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The generally received opinion is that the various religions throughout the world, in Persia, Egypt, India, China, Greece, and other places, owe their origin to able individuals who flourished in each nation in earlier times: but may it not be said with some appearance of truth that the whole of the religious systems, apart from Christianity and the Mosaic dispensation, are traceable to the Creator's communications vouchsafed to man, immediately after the Fall; the emblematic cherubic figures in Eden being at the time explained and understood. 1
An accomplished writer, referring to the Maoris, observes:--"I cannot but think the benevolent of future times would, with astonishment and joy, search eagerly the records which will show that even centuries of idolatry and crime had not wholly obliterated in the minds of such a race a knowledge of their Maker, and a desire for His divine laws."
It is stated that Mr. J. White has accumulated
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a large quantity of Maori lore, furnished by native priests, from whom alone indeed such information could be procured with anything like accuracy; it is to be hoped that Mr. White's valuable manuscript, in its genuine simplicity, will be given to the public at a convenient season.
Sir George Grey achieved a great work when he published in Maori a volume of poems, legends, prayers, &c.--a work which, doubtless, posterity will duly prize, in his preface, he remarks:--"At the present time,  it appeared possible to make such a collection of the ancient poems of the New Zealanders, because they still lingered in the memories of a large portion of the population, although they were fast passing out of use; and so ancient and highly figurative was the language in which they were composed, that already large portions of them are nearly or quite unintelligible to many of their best instructed young men."
The Rev. B. Taylor, in his valuable work entitled "Te Ika a Maui." has commendably added to our scanty store some Maori matters of extreme interest. I speak here simply of works bearing on the ancient native traditions and rites, reference to which will be found in the inaugural addresses of the respective Presidents of the Auckland Institute, His Honor Justice Gillies, and J. C. Firth, Esq.
Many interesting papers could have been procured from the Maoris referring to Patuone, Waka Nene, and their coadjutors, which would
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tell their own tales in their own terse language, while the translations, if published in these pages, would have greatly enlivened the somewhat sombre narrative of this book; but as the dimensions of this work have extended beyond my original intention, I must content myself by introducing to the reader one statement only, that of Mo, which is as follows:--
"Patuone and Waka Nene were great in counsel and great in fight. Tapua was their father; Te Kawehau was their mother. These two also were great according to Maori notions of greatness. Patuone and Waka gave good advice to their tribes and to the Ngapuhi nation generally. Patuone was present at many Maori rights North, and South, East and West. Often he acted as a peacemaker, because it was his custom to prevent bloodshed. In the early times, Patuone and Waka befriended Europeans who visited New Zealand in ships. 2 When the missionaries came, they both befriended them. When the first Governor came, they clung to him and remained firmly on the Queen's side till they died. Maori talk against the Europeans never moved them, they had but one song and one tune; some of the Maoris sing two airs to the one song, and speak smoothly with their tongues while the heart is speaking another language. Patuone and Waka always looked upon the Pakeha as their parent, and said they were bound to defend him when their
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services were required. All the world knows that these men were true in action and speech. In their death, the Maoris say that great trees, giving shade to many, have been uprooted: but the Maori proverb is--"When one great Chief dies, another great Chief lives," and a second proverb is--"The sun goes down when its course is run," and sometimes the Maoris like to go down with the sun, as the song says--"Wait, wait a while, O sun, and we'll go down together." Patuone reached the end of his journey, and lay down to die. Waka Nene did the same. They have gone to be greeted by generations who went before. This is the Maori notion, that all who leave this meet their friends beyond. Another Maori notion is that the spirits of the dead come back to the living, but we always fear their visits. Your religion reveals another state of happiness beyond--perhaps Patuone and Waka are there. This we know, that their good sayings and good deeds will be long remembered by us. Enough."
I have been informed by natives well acquainted with the ancient mode of worship among their people, that the oldest Maori prayers were those addressed to the sacred Io. The following lines from a primitive recitation refer to this great deity:--
"Nekea e Whakatau
Ki runga o Hawaiki,
Whakaturia to whare,
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Me ko te maru a Io;
Nga tokorua a Taingahue,
I maka ki runga,
Hei tohu mo te rangi era."
Move on, O Whakatau,
Move to Hawaiki,
Establish there thy house, [temple,]
As though it were [beneath]
The maru [shadow, or shelter, or sacred headship, or protecting care]
The two of Taingahue [said to be an ancestor,]
Were placed above
As signals in the heavens."
