Copyright
Polynesian Society (N.Z.).

The journal of the Polynesian Society online

. (page 20 of 26)
Online LibraryPolynesian Society (N.Z.)The journal of the Polynesian Society → online text (page 20 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


sleep {i.e., when the sleeper dreams), thus the wairua can leave the
body without injury thereto, though if one's haa be taken away the
body perishes, as will be seen hereafter. The wairua of a person,
when that person is dreaming, has left his body, and is probably at
some distant place (of which such person is dreaming). It is probably
greeting the spirits {wairua) of other persons, possibly those of the



Digitized by



Google



178 JOURNAL OF THE POLYNESIAN SOCIETY.

dead, or is on the look-out for any danger which threatens its physical
basis, that is to say — the body of the sleeper.

Hence it is exceedingly bad form to waken a sleeping person
suddenly, as by shaking him or calling to him in a loud tone of voice.
Bather should you allow time for the wairua, which may be absent,
to return to the body of the sleeper. Hence, the old Maori will waken
a sleeper by calling gently to him and gradually raising his voice, thus
giving the wairua warning and time to return. Should a person be
awaked suddenly — his body starts or moves suddenly, that is oho mauri,
it is the wairua returning to the body, it is back in a moment, but it
is somewhat of a shock to the person. The wairua lives on after
death of a person, but the mauri or spark of life is extinct, and the
manawa ora or breath of life has departed for all time.

I have heard it stated by natives that the wairua is the source of
all moral ideas, prompting a person to perform good or evil actions.

If a person is trying to bewitch {rnakutu) me, my wairua will
discover the fact as it wanders forth, as I sleep. It will then return
and say to me : — ** So and so is meddling with you/' thus giving me
timely warning. Again, among the natives, should a weaver of cloaks
(made from the fibre of pkormium tetmx) see in a dream such a
garment suspended, as on the turuturu (two upright sticks on which a
cloak is suspended while being woven), it is really the wairua of the
weaver who sees it. Such an occurrence is termed an aroakapa and is
an evil omen {aitua) for the weaver. There is no escape for her, it is
impending death or disaster giving warning of its approach, and the
wairua perceives it and warns the sleeper.

When camped at Te Whaiti some years ago, I received a visit from
the head chief and patriarch of the Tama-kai-moana the sub-tribe
residing at Maunga-pohatu, who had brought in three of his grand-
children that they might attend the native school at Te Whaiti. He
was anxious that I should act as a soft of foster parent to them, the
result being that they spent much of their time in my camp. Some
time after one them died of influenza while at Te Whaiti. When
near her end, her father sent a message to me as follows : — '' Greetings
to you, the wairua of our child, Marewa. Come at once. She is
going.*' Here I was actually termed the wairua of the child,
presumably for the reason that I had fed her and looked after her.
Again, in writing to me some time after the child's death, her mother
said — ** Greetings to you the wairua ora (living spirit or spirit of life)
of the child Marewa." In meeting relatives of the child, they often
greet me — ** The wairua ora of your grandchild, of Marewa."

Tiro, a child of about eight years of age, whose father had long
been absent on the West Coast, said to me — ^* I long to see my father



Digitized by



Google



SPIRITUAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 179

again. I think that I will shoot myself, that my wairua may go to
him " — i.e., that she might visit him in the spirit.

When 'the Pu-Taewa, of infamous memory, jailed Makurata of
Tuhoe, her friends wrote to her, a» she lay in prison. " Be of good
cheer. Although you are afar ofF, yet our wairua are ever with you."

The word kumdmd means ** to desire or long for certain food,** it is
applied to invalids and pregnant women. The following remark was
overheard by myself : — " Kua kumama ake te tupapaku ki tetafu kai
mdna, kataki ka tae mat te wairua ova Id rotn ki a in ** — i.e., the sick
person desired a certain food, (when obtained) then the wairiia ora
entered him.

When camped with us in a survey camp in the wilds of Huiarau,
where the ftire consisted of bacon and biscuit, old Paitini one day
announced his intention of visiting a native village in the valley —
** Kia kite ahau i te wairua o te taewa ** — That I may see the wairua of
the potatoe — a food on which the mountaineers of Tuhoeland
principally subsist.

In the days when the demigods flourished, strange things were
done. At page 68 of White's ** Ancient History of the Maori ** Vol. 2.
may be found an account of certain beings implanting the woinia in
a still-bom child, which child lived and became the wondrous Maui of
famous deeds.

