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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter IV. — The Origin and Progress of the Hauhau Religion

page 23

Chapter IV.
The Origin and Progress of the Hauhau Religion.

When the idea was first conceived of colonising New Zealand, several religious communities were naturally anxious to spread the Gospel amongst the various tribes, and the Church of England and Wesleyan Societies united for the first time to try and accomplish the great and glorious work of converting a heathen nation to Christianity. An agreement was entered into that the Church of England Missionary Society should occupy and evangelise the upper half of the North Island, and the Wesleyan the lower, and this agreement was strictly adhered to for some years, in fact, until a Bishop of New Zealand was appointed, who carried the doctrines of his own Church throughout the whole island, invaded the Wesleyan territories, preached their condemnation, telling the Maories that they (the Wesleyans) had no authority even to baptise, but were the ravenous wolves spoken of in Scripture. The Wesleyan Maories, believing they had been shamefully imposed upon, became indignant, and for some time it seemed probable the circumstance would lead to hostilities; as we find by the letters of the Rev. Hanson Turton, Wesleyan minister, to Bishop Selwyn, published in Brown's 'New Zealand.' In One of these Mr. Turton asks the bishop who gave him the authority he denied to others? a question which the bishop very wisely abstained from answering. This was the first check the Maories experienced in their lessons on Christianity, and the confusion was soon worse confounded by the arrival of other missionaries of various denominations, who all professed to teach the doctrine of Christ from the same Scriptures, yet page 24each managed to read therein the condemnation of the other. Each sought the conversion of the Maori, and was anxious to return favourable accounts to the home societies, who supported the great work of mystification by their funds. But the Maori, being possessed of good reasoning faculties, many having read the Bible translated into their own language, tried his utmost to fathom the difficulty, and in his search joined one society after the other, until he had gone through the whole; when having come to the conclusion that the difference solely arose from the various interpretations each one chose to give the Scriptures, he claimed a like privilege, and having pondered over and searched until he had wrested those Scriptures to his own destruction, finally settled into Hauhauism. The Maori king movement, which was originally instituted with the object of nationalising the numerous tribes of the North Island, so as to give unity of action in their wars and political struggles with the Europeans, met at first with remarkable success, Ngapuhi alone, proud of their ancient supremacy, refusing to acknowledge a Waikato king. But this feeling of patriotism did not last long; tribe after tribe, remembering old grievances, fell away, some professing neutrality, while others joined the Pakeha. Under these circumstances, it was evident that to unite the various tribes a new and powerful stimulant was necessary, and this was now supplied in the shape of religious frenzy by an absurd and fanatical creed of murderous tendencies, denominated the Hauhau, or Pai Marire religion. The origin of this fanatical creed is obscure, as well it might be, for the author (Te Ua) had, up to the date of his inspiration, been considered a harmless lunatic. Its first appearance was in some mysterious manner connected with the wreck of the steamer Lord Worsley on the Taranaki coast. At that period Te Ua, though looked upon by his tribe as of weak intellect, was yet of peaceful disposition, more friendly page 25to the Europeans than to the king party, and with these dispositions, he tried hard to persuade his tribe not to plunder either the cargo or passengers, but he failed, the sight of so much loot being too much for a true Maori to withstand; and the failure seems to have preyed so much on his already weak mind, that his only consolation from that moment was in praying to his Atua Pai Marire. Shortly after these events, Te Ua assaulted a woman of his tribe, and her husband, by way of punishment, tied him hand and foot, and left him in a whare, to meditate for a time on his evil ways; and it was while undergoing this punishment that his first intimate acquaintance with the Atua Pai Marire stood him in good stead, and rendered him ever after famous and powerful amongst the tribes, for, to quote his own words, "the archangel Michael, the angel Gabriel, and hosts of minor spirits landed from the Lord Worsley, and visited him as he lay bound." Gabriel, who took the lead throughout the conference, ordered him to break his bonds, which he did easily, and the husband, finding him at liberty, again bound him, this time with a chain, but, in obedience to the angel's commands, Te Ua with more than human strength burst it in pieces, and from thenceforth was considered a famous man, protected by God, and feared by the superstitious Maori. The angels' visits were neither few nor far between, for Gabriel visited him again, on this occasion during sleep, and ordered him to rise; he did so, and found himself surrounded by all the tribes of the earth. While gazing on the assembled multitudes, he heard a loud voice saying, "Te Ua, go out and kill your son;" he obeyed, and seizing the boy, broke his leg in several places, but before he could despatch him, the angel Gabriel ordered him to stop, and wash the boy in water. Te Ua complied, and in an instant his son was restored to him, unhurt. He was then instructed as to his future proceedings. A pole of a certain height, to be called a page 26Niu, should be erected, around which all true believers were to worship, standing in a circle; those found worthy would receive the gift of tongues. The angel then sung a waiata (song) apostrophising the Trinity, and informed Te Ua that this would in future be part of his ritual. With the exception of the hymn above quoted, the service appears to have been left to the discretion of the prophets. A Scriptural phraseology was retained in their ceremonies, and throughout their political documents. King Tawhiao was always represented as receiving his power from the angel Gabriel. The symbol of their faith was Pai Marire, which may be interpreted, if each word is taken separately, as good and peaceful; but the sentence must have had a very different meaning to the Hauhaus, if one may judge by their actions, wherein very little that is good or peaceful can be found. There was also another word of importance which they received from the angel, after the fight at Ahu Ahu, namely, Hauhau. The meaning of this word is even more obscure than the other, but probably referred to the wind by which the angels were brought to the worshippers round the pole, as the spirits were always spoken of as "Hau Anihera" (wind angels). Up to this period, Te Ua and his converts had behaved in a peaceable and well disposed manner, but the former must either have changed his mind or been unable to control his zealous followers, for a fanatical and murderous spirit was soon shown, and the creed took that form of hostility to the Pakeha which I shall endeavour to show it has retained ever since.