Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

Chapter XI — Polynesian Theogony and Mythology

page 127

Chapter XI
Polynesian Theogony and Mythology


(1) We saw in the last article how many of the Maori heroes and demigods resemble the Aryan demigods of the sun-myths, and how these sun-myths look to the cold north. And we saw in the warmer climate of India the gods of the storm and rain had displaced the old sun-gods. So in Polynesia Rangi was dethroned by Pane and Rongo and Tu, the gods of the forest, cultivated food, and war; his cult had already obscured the still more ancient worships of Ra, the sun, and Io, the Supreme, and Tangaroa, the god of the sea; and it was overshadowed in turn by that of Tawhaki and Kahukura, and a multitude of other gods. It is quite clear that sun-worship, though relics of it continued obscurely in unobserved corners of Polynesia, was, in India, a primitive phase of religion that had belonged to other lands and zones of climate.

(2) But here the subject is made difficult by the probability of two routes of sun-worship from the north, one from the Baltic zone though the Caspian steppes and South Asia, the other from the same region through Southern Siberia and the Japanese Archipelago. Thus it is that in the Maori gods and myths we get a far greater complication of sun-gods and light-gods and fire-gods than in Teutonic or Greek or Hindoo, or in fact any, mythology. Besides the Maui series of stories, page 128which has for nucleus a sun-myth, there are three or four strata of sun-incarnations. Rangi is the shining heaven, like Varuna and Zeus and Jupiter, and Tyr of the Icelandic Eddas. He takes a larger place in New Zealand mythology than in any of the tropical islands; in some the word implies nothing but heaven; in one or two Vatea, the daylight, takes his place. His name in the form Raki means North, and this seems to indicate the primeval route of the people that deified him.

(3) Of his rebel children, who divide him from Papa, his wife, Tu is the boldest leader, and, as the architect and builder of the heavens in the eastern groups, reveals his origin as a sun-god too. Even in New Zealand he lets in light upon existence by dividing the heaven from the earth. Amongst the Samoans and the Maoris he becomes the god of war, and amongst the latter is one of the most feared and worshipped of all the deities. The evolution of the Teutonic Ziu or Tiw, whence our Tuesday gets its name, from a sun-god, in origin the same as the Greek Zeus and the Sanskrit Dyaus, into a god of war is a very striking coincidence. Rongo, though originally by his name the god of Sound or Fame, was sometimes in New Zealand identified with the rainbow, in Hawaii often took the place of Tane as the god of light, and in the Marquesas was evolved from light after it was born from darkness. In New Zealand he was driven with Haumia into Hades by Tane, for the part they took against their father Rangi; and he and Tu brought evil into the world. He is ultimately the god of the kumara and all foods that are cultivated in the soil. Tawhiri is the god of storms, who punishes the other children of Rangi for impiety; he combines the powers of Woden and Thor or Thunor, originally storm-gods in Teutonic myth. And Papa, or Mother Earth, has her Teutonic counterpart in Herthus, a name that, according to Tacitus, was given by the German tribes to Terra Mater.

page 129

(4) Tangaroa, like Neptune, whom the Romans probably adopted from the maritime Etruscans, and the Greek Poseidon, is god of the ocean; and in Mangaia, as yellow-haired and the patron of the fair-haired, he is evidently a dethroned god of the fair Caucasian aborigines from the north; whilst in the eastern groups he has suffered the ultimate fate of the gods of a conquered people, and is thrust into the night of the under-world; he is the god of Darkness, and, along with Silence, is mastered by Atea (Light) and Rongo (Sound). He is an evil god, and in the struggle with him Dawn is born, and, as wife of the conqueror, Light, brings forth the lesser gods and also men. In the western groups he reveals his origin as a sun-god; in New Zealand he is the Son of Heaven, and marries Te Anumatao, or Bitter Cold, thus pointing again to the north; in Samoa he is the son of cloudless heavens, and yet he made the heavens; in Manahiki he is the fire-god, from whom Maui snatches the secret of fire; in Tonga he is the lord of thunder and lightning, and also the god of the arts and of foreigners; and in Tahiti he is the creator of gods and men, and he is the Light; he dwells in space, uncreated. In fact, all these gods are in one group or another anterior to creation, uncreated.

