John White.

The ancient history of the Maori, his mythology and traditions .. (Volume 1) online

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the other gods, go near to cooked food.
Kaka-ho : Arundo conspicua, reed-grass.
Kore : Divided, rent, cracked, nothingness.
Maku: Watery, moist, damp.
Mata-ariki (mata, face ; ariki, lord) : The Pleiades. This constellation

appears in the first month of the Maori hew year, and presides

over winter. These stars form the prow of the canoe Tai-nui.
Mauri : Soul, seat of life. To hiccup is called toko-mauri {toko, to

start, to leap up ; mauri, life within).
Mua : Medium, mediator, representative ; first, commencement, origin ;

an altar, a spot where offerings are presented, indicated by a viau-ku

(tree-fern) or flax-bush.
Pa : To hinder, to block, to obstruct ; a fortified settlement, a citadel,

a fenced village.
Pi-tau : The young centre fronds of the korau — Cyathea vicdullaris,

tree-fern — was a considerable article of diet in olden times.
Poi : To toss up and down, to dandle ; a game for females, played with

balls about the size of a fist. Poi (d).
Pu-anga (pu, centre ; anga, affix) : Highest, extreme point, climax,

zenith ; star of midwinter, Rigcl, which ended the ]\Iaori year. The

new year commenced with the first new moon afterwards.
Po : Gloom, nothingness, night.
Pu : Sanctitj', origin, centre of knowledge, king.
Bangi : Heaven. Ba, sun, certainty ; ngi, laugh, shrivelled, unfinished,

Behu-a {rehu, to chip off by blows, to procure fire by friction ; a, nominal

affix) : The broken, the splintered. Rehuawas a god whose attribute

was to cure the blind, resuscitate the dead, and cure all diseases. Is

now represented in the star Sirius.
Bimic : Sea-weed, the reliia which is used in modern times as funeral

chaplcts, and offerings to the manes of the dead.
Boi : Dwarf, shake, entangled, fern-root. This was one of the five gods

who divided Rangi, Heaven, and Papa, Earth ; who, when Rangi came

to punish them, turned himself into roi to escape destruction.

Boi (d).
Taha-raro : North side. South is called runga, up ; and north, raro,

down. All ancient temples and dwellings were built to face the oast.

The seats of honour in each were on the north side ; the first on entering

was the most sacred, and the others descended relatively from it.
Take : Foundation, origin, cause, king.
Ta-ne : To slap in sport, to deride, to defy disaster.


Taku-rua {taku, deliberate, slow, according to custom, guided by
necessity ; rua, pit, storehouse) : Winter, time of slow action, in-
activity, cautious use of food stored for winter; star Sirius, or

Tiki: First man created, a figure carved of wood, or other representation
of man.

Tapairti : Queen, supreme head of the female sex, high priestess, receiver
of sacrifices and offerings made to the goddesses.

Ta-pu : Ta, mark or paint ; pu, root, origin. The sacerdotal colour was
red, and all prohibited things were painted with koko-wai. Honu,
Tarcha (d).

Toc-toe-tvliatu-vianu : Split in shreds. WJiatu, to weave, plait; vianu,
bird, kite ; toe-toe, used in making kites.

To-Jmere-roa : Drag on a long distance. Another name of Kahu-kurai
Also means, to follow, to reconnoitre, to spy, a scout.

Tu : To stand erect, the equal, the same, the character, the manner.

Tua : A word limitless in meaning — namely, "Beyond that which is
most distant," " Behind all matter," and " Behind every action." It
also means the essence of worship, and is employed in the invocations
to the elements and the heavens, and the ceremonies of baptism of
male children. Of similar meaning, but of less extent, and of more
local significance, are the names lo, Pu, Take, Tumu, Mua, Tapairu,
and Au ; yet these were at times used as synonyms for Atua, in
regard to authority or leadership.

Tumu : That which projects beyond all other objects, headland ; a rest,
or perch, or prop ; king.

Tu-tahi : See Ao-tahi.

Wahine : Woman. Man was created by the gods ; woman was an emana-
tion from ra, sun, and riko-riko, quivering heat. Man, coming from
the gods, is sacred ; and woman, being of lower origin, is not ; nor is
she honoured at baptism by the rites of Tu, the god of war.

