1817 - Nicholas, J. L. Narrative of a Voyage to New Zealand [Vol.I] - CHAPTER II

E N Z B       
       Home   |  Browse  |  Search  |  Variant Spellings  |  Links  |  EPUB Downloads
Feedback  |  Conditions of Use      
  1817 - Nicholas, J. L. Narrative of a Voyage to New Zealand [Vol.I] - CHAPTER II
Previous section | Next section      


[Image of page 35]


Port Regulation--The abuse of it censured--The form explained--We are detained a week in Watson's Bay---A sudden change in the behaviour of the chiefs--The reason of it--Duaterra is undeceived--Censure of malignant calumniators--Success of the Missionaries in Otaheite--We set sail--Journal of the voyage kept-- A convict is concealed on board the. ship--Pursued, but cannot be found--The crew and passengers get violently sea-sick -- Ludicrous behaviour of Korra-korra -- The chiefs entertain us with a song--Opinions of the New Zealanders on the creation of the world--Their gods-- Two curious traditions among them--A ceremony resembling baptism practised by them.

Among the port regulations existing at the colony, is one which directs that no vessel shall put to sea without having previously mustered the passengers and crew at the Secretary's office, where their names, and other particulars respecting them, are to be formally taken down. The reason assigned for this order is plausible enough; to prevent convicts from making their escape, and debtors from running away without settling with their creditors: but, as a fee of half a crown is required from each individual,

[Image of page 36]

even after his character is proved to be correct, I cannot help thinking that all this preventive caution is used only to fill the purse of the Governor's secretary, who makes no inconsiderable sum by this species of exaction. Mr. Marsden and the New Zealand chiefs were obliged to submit to this demand; and however extremely proper it may be, to preserve an active vigilance over the abandoned and unprincipled, I can see no reason why men of integrity should pay for being approved, and be subject to a regulation, which, in justice, ought never to affect them. The form made use of on these occasions, will be seen by the following specification, which is the clearance of our vessel, the brig Active, 110 tons, for New Zealand.

The Ships Company.

Mr. Thomas Hansen, free settler, master.
Alexander Ross, came free in the Surry.
John Hunter, free by birth in New South Wales.
Thomas Hamilton, free by servitude.
William Campbell, free by certificate.
War-ra-kee, New Zealander.
Tommy, ditto.

[Image of page 37]

Dicka-hee, Otaheitan.
Punnee, Bolabolan.


Rev. Samuel Marsden, principal chaplain of New South Wales.
Mr. William Hall, missionary.
Mrs. Dinah Hall, wife of Mr. William Hall, missionary.
William Hall, aged three years, son to ditto.
Mr. Thomas Kendall, missionary.
Mrs. Jane Kendall, wife of Mr. Thomas Kendall.
Thomas, Henry, and William Kendall, children to ditto.
Mr. John King, missionary.
Mrs. Hannah King, wife of Mr. John King.
Philip King, aged fifteen months, son to ditto.
Thomas Hansen, junior, son to the master.
Mrs. Hannah Hansen, wife to the master.
Walter Hall, convict; specially permitted to embark, on security being given for his return in three years, by the Reverend Samuel Marsden.
Henry, alias Patrick Shaffery, convict; security ditto.

[Image of page 38]

Richard Stockwell, convict; security ditto, by Mr. Kendall.
Mr. John Liddiard Nicholas, free settler.

Duaterra, Shunghi, Korra-korra, Chiefs in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand.

Tui, Jacky Miti, Tommy, Young Shunghi, Tenana, New Zealanders,

In all, 35 persons,

It will easily be supposed that with such a number of persons crowded on board a small vessel, our situation was not very comfortable; yet, besides human beings, we had also cattle, together with sheep and pigs for our live stock, and an immense quantity of poultry, belonging to the missionaries. In short, with the addition of goats, cats and dogs, and a variety of other animals, our ship contained such a heterogeneous collection, that it might justly be said to bear a perfect resemblance to Noah's ark.

