A Lament For Pare, Of Ngati-Manawa.
He ao mauru e rere pokai ra
He mihi ra naku ki toku nei taina
Kua wehe i nga iwi
Kua wehe i taku tinana
Kua wehe i nga tau
Kua wehe i nga nohoanga.
Ka tahuri mai, E Pare!
Kei te mihi atu koe,
Ka tu ai te aroha
Taraia i te tangi ki a Mariri
Ka noho taua nga paeroa kai Rangitahi
Kia whakarongo koe nga tai o Whirinaki
E ngunguru nei
Ehara koe i te wahine,
He kuru tongarerewa
He uri koe no Rangitihi,
He uri koe no Tangi-haruru,
He uri koe no Apa,
He uri koe no Tuhoe-potiki
Tenei, e hoa! Te mamae
Kai te tau o taku ate
Ki a taua kura
Kua mahue i a koe—i.”
The Whare Potae (The House Of Mourning)
The name “whare potae” and “whare taua” both mean “house of mourning,” or “mourning-house” (whare, house;
taua, mourning). The word “potae” means, as a noun, a hat, or any covering for the head; as a verb, “to put over or on the head.”
The term “whare potae,” which is the form used by the Tuhoe Tribe, is derived from the potae taua, or mourning-cap (perhaps more correctly a fillet or chaplet, inasmuch as it possessed no crown). This was an article of mourning attire, a token of mourning for the dead. It was in former times by a near relative of the deceased, as a widow, during the period of mourning. It is composed of a band or fillet woven from some fibre usually, and which is put round the head and tied at the back. It has no crown whatever. Attached to this band would be a quantity of black, dried seaweed, or the epidermis of a water plant or rush known as “kutakuta,” prepared as for a maro kuta,* and dyed black and brown, or left its natural colour of white and pale-yellow. These were attached by one end to the band and hung down, thus concealing the face and head of the wearer. Sometimes the tail-feathers (with skin attached) of the native pigeon, and those of the koko bird, were used to attach to the band. They swayed about when the wearer walked, or when affected by the wind. Chaplets of leaves of the parapara tree (syn., puahou and houhou—Panax arboreum) were also sometimes worn by relatives of the dead while in the whare potae—that is to say, during the period of mourning. The potae taua, with a crown, and no pendant strips, fibre, weed, or feathers, as figured on page 329 of Hamilton's “Maori Art,” is an unknown article to the Tuhoe peoples.
The expression “house of mourning” must not be taken too literally, like unto many other expressions of the Maori. Albeit a Native will ever say, speaking of relatives of a person recently dead, “They are within the whare potae,” yet he means that they are mourning for the dead. Although such mourners may be travelling, they are still spoken of as being within the whare potae. The term must be taken as implying the state or period of mourning.
Windows mourned their husbands for perhaps a year before marrying again. (Ka tae pea ki te tau e whare taua ana te pouaru.)
Bereaved persons, as a husband who has lost his wife, sometimes travel about for some time in order to forget their troubles. Thus a man may go and dwell among distant tribes for a year, or several years.
While mourners are within the whare potae—i.e., during the period of mourning, which may continue perhaps for a week or longer—these dwellers within the house of mourning are very
[Footnote] * Trans. N. Z. Inst., vol. xxxi, p. 647.
careful in regard to taking food. As a rule they do not partake of food in the daytime, but only at night, and even then they eat in secret by going into some secluded hut by themselves, or at least where they cannot be seen by the people. Always they take their food under shelter, never in the open. If when travelling while an inmate of the house of mourning a person be overcome by hunger, and so compelled to eat in the daytime, be will go a space aside, break a branch off a tree, and stick the butt thereof in the ground. He will then sit under the branch while eating his food, thus likening the shade cast by the branch to the shades of night.
“Tenei karanga, te whare potae, ehara i te tino whare, he kupu whakarite. Ko nga tangata kai roto i te whare potae, kaore e kai ao, engari kua pa rawa, katahi ratau ka kai. He kai ao, ara he kai awatea, hai heuenga mo te whare potae. Ka haere te tangata ki te wai, horoi atu ai i te aroha; na, kua kai ao.” (“This name, ‘whare potae’ it is not a real house, it is a figurative expression. Persons in the whare potae do not eat in the daytime, but only when quite dark; then they eat. Eating in the daytime—that is in daylight—means the dispersing of the mourners. A person will go to the waterside and, by means of a certain rite, wash away his grief. Then he will eat in the daytime.”)
It was not until the tapu had been taken off these mourners by means of a rite performed by the priest that they became noa, or free from tapu, and could take food in the daytime, or mix freely with the people. Cases are quoted where persons have so mourned for months. While persons are mourning they do not remain in a house, but move about, although not free from restraint, as the tapu is upon them.
There is a place in the Okahu Valley, at Te Whaiti, named Nag Wahine-kai-awatea (the daylight-eating women), which name originated in this manner: When Te Wharau, of the Ngati-Whare Tribe, died, his widow (and other female relatives apparently) was cleansed from the tapu of the whare potae at that place by laving her body with the waters of the stream and having the whakanoa rite performed over her. Then she (and her companions) first ate food in the daytime since the death of Te Wharau. Hence the above name. Observe how place-names change in Maoriland. When the road was being constructed to Rua-tahuna in 1896,
the precipitous rock cliffs at Nga Wahine-kai-awatea proved a difficult place for the roadmen to work at—so much so, indeed, that it was found necessary to use life-lines (ropes secured at the top of the cliff and allowed to trail down the rock-face) for the security of the workmen. At once the Natives renamed the place Taura-tukutuku (the trailing ropes), and the original name seems to have been discarded.
A koangaumu, or human sacrifice, was sometimes made in olden times in order to take the tapu of the whare potae (i.e., off the mourning) and its inmates the mourners. The act of so sacrificing a person would not break up the tapu, but such a sacrifice was always with the idea of imparting force, prestige, effectiveness to a religious function.
When Taupoki died at Te Whaiti a slave named Tapuku was slam as a koangaumu for the mourners. The body was cut up, a portion thereof sent to the Whirinaki people as a present, and the rest was cooked at Wai-kotikoti, just where the policeman's cottage now stands.
Ka mate te tupapaku, ka patua he tangata hai koangaumu mo taua tupapaku, ka kainga e nga whanaunga o te tupapaku. Ko taua patunga tapu hai heuenga mo te whare potae. Kaore e tangi te tangata i a ia e noho ana i roto i te whare taua. Kia koangaumutia te tupapaku; katahi ia ka puta ki waho, ka tangi, Ko te koangaumu hai whakanoa.” (“When a person dies, a man is slain as a koangaumu for the deceased, and is eaten by the relatives of the dead. That sacrifice is for the purpose of dispersing the mourners. A person does not wail for the dead while he is staying within the house of mourning. When the sacrifice has been made, then he will come forth and lament. The sacrifice lifts the tapu.”) Here is an allusion to the fact that practically no crying or wailing for the dead is indulged in by mourners while in seclusion, but only when they are surrounded by others, and have an audience. The Maori believes in public grief, he cares not to weep in private.
The person slain as a human sacrifice for the lifting of the tapu from the whare potae would be taken from another hapu or subtribe. After this rite was over the mourners emerged from the house of mourning and returned to their usual avocations. Although usually merely a metaphorical or figurative expression, yet it would appear that sometimes a mourner nearly related to the dead would remain within the “house of mourning” (by staying in his own hut) during the period of mourning. In the legend of Pou-rangahua it is stated that Kanioro his wife so mourned for Pou when he was thought to be dead, and on his return he found her still secluded within their house, which had become overgrown with mawhai.
Sometimes a brother or sister of the dead would so seclude himself or herself for a time. Then it would be said, “Such a person in the whare potae.” “This action,” said a cynical old Native to me, “was hai whakananaha i tona ingoa” (to get himself talked about). He said also that people often did such things for the brief fame that it brought them.
The ritual act of lifting the tapu from mourners is similar to that performed over any person who is tapu from any other cause. The person or persons accompany the priest to a stream, pond, or spring set aside for such sacred rites, where they divest themselves of their clothing, and, clad in nought save a scanty girdle of green-leaved twigs, they are sprinkled with water by the officiating priest, who then repeats over them a karakua whakanoa, or invocation to free from tapu. one authority states that the mourners had their hair cut at this function, which is probable, as haircutting was often performed as a sacerdotal rite.
The apakura, or dirge, sung by mourners is usually an ancient composition. It derives its name from a famous ancestor, one Apakura, a woman, who dwelt in the isles of Polynesia in about the ninth century of the present era.* She is looked upon by the Maoris of New Zealand as a kind of “parent.” or teacher, of the art of mourning for the dead.
The custom of the preserving of heads (pakipaki mahunga) of the dead by their living relatives has been alluded to. This was done out of a feeling of affection for the dead. The head was severed from the body, the latter being buried, while the former was dried and kept by relatives for some time before being deposited with the bones of the body in the cave or tree used for the purpose.
Pio, of Awa, speaks—he who has been caught in the snare of Hine-nui-te-Po, and has lifted the dread curtain which conceals the realm of Miru: “The great token of affection in old times was to cut off the head of a dead relative and preserve it, which was done by the priest. The head was shaken in order to cause the brains to drop out; the body was buried in the ground. The priest would carry the head about with him, sometimes exposing it to the view of living relatives, that they might greet and wail over it. This might continue for months, or even years. When unable to carry it about any longer, on account of other matters, the head would be taken to the burial-cave and left there. It was Christianity that put a stop to this custom. While
[Footnote] * “Journal of the Polynesian Society,” vol. viii, p. 15.
the head was kept, it was sometimes placed on a wooden peg (turuturu) stuck in the ground, and people would mourn over it. Near relatives would spread on the ground before it a kakahuwaero (cloak covered with dogs’ tails), upon which they would kneel before the head and chaunt an old-time dirge of the Maori people.”
These dried heads were also exhibited at any important function or meeting of the people. They were stuck on stakes on the plaza, where meetings took places. Some had the lips stitched together, which, if neatly done, would elicit the remark, “Me te kuku ka kopi” (“Like the neat closing of a mussel-shell”). Some were left with the lips not fastened, hence the lips contracted during the drying or curing process, and the teeth became prominent. If the teeth were white and sightly it was remarked. “me te niho kokota” (“Like kokota teeth”). “Kokota” is the name of a shellfish.
Heads of enemies were also preserved in a similar manner, but for a different purpose. They would so preserve the head of an enemy of the chieftain class that they might revile it, and subject it to all indignities the fertile brain of the Maori might conceive. Such heads would be placed in cooking-sheds and near ovens, a fearful thing to the Maori. They would be exposed to view on the plaza of the village, and reviled by passer-by. Women would place them near where they worked at weaving, &c., and occasionally turn to and curse them with great gusto, heaping opprobrious epithets upon them, jeering and taunting them, as though in the flesh. This would be when such women had lost husbands or other relatives at the hands of the dead or of his tribe.
The method of embalming or preserving human heads was a singular one. A steam-oven, similar to the ovens for cooking food,* was made in the ground. This was covered over save a small orifice left on the top and through which the hot stream escaped. Over this the head was placed, the base thereof being over the hole in the top of the oven (umu). The hot stream caused the brains to melt, when they were easily got rid of. The eyes were taken out, and the eyelids fastened down. The skin was stripped off down to the shoulders to allow for contraction; it was then brought under the neck and there tied. The Maori was very particular in preserving the heads of his relatives to render them sightly when exposed to people for crying over. He liked to see the lips closed so that the teeth were not exposed. He was not so particular with the heads of his enemies.
[Footnote] * See Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. xxxv, p. 88.
The expression “pakipaki mahunga” means “to preserve heads by drying.” They were dried after the steaming process by means of placing them in the smoke of a wood-fire. The hair was retained, and was dressed and decorated with plumes when brought out to be wept over.
A description of this head-drying, with many notes, may be found at page 610 of the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,” vol. xxvii, though the statement there made that in preserving the head of an enemy “no dishonour whatever was intended to the owner of the head” must be taken cum grano salis, for that is exactly what was intended. The quotation given from Marsden— “It is gratifying to the vanquished to know that the heads of their chiefs are preserved by the enemy”—is also very extraordinary, and absolutely incorrect. In the same article (p. 611) is seen the statement that “those [heads] of the enemy were usually placed on the tops of the houses, or on poles by the wayside, where they were exposed to the contemptuous taunts of the passers-by.” This is certainly more correct, though how it could be “gratifying to the vanquished” is a somewhat obscure point.
The last case of head-preserving known to myself as having occurred in this district was in 1865, when Ngati-Manawa and some of Te Arawa were defeated at Te Tapiri, driven out of their fort at that place and forced to fly, leaving their dead behind them. The heads of two of these, Eru and Enoka, of Ngati-Manawa, were cut off and preserved, Kereopa swallowing the eyes. These heads were taken by Te Whakatohea to their home on the coast.
When, on a war-expedition in an enemy's country, the invaders lost some killed, the bodies were usually cremated, so that they should not be eaten by enemies. Sometimes the head would be cut off, preserved, and carried back home. When Ngapuhi returned from their famous raid to the Wellington District they brought back many heads of those who had fallen.
When Makawe, of Te Whakatohea, was slain at Te Papuni (see ante) his head was thus preserved by his people and carried with them on their raid to the Wairoa, where they fought at Tara-mahiti, after which they returned home to O-potiki, still bearing the head of their chief.
When Te Ika-poto's daughter died at Heipipi her body was buried there, but her head was preserved and taken to Maungapohatu, her permanent home.
The preserved heads of many former chiefs of the Tuhoe Tribe are lying in a cave at Te Tahora, among them being those of Te Arohana and of Te Mai-taranui.
Memorial structures were not an important feature in Maori-land. Burial-mounds were never constructed, nor were graves marked by stones or posts. Two reasons may be given for this omission. In the first place, no burial in the earth was in any way permanent, save in such cases as when a body was buried in a swamp—trampled down into the mud and so left—or in a a sandhill. Bodies buried in the ground were merely left there for a few years, when the bones were exhumed and placed in a tribal burial cave or tree. This custom has certainly obtained among the Maori people for centuries—i.e., for so long as intertribal warfare has been general. It is possible that there was a period when the dead of the New Zealand Natives were buried in the ground and never exhumed, judging from certain discoveries made of skeletons in various parts. However, this may never have been a general custom. If it was so, then such dead were probably those of the original people of these isles, who seem to have been much less warlike that the later comers of the fourteenth century. The second reason to account for the absence of mortuary structures is this: On account of the savagely vindictive nature of Maori warfare, their eating the bodies of their enemies, and the delight they look in treating such bodies with every foul indignity, as also the custom of utilising the skull and other bones of the such bodies wherefrom to manufacture various implements, it was necessary for every tribe to bury their dead in secrecy, and to take every precaution that enemies should not discover the resting-place of the bodies or bones of their dead. Hence nothing was done to mark a grave where a person had been buried. Perhaps the only marked resting-places of the dead to be seen about a settlement in former times were those constructed within the pa, fortified village.
In regard to cannibalism, and the fierce lust for revenge which so often animated the Native mind, a dreadful illustration is that of the kai pirau —namely, the ghoulish custom which formerly obtained of exhuming the body of a buried enemy, cooking the devouring the same, even though decomposition had set in.
Little wonder that the Maori erected no gravestones. But they often so marked the spot where a man died, or fell in battle, as also a place where a sick man had lain. There were two methods of marking the place where a person had died or been slain. One was to set up a wooden post or place a stone on the spot; the other was to dig a hole (termed. “pokapoka”). Such a post would probably be smeared with red ochre, red being
a favoured and also practically a sacred colour among the Natives. The pokapoka method was often employed whereby to mark places where men had fallen on a battlefield. Relatives of the dead person would make the pit or hole. Te Pokapoka o Taua-ahi-kawai is a place-name at Tara-pounamu. It is where the pokapoka for one Taua-ahi-kawai, of Ngati-Pukeko, was dug. But, observe, Te Pokapoka a Te Umu-tiri-rau, near Karioi, is a very different thing, for it is simply a hole dug as a landmark by Te Umu—hence the active “a”. It is well to be cautions when dealing with the Maori tongue.