This Maui went a fishing one day, and his hook became fixed in a
sub-marine land which was so heavy that it took him three moons to
pull it to the surface, and even then he had to call in the services of
Rupe (the personified form of the pigeon, said to be an elder brother
of the above Maui). Maui went to Bupe and transferred his (Maui's)
wairua to Bupe* and then placed the end of his fishing-line in Bupe's
beak. Bupe flew skywards and drew up a great land (New Zealand)
from the ocean. Thus that bird became an atua, because he was
imbued with the wairua of Maui.

At some ancient period a form of religion termed Mangamangai-atua
was evolved in, or introduced into New Zealand. The ritual was not
of a high order, judging from the form of words used. The people
gathered together and, while standing, went through a performance of
causing the hands to quiver, rolling the eyes, and reciting a certain
form of words, of which I can make nothing. It appears to have
been something after the manner of the vagaries of the Corjbantes of
Cybele. In the case of the Mangamangai-atua each person is said to
have been possessed of a wairua (other than his own). My informant
stated, '' Possibly they were wairua of the dead."

* This act would probably endow Rupe (Maui-mua) with the great physical
strength of Maui the younger.



Digitized by



Google



180 JOUHNAL OF THE POLYNESIAN SOCIETY.

In travelling at night should a native commence singing, that is
an evil omen and is termed a tupaoe.* The wairua of the singer has
detected some misfortune or disaster approaching the hody which
shelters it. The singer knows nothing of the coming death or trouble,
he cannot perceive it, but his waiiiia knows all about it, and thus
prompts him to sing at night. This is one way that the wairua has
of showing that danger exists for the body.

Should a sleeping person see or hear another threatening him, it
was really his wairua who saw or heard it. Thus the Maori, seeing that
a sleeping person's eyes are closed, and that he does not hear, have
evolved this idea that the wairua possesses the faculties of sight and
hearing, is in fact a sentient spirit.

Among the Tuhoe tribe the delirium or wandering of a sick person
is termed katukutu-ahi. It is said by them to be the wairua of the
invalid talking at random, and is looked upon as a fatal sign.

When, in sleep, a person's waii-ua leaves his body, and in its
peregrinations observes some approaching calamity for the sleeper, or
a relative thereof, such an instance of second-sight is termed rata. In
Malay the term lata denotes the hypnotic power.

According to Maori tradition, one Irakewa was an influential man
of the land known as Tawhiti, some 500 years ago, a land that lies
far away towards the rising sun. And, as Irakewa slept, his wairua
came from that far land and traversed the great seas to Aotea-roa
(New Zealand), and then returned to Tawhiti. When Irakewa awoke,
he said to his people : — " There is a land far away which is a good
land for you to go to. There is a waterfall there, and a cave on the
hill-side, and the rock standing in the river there is myself." That
rock was the kohiwitarnja of Irakewa. Then the vessel Matatua came
from that land and brought many people to Aotea-roa. And they
found the waterfall, the cave, and the rock at Whakatane, in the Bay
of Plenty, where they settled and where their descendants have since
dwelt, even twenty generations of men.

** If, when singing in our house at night, we hear a voice singing
out side, that is a waha wairua (a spirit voice). It is an evil omen
and is termed an iriraftgi.**

If a man kills a relative, or any person of his own tribe, the body
is not eaten, or the waima of the same would destroy the eaters.

The term hutardre is applied to a jet of gas from burning wood.
It is a spirit (wairua) that has come to get fire for itself. It is also a
sign of rain.

" Should my child die, I would perfonn over it the right known as
hirihiri (a form of divination) that the child's wairtm or manawa
(breath or heart) might inform me as to the cause of death."
* Gf. Eai-paoeaa wanderer.



Digitized by



Google



SPIRITUAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 181

In war, when nearing an enemy's stronghold, it was an an anoient
custom to halt and kindle a fire, over which the priest recited certain
incantations in order to cause the wairua of their enemies to enter, or
be drawn into, the fire, and there be destroyed. After that, success was
assured for the attacking party. But should the priest of the enemy
be more powerful and his incantations possess greater rnHna^ then the
attack will fail, for the more potent karakia will retain the wairua of
the garrison.

The bull-roarers {purerehua) formerly used by the Maori produced
a loud whirring or roaring sound when swung round. This noise is
said to have been caused by the wairua of the operator.

During sleep, should a person's waima descend to Hades and there
forgather with the wairua of another person, that is termed a Po-
mariko.