Wcro-i-te-ninihi, Wero-i-te-kokoto, Wcro-i-tc-ao-viaric (wero, to call atten-
tion ; ninilii, to sneak out of sight ; kokoto, changed, decayed ; marie,
quiet, peaceable) : These were the names of ceremonies performed
to Mango-roa (a) (Magellan Clouds).
WJiare-matoro [loliare, house ; matoro, to incite, to woo) : A house in
which the youth of both sexes passed their winter nights — a
resort of all who could relate tales of folk-lore.
Wltai : To follow, to search after, to scout ; a game not unlike that of

Wi-wi: Dread, trouble, wonder ; the common rush, jmwcws.




Fox- theo, O Whai, my love is ever great.

From germ of life sprang thought,

And god's own medium came :

Then bud and bloom ; and life in space

Produced the worlds of night—

The worlds where bowing knee

And form in abject crouching lost

Are lost— for ever lost.

And never now return ye

From those worlds of gloom.

'Twas Nothing that begat
The Nothing unpossessed,
And Nothing without charm.

Let the priests attention give,
And all I state dispute.
I may be wrong : I but rehearse
What was in whare-lntra taught.

'Twas Raugi who, with Atu-tahi,
Brought forth the moon.

And Ilaugi Wero-wero took.
And, yet unseen, the sun produced.

He, silent, skimmed the space above.

And then burst forth the glowing eye of heaven

To give theo light, O man 1

To wage thy war on fellow-man.
Turn and look this way.

On Tara-rua's distant peak now

Shines the light of coming day —

The dawn of eating man and feats of war.
Would'st thou the deeds of ancient battles now repeat.

When Nga-toro-i-rangi

The "Blood nose " battle fought,

And then the " Deep blue soa"

And next the " Earth-red plain"

And " Mist on sea " were fought andjgained.
Sleep, O Father, in Matangi-rei,

Where Tano landed first and lived.

And whore the dead of all

The tribes now rest, for ever rest.

O Kahu-te-raki, come now,


Bid a wolcomo to thy nophow

And put him in tho

Scented bag of Rau-kata-uri,

In which old Kao was led to dea

Hide him in tho Ila-ruru-roa,

In the not of Pae-kawa,

Wliere noted Huna-kiko ppear wa

With far-famed Ma-na-wa.

^\^ly not singe thee

With a flame of fire,

That thou mayst see

The skin of Manu-mea,

And taste of food, that thoughts may ri ;

And urge to acts thy hands,

And feet, and eyes.

deaf son, who wouldst not hearken,
I spread before thee life and death,
But thou wouldst bind around thee
The old used mat of death.

1 alone was left a solitary one
A cast-off plank of the

House of the god Tane.

Ancietit Lament of Tu-roafor Te-ko-tuku.


School of Mythology and History. (Nga-i-tahu.)

Whare-kura, the sacred school in which the sons of high
priests were taught our mythology and history, stood facing
the East, in the precincts of the sacred place of Mua.
^;: Mua was a sacred locality. It was known by mauku
(tree-fern) or flax-bush. One of these indicated the sacred
spot where an image of man, without feet fdj, in length
from the elbow to the point of the middle finger, made of
totara wood, to represent Kahu-kura, the atua-toro
(attendant spying god), was placed. This was where offer-
ings, and sacrifices, and all other attendant ceremonies were
performed to the gods.

The people procured the materials for this edifice, but
the priests erected it ; and whilst so engaged abstained from
food till the close of each day. The high priest per-
formed sacred ceremonies over the pou-toko-manaiva, the
centre-post, on which rested the ridge-pole, and at the foot
of which was carved a tiki, the resemblance of one of their
progenitors, to consecrate the house and make it sacred.
When the kaka-ho reeds forming the various patterns


which variegated the interior of the house were "being laced
up, incantations were repeated ; and when finally completed,
the ceremony of ta-te-kawa, the dedication of the build-
ing, was performed.

A sacred sacrifice was killed at the dedication, which
was witnessed by all the people. A dog, man, woman,
child, or slave was killed, and the blood presented to Mua,
with the same ceremonies and incantations as those per-
formed by an army in presenting food to the gods.

The living sacrifice was led up to the front of the build-
ing and then killed ; the blood only was the sacred offering
given to Mua. The body was buried in the sacred
place fdj.

A sacred fire and an uniu (oven) were lighted in the
house. These were kept burning whilst the victim was
being killed. At the close of day another fire was lighted
in the marae (courtyard), in which kumara or eel was
cooked and partaken of by the priests and sacred men.
The fire in each instance was procured by friction
(hikaj (d).