The pokapoka for the dead are respected by all members of the tribe. Some tribes term these pits “whakaumu.” The battle-ground of Puke-kai-kaahu, at Rere-whakaitu, had numerous pits on it to mark places where the dead fell during that Homeric combat.
A saying of old, “E kore e pai kia tuwhera te pokapoka ki tahaki, engari me tuwhera tonu ki te papa o te huarahi,” was often heard formerly when the war-trumpets boomed forth their doleful sound. It would be made by warriors in the course of their speeches before going to battle. its meanings is, “It is not well that the pokapoka should be made in a non-conspicuous place, but let it be dug on a path”; by which the speaker implies that if he fall in the fray he wishes the sign to be made in a conspicusous place. The pit for a plebeian would be dug anywhere. These holes were about 1 ft. deep by 2 ft. in diameter.
I will now illustrate another custom of old. When a Maori is taken ill away from his permanent home and ancestral lands, should it be thought that his end is near he will be borne on a litter (amo) back to his home, in order that he may die among his own people and on his own land. In the rugged wilds of Tuhoeland I have known most arduous journeys of this nature made by Natives bearing upon their shoulders a litter or stretcher on which lay a dying person. Over rough country, up and down steep rough ranges, by narrow forest-tracks, and following up or down the beds of swift rivers, the bearers plod on for days, until their destination be reached. Te Puehu, of Tuhoe, lay sick unto death at Te Umu-roa. Then the thought came that he should be carried to Matatua, there to take leave of his people and lift the trail of death. So the bearers of the old chief bore their burden down the terrace lands above the rushing waters of wai-hui, until they came to the steep descent to the Ruatahuna Creek. Here they rested awhile, setting down their burden by the wayside. In like manner when they had ascended the opposite side of the gully they again set down
the litter by the wayside, near Te Whakatakanga-o-Te-Piki, and again rested. At both these resting-places where a person with the tapu of death upon him had lain a carved post or small pillar was set up to mark the spot, which remains tapu. Not only did these posts mark tapu spots, but they also served the purpose of a tuapa, and as a warning to passers-by not to trespass on the place. The post at the second resting-place was destroyed (burned) by the Native Contingent during Whitmore's raid on Tuhoeland, but the first one still stands, as I myself have seen. It is known as “Te Pou o Te Puehu” (the pillar of Te Puehu). These carved posts were usually sheltered by having a roof built over them, which would occasionally be renewed. The posts would also be smeared with red ochre. This Pou o Te Puehu was, for years after its erection, adorned by the Natives, who hung thereon any bright-coloured articles obtained from the coast tribes by barter, such as handkerchiefs, pieces of figured prints, &c. In like manner any tree where the severed umbilical cords of infants were deposited in former times was similarly adorned. This sort of thing would, presumably, be described as a fetish by travellers, and possibly as an evidence of tree-worship.
In regard to the tuapa: This name is applied to a post or slab of wood which had been hewn out of a log with an adze and was erected at the place where a person of rank had died, or in some cases where or near where or near where he was buried. In some cases it seems to have been set up at or near the village where the person died. It would be erected after the burial. This slab seems to have in some way represented the Wairua (spirit) of the deceased. The object was to lay the ghost of the dead person, to prevent his spirit from returning to afflict the living. Such a spirit of the dead is termed a “kehua,” or “kikokiko” or “whakahaehae.” Among the Tuhoe Tribe the first and last of these terms is applied to a ghost (spirit of the dead) as a ghost, but kikokio is applied to those spirits of the dead that afflict the living and are said to often cause death.
Certain rites were performed by a priest over these tuapa* in order to prevent the spirits' return to afflict people, or crops, or other food products. The priest recites an incantation with this object. He then repeats the karakia (spell, charm, invocation, incantation) termed “ahi,” at the same time rubbing a stick upon the ground as if generating fire, but he really kindles no fire. Thus are the evil designs of the wairua, or spirit, abolished or rendered innocuous. To give force, power,
[Footnote] * The general meaning of this word is, “something that obstructs, wards off, prevents contact with.” It is also used as a verb.
to his incantation the priest then, by means of other old-time ritual, raises the tribal hau, or wind, that of the Tama-kai-moana clan being tutakangahau, and that of Te Ure-wera clan urukaraerae. In some cases he will cause thunder to roll by reciting the oho rangi invocation. Having thus shown his power over the elements, he and the local ruahine, or wise woman, take the tapu off himself, and the function is over.
In some cases a stone might be placed to mark a grave—i.e., an unworked stone, a boulder. It would be placed above the head of the body. These would probably be cases where the bodies were buried within or near a village, or in some remote spot where it was not likely to be found by enemies. For the Maori of yore was essentially a necrophagous animal, a ghoul of the first water.
The Maori terms for burial are “tapuketanga” and “nehunga,” derived from the verbs tapuke and nehu = to bury. Exhumation he styles “hahunga”, from hahu = to disinter. Cremation he has no distinctive term for, but simply states that certain persons were “burned with fire.”
We have already seen the mythical origin of the burial of the dead, when the Earth Mother said, “Leave me the dead. Let them return within me. I brought them forth to the light of day, let them return to me [when dead]. Mine shall be the care of the dead.” Hence man is buried in the ground; he returns to the bosom of the ancient Earth Mother.
A single word: Ever bear in mind that the elaborate ceremonies and sacred rites described in this paper applied to persons of good birth only, not to people of low social status or to slaves. But little ceremony was wasted on common people, and as for slaves, their bodies would be thrown anywhere out of the way.
The general scheme of burial among the Maori people was—first the burial, or other disposal of the body, until the flesh had disappeared; and secondly the disposal of the bones of the dead in a permanent manner.
Among the Tuhoe Tribe the mode usually adopted was either to bury the body or place it on a covered stage or in a hollow tree until the flesh had disappeared, when, with great ceremony, the bones were for ever disposed of by placing them in certain burial-caves or in hollow trees, or concealed among parasitic plants on tree-tops. In the case of swamp and sandhill burial only was the body and its bones left in its first burial-place— in the first place on account of the difficulty of disinterring the bones, and also for the reason that they were safe from tribal enemies, seek they ever so closely.
Understand that Maoris think much of their dead, as becomes a people who have practised necrolatry for untold centuries. In like manner they think much of the places where their dead lie. Observe the evidence given in Native Land Courts, where two important points in support of a claim to land are that the claimant's ancestors died or were buried on the land. Note the pathetic laments composed and sung by tribes who were forced to migrate from lands where their dead lay. Think of the numberless cases where a captive has asked permission to sing a farewell to his tribal lands and his dead are he be slain by his captors.
It has been stated by some writers, anent the discovery in several places in New Zealand of skeletons buried in a sitting position, that this mode of burial was not practised by the Maori, hence a “prior race” theory is set up. But the Maori did bury bodies in a sitting position, though not invariably so. When one considers the way in which the bodies of the dead were frequently “trussed” for burial, then the sitting position in burial appears to be quite feasible and also natural. Years ago I heard of skeletons being found in such a position in the sandhills on the coast at Ohau, near Otaki. The Tuhoe Tribe sometimes buried their dead in a sitting position, which they term “tapuke whakanoho.” (For other evidence concerning sitting-burial, see “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,” vol. vii, pp. 67, 68, 88; vol. xxxiv, p. 126 (Moriori), 129; vol. xviii, p. 24: vol, i, p. 20, of Colenso's second essay. Also, at p. 20 of vol. i of these Transactions is a reference which reads thus: “In a circular pit in the Waikato a number of human skeletons were found in an erect position, each with a block of wood on its head.”)
The graves used by Natives are by no means deep—about 3 ft. or 4 ft. in depth, as a rule. As the bones are to be taken up in a few years it is perhaps better not to bury deeply, inasmuch as decomposition would be delayed thereby.
Tree burial has always been much practised by the Tuhoe Tribe, certainly since the time of one Tama-tuhi-rae, alias Tama-a-mutu, who flourished some thirteen generations ago, and to whom the Tuhoe tribe attribute the originating of the custom. Tama-a-mutu instituted the custom of tree burial, it is said, because he considered it wrong to bury the dead in the earth, as the earth is for producing food. Even so, when Tama drew near his end he told his son that he did not wish his body buried in the earth, but wanted it placed in a tree. Hence, after his death his son constructed a wooden box, in which he placed the body of his sire. This box or coffin was placed up in a tree
and there left. This is said to have been the first occasion on which a coffin was used in this district.
Tama-a-mutu obtained the name of Tama-tuhi-rae (Tama the brow-marked) from the fact that he used to ornament his brow in ancient fashion by marking it with red ochre (horu). It was also a custom to so mark the skulls of chief when the bones were disinterred and deposited in a burial cave or tree. There were two ways of so marking—the tuhi korae, or tuhi marei kura, consisted of horizontal stripes smeared across the forehead; while the tuhi kohuru was a series of red stripes running diagonally from the upper corner of the forehead downwards over the eye to the cheek. The descendants of Tama-tuhi-rae are known as the Nagi-Tama-tuhi-rae clan, generally abbreviated to Ngai-Tama. Their principal living chiefs are Te Whiu Maraki (he who caputered Kereopa, the eye-swallower, at Ohaua) and Tamaikoha. This clan of Tuhoe resides at Te Waimana. I submit a genealogy from Tama-a-mutu:—
In the following song we observe a reference to Tama-a-mutu and his institution of the custom of tree burial. This composition is termed a “tangi tawhite,” a singular class of chaunts by which persons are said to have been bewitched and done to death at a distance. It was composed and utilised by one Piki near a hundred years ago:—
E hine! Maru-nui i te tapu
Ka taka i o tuakana
Tu ake hoki, e hine!
I te tu wharariki
Hai whakakakara mo hine ki te moenga
Te moenga te whita, te moenga te au
Oti tonu atu koe ki ràro—e—e.
Taupae atu ra i tua o Te Wharau, e hine!
Ka wehe ko te po
Ka wehe ko te ao i a koe
Tokona atu ra ki tawhiti
He toko-uri, he toko-tea
He mapuna, he kai ure
Kai ure noa ana, e hine!
Nga tohunga i nga atua kia mate
Koi tonu nga mho ki te ngau
Na Maw i hangarau, e hine!
Tana ika tapu
Ko te whenua nui e noho nei taua
I tikina ki raro wheuriuri
Ki a Hine-nui-te-Po
Hai nagki i te mate
I tukua mai nei ki ana karere
Ki te waeroa, ki te namu poto
Hai kakati i te rae
I te mata o te hurupiki, e hine!
Ko ta paua, ka ea te mate
O te hiku rekareka nei
O te tuna—e—i.
Takoto mai ra, e hine!
I roto i te whare papa
Ko te whare ra tena
O to tipuna, o Tama-a-mutu
I tuhia ai—e, ki te tuhi marei kura
Koia a Ngai-Tama-tuhi-rae
I whakairi ai—e
Ki runga ki te rakau
Koia te kauhau i to papa
I a Maui, e hine!
Tera ia te rua o tini raua ko mano
I karia ki te oneone ika nui, e hine
Hurihuritia iho ra, e hoa ma-e!
Ta tatau mahuri totara
No te wao tapu nui o Tane
No te awa—e, i Oatua
No runga—e, i Okarakia
No nga pinga—e, i roto i Te Kopua
Taku totara haemata
Te rite ai, e hine! ki a koe—i—a.
And ever since the time of Tama-tuhi-rae have the dead of the Nagi-Tama clan been placed in trees, and never in the earth. A tree is selected which has masses of a parasitic plant known as kowharawhara (an Astelia) growing on its branches. Among these thick masses are concealed the remains of the children of Tama.
In the above song (lament) will be noted a reference to the contest between Maui and Hine-nui-te-Po. The whare papa mentioned is an allusion to the coffin in which the body of Tama was placed. The expression “mahuri totara” (totara sapling) is one of many such often applied to young people recently dead. It often appears in laments. It likens the lost one to a young totara tree, a tree highly prized by the Maori.
In some cases the dead were placed in hollow trees, the body being wrapped up in a cloak. We have seen that the Ngai-Tama clan disposed of their dead by placing the bodies in or on trees. Other clans also did the same, but the system usually followed was that of burying bodies in the earth, or placing them on a stage, and then, when the hahunga or disinterment took place, the bones were deposited in a cave or chasm, or rock shelter, or in a hollow tree, or among the parasitic plants which grow on the branches of forest-trees. The pukatea tree, which when it attains a large size is generally hollow, is often used as a last resting-place for the bones of the dead in Tuhoeland. There are many such burial-trees at Rua-toki, one of which stands within 2 chains of my present camp at Hau-Kapua. While exploring the gulch one day I espied several skulls at the base of a pukatea tree, and thought that I might have some trouble with the local Natives for camping at a tapu spot. I quickly found out, however, that there was no need for uneasiness, as the Natives were quite ignorant of the place as a burial-ground, and denied that the remains were those of any of their people. They advanced the opimon that the bones were a toenga—that is, the bones of bodies that had been eaten in former times. It is however, highly improbable that the bones of a body that had been eaten would have been treated with such respect. Rather would they have been simply thrown out on the kitchenmidden of the settlement. On the spur immediately above the burial-tree stand the earthworks of two old Native forts—HauKapua and Titoko-rangi. The remains, I opine, are either those of plebeians, of whom but little notice was taken, or they belong to some other tribe. The last supposition is probable, inasmuch as Rua-toki is not ancestral land of the Tuhoe Tribe, but was gained by conquest, and Tuhoe have several times been driven off the land.
In placing bones of the dead in a hollow tree they were sometimes inserted at the base of the tree, should an opening there exist. If not, one was often found up the trunk of the tree, sometimes 40 ft. or 50 ft. from the ground. In such cases the bones would be carried up, thrust into the hole, and allowed to fall down inside the tree. Some of these trees contain great quantities of human remains. In one that fell and split
open near O-potiki Captain Mair counted over three hundred skulls.
A rata tree at Raorao, on the Wai-riko Block, was formerly used as a burial-tree. The bodies were placed among masses of Astelia with which the leaning trunk was covered on the upper side.
The bones of the dead of the Ngai-Te-Kapo clan, of Rua-toki, were placed in a hollow pukatea tree (Atherosperma movce-zealandiae).
A kahikatea tree at Nag-whakahiwawa, in the Horomanga Valley, was an old-time burial-place, as also was a similar tree at Raro-po.
When some of the Tuhoe Tribe were living at Anini, near Te Pa-puni, their dead were not buried in the ground, but placed in trees.
It is said that the remains of Mura-kareke and Tama-pokai, two famous chiefs of Tuhoe, were concealed in a hollow rata tree at Owhakatoro.
When Te Korowhiti died at Te Kohuru his body was placed on a platform or staging constructed among the branches of a tawhero tree. This making of a platform in a tree-top, on which to place a dead body, was by no means an uncommon occurrence.
As observed above, it was a Native custom to place bodies in swamps and lagoons or ponds, the body being usually thrust down into the mud, and the water-plants, rushes, &c., would soon grow up and so obliterate all sigs of disturbance. There are several such swamp burial-places at Te Whaiti—indeed, they exist in most parts of the Matatua district, being perhaps more numerous in the open country where no forest existed in which the dead might be concealed. Te Korokoro, Wai-pokere, and Te Kowhai are three of these burial-swamps at Te Whaiti. In a good many cases dead were buried near a settlement (where the graves could be protected from enemies), and when the bones were exhumed they would be conveyed to a swamp and there trampled into themud for concealment. This method was common among the Nagti-awa and Ngati-Pukeko Tribes, who inhabit open country.
A small lagoon named Te Roto-tapu (the sacred pond), at Kaka-tarahae, near Rua-toki, has been used as a burial-place by Tuhoe for the past fourteen generations, hence it is a very tapu place. It is said that Toi, a famous ancestor of the Bay of Plenty Natives on the aboriginal side, was the first to be buried in a swamp, at a place called Marae-totara, at O-hope.
When Ngati-Rongo, under Pa-i-te-rangi, attacked Te Kea
(who dwelt in the Titoko-rangi Fort at Rua-toki) they made a slight error, for Te Kea defeated the party and slew their leader, who was buried in a swamp.