The wind being E. S. E. and a strong gale blowing directly into the harbour, we were

[Image of page 39]

detained a whole week in Watson's Bay; and though we made several attempts to get out, we were unable to effect it, as the ship was too clumsily built to sail against the slightest opposition of the weather. During the time we were thus detained, we had the mortification to find the chiefs, on whose good faith the safety and success of the expedition were to depend, gloomy, sullen, and reserved. This strange alteration was particularly observable in Duaterra, who, on all former occasions, was lively and communicative: he appeared quite dejected, a kind of morose melancholy overspread his countenance, and it entirely lost that vivacious animation which it used to display before. The two other chiefs were equally dull; but the symptoms were not so evident as those which he betrayed, for in his face the agitated workings of his soul were clearly perceptible, while his dark brow, knitting itself into indignant frowns, showed us, too plainly, the violence of some internal passion. Surprised and disconcerted at this total change, we knew not to what we should attribute it. The presents they had received, which to them were of considerable value, and calculated to enhance their importance among their countrymen, were distributed

[Image of page 40]

with a strict impartiality, and a particular regard to afford satisfaction to all, without creating the least jealousy in any. Yet, as this was extremely difficult, on account of their being capricious in their choice, and apt to consider the merest trifle as a distinguished preference shown to some one of them above another; we imagined this unusual alteration in their behaviour, might have proceeded from some false notion of this kind. There was no other apparent motive for it that we could perceive, as they had always expressed a desire that we should visit their country, and establish a settlement of our people among them. But this was not the true cause, and, to our very great surprise and alarm, it was one which of all others we could least suppose; a jealousy and distrust of the Missionary establishment, which, from some wicked misrepresentations, they regarded as ruinous to the independence of their country, and fatal to their own influence; while not only their liberties, but even their lives, would be compromised by it. Duaterra, after some hesitation, gave this as the true reason of the change in his own manner, and in that of his companions; and told us plainly, he regretted, from his heart, the en-

[Image of page 41]

couragement he had given us to go to his country; as he was informed by a gentleman at Sydney, that the Missionaries then going, would shortly introduce a much greater number; and thus, in some time, become so powerful, as to possess themselves of the whole island, and either destroy the natives, or reduce them to slavery. The gentleman, he said, desirous to convince him of the truth of this assertion, bid him look at the conduct of our countrymen in New South Wales, where, on their first arrival, they despoiled the inhabitants of all their possessions, and shot the greater number of them with a merciless cruelty; while, in some few years, the whole race of that once happy people would be entirely extinct. This diabolical reasoning succeeded but too well in awakening all the fears and suspicions of Duaterra, who communicated his apprehensions to the other chiefs; and with them appeared suddenly changed, in the manner I have described. Dismayed by the effects of this infamous calumny, we knew not how to act; our hopes of success were entirely built on the protection to be afforded by the chiefs, which now, it appeared, we could have no reason to expect: otherwise, how could a few defenceless

[Image of page 42]

families possibly think of residing among a nation of hostile savages, or venture, for a moment, to believe themselves secure? To proceed, while the chiefs entertained such unfavourable impressions respecting us, would be madness; and to be obliged to return, after we had made all the necessary preparations, which caused a very weighty expense, would be provoking in the extreme. However, we were soon happily relieved from this state of anxious perplexity. Mr. Marsden, after assuring Duaterra that the Missionaries were prompted by no motives either of ambition or avarice, to visit his country, but, on the contrary, were actuated by the most disinterested and benevolent solicitude for the happiness of the New Zealanders, told him he would soon convince him of his own and their sincerity, by instantly ordering the vessel to return to Sydney Cove, where the Missionaries and their families should be landed, and never more think of holding any intercourse with his country. This argument produced an instantaneous effect on the mind of the chief, whose zeal for the civilization of his people, nothing but so abominable a deception as was practised upon him could counteract; and who now,

[Image of page 43]

convinced of his error, in supposing Mr, Marsden capable of deluding him, besought that gentleman, with the most anxious entreaties, to proceed; while he re-assured the Missionaries of his protection and fidelity. He did not, however, vouch for the good faith of his companions, who had not the same opportunities as himself of forming an estimate of our character, or knowing the value of our enlightened superiority. On the contrary, he thought that, from the misrepresentations they had heard, they might be prompted to acts of violence on getting to their country, and, for this reason, advised Mr. Marsden to establish the settlement in the Bay of Islands, where he and his tribe could easily protect it. Mr. Marsden, highly gratified at having undeceived him, readily promised to comply with his wishes, and Duaterra immediately resumed all his usual good humour.

