The Maori Race
The Tohunga and Witchcraft
The Tohunga and Witchcraft.
Although we have heretofore spoken of the ariki as the priest-chief we have said little concerning the ordinary priest or wizard, the tohunga. This person was not always a chief or priest by birth, but as in Maori affairs no important action could be undertaken unless the particular god presiding over that department of life or death was propitiated with offerings and incantations, a perfect army of priests was necessary, and their office gave them good social standing. The degree of respect paid depended not on a tohunga's birth (as in the case of the ariki) but on his acquirements. Sometimes he was a mighty and potent priest, sometimes, and additionally, a noted fighting man, sometimes altogether without religious or sacerdotal rank, being merely a skilled artificer or artistic tattooer. The tohunga who were craftsmen generally made such work an hereditary or family profession, certain tribes or families being famous as carvers or tattooers.page 499
One celebrated priest, named Papahurihia, who was well known in modern times under the Ngapuhi leaders Hongi and Heke, derived his powers by heredity. On the side of his father he had a long line of wizard ancestors while his mother was not only a powerful witch and oracle but was descended from a race of spirits (waiariki). His forefathers were said never to have been cannibals or tasted human flesh for fear of destroying their sanctity, which shows that they must have been rather seers (matakite) than sacrificing priests. Papahurihia could transport himself through the air from place to place in a moment, could make himself invisible to mortal sight, could summon the souls of the dead from Hades (Te Reinga) and make them converse with living friends. While claiming such miraculous powers, fully allowed by their disciples and congregations, every now and then there appears on the surface that general astuteness of the wily priest known to other races than the Maori. Thus it is related of a well-known sorcerer named Whare of the Thames (Hauraki) District that he was once entreated by his tribe to stop the deluge of pouring rain which was destroying their crops. He answered, “Whare will not raise his voice nor charm for rain to cease, for the rain comes from Keteriki” (a rainy quarter). The saying has passed into a proverb. The priest-tohunga often received the necessary theological education from his grandfather or elder relative, and this in a house erected for the purpose. It was made of palm leaves, and had to be very regularly and carefully page 500 constructed, for instance with exactly the same number of posts, leaves, etc., on each side. Only chiefs were allowed to help in the erection of such a house. Fasting during the time of the lessons was imperative, and the young man was obliged to be naked lest if he wore a garment some crumb of food might have fallen upon it and defiled it. Had such a thing as a garment thus defiled been worn both priest and disciple would die. As soon as possible the learner was induced to sleep, and any motion (such as twitching—see “Omens”) of body or limbs would be considered as an important sign, and noted by his watching elders. If all was favourable a charm was recited to give the youngster a good memory, then the incantations, the spells, charms, and other lore of the wizard were imparted, and at the end of the lessons a stalk of Cutting-grass (toe-toe) was chewed by the neophyte in order to prevent him from revealing secrets. It is related that at the end of even a single day's instruction the priest would say, “Try your power on a great tree and if it should wither and fall you have obtained the power you sought.”
A tohunga did not as a rule use his strongest magic to bewitch ordinary men, it was against other wizards that his blackest art was directed. To keep off the evil spells of others the charm called Mata-tawhito had to be recited. He had not only the power attributed to the Witch of Endor of summoning the ghosts of the dead but the spirits of the living were also subject to his spells. An old legend tells that the page 501 barracouta-hook of a powerful chief had been stolen, and the thief could not be found. A witch-priestess was consulted, and she went to the side of a stream to perform her incantations. Her spirit summoned the spirits of the people living in the settlement, and when she looked at that of the thief she saw the stolen hook glimmering among his shadowy garments. Some children having been murdered at Turanga by being thrown into an old kumara pit and then covered up, their parents became anxious at their prolonged absence, and the father, Kahutapere, proceeded to perform magical ceremonies by means of kites. His people made kites of raupo-leaf, the outsides covered with aute (the Paper-mulberry) and these kites being sent up sailed over the pa wherein the murderer lived. When they were hovering over the house of the guilty man they nodded their heads, and it was thus known who it was had killed the children. Revenge instantly followed. A native who had stolen a box was seduced to join a circle in which sat a priest with a long reed. The reed appeared to twist round and break itself into fragments on the offender's head. He denied the crime, but the priest said, “Go then, the lizard will feed on you.” The pain in the thief's stomach (a guilty conscience becoming “materialised”) soon made him reveal the place where the box was concealed.
(It will be noticed that in different portions of this volume I refer to things, generally spoken of as impossible, as though they really took place. This is especially the case in page 502 regard to witchcraft. When it is said that a man could fly through the air, or make himself invisible at will, I do not vouch for the truth of the recital, but “tell the tale as 'twas told to me.” However, on the other hand, personally I set no bound between truth and falsehood in regard to these matters of belief. On such delicate ground I know nothing and deny nothing.)
The art of witchcraft was general among all the tribes, but certain of these, such as the Urewera of the East Cape, were regarded as unusually proficient. Any personal relic, such as saliva, cuttings of hair and nails, etc., was generally used as the medium of witchcraft, but scraps of food left over from a meal eaten by the victim were also powerful means of bringing trouble on the careless mortal who had left such tapu morsels where they could be found by another. Or some tasty and relishing food containing a tapu object would be placed in a position where the person to be injured would be tempted to eat it. When the necessary medium had been obtained charms and invocations would be uttered in order to wreck vengeance or bring calamity upon the selected victim.
It must not be imagined, however, that a large part of the life of the tohunga was spent in mere malign mummery. The education necessary occupied a large portion of his youth and manhood, while the occasions for his services were endless and constant. Merely to give a list of the incantations necessary to be learnt or included in the repertory of an page 503 eminent tohunga would fill a small volume. Here and there in every legend are allusions to different incantations or spells (karakia), and the allusions seem endless. Not only the usual or common forms for hunting, fishing, forest-work, food-planting, war, marriage, birth, death, etc., but quaint and out of the way charms. There were charms for games, for bringing whales to a beach, for holding a canoe fast, for concealing oneself from those seeking, for transforming an enemy into a stone, for making day into night, for charming a weapon so that it never failed to kill, for holding a foeman's steps, for counteracting other spells, for recovering lost strength, for the return of an errant lover, for making a chief's seat sacred, for making a road so that those walking thereon would be bewildered, for “drawing out” the sea or land so that it seemed endless, etc., etc.
Then there were the divination charms. Of these the principal was the niu, or casting rods. This was done by the priest naming pieces of sticks for persons and tribes, casting them like spears, and by observation of the way they fell forecasting the result to the parties represented. Sometimes the priest took small pieces of fern-stalk (kaupapa), and, laying them on his right hand, cast them forward on the ground, and by their manner of falling augured defeat or victory. Of course, charms were repeated while the niu was cast. On one occasion it is recorded that the niu was consulted in an unusual and remarkable way. A priest caused a great log to be brought into the public square (marae) and put it in page 504 front of the altar, while some stalks of fern were laid beside it. After many incantations had been repeated, the fern-stalks were seen to dig down into the ground and come up on the other side of the log from that where they had been placed. Before hunting, a particular variety of the niu was used to foretell success or failure. The priest took a small handful of twigs about seven or eight inches long. A little bow of flax was tied to the extremity of some of the sticks. The sticks were then planted in the ground to represent the game. Other sticks, unornamented, were gathered in the priest's hand, and after a charm had been recited were cast among those already set up, with the cry, “Let it be darted!” (Koperetia!). Gathering up the sticks representing the hunters again, the process was twice repeated, the position of the sticks after the third cast being carefully scanned. From these the auguries of success or failure were drawn. The predictions (it is said) were always accurate. A dispute having arisen as to which family a slain person belonged, the priest cast the niu thus: He took two pieces of reed (toetoe: Arunda conspicua) and chanted an invocation. Then, holding the pieces of reed on the extended open palm of his right hand, he said, “If you are of the family of So and So, go! but if you are of this family, hold!” The toetoe stayed on his hand, and the priest then declared to which family the deceased belonged.
Before speaking more fully concerning the invocations which accompanied the spells of witchcraft or in which actually resided the page 504a page 505 spells, it is necessary to more fully describe the soul or individuality of a person. This has partially been done under the chapter treating of Religion and Cosmogony, in the allusions to the hau and the mauri of a human being or of land, etc., but there is much more necessary to be learnt on this subject before the power of witchcraft can be properly understood.
The hau or essence of a man or place is that which controls its existence, and this can be obtained by witchcraft. The hau is contained in the mauri, which is the material substance that represents the hau. The mauri of a man is life, without which his hau would not be able to exist; and this hau can be taken by getting some of the hair, spittle or other portion of him that had once been a living portion. Nevertheless the hau was a very subtle thing, for it could be even scooped up by the hand of the magician from the footsteps or the seat where the victim had recently rested, almost like the “scent” of which a dog is aware. This gathered “scent” could be taken by an enemy to the altar of a strange god, and by certain ceremonies life or health could be destroyed. Thus it was necessary to hide your trail in an enemy's country lest your soul (manea) be extracted and made prisoner. The hau thus taken would be subjected to the spell called “snatching whilst fresh” (Kapukapu tutata). It is quite an untranslatable and almost an incomprehensible word to a European, and to define the difference in a human being between hau and mauri is perhaps impossible. A Maori of old times, if page 506 asked to work or travel directly after a meal would say, “Wait until the mauri of the food has settled.” When the first sweet potatoes (kumara) were brought to New Zealand from Hawaiki the blood of the bringer was sprinkled on the lintel of the door of the store-house lest the mauri of the roots should leave the country, in which case the tubers would not grow.
The hau of a village, represented in the mauri which was its visible form, had to be carefully guarded from the wizards of a strange tribe. If a sorcerer wished to destroy it he would have to discover by spells where it was hidden, for only two or three of the most sacred persons of the whole tribe knew of its whereabouts. Sometimes a particular kind of lizard (moko-tapiri) acts as a guard to the mauri. In the Rangataiki River the mauri is a certain boulder, and at that place the first eels of the season are caught. A rata tree at the mouth of the Motu River is the mauri of the resident tribe, and thither the first kahawai-fish of the season is brought as an offering. Sometimes an artificial mauri was made from the pinion feathers of the right wing of the parrot (kaka); the left wing, being on the female side, had no power (mana). A hollow stone containing a lock of hair was another form of mauri and this being wrapt up was buried beside a stream. If it was to protect a forest it was secretly buried at the foot of a tree, and to that place the birds would flock. Sometimes a sacred fire (ahi-taitai) was kindled by a priest, and after certain invocations was regarded as the essence (hau) of the village home. The mauri page 507 was then formed by sacred food being cooked at this fire and buried in the ground, part of it first being eaten by the priest; a bird was generally used for this purpose. This served as a spiritual centre for the people, helping to ward off evil spells and bring good influences. This sacred fire (ahi-taitai) was also lighted on hunting and bird-snaring expeditions for baking the first fruits of the chase. On a bird-catching party, after the fire had been kindled, the scraped leaves of the cabbage tree (ti) used in making snares were collected and some placed on the fire with uttered charms. This was in order to bring many birds to the forest and to ensure many being taken. The first bird snared was roasted on a stick before the fire and when cooked was torn off the spit by the priest's teeth, he being careful not to use his hands, but gnawing the bird as a dog would do. The hands might only touch the dead bird before it was cooked. The rest of the booty could then be cooked and eaten while an incantation to procure plenty more was uttered.
The above description of the sacred fire (ahi-taitai) does not apply to another kind (ahi-whakaene) used for the purposes of the Black Art, and in which the semblance (ahua) of a person could be destroyed, thus destroying the life of the bewitched one. A third kind of sacred fire (tirehurehu) was used for the purpose of a certain rite (ka mahunu) performed for the purpose of repelling witchcraft projected by someone else, and filling that wicked person with shame and remorse. When this ceremony took place over the hearts of dead page 508 enemies it deprived the slain persons’ comrades of bravery and caused their defeat in battle.
The fire-walking ceremonies so well known at Raiatea near Tahiti, in Fiji, and in other parts of the world, have their analogies in New Zealand. After a victory the successful party would go through the rite. The ordinary way of casting the fire-spell was for a heated oven (umu-tamoe, or umu-taoroa) to be lighted, and on the heated stones a priest would place himself after having repeated charms to “harden” himself against the power of the fire. Standing on the fiery floor, he recited incantations to the gods of the tribe in order that the power of the enemy to obtain revenge for defeat should be taken away. There is a legend that a famous priest, Te Hahae, was angered that the body of his drowned grandson had been eaten by a coast-dwelling tribe. He called on his relations to plant a field of taro, having 70 holes (a sacred number) prepared in such a way that the single root grown in each should be of unusual size. This was done, and a crop of 70 prodigious taro roots resulted. When the crop was ripe, great stores of firewood for cooking with were collected, and the erring tribe invited to the feast. Quantities of ordinary food were also gathered and prepared. An enormous oven, many yards across, was prepared for the 70 large taro, and this was set aside for the priest, who kindled it with sacred fire (obtained by the friction of wood) and the stones were made red hot. When the flames had subsided and page 509 but a great mass of burning coals and glowing stones remained, the priest, clothed only in a girdle of green leaves, and bearing a branch of a sacred shrub in his hand, walked out into the midst of the fierce heat. There he stood a long time repeating his invocations, uninjured by the fire; even his leaf-girdle was not shrivelled or withered. Then he placed the 70 great taro in the oven, put green leaves above them, and heaped on the earth. When they were cooked he presented them to the tribe that had eaten the body of his grandson, never ceasing to utter his charms. After the delinquents had eaten the taro they went away to their canoes and to their fishing grounds, intending to catch fish to make a return present to their entertainer, but the incantations of Te Hahae raised a terrific tempest. Fierce squalls of wind and rain, with thunder and lightning, beat down upon the doomed men, and they were engulfed in the ocean.
A story that well illustrates the Maori belief in magic, runs as follows:—A man named Te Wheuki was returning hungry from his work, when he saw some children eating by the wayside, so he stopped and asked them for some of their food. The children refused, so the man went on, but as he turned he spurned the dust from his foot on to the children. They died in the same hour. Their father came to the spot and saw the corpses, which he carried home, but he allowed no wailing over them, nor would he touch food himself. Then he went to the altar and tried to charm the spirit (hau) of Te Wheuki, but page 510 that worthy was at his own altar fortifying himself against the consequences of his malicious deed. For four nights the bereaved father charmed in vain. Then he said, “My spirit (hau) is too near to his; we must remove to a distance.” So he buried the bodies of his children and went to a far-off place. There he dwelt till quiet had fallen on the soul of Te Wheuki, who dreaded no longer and relaxed his spells. Then, one day, while the father of the children wrought incantations, he saw on his fern-stalk a fly arrive; this fly he guided into a calabash; then three other flies arrived, were guided in, and the lid of the calabash fastened down. Before three months were over Te Wheuki, his wife, his daughter, and his son were all dead. So potent were the ancient spells.
To illustrate the above story it should be mentioned that to counteract witchcraft a counter spell (whaka-hokitu) was used to nullify the charm (karakia-makutu) designed to injure. For this purpose the priest would take some of the spittle of the sufferer, and having spread it on a leaf, lay it on the altar or before the shrine (tuahu). Then the spirit of the malignant wizard would appear in the shape of a certain fly (ngaro-tara) of a reddish hue. It is not a blow-fly; it would not alight on food-matter. The altar (called in this case Ahupuke) was set at the side of the water, and the priest would take off his clothes and gird himself with green flax. At the side of the altar he would make a hole and mould the earth there-from into human form, having legs, arms, etc. page 511 He would then take a stone in one hand and with the other drive a stone into the hole (rua torino). He would utter a deadly incantation, at the same time striking the earth-man he had moulded, repeating the name of the figure, which is that of the person he wished to destroy. Soon would be heard the buzzing of the approaching fly, which then flew straight into the hole. The stone was dashed down into the hole and the spirit disappeared for ever. If the fly should be the spirit of some too powerful wizard, its power (mana) would be too great to be so overcome, and the fly would not enter the hole (rua-torino=abyss).
In the chapter on the Wharekura has been described the powerful incantations to be learnt by a priest-chief (ariki) before he could be considered thoroughly equipped. Similar mighty charms had to be acquired by the tohunga before he was armed for the spiritual fray. Sometimes a journey had to be taken to a learned priest at a distance in order that the holy ceremonies (mananga) and incantations might be learnt. When the teaching was finished, the pupil would be told to repeat a charm and kill a dog or bird with it, then to try the power on a big tree and if it fell it would show proficiency. After that experiment could be made on human beings. It was a common practice to try sorcery on a relation to try its strength.
It is related that a celebrated chief named Mahu, whose food-store had been robbed, wished to learn incantations which would page 512 enable him to destroy the thieves, so he went to his brother-in-law, who was the greatest of wizards, in order to learn the deadly charms. When he had acquired this knowledge he came forth from “the sacred house” and saw his niece (the daughter of his instructor) cutting flax-leaves in a swamp. The legend says, “At once he let fly the sorcery at her, that known as tipi-whakahia-moe ‘the sleep-causing stroke.’ She stood there, fixed, still, and stands there yet. When the news reached the people of Taewa (the girl's father) at Wai-marama and Kahuranaki they came to the wake (uhunga). The people of the pa on seeing them descending the spur of the ridge of Kohu-ipu went outside to welcome them in the usual manner; but Mahu ran towards them, his mind distorted with the same distress and feelings as if this had been the very people who stole his food. This man of the deluded heart came in front of the people who were waving their welcome, and sent his ‘stroke’ (tipi, perhaps here better translated ‘flash’ as of lightning) at the approaching people; they stood stock still on the hill, and are still standing in the same place. I (the native narrator) have been to both these places. There are to be seen (turned to stone) the children still on their mothers' backs, or on their knees, whilst others are being nursed in arms; they are all on the ridge called Kohuipu. Hence is the saying, ‘Taewa's serried rank of food resting on Kohu-ipu.’” The incantation of a powerful chief would kill a crowd of people at the wave of a hand.page 513
He made a slip (hiki) and missed out the line, “By Tama-te-Kapua.” He soon knew that he had made this mistake and must die, which he shortly afterwards did. If the spell was uttered in a disjointed way, and the words were not pronounced fully and clearly, an offence (whakapuru) was also thus committed. If a tohunga made an error (tapepa in the rites concerning the planting or harverting the kumara, it would kill him and destroy the crop.
“This is the Deliverance,
By the Sources, by the Origins,
By the Chief Priests,
By the Priests,
By me, by his disciple
Shall this son emerge
To the world of being
To the world of light.”
A very effective method prevented departures from orthodoxy in regard to doctrine or ceremony, viz, the consumption as food of the heretic. It is related that a certain priest at Akaroa, having introduced “new light” into the established beliefs, his chief had the erring teacher's mouth, nose and other bodily orifices page 514 plugged up (lest heresy should get out somehow), and after the body had been baked in the oven it formed the pièce de résistance of a fine feast.
When the priest was proclaiming the message of a god, he became tranced (urua) or demented. Before a sea-expedition started, priests would charm to stop the holes out of which the wind blows and to calm the waves of the sea; also to guard the canoe on its voyage. (Maui, the hero - god, put all the winds into a cave, except the west wind.) A certain priest, under the influence of the god Te Rehu o Tainui, clambered to the top of a lofty pine (kahikatea) tree and threw himself from the summit to the ground without injury. Again, he threw himself into the Tamanga stream and passed under water for miles, emerging with two live fish in his ears as ear-pendants and as tokens of the god. Tales are told of Kiki the magician, whose shadow if it fell across a shrub withered it, and if he drew back the sliding door of his house when a canoe-full of people were passing on the river, all in the canoe died. Magical objects were sometimes possessed of terrible power. There was a great Head of wood once kept at a place called Puketapu, “the sacred mount,” and its influence was so great that no one could approach the place alive. The genii which encompassed it were overcome by an army of good spirits brought by a beneficent wizard, and there was a melodramatic finale of “The Triumph of Virtue.” A certain chief whose canoe had been stolen pursued the robbers in page 515 a craft of his own made from a duck's feather. Unfortunately the vessel proved crank, and its occupant was upset in a sudden squall, but managed to obtain a more certain mode of transit by clambering on to a whale's back, and he soon learned to guide the animal by the influence of spells. These seem childish stories, but they are interesting psychologically.
If a gentle wind rose gradually into a fierce gale, and lasted many days, it needed to be controlled. To do this one must take a piece of dead coal from the fire and holding it in the left hand, go to a running stream. Entering the water, the performer should stoop down and pass the hand with the ember under the thigh. Then the wind will die away. A priest of rank carried two staffs, one called the wand of life and the other the wand of death. If he wanted to consult a spirit he would thrust these staffs into the ground of the sacred place (wahi-tapu). If he did so, for instance, to find whether a sick person would recover, and if he saw a spirit on the wand of life the invalid would recover, but if the spirit perched on the wand of death there was no hope. If a person had been murdered and revenge was desired, the tohunga would take hold of the broken point of a spear on which was the blood of the murdered man and by means of this medium his spells would bring madness on the slayer.
If a frost was likely to come on and spoil the crop, a priest would take a brand from the fire at night and go to the urinal (mianga) of the village, walking round the place and waving the burning stick so as to light up the vicinity. page 516 Then, throwing away the firebrand, he turned to the east with upraised hand, repeating the invocation known as “the star-counting,” pointing with his fingers at certain of the stars as if counting them. This would disperse the frost and bring a cloudy sky. To drive away a common fog, one had to take ashes from the fire and advance into the fog, sowing the ashes as if sowing seed. But for a goblin-fog, an enchanted mist (caused by trespass on fairy ground), another ceremony was necessary, a very simple one. A fern-stalk was stuck in the ground (the leaves having been stripped off) with the butt upwards. The butt had to be split and a lump of earth inserted into the cleft. That was all; the fog would clear away at once. Lullaby songs (oriori) were often chanted by priests to produce a favourable change in the weather, to lull the violence of a storm, or change a rainy day to sunshine.
(As examples of incantations, and where descriptions of them may be found the examples enumerated may be cited. See appendix).1
Matakite, or “foretelling” the work of the Seer, has been already described under “Diseases.” When tribal war-gods took possession of the Seer there was generally a reference to some person, place, or object (known as the papa), which the god directed to be killed or captured or in some way affected if victory was desired. If the direction should be carried out and the papa secured victory was certain.
When one crossed the main ridge of the North Island or entered for the first time upon page 517 a new part of the country, as in ascending a mountain or crossing a lake before unexplored by him, a particular ceremony (uruuru-whenua) had to be performed. It was generally gone through at a spot pointed out as the entrance to such district. Each person who passed the spot for the first time would break off a twig, fern-stalk, etc., and cast it at the base of a tree or stone, at the same time repeating a special charm. It was most unlucky to turn the head and look towards the sacred spot after passing it and performing this rite.
All lizards were dreaded. Some tribes hated the owl and the lonely little swamp-bird, matata (Sphenœacus punctatus), and killed it if they had the chance. If natives had to pass round a cape, or enter a narrow tidal passage, they would stop a moment or two while the priest muttered a charm. They believed, as did the sailors of the time of Jonah, in throwing over a victim to save the lives of others. A woman named Kanawa was thrown over near Whakatane from the Horouta canoe to appease the gods in a storm, but she held on to the bow of the canoe, which caused the vessel to be upset.
The Whanga-horo ceremony has several times been mentioned in this book. It was performed as follows, and was used chiefly as a means of cleansing oneself from tapu after having been cursed. The people affected went to a running stream and stripped off their clothes. They plunged in and dashed water over themselves while the priest chanted incantations and performed ceremonies. Then page 518 they left the stream, and the priests recited spells to purify the courtyard (marae) from curses. The priest dug a long trench (termed “the pit of wrath”) into which to sweep the spirits of enemies. Muttering charms, the priest took a large shell in each hand and scraped into the pit the (invisible) souls of the foes; then earth was scraped up and the pit covered in. Having flattened the ground by beating with the hands, they wove baskets to hold the souls they had destroyed and covered the pit with charmed garments and cloths.
The Huri takapau was the ceremony of thanksgiving for deliverance. It is described at full length as having been performed on reaching firm land by the people who survived the Deluge.2 The priest went to running water and sprinkled the people from a branch dipped therein. He lighted a sacred fire (by friction of wood) and roasted fern-root thereon. The people also lighted a fire and cooked fern-root; one of their number, standing four paces in front of the high priest, held the fern-root up, first with his right hand, then with his left, while charms were recited. Then the fern-root from the right hand was given to the high-priestess, who, passing it under her thigh, ate part of it, and offered the rest, together with a bunch of grass, to the people, who ate all the fern-root and threw the grass upon the sacred fire. The fern-root from the left hand was given to another old priestess, who acted in a similar manner. All stayed where they were till the sacred fire had died out of itself.page 519