Perhaps you are weary of swamp burial, but I want to draw your attention to a singular use of the word “rumaki”. My informant, an old Native, said, “Ka rumakina a Pa-i-te-rangi ki roto ki te repo.” Here rumaki = to bury, a meaning not given to the word in our dictionaries. The Tuhoe people often use it in that sense.
Use of Coffins and Small Elevated Huts.
We have seen that the remains of Tama-a-mutu were placed in a box or coffin for burial. This custom was sometimes practised in former times. Bodies of the dead were put in a rough wooden box or coffin made of slabs of timber hewn out with stone axes. This would be placed on the top of a high post near the settlement, and when the flesh was decayed the bones would be taken to a burial tree or cave. Perhaps the most common method was a small erection, like a miniature house, built on the top of a high post. These were often erected within the fortified settlements of the Natives in Pre-European days. We notice them in illustrations of such villages as left us by early travellers and settlers. These places within the village seem to have been used to place the bones of the dead in. The keeping of the decomposing bodies in their midst in such a manner would be somewhat too much, even for a Maori.
Coffins were sometimes constructed in the form of a canoe, from perhaps 3 ft. to 6 ft. in length. These were hewn out of wood, and were ofttimes ornamented with carving. Lids, neatly fitting, were made for them. Some very interesting and ancient specimens may be seen in the Auckland Museum. These singular coffins were used as receptacles for the bones of the dead after disinterment. They were usually placed in burial-caves, situate in secluded places. These coffins would usually be daubed with red ochre. The discoverer of the coffins above mentioned states, “The first cave contained some tons of skeletons, and several wooden images of different sizes engraved from head to toe. The largest image is about 6 ft. in length, the head and legs taking up no more than 2 ft. of the length. Each image has a hollow body with a lid for the back, and had previously been filled with bones, the lid being tied on with a kind of forest-creeper.”
William's “Maori Dictionary” gives “pouraka”, receptacle for a dead body, in shape like a square box, thatched over the top.”
An illustration of one of these bone-coffins is given in Hamilton's “Maori Art,” p. 159, where may also be seen illustrations of the handsomely carved slabs of wood erected over a chief's grave. Some fine carved slabs of totara wood, about 3 ft. in width, are still standing in the old fort of Mana-te-pa, at Rua-tahuna. They were erected over the graves of those Natives who were shot there about the year 1842.
It sometimes occurred that a person would be buried in his own house, with the inevitable result that such house would become tapu, and would no longer be occupied, but allowed to decay.
When the inter-clan fight occurred at Mana-te-pa, as mentioned above, several of the Ngati-Ta-whaki clan were slain, including Te Whatu. The latter's body was carried to his permanent home at Oputao and there buried in his own house, which of course became tapu, and could no longer be used by the living. Shortly afterwards his name was given to a newly born child, who in after-years assumed the name of Paratene, which in later life was abandoned and the name of Paitni assumed. The above pa (fort) was abandoned after the fight, on account of human blood having been shed there. The other dead were buried within the fort, as we have seen, and the place has ever since been tapu.
The bones of persons buried in houses would in after-years be exhumed and placed in a burial cave or tree.
In late times, since fighting has ceased, bodies are buried in the ground, and either the grave is fenced in with a picket fence, or, as is generally the case among the Tuhoe Tribe, an old fort (pa maioro) is set aside for the purpose of a graveyard. Graves made in these old forts are often not fenced, as the old earthen walls and ditches prevent the entrance of stock. In some cases the body, enclosed in a coffin of rough boards, is placed on the surface of the ground and an oblong mound of earth built over it. Over this a small wooden house is erected and painted in bright colours; red and blue is a favoured combination, or white and red. At other times the coffin is buried beneath the surface and the little house built over the grave.
Colenso states in his admirable essay* that in former times corpses were sometimes placed in such little houses or huts in a sitting posture, having been tied, dressed as in life, and with its greenstone mere or cutting-club.
Wohlers speaks of house burial as having occurred among the South Island Natives: “The body, having been bent
[Footnote] * Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. i.
together in a roundish ball (the knees under the chin, as the Maori formerly handled their corpses), was adorned, and put into a box made for the purpose, and buried in the house near the wall.* Also see “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,” vol. xxxiv, p. 574, for a similar case which occurred among the Arawa Tribe in 1882.
Old canoes were sometimes cut up to form coffin in former times. When the famous chief Te Whare-pouri died at Wellingtion, a part of this canoe was set up at Nga-uranga, near Wellington, as a mortuary memorial, although the body was not buried at that place.
Speaking of funeral ceremonies in ancient Greece, Max Muller says, “It is supposed that in ancient times the Greeks deposited the remains of the dead in their own houses, near the hearth, which was the primitive altar of the family.†
Articles buried with Body.
A singular custom, and a widespread one, noted the world over, and even seen among civilised peoples, is the depositing of articles in the grave. I have not been able to obtain from Maoris any corroboration of the opinion expressed by most writers on primitive eschatology—viz., that such articles were intended for the use of the departed in the spirit-world—but rather that such offerings are a sign of affection for the lost one. I have never heard that food was placed in the grave by the Maori, but the dying person was fed for the death journey, as we have seen.
It often occurs, even in these times, that cherished possessions are placed in the grave of a loved relative. I give a few instances as illustrations:—
When the child Haere-huka, a descendant of Maru-wahia, died, the body was buried at Whiria, on the Hikurangi Block, and a prized greenstone ornament was placed in the grave.
Somewhere about 1850 a party of the Ngati-Manawa Tribe, of the Galatea district, went to Hauraki in order to obtain muskets and ammunition. When they left to return home, the grandfather of Harehare Aterea stole an axe which had been placed on a grave of the Ngati-Maru people. On it becoming known to Ngati-Maru that their visitors had desecrated their burial place they raised an armed force, which, under Taraia, marched to Whirinaki, on the Rangitaiki River, to teach the children of Manawa better manners; and it was only by sending to Tuhoe and Taupo for armed assistance that Ngati-Manawa escaped a severe drubbing. But they had to pay for that axe.
[Footnote] * Trans N.Z. Inst., vol. viii, p. 115.
[Footnote] † “Anthroplogical Religion,” p. 264.
We have noted that when a body was lying in state, relatives of the dead would produce their finest garments and prized greenstone weapons and ornaments, which were exhibited near the corpse. It was a token of respect to the deceased. When the burial took place most of these articles would be reclaimed by the owners, but some were buried with the body, or placed by the side thereof in the cave or tree. These also might be reclaimed later on, as when a tribal meeting took place, or a distinguished visitor arrived, or other occasion equally important m Maori eyes.
A child who died at Waikare-moana was buried with her favourite ornament, a brooch made from a crown piece, on her breast. Hence her little sister was given the name of Karauna, the Native rendering of the English word “crown”.
Articles buried with a body are often recovered when the bones are exhumed, but sometimes they are placed with the bones in the burial cave or tree and allowed to remain there. These latter—weapons, greenstone implements or ornaments, &c. —were often the property of the deceased, and would not be reclaimed. “Na te ngakau mamae tena mahi” (“Grief was the origin of such acts”).
When old Puke-tapu, of the Waikare-moana district, died, his son buried with his body a manuscript book in which were written the ancient history, genealogies, &c., of his tribe, and which was thought much of, yet it was sacrificed, and much interesting lore that it contained is now lost for ever. Max Muller quotes a similar case as having occurred in modern times, when an English poet placed the manuscripts of his own unpublished poems in his wife's grave.
Suicides were buried as any person would be who died a natural death. Wives were not buried in the same grave as their husbands, even though buried at the same time, as would occur when a wife committed suicide at her husband's death, a frequent occurrence in former times. The custom of exhuming the bones would tend to single burial, in order that the bones might not get mixed. A child is sometimes buried in the same grave as a parent or grandparent.
Male relatives of the dead prepare the grave and bury the body. They are tapu while so engaged, and the whakanoa rite is afterwards performed over them in order to remove the tapu.
The Tuhoe Tribe do not seem to have had any burial-grounds in former times—i.e. where a number of persons would be buried—for reasons already stated. Matters are very different now that parties of armed ghouls no longer roam the land seeking whom they may devour. Hence, also, the custom of exhuming the bones of the dead is falling into desuetude.
Bodies of the dead were carried to the grave on a litter or bier formed of poles. They were borne head first, whereas in so carrying a living person the head is always kept up-hill.
Among coast-dwelling tribes, more especially where no forest is near, it was a common thing for sandhills to be utilised as burial-grounds. Where dunes of pure sand exist, devoid of vegetable growth, the disturbance of such would leave no traces longer than a few hours, especially so were a wind blowing at the time. Such a burial-place is the ancient one at O-pihi, among the sandhills near the beach, and just across the river from Whakatane Township. This place has been used as a burial ground for centuries past. The saying “O-pihi whanaunga kore” (O-pihi the relationless) is applied to it. “Our ancestors Tama-ki-Hukurangi and Rakei-ora were buried at O-pihi. That was the permanent burial-place of our ancestor from ancient days down to the present times. Afterwards Putauaki (Mount Edge-cumbe) became a famed burial-place. In later times the dead were buried in swamps, in lagoons, on hills, in valleys. Hence burial-places became much more numerous.”
In ancient times no large burial-grounds existed anywhere near Native settlements, but when disastrous epidemics were introduced by Europeans, then such great number of people died that they were buried near the village homes, and many were never exhumed. Sometimes the death-rate was so appalling that the survivors fled in terror to seek a new home, often leaving many dead unburied behind them.
Burial-grounds are tapu and are avoided by Natives. They do not like passing such places after dark, for they have an idea that the spirits (waurua) of the dead are abroad at such a time. How they reconcile this belief with another that spirits of the dead descend to the underworld they are not able to explain.
When a young Native workman was killed by a rolling log on the roadworks at Ruatahuna, Natives disliked passing the spot where the accident occurred, after dark, for some time afterwards, for fear of encountering the ghost-spirit of the dead. Any who so passed after nightfall would sing lustily a Native song while so passing. His companions objected to returned to work at that spot, whereat the deceased man's grandfather proposed to huki te toto—i.e., to remove a portion of the dead man's blood on a stick and, by an incantation or charm, to remove the tapu from the spot.
A burying-place is termed “urupa” or “toma”. A burialcave where exhumed bones of the dead are deposited, is called a “whara,” or “rua koiwn,” or “ana korotu”. The expression “whara” is sometimes applied to hollow trees in which bones are deposited. At Te Tawa-a-Wairoto, near Rua-toki, is a burial
cave where lie many of the dead of Tuhoe. On some of the skulls the tuhi marei kura (see ante) may be seen, marked with red ochre.
The burial-places of enemies, or of a conquered or vassal people, received but scant respect at Maori hands. When the Rua-wahia Block case was before the Native Land Court, Mikaere stated in his evidence that “The Ngai-Tuaraitaua people came from Waitaha, from O-tama-rakau, and settled at O-kataina and at Rua-wahia. they put their dead in a cave named Rau-piha. We used to play there as children, breaking the skulls with stones. That burial-cave was not of our people. Ngai-Tuarai-taua were slain by the descendants of Apu-moana.”
How different the case when the burying-ground contains your own dead! “A thing much dreaded by the Maori people is a burial-cave. No one trespasses there, no person trespass on that place, severe affliction will affect him sorely. Although the person may deride danger from such an action, yet he will not survive. I say, though he seek the priest in order to be saved, yet he will not survive. Those bones are destroying him.”
The tapu from touching a dead body was extremely strong and prohibitory. It rendered the person unclean, and unable to mix with his family or fellows until he had been purified—the tapu taken off him. As a source of such defilement the touching or handling of corpses was pre-eminent, as it is among the Parsis. The special class of Nessusalar, or “unclean” bearers of the dead, among the latter people were also represented among some tribes of Maoriland, where certain persons had assigned to them the task of handling dead bodies (usually one such person in each village), and these persons were continually “unclean” (tapu), so much so that they were forced to live as outcasts from tribal society; shunned by all were they, compelled to gnaw their food as dogs do, on the ground, not being able to touch it with their thrice tapu hands.
Whakanoa (Removing the Tapu).
Near every Native village in former times a pond, spring, or brook was utilised as a place where sacred rites were performed, and set aside for that purpose. These waters would not be used for domestic purposes. It was known as the “wan tapu” (scared waters), or “wai whakaika.” Lifting the tapu from persons was often done at such places. This custom still obtains among the Tahoe Tribe. When taking the tapu off bearers and burial parties, the person who officiates as tohunga (priest, shaman) conducts the party to the waterside and bids them take off their
clothing and immerse their bodies in the water, after which he recites a karakia (charm, incantation, spell, invocation) in order to lift or dispel the tapu, and gives the parties a cooked potato to eat. The persons are then noa, or free from tapu, and may partake of food and mix with their fellows. Cooked food, it may be observed, is a most polluting thing, the direct anti-thesis of tapu, hence it is used in these rites to destroy or overcome the tapu, (uncleanness or sacredness). To smoke a pipe of tobacco has the same effect, tobacco being termed food (kai) by the Maori, hence it is sometimes used in that way, generally perhaps in rites of minor importance. This rite of whakanoa, however, was performed with more ceremony in former times.
A portion of the food cooked for the ceremonial funeral feasts—i.e., at the burial of the dead, and at the exhumation of the bones—was specially sacred. It was for the chief officiating priest, and perhaps the first-born son of the chief (ariki) line of descent of the tribe, such a person being termed a “matamua” (first-born); also, perhaps, the food reserved for those who handled the dead body or bones was called by the same name—viz., “popoa.”
The whakanoa, or making-common rite, performed over those who handled a corpse, or bones of the dead, was termed “pure.” It dispelled the tapu and purified the operators.
A portion of the popar or sacred food was offered (whangaia) to the dead body by the priest (tohunga), who placed it to the mouth of the corpse and withdrew it. The dead person was supposed to absorb the ahua (semblance) or aria (likeness, resemblance, imaginary presence, form of incarnation, &c.) of the food. One authority states that the priest merely waved the food in the direction of the mouth of the corpse (“Ka poia te kai ki te waha o te tupapaku”), repeating as he did so,—
Ka eke mal l te rangi
E roa e
Kl te mata o te tau
E roa e.
Now, this is a singular thing: The above is a portion of an invocation to the stars, which was repeated at the “first fruits” ceremony in former times. Tuputuputu is, I believe, one of the Magellan clouds. All the principal stars are mentioned in a similar manner in the full version of the above. As it was an invocation to cause the stars to provide a plentiful supply of foods, I fail to see its connection with burial rites. My informant may have been in error in giving it in the above connection, yet he is the most learned of the Tuhoe Tribe in their ancient
history and ritual, and has taken part in the pure ceremony. The only point of light visible to me is this: The invocation was to induce the stars to send bounteous crops, as also to cause birds, &c., to be plentiful, but likewise to prevent food-products being afflicted by any disease, &c. The old-time priests may have endeavoured to ward off disease or death from the living at such rites as the above. It is certain that at many different functions in ancient times priests performed the tira ora rite, whereby to protect and retain the health, prosperity, welfare—physical, mental, and spiritual—of the tribe.
At the pure ceremony the chief mourner had his hair cut by a priest with a flake of obsidian. This was done at the wai kotikoti or wai whakaika, a sacred stream, spring, or pond where-at religious rites were performed.
The term “horohoro” is also used to denote a removal of tapu, or a portion of the rite. “Horonga” is applied to food eaten by the priest during the above ceremony.* “Horohoro” in the Paumotuan dialect signifies “soul, spirit.”
I have heard it stated by a Native that bodies of persons of low social position were sometimes not buried, but simply thrown aside, with the added remark, “Nohea ra e rongo nga tupuna i te haunga” (“Our ancestors would not mind the stench thereof”)
Cremation was frequently practised by the Maori in former times. It was practised by those tribes that lived in open country where they had difficulty in concealing the bones of their dead from enemies; also by war-parties traversing hostile territory, who would cremate their dead, but often preserved the heads and carried them back home. At least one case is on record where a war-party, reduced to desperate straits during a foray, burned their wounded to prevent them falling into the hands of the enemy.
An interesting article on cremation amongst the Maori people will be found in the “Journal of the Polynesian Society,” vol. iii, p. 134.
