1840 - Polack, J. S. Manners and Customs of the New Zealanders [Vol. I.] [Capper reprint, 1976] - Chapter XXVI

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  1840 - Polack, J. S. Manners and Customs of the New Zealanders [Vol. I.] [Capper reprint, 1976] - Chapter XXVI
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THE ridiculous phantasy called Makutu , or the power of bewitching a person to death, is implicitly believed as "confirmation strong as proofs of holy writ." This evil report has often been made use of to effect the death of an innocent person.

It is believed by all barbarous nations, and in New Zealand it has slain its thousands. A person is supposed to be bewitched by smoking from the pipe of an ill-wisher, lying in his hut, putting on his dress, drinking from the same calabash, eating together from the same basket, paddling in the same canoe, and even bathing in the same river. Often have the bones of hapless wretches been produced to us, who had been murdered and subsequently devoured by their brutal foes. A konga or

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malediction is tantamount to the makutu . 1 Bewitching is often performed by incantatory rites, and when a whole tribe is consigned to death, human victims are despatched to fully effect the malediction. Cannibal orgies follow, too horrible and heart-sickening to dwell upon. The priesthood revel in the abhorrent food, and with their bodies sprinkled with human blood, raise piercing shouts, and join in dances, distorting their features and bodies in the most repulsive manner, and sing aloud the curses that shall annihilate their enemies. An illness rarely occurs without the patient or his friends attributing it to the Makutu ; consequently if he should recover, he hastens to wage war,

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murder or rob, the tribe of the person suspected, which in turn, is severely visited by the injured man or his tribe. Interminable warfare, guerre a outrance , follows. To fully effect the Makutu it is necessary to possess some corporeal portion of the devoted victim, such as a lock of hair, the paring of a nail, the saliva caught on a mat, or even yet more repulsive remnants that remind us continually that we are mortal. This obtained, it is steeped in blood, and the malediction is aspirated. But the most extraordinary circumstance is the effect that follows the curse. Death almost in all cases ensues; for as early as the victim discovers that his life has been cursed, he abstains from taking sustenance, and gradually sinks into an atrophy, that closes with death.

Some priests possess the good sense to rally their flock from the effects of the Makutu . We often attempted to rally such persons who had taken the Makutu to heart, but rarely succeeded in doing so.

One young man consented to follow the advice we gave, but notwithstanding his best efforts, he eventually sunk under this astonishing power of the imagination. This may be truly termed "Vox et praeterea nihil ,"

Oaths are much indulged in by this people--they generally savour of the dreadful enormities accompanying cannibalism. They are equally eminent in abusing each other. We have often seen and heard two men cursing each other with the most bitter and injurious expressions, several spectators

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looking on, bestowing applause on the ruffian who best acquitted himself, or whose expressions were most insulting. Among such maledictions, are the following: Ekai na to wangana , may your head be eaten off (as food for your enemy). Kai koe to matua , eat thou of thy parent. Puke tuki tukia , may your stomach be eviscerated, and many others too indelicate even to make allusion. 2 The persons to whom these oaths are addressed, have a just right to demand payment, which is demanded in sub-

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stance, but has been exacted in blood and sacrifice of life.

No chief or his tribe would rest tranquil under any malediction addressed to them. For a person to tell a chief that he would cut off his (the chiefs) head and sell it to the Europeans, would be an opprobrious curse that could not meet with forgiveness. The chief would attempt by every possible means to possess the head of the speaker, and pretended friendship, the better to disguise his treacherous intentions, would in such case be accounted fair play. This occurrence has often taken place, and retributive punishment has followed. We have already recounted the religious festivals of the natives. The most awful rite persisted in by them, 3 is the

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sacrifice of their countrymen to visionary fears, as these people possess no visible objects to pay their adoration to, no music or display to charm the senses,

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or (save the bones of the dead) to engage their veneration. Human sacrifices are performed when the fate of a foreboding war is to be ascertained, or during the interim of an engagement. The first prisoner taken is generally the victim, whose death is comparatively easy, for in the eagerness of each warrior to enslave his person, he obtains a friendly blow, that stays the necessity of competition. The chief priest devoutly addresses the god Wiro or Spirit of Evil, to render his tribe successful in the strife, and at the same time confound the enemy, who the Atua is respectfully informed to be a stubborn, cannibal, and vicious race, wholly unlike the petitioners, with whose meekness and kindness the enemy could never compete. The body is then disjointed by a tomahawk or small axe, and a fair portion is allotted to each chief representing a principal family. The arch-chiefs and priests are only admitted to gastronomize on the first body slain, and the great captain, or generalissimo of the tribes, has the peculiar gratification of having the bleeding heart of the victim as his portion of the

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feast. After the battle, wholesale dissections take place, accompanied with atrocities of the most revolting nature, and in addition, as a refinement in barbarity, the dissections are made in presence of the captured relatives and friends. The scene of intense agony and horror, presented by the tortured parents and children, wives, husbands, friends, all of whom are enslaved to the victor, is not to be described, rendered more appalling by the yells and rejoicing of the cannibals. 4 Similar enormities have been practised by every savage people, previously to the dawning of civilization. The atrocities that were committed by the negroes in the West Indies, between the French and English in North America, the former and the Spaniards in Spain, and existing cruelties in the present civil war, and in parts of disorganized Ireland, shows that human nature, unrestrained by wholesome laws, is the same in every clime. 5

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E. VARTY, Printer, 27, Camomile Street.