(5) His dethronement in the east, and his confusion with Maui in the west, along with his being the god of foreigners and the god of the fair-haired, clearly makes him one of the great deities of the Caucasians from the north. One curious invention attributed to Maui, that of the barb for the hook, Ratzel homes to the North Pacific, and this would make him a northward-pointing deity. And Judge Wilson gives names of tribes that "claim to be descended from Maui, and not from the Hawaiki Maoris," that is, the South Asiatic immigrants.

(6) There is a later stratum of fire-deities, who take charge of the zones of heaven. Rehua, the name of a star, rules page 130the four upper circles as the Ancient One; he was the son of Rangi, and, according to one legend, the first who kindled fire. Tawhaki, and Apollo or Baldur of Polynesia, rules the three next circles, and Maru, to whom the planet Mars is sacred, the three lowest.

Ra, a Primeval Sun-deity from the North

(7) But the most undisguised sun-god is Ra. For the name is still used throughout the whole of Polynesia as a common noun, meaning the sun. He is a god in most groups, and, though uncreated, takes a subordinate place in their mythology and worship. In fact, it is difficult to find traces of this deity. Mr. E. Tregear, in his "Maori Race," gives an extremely interesting account of his worship, as collected by Mr. Nelson, of Whakarewarewa. His festival was annual; the heaps of food were arranged in a heptagon, with fires at each angle round a central fire, that was meant for the sun, and in this latter human sacrifice was burnt. That this is the "first published description of the sun-feast" shows how obscure the festival and the worship were. In Maori mythology Ra is son of Haronga and sister to Marama, the moon, and in winter he lives in the ocean with Hine-takurua, or Winter, and in summer on land with Raumati, or Summer.

(8) A curious light is thrown upon his origin and his festival by a reference in Tregear's "Maori Race" to the stone circle at Kerikeri, Bay of Islands. He says these stones were "anciently used in sun-worship"; "they were used as posts, around which pyramids of food were piled at the ancient feast of Ra, the Sun." It seems to confirm Sir Norman Lockyer's theory of the use of these megalithic monuments, as developed in some articles on Stonehenge recently published in "Nature." These colossal stones were originally mortuary in their purpose; but they were in many places afterwards used and even built as altars or temples. And he seems to prove from the position page 131of the various solitary stones in Stonehenge that the worship was solar. If, then, one wave of population came the northern route into Polynesia, as the colossal-stone monuments seem to indicate, this is no insignificant confirmation of the theory, and seems to imply that the Ra worship came from the north, with the megalithic people.

South Asiatic Mysticism and Tendency to Monotheism
are Evident in the more Obscure Worships

(9) But there is an esoteric phase of Polynesian religion that must come from the south of Asia, and by preference from Northern India. It is the religion that is hinted at in those magnificent fragments of mystical, semi-metaphysical poetry that White gives as headings to the earlier chapters of his "Ancient History of the Maori," and also to some extent in the hymns of Hawaii and the Marquesas, and in the poetry and myth collected by Wyatt Gill in the Hervey group. Here we have the ideas of the later Vedic or earlier Hindoo religion, when Buddhism was about to be begotten, and the idea of a supreme and only God struggled with half-scientific, half-crude ideas that philosophised the origin of the universe and man, when, in short, monotheism struggled with a philosophic pantheism. For Buddhism was not merely a revolution and reform from excess of ceremony and priesthood, but an evolution. There was even in the early Vedic religion a tendency to single out one god or another as supreme, and this grows as we approach the birth of Buddhism. It is this tendency that is apparent in the Polynesian religious poetry. It speaks of "the One Supreme" and "the soul of the Supreme," the "soul of power, soul of earth and heaven," "above in all creation's space." This is undiluted Hindoo philosophy of the half-dozen centuries before our era, when the Olympus of mythology and the paraphernalia of ceremonial and priesthood threatened to fall page 132into ruins, and before the pantheon of Vishnuism and Sivaism, with the versions of old aboriginal gods and their cruel rites, arose.