It was the custom of the Maoris to give names to children, sometimes at the birth, or when the infant was some days old, or long before birth, as in the case of Te Tuhi, mentioned in page 15. The father often decided on the name to be given to the child. He would say, "If our child be a daughter, her name shall be Hinetapu, if a son, his name shall be Tamatapu." The sprinkling of the infant by the priest in a stream, occurred one month after the birth, subsequent to which ceremony both mother and infant were allowed to mingle with the people generally, all the tapu restrictions being then removed. Spirits were in all cases dreaded, those of infants particularly,
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perhaps for the reason suggested by Dr. Thomson, that "from their short residence on earth, they had acquired no attachment to mankind."--Story of New Zealand, vol. i, page 17.
Evil of all kinds was attributed by the Maoris to a spiritual personage called Whiro, who influenced the minds of the badly disposed. Premature death, lying, stealing, &c. were said to be the mahi [work] of this god. He is frequently mentioned in the old poems, and often associated with the celebrated ancestral Maori wrong-doer, Tama-te-kapua. To prevent prejudicial influences by Whiro and others, in counteracting the good sought to be achieved by the priest on behalf of the tribe, or certain individual members thereof, he would wade into a stream and weep aloud before and after the recital of his prayers, and often his tears were intermingled with his worship to ensure the sympathy of the deities to whom his petitions were addressed.--Maori Tradition.
It was the custom of the Maoris, on the occasion of a great Chieftain's death, to kill a slave, to cook the body in a sacred oven, and place it on a stage near the carved tomb of the deceased; but when an inferior man died, kumaras and tares only were cooked. In both cases, religious rites
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were resorted to, and prayers recited to ensure the entrance into heaven of the departed spirit, through Tawhaki, the acknowledged ara. [way].--Maori Tradition.
In some localities numerous rites for the safety of the souls of the dead were practised. The officiating priest held a staff the end of which he placed on the heart of the deceased, while prayers were addressed to the Miracle-working-god-man-Tawhaki, so that the spirit of the deceased might ascend to heaven, Tawhaki's abode.--Maori Tradition.
As a general rule the Maoris did not trouble themselves in respect to the curative properties of the plants of their country with which many of them were familiar; but they almost invariably turned from the natural to the supernatural, resorting to prayers, ablutions, &c. in the hope of restoring the sick. The priest accompanied the invalid to a stream, into which the former waded, holding in his right hand the fronds of a fern, and a sprig of koromiko, [veronica,] deemed to be sacred emblems. When the petitions to Uenuku, Maru, or some other deity supposed to preside over the tribe, were concluded, the sufferer was plunged into the stream, it being imagined that these prayers and washings would remove all
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causes of illness. The priest on leaving the stream, again offered prayer, when both retired to a sacred house where they awaited the result of the religious observances referred to above. Sometimes the rite called horohoro [casting off] was practised by the priest, who offered a small quantity of sacred food to the presiding divinity, some of which he ate, and the remainder was consigned to the earth, thereby removing any stain adhering to the oblation. After the priest had sprinkled the place with water, the ceremony terminated.--Maori Tradition.
There were cycles on cycles of nonentity, cycles of chaos, cycles of thick darkness, cycles of twilight, then came light. Prior to the creation of light man was made of clay, but had no innate power of life. His form was allowed to be on the surface of the earth, and certain ones went forth in search of the created man. They unsuccessfully traversed the whole world; then heavenly messengers, seventy in number, were commanded to go forth! They found man destitute of animation, they pressed with their hands the crown of his head where life was said to exist, and called Iouru. From a prostrate position they lifted him to a sitting posture, one taking him by the right hand, one by the left, another standing at his feet, and another at his head, finally they raised him to his feet a living man,.--Maori Tradition.
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When Earth and Firmament separated themselves, the Earth said to the Firmament, "What shall be done with our offspring?" Then the Firmament said, "These two, Tutenganahau and Tawhirimatea, I will take up with me; but Rongomai, [sweet potato,] Haumia, [fern,] and the others will be left as food for man, and to perish on the ground. Although Firmament had separated himself from Earth, the trees and plants of all kinds which grew could not be seen distinctly, being wrapped in mist. Earth then looked up, and she said to Firmament, "Will it not be well to clear away the fogs, so that the trees may be visible, and that your own form may be looked upon approvingly?" Then the Great Heavenly sent one of the sons he had taken up, who had charge of the elements, to disperse the mists, [puro rohu] which he did by causing a mighty wind to sweep over the earth. The surface waters then were dried up, and the mists that shrouded all the trees and the birds, were cleared away. Again Earth looked up and lo, all was bright, and she said "Now we can look upon your form with complacency." So the trees grew and were beautiful to look upon, and the birds multiplied, as did also the fishes of the sea; and man used the kumara, the fern root, the birds and the fishes to sustain him on the earth.--Maori Tradition.