When the priests assembled on the first night they
selected twenty or thirty youths of highest rank, and pro-
ceeded with them to a stream, river, lake, or other water,
where the youths went into the water. The priests stood on
the brink^ and dipped a wiw'i, or toe-toe stalk, or piece of
grass, into the water, and dropped some from it into the
left ear of each youth. The priests then went into the
water and two or three times baled some on to the youths,
repeating at the same time incantations to open their ears,
to insure to them a correct and perfect knowledge of all
they were to be taught. The priests then took rimu (raw
sea- weed), and performed over it the same ceremonies and
incantations as were performed by those who survived the
flood. The youths and priests came out of the water, and
went dii'ectly to Mua and to the image representing Kahu-
kura. The priests, repeating incantations, threw some dry
sea-weed. The tapu (d) was then supreme, and all animate or
inanimate matter was sacred. The sole right to punish for


transgression was left with the gods. All returned to the
school, and, having again procured fire by friction, a piece
of roi fdj (fern-root) was roasted and given to an aged
wahine (female), who put it under her thigh fdJ. It was
then presented to the youths one by one as they stood in
a line in the middle, from end to end of the house, each
of whom partook of a portion to insure a continuous ap-
plication to their lessons. They then sat down, and the
priests repeated the mythology and histoiy until midnight.
Only one female (and she must be a sacred woman) was
admitted into this school. Her duty was, by ceremonies
and incantations, to protect the lives fmauri) (d) of the
pupils from every evil. None but the priests and pupils
might eat in the school ; nor must any one sleep there.
If drowsiness were felt by any one of them, it was deemed
an omen that such an one would not live long. He was at
once expelled, and not again admitted.

The father of each pupil must attend to take charge of
his child, to prevent crying, restlessness, whispering, or any
other act by which the attention of others would be dis-

The school was opened by the priests (d) in the season
of kahui-rua-mahu (autumn), and continued from sunset
to midnight every night for four or five months in succes-
sion. From midnight to dawn all slept. Daily exercise in
games and bathing was allowed, but they were not on any
account to go near where food was being, or had been,
cooked ; nor could they associate with any of the people.
Any youth not entitled to a seat in the school who came
near a pupil of lohare-kura, for his temerity, became a
water-carrier to the institution.

Food was cooked daily by females at a place apart from
the settlement, and by them brought to a spot a little dis-
tance from the school ; then it was taken by a water-carrier
or some of the pupils into whare-kura.

The priests whilst teaching, and pupils whilst being
taught, occupied the order already stated. The chief priest
sat next to the door. It was his duty to commence the pro-


ceedings by repeating a portion of history ; the other priests
followed in succession according to rank. On the south
side sat the older and most accomplished priests, whose
duty it was to insist on a critical and verbatim rehearsal
of all the ancient lore. During the time occupied in
teaching, none spake save the rehearser or the criticising

The first lesson taught was the incantation to open the ears
of the pupils ; the next that indicating the path each spirit
must take to obtain energy and zest to acquire the sacred
lore ; then the ceremonies and incantations of Po, Ao, Te-
kore, Maku, and the ceremonies and sacred lore of Rangi.
These were rehearsed each night for one month, to stamp
them indelibly on the memory of each pupil. Then fol-
lowed the most ancient incantation-songs (dj to imbue their
souls with enthusiasm to emulate the mighty deeds of the
gods and men.

Afterwards were taught the origin, attributes, and powers
of Po, Ao, and Tane ; and after these the incantations and
ceremonies of witchcraft ; then those to give bravery and
vigour in war, and to bedim the eyes of their enemies ;
then those over food given to procure death ; then those to
cure the wounded and invalids : with these the term would
close, and all would that night sleep m ivhare-kura. At
dawn of day they proceeded to Mua, to the front of which
was thrown some raw and cooked pitau, or fern root, or
grass, which had been prepared by the priests with cere-
monies and incantations to take the tapu from it, so that
the gods might at once partake of it.

All then went to the water, where the pupils took their
places in it, and the priests standing on the brink, as before
repeated incantations and performed the ceremonies of huri-
i-te-takapau, with each incantation laving water over the
pupils, while the assembled tribes stood witliiu an easy
distance and repeated an incantation for themselves.