(10) The one doubt that enters the mind is that these fine relics of a higher religious world came from Christianised Polynesia, and chiefly from Christianised priests, who felt, like the writers of the "Edda," that, though the old gods were silenced and sad, they had still power of life and death over them, and were stimulated by the pathos and romance of the pantheon they were abandoning to sublimate it with the ideas they had acquired from the new religion and its teachers. But over against this doubt must be placed the rare and obscure references to an ancient and primal deity, called in New Zealand and Mangaia, Io, and in Tahiti, Ihoiho, who was before all creation, and, as far as one can see, precedent to the whole of the Polynesian Olympus. White says: "The oldest Maori prayers were those addressed to the sacred Io." In Mangaia, although the word means generally "a god," it also means "the core," like Maori "iho," and "the soul"; whilst Motoro, who was called "Te Io Ora," or "The Living Spirit," was distinguished from other gods by having no human or living sacrifices offered to him. In New Zealand the primevally savage and commonplace and the sublimely mystical shoulder each other with regard to this god, as in so many features of their life. Io was the name given to omens taken from the involuntary twitching of any part of the body. And again, he is the subject of ecstatic religious imagination, as for example in an incantation to him at the planting of the kumara:

O god of man! Deprive my enemies of power.
O Io! O god of man!

O Io! O cloud! Descend from Rehia, and lightnings flash,
Whilst I my offering make, and chant my sacred song
to him, the One Supreme!

page 133

And in an ancient incantation over invalids, there is the monotheistic idea, even where Io is not addressed:

Stay, omens, stay. The One Supreme has come.
Soul of power, soul of earth and heaven, accept delight and ecstasy unlimited.
Hold all beauty; let it spread around.
The soul now climbs and high ascends, the soul of the Supreme and his disciples.
O Heaven! The soul is far above, above in all Creation's space.
In light supreme, in blaze of day.

These mystical incantations have no echo of the Bible, not even of the Old Testament, in them; they are instinct with the half-chaotic higher philosophy in the native mind. The productions that come closest to them, not only in form, but in spirit, are the hymns of the Rig-veda. They display the same mystical exaltation, the same wealth of figurative speech, the same formless ideas and the same inchoate philosophy. Take any one of the hymns to Agni or Indra or to Ushas the dawn, and the sense of affinity to these Maori incantations is manifest. None of them are the mere inarticulate utterances of the savage mind. They reveal that half-poetic, half-philosophic attitude toward existence and its phenomena which is the mark of an early but rapidly advancing culture. The first Greek philosophers have it. But there is in them none of the mysticism that marks off the Vedic hymns and the Maori laments and incantations from those of all other primitive peoples.

The Natural Affinity of the Polynesian Mind for a
Vague Philosophy points to Early Aryan India

(11) There is something of the same ambiguity and doubt about the unstoried genealogy of creation, which holds such a large space in the first volume of White's "Ancient History of the Maori." It may have been suggested by page 134the first chapter of Genesis, and may be saturated with the primitive philosophy of that book; for the Maoris had long been Christianised when it was communicated by the various priests, and these priests had doubtless studied the Bible with some care. But, on the other hand, it is to be said that, though the different reciters varied in their versions, the core of them was the same; and again, the deeper Maori mind, as represented in its high priests, had a natural affinity for the metaphysics and cosmogony of the Old Testament, and thus reveals a native vein that would spontaneously produce such crude efforts at the philosophy of existence, and the reappearance of these more esoteric, if not mystical, religious ideas might be due to the abandonment of the later and ranker growth of gods and religious customs before the power of the higher conceptions and teachings of Christianity. The forest of the personal gods, like Tu and Rongo, and countless more, had obscured the older, more philosophical, and less personified ideas of Deity that had tended in the finer minds towards monotheism; but they had not destroyed the seed of the old religious world, and when the conflagration of a new faith swept through the tangled growth, the elder growth sprang up anew, where it seemed to have for ever disappeared.

(12) In the cosmological tablet given at the close of White's first volume, Te Kore, or Nothingness, comes first, followed by Te Po, or Darkness; and sixteen abstractions descend from Po in series, among them Thought, Breath of Life, Space, each a pre-cosmic period stretching from a thousand to unlimited years. Then seems to come the World floating in Space, an idea somewhat advanced for primitive cosmology. Coeval with this there seem to exist the ten heavens, called Rangi, and the ten under-worlds, called Papa, and Rangi and Papa; each seems to marry various mates. Between them come the six great gods of page 135the later Maori worship: Tu, Rongo, Haumia, Tawhiri, Tane and Tangaroa.

(13) This takes the mind back to to the Theogony of Hesiod, many centuries before the Greece of Pericles. We have the same effort at tracing back the genealogy of the later gods to Chaos, or the Void; "from Chaos were born Erebus and black Night; and from Night again sprang forth ther and Day." But the Maori mind was far more mystically imaginative than the early Greek; it indulged in a metaphysics of creation, beside which both the Greek mind and the Hebrew seem practical and prosaic. Take this, from an ancient lament of Turoa:

From germ of light sprang thought, and God's own medium came;
Then bud and bloom; and life in space produced the worlds of night.
'Twas Nothing that begat the Nothing unpossessed,
And Nothing without charm.

