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Medicine Amongst the Maoris, in Ancient and Modern Times



Each "pa" or fortified village had one or more privies called "paepae". These were made on the edge of the cliff or steep hill-side which bounded some part of the "pa". That privies are an old institution is proved by an ancient myth. The story goes that in the days when the gods took an active interest in mundane affairs, the eldest of the Maui brethren, Maui mua (Maui the first-born), after many adventures rescued his sister Hinauri and ascended to the tenth heaven. There he came to the court-yard of Rehua, one of the ancient gods. He sojourned there but finding the condition of the village filthy, he set about sanitary reform. He made wooden spades with which he cleaned up the village. Then on the edge of the cliff he made the first privy-'paepae.' He erected two uprights, across which he placed a carved seat named "te pae o kahukura" (the seat of the Rainbow god. Then to prevent any danger [gap — reason: text illegible]page 3 he put in a carved post in front of the seat for people to hold on by. This post was named "te pou o Whaitiri" (the post of the Thunder God). When Kaitangata, the son of Rehua, came home he used the privy, but owing to the upright holding post having been loosely put in, when he strained against it in the act of defaecation, the post came out of the ground and Kaitangata fell over the cliff. He was killed and his blood stained the heavens. To this day, when a certain red glow stains the heavens, the older people quote the ancient proverb:-

"katuhi Kaitangata,"

"Kaitangata stains the heavens with his blood." This type of privy was built from ancient times until the advent of Europeans led to the changing of the usual village sites. It is easy to see that the system was simple and efficient in ancient days. When Captain Cook landed on these shores, he visited many of the fortified villages. He was much struck with the presence of these privies, and with the fact that offal and rubbish were carefully disposed of. This led him to remark that the sanitation of these Maori villages was in a far higher state of efficiency than many of the cities of Europe.