Spiritual and mental
concepts of the Maori
DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH No. 2.
P1RITUAI AND MENTAL CONCEPTS
OF THE MAORI.
Tnkua mat 'hi Mt ,te wi
lished by the Dominion Museum* Wellington, New. Zealand, under th<
Authority of the Hon. th^ Minister of Internal Affairs.
BY AUTHORITY: w. A, G. SJCINNER, GOV MJ:KNMKNT PRINTER
DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH No. 2.
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS
OF THE MAORI.
JAN 2 01967
" Tukua mai ki au te wairua o te tangata ; maku e kapo i te toiora o a taua
tamariki." THE DAWN MAID.
Published by the Dominion Museum, Wellington, New Zealand, under the
Authority of the Hon. the Minister of Internal Affairs.
BY AUTHORITY: w. A. G. SKINNER, GOVERNMENT PRINTER.
Photograph by J. McDonald, 7907.
FIG. i. STONE MAURI OR MANEA.
The material mauri employed as protective talismans and shrines or
abiding-places of supernormal beings (c.iua) under whose care a village,
forest, or area of land was placed. (See page 22.)
The stones are natural forms, apparently water- worn ; a scroll design
has been incised in one (No. 6). They form part of the Hammond Collection
from the Taranaki District.
" He taunga atua te mauri."
(" The mauri is an abiding-place of the gods.")
Nos. i, 3, and 4 are mauri or manea. No. 2 was simply used as a
domestic implement. No. 5 is a stone icceptacle for a peculiarly tapu
and revered stone called a whatu kura that had an emblematical significance.
Nos. 6 and 7 were also employed in ritual performances.
Photograph by J. McDonald, 1921.
FIG. 2. THE RAURAU RITE.
A divinatory rite performed by Maori tohunga or priestly experts of
former times in order to ascertain what persons and clans will surfer in a
coming fight. Each clan is represented by a diminutive mound of earth
having a branchlet of karamu (Coprosma) stuck in it. In front of each
mound a small stick is placed. By means of the recital of a charm the
yriest induces the gods to forecast events. Then the sticks are seen to
glide towards the mounds to attack the hau or branch'lets. At the same
lime a leaf is seen to fall from each branchlet for each man of that particular
clan who will fall in the coming fight. The illustration shows the iohunga
in the act of repeating the charm. (See page 31.)
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS
OF THE MAORI :
Being Illustrations of Animism and Animatism.
Spiritual potentiae of man. Spirit and soul. Definitions. The Maori
and abstract conceptions. Animism and animatism. Terms denoting
spiritual and mental concepts. The wairua and its functions. The
soul a protective agent. All entities possess an indwelling spirit.
The soul comes from Supreme Being. The term toiora. Souls repre-
sented by moths. The awe or refined soul. The luku wairua rite.
The soul affected by magic. Passing of soul to spirit-world. Ghosts.
Angaanga. Ata. Aria. The kapu of a pou rahui. Ahua. Material
representations of immaterial things. Immaterial representations of
material objects. The miri aroha rite. Mawe. The mauri and mauri
ora. Physical life-principle. Material mauri. Protective agents.
The hau. Manea. Manawa and manawa ora. Hebrew terms. Tipua.
Animatism. Mental concepts. Aro, hinengaro, ngakau, and puku.
Other expressions. The ira atua or Divine element in man. Maori
mentality. Results of introspective thought.
THE mental concepts of a barbaric race must ever possess
an element of interest to the ethnographer, and in studying
those of the Maori folk we encounter much evidence to
show that they had evolved a belief in many singular abstractions.
This is not an uncommon feature in connection with barbaric
peoples, such as those of Indonesia and Farther India, and the
old-time peoples of Asia. A highly noteworthy. characteristic of
such races is the fact that they often assigned a greater number
of spiritual potentiae to man than do more highly civilized people.
Including both mental and spiritual potentiae, we find that some
peoples of antiquity believed in the existence of as many as a
dozen. Among ourselves these are reduced to three viz., spirit,
soul, and mind. Thus the lot of people of the higher culture-
plane, when brought into contact with those of an inferior grade,
is not to cultivate their sense of the abstract, but to curb it.