Or again, take the mythological chant of Tane's discovery of man:

Night had conceived the seed of night; the heart, the foundation of night,
Had stood forth self-existing even in the gloom.
The shadows screen the faintest gleam of light.
The procreating power, the ecstasy of life first known,
And joy of issuing forth from silence into sound.
Thus the progeny of the Great-extending filled the heavens' expanse.

If these represent the original in any degree, we must acknowledge in the Maori mind a poetical mysticism, a formlessness of real poetic thought that approaches some of our modern poets, and chaos itself. We have to resort to the early Hindoo books to find anything like it in the primitive world. For the Orphic hymns and myths are not early Greek; they are saturated with the mystic philosophy that arose after the first spread of Christianity. In the Vedic hymns, page 136and in the later and more philosophic and mystical Upanishads, there is much of this vague yearning after what evades all early thought. One quotation will be enough, a passage from Muir's prose translation of a Vedic hymn of creation: "There was then neither entity nor nonentity; there was no atmosphere nor sky above." "Death was not then, nor immortality; there was no distinction of day or night. That One breathed calmly, self-supported; there was nothing different from or above it. In the beginning darkness existed enveloped in Darkness." "That One which lay void and wrapped in nothingness, was developed by the power of fervour." Or take one from Bhler's translation of the "Laws of Manu": "This universe existed in the shape of Darkness, unperceived, destitute of distinctive marks, unattainable by reasoning, unknowable, wholly immersed, as it were, in deep sleep. Then the divine Self-existent, indiscernible, but making all this, the great elements and the rest, discernible, appeared with irresistible creative power, dispelling the darkness."

(14) But even this is more definite and less mystically imaginative than the products of Maori thought, which seem to revel in the formless. But the chants and hymns are not always on this level any more than the Rig-veda. They are more often dreary columns of the genealogy of the gods, like Hesiod's, only here and there relieved by a gleam of incident or detail of poetry. A fine beginning such as that of the South Island karakia, "The Atua (god) began his chant of creation at Te Po, and sang; Po begat Te Ao (light), who begat Ao-marama (daylight)" degenerates at once into a monotonous record of the wiving and begetting of the gods.

(15) Fragments of a similar abstract cosmology have been reported from the Hervey group, and appear in the Hawaiian and Marquesan hymns. This abstraction is most page 137characteristic of the higher Polynesian mind, and it seems to be agreed on all hands that it is not an evolution from the lower elements of Polynesian religion, as the later Hindoo philosophic religions are to some extent an evolution from the early Aryan worship. It has rather been thrust into the background and obscured by later accretions, the personified phenomena of Nature and the deified ancestors or heroes. That it belonged to the last migration, the migration from South Asia, is manifest; for it is only the priests of the old aristocracy that know it. It is not for the common herd. It is held sacred above the sacred, an inner mystery not to be profaned by communication, or by common rites and common gods.

(16) And there is never any degeneration in this spiritual sphere unless by contact with a lower world. Wherever "gods many" have crept into a faith that had reached the idealising and mystical stage, they come from the presence of a lower race; it needs conversion, and that implies an adaptation of the higher attitude to the lower, and generally an absorption of many of the deities and rites of those that have to be converted. This occurred with the conquering Sanskritic Aryans, that entered the Panjaub with a very elevated primitive creed, and soon developed a still more philosophical version of it. As soon as they began to spread their empire over the valley of the Ganges, they had to take in the local gods of the aborigines, and evolved a hard-and-fast ritual and a rigid priesthood. And the more it spread through India, the more it expanded its pantheon and lowered its creed. This was evidently what occurred in Polynesia. The road to monotheism or pantheism, on which they had entered before the last immigrants left India, had to be abandoned when they took the women of the conquered aboriginals into their households in the islands.

page 138

The Myths of the Deluge are coloured by
the Bible, not so the Myths of the Under-world

(17) We can have little hesitation about the ultimate source of this element in the Polynesian religion. There are others, mythological events, that are not so unambiguous. The story of a deluge appears all through Polynesia, as it does in so many regions of the world. There are three or four different versions of this in New Zealand, with varying incidents, and personages and causes; we may be sure, therefore, that either the South Asiatic immigrants or the aboriginals from the north, if not both, had some form of it. But all the later forms preserved are manifestly vitiated by knowledge of the Old Testament version; and we can trust no feature as being local or primal.

