Under the above brief heading we propose to give a few notes anent the various scents used by the Maori in former times. These scents were various aromatic leaves and gums, used for the purpose of imparting a pleasing odour to persons or houses. Some were utilised wherewith to scent oil, which was then used to anoint the body. Fragrant leaves of various trees and plants were used for this purpose.
The sense of smell possessed by the Maori is certainly keen, though they do not appear to object so strongly to foul odours as do we. The term kakara is usually employed to denote fragrance—any appreciated odour; while the expression haunga would be applied to any smell not appreciated. The word kakara is also used as meaning “savoury,” as when applied to food.
The items used as scents in former times by Natives of the Tuhoe district were obtained from the following trees, shrubs, &c.:—
Koareare; syn., raukawa. Panax Edgerleyi.
Tanguru-rake. An Olearia.
Kotara. Probably Olearia Cunninghamii.
Tarata. Pittosporum eugenioides.
Pua-kaito. Celmisia spectabilis.
Kopuru. A moss.
Karetu. Hierochloe redolens.
There are other shrubs, plants, &c., that provided aromatic leaves for the dwellers in other districts, but the above are the items that obtain in Tuhoeland. Of these, the kotara and pua-kaito are found only at Maungapohatu, in the Tuhoe district, while the koareare and the tanguru-rake are found only on the high ranges.
The leaves of the above trees, &c., as also those of the white manuka. were used in various ways. They were often enclosed in small bags or sachets, usually made of bird-skin with the feathers left on, which bag was suspended from the neck and hung down on the wearer's breast. The skin of the toroa (albatros) was prized for this purpose. The aromatic gum of the tarata tree was also placed in such sachets. Not only are the leaves of this tree most fragrant when crushed, but the gum that exudes from the
wounded trunk has also similar properties. It is obtained by making an incision in the bark and wounding the trunk, thus causing it to bleed. The gum, on being exposed to the air, soon solidifies, and is removed. It was often used for the purpose of imparting a pleasant odour' to oil used for toilet purposes. The oil used was obtained from the berries of the titoki tree (Alectryon excelsum) and from the fat of the wood-pigeon. Sometimes this oil was scented by placing in it crushed leaves of white manuka, or of the trees and plants enumerated above. A calabash of such oil scented with gun (pia tarata) was termed a taha tarata. The skin of a pukeko or other bird would be dipped in this oil and then rolled into a ball with the feathers outward. This was known as a pona tarata, and was suspended from the neck of the wearer. It was a somewhat greasy neck-pendant.
Chaplets of the fragrant leaves, twigs, &c., were sometimes worn by women, and the sleeping-places or houses of persons of rank or of distinguished guests were occasionally strewed with these aromatic leaves. The kotara and the pua-kaito were sometimes transplanted and grown near the Native hamlets.
A gourd of scented oil used for anointing the hair was termed a taha koukou, from taha, a calabash, and koukou, to anoint. In an old Native song we find the following:—
He wai tarata ra
Me patu kia kakara
Kia ingo mai ai.
The last line explains one of the principal uses of scents the wide world over—viz., to attract the opposite sex. Women often wore belts made of the fragrant karetu grass. The flax belts which were made double were often filled with odorous herbs. Hence we see in song,—
Tu ake hoki, E hine
I te tu wharariki
Hai whakakakara mo bine ki te moenga.
We will now turn our attention to the fauna of the Tuhoe district—or, at least, that portion of it that entered into the domestic economy of the Natives of these parts.