As an historical example of Maori magic, the story of the visit of Bishop Selwyn to Te Heuheu may be of interest. Living at Lake Taupo, where he was overlord of the district, resided Te Heuheu, one of the greatest of New Zealand chiefs. Almost all New Zealand had adopted the new religion and of all the notables Te Heuheu was the only remaining heathen. To be defied by a single man piqued the brave Missionary-bishop, who resolved to visit and convert this last worshipper of the old gods. Te Heuheu received his guest with all due ceremony, and when a space of time sufficient for courtesy had expired, the Bishop told his errand. He said that he was an ambassador from God, and that he wished to bring to the chief the knowledge of true religion. Te Heuheu answered, “I am a god myself. I can recite my pedigree. It comes direct from Heaven, my father, from Earth my mother (that is, from Rangi and Papa).” “I do not speak,” said the Bishop, “of such gods as these; I mean the Creator of all things, the Judge of all men at the last day.” “If,” answered the Maori, “if you are the messenger and priest of a god, show me a miracle, give me a sign as a credential.” The Bishop answered, “My Master refused to give a sign, and I have none to give. The sign of my religion is in the life of a man, in the changed and purified heart.” “My priest here,” said Te Heuheu, “has power from his god to work wonders. Give a sign and he shall give greater.” The Bishop again refused. The Maori beckoned to the tohunga Hunuaho who page 520 was standing near. “Show the stranger priest a sign,” he said. The tohunga moved forward and picked up a brown and faded leaf that had fallen from a cabbage-palm overhead. “Here,” he said to the Bishop, “make this dead leaf green again.” “No,” replied the Bishop, “I cannot do so, nor can you, nor any living man.” “No!” exclaimed the priest, “see!” And he tossed the brown strip high in the air. It wavered downwards to the earth, green as grass. “Can you not do as much?” said the chief to the Bishop. “No, I have already answered you,” said the Bishop. “Then,” said Te Heuheu, “your gods are weaker than mine, I will not hearken.” The Bishop had to leave Te Heuheu unconverted. Some years afterwards the old heathen chief was buried with all his people and his village in a great landslip. When, after a long time, the tapu was removed, his bones were taken up the vast slope of the active volcano Tongariro to be cast into the crater, but a sudden thunderstorm that surrounded the bearers of the corpse so frightened them that they fled, leaving the body on a ridge of the sacred mountain, “where no man knoweth his tomb.”
The magical powers over nature, such as we name the supernatural, were always credited to a tohunga. Of these, the hoaina was an exhibition of will power. The priest would take a large pebble of hard stone and by tapping it with a slender wand (otaota) or fern-stalk the stone would fall into dust. It is related that the son of Tuhoro (who was mentioned above as the child of Tama-te-kapua) consulted the page 521 death-oracle by addressing the corpse of his father thus, “Show me if safety will be ours should an enemy attack the land, and will the land be deserted?” The corpse gave a slight roll to the right, then to the left, and again to the right and left. Then all was still. This was read as a bad omen and that the land would be deserted. This ancient example was, however, interpreted differently from the experience given by the tohunga Hunuaho (Te Heuheu's priest) who in our own days saw the miracle performed. He said, “We were in the enemy's country and our war party doubted whether, although we had won several victories, our foes and their allies were not closing in behind us to cut off our retreat. We asked our priest to consult the gods whether we should go on or should return. The answers were dark. Then said the priest, ‘We will consult the Oracle of the Dead. Bring me here the body of a slain enemy, but it must be whole and perfect.’ So we went back to the battle ground of yesterday and searched long. Few of the bodies were perfect, an arm was gone from this, and a leg from that, for the ovens had been well filled on the night of victory. Then at last we found a perfect corpse, and we took it to the central space (marae) of the fort we were holding. The priest made us all stand back many yards after we had laid the naked body on its back, with its face up to the sky. Then the priest stood half-way between us and the dead man, speaking a mighty invocation. And when he had finished his prayer he said, ‘Oh thou Hidden One, dwelling in the empty house, if page 522 we, the wanderers of the war god, are to go on and still be victorious, be strong! be strong! turn!’ Then the corpse slowly turned and lay upon its side. Again he cried, ‘Be strong, be strong! Turn!’ And the dead man turned again and rolled over on his back as we had laid him. Then said the priest, ‘We will go forward.’ And we went forward and we slew till no man was found on whom to wet the points of our spears. Enough is said.”
Priests and magic-possessing chiefs could take the form of birds and other animals, as Maui assumed the appearance of a dove, and Tama that of a white heron.
As a last example of Maori magic, of a different kind, we may notice a legend to the effect that the widow of a man who had been drowned by treachery was wandering on the beach. She was at that time expecting to be delivered of her first-born. Her husband had been murdered by his brother, but this she did not know, and she asked this brother-in-law of hers where her husband was, but received an evasive answer. Wailing, she passed along the sea-beach, and, glancing out over the ocean, saw a hand and arm appear above the water. The hand had a mark (kura-waka) upon it; by this she knew that it was the hand of her husband, that he had been killed and become a supernatural being. As she returned home weeping she saw the same hand arise out of the earth. She went to her house and bore a son, who was, of course, dedicated to revenge his father's death.