In order to anticipate any objection that may be made
concerning the indefinite nature of barbaric conceptions of the
spiritual nature of man, it may here be said that our own
definition of such nature is by no means too clear. This fact
was brought home to me some years ago, when I collected from
a number of ministers of divers sects their definitions of the
terms " spirit " and " soul." These explanations by no means
agreed, though emanating from persons who should assuredly be
4 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
experts in such matters. Annandale tells us that the soul is the
spiritual and immortal part in man, the immaterial spirit which
inhabits the body, the moral and emotional part of man's nature,
the seat of the sentiments or feelings, the animating or essential
part, the vital principle. Now, in order to cover this range of
definition a Maori would mention the wairua, the ngakau or puku,
the hinengaro, and the mauri. As to the spirit, the same English
authority states that it is the intelligent, immaterial, and
immortal part in man ; the soul, as distinguished from the body ;
a spectre, a ghost, &c. Herein " soul " appears as a synonym
for " spirit."
The New Oxford Dictionary, the last word in definition, tells
us that the spirit is the animating or vital principle in man (and
animals) the breath of life, the soul of a person that leaves the
body at death, the disembodied soul of a deceased person, &c.
The Maori would employ the terms mauri, manawa era, and
wairua to denote these qualities. The above dictionary defines
the soul as the principle of life in man and animals, the principle
of thought and action in man, the spiritual part of man, the seat
of the emotions, intellectual power, spiritual power ; the vital,
sensitive, or rational principle in plants, animals, or human beings ;
the spiritual part of man considered in its moral aspect ; the
spiritual part of man as surviving after death ; the disembodied
spirit of a deceased person, &c. To describe these definitions our
Maori would use the expressions mauri, mahara, wairua, puku or
ngakau, mana, hau, hinengaro, and kehua truly a goodly array.
It will also be noted that, so far as they pertain to the immortal
element in man, the two terms are practically synonyms. This
means that in any scientific treatise we must either use these
expressions indiscriminately, or assign to each a definite meaning.
This latter course has been pursued by the writer of the Handbook
of Folk-lore, as adopted by the Royal Anthropological Society.
In this work the definitions are commendably brief, and are as
" Soul. The separable personality of the living man, or
" Spirit. A soul-like being which has never been associated
with a human or animal body.
" Ghost. This denotes the soul after the death of its
These definitions are pleasingly brief, but that of " spirit "
calls for a mental revolution by no means easy to bring about.
It would assuredly require prolonged training to disassociate the
term " spirit " from man, and confine its use to what we term
inanimate objects. The word " spirit " is certainly connected
with an animal function with words meaning breath, breathing,
and to breathe and it seems inadvisable to restrict its application
to objects with which that function is not connected.
The above evidence seems to show that, however much those
of advanced thought may talk about the tripartite nature of
man, as illustrated by spirit, soul, and body, yet to the average
person among us spirit and soul are one and the same thing.
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 5
The present writer maintains that the study of Maori
psychological phenomena, the spiritual attributes of man, brutes,
and inanimate objects, as believed in by natives, is one of much
interest, and one that throws much light on Maori mentality.
In his endeavours to understand the origin of life, the cause of
growth, the change of death, the apparition of those who had
passed from this life, the Maori trod a path as old as the human
race itself. His mystic nature prompted him to indulge in
introspective thought, to evolve abstractions, to conceive qualities
and potentise spiritual and intellectual. In these endeavours he
followed the path that all men of all times and all regions have
pursued. His conclusions resemble those of other barbaric peoples
of far-sundered lands, for the channels of human thought are
curiously alike the wide world over. The conclusions he arrived
at from what he considered clear evidence were that man
possesses a spiritual quality that leaves the body during dreams,
and quits it for ever at the death of the physical basis (this is
the wairua] ; that death is marked by the passing, the extinction,
of an invisible activity called the manawa ora (breath of life) ;
that man also possesses a physical life-principle termed the
mauri one that cannot desert the living body, but does so at
death ; that he possesses yet another life-principle called the
hau, that can be affected by the arts of black magic ; that man
possesses several sources of mental and intellectual activity, and
that the semblance of man, or of any entity, may be taken and
employed as a medium in ceremonies believed to affect the
originals. Our Maori philosopher assigned to inanimate objects
some of these potentiae, and with very remarkable results, as seen
in his extended system of personification, and his mythopoetic
co-fellowship with nature.
In the foregoing passage we have impinged upon the domains
of animism and animatism. As defined in the Handbook oj Folk-
lore these are explained as follows :
" Animism. The belief in spiritual beings, including soul,
ghost, and spirit.