1  A curse was accounted of dire import among the ancient nations: thus we find that Abraham prevented his son Isaac from wedding with a woman of Canaan, among whom they resided, because Canaan, the father of the land, had been cursed for misconduct. (Gen. c.9, v.25.) Balak also observes (Gen. c.22, v.6.) in his message to Balaam, "for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed and he whom thou cursest is cursed." Goliath, who bore no considerable affection for David, said "Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves?" and the Philistine cursed David by his gods. (1 Sam. c.17, v.43.) David reaped curses elsewhere, as Shimei, the son of Gera, cursed him as he was passing by with his warriors. (2 Sam. c.16, vv.7.13.) His maledictions appear to have been too grievous for forgiveness, as David charged his son Solomon "his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood," (1 Kings, c.2, v.9).
2  Oaths are coeval with the earliest pledges of mutual intercourse. Abraham and Abimelech made an oath of future amity. (Gen. c.21, v.23.) The method of placing the hand under the thigh, we find practised with the patriarch by the eldest servant of his house. (Gen. c.24, v.1-9.) The herdsmen of Gerar, swear to friendship with Isaac at Rehoboth. (Ibid c.27, v.28-31.) In lieu of oaths, a witness was called in, or the erection of an altar substituted in place thereof. Such a pillar was erected by Jacob and Laban. (Ibid. c.31, v.54.) Jacob had previously erected a similar pillar, of the stones of which he made a pillow, "and vowed a vow." (Ibid c.29, v.18.) But we will not further multiply examples.
The ancients regarded the raising of an altar, as indispensable in a public solemn engagement or oath, and calling on the name of the most high God. Altars and oaths we observe linked in the works of Homer, Virgil, Polybius; as also is fully detailed in Hooke's Roman History , Crevier's Reigns of the Emperors , Kennett's Romae Antiquae Notitia , and Davies's Histories of the Celts and Druids . On vows, see Numb. c.30.
3  Sacrifices are among the most ancient rites of idolatrous worship. The statue of the celebrated Moloch (Livit. c.18, v.21.) was a statue of hollow brass, resembling the bull of the monster Phalaris. The shoulders of Moloch were surmounted with a bull's-head, the arms of the horrid figure were stretched out in a receiving position. The sacrifices were performed by the gigantic statue being heated red, when children were placed by the priests into the deep hollow hands; drums and loud instruments drowning the shrieking voices of the sufferers. The children of Israel were again enjoined (Deut. c.18, v.10.) not to let any of their "seed pass through the fire to Moloch," as being "an abomination to the Lord;" yet tainted with the universal customs of the nations around them, it appears, (Jerem. c.7, v.31,) they disregarded the commandment alike repugnant to their merciful Creator, and the ties of human nature. These awful rites generally took place when public danger was at hand, and even private sickness. Thus "when the king of Moab (2 Kings, c.12, v.31.) saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him" for a burnt offering upon the wall, in sight of the army assembled. Among the heathen kings it was customary to sacrifice their children to perpetuate their own lives. The Northmen, (comprising Danes, Swedes, Norwegians,) sacrificed their children to Wodin or Thor. One king sacrificed no less than nine of his sons to preserve his own worthless life: this affectionate parent discovered at last that he had laboured under a great mistake, as Wodin eventually proved himself unappeased. (Deut. c.12, v.31.) makes mention of these practices. (1 Kings, c.8, v.63.) mentions similar doings on the part of the Canaanites. The Peruvians when sick also sacrificed their children to the Sun, (the object of their worship.) The Greeks, Phenicians, and Latins, burnt human sacrifices; and Saturn, the father of the gods, is represented as having dined and supped on his children. The Egyptians had certain cities, where foreigners and fair-haired people were sacrificed (supposed Albinos) in public, to propitiate Anubis and Apis. The blood and ashes were sprinkled on the populace, each person accounting it a blessing when any portion fell on them. In Micah, (c.6, v.7.) it is demanded, "Shall I give my first-born for my transgression?" Abraham obeyed the voice of God in taking Isaac to sacrifice, it being the custom of his ancestors the Chaldeans, and his agony must have been less dreadful from example. In many parts of India, it is not uncommon to sacrifice infants in this manner. The monster Juggernaut is well known. Formerly several families vied in giving up living souls for sacrifice. The olden Danes and Germans, invariably sacrificed twelve human victims on one day, as feasts for each of the months (twelve moons).
4  That cannibalism is not confined to the New Zealanders the following extract of a letter published in Galignani's Messenger will show. "At Montevideo (South America,) General Rosas gave a dinner (in August last,) at his country house at Palermi, when the head of the unfortunate Cullen and the reins of General Astruda, late Governor of Corrientes, were served up with the repast. --Morning Post, Nov.13, 1839.
5  We purpose omitting the horrible deeds of cannibalism that have (during nearly a seven years' residence) come to our knowledge. Such atrocities are too revolting. It is decidedly a practice of most ancient date. At the famine in the days of Elisha, the women even devoured their children--2 Kings vi.29. All of the South Sea Islanders delighted in revelling in human flesh, and among those people the excuse of famine could not be entertained. Mr. Bourne, a member of the London Missionary Society, was an eye-witness in several islands (in 1825) to this enormity. He says this horrid cruelty is practised towards those who in civilized communities are objects of the most endearing affection. The husband has preyed upon the body of his wife, and the parent upon the child, in a most revolting manner without previous preparation. For the most horrid details, to which even Sir John Barrow himself must become a convert, we refer the reader to the Evidence of the Church and Wesleyan Missionaries, extracts from whose correspondence were laid before the Select Committee for the Colonization of New Zealand in May, 1838. See also the writings of Drs. Spry, Harrison, Leyden, and Forster; Captains Cook, King, Croget, Singleton, D'Entrecasteaux, Bougainville, Duperry, D'Urville, La Place, Kotzebue, Krusenstern, Porter, Carteret, Wilson, Mendana, Lemaire, Drury, Rochon, Crawfurd, Artis, Raffles, etc.

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