The high priest then asked, '' Which of you has perfectly
learnt the ceremonies and incantations ? " Being ansAvered
by one, " I have," the people were ordered by the high


priest to lead a captive up to where he and the pupils were.
The pupil who answered the high priest, to exhibit his
learning and power, hcwitchcd him, and death at once
ensued. The blood from the nose of the victim was taken
on a piece of wood, or stick, or grass, and tied to an
ancient and sacred toko (d) in front of Mua, and offered to
the gods.

If, when being led to his doom, the captive was asked,
'' Where are you going ?" he would answer, " To be
bewitched by one of the pupils of the priests j" and before
the time taken to eook food in a Tiangi (d) could elapse he
would be dead. The ceremonies connected with the death
of the victim were a sacrifice to the gods of war, witchcraft,
and fate. It was optional with the priests to cause the body
to be at once buried in the sacred place of Mua, or to order
it to be cut up and cooked and eaten, to add virtue and
power to the incantations and ceremonies of future divina-
tion, and to counteract the power of secret witchcraft (d),
when food was the medium.

The priests and pupils then returned to the home of the
people, dancing, making grimaces, and singing songs till
they arrived there ; then a fire was kindled by friction for
the ceremony of huri-takapau, and an umu lighted, and
food cooked, and incantations repeated OA^er it. A portion
was taken by a priest to touch each pupil with before he
offered it to Mua; the remainder was eaten by the old men.
Thus concluded the annual term of whare-kiira. The doors
were closed, and the house was left quite untouched until
the opening of the following year.

On the first night of the school being closed the priests
and pupils must sleep out in the open air. On the follow-
ing day they might go to their usual places of abode, but
were not allowed to join in any labour connected with
cultivating or cooking food. Having passed three days at
home, they all met again and proceeded in a body to the
front (dj of Mua, where a mound of eartli was made,
about a foot long, to resemble a lizard fika-ivhenuaj fdj. On
either side of this the high priest placed one foot, and


pressed tlie mound while lie repeated the iueautatiou of

During the time the priests and pupils were engaged in
whare-kura they must not cohabit with their wives, nor
must they procure firewood, save for the sacred fires in
whare-kura only. Teachers, being men of rank, were not
remunerated for their services. Ample exercise might be
taken, in games, or other amusements ; but cultivating or
cooking food was strictly prohibited. Pupils must attend
at whare-kura three, four, or even five years before they
could become priests, or doctors, or teachers. When teach-
ing was resumed in each following year, only the new
pupils were required to submit to the preparatory cere-

School of Agriculture.

The school in which the youths of highest rank were
taught was distinct from the School of Agriculture. In
this school all other grades of society met and consulted
with the priests in regard to all their daily avocations. It
was of considerable size — namely, from sixty to ninety
feet long, and from eighteen to thirty feet broad — and
would accommodate a hundred inquirers, and was lighted
by fires kept in pits in a line up the middle of the house.
Being a resort for all, females were not debarred from
entering and asking any questions relating to their daily
labour ; only those who were pupils in ivhare-kura were
prohibited. Lessons were given and questions answered
only at night. The ceremonies and incantations performed
and repeated in it caused it to be sacred. It was not
occupied as a school every night in succession. Each j9flr
had one or more, according to the number of its inhabi-

As soon as all the lessons had been given on the first
night of the term tliey all rose and went to Mua, where
the priest, whilst repeating iucautations and performing
ceremonies, presented the fronds of jntau to the gods.


At this time Kahu-kura was naked^ as the ceremonies and
ineantations in this school were not very sacred.

When ceremonies of importance preparatory to war were
performed all the people assembled and in a body proceeded
with sacred offerings to Mua. There the priests clothed
the god, first with two old garments, which were covered
with valuable fringed mats called kai-taka, presented by the
people, incantations being repeated the while. This cere-
mony having been performed, Mua was unrobed by the high
priest, and the body of the people returned to their various
occupations. The high priest then took the god from his
place, with the mats and the last offerings presented, and,
surrounded by those who were to proceed to war, he ele-
vated the god, with the mats and offerings, in their midst,
and offered, first raw, and then cooked or singed pitau to
him. This ceremony must not be interrupted by any cir-
cumstances whatever, but be continued till dawn of day,
when they returned to the school, and by friction lighted
a fire, and cooked a portion of fern-root as a tau-maha,
or thank-offering. In the meantime the warriors had
taken their seats in a line; then the priest took the thank-
offering and held it to the nose of each to smell ; it was
then given to an old man to eat, to take the tapu off the

On the following morning a fire was lighted by friction,
and food cooked and offered to Mua to propitiate the gods.
This food was eaten by the most aged of the priests. All
the people were then assembled, and ceremonies and incanta-
tions were performed and repeated to finally rid the people
of all tapu.