" Animatism. The attribution of life and personality to
things, but not a separate or apparitional soul."
Under this latter heading we shall encounter some highly
remarkable concepts and quaint beliefs, such as have had an
important effect upon the mythology, and even upon the religion,
of barbaric folk.
In dealing with the spiritual and mental concepts of the Maori
it will be necessary to describe the meanings of the following list
of words, such terms representing various spiritual and mental
agents or activities, physical organs, and abstract conceptions :
Ahua Hamano Mahara Poho
Angaanga Hau Manawa Puku
Aria Hinengaro Manea Tipua
Aro Kehua Mauri Toiora
Ata Kikokiko Mawe Wairua
Ate Kohiwi Ngakau Whakaaro.
6 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
Here we have to face a somewhat formidable list of abstract
terms or vehicles, for even those words that denote material
organs are also employed to indicate abstract qualities. It will
not be convenient to take these terms in their alphabetical order,
rather must we divide them into affinitative groups. Thus, as a
first instalment we will deal with the series of words used to
signify the various spiritual potentiae of man, albeit most of such
expressions are also employed in connection with inanimate
Terms employed to indicate the spiritual and mental qualities
of man appear to be derived principally from words denoting
organs of the body, and such immaterial phenomena as breath
and shadow. Thus " spirit " and anima are both connected with
breath, while the Maori term wairua denotes a shadow. It seems
probable that " shadow " was the original meaning of the word,
foi we have in the word ata another Polynesian word meaning
" shadow " and " reflection " and " soul."
The wairua of the Maori is a sentient spirit, the soul of precise
anthropological nomenclature. It leaves the body at death, but
it can also do the same during the life of its physical basis. Thus
it leaves the body during its dreaming-hours to wander abroad,
apparently with the object of detecting any impending danger
to the body. It will hasten back to the body to warn it of any
such approaching danger, and this is the reason why the Maori
placed such great faith in dreams. When, long centuries agone,
one Kauhika, an old woman living at the Uruhau pa, on a wind-
lashed hill at Island Bay, dreamed that she saw a fire and strange
men on the Wharau Range at Kaiwharawhara, scouts were at
once sent out to look into the matter. As it so happened, a
raiding-party was detected advancing by that route, but here
forewarned was forearmed, and the raiders went down to Hades
in the shoal waters of Te Awa-a-Taia, the former entrance-channel
to Wellington Harbour between Lyall and Evans Bays. But
observe the advantages of possessing such an extremely volatile
and useful soul !
We know that the term used to define the human soul is not
derived from any organ of the body, nor is it located in any
particular organ ; there is no seat of the soul as there is of the
emotions. Curiously enough, the wairua seems to be partially
material, inasmuch as it can be seen by human eyes, at least by
those of persons who are matakite (seers, persons possessed of second
sight). The Matatua folk have a singular expression lira maka
to denote a company of waiiua seen passing through space.
Certain natural phenomena are believed by the Maori to be, or
to represent, wairua. Tutakangahau described to me what was
apparently some electrical phenomenon he saw on the summit
of Maunga-pohatu. It resembled a moving fire gliding along the
summit of the range ; one described it as being like a torch.
Tu maintained that it was a wairua, and that it is called Tiramaroa
by natives. We shall see anon that wairua can not only be seen
by man, but also slain by him, and that they appear to possess
material bodies in the underworld of spirits. This singular and
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. J
often confusing native conception of the wairua is described by
Tylor as a " vaporous materiality " a definition that seems to
fit the case very neatly. It appears to be sometimes vaporous,
and at other times material.
Maori belief in the immortality of the soul is shown in his
belief in two spirit-worlds, as also in that of spirit gods that are
the souls of his ancestors. Against this we must place the belief
that the wairua can be destroyed by magic arts ; also that Whiro
is ever endeavouring to slay the wairua in the underworld, while
Mine, the ex -Dawn Maid, protects them. Of a verity, he who
attempts to understand and describe the conceptions of barbaric
man attempts a harassing task. Colenso has said that the wairua
and kehua (ghost) are two distinct spirits ; but this is certainly
not so : the term kehua is applied to the wairua after it leaves
the body at death. Tregear gives " reflection " as a meaning of
wairua, but Williams does not include this definition, even in
his fifth edition. It is, however, applied to things unsubