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Te Ika a Maui, or New Zealand and its Inhabitants

Chapter XIII. Amusements

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Chapter XIII. Amusements.

Preparing Canoe for Sea.

Preparing Canoe for Sea.

It has been thought, that were a child from its birth to be kept from hearing the sound of any language, it would commence with the tongue which was spoken by the first parents of the human race; but this has not been verified—the child was found to have none at all. It appears more reasonable to find a proof of the identity of our race in thought, rather than in sound; the latter varying from physical causes, which may affect the body without influencing the mind. The early feelings of the child appear to furnish a better guide to what is really common to all, and if we can trace an identity of amusements in parts which are so remote and severed from page 172 each other as England and New Zealand, we cannot well help allowing that this identity of amusements is likewise a strong proof of the identity of our common origin. I remember, as a child, joining in the pursuit of an unfortunate white butterfly, which we called a Frenchman; and in after years, in France, I was much struck by seeing a number of children knock down a red butterfly, a poor queen of the meadows, with the cry, Down with the English, down with the English. But this is not so remarkable as our finding games and pursuits of children similar to our own in such lone islands of the southern hemisphere as New Zealand.

Te Kahu, or He manu waka-tuku-tuku, He pakau.—The first game presenting this similarity, is that of flying the kite, and it is remarkable that their name appears to be drawn from the same object as ours. The kite is the old term for the hawk, and the name kahu is also that of the same kind of bird. Their figure, also, though differing from ours, is generally a rough imitation of the bird, with its great outspread wings; these kites are frequently made of very large dimensions of raupo leaves, a kind of sedge, neatly sewn together, and kept in shape by a slight frame-work; the string is most expeditiously formed, and lengthened at pleasure, being merely the split leaves of the flax plant: this is a very favourite amusement.

He poro.—He polaka.—He kaihora.—He kaihotaka.—The whipping-top, is another game which is played in every part of the island; the top used is more of a cone, and of less diameter than our English one, but in other respects is just the same.

He whai, or maui.—The cat's-cradles, is a game very similar to our own, but the cord is made to assume many more forms, and these are said to be different scenes in their mythology, such as Hine-nui-te-po, mother night bringing forth her progeny, Maru and the gods, and Maui fishing up the land. Men, canoes, houses, &c., are also represented. Some state that Maui invented this game.

He piu.—The skipping-rope. Two generally hold the rope, and a third skips over it; sometimes they tie one end to a post page 173 and another twirls the rope, while several jump over at the same time: it is also used by one person, the same as with us.

He morere.—He moari.—This is a lofty pole, generally erected near a river, from the top of which about a dozen ropes are attached; the parties who use it take hold of them, and swing round, going over the precipice, and, whilst doing so, sometimes let go, falling into the water; occasionally serious accidents have thus occurred, by striking the bank.

Te takaro ringaringa, or wrestling, was a very general amusement of young men, who prided themselves on their skill in throwing one another, as much, perhaps, as our own countrymen have ever done.

Te para mako consisted in throwing sharp-pointed sticks at each other, and skilfully warding them off, by turning the body away when they saw the dart coming. Sometimes an unskilful person lost his life in playing this game.

Te para, or para toitoi, was a more harmless game; it consisted in throwing the reed-like stalks of the toitoi, blunted, at each other; this was a boy's game.

Te taurumaki, variously called taururumaki or taurumaki-maki, is played in the water, and consists in one person trying to keep the other under the longest; one was frequently almost drowned by the other.

Te teka, or neti, is a game played with fern stalks, which are darted to see who can throw them the furthest.

He ti, or neti, is a game played with the fingers; also the komi-komi, which consisted in opening and shutting the thumbs and fingers.

The puni puni is a game played with the fingers whilst the following words were sung:—

Kei te wai nui, By the great water,
Kei te wai roa, By the long water,
Ka tangi te korora, kororo, The seagull cries, the penguin,
Awhe te puni puni, Where is the entering,
Awhe te paro paro, Where is the closing,
Anohoanga. For the resting.

If the fingers enter each other whilst these words are being uttered, the game is ended; if not, this is again repeated.

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Tutu kai.—A circle being formed, one takes a little stone, or anything else, in his hand, and then another repeats:—

Kura, kura, kura winiwini; Listen, listen, where is the stone;
Kura wanawana,; Listen, in what hand is it hid;
Te wai atu, takukai nei; Seek where it is hid;
Ki te kai motiti, kite kai motata; Seek for the stone.
Ka rere taua ki hea? Where shall we go?
Ka rere taua ki pohou nui, We will go to the many,
Ki pohou roa, hei te koti, To the multitude,
Hei te kota, toreti, toreta, To the Ti, to the Ta.
Kai a wai. Tell me, tell me,
With whom is it to be found.

A person then goes round the circle, and guesses in whose hand it is hid, each having his fist closed; if he is right, the person who has the stone, takes his place, and goes round; if he is wrong, he continues until he discovers where it is hid.

He waka pupuni, or piri, is the game of hide and seek; it is very similar to our own.

He poi.—This is a game played with an ornamented ball, causing it to revolve by a small string attached, and singing at the same time. The ball is often sent to a pa, and played as an invitation to join in a war expedition.

He haka.—The dance was also a favourite amusement. There were various kinds, many of which were very indecent; some were only danced by females, others by men, but in general both sexes joined in this amusement.

Te Ko kiri is an amusement of diving by closing the legs and arms, and then sinking in deep water, feet foremost. I have seen a native thus drop down over the side of the canoe to a great depth and pick up with his toes a tobacco pipe he had noticed at the bottom, using them as readily as his fingers.

Te Ko kiri also is a jumping from a pole into deep water: before doing so the party says:—

Puhi puhi rawa kite keriru; Flutter like pigeons' feathers;
Mehemea e kato ana, ko kiri And if the water be calm, dart downwards.

There was also the turupepeke, or tumbling head over heels; the walking with stilts, pouturu; the rourou, a game played page 175 with stones in the hands; the kai is a puzzle to undo a knot, or find out a riddle; and many similar ones.

* But the chief amusement of the females was, and still is the tangi, or crying. The ladies priding themselves on their doing this in the most affecting way, so that a stranger would be deceived, and not think it possible that it could be a mere mockery of woe, and yet it is nothing more; tears are shed in abundance, and the hands are wrung, as if suffering the most poignant grief, whilst the most heart-rending cries excite the sympathy of the company. The ladies have their heads adorned with fillets of leaves, or of dog's hair, and so much joy do they experience in this exciting amusement, that they look forward to a good crying with the same desire a young lady in England does to a dance or ball.

When a distinguished party of strangers arrives at a pa, before they enter, the females ascend some stage or elevated spot, and from it they wave a garment or branch, loudly inviting their visitors to enter, with the cry haere mai, haere mai, or nau mai, nau mai. They walk to the chief marae or court, and then the tangi commences; after it is concluded, the strangers rub noses with the inhabitants, or else speeches are made first, afterwards food is brought in procession by the inhabitants in little baskets, each carrying one in his right hand, stretched out, with the left thrown back, all singing the Putu, or song of invitation, as they advance towards their guests, before whom they place the feast, and this concluded the entertainment.

The New Zealanders, in former times, had no names for the different days, but only for the nights; for it was by moons they counted Time. Perhaps this arose from the idea that it was in the night everything grew. They have therefore page 176 names for the different nights of the moon; for they were indeed the children of the night, and not of the day, and in this respect resembled the other islanders of the South Seas, who had a similar way of reckoning time. But it appears remarkable that they should not have a single name for any day in the year. It is also a proof of their common origin, that many of these names are the same in the islands, and that there is not a greater difference between them and those of New Zealand, than there is between those of the various tribes of New Zealand.

These names also denote the state of the tide.

They chiefly counted the moons by different stars as they were in the ascendant.

Summer is named Raumati, from its being the season when the leaves fall; there being but one deciduous tree in New Zealand, the ko hutuhutu, or New Zealand fuschia, which sheds its leaves in winter; for, if any thing, the forest is more verdant in winter than summer.

Winter is called Hotoke, or the season when, from the increased moisture, the earth gives up its worms, which formerly were highly prized as food, some attaining a very large size.

Since the introduction of Christianity, the natives have given particular names to three of the week days, which are now generally used throughout the country. According to their nomenclature, Sunday is called Te Wiki, most probably because the week commences with that day, which thus, by way of distinction, is designated the week. Saturday is named Te ra horoi, or the washing and cleaning-up day, from their noticing this custom in all European houses of thus employing that day. Friday is called Te ra oka, or the bleeding day. I was a long time before I could discover the origin of this name, but I found that it is derived from the European custom of killing their pigs on the Friday, so as to have time to cut them up on the Saturday, and dispose of them before the Sabbath. The custom of bleeding animals, which is or ought to be general amongst us as Christians, struck the natives with the greatest astonishment, that the blood which they esteem so highly, should thus be wasted. They have there- page 177 fore commemorated the circumstance by giving the name of Te ra oka, to this pig-killing day. The remaining days of the week still preserve their naturalized names, viz., Manei, Turei, Wenerei, Tairei.

Nights of the Moon.


Noni hape—The moon is in the Reinga.


Taka taka putei—The moon revolves in the Reinga or Hades.


Witika raua—It begins to ascend from the Reinga.


He oho ata—The moon is visible.


Ouenuku—It begins to rise a little way.


Maweti—It rises still higher.


Tutahi—It grows larger.




He pa—When the sun is rising over the hills, and the moon is still seen, it is called hepa ka moe tahi me tana wahine me haere ahiahi. (The natives make the moon a gentleman, and the sun a lady.)


He ari.


He hune.




He hua.


He atua—Full.


He kiokio.


He rakau nui—Small tides.




He takirau.


He Ohika—The moon begins to wane.


He kore kore.


He kore kore tutahi.


He kore kore wakapou


Tangaroa a mua.


Tangaroa a roto—It sinks into the sea.


He kiokio.


He otane.


He rongo mai.


He mouri.

He o mutu—The moon disappears.

The year is counted by moons, and the nights of each are divided into three decades, or thirty-six for the year. page 178 These are regulated by the stars. The year begins with May, which is also the first winter month.


May—The following stars are in the ascendant:—Kai-waka, Patu-tahi, Matariki, Puanga.


June—Mata-riki, Tapuapua, Waka ahu-te-ra o Tainui.


July—Waka-ahu-nuku, Waka-ahu-rangi, Waka-ahu-papa, Waka-ahu-kerekere, Kopu, and Tautoru.


August—Taka-pou-poto, Mangere, Kaiwaka. The karaka and the hou flower. Spring commences. The warauroa (a cuckoo) arrives.


September—Takapou-tawahi. It begins to be warm; cultivation commences. The kowai, kotukutuku, and rangiora flower. A rainy month.


October—The kumara is planted. The windy month corresponds with our March; hence the saying, te ra-kihi, the noisy or windy period, the tawera is ripe. The koekoea (a cuckoo) arrives.


November—Te Wakumu. The rewarewa flowers.


December—Nga Tapuae. The rata flowers.


January—Uruao. Karaka is ripe.—Ranga whenua (an ancestor) rules the days, and Uruao(the star)rules the nights of this month.


February—Rehua. The dry month—a scarce month.


March—Nga huru. Harvest month for kumara.


April—Te Kahui-rua-mahu. The days begin to be cold. The cuckoo leaves.

Matariki is the great winter star, and Rehua that of summer.

The arrival of the two birds of passage, the kohoperoa, or koekoea, and the pipiwarauroa, are the signs of summer. They are called the birds of Hawaiki, or warm country.

The four seasons are—

  • Ko Toru, ko Tahi, ko Takarua, August, September, October (spring).

  • Raumati, November, December, January (summer).

  • Ngahuru, February, March, April (autumn).

  • Hotoke, May, June, July (winter.)

  • Raumati or summer takes its name from its being the season when the leaves of the forest fall. There is only one deciduous tree in New Zealand which sheds its leaves in winter, the Ko tuku tuku (Fuschia Excortica.)

  • Hotoks or winter is the season when the earth gives forth its worms, which were once eagerly sought after as food.

* The natives have another amusement, which consists in rendering their conversation unintelligible to strangers, by adding one or more letters to each word as they may previously agree upon. So that only they who are in the secret, can understand what is said: thus, instead of saying kei te haere au ki reira, they would say te-ke-te-i te te-hae-te-re te-a-te-u te-ki te-re-te-i-te-ra: few can find this out when spoken quick. This is called He Kowetewete.