In the Matatua district cremation was performed in some secluded spot, which remained tapu. The ashes were not preserved in any other way.
When Tu-korehu raided Rua-tahuna he lost Te Tiroa, a chief of his party, who was slain by Ngati-Tawhaki. The body of the slain man was cremated lest it be found and eaten by the Tuhoe people. As a relic of the good old days we have still among us in Tuhoeland two old men who have taken part in
[Footnote] * Williams's “Maori Dictionary.”
cannibal feasts. Even when a war-party was victorious they often were compelled to burn their dead on account of the difficulty of carrying the bodies home.
Those persons who died of kai-uaua (? consumption) were cremated by the Ngati-Awa Tribe of the Bay of Plenty district, and the ashes buried, in order to prevent any other person being affected by the disease.
The Maori has a belief that the priests of former times held wonderful powers. Observe the description of the whakanoho manawa rite, as given by the Tuhoe people, and included in the late Dr. Goldie's paper on “Maori Medical Lore,” in vol. xxxvii of the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute.”
The following incident was given to me by Himiona Tikitu, of Ngati-Awa, as having occurred two generations ago: “There was a large meeting of Te Awa-a-te-atua. All surrounding peoples attended it. Tawharau, of Nga-maihi, was there. The daughter of Rangi-takina saw him and deemed him handsome above all other men. She strove to gain him as a husband. He declined, saying, ‘You are far above me in social position.’ However, the woman overcame his scruples. Then things became interesting for Tawharau. Rangi-takaina and his people objected to the union, and put an end to it by slaying poor Tawharau. Nga-maihi heard of it. They went and dug up the buried body to the recited charms of the priests. They bore it to the Kupenga Fort (situated on the bank of the Rangi-taiki River, at Te Teko). They deposited it at the tuahu (sacred place where religious rites were performed). Then the priests gathered to challenged or incite the spirit of the dead man to turn and avenge the death of its body. Then the dead returned to life for a brief space, the magic spells were worked, the spirit rose to its dread work. Then the body returned to the clutches of death and was buried. Ere long Rangitakina and the other slayers of Tawharau were no more. The body of Rangi was placed in a European goods-case used as a coffin, and taken to Mount Edgecumbe for burial. People gathered to drag the coffin up the steep side of the mountain Nga-maihi were there. One of the latter, Meremere by name, rose to chaunt a time song for the hauling. It was a tauwaka:—
Te maunga e tu mai nei
Hoi eke! &c.
Pukaka, axe in hand, jumped for Meremere, intending to kill him, but Nga-maihi closed in and prevented him. The singing of the canoe-hauling song was in disparagement of Rangi-takina; it likened his body to a canoe. Enough! That party crumbled away, each to his home, each to his home.”
It often occurs that a Native will claim a small piece of ground where a parent or ancestor of his was buried or slain, although he has no real right to such lands, either ancestral or by conquest, and such claims are often agreed to by the Native owners of the block. When the Whaiti-nui-a-Toi Block was before the Court, Parakiri, of Ngati-Manawa, stated in his evidence, “I claimed a small part of Tahu-pango where my ancestor Taupoki was buried. Ngati-Whare had handed over the piece when my father told me that Taupoki's bones had been exhumed and taken away. I then waived my claim.”
There are many singular methods by which the Maori of yore sought to discover the cause of death and to avenge it. The following is another specimen, and the death of the wizard would be compassed by means of magic spells: “Another custom of the Maori people: A person dies and is buried. If it was believed that his death had been caused by witchcraft a stick would be procured, over which magic spells were uttered, and it was stuck in the centre of the grave and left standing there. Now, should that stick descend (of its own accord) into the ground, to the body which lies below, then not one of the persons who caused his death will survive: they will all perish. Such is the method adopted by the Maori people in order to avenge a person destroyed by witchcraft.”
In regard to the Earth taking back her children (man) to her bosom at death, a similar idea may be discerned in the Rig-veda: the earth seems to have been invoked “to receive the dead, as a mother receives her child.” Observe a quotation at page 256 of Max Muller's “Anthropological Religion”; also, at page 254, an account of purification by immersion of the body in water after funeral rites. Note the quotation, “They should not cook food during that night.” This is Maori. Funeral and many other religious rites were performed by the Maori early in the morning, and none were permitted to partake of food until the ceremony was over and the tapu removed. We note in translations of and writings upon these ancient Oriental works, as given by Max Muller, that fire and water were used for purification, just as they were among the Maori. In ancient Greece this custom also obtained: “It was usual at Athens to place a vessel full of water near the door, so that those who had become impure by entering the house [of the dead] might purify themselves.”
I here give a few notes concerning a death and burial which I myself witnessed in these parts some nine years ago. When camped in the sylvan vale of Te Whaiti-nui-a-Toi, in 1896, the Tama-kai-moana clan, of Maunga-pohatu, sent three children to Te Whaiti to attend the Native school at that place. Some time afterwards one of them, a little girl of seven or eight years of age, died at Te Whaiti, and her body was carried back to Maunga-pohatu to be buried with her ancestors. It was in this wise: The old patriarch of the clan accompanied the children, and to a certain extent commended them to my care, hence they spent much of their time at my camp. The fever came to the cañon of Toi, and the brown-skinned children of Toi went down before it. Pepuere, of Ngati-apa, and his wife broke out the trail from Te Whaiti. But a few days and bright-eyed Hara followed them in search of the Hidden Land of Tane. Then little Hineokaia passed out on her journey to the swirling weed of Motau, and, lest they be separated, took with her her infant brother, to leave the descendants of Tamatea the Cannibal wailing on the storm-lashed peak of Tara-pounamu. Timoti, of Marakoko, followed his playmates, and Wairama, of the daughters of Kuri, abandoned the world of life. Scarce passed a day but we heard the gun fire which betokened yet another death, and the world was dark to the people of the great forest of Tane. Then Marewa went down into the dark valley and wrestled for many days with death. The kutukutu ahi came—the delirium of fever, a fatal sign to the Maori—and little Marewa was called by her friends who had gone before.
I was writing in my tent one day when I heard a volley fired just across the river, and I knew that Marewa was about to lift the world-old trail trodden by all the sons of man, even from the days of Tura and of Maui. When I reached the place I found her lying in a tent a little distance from the settlement, her mother by her side, the people collected before the tent. I could see that the child's end was very near. Her father said to me, “Friend, your grandchild has departed.” And then, just before she passed away, he bade her farewell from where he stood outside the tent: “Farewell, O maid! Farewell. Go to your ancestors who await you. Go to your playmates. Return to your mother, to Maunga-pohatu, who brought you forth to the world of light. Go to the world of darkness. Farewell,” &c The mother sat wailing by the child's side. Warned by the guns, the people of adjacent places kept coming to join in the lamentation. Each one as he or she approached would cry out, “Farewell, O maid! Farewell.” The end came soon. As her mother sat with her hand on the child I saw the poor suffering mite draw
her last breath, and pass out over the edge of the rohe potae n search of another world.
Some days before the child's death her parents arrived, and her father began to prepare for carrying the child back to her home at Maunga-pohatu, that she might draw her last breath at her home and on her own tribal lands. Knowing the extreme roughness of the track, and judging that such carrying would cause the child much suffering, I objected strongly, saying that she should be allowed to die or recover where she was. I gained my point, but much offended some of the child's elders by my interference. As the child passed away an old woman sitting near raised the mournful long-drawn wail for the dead, and then many voices were raised to bewail the loss of Marewa-i-te-rangi. It was principally a wordless wail, but every now and then one or another would give a few lines of some old dirge.
The people of Te Whaiti wished the child to be buried at that place, but her people objected. Therefore a coffin was made of rough boards, the body placed in it, and the coffin tied on to a bier for carrying. Young men of the district offered their services as carriers, two carrying the bier, bearers changing every mile or two. The parents of the child asked me to accompany them to their home and see the last of their child. I could not leave with them, but knew that it would take them three days to carry the child home, whereas I could walk the distance in a day and a half. So I delayed starting until they had covered half the distance. The party stayed a night at three different Native villages, and at each place the mournful wailing was indulged in, as also speech-making. And the people of each place asked that the child be buried in their urupa (burialground), but the father objected. The family with whom the child had stayed at Te Whaiti accompanied the party, at, I think, the parents' request.
The last night on the road was passed at Rahitiroa, and I caught up to the party just before they arrived at that isolated hamlet. As we wended our way along the forest range, about three-quarters of a mile away, our party fired two guns to let the village people know we were near. They had before been apprised of the probable date of the arrival of the party. As we passed down the bush-covered spur leading down to the hamlet I saw old Hopa, of Hamua, cut a stick and hand it to one of the women of our party. As we approached the plaza we saw the people of the village assembled thereon, while men were firing guns frequently, some standing on the roofs of outhouses as they fired. As we halted about 30 yards from the collected people the coffin was placed on the ground and the wailing for the dead was proceeded with. After this was over our party sat down,
and the leading men of the place rose one by one and made speeches anent the death of the child and death in general. Then the principal men of our party did the same thing.
Now, when we marched on to the plaza the chief man of the place was standing in the ranks opposite. At once the woman of our party who had been provided with a stick walked up to him and struck him sharply across the shoulders several times. He took not the slightest notice, but stolidly continued his wailing. The cause of this was the fact that this man had proposed that Marewa be treated by a local tohunga (shaman), a crazy man who treated patients as being afflicted by kehua, or spirits of the dead. Although the child was not treated by this ruffian, yet the proposal for him to do so was deemed by some Natives to be the cause of her death. Also, the beaten man's own daughter had died but a few days before our arrival, and it was thought by some that she had been bewitched by the same old humbug. Had not the long-armed law of the white man been reaching out across the wild forests of Tuhoeland at that time, it is highly probable that the old warlock would have died suddenly of lead-poisoning.
At this forest hamlet we were treated to an illustration of the ancient custom of muru, or kai taonga—i.e., the taking forcibly or demanding payment for some injury or loss sustained by the person or persons from whom such payment is demanded. A girl of this place had been assaulted some days previously, hence our party demanded compensation. Why a people should pay for the privilege of being afflicted by some trouble is a somewhat difficult problem for the European mind to solve, though it appears to be clear enough to the Maor: Possibly it was looked upon as a punishment for them not having looked after the child better. It is a custom that, presumably, could only obtain among a communistic people. Anyhow, the visitors left the richer by two horses, two rolls of print, some new clothing, several greenstone ornaments, and 5s. in silver. Apparently the latter represented the amount of ready money in possession of the subclan.
A considerable amount of speech-making was indulged in. In the course of his speech one of the village people said, “Welcome, O maid! There are none here to welcome [beckon] you to the plaza. All your Maori people are dead. Your lands have become digging-places for the white man” [alluding to the Government road-works then in progress]. A woman murmured, “Ei! Moumou a Marewa” (“Marewa is wasted”—i.e., reared to no purpose). The old chief of Maunga-pohatu (grandfather of the dead child) rose: “Friends, the shadow of death has again come upon us, the death that came to man in the days of Maui
of old, in the days when man was young upon the earth. It has ever remained with us, even that all men, great and small, are caught in the snare of Hine-nui-te-Po. There is no escape from it. But this dying of our young people is a new thing. In former times our people did not die so—they scarce knew disease; they died on the battlefield or of old age, they knew no other death. These diseases which slay our people were brought by the white man. They brought the epidemics which raged in the days of our fathers, the rewharewha and the kurawaka, which slew many thousands of the Maori people. Now we are afflicted by the whaka-pakoko (fever). Friends, we have prayed long to the God that health and strength be given to the Maori people, that we may retain life. But the scourge never ceases, it continues and continues. Therefore have I ceased to pray for health and vigour for our people; I now pray that we old people may be taken, but that our children be spared. But methinks I see before me the end of the Maori people. They will not survive. For we can see that our people are fast going from the earth,” &c.
Next morning our party started on the last day's march to Maunga-pohatu, over extremely rugged forest country where the work of the bearers of the bier was no sinecure. When we reached the summit of the high, bleak range of Te Whakaumu a halt was made at the old taumata, or resting-place, used by these foot-travellers of the great forest for centuries past. The snow and cold sleet are driving fiercely across the sullen, exposed summit, yet the bier-bearers are stripped to the waist and perspiring profusely. The ascent of Te Whakaumu is no joke. When relieved they wrap blankets round their nude bodies and drop behind the bearers. Through a break in the driving storm we see the great rock bluff of Maunga-pohatu far above and ahead of us. The mournful wail of the lament for the for the dead sounds through the drifting snows. The mother of the dead child is crouched upon a rock near by, and gazing across the forest ranges at the storm-lashed mountain. She is greeting the sacred mountain of the fierce Tama-kai-moana clan, the enchanted mountain of many a wild legend, that, as Maori myth has it, gave birth to the dark-skinned people who dwell beneath it, and gathers them to her stony bosom in death. For she is the mana of the clan—she is the mother of the Children of the Mist.
The mother is in the whare potae. She is mourning for her child, and greeting the landmarks of her home. It is a combination of mother-love and the love of primitive man for his tribal lands. Now the summit of the mountain is suddenly covered with a white pall of mist. An old man said, “The mountain is greeting for her child.” The parents of the child
are a little apart; they have chaunted a lament for their child and greeted their mountain home. Then, as the mountain-brow becomes obscured by the mists the whole of the people give voice together in an ancient dirge of their race The bitter sleet and snow, fierce-driven by the winds, pelt the mourners unmercifully. Through the drifting scud we see the great cliffs far ahead, wherein are the caves of the dead, where l e the bones of many generations of the children of Potiki. And then, with the storm fiends lashing us, we go down into the darkling valley below.
When we reached the narrow valley where, in times long passed away, the men of Tuahau were done to death, we who were not bound by tapu indulged in a meal; but the bearers of the child were not allowed to partake of food until the shades of night should fall, and the bereaved parents, being in the whare potae, were also forced to go foodless. They sat apart from us “common” people, and full well do I remember the indignant refusal of the bereaved mother to partake of a pannikin of tea which I offered her. Mea culpa! Of a verity my sins be many.
When our party emerged from the forest into the clearing and saw, a mile below us, the village of the Tama-kai-moana clan, a few shots were fired to let the people know of our arrival. They fire several shots in return. Then we see the people rapidly collecting in the plaza, and long, wailing cries come to us on the clear mountain air. Descending by rugged ways we reach the stream below, where we halt and form into solid column, the bearers of the bier being in front. In that formation we march slowly up the slope towards the village. When about half-way up the challenger (wero) leaps from cover behind a stump. Naked to the waist, clad but in a scanty kilt, face painted, hair adorned with feathers, and brandishing a double-barrelled gun, he advances towards us, leaping from side to side, making hideous grimaces, lolling out his tongue, and emitting deep-toned grunts as of defiance. When within about 12ft. of the front of the slowly advancing column he rapidly fires both barrels of his gun to right and left, turns to his right, and walks quietly back to the hamlet. The column takes no notice of this exhibition, but marches slowly onward, with guns at the trail, looking straight before them and downward. Meanwhile volley after volley is being fired in our direction from the village, where many of the men are armed with breech-loaders. Loud cries of “Haere mai!” are mingled with a dozen different laments. As the head of our column reaches the fence which encloses the plaza the armed men are crouched behind it. Thrusting their guns through the palisades they fire a final volley over our heads, and then retire to take
their place among the village people who have gathered to receive our party. Then followed a long period of weeping (tangihanga), which we have already described. This lasted for about two hours (a very long tangihanga). After this the village people —i.e., some of the leading men—stood forth and made speeches in a loud voice. One big-framed bushman fiercely denounced the old chief for taking the child away to die through contact with the white people. “I do not stand forth to welcome you, but to blame you for the death of our child. You took her away to bring life to the Maori people! Not so: it was to bring death. We sent her living body forth from here: the semblance alone returns We saw you take her alive and well: you return us a piece of wood [the coffin]. Why do you bring this piece of timber here? I do not want it. Take it away and give me back my grandchild.” So he continued for some time; and then, dropping the fierce tone of voice, he greeted the child as though she were still living: “Come back, O maid! Come back to the home of your fathers. Return here to Maunga-pohatu, to your mother who greets you, greets you by the sign of the drifting mists. The breath of life has departed from you, the personality alone remains. Behold yon mountain!—the mountain that brought you into the world of life, and which greets her child as she returns to rest with her ancestors. Welcome. Come, child, though you be covered with the garment of death which descends upon all mankind, come and sleep with your fathers who await you,” &c.