But here I cannot help expressing my regret, at not being able to hold forth to public execration, the name of the malignant wretch who could thus poison the mind of the rude barbarian. Duaterra, from a principle of honour, (for this principle exists even among savages,) refused to tell it; but let the base calumniator feel the mere severe punishment

[Image of page 44]

of keen remorse, and let him experience, in the compunctions of a troubled conscience, the just reward of his odious slander. That a man could be found vile enough to shut out, by such means, the light of civilization and improvement from the children of darkness and error, is not only a disgrace to the species, but even a reproach to human nature itself; yet too true it is that there are, at this moment, many such men at the colony, and some even who assume the rank and character of gentlemen. These worthless individuals, whose conduct no epithet, which decency supplies, is sufficient to reprobate, look upon Mr. Marsden with the blackest malignity, and finding his character much too strong for their more infamous assaults, employ the weapons of ridicule against him upon all occasions; but these are quite as ineffectual; the latter he can despise, and the former, at all times, he can boldly repel.

During the time we lay waiting for a favourable wind, the colonial vessel, Campbell Macquarie, arrived in Watson's Bay from Otaheite; the commander, Captain Barnet, brought letters from the missionaries stationed at Eimeo, who wrote very favourably of the friendly disposition of the natives. From

[Image of page 45]

these it appeared that more than a hundred of them regularly attended public worship, and that two hundred of the children were learning to read and write; an excellent proof of their readiness to meet the views of their instructors, and of the rapid progress which civilization was making in that Island. The vessel had been eighteen months from the colony, and brought with her, on her return, a ton of pearl shells, with a few pearls, and about twenty tons of pork.

The wind at length becoming favourable, we were determined to avail ourselves of it without further loss of time, and to put to sea immediately. I shall here insert a journal of the voyage, in the same order as I kept it, beginning with the first day of our leaving the harbour, which was

Monday, November 28th, 1814. --The wind this morning changing more round to the westward, we were enabled to clear the heads or outward extremity of the harbour, and steering an easterly direction, the south head of Port Jackson, from whence we were to take our departure, bore at noon, W. S. W. distant about seven leagues. When passing the heads, we were followed by a boat, and desired by the people in it to deliver up to them a fugitive

[Image of page 46]

convict, who, they said, had contrived to secrete himself on board our ship. Mr. Marsden immediately directed a search to be made, but the person sought for was not to be found, and though the New Zealanders said they had tickee tickee (seen) a strange man, the sailors declared he could not possibly be on board; while appearing satisfied with the report they made, the boat took its departure. However, when we had got to some tolerable distance from the harbour, not only the fellow who was the object of their pursuit, but also another, who had likewise concealed himself, appeared walking oh the deck without the least concern.

Soon after our quitting the port we encountered a smart gale of wind and a heavy swell of the sea, which, tossing about our little ship in all directions, produced an instantaneous effect on every living thing on board. Both the human and the brute species experienced a derangement of their system at the same moment, and bipeds and quadrupeds, of all descriptions and degrees, were equally labouring under the most violent sea-sickness. The New Zealanders, it soon appeared, were not accustomed to attacks of this kind, and were but ill prepared to bear them. They

[Image of page 47]

shook their heads, and said, nuee nuee, mattee mattee, (very ill) and instantly repairing to the places assigned for them to sleep, they never showed themselves till the weather changed, and the convulsion of the sea had entirely subsided. Mr. Marsden was most severely attacked, and could find no rest either in his cot or on deck; above or below was all the same, he still continued a prey to convulsive retchings, and the disorder of his stomach would yield to nothing that was offered, either as a remedy or palliative. This disagreeable complaint had a strange effect on poor Mr. Kendall; it made him forget for the moment that he had a wig upon his head; which falling off, in his endeavours to relieve his stomach, dropped overboard, and left him under the necessity of tying a red handkerchief round his temples, which, with the death-like paleness of his face and the grim languor of his eyes, made him appear so complete a spectre, that he forcibly reminded me of Banquo's ghost. As for me, I had but a very slight attack, which I soon got over; but the scenes of disgusting nastiness, which I was every where obliged to witness, were truly intolerable, and I longed, most impatiently, for the period that was to put an end to them.