Only in winter the people were taught in these schools,
so that, when the seasons for cultivating the kinnara, taro,
and hue, for snaring and spearing birds, for fishing, and
for digging fern- and convolvulus-roots came round, these
might not be neglected. Fern-root was the only food par-
taken of in this school. At this season all lived and slept
there, and no one was allowed to visit his house or culti-
vation. When the building was not occupied as a school


visitors were received and entertained there. It was also
the home of the aged me a and women, and the place
where the people amused themselves with ivhai, poi, and
the other games played in the ivhare-matoro (d).

Astronomical School.

This school was opened in the season of pou-tu (d)
(midwinter). It was a huilding from thirty to sixty feet
long, and eighteen or twenty feet broad. It was erected
outside of the pa, and was frequented by priests and chiefs
of highest rank, who discussed subjects of vital import-
ance to the people. In each year this assembly directed
the days on which crops should be planted and reaped, the
localities where birds and fish should be taken, and all the
details in regard to travelling, visiting, and giving feasts.

They also compared their observations of the heavenly
bodies, and discussed the indications of the omens to the
several undertakings of the year. The stars Pu-anga, Taku-
rjia^ Ao-tahi, Rehua, Kai-waka, Mata-riki (or Mata-ariki),
Wero-i-te-ninihi, Wero-i-te-kokoto, Wero-i-te-ao-marie, were
those which principally guided them in their discussions ;
and to impress the knowledge of these indelibly on their
minds, they rehearsed the lessons taught to them in their

One or more such schools was attached to each pu,
according to the number of its inhabitants. This school
was not entered from sunrise to sunset, nor was any one
allowed to sleep in it. From dusk of evening till dawn of
day it was occupied by those who discussed the subjects
before stated ; and these were only allowed to leave the
house to answer a call of nature.

Those whose duty it was to supply food for the occu-
pants of this school were not allowed to go near to it :
when at a short distance they must call to those within ;
the youngest man Avould come and take it. A female of
high rank might carry food to the door, and rap, and hand
the food in ; but if a female of a junior family took food,
she must stay at a short distance and call till the door was


opened ; a female of high rank would then take the food
from her, and, whilst carrying it to the house, repeat an
incantation ; at the same time he who opened the door
would also repeat an incantation : this they did on account
of the door having been opened.

If an ordinary man — one of the people — carried food, he
would not calL but, when arrived at a convenient distance,
he would throw a stone on the house, and when the door
was opened he would leave what he had taken and return.
He durst not speak to the person who came for the food,
nor would such an one speak to him.

Ample provisions and firewood were daily provided by
the people for the occupants of this school, but only the
junior in age of those who were engaged therein would
carry them inside.

One, two, or three females took part in each session,
whose duty it was to perform all the sacred rites and
ceremonies of the mauri fdj.

Each session occupied three, four, or five months. No
one in that time visited his home, or in any way held
intercourse with the people. They slept in the day-time,
and held their discussions at night. And not till the cere-
mony of ika-whenua was performed were they allowed to
go to their homes. When this house was not occupied by
the priests, the aged and decrepit of the people made it
their home.

At the close of the session similar ceremonies and
incantations were performed and repeated as were per-
formed by the priests at the concluding ceremonies of


Depart ! farewell, ye autuniu uioons.

The gods give signs by lightnings in the skj-.

The active hosts of Ta-whaki, with mj-riad hands,

Besort with sea-birds on the ocean coast.

Each feathered ti-ibe, and those who skim the wind-tossed sea

Their parentage fi-om him derive.

He climbed and gained the highest peak of heaven :

From first sky to tenth did he ascend,

And found the ofifspring of the Lizard-shark,

Eesiding in the home of Tane's-sacred-root,

Where Hiue-a-te-kawa lived.

Still on ascended he, and on.

And came to Tama-i-waho's sky.

And thence the evening star he brought.

And flashes now its rays

On Pu-ki-hikiu-angi's highest peak.

He led the morning star below.
And threw the Lizard-shark into the sea.

Online LibraryJohn WhiteThe ancient history of the Maori, his mythology and traditions .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 27)