(18) It is different with the Polynesian myths of the underworld or world beyond death. These are quite untainted by the Christian idea of hell, which, differing from the old Judaic Sheol, was a place of punishment and torture for the wicked. Like all primitive hells or worlds of shadows, there is no morality in it; it is the place of the spirits of the dead, whether bad or good. What distinction there is lies between the aristocrats and the common people, and if any difference lies amongst the aristocrats, it is between the heroically warlike and the feeble and undistinguished.

The Maori Myths of a Future Life have Strong
Resemblance to those of Aryan Races

(19) Most primitive peoples, except in parts of Africa and America, have strong belief in the future life, and that a distinctly material one, generally a shadowy counterpart or copy of the life on earth, as it is, as a rule, based on the world of dreams. But it is variously organised, partly ac-page 139cording to the environment, geographical, climatic and faunal, partly according to the culture-stage reached, but very largely according to the racial stem. It has a fundamental likeness all over the world based on the psychological unity of mankind. But in its details it differs strikingly in different races and different stages of civilisation. It is always material, yet shadowy, always reached by the spirits of the dead with difficulty over many obstructions, and commonly a reflex or facsimile of the life just left by the spirit, with a misty atmosphere or features attractive or repulsive added, and it is in all the early stages, those of savagery, barbarism and semi-civilisation, out of all relation to the normal character of the spirit and the life it has led. After thus there is no community of likeness, except that which arises from common racial origin.

(20) But even the differentiating features have to some extent common sources in the attitude assumed to the phenomena of the world, the sky with the heavenly bodies, the earth with its caves and growing things, the sea with its depths. Other differences arise from the migrant or stationary history of the people; if they have come from afar to their actual abode, the world of shadows is dimly created by memory reaching out to the primeval home; if they have been in the land from time immemorial, their under-world has no reference to other parts of the earth. Still more does the existence of a conquered race differentiate the worlds of spirits. Peaceful absorption means the amalgamation of two pantheons. Compulsory absorption precipitates the Olympus of the conquered into Hades, and turns its rites into sorceries of hell.

(21) What classifies the Polynesians again with peoples of Aryan speech is the coexistence of all these differentiating elements in their idea of the life beyond the grave. Their attitude to the phenomena of nature is much the same in page 140their mythology. Rhys, in his Hibbert Lectures on Celtic religion, thus sums up the earliest creed of the Celts: "In the beginning earth and heaven were great world-giants, and they were the parents of a numerous offspring; but the Heaven in those days lay upon the Earth, and their children, crowded between them, were unhappy and without light, as was also their mother. So she and they took counsel against Heaven, and one of the sons, who was bolder than the others, undertook shamefully to mutilate Heaven." "Some of the children of Earth and Heaven were born bright beings or gods, who mostly loved the light and the upper air; and some were Giants or Titans, who were of a darker or gloomier hue. These latter hated the gods and the gods hated them." This "would require scarcely any important modification in order to apply equally to the Aryans in the distant epoch of their pro-ethnic unity."

(22) So would it apply to the Polynesian personification of the sky and the earth and the phenomena of nature. This description of the primal relations of heaven and earth is as true of Rangi and Papa as of the Greek Kronos and Zeus with the Titans, the Norse Thor and Niorthr, the Celtic Fergus and Nemed, and the Indian Varuna and Yama. There are details of the rebellion against Heaven that differ somewhat from the Polynesian myth. But the nucleus is the same, the attitude to the phenomena is the same. They all point back to a period in their prehistoric history when, and to a birthland where, there was a sub-arctic domination of the year by the darkness of the long winter, and the coming of the brief but splendid summer seemed a rending of Heaven from Earth to let the light of the sun shine in on them and their children. There is less made of the subterranean darkness of the under-world by the Northern Aryans than by those of the zone that is nearer the tropics; and this is perhaps due to the Teutons and Celts remaining, according page 141to the now generally accepted theory, in the primal land of the Aryans, the Baltic region; they did not know the oppression and terror of the long darkness till they knew the contrast in the bright summers of the south. The Polynesians lay the same stress on the darkness of the world of the dead as the Greeks and the Asiatic Aryans do.