The following legend looks as if the wairua of the dead sometimes
returned to their former abode, that is, to the bones of the dead.
'* In former days, a traveller was pursuing his way through a forest,
when he was overtaken by the shades of night {maru ahiahi). He
sought shelter in a cave, into which he carried his sleeping mat and
his provisions. It happened to be a burial cave (whara) in which lay
the bones of Tu-wharetoa and many another famed warrior of old.
As the traveller lay down to sleep he heard the wairua of Tu-wharetoa
and others, of many generations, singing, chanting a weird inoanta-
in that dark cavern. Then he arose and left, lest the anger of the
gods fall upon him."

The wairua of the dead were said to have sometimes returned to
this world in the form of butterflies, a form of belief in transmigration.
In Samoa they are said to return in the form of moths. A similar
belief obtains among certain peoples of the East Indies, for which see
that most interesting work, ^* Anthropological Religion," by Max
MuUer, p. 291. The gods of the Niassans, of whom he speaks, are
deified ancestors, the sun and the powers of nature.

At the time when I was engaged in collecting the songs of the
Tuhoe tribe, an old man said to me. '' I have another song for you.
It is an anoient lament for the dead, long forgotten by us, but my wife
heard her wairua singing it last night. Still she may not be able to
remember it all. It is not as if the song originated from her (or was
in her own mind), it came from her wairuay therefore she may not be
able to remember it." {A pa he waiaia na tana tinana akst Una, na U
wairua ke^ kaore pea ia $ kaha ki ts whakamahara).

Some time after the child Marewa died, I dreamed that I saw her
come into my tent and stand by the fireside, looking at me in her old-
time manner. This was a kite wairua i.e., our wairua had met and
were looking at each other. On my mentioning the matter I was in-



Digitized by



Google



182 JOURNAL OF THE POLYNESIAN SOCIETY.

fonned by the natives that it was a good omen, but they omitted to
state for whom.

Should a person dream that he meets the wairua of a dead person,
which spirit pursues him, that is, pursues his wairua, and should he
(his wairua) escape from the pursuer — that is a good omen for him
(the sleeper). But should he be caught by the wairua from the Po
(Hades) — ^that is an evil omen. This is also a kite wairtuiy i.e., seen or
known as a spirit, not in the flesh.

When hunting, it is unlucky to dream that one sees a wairua tangata
or human spirit. It is termed a moe-papa.

When, in the forest, you hear strange sounds, as rustlings or as of
strange voices — that is known as parangeki, it is caused by the wairua
of the dead. It must not be confounded with the singing of the
Heketoro (fairies).

Hamiora Pio, of the wandering Children of Awa speaks:—** In
regard to the company of the dead. When we bid farewell to a dead
person, we say : * Farewell ! Go to HawaiM, to the Po-wherikoriko.
Farewell ! the pa whakawairua V For never more shall we see
them, unless we go forth to meet them at night, when sleep has come
to us. Not that we see them then as we used to see them, it is a kite
wairua (we see them in the spirit). It is quite impossible to grasp
them as one does a living person. Living people come and living
people go , they meet and greet each other, they lament, they weep for
the dead, they sympathise with each other. But the company of the
dead are silent, and the company of the dead are sullen. They greet
not those whom they meet, neither do they show love or sympathy, no
more than does a stump. They speak not as living men speak.*'

The Maori appears to have had, in former times, an idea that
inanimate objects possessed wairua. If, when listening to the sound
made by running water, one hears a sound like unto a human voice
singing — ^that is a pu-wawau and an evil omen.

Priests or people versed in second sight (matakite or nuUatuM) i.e.,
seers, sometimes saw a whole company of wairua traversing space.
Such a company was termed a tira mdka or kahui atua and the object
of their visiting this world was to acquaint living persons with the fact
that some disaster or death itself was imminent. Priests would drive
them away to avert the aiiua (evil omen). It was a common thing for
spirits of the dead to appear to their living relatives, in order to warn
them of approaching war parties, or other evils. This will be more
fully exclaimed under the heading of apa hau.

In some cases the wairua of the dead were invoked by means of
karakia (invocations, incantations), in order that they might avenge a
murdered person or perform some other act. We give an illustration
of this function : —



Digitized by



Google



SPIRITUAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 188

" A great meeting was held at Te Awa-a-te-atua. Many tribes
there assembled. Tawharau of the Nga-maihi tribe attended. The
daughter of Bangi-takina beheld him ; he was the most handsome man
of the meeting. The woman sought him as a husband. He said —

* I cannot marry you, for you are of high birth.' She replied — * My
desire for you will never cease.' It was not long before they were
married. Bangi-takina was deeply grieved at this marriage. He and
his tribe arose and slew Tawharau and buried the body. The burial
of the body was observed by a boy of Nga-maihi. He returned to Te
Eupenga (an ancient native fort at Te Teko) and informed Nga-maihi
of the murder. That tribe at once entered their canoes and proceeded
to Te Komutumutu, where they exhumed the body, the priest repeating
karakia during the process. The body was brought to Te Kupenga
and laid upon the sacred place ftudhu) of the tribe. Then the works
of the wise men of old were seen. The priests invoked the aid of the
wairua of the slain person in order to avenge the death of the body
slain by Rangi-takina. Then rose the dead. The priests cried : —

* Behold ! Your man (to be slain), it is Bangi-takina. It is death on
the great waters.' Again was the dead invoked (whakatara). The
priests cried : — * Behold ! Your men (to be slain), the tribe of Bangi-
takina. It is death on the firm land.' Then the body of Tawharau
was buried, and ere many nights had passed Bangi-takina and his tribe
fell in death, and from Tawharau to this day it is three generations of
men."

Evilly disposed persons would sometimes invoke the wairua of the
dead to slay people of the World of Life without just cause. In one
case of this kind the wairua was armed with a taiaha by the invoker
and instigator, it was seen bearing the taiaha and searching for some-
one to slay. One valliant person challenged it, axe in hand, the
wairua fled to the burial ground and disappeared into a grave. The
pursuer opened the grave, cut off the thigh and took it to the invoker,
saying, — "Your man slaying wairua is no more, I have destroyed it."

The foregoing is a modem story and bears a somewhat pakeha
impress, which it is well to note.

Again : — ** Friend ! There were two people of the Ngati-Awa

tribe who died, and their wairua descended to Te Beinga. The names

of those men were Kukia and Toihau. Their own parents (who had

died before them) returned them to this world. Their wairua returned

to the bodies, and then they spoke of strange things. They said that

when their spirits arrived at the ridge or resting place where the wairua

of the dead paused awhile before passing down to the underworld, they

stood a while on the sands. The name of that place is the Berenga-

wairua (the spirit's leaping place).''' Then the rocks opened out amid

* The last resting plaoe of spirits before desoending to Hades is kuown to some
natives as Te Taumata-i-Haomn and to some as Te Morianoku.



Digitized by



Google



184 JOURNAL OF THE POLYNESIAN SOCIETY.

the waves, the long seaweed swirled fmdwe) aside and the spirits
descended. They went on until they came to a fence or wall, which
was guarded by certain people (spirits). The guards said — '' Do not
pass under the obstruction, but climb over it.** So they fared on and
saw numberless people passing to and fro, and they were all spirits.
At last they came to the spirits of their own tribe and saw their parents.
Greetings passed between them and finally those two were returned to
this world, that is the wainia returned to their bodies which again came to
life. Son ! What induced me to speak of this matter to you was this —
our ancestors never taught us that Bangi, our father (the Heavens, the
sky Parent, the origin of mankind) issued a command or law that his
descendants should ascend to him (at death). The word of Bangi to
Papa (the Earth Mother) was this — '* A taua mokopuna atawhaitia,
kuna tikirikif ngaro hi tua, fd foi, ki uta, ki ts Po-uriari^ ki te Po-tango-
tatufo, i uta, i tua^ % waho,'* (Our grand-children, foster them ; conceal
effectually in portions (let them be), hidden, beyond, seaward, inland,
in the Deep-Darkness, the Black-Darkness, inland, beyond, outside.)

All Maori tradition and mythology bears out the statement that the
wairua of the dead descend to the P'>, the underworld and did not
ascend to the heavens. The only beings tradition tells of as having
ascended to the sky were the demi-gods — Tawhaki, Karihi, Bongo-
maui and Hau-ki-waho. They each went for a special object and all
returned to this world, i.e., to earth. Yet a very ancient legend or
fragment of mythology asserts that there are ten worlds or heavens and
that the tenth is the world of the wairua (ko te au tua-itgahuru koina te
ao nohoanya o nga wairua), I obtained this item from an old priest of
the Ngati-Awa tribe of the Bay of Plenty, but it has also been collected
by others. Mr. John White, in his work already quoted, gives Wairua
as the name of the ninth heaven and states : '* Spirit gods dwell in
this place, to attend on the gods of the tenth heaven.*' He also gives
the name of the fourth heaven as Hau-ora. and states : ** From hence
comes the spirit to the child about to be born.** Although these state-
ments may appear somewhat contradictory, yet is there much of interest
contained therein. If my memory serves me the Chaldeans believed
in a system of seven heavens, but no reference library exists in the
forests of Tuhoe-land.

We have seen that the general Maori belief was that at death the
wairua left the body and descended to the underworld. Yet the natives
are much afraid of the ghosts of the dead, termed kekua. These are
said to be the wairua of the dead, and are looked upon as malevolent
demons which work harm to man. These two beliefs are somewhat
contradictory and I have not received any satisfactory explanation
thereof. When questioned about the matter the natives differ some-
what in their explanations. One informed me that the wairua does



Digitized by



Google



SPIRITUAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 186

not descend to Hades, instancing the wairua of Hopemotu which was
retained by Uhia in this world. Another said that the wairua remains
here as an ntua whakakashae or kehua (ghost) until the body is buried,
. when it departs vid Te Beinga for the underworld.

Regarding the first statement — Hopemotu was the name of a still-
born child, and the wairua of such are believed to remain here as man-
destroying demons, as we have already shown. By means of divers
magic rites, one Uhia of the sub-tribe of Tama-kai-moana was enabled
to control this caco-demon and utilise its services as a war god, known
to fame as Te Kehu-o-Tainui, and so potent was that dread demon
that the phalanx of Tuhoe defeated Te Arawa of the Boiling Water
Country in pitched battle, their spears routed the Sons of Tu-wharetoa
and left but the drifting birds on the face of Taupo-moana.

The other statement — ^that the wairua remains here as a ghost only
so long as the body is unburied — is also inadmissable, which might be
proved by examples ad nauseam.

An excellent illustration of the native belief in the human wairua
and its strange manifestations, may be found in an article entitled
** Nga Tangata Maori," contributed by Col. Gudgeon to the ** Monthly
Beview," published by Lyon and Blair, at Wellington. Vol. 1. p. 428.

Other items in regard to the wairua will be explained under the
heading of ** Apa hau,*'

The Irish people, when sitting by the fireside at night, will remark
— ** Let us go to bed so that the * old people ' (i.^., the dead, or their
wainut) may warm themselves.*' Among the same people, after a
death, no water may be thrown out of the house for some days, lest it
be cast upon the spirit of the dead.

According to Maori belief, the hau and wairua of a child are
implanted during coition, by the father. The mother is merely a
whare rnoenga, i.e,^ recepticle. The Maori had the same belief in, or
grasp of, the active and passive agents as had all peoples who have
practised the phallic cult.

Of innumerable notes concerning the wairua of man, I have but
one treating of the taking of the wairua of a dead person in the
manner that the hau is taken.

When Tamarau and Rawaho recovered the bones of their grand-
father, Hape the Wanderer, they took his wairua or rather the arid
(material form or form of incarnation) of the same. This arid was a
lock of his hair, which was placed in the sacred belt, the same
receptacle that contained the inauri of the kumara, of which more
anon.

The Maori code of ethics was a somewhat peculiar one. The
person who lapsed from virtue and strayed into the paths of vice, was
assuredly treading dangerous ground. If guilty of the crime of



Digitized by



Google



186 JOURNAL OF THE POLYNESIAN SOCIETY.

murder or of slaying, or attempting to slay anyone, by means of witch-
craft, without just caase, he was usually punished through the agency
of his hau, that is to say, his hau was taken and his body doomed to
death by the spells of witchcraft (makutu), A person guilty of theft
was punished in the following manner : — The person who had been
robbed would take to the priest the kau of the place from which the
article had been taken. His hau would probably be a portion of earth
on which the article had been laid. Or he would take the rndtce of the
stolen article. This term almost, if not quite, equals ahtia (resemblance
or personality). In one case that came to my knowledge the ahua of
some stolen money was taken to the priest. This ahua was a coin
which the thief had overlooked.

As the person approached the priest, the latter would see (and
recognise) the wairua of the thief advancing by the side of the bearer
of the hau or mdwe. The priest would say — " Behold ! You approach
me side by side." The hau bearer would then ask — " Who is it ? "
'' It is so and so (giving the name of the person). He is at your side."
The priest would then call upon the spirit of the thief to confess. If


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 22 23 24 25 26

Online LibraryPolynesian Society (N.Z.)The journal of the Polynesian Society → online text (page 20 of 26)