That night the coffin was placed in a rude shed constructed for the purpose on the plaza. The mother and aunt of the child remained all night with the coffin. Every time I awoke during the night I could hear them wailing for the dead, crooning forth old laments in tones most doleful to hear.
Mourning and speech-making were continued the following day. The parents and aunt (the latter seemed to act as chief mourner—her part was the tangi whakakurepe) took food only after darkness fell. The young men who had carried the child from Te Whaiti had the tapu removed from them at an adjacent stream in the manner already described.
The second night of our stay, two of our party slept in a shed adjoining my own camp. I heard them rise about midnight and leave the place. It appeared that they had heard a whistling sound which frightened them, as they imagined it to be made by the ghost-spirit (kehua or whakahaehae) of the dead. Therefore they took up their blankets and fled to the large sleeping-house, where most of our party were, and there passed the remainder of the night.
On the second morning after our arrival the child was buried
The grave of one of her great-grandfathers, who flourished during the first half of the nineteenth century, and who had been buried at one side of the plaza of the village, was opened and the child laid within. The people were gathered together about 40 yards from the grave. The burial party were, of course, all tapu. When opening up the grave, one of them took out the skull of the old warrior who lay therein and held it up to the view of his descendants, from whom arose a long moaning wail at the sight. After the burial the tapu was taken off the burial party.
That night all the visitors were called to assemble within the meeting-house. On entering we saw that all the dead child's possessions, except her ordinary wearing-apparel, had been collected and displayed in the middle of the room. There were also other articles, presented by her elders. The items comprised beautiful feather cloaks; greenstone—both worked and polished ornaments, and blocks of the rough, unworked stone; cloaks and capes woven from dressed and dyed flax-fibre; as also other articles, together with £10 in money. All these things, as also the horses on which the child had been carried on divers journeys, were presented to the people with whom she had lived while at Te Whaiti, those who had tended her during her illness, and those who had brought her body back home. Farewell speeches were made by the village people that night to our party, who were to leave next morning, with many greetings to those who had been kind to the child.
When the sun climbed over the rugged front of Maungapohatu next morn I lifted the back trail for the cañon of Toi, amid the farewell cries of the bush folk—“Haere. Haere ki a Marewa.” (“Farewell. Return to Marewa”). Although actually leaving the child, yet to the Native mind her semblance and personality were ever with me and at my camp. Looking back from the summit of the range, before entering the forty-mile forest, I saw the mother seated opposite to her child's grave on the cliff-edge, and swiftly came back to me the words of Hopa of Hamua. “Kua riro to tatou kura i toku ringa. Hai konei ra E hine! Hai konei. Hai konei. Hai konei. (“Our treasure has now left my hands. Remain here, O maid! Farewell. Farewell. Farewell.”)
A remark omitted: In these days of the white man the Maori prizes highly a photograph of a deceased relative. Having a good many photographs of Tuhoe Natives in my camp, people come and ask to see a photo. of some relative who has passed away. This they will weep over for a while and then go away apparently satisfied. A Native asked me to photograph his dead daughter as she lay on the bier. When finished, I left it with the parents at their home. They made no sign during
my brief stay, but I had not ridden a quarter of a mile down the track before I heard the mournful wail for the dead raised. The old people here sometimes weep profusely at sight of a photograph of Te Kooti, or “Te Turuki,” as they term him.
The Maori of yore preferred to die in battle. He disliked the idea of perishing slowly of natural decay—“Engari kia mate a ururoa te tangata” (“Rather let man die like the ururoa shark, fighting to the last”).
At the lamenting for a dead man his widow is a prominent mourner. She walks about during the tangihanga weeping and indulging in the tangi tikapa (see ante). Near relatives of the dead, who take charge of the corpse, receive the choicest food, albeit they eat but at night. They are termed the “whare mate,” or “kiri mate.”
The mortuary memorial is occasionally a double one—in this way: When Takua, of the Ngati-Kahungunu Tribe, was slain at Nga-huinga, a wooden post was set up, and a pit (pokapoka) dug at the spot where he fell. Some of the memorials erected for chiefs were carved in a most elaborate manner.
I have heard an old Native say that weeping for the dead was not so common in pre-European days here as it has become since, and that it was principally performed over a person slain by treachery, not so much over those who were slain in fair fight or who died a natural death. It may be so, but I have my doubts.
On the return of a war-party there would be a tangihanga for those who had fallen.
W. Wyatt Gill has recorded the “trussing” of the body for burial in Mangaia (Cook Islands), with many other interesting facts; as also the case of a person who remained in the whare potae for seven years, for an only child.
In some cases members of a war-party would carry home the bones of their dead, as well as the head.
There is among the Maori no feeling against uttering the name of a person lately deceased.
A few weeks ago a Native was taken ill at Rua-toki, and it was thought his end was near, hence the people started to carry him to Matata, thirty miles away, that he might die among his own people and on his tribal lands. On reaching the Rangitaiki River, however, he died, but the bearers took his body on to Matata, where the mourning and burial took place.
The exhumation of the bones of the dead usually takes place about four years after burial. It, however, often occurs that the dead are allowed to accumulate for years, and then a meeting
of the peoples to whom such dead belong is called for the purpose of taking up the bones and conveying them to burial caves or trees. This ceremony has ever been deemed by the Maori an extremely important one, and those who disentomb the dead or handle their bones are under very heavy tapu until the ceremony is over and the tapu removed by means of the pure rite. It often happens that some of the dead have been buried for a space of time considerably longer than four years. Others, again, may not have been buried for more than half of that time, or even less.
Many people collect at the larger meetings held for this purpose, caused by different clans being related through inter-marriage. and by the fact that Natives enjoy these meetings on account of the facilities they afford for social intercourse. There is much wailing for the dead when the bones are disinterred. At an exhumation which took place in this district some time back there were five men engaged in disinterring the bones, under an elderly man who acted as tohunga (priest, adept). As the delvers took out the bones they were wiped with handfuls of grass by the principal person of the party, and laid aside in little heaps, the bones of each body being kept separate. One of the bodies, that of a child, had only been buried a few months, and many objected to its being disentombed, but they seem to have been silenced. This hahunga was a lengthy one, and continued for some time, hence the working party could not go foodless for the period of the ceremony, hence just before each meal they had to be cleansed from the dread tapu before they could eat. They went down to the riverside and immersed their bodies in the waters thereof each time; the karakia whakanoa, or cleansing invocation or charm, would complete the removal of tapu until they recommenced their task. In days of yore this ceremony was always conducted by the priests, assisted by their pupils (neophytes). The bones of each body were wrapped up and placed on a stage, termed a “whata puaroa,” or “atamira,” where they remained until all were disinterred, and were then taken away and deposited in the burial-cave. This latter task fell to the lot of the relatives of the dead.
The priests erected the stage on which the bones were placed, and also put them on it, repeating as they did so,—
Ka iri ki te whata no Hotu
Hotu tu nuku, Hotu tu rangi
Hotu tu kai tau.
Ka iri ki te whata
Whatu nui, whatu roa
Ka eke ki te whata
The following is a charm used by the Ngati-Awa Tribe at such times:—
Ka iri ki te whata
O Hotu nuku, o Hotu rangi
Hotu tapoa nuku, tapoa rangi
Tu kai ure
Kai ure te po nunui
Kai ure te po roroa
Hikitia mai to manawa o Tane
Are mai te mana o Tane
Kopia mai te mana o Tane
Ka ngau ki tua, ka ngau ki waho
The following is also from Ngati-Awa:—
Ka iri ki te whata
O Hotu nuku, o Hotu roa
Hotu tatakina te mata o Tunui
Hotu tukua mai te rehu tai moana
Ka whanatutu rangi
Te wehenga kauki
Ka iri ki te tarana o Tane-i-te-kapua
I te kapua nui, i te kapua roa
I te kapua matotoru
I te Tatau-o-Rangiriri
I tupu ki tua, tupu ki waho
Ka ea nga mahi, ka ora
Ora ki tupua, ora ki tawhito
These exhumation ceremonies are still conducted among the Tuhoe Tribe with considerable ritual. At one such which took place in this district a few years ago the proceedings lasted for two weeks. This was on account of two children having died at the village while the hahunga was in progress, which prolonged the function. Then might be seen on one side of the plaza a tangihanga, or weeping for the dead, in progress, lamenting the dead with tears and wailing, while just across the open square a number of Natives were enjoying themselves, making merry with song and dance and shrieks of laughter.
Persons of low birth were not allowed to take part in disinterring the bones of the chieftain class. Persons so engaged cannot eat or drink until the tapu is taken off them. The visiting peoples at these exhumation meetings bring presents, termed “taonga kopaki” (see ante), for the relatives of the dead.
Supposing that some Natives of another tribe, say Ngati-Awa, were to die among the Tuhoe Tribe and were buried there, when the proper time came Tuhoe would disinter the bones, and a party of them would carry the bones to the homes of the dead in the Ngati-Awa country. Those of the party who actually
carried the bones would be tapu. Others would be a sort of escort. Some women would probably accompany the party, and would act as cooks on the journey. The party would also take some presents, such as greenstone ornaments (the jewels of Maoridom), &c., for the relatives of the dead. Ngati-Awa would not make any return presents, but would act in a similar manner should any of Tuhoe be buried on their lands. Relatives of the dead retained the taonga kopaki. Some of Ngati-Awa might attend the disentombing of their dead by Tuhoe, or none of them might be present.
Many years ago a party of Ngati-Kahungunu Natives from Te Wairoa, while on a visit to Rua-tahuna, fell victims to an epidemic which ravaged that remote vale. Some years after the Wairoa people asked Tuhoe to disinter the bones and convey them to Te Wairoa. This was done, and the Wairoa Natives collected at one of their villages in order to receive the party. As the latter entered the village and marched on to the plaza, those bearing the bones were in a state of nudity, to show that the tapu was on them. They merely wore a rude maro of green branchlets fastened round the waist. Rumours were abroad that the Wairoa people were armed and were going to fire on the party—a most extraordinary thing to do under the circumstances, but the old-time enmity between the two tribes was still keen at that time. They may have suspected witchcraft (makutu) as the cause of their friends' deaths. Just before the party entered the village, an old woman, who was performing the powhiri (welcome) from a small hill hard by, called out, “Kia tama-tane te haere” (i.e., “Be cautious how you advance”), and Tuhoe thought that things were about to happen. However, nothing untoward occurred.
The funeral feast held at the hahunga (disinterment) of bones of the dead was an important affair to the Maori people, and was accompanied by much ritual, repeating of invocations, incantations, &c. For some time prior to the ceremony the people would be busy at cultivating extra food for the occasion, and also preserving various kinds, as birds and fish. As the time for the hahunga tupapaku drew near, all available kinds of fresh foods would be obtained for the ceremonial feast. These foods would be cooked in different ovens (steam-ovens), each one having its distinctive name, and its contents being for certain persons only. Some of these ovens were intensely tapu, as the small one for the chief priest, and that for the eldest son of the high chief's family. This feast was a part of the pure or tapu- lifting rite. All obtainable vegetable food, as sweet-potatoes, taro, greens, &c., were cooked in these steam-ovens (umu or imu), together with fish, birds, and, as a special luxury, the
fiesh of the Native dog. Rats were often preserved in fat and so eaten.
Among the Tuhoe Tribe there were six different ovens prepared for the pure function—i.e., for the general feast. The function itself was often termed “ahi pure” (pure fire), sacred fires being used in many Maori rites, which often are termed “fires,” as “ahi taitai” (the taitai fire or rite), “ahi rokia,” &c. The term “umu” (oven, steam-oven) is often used in the same manner, as also is its variant form “imu”—e.g., umu pera, umu pongipongi, imu kirihau, imu wa-haroa, &c. The ordinary term for a steam-oven is “hangi,” which, however, Tuhoe never apply to these sacred ovens, or ovens used in connection with their numerous religious rites. Such ovens they invariably term “umu.” The Ngati-Awa Tribe often use the form “imu.”
The following are the ovens used formerly among Tuhoe: (1.) Tuakaha (umu tuakaha): A small oven: it contains food for high priests only. (2.) Potaka (umu potaka): Contains food for the priests of lower standing. (3.) Whangai (umu whangai): For the ariki or high chief of the tribe, the first-born of the principal family, a very tapu individual. The most highly tapu of all the ovens: even the priests could not approach it. (4.) Ruahine (umu ruahine): Contained food for the ruahine only, an elderly woman who was employed in whakanoa, or tapu-lifting rites. (5.) Pera (umu pera): Contained food for the warriors, fighting-men who had been proved in battle, and termed “toa,” “arero-whero,” “ika-a-whiro.” This was a large oven, 10 ft. to 20 ft. in diameter. No women were allowed near it. (6.) Tukupara (umu tukupara): This was a very large oven (or ovens) in which was cooked food for the ordinary people—i.e., the bulk of the people.
A portion of the sacred food was eaten by the priests, and a portion, as we have seen, was offered to the dead. People had to be very careful in regard to the above-mentioned ovens and the foods they contained. They were tapu, and all rights pertaining thereto were jealously guarded. The last-mentioned (No.6) alone might be approached or partaken of by any person. Should a person approach the oven (or its contents) of the priests or ariki (matamua), there was trouble toward of a very serious nature. But to take of such a food and eat it, even the scraps from a meal, was an act of impiety dreadful to think of. If a common person, the offender might be slain, or he might die of fright if the act had been done in ignorance. Anyhow, it would need a priestly rite to save him from the anger of the gods. If eaten in ignorance, and a priest were called in, the latter would perform the diagnostic rite in order to ascertain the cause of the patient's illness. He would then say, “He popoa to mate
Nau i kai i te popoa.” (“Your complaint is caused by your having eaten of the popoa”). This “popoa” is a term applied to the sacred foods set apart for the tapu persons who take part in the disentombing ceremony. For another person to eat such food was a hara, and the act would affect his throat, which would contract, or seem to contain some obstruction. “Popoki” seems to be another name for the popoa—sacred food used at the hahunga tupapaku ceremony, as also that used at the rite to take the tapu off a new-born child and its mother. One authority, and a good one, says, “Mo tenei ingoa, mo te popoki ko te mea tuatahi i te haerenga ki te mahi kai mo te tuatanga—manu ranei, ika ranei, ka kawea ki mua ma te atua” (“In regard to this word ‘popoki,’ it is the first article of food obtained by a party who are collecting food for the tua rite over a child, be it bird or fish; it is taken to the sacred place and offered to the god”).
But we must lift the tapu from the sacred foods of the hahunga feast or black death will be our portion. The tapu is removed by means of a karakia (invocation, charm, &c.) called a “whakau.” This is recited by the priest, who takes a small portion of the food (as a single sweet-potato) and offers it to the ancestral gods, to give power, influence, to his invocation. He then takes a small portion of the food and holds it over the bulk of the foods to be freed from tapu, and repeats,—
To kai ihi, to kai ihi
To kai Rangi, to kai Papa
To kai tapu
To kai rua Koiwi
To kai awe
To kai karu
To kai ure pahore
To kai matamua
To kai rua tupapaku
Whakataha ra koe
E te anewa o te rangi e tu nei
He tawhito to tapu e homai nei
Kei taku ure
Na te tapu ihi, na te tapu mana
Hinga ki mua
Takoto ki raro
Ki to Kauwha
The priest then lifts the piece of food to his mouth and recites,—
E kai tatau, E kai! E kai!
Kai atu tatau ki nga ihi i te rangi
Kai atu tatau ki nga tapu i te rangi
Kai atu tatau ki nga ruanuku
Kai atu tatau ki nga rua Koiwi
Kai atu tatau ki nga ru
Kai atu tatau ki nga atua tapu
Kai atu tatau ki nga mana i te rangi
Mate rouroua tiritiria, makamaka
Kia kai mai te ati tipua
Kia kai mai te ati tawhito
E kai! E kai!
E horo, e horo o tatau kaki
Kia kai nuku tatau
Kia kai rangi tatau
Kia kai matamua tatau
Kia kai wahi tap
Thus is the tapu taken off foods and persons, and the assembled peoples may then eat. Should they eat of the food before the tapu is lifted from it, then such food would turn upon and destroy them—which means that the gods would destroy or afflict them sorely for having been guilty of a hara, or infringement of tapu. The whakau also lifts the excess of tapu from sacred persons, such as priests and ariki. Understand, the whakau is the highest order of such invocations, but it is only repeated over the most highly tapu food, as the above-described, or food which has been carried on the sacred back of a matamua (first-born of a high chief's family). The taumaha is another variety of such karakia, but it is recited over ordinary foods much less tapu than the above. This taumaha also removes the tapu from foods. The whangai is a kind of whakau. It is applied to food “fed” (whangaia) or offered to a god (atua), and over which a charm is repeated by the priest. If persons are going on a journey to places where they fancy they may be bewitched, they cook some food, over which the priest recites his charm. A portion of this food the travellers eat, and a portion of it they thrust into their belts and so carry with them. It will have the effect of warding off the shafts of black magic. When they return from their journey, and before they enter the village, the priest will take the tapu from them, or it might endanger their welfare, or even their lives. They are then free to go to their own homes. The whakau is nowadays often termed a “whakawhetai,” a very misleading expression.
A good authority informs me that, should a person in former days so forget himself as to eat of the umu whangai (No. 3), he would at once be slain.
In ancient times the flesh of the breed of native dogs known as ruarangi was much esteemed for these funeral feasts of the Maori.
A good deal of the above ritual is still retained at these functions among the Tuhoe Tribe.
Among the Ngati-Awa Tribe the following appears to be a list of the ovens used at the hahunga: (1.) Umu kaha: For the priest. (2.) Umu potaka, or umu kirihau, or imu tamaahu:
For matamua (see ante). (3.) Umu waharoa: For the bulk of the people.
The imu pararahi seems to be the same as No. 1. But my notes on Ngati-Awa rites are very meagre. Tutakangahau, of Tuhoe, says that the pararahi was an umu marae—i.e., for the bulk of the people. A Ngati-Awa member states that among that people women were not allowed to partake of the pure foods.
Caves and holes, chasms, &c., where bones of the dead are deposited are called “whara.” They are usually situated in very secluded spots, and are often most difficult of access. Some of these caves, situated in precipitous cliffs, have to be approached by ladders, or by a person being lowered from the summit of the cliff. One at Rua-tahuna can only be gained by climbing a tree, then laying poles from the tree-top to the ledge of the cliff-face where the cave is. Some, with small entrances, are blocked by means of stones. Some, again, are mere rock shelters, not true caves.
As the bearers of the bones of the dead proceeded to the cave or tree where the bones were to be deposited, a priest preceded them repeating the following (E haere atu ana ano, ka timata te karakia waere atu a te tohunga):-
Ka kimi ki hea?
Ka kimi ki uta
Ka kimi ki hea?
Ka kimi ki tai
Ka kimi ki te Po
Ka waere ma kereta
Ka waere ma kereti
Ka kitea mai te hau o te tipua
Te hau o te tawhito mai te rangi tu
Kai te kahui mate i te Po
Kai te kahui ora i te ao nei
Tena ka kitea koe ki tua
Ka kitea koe ki te whai ao
Ki te a
The bones of each person are made into a bundle, and are, or were, often smeared with red ochre (kokowai) before being placed in the cave. The party who carry the bones to the whara have to be whakanoatia, or freed from tapu, before returning home.
Among the Maori people, the elements of fire and water were the recognised purifiers of persons, objects, and places which were tapu (sacred, or unclean). Oriental peoples utilised them for the same purpose. In ancient Rome, on the return of relatives of the dead from the cremation of the corpse and the
Placing of the remains in the sepulchre, they “stepped over a fire and were sprinkled with water.”* Among the followers of Zoroaster water is the great purifier, but the urine of cows is also used for that purpose, and also as a charm against evil spirits.† A similar custom to the latter obtained among the Maori, as we will endeavour to show in the days that lie before.
A Native woman died recently at Ruatoki. She was, as is usual, placed in a tent to die, hence the cottage of herself and husband did not become tapu. They had another, a rude hut built of trunks of fern-trees, some distance away, where they lived when working in their maize-field, and in which they kept various cooking-utensils. Riding past the spot this day, I noted that the hut had been burned, with its contents.
Ahi mate (extinguished fire): This term is applied to a place where all the people have died, or are ill, and so cannot keep their fires going, as a place where an epidemic is raging. It is often used as is the “cold hearthstone” of Keltic peoples.
Whare ngaro, or whare mate: This expression implies a lost house—i.e., a lost line of descent, where all members of a family die without issue.
Marua matenga rangatira: The word “marua” is used to denote a land deprived of its protector, safeguard, counsellor, &c.; as when a head chief dies it is remarked, “Marua ana te whenua” (ara, kua kore he tino tangata hai arai i te kino, i te aha, i te aha, i te aha).
When a maori dies his children inherit his property. Weapons, implements, &c., of ordinary kinds would be shared, or all would use them, also clothing. But any specially prized or valuable weapon or garment (e.g., a dogskin cloak) would become the property of the eldest son, who would have the arranging of such matters. Such an article as a canoe would be used by all the children—He waka eke noa (any one can use it).
When Kahu-tatara was slain by Ruru at Pu-kareao the relatives of the dead man felled the trees at the spot where he was killed, as a tohu (sign, or memorial) for his death. When Te Ahuru, of Tuhoe, died at Rua-toki he was buried at Te Tawhero pa (fort). A dog burrowed his way into the grave. It was seen, pursued, and killed in crossing the Whakatane River. Hence that river was tapu for some time, the tapu being finally removed by Kereru te Rua-kari-ata, who drank some of the water during the ceremony.
Among Tuhoe, most ghoulish of cannibals, the body of a
[Footnote] * “Anthropological Religion,” p. 272.
[Footnote] † “The Story of Religions,” by E. D. Price, p.46.
person who died a natural death was sometimes eaten, if he was not a near relative.
When a loved relative, as a favourite child, dies it is a common thing for the child's property, clothing, playthings, &c., to be destroyed or given away. In the case of Marewa, cited above, this was done so completely that no article of hers remained, whereupon her grandfather applied to the master of the Native school that she attended for the child's slate, that her people might have something of hers to greet over and remember her by.
On the death of a chief of importance, one possessed of much mana (influence, prestige, &c.), social, intellectual, and spiritual— a person who would, of course, be highly tapu—a peculiar rite was performed in many cases by the eldest son of the deceased, in order that he might acquire the powers of his father. A part of this ceremony consisted in the son biting the ear, or big toe, of the corpse.
When Mahia, of Tuhoe, was slain by Te Whakatohea at Te Pa-puni those lands were made tapu, on account of a chief's blood having been shed thereon. This of course meant that no one might utilise the food-products of such lands. Some of the people living there did, however, eat of such foods. This being a serious violation of tapu, a party of Tuhoe marched on the Pa-puni and slew many of those erring ones.
When Ngati-Awa defeated Tuhoe at O-tu-kai-marama, near Te Teko, they captured alive both Wahawaha and Tipoka of the latter tribe. Before being slain the captives sang together a song of greeting, affection, and farewell to their tribe and lands. They were then slain by the widows of those of Ngati-Awa who had been slain by Tuhoe.
The Ngai-Tama clan of Te Whakatohea Tribe assisted in defeating Ngapuhi at Motiti Isle. They were under the chief Titoko, who brought to Opotiki a cannon which had been captured from Ngapuhi. This cannon was fired off whenever a chief died, for the Maori delights in making a noise at such times. A Native who had his horse drowned while crossing the creek near my camp at Rua-tahuna returned with his gun and fired several shots over the place where the animal perished.
Plumes of the huia and kotuku birds were used to decorate the heads of deceased chiefs as they lay upon the atamira. The Ngati-Awa people say that fine plumes of the moa were formerly used for this purpose. They were termed the “rau-o-piopio,” and grew under the “armpits” of the moa.
When in former times a man was lost and thought to be dead, the priest would perform a certain rite and repeat a charm to cause the bones of the dead to “resound,” so as to make
known their whereabouts. The bones of a murdered man were collected by a priest, who placed them in a heap before him. He would then proceed to whakatara the same—that is, to recite an incantation over them to cause them to give a sign to show whether or not the death would be avenged. A singular kind of divination this! Should the bones move of their own accord as they lay before the priest, that was deemed a tohu toa, a token of victory—the death would be avenged.
We have seen that lands were rahuitia, or placed under tapu, sometimes at the death of a chief. The same thing was done in regard to rivers, streams, and lakes. When Matiu's sons died, the Okahu Stream at Te Whaiti was put under tapu, as also were the Ngaputahi lands. Hence no fish, birds, or vegetable foods could be taken therefrom until the tapu was lifted.
In the case of an important chief or priest his tapu would be intense. At his death his son, or whoever prepared him for burial, would have to be extremely careful in his speech and actions. Any error made would cause his death—e.g., a mistake made in repeating a charm or invocation. Persons so deeply tapu could not touch food with their hands, and had to be fed by another person, or gnaw at the food on the ground, as a dog would.
A special person, termed a takuahi, was often employed by priests to kindle sacred fires and ovens for them.
For the bones of their dead to fall into the hands of enemies was a dreadful thing to the Maori, for that enemy would heap every indignity on such. Drinking-vessels were formed from skulls. In one such case in this district a man obtained an enemy's skull and grew in it a taro as food for his child.
Infringements of tapu were sometimes punished by a party of the tribe, often of near relatives of the transgressors, coming and forcibly seizing and carrying away the portable property of the latter, as food, &c.
When old Hakopa, of Te Umu-roa, died, which was on the 14th November, 1900, we did not hear of the death at my camp until the next day. But on the afternoon of the 14th my near neighbours, an old Maori couple, living 200 yards from my camp, came to my tent and asked me what I had called out for. On my replying that I had not called them they retired. Next day they came up and said, “We have just heard that Hakopa has died. Now, it was his wairua (spirit) that we heard calling out yesterday, and thought that it was you calling. Spirits of those recently dead often do these things.” When Natives are annoyed by such a spirit of the dead they proceed to banish it by cooking a potato, carrying it round the hut, and then eating it. Even the smoking of a pipe may have the desired effect.
We have noted that a large proportion of deaths were, in former times, ascribed to the gods, who thus punished the violation of tapu. Even those who were said to perish through witchcraft may come under this heading, for the gods imparted the power to such magic spells or charms. But many different causes were given in those days. Here is an example: When discoursing on the history, &c., of the tribe, should a person of the party condemn some statement made as being false, in order to make himself appear important, “two nights,” as my informant put it, “would not pass ere he died. For our ancestors would hear their tribal history condemned, and would slay the person who denied its truth. Such is the power of our ancient knowledge. Thus do our ancestors watch over and guard us.”
Death was not often allowed to interfere with important tribal duties. After Whitmore's raid on Rua-tahuna, Tuhoe gathered at Tahuaroa and decided to send Himiona te Pikikotuku to Roto-rua to sue for peace. He said, “How can I go? My wife is dying.” His wife at once said, “Do not think of me. Think only of the tribe.” So Himiona started for Roto-rua. As he was ascending the range above Pu-kareao he heard across the forest-clad hills the volleys which told him that his wife had passed away. But he trudged on, bearing the greenstone battle-axe “Hau-kapua” as a peace offering to the Government.
An old woman of the Ngati-Manawa Tribe, being near death, caused her people to place her on a sledge and drag her to the base of the range, near Horomanga Creek, dig her grave there and place her in it, where she died. She had told them before as to the day she would die.
When Mawake, of Kawerau, died his bones were placed at Waitaha-nui. Manaia found them and took the jaw-bone, from which he fashioned a fish-hook. When he went a-fishing with this hook all so gay a sign came to him : a fish called “aho” leaped into his canoe. Then the monsters of the deep rose and destroyed Manaia and his fellow-fishermen. Moral. Don't interfere with tapu objects.
The expression “mate a rakau” is sometimes applied to a natural death. It implies decay, or death as a tree dies—of decay, not by violence or magic spells. The terms “mate tara whare” (death by the house-wall) and “mate koeo” (also termed “mate aitu” and “hemo o aitu”) are also used to denote a natural death. “A, roa kau iho ano i muringa iho o taua taua nei, ka mate a Nahu. He tino koroheke a ia, a mate a rakau ai tona mate, ara i tae ano ki te wa e ruhi ai te tinana, a ka mate a ia.” (“Nahu died some time after that war expedition. He was a very old man, and his death was that of a tree—that is
to say, he had arrived at the age when the body becomes very weak, and he then died.”)
When Whitmore's column were marching on Rua-tahuna they attacked the Harema pa at Te Whaiti, slaying some of the inhabitants. Hence the place became tapu—not only the fort, but also the surrounding lands—on account of the blood shed there. Shortly afterwards some of the Ngati-Hine-kura clan settled on those lands, but were turned off by Ngati-Tawhaki because the tapu was still new. “Kaore e tika kia noho he tangata ki kona, engari kia mataotao nga mate” (“It was not right that people should live there until the deaths ‘cooled.’”).
Besides natural decay the Maori recognised three modes of death—mate atua, or death caused by the gods (deaths by witchcraft (makutu) may also be placed under the above heading, for reasons already quoted); mate taua, or death on the battle-field, is a third class; while accidental deaths and suicide may be called a fourth.
Many curious notes pertaining to death may be found in my Tuhoe notes included in the late Dr. Goldie's paper on “Maori Medical Lore,” in the “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,” vol. xxxvii, as also in vol. xiv of the “Journal of the Polynesian Society.”
“Nga taru o Tura” (the weeds of Tura) is a term applied to grey hairs (of genus homo). The singular story of Tura and the coming of death may be found in vol. ii of White's “Ancient History of the Maori.” I have never obtained any version of this peculiar legend from the Tuhoe Tribe. As also the wai ora a Tane (the life- or health-giving waters of Tane) I leave for other pens to describe, my Tuhoean notes on the subject being meagre. Suffice it to say that the moon bathes in those waters of life each month, and so renews her life. Maui desired that man should do the same. Tane, the ubiquitous, appears under many names, as parent, origin, or tutelary deity, &c., of trees, birds, &c. Some Natives speak of Tane-te-wai-ora being a separate person, but it seems probable that there was but one Tane, who, however, assumed many functions under different names, like unto the god Merodach, of Babylonia.
Under the term “ahi parapara” we find some very curious rites and charms or invocations. The expression “parapara” is applied to many things—as remnants of clothing of the dead, the spittle of a living person, &c.—but always, I believe, bearing or implying the sense or state of tapu. Two of these rites were known as “ahi tute” and “ahi rokia.” They were utilised to whakanoa, or make common (to remove tapu, to purify), as, for instance, persons who had become tapu through touching or handling something belonging to the dead. Observe the terms
“ahi tute,” or tute fire, “ahi rokia,” or rokia fire: these expressions are really equivalent to “the tute rite” and “the rokia rite.” But in the performance of these rites sacred fires were kindled by the priest—kindled by the friction process, hence they were styled “ahi pahikahika,” or generated fires, for such sacred fires must be so generated by means of the ancient and primitive process of the Maori; they could not be kindled by means of a firebrand or coals from another fire, and to light them by such means from a cooking-fire would spell death for every person concerned. But note how the idea of the purifying effect of fire has been retained in all these Old-World customs and ceremonies.
The word “tute” implies a driving or thrusting away. The following incantation is to thrust away or fend off the hurtful powers of tapu, mana, and parapara—i.e., to make common and render harmless.
The Tute Charm. (Part only.)I ka ra taku ahi tute
Tute hoki tua, tute
Tute hoki waho, tute
Tute ka mania, tute
Tute ka paheke, tute
Tute ka whati, tute
Tute ka oma, tute
Tute nga tapu nei, tute
Tute nga mana nei, tute
Tute nga parapara nei, tute.
This was all that my informant could remember of this peculiarly worded karakia.