(23) Not even is the Maori version of this primal nucleus of Aryan mythology unvarying or consistent with itself. One phase of it lays great emphasis on Tane, the lord of the forests, as the leader of the rebellion against Rangi or Heaven; and he in the eastern groups is the lord of light, and is, like Zeus himself, a representation of the shining heaven and of all the sources of light. Another phase makes Tu, the god of war, and Rongo, the god of cultivated food and afterwards god of peace, the great rebels, who are cast into hell for their war against Rangi their father. One version makes Tane, the friend of Heaven, cast his brothers into the depths of darkness. Another makes Tawhirimatea, the lord of storms, the ally of his father and the punisher of his rebellious brothers. In the lower circles of Po or Darkness the evil spirits lie and conspire against the peace of the gods and man. The story has a striking resemblance to the version of the rebellion in heaven and the downfall into hell given by Milton in his "Paradise Lost." Now Milton did not get this from the Judaic Sheol or the Christian hell as hinted at in the Bible; it was the growth of mediaeval times partly from classical story, partly from Scriptural suggestion, but most of all from the Teutonic and Celtic editions of the primal Aryan myth of Heaven and Earth. There is in all of them the germ of that dualism between good and evil, light and darkness, which culminates in the Ormuzd and Ahriman of the ancient religion of Persia.

page 142

All of them are Unmoral, with a Seed of the
Moral in them to be Developed

(24) There is in most of them, too, the evidence of a conquest of aboriginals; wherever there is a precipitation of the rebels against heaven into the lower darkness, it is the gods of the conquered that are dethroned, and have to "reign in hell." Not merely do the Hades-queens, Hinenuitepo, Rohe (the wife of Maui, the culture-leader from the north), and Miru rule in Po, but these masculine rebels against Heaven, Tu and Rongo, dwell there too. There is an elaboration of grades of darkness and abhorrence in the ten zones of hell, as there is of divinity and light in the ten belts of heaven, and this takes the mind back to the nine worlds of the Norse mythology, and the circles of Dante's Inferno and Paradiso. They all doubtless come from some primitive Aryan source, and reveal the efforts of the primitive Aryan mind after a gradation of happiness and misery beyond death, that ultimately leads to the elevation of both hell and heaven into the sphere of morality.

(25) There are a few dim foreshadowings of this final coalescence of ethics and the future life, that is the mark of a high civilisation, even in the Polynesian pantheon. Rehua, who rules the four highest heavens, is the god of love and benevolence. Rangi, in spite of his patronage of war, has benignance in his nature, and is the giver of life and health. Kahuhura, the rainbow-god, watches our voyages, and also confers life and health. Rongomai, Ruatapu and Uenuku were full of goodness to those who were good. On the other hand, Tu and Rongo were evil deities that worked mischief amongst men. Whiro, the god of thieves in Eastern Polynesia, is also responsible for much of the evil in the world. And around Miru, the queen of the lower zones of Po (or Darkness), are gathered many evil gods, page 143some of them ngarara, or reptile or snake, gods, and others makutu or deities of sorcery; it was to her that Rongomai resorted in order to learn the spells of witchcraft. There are the same beginnings in all the Aryan myths of a classification of gods and spirits and worlds beyond death into evil and good.

(26) But in the Polynesian, as in most primitive hells and heavens, the only distinction is between spirits aristocratic and common, warlike and cringing. The lowest circle of Po was Ameto (or Extinction), where all common souls finally vanished out of existence. In fact, there seems to be here the germ of that which, in the Vedic religion, ultimately produced the Buddhist Nirvana, the annihilation to be desired, as the return of the Maori spirit in the form of a moth seems to be a relic of the earlier doctrine of transmigration. But there is much ambiguity as to what becomes of spirits after death; now it seems as if there were never any soul in common men and women, or slaves, at all, and that death meant complete annihilation for them; and yet every animal and every implement and weapon has a soul, and, if the dog is killed or the gourd broken, the soul of it goes with the dead chief. Again, the souls of the common seem to enter Po, and wander on towards extinction; now the souls of chiefs seem to linger about the body, and even long after about the dwellings of their relatives; again, they seem to get into the upper circles of Darkness, and again some of them seem to go into the upper zones of heaven; sometimes the continuance of even the war-like spirit seems to depend on the funeral rites.