[Image of page 48]

Tuesday, November 29th. -- The wind having happily abated, our sick people began to recover, and most of them ventured to show themselves upon deck. Duaterra and I played together at drafts, in which the proficiency he had made excited no small degree of surprise. Shunghi employed himself during the whole of this day in making a cartridge-box, in which he displayed his usual ingenuity; but in cutting the holes for the cartridges, being desirous it should contain as many as possible, he made the partitions so very thin that many of them broke, which, to the eye of a mechanic, gave it rather an unfinished appearance. What a pity it is that those powerful talents with which men are frequently endowed by nature, should so often be suffered to remain uncultivated, and that a genius, which might penetrate the researches of science and the secrets of art, must often sink, while conscious of its own powers, in ignoble obscurity! How justly does the poet say,

"Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of Ocean bear--
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air!"

Had the genius which Shunghi inherited from nature, received the advantages of

[Image of page 49]

judicious instruction, it might, I doubt not, have placed him on a level with some of the first mechanics in Europe, and might have finely completed in the civilized man, what had rudely commenced in the untutored savage.

Wednesday, November 30th. --The weather being extremely fine, with only some light breezes, the ship made very little way, and was forced by a strong current about eight miles to the southward.

Thursday, Dec. 1st. --The weather still fine and clear. Lat. 34 deg. 28" S. Long. 154 deg. 13" E.

That pride and vanity are closely allied to ignorance, is a fact that needs no illustration; and I was not a little amused, this day, with witnessing the connection between them. Korra-korra, while at the colony, was much struck with the formal respect paid to Governor Macquarie, and used to dwell with a kind of envious admiration on the great power with which he was invested; calling him frequently nuee nuee arekee, (a very great king,) and appearing evidently anxious to be raised himself to a similar elevation. Imagining, therefore, that it would add to his dignity to make Governor Macquarie the model of his imitation he was resolved to copy him in all the formalities of his rank, as closely as his rude con-

[Image of page 50]

ception of them would permit, and even to assume his very name, in order, if possible, to identify himself with his envied prototype. His behaviour this morning was truly ludicrous, his imagination being more than usually inspired with this self-created importance. On my going up to salute him, and in a familiar manner addressing him by his name, he immediately drew back, with an affected and haughty air, telling me, he was not Korra-korra, but Governor Macquarie, and expected I would salute him as such. Willing to indulge him in his capricious vanity, I instantly made him a low bow, and paid my respects to him as the Governor; upon which, aping the manner of his Excellency, he held out his hand to me as a mark of his condescension, and made at the same time a slight inclination of his head. He seemed anxious that I should think myself highly honoured, for being thus noticed by a person of his exalted station; and told me he would never again go by the name of Korra-korra, but, on his arrival at New Zealand, should always be called Governor Macquarie. Thus even are the rudest barbarians dazzled with the distinctions of office and the pageantry of power.

Friday, December 2nd. --The weather fine

[Image of page 51]

with moderate breezes. Lat. 34 deg. 54" S. Long. 155 deg. 41 "E.

In a conversation which we had this day with Duaterra, we learned from him that much time is frequently employed by his countrymen in observing certain stars and constellations, which they are very fond of contemplating. They have given names to each of them, and have likewise connected with them some curious traditions, which they hold in superstitious veneration. These traditions have continued among them from time immemorial, and have been carefully preserved and transmitted by their priests, who alone are the depositories of their mystical arcana. According to Duaterra, it is usual with them, in the summer season, to remain awake during the greater part of the night, watching the motions of the heavens, and making inquiries concerning the time when such and such a star will appear. If the star they look for does not show itself at the time it is expected to be seen, they become extremely solicitous about the cause of its absence, and immediately relate the tradition which they have received from the priests concerning it. To the man who will reflect, and consider that all the improvements of civilized life and all the dis-

[Image of page 52]

coveries of science, have proceeded from an anxious and persevering spirit of investigation, this fact of the New Zealanders contemplating the wonders of the firmament, and endeavouring to account for them by the wild vagaries of their own imagination, cannot fail to be interesting. He will see from this, that man, even in a state of nature, is anxious to ascertain the causes of the mighty works which he surveys around him, and will ascribe to this noble impatience of the human mind, every advance in science, from the days of Pythagoras to the immortal era of Newton.

Pointing out some of the stars, he gave us the names assigned to them by his countrymen. The constellation forming the Belt of Orion, they call the Whacka or the Canoe, and have some tradition relating to it which he did not communicate; the Pleiades they believe to be seven of their countrymen, fixed after their death in that part of the heavens, and that one eye of each of them, which appears in the shape of a star, is the only part that is visible. To the two clusters of stars which form the Magellan Clouds, they give the names of Fire-bou and Arete, and have many superstitious ideas concerning them, but which we could hot discover, as Duaterra himself was not

[Image of page 53]

perfectly informed on this subject. In two months, he said, a cluster of stars would rise, some of which would represent the head and others the stern of a canoe, while close to them would appear another star which they call the Anchor, and which, setting at night and rising with the dawn of the morning, serves to regulate their hours of repose and labour.

