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Medicine Amongst the Maoris, in Ancient and Modern Times



It was natural also that any mental departure from the normal, should be looked upon as possession by some god.

Epilepsy and hystero-epilepsy: Persons subject to attacks of this nature were looked upon as being in communion with their gods, and after the subsidence of the attack the result of the communion was awaited by the people with a certain amount of confidence in its infallibility. The diagnosis of disease was often made by these people.

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Hysteria. Hysterical people, especially woman, throwing themselves into a hysterical condition and babbling nonsense were carefully listened to, for they were speaking with "strange tongues", the result of their communion with the supernatural powers. Their rambling discourse was analysed for the purposes of diagnosis. In the "hauhau" war against the Europeans, they were looked upon as oracles, and were termed "porewarewa" or mad people. Standing at the foot of the "niu" or upright post around which the devotees of the "hauhau" cult danced, they went into a frenzied fit in which their speaking "with tongues" foretold when and where they would meet the enemy, and whether victory or defeat would result.

Delirium during fever was looked upon as proof positive of possession by a demon. In the course of delirium mention of dogs or other animals gave the diagnosis of the aria of the particular demon causing the illness.

History. The history of heridity, or rather of a number of deaths in a family pointed to some permanent cause such as witchcraft. See further particulars of this in "whare ngaro" under tuberculosis.

Appearance of aria. Though more often seen in dreams, the aria of the demon sometimes appeared. The manner in which it appeared often had a diagnostic significance. The appearance of a lizard aria with its jaws covered with blood showed that it had been attacking someone. The medium could avert further dangers by propitiating the god.

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