Order did not exist till after the creation of reptiles, fishes, birds, and trees. Order was brought
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about in this wise:--an altercation took place between the reptiles and the fishes, which culminated in the reptiles locating themselves in the woods on terra firma, and the fishes in the waters. To elude the detection of man, Haumia, [the fern,] thrust himself into the soil, leaving no portion of himself visible except the hair of his head. Notwithstanding this attempt at concealment, man found the hair of Haumia's head growing out of the earth, [fronds of Pteris aquilina,] and dug up the root, which he used as food ever after.--Maori Tradition.
PAGE 12.--"We carried off the bodies, which, in accordance with the customs of those days, were consumed by us." The custom of cannibalism was probably of comparatively modern origin. For nine generations subsequent to the landing of the Arawa canoe at Maketu, there were no tribal wars among the descendants of Hei and Tia, and no cannibalism, nor was it known to exist among other Maori nations at that time.
PAGE 18.--The word "Iouru" may be explained rather than translated, as implying the Centre of Life. It is not improbably connected with the name existing in different forms among many nations, as Jah, Ptha, Jove, Isis, &c. As regards the silence on this matter referred to in the
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text, it may be noticed that an obligation to rigid secrecy, and a careful selection of those best fitted to receive the sacred knowledge, are features of all initiatory rites both ancient and modern.
PAGE 25.--The self-immolation of the wives of a deceased Chief to which reference is made in page 25, was plainly a voluntary expression of their extreme affection for the dead. In Fiji the wives of the deceased were strangled for the purpose of providing him, in Bulu, with the attendance of those he had loved on earth.--Seeman's Mission, page 397.
PAGE 56.---That human sacrifices did take place on the occasion of the deaths of the great Chiefs is well known; but the motives which prompted them are doubtful. It must be observed that none of rank were sacrificed, which might strengthen the presumption that the radical idea of them was that of providing attendants in the future world. Human sacrifice is said to be of an early period, originating before the migration from Hawaiki: but of this it would be difficult to obtain certainty. There were instances also of human sacrifice in which the propitiatory idea was dominant. When a Chief was very ill, his relatives would sometimes travel to a distance, and kill some person they met after reaching the
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place selected, not in hostility, but simply as a victim. The slayer then passed between the legs of the person so killed, to perfect the sacrifice and avert the wrath of the atu of the slain. Slaves were certainly killed at the obsequies of the Etruscan princes, such sacrifices being represented in the tomb-paintings. The custom was known at Tahiti in the time of Cook, as he gives an account of such a sacrifice offered at the great marae, at Atahuru, on the occasion of proclaiming war.--See Cook's Third Voyage, vol. ii., page 31.
PAGE 77.--"Tu, or Uenuku." The former is is said to have been invested with certain attributes, when Earth and Firmament separated themselves, and was afterwards recognized as the god of war. The latter is the rainbow, the acknowledged emblem of good-will, and subsequently came to be looked upon as a presiding deity, or his local habitation. Of Tu,--an abbreviation of Tu-tenganahau, or Tu-matauenga,--Mr. J. White says:--"He gave himself the names of Tu-Kariri, the fighter; Tu-Kanguha, the bruiser; Tu-Kaitaua, the war-eater; Tu-Whakaheke-tangata, the man-consumer; Tumatawhaiti, the small face." Whatever powers are attributed by the priests to Tu, it is certain, that the whole of his might is placed by them on the brutal side of the passions of man's nature.
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PAGE 90.--The Maori proverb, "ko te tangata ki mua, ko te whenua ki muri," is very inadequately rendered in the text, by supplying the words "killing" and "taking." A fuller meaning would be given by omitting them. "First the land, then the men" will better represent the Maori axiom that only the extermination of a tribe can give a firm title to the victors.
PAGE 124.--The Maoris drew from their hair and hats the sprigs of evergreen which they wore, and dropped them into the grave. The custom seems to be similar to one practised among Masonic bodies, as will be seen from the following quotation from one of their books:-- "Pass round the grave, and drop the evergreen." This is said by the officiating master, when each one interested drops into the grave a green leaf; or sprig of acacia.
J. H. FIELD, PRINTER, ALBERT ST., AUCKLAND.