Here follows the rokia charm or incantation. The expression “rokia” or “roki” implies a lulling of the senses, a causing of forgetfulness, a dulling of visual and mental perception. Cf. the terms “rotu,” “roku,” and “roroku.” The rotu is a charm to put a person to sleep.
The Rokia Charm.Hika ra taku ahi e roki
Rokia i nga parapara nei
Rokia i nga tapu nei
Rokia i nga mana nei
Kia tae koe
Koi ihi, koi nana
Koi naunau (ngaungau) e roki.
“This ceremony is an ahi parapara. The rokia renders the parapara, tapu, &c., harmless—prevents them from turning to afflict man.”
A singular expression, overheard by myself one day: “The stones with which the body of Te Whatu-pe was cooked are
still weeping.” As usual I made inquiries, for you must be keen to catch and follow up such remarks if you wish to acquire the old-time lore and study the mentality of primitive man. Te Whatu-pe, of Tuhoe, was slain by a party of Te Whaka-tohea about five generations ago. His body they cooked in a hangi (steam-oven) and ate. It is said that the stones used to heat the oven are still weeping—that is to say, the fat from the cooked body is still exuding from those stones, but only when the descendants of Te Whatu-pe visit the place.
“Peka titoki” : An expression often heard when persons are speaking of death. The branch of a titoki tree (or, presumably, of any other tree) dies, decays, and is seen no more, but the peka tangata (human branch) decays and is seen again in his offspring. So-and-so is dead, but his children survive—apa he peka tutoki (if he were a peka titoki, then indeed he would leave no trace behind). The rendering given by Sir George Grey in his “Maori Proverbs” is different. The term “peka titoki,” he says, is applied to anything difficult to break, or to a people difficult to conquer. The titoki has a very tough, strong timber, resembling hickory.
The Maori was a believer in metempsychosis. When Hineruarangi, daughter of Toi the Wood-eater, of immortal fame, died, her spirit entered upon another earthly life in the form of a cormorant, which bird has since been the tribal banshee of the Ngati-Whare Tribe, of Te Whaiti. Whenever a chief of that people is about to die, or prior to a defeat of the tribe in battle, the bird appears flying above the village of Ngati-Whare at Te Whaiti. Another of their omens of a like nature is the playing of lightning on the mountain-peak of Tuwatawata. Each tribe of this district has its rua koha—principally high ranges or peak, to see lightning playing on which is believed to foretell the death of a tribal chief. Landslips are also looked upon in a similar manner.
Te Tahi and Te Putaanga, two ancestors of the Ngati-Awa Tribe, are said to have both reappeared as sea-demons (marakihau) after their death. They are represented among the carved ancestral figures in the Native meeting-house at Ruatahuna.
Spirits of the dead are said to sometimes return here in the form of butterflies or moths.* The spirit of a stillborn child may enter a bird, or fish, or animal, or insect, when it works havoc as a caco-demon.
Nga-rangihangu, an ancestor of the Ngati-Manawa Tribe, became a taniwha (water-demon) after death, and abode in the Rangi-taiki River at Raepohatu, near Te Houhi.
[Footnote] * Cf. beliefs of the Samoans and Niassans.
Expressions, Proverbs, Aphorisms, etc., Pertaining to Decay and Death.
“Nga mate i Kawerau, me tangi mai i Whakatane; nga mate i Whakatane, me tangi atu i Kawerau” (The deaths at Kawerau, mourn for them from Whakatane; those who die at Whakatane, mourn for them from Kawerau). This saying is applied when persons are too busy or are disinclined to attend funeral obsequies at a distant place.
“Ka mate he tete kura, ka ora he tete kura” (When a chief dies another is ready to take his place).
“Wairoa tapoko rau” (Wairoa engulfs hundreds). Applied to the Wairoa district, Hawke's Bay, on account of so many people being slain there—by witchcraft, according to surrounding tribes.
“Tauarai o te Po, titoko o te ao marama” (Screen from Hades, prolonger of life). Applied to those who succour persons in danger.
“Mohaka whanaunga kore” (Mohaka the relationless). Applied to the Mohaka River, on account of so many persons having been drowned therein.
“Ka pu te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi” (The old net is laid aside, the new net takes up the work). When men become old, feeble, and near to death, young men take up their work.
“Puritia to kauri hai o matenga mou” (Keep your kauri as food for your death journey). Kauri=the soot from resinous wood, used for tattooing-pigment. This remark is said to a mean person who will not give something he has been asked for.
“Whatu ngarongaro he tangata, toitu he whenua” (Man passes away, but the land remains for ever).
“Kua tau nga Taru o Tura” (The weeds of Tura—grey hairs—have appeared, death is approaching).
“Kati te tangi, apopo tatau ka tangi ano, apa ko te tangi i te tai, e tangi roa, e ngunguru tonu” (Cease wailing, to-morrow we shall mourn again. We are not like the sea, which ever murmurs, ever rumbles). Said at funeral obsequies when the crying and wailing is prolonged.
“Matua pou whare, rokohia ana; matua tangata, e kore e rokohia” (You can always seek and gain shelter in your house, but not always so with a friend—death may take him).
“Kei mate a tarakihi koe” (Be careful lest you perish, or suffer, through indolence, dilatoriness, &c.).
“Engari kia mate a ururoa te tangata” (Rather let man die as does the ururoa shark, strenuous and fighting to the last).
“Na wai te kokomuka-tu-tara-whare i kiia kia haere?” (Who said that the house-wall-growing Veronica should travel?).
Used by an old person, feeble from old age, when asked to leave home. He sticks to the house or house-wall, like the species of Veronica called “kokomuka-tu-tara-whare,” which grows on the earth-covered sleeping-houses.
“Kai hea te ua o te rangi hei ua iho i te rae o Tane-nui-a rangi” (How may the rains of the heavens fall from the brow of Tane-nui-a-rangi). Quoted by a person who saves another from death in battle, especially when his power to do so is questioned.
“He iti na Tuhoe e kata te Po” (A few of Tuhoe and Hades shall laugh). A saying applied to the Tuhoe Tribe, on account of their valour and ferocity in war.
“Ka pa te hau mihi kainga, he hurihanga kaupapa” (When soft, gentle breezes blow, then disaster is nigh). Such winds are deemed an omen of death or disaster.
“Ehara i te ti e wana ake” (When man dies he is seen no more, unlike the Cordyline, which when cut down sends forth shoots from its stump).
“He ai atu ta te tangata, he huna mai ta Hine-nui-te-Po” (Man begets offspring, while the Goddess of Death destroys them).
“Ka mate tino tangata, tena e rewa mai” (When a chief dies plenty of uhunga or mouning parties will come).
“He wahine, he whenua, e ngaro ai te tangata” (Through women and land do men perish). These were prolific causes of war.
“He toa taua, mate taua; he toa piki pari, mate pari, he toa ngaki kai, ma te huhu tena” (The warrior dies on the battlefield, the cragsman by cliff-side, but the industrious cultivator perishes of natural decay).
“I paia koia te Reinga?” (Is the underworld closed?) Be not foolhardy or you will perish.
The term “aroarowhaki” denotes the quivering of the hands, with arms extended, as seen performed by mourners, usually by elderly women.
When Big Jim, the guide, of Taranaki, was killed at Manawahiwi, just where the road from Te Whaiti commences to ascend Tara-pounamu, by an ambush of Tuhoe, the force camped at that place for the night. Major Scannell informs me that the force buried the body of the scout, and lighted a large fire on the grave that it might not be noticed by the enemy when the party moved on.
When the famous Winiata, of the Native Contingent, was slain at Taupo his body was buried in the bed of a stream for a similar reason.
In H. B. Sterndale's writings we find a description of exhuma-
tion as practised in the Caroline Islands, where the bones were cleaned, painted, and preserved, as among the Maori.
A singular rite, the invoking of the dead, the spirits of dead-and-gone ancestors, that they may aid their living descendants in battle. See a description in the “Journal of the Polynesian Society,” vol. viii, p. 217.
In regard to the popoa, or sacred food, above mentioned, we see in Mr. Percy Smith's account of Niue and its people that the word “poa” there means “an offering to the gods.” This is evidently the original meaning of “popoa.”
In the “Journal of the Polynesian Society,” vol. vii, p. 50, is a note from Mr. R. E. M. Campbell, in which he mentions the grave near Kihikihi, Waikato, wherein “the bodies were buried in a circle, the feet toward the centre.” In the same Journal, vol. xii, p. 209, Mr. Percy Smith has a note on the custom of sacrificing slaves at the building of a fort (pa). “In the case of a pa, slaves were often buried in a sitting posture, embracing the base of the main posts of the palisading. Not many years since six skeletons were discovered in such position at the base of the posts of a large pa near O-potiki.”
We have seen that the spirits of the dead sometimes afflict the living. Such complaints are termed “mate kikokiko,” and are said to frequently result in death. An old man explained to me, “The spirits of dead persons are afflicting such sufferers. These kehua control them. If the afflicted person survives, he will be the medium of that [evil] spirit. Some people become demented when so affected.” Natives say that these spirits of the dead are sometimes seen as a flying luminous object at night. They move swiftly, but never far above the earth. The name “tirama-roa” is applied to this phenomena. “Tirama-roa is a (spirit, a ghost) kehua, a whakahaehae, a turehu. It is not a star-name. It looks like a moving torch, and is seen moving along the tops of high ranges. It is a spirit of the dead. I have seen such at Maunga-pohatu, flitting along the range-top. Tunui-a-te-ika is a kehua. It has a big head, and flies through space. It is a sign of death.”
When the Okarea pa (fort) at Wai-a-tiu fell to Ngati-Awa and Tuhoe, the chiefs Te Hauwai and Taha-wai were slain, their bodies falling over the cliff into the Wai-a-tiu Stream, a tributary of the Whirinaki River. Hence this river was long under tapu. In after-years it was Puritia who lifted the tapu and sacrificed a slave named Tamure in order to give force to the rite.
The old custom of muru is rapidly passing away, but in former times it was strictly carried out. It was applied in many ways. For example, should a person meet with some accident or other trouble, a party of the tribe would proceed to despoil
him and his family of their portable personal property. This was also done sometimes at the death of a person; his family would thus lose their food, &c., which would be seized and taken by the plundering party, who often acted in a very rough manner. Colonel Gudgeon attributes this peculiar custom to the communistic mode of life of the Maori. A man's life, energies, knowledge, &c., were tribal property primarily, and his relatives had no right to let him die or be injured.
Te Mauniko, wife of Te Ahuru, shot herself when their son Kawana died.
Mautini committed suicide by jumping into a pool of boiling water at Tikitere, because her husband had deserted her She could not stand the jeers of the people.
Ridicule was a frequent cause of suicide among the Maori. No difference was made as to the burial of suicides.
The Maori Hades. (Maori Ideas Concerning the Spirit-World.)
No paper on Maori eschatology would be worth notice unless it contained some explanation of the Native conception of the spirit, or soul, of man, as well as their ideas concerning the spirit-world. Hence some description of these matters here follows. Lest, however, their briefness cause comment, I may state that they are purposely curtailed, and for two reasons. In the first place, I have already published many notes on these subjects in my paper on “Spiritual Concepts of the Maori,” and also I propose to leave other matter, not yet published, for a paper on “Maori Religion,” should I ever be able to summon courage to attempt to describe such an intricate system. Moreover, methinks this paper is already quite long enough to try the patience of the hapless reader.
As observed, I have already attempted to record the Maori conception of the spiritual nature of man. This has been approached with no preconceived ideas of primitive religions, nor yet with any fanatical leaning towards any religion, primitive or otherwise. I have no pet theory to bolster up, nor do I wish to identify the Maori with the Lost Tribes. I would much rather they remain lost. The world can well spare them. Hence I hope to compile a truthful, if meagre, account of Maori beliefs.
The wairua, or spirit, of man was, according to Maori belief, equivalent to the ka of the ancient Egyptians, the shadowy self which leaves its physical basis (as in dreams) and wanders
afar off. But the ka continued to abide in the body after death, whereas the Maori wairua leaves the body at death and descends to Hades, the underworld, “Te Po,” as the Maori terms it. Po signifies night; po uri = darkness; hence, apparently, “the realm of darkness,” or oblivion; although other evidence seems to support the idea that the underworld is by no means a realm of darkness, and that the dead lead there a life very much like life in the upper world. This world and this life are termed the “ao marama” (world of light), as opposed to the po, or world of death.
The Maori had neither evolved nor borrowed a belief in a soul, or psyche, which is judged after death and punished or rewarded as for evil or good deeds committed in this world. No such distinction exists in the Maori spirit-world. The old-time Maori looked forward to no condition of calm peace and happiness in the next world, nor to any sensual pleasures. On the other hand, however, he was not terrorised by threats of raging hell-fires waiting for him, as are we.
The Maori was ever a firm believer in and practiser of necrolatry, pschomancy, physiolatry, and oneirology.
If when a person's wairua is absent from the body it comes under the effect of spells of black magic it is destroyed, and its physical basis, the body, also perishes. But during such rambles it often discovers some danger threatening the body, and returns to warn it. On awaking from sleep a man might say, “So-and-so is trying to bewitch me, my wairua has warned me.”
A Maori dislikes to awake a person suddenly, as by shaking him. His wairua may be absent on a little jaunt: it is well to give it time to re-enter the body.
Maori religion is essentially polytheistic—very much so. And yet we see, in some very ancient and fragmentary tokens of a former cult, evidence that at some remote period in the history of the race either monotheism or something akin to it must have prevailed. I refer to the cult of Io.
Animistic conceptions teem in Maori myth—they form its most notable feature; and a very interesting monograph might be compiled on this subject. The anima mundi theory is quite Maori.
The wairua (spirit) of man is an intelligent, a sentient spirit. It leaves the body at death, and either descends at once to the underworld, or remains near its physical basis as a kehua, or spirit-ghost. These ghosts are much feared by the Natives, for they can inflict grievous injuries on the living.
Nearly all Maori gods may be termed ancestral, though I have never heard the term applied to Io—he who formed or
was the origin or prototype of all other gods. Unless Io comes under that heading, moral gods are lacking in the Maori pantheon. Rongo and others were gods of peace, but their code of ethics was scarcely pure.
An ancestral god would succour and protect his descendants, unless they violated some law of tapu, when they punished the erring one with severity. But they were powers for evil: they imparted the power to the spells and rites of black magic practised by their descendants. They were also war-gods of great ferocity and of a pitiless nature.
Spirits of the dead were termed “kehua,” or “whakahaehae” (spirit-ghosts), or “kikokiko” (man-assailing evil spirit), or “atua” (demon); sometimes merely “wairua,” a term applied to the spirit of man, whether its physical basis be living or dead. The Maori has not the elaborate system of spirit nomenclature possessed by the old-time Romans, with their “lar,” “lemur,” “larva,” “manes,” and “penates.”
It has been stated that the spirits or souls of the chiefs of the Maori are believed to ascend to heaven at death. This is not an old-time belief among any Maori people I wot of, but is doubtless a modern idea, the result of missionary teachings. In the words of an old Native of Ngati-Awa: “Our ancestors never said that the spirits of the dead ascended to the heaves. Our parent Rangi [the Sky] never said ‘Let my descendants ascend to me.’ But Rangi said unto Papa [the Earth Mother], ‘Our descendants—treat them kindly, conceal them in many places—beyond, seaward, inland, in the realm of darkness.’ Friend, there were two men of my people, Ngati-Awa, who died. Their spirits descended to the reinga (spririt-land). Their parents sent them back to this world. They said that when they arrived at the rerenga-wairua they stood on the beach by the waterside until the waters receded and exposed a hole in the rocks. By this way they descended to the underworld. They came to a fence which was guarded by several persons, who told them not to pass under the fence, but to clamber over it. They did so, and went on. They saw great numbers of people, but they were all spirits. They at last came to their relatives and parents, and all wept together for some time, after which they were returned to this world of life. I have told you this to show you that spirits of the dead do not ascend to the heavens. The names of those two persons were Kukia and Toihau. They said that the spirit-world is a very good sort of place, and not shrouded in darkness, but light like unto this world. The spirit-world is divided into ten different divisions, according to the teachings of our ancestors. The spirits of the dead abide in the tenth division (Ko te ao tuangahuru te ao nohoanga o nga wairua).”
“Now, when a Maori dies, his wairua (spirit, or soul) leaves and goes to the rerenga-wairua (spirit's leaping-place). On arriving at the resting-place on the last ridge (the taumata i Haumu) the spirit halts and laments, weeping, the world it is leaving. It also lacerates itself, in grief, with obsidian, of which there is much lying there. When the mourning and weeping are over, the wairua descends the cliff by means of the roots which are there, to the beach below. It goes on, and passes out on to the rocks. Gaping there is the hole by which the spirit descends to the reinga. The ocean-waters surge upwards through this chasm, the seaweeds are swirled round by the waters. Then the waters recede and leave exposed the abyss. Down into this the spirit leaps, and finds itself in the spirit-world. There the sun is shining, there is no darkness. It is just like this world. The spirit proceeds onward until it comes to the fence. Should it pass over the fence, that spirit will return to this world. But if it passes under the fence it is gone for all time, it will never-more return to this world. When the spirit reaches those of its relatives and is offered food, should it eat of that food it will never return to this world.”
Here in this narrative we see the spirit-world described as a place where no darkness prevails, a world lightened by the sun. This is the result of persons dreaming of having descended to the underworld, as in the case of the two persons quoted above. A person recovering from a trance would be said by the Maori to have returned from the spirit-world. In the case of Toihau, above quoted, another authority stated that he died, and that the spirit of an ancestor, one Te Nahu, came and led his spirit to the underworld, and also warned him that if he ate of proffered food in the spirit-world his spirit or soul would be lost for ever, and return no more to the world of life. So Toihau refused the food offered by the spirits of Hades, hence he (his spirit) was returned to this world, the ao marama. It was conducted back by the spirit of Te Nahu, who drove it forth from Hades with scourging. Back to this world came Toihau's spirit, and entered his body; so that, after being dead for three days, Toihau of the Children of Awa rose from the dead and lived again. This was evidently a case of trance.
The wife of Te Puke-nui was carried off by spirits, say the local Natives, and she saw the spirits of all the dead-and-gone people ere she returned here. This was evidently a case of dreaming.
Another case, quoted locally, is that of a woman who died, after which her husband married again. Then the spirit of the dead wife appeared and carried off the living wife, and had nearly succeeded in slaying her when rescued by her husband. But
enough of these childish tales: they are most numerous among the Natives.
I have no notes as concerning the names of the different divisions of the reinga, or spirit-world. The following extract is from “Nga Moteatea,” p. 419:—
… ‘I te Reinga tuarua
Te whare i a Miru
Ko te otinga atu o te wairua
Kei wheau ake ki te ao.
(The second reinga, the abode of Miru, where for ever disappears the soul, lest it rise again to this world.)
The usual term applied to the spirit-world is “te reinga,” literally “the leaping-place.” Strictly speaking this is the name of the departing-place of spirits for the underworld, the entrance thereof. This entrance is often termed “te rerenga wairua” (the spirit's leaping-place). It is situated at the north-western extremity of the North Island of New Zealand. The spirits of all Natives who die in these isles are said to pass along the ranges until they reach the above place, whence they pass down to the underworld as described. It is said that Natives residing in the northern peninsula often see the spirits of the dead wending their way to the rerenga wairua, and that they know which are spirits of chiefs and those of common people. The spirits of chiefs always go on one side of food-stores, so as to avoid them, while those of plebeians pass underneath such stores.
Throughout Polynesia these departing-places of spirits of the dead are situated on the western or north-western side of each island or group of islands. As we have seen, the spirits of the dead are supposed to return to Hawaiki, the fatherland of the race, which lies far to the west of Polynesia. This seems to discredit the Native belief in the underworld of spirits, but still both beliefs obtain among the Maori. Probably the under-world is the most ancient of these beliefs, while the idea of the dead returning to Hawaiki is a sentimental growth of later times, since the arrival of the race in the many-isled sea.
No information can be obtained from the Maori to show any ancient belief in different realms set apart for the souls of good and evil persons when death has claimed the body. In vol. ii of the Monthly Review (Wellington, 1890), in an article by R. H. Gibson on “Mourning Customs,” occur these words: “It is clear that the Hebrew people maintained for many centuries the belief that the abode of the dead lay beneath the surface of the earth, and beneath the bottom of the sea; that it was a land of darkness and of shade like death itself; a land of destruction and of confusion; a land of no action and of no knowledge, where existed alike the evil and the good,” &c. Here we
have the old-time Maori conception of the reinga, or po, a gloomy underworld. At the time spoken of in the above quotation the Hebrews do not appear to have yet evolved, or borrowed, the idea of resurrection of the dead.
The Maori idea seems to have been that the dead met and abode with their kindred in the underworld, where-they lived on sweet-potatoes, fish, &c., but that there was no fighting there. It was probably the lack of any belief in the judgment of the soul, resurrection, punishment, &c., that caused the Maori to die without fear of the spirit-world, or the second life therein. However, we have now provided him with a somewhat warmer underworld Let us hope that he will enjoy it.
The Maori does not appear to have ever had much interest in his spirit-world, hence the description of it, even though given by old men, is vague and unsatisfactory to the ethnographer. Some say that spirits pass a certain time in each of the ten divisions of the underworld, until they reach the tenth. Some spirits are said to return to this world, the upper world, in the form of moths.
The name “mori-a-nuku,” or “moria-nuku,” is sometimes applied to the reinga, or the entrance thereto :—
Me ruku ware au te reinga tupapaku
Kei whakamau kau k
“The taumata i Haumu,” says a Native friend, “is the ridge where the spirit leaves its clothing, and so descends naked to the reinga, jumps into the ocean, and henceforward lives as a spirit.
Rukuhia, e tama! Nga rimu e mawe
“Te rimu ki motau” signifies the seaweed through which the spirit passes in its descent. It often appears in Native songs :—
Ka rere whakaaitu ki te reinga
Te rimu ki motau—e.
There are two other expressions applied to the entrance to the underworld, but which appear only in songs, I believe. These are “pua reinga” and “tawa mutu.” I have never obtained any satisfactory explanation of these expressions from New Zealand Natives, but Mr. Percy Smith has traced them both to Rarotonga: “At the reinga wairua at Rarotonga, near the west end of the island, is the place where departed spirits go to join the great majority. There grows a pua tree, a species of Gardenia, and into its branches the spirits on their way to Miru climb. Those who climb on the rara mata, or live branches, return to life—i.e., they were only in a swoon, not dead. Those who climb on the rara mate, or dead branches, fall off into the clutches of Miru (called there Muru), and die for ever in the clutches of Muru and Akaanga.”
In regard to the tawa mutu, as in the case of the pua reinga, the explanation comes from Rarotonga. Tawa (“tava” in Rarotongan) is the gulf or abyss below the pua tree into which the spirits of the dead descend. “Kua mate io [iho] ra a Kuiono, kua aere [haere] atu ra tona vairua [wairua], ka kake i te pua; ko te rere ra i tava [tawa]” (“When Kui-ono died his spirit left him and went and ascended the pua, whence it leaped into tawa”).
Here we have the origin of these two terms, preserved in song by the Maori of New Zealand for centuries. Tawa is known to the Maori as the tawa mutu, or last chasm.
Ka tuku tenei au ki te reinga
Ki te tawa mutu.
The explanation given by Paitini, of Tuhoe, is the nearest one to being correct that I have obtained locally. He said, “The tawa mutu is connected with the rimu ki motau at the reinga. It means the end of the spirit's journey.”
Kia tuku-pototia te tinana
Te pua reinga ki taku matua.
And from another song,—
Heoti taku tatari ki te ope taua
I a te rama
Kia wawe taku iti te iria te pua reinga
Ki taku matua
Kai noho au i te ao
Whakaraukotetia e te ngutu.
Ka rumaki au ki te pua ki te reinga
E noho ana i te ao marama
Te rumakina ai ki te pua ki te reinga
Ki oku hoa ka wehe i rau rangi.
Peke ana au i te taingariu o Kanapanapa [a canoe]
Hai kawe i a au te pua ki te reinga.
All these are extracts from local songs, laments, &c.
Another expression sometimes noted is that of “te tatau-o-te-po,” or door of Hades—the gates of death.* One Apatari is said to be the keeper of the door or entrance to the reinga. Miru is said to be the ruler of the po, or world of darkness, the spirit-world.† It is singular that two names are given to the underworld—the po and the reinga; as also two rulers of the realm of spirits—Miru and Hine-nui-te-Po. Possibly there is some distinction between them—perhaps two spirit-worlds. We
[Footnote] * “Journal of the Polynesian Society,” vol. vii, p. 55.
[Footnote] † “Journal of the Polynesian Society,” vol. v, p. 116.
have seen that there are ten divisions of the reinga, or underworld, and in like manner there are ten different heavens.
“Paerau” is yet another name that is applied apparently to the spirit-world. It may be one of the divisions of the under-world, or perhaps the name of some land where the ancestors of the Maori dwelt in the days of the long-ago, and is now confused, as is Hawaiki, with the spirit-world. We have seen that “Go to Paerau!” “Go to Hawaiki!” are expressions often used towards the dead in funeral speeches.
That species of lizard known as a kaweau (probably the same as the kueo) is a creature of evil omen. Should you see fresh signs of it in your house, or on a path you are travelling over, you may prepare to start for the underworld without delay. For that reptile was sent by your dead-and-gone relatives as a sign for you to join them in the reinga or spirit-land.
We were camped at Te Whaiti-nui-a-Toi. Our cook, a Native woman, got up one morning and proceeded to the messtent to prepare breakfast. There she saw fresh signs of the dreaded kaweau. She was taken ill and went to Rotorua, where she was treated by various Natives, ringa-tu ruffians of the shamanistic type. She said, “Cease your efforts, for I am going to die. You cannot cure me.” And they could not; but a white doctor could, and did, to the old lady's great amazement.
The same old lady once said to me, “I am inclined to believe that old persons who die regain their youth in the reinga. Because I went to the reinga last night [i.e., she had a dream] and I saw Kiriwera [an old woman recently dead], and she appeared quite young and nice-looking.”
When a Native says that he was at the reinga he means that he has been dreaming. An old man said to me, “I was at the reinga last night and saw my old friend—, who has long been dead. I could tell from his appearance and actions that it will be a fine day to-morrow.”
Again, “Kai te reinga koe e whakarongo ake ana; na, ka whakaororua mai tetahi mea e haruru ana, a ka oho ake koe i te moe.” (“You are at the reinga litening. You hear a distant noise resounding, then you wake up.”)
The expression “awhi-reinga” means “to embrace in the spirit-world,” as when a man dreams of meeting his dead wife. The term “mariko” or “po-mariko” appears to have some similar meaning, but it is not clear to me.
When a defeated war-party returned home there was a tangihanga on the village plaza, weeping and lamentation for the dead. After which, a party of the village people of both sexes, dressed in their oldest and most repulsive garments, would appear before the defeated warriors and perform that sort of haka (posture
dance) known as manawa wera (seared heart), or whakatea. The performers indulge in much grimacing at the survivors, with other tokens of contempt, vexation, and indignation, on account of those slain. The following is a specimen of the words of the haka:—
Te kotiritiri, te kotaratara
O tai, o huki, o hope—e
Whakatitaha rawa te waha o te kupenga
Hoki mai, hoki mai—e
Kia kawea koi ki tera whenua
Ki era tangata
Nana i ki mai
In regard to the Maui myths, one of which—that relating to the mythical origin of death—we have already given: There can be no doubt but that the date at which this popular hero flourished must be placed much further back than that usually allotted to him by the Maori—about thirty-five generations —that is, if there ever was such a person. Max Muller held that Maui was a personification of the sun. If so, then his contest with Hine-nui-te-Po resolves itself into a struggle for mastery between Light and Darkness, between Life and Death. The sun entered the womb of Night to obtain life eternal.
Now observe, in a paper by Mr. Tregear on “Asiatic Gods in the Pacific,”* speaking of the ancient Egyptians, he says, “One of their gods was Moui† … and this Moui had also the name of Ao, which we have seen is the Maori word for ‘daylight,’ &c. But turning to page 66 of the same volume we find that “moui” is a Polynesian word (Niue dialect) meaning “life, living,” and evidently connected with New Zealand “mauri” and “mouri” = “seat of life.” In volume ii of the same journal, page 77, we see that Taranga, parent of Maui among New Zealand Natives, is in the Hawaiian isles the name of Paradise, or Eden, home of the first parents. Hence “Maui” may be, or originally have been, a synonym for or personification of life or eternal life, which strove with the personification of death (Hine-nui-te-Po) for mastery.
In the Rarotongan genealogy given at page 48, “Journal of Polynesian Society,” volume viii, we see Maui given a place seventy-two generations back from the present time.
In some Polynesian myths Maui is said to have married
[Footnote] * “Journal of the Polynesian Society,” vol. ii, pp. 139–140.
[Footnote] † The letters “o” and “u” are interchangeable in the Polynesian dialects, as mau = mou and pou = pau.
Hina, the Moon Goddess; in others Hina was his sister. Maui's full name was Mauitikitiki. In Tahitian folk-lore Hina marries Ti'i (Maori “Tiki”) the first man, who ruthlessly slew people, while Hina resuscitated them.*
It appears highly probable that the story of Maui is a very ancient myth of a contest between Life and Death, evolved by a primitive people in times long past away; that it has been moved down the changing centuries by oral tradition, and the hero thereof localised in many lands.
We have seen that the world of death is termed the po. This expression is also applied to the period when the universe was in a state of chaos and darkness, before the appearance of man. In lengthy genealogies of an anthropogenic nature we observe more or less names which are said by the Natives to belong to the po, or period before man appeared, after which came the names of human beigns. For instance, Tiki was of the po, not a person of this world. He married Ea, who was the first woman of the ao marama, or world of light-i.e., of this world. They had Kurawaka, who married Tane and so produced the genus homo.
It is said that residents of the northern extremity of New Zealand often see the spirits of the dead passing northwards on their way to the rerenga wairua, or departing-place of spirits. They recognise the spirits of persons who were slain in battle by their being covered with bloodstains. Also that houses in those parts are built facing east or west, so that spirits wending their way northwards will not enter by the door.
In regard to the name of Ea: This is the name of the king of the underworld in Babylonian mythology. His son was Merodach, who, with the goddess Aruru, was the creator of all existing things. Ea was also god of reproduction and of canals, but appeared under different names in his various functions, like unto Tane of the Maori.†
When wending my way homewards one day last week I met an old Native woman, who saluted me with “Tena koe! Te mata o Te Unupo.” By which she probably meant that the sight of me recalled to her the memory of her friend Te Unupo, who died some months ago, and who was a frequent visitor at my camp. “Mata” means “the face” and also “eye.”
In Humboldt's account of his travels on the Orinoco he mentions a burial-cave of the Natives which he visited, and in which the exhumed bones of the tribe were deposited. “The Indians related to us that the corpse is first placed in the humid earth, that the flesh may be consumed by degrees. Some months
[Footnote] * “Journal of the Polynesian Society,” vol. x, p. 52.
[Footnote] † “The Religious Ideas of the Babylonians,” by T. G. Pinches.
after it is taken out, and the flesh that remains on the bones is scraped off.” Many of the bones, he states, were painted red. This amiable Teuton was careful to rifle the cave tomb and carry off a mule-load of the human remains it contained.
It is with regret that I now bring this paper to a close and lay aside my pen, inasmuch as the article goes forward in very incomplete state. I have many notes on the subject which remain to be written up, but have not been able to obtain the assistance of any of the few men of knowledge left to verify and explain such items. They must be forwarded at some future time. “Kati te tangi; apopo tatou ka tangi ano.”
We have now at various times and in divers journals ushered the Maori into the world, and noted the quaint rites pertaining to reproduction. We have told of his origin, his religion, his myths and folk-lore. We have described his food-supplies, his amusements, his arts, and superstitions. His woodcraft and war-customs, his mentality and ideality, have been reviewed. We have married him, and watched him in his last hours. We have despatched his soul to the underworld, and cried him fare-well to the dim shores of Hawaiki. And I do not think that we can do much more for him. Nothing remains save the mate-mate-a-one.