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Tohu and Aitua. — Signs, Omens, Tokens and Superstitions

Tohu and Aitua.
Signs, Omens, Tokens and Superstitions.

The number of items that may be given under this heading are as numerous as sands upon the famed beach of Te Mahia. It is most surprising to note the thousands of different omens and signs believed in by the Maori. Many of the tohu, or signs, are the result of observation and are correct and dependable; but many signs and omens are the fruit of superstition and are utterly absurd. Many activities, industrial and otherwise, of the Maori, were largely influenced by signs and omens. Great faith was placed in them with regard to war, fishing, hunting, etc., as we shall see anon. We give below a limited number of such items, as illustrations of their influence. These here given are of a general nature, but many others appear under different headings, as pertaining to war, forest lore, cultivation, sickness, etc., etc.

The word tohu, so much used in connection with these matters, simply means "mark, sign, proof." A certain occurrence may be a tohu mate (evil omen, sign of misfortune) a puhore (sign of non-success, as in hunting, etc.) or a tohu ora (sign of well-being, good fortune, etc.). Unlucky signs are usually termed aitua and lucky signs marie or waimarie.

A vast number of omens are derived from dreams, as is usual among primitive folk, and not unknown among peoples who deem themselves far above that stage of culture. The pseudoscience of oneiromancy was much cultivated by the old-time Maori and certain individuals of each community, often of the priestly class, were looked upon as competent oneiroscopists or interpreters of dreams.