The Western Polynesian Paradise differs from the

(27) But the predominant idea as to warriors is that they become gods in heaven, still following warlike pursuits. According to Letourneau's Sociology, "Paradise was specially page 144reserved for the great warriors or the conquerors. Men spent their days in perpetual warfare, interrupted only by great banquets, at which they over-gorged themselves with fish and sweet potato." Yet immediately after he tells of an old warrior chief who, when he heard a Wesleyan missionary describe the future life of the Christians, refused to go to such a heaven, and declared he would rather go into the Maori Po or hell, "to enjoy himself there with his old friends upon sweet potatoes." Tawhaki, the New Zealand Baldur, though he goes to the land of the dead, like his Norse kin, ascends at last to Heaven and rules three circles there. So it may be that the Maori warrior, after dying and descending to Po, rises to the delights of perpetual war and cannibalism amongst the deities; for, as the Norse Valhalla is in Asgard, or the abode of the gods, so the Polynesian paradise of warriors is in heaven.

(28) The Tahitian paradise and that of most of the tropical Polynesians differed to some extent from this. It had none of the strenuous, warlike joys of the spirits of Maori chiefs; it was the sensuous paradise of the South Asiatics, song, dance, feasting, unlimited kava, and never-ending amorous pleasures; it was a sublimated version of the life of that notorious society of aristocratic debauchees, the Areois. Priests and the Areois got there without trouble; chiefs and their friends by help of the priests; and a few common souls might, by bribing the priests handsomely, get out of Po into this Oriental heaven.

(29) And, like the Vedic paradise, the Tahitian and the Nukuhivan paradise was away above the earth; in Tahiti up in the air above the high mountains of Raiatea, amongst the Nukuhivans in an island in the clouds; in the Rigvedas it was above the clouds, but it was, like that of the tropical Polynesians, a land of Cockayne, where man was supremely happy, and had every wish, even the most mundane, gratified page 145at once; just as the geese flew ready cooked in the land of Cockayne, the pork ran ready roasted in Rohutu, the Tahitian paradise.

In Maori Mythology the Paradise of the Northern
Immigrants is often Confused with that of the
South Asiatic Immigrants

(30) Amongst the Western and Southern Polynesians there is more ambiguity about the location of their Valhalla. They are quite as decided as to the utter extinction of the common souls. But the final dwelling-place of the warrior and chiefly souls is shifting and vague. In Tonga it is Bulotu, a large island a long way off to the north-west, full of all delightful plants and flowers. In New Zealand, as well as in some of the tropical islands, Hades is below the sea, sometimes in the sky, and sometimes in a distant and mystic island. And some references seem to identify Hawaiki or the birthland with Po or the under-world.

(31) There is, in fact, here a confusion of the two birthlands of the race, the North and the South Asiatic. Hawaiki is the land in the West whence the last migration came, and whither the spirits of the heroic and aristocratic naturally return at death; but the pre-Polynesian migration from the North had likewise as a migrating people their birthland paradise; and this was properly in the north, with its long winters and deep, long winter nights. Hence their paradise is Po, the Darkness, the Night. Thus the subterranean place of soul-extinction of the South Asiatics is the paradise of the North Pacific immigrants, and the two contradictory views get inextricably intermingled, so that occasionally Hawaiki or the birthland paradise of the last immigrants is placed in Po, under the earth, and sometimes under the seathis last the sure sign of maritime migration.

page 146

(32) And there were gods, too, that are acknowledged by the Maoris to have belonged to their predecessors. There was Oho, spoken of in the Urewera country as belonging to the tangata whenua or aboriginals; and there were rainbow gods, the Haere, that were not worshipped by the Maoris, they having Kahukura and Uenuku as the deities of the rainbow. Then there are gods that are worshipped by certain tribes in New Zealand, and unacknowledged by others. There is Maru, the war-god of the South Island, but unrecognised in the North Island, except at Wanganui. And the Ureweras, who have probably more of the original blood in their veins than any other tribe, have also many divinities that are not known in other parts, such as Marere-o-tonga, the peacemaker; his twin, Takatakaputea, mentioned by Shortland; their lizard deities, Rehu-a-tainui and Tamarau, and many more. These Ureweras point out in the porch of their great carved house an image of a deified ancestor, with a lizard issuing from the mouth, and say that he was fond of eating lizards, whereas in most parts of New Zealand the natives shrink from lizards.

(33) There is, in fact, as manifest a stratification in the mythology and the religious ideas of the Maoris as in their customs and language. And some of the strata are easily identifiable with South Asiatic mythology, whilst others are manifestly of the same origin as the North Ayran.