The day having passed as agreeably as could be expected, the chiefs in the evening entertained us with a song, the words of which were composed by the daughter of the late Tippahee. The subject of it was the visit of her father to Port Jackson. It was a plaintive and melodious air, and seemed, I thought, not unlike some of our sacred music, in many of its turns; as it forcibly reminded me of the chanting in our cathedrals, it being deep, slow, and extended; but, from the constant repetition of the same words, the ideas they contained must have been few, and could have but little variety of allusion. It was divided into parts, which the chiefs sung separately, and were joined in chorus, at certain intervals, by the other New Zealanders; while they all concluded it together. Singing and dancing appear

[Image of page 54]

favourite amusements with all savage nations, and these people are particularly fond of both. Indeed, I think this propensity is wisely ordained by nature, as a sure preventive of that listlessness and morbidity, which the want of regular employment and habits of active industry, would otherwise inevitably produce. The unpolished child of nature is seldom affected with constitutional melancholy, and his manner of living is by no means calculated to induce it. Though not engaged in any one fixed and regular occupation, to which, among civilized nations, the mind, if employed at all in active pursuits, is particularly devoted; he still never finds the time hang heavily on his hands, nor does he experience, in the least degree whatever, that sort of fashionable sensation, which lounging idlers term ennui. Cheerful and lively in himself, the animal spirits are at all times buoyant; and, whether attending to his desultory employments, or spending his time in doing nothing at all, he is still invariably the same. In either case, he can reflect with rapture on the fantastic mazes of the war-dance, or hear with enthusiastic delight, the song which gives the signal of battle to his tribe, and has frequently led himself to victory. His body.

[Image of page 55]

too, is constantly prepared to act in cooperation with his mind; for his food being light, and his exercises manly, he is always intrepid and vigorous, unless where the climate is too hot, which must of course considerably relax his energies.

Saturday, December 3d. --Light breezes and pleasant weather, in Lat. 35 deg. 31" S. Long. 156 deg. 26" E.

The New Zealanders, as far as we could discover from Duaterra, have some confused ideas of a Supreme Being; but their superstitions are in general most absurd and extravagant. Besides a Supreme Power, of which, as I said, they have some notion, they likewise believe in a great number of inferior gods, to each of whom they have given distinct powers and peculiar functions. One of them they have placed over the elements; another, over the fowls of the air and the fishes of the sea; and there are an infinite number of others, whose duties are so complicated and multifarious, that it would fill a large volume to recount them. In addition to those superstitions which have been suggested to them by their physical necessities, they have many others, which have originated with the affections of the mind:

[Image of page 56]

hence they have been led to deify the various passions of the human heart, and Anger, Grief, Joy, &c are all included in their system of theogony.

Though my ignorance of their language prevented my being able to obtain a detail of all the imaginary beings, which are objects of worship and veneration among these people, still I acquired, through the medium of Duaterra, a knowledge of those which have the strongest influence over their minds, and whose power is held by them in the greatest degree of religious awe.

The first of those is called Mowheerangaranga, the Supreme Deity, with whose dignity and attributes they are totally unacquainted; though, from some internal suggestion, they have placed him at the head of the list, Teepockho, the God of Anger and of Death, is the next grand deity whom they seem most anxious to propitiate; and that persons in their dark state should imagine the existence of such a supernatural being, is not at all surprising, when we consider that anger and death are capable of making the most serious impressions even on the best cultivated minds.

Towackhee, the god who presides over

[Image of page 57]

the elements, comes the next in succession, and is regarded by them, as holding a station of peculiar importance. After this god, follows Mowheemooha, a deity whose power and operations are rather limited. The office they have assigned to him, is, to make land under the sea, which, when completed, he is to fasten with a hook to a large rock, and leaving it there in a state of preparation to be drawn up, his duty ceases; while Mowheebotakee, another god of considerable power, comes to do his part, which is, to haul up the work of his fellow deity, the moment it is executed. Mowheebotakee, besides this office, performs others likewise of very great importance, and is dignified with attributes of a higher order than those which distinguish even the most exalted of the rest, the supreme himself being hardly excepted. The superintendence and management of all human diseases, are peculiarly within his province; and even the most important function of all, the power of giving life, though not of taking it away, (which latter privilege belongs to Teepockho,) is exclusively vested in him. These important beings are succeeded in the catalogue by one of a very melancholy cast, the God of Tears and of Sorrow, whom they

