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.