[Image of page 58]

call Heckotoro. They have a curious tradition concerning this god. They tell you, that having, by some untoward casualty, lost his wife, he came down from heaven in the greatest consternation, to look for her, and, after seeking to no purpose in many other places, he was at length fortunate enough to find her in New Zealand, where she was straying about for a considerable time before. Delighted at meeting with her, he immediately put her into a canoe, and having tied a rope to both ends of it, they were at once hauled up to heaven; where, to signalize their re-union, they were changed into a cluster of stars, called Ranghee, which the New Zealanders point out, and affirm to be the identical pair.

To the curious reader, a full account of the mythology of these people would not be uninteresting; but this can only be given, by a long residence in their country, and an intimate acquaintance with their language; so that the Missionaries, I conceive, will be best qualified for such a task, and from them it will probably be expected.

Among the numerous traditions of the New Zealanders, there are two which are very remarkable; one of them, for the extra-

[Image of page 59]

ordinary affinity it has to a fact, which is acknowledged by all who believe in the authenticity of the Gospel; and the other, for its similarity to an absurd legend, which for ages past has prevailed in England. The first of these refers to the creation of man, and has been handed down from father to son, through all generations. They believe the first man to have been created by three gods, Mowheerangaranga, or Toopoonah, or grandfather, Mowheermooha, and Mowheebotakee; but give the greatest share in the business to the first-mentioned of these deities. They likewise believe, which is more curious than all, that the first woman was made of one of the man's ribs; and to add still more to this strange coincidence, their general term for bone is Hevee, which, for aught we know, may be a corruption of the name of our first parent, communicated to them, perhaps, originally, by some means or other, and preserved without being much disfigured, among the records of ignorance. I shall not, however, positively defend this opinion; though I think it extremely probable, that these islands may have been first colonized from some parts of the East, and that the original settlers may have brought with them some knowledge of

[Image of page 60]

the true account of the creation; but which knowledge, their posterity, degenerating into barbarism and darkness, were not able to preserve.

In regard to the fabulous tradition to which I have adverted, they say, as I have been informed by Duaterra, that formerly, before the moon gave any light to man, and when the nights were involved in total darkness, a certain individual of their countrymen, named Rona, went out one night to fetch water from a neighbouring well, and that in endeavouring to grope out his way, he hurt his foot by some accident or other, and became so very lame that he was unable to return home. While in this dilemma, groaning with pain and trembling with fear, he felt, it seems, the moon come suddenly upon him, and seizing hold of a tree, he clung to it with all his might to save himself; but it was all in vain, for the tradition asserts that the tree was torn up by the roots, and carried up, with the man attached to it, to the region of the moon, where it was replanted, and exists there, together with Rona, at this very time. The reader, I dare say, could hardly have supposed before, that the New Zealanders had a story so very like

[Image of page 61]

our Man in the Moon; yet, that they have this tradition, and the other more interesting one likewise, Duaterra is fully prepared to affirm; and I never had the least reason to doubt his veracity. From what I could learn from this chief, his countrymen hold any violation of the power of their gods, as awfully impious; and believe, most firmly, in the idea of their omnipresence. The part of the heavens where they all reside, is called Taghinga Attua, and is represented as beautiful in the extreme; while they assign to it, whatever fanciful delights their wild imagination can possibly conceive.

While on this subject, I shall notice another curious fact which has been also related to me by Duaterra. The New Zealanders make it an invariable practice, when a child is born among them, to take it to the Tohunga, or priest, who sprinkles it on the face with water, from a certain leaf which he holds in his hand for that purpose; and they believe that this ceremony is not only beneficial to the infant, but that the neglect of it would be attended with the most baneful consequences. In the latter case, they consider the child as either doomed to immediate death, or that, if allowed to live, it will grow

[Image of page 62]

up with a most perverse and wicked disposition. Now, that this is a kind of baptismal ceremony, no one I think will dispute; but how it came to be introduced among them, I am wholly at a loss to determine; nor shall I, in this place, venture to hazard any opinion of my own upon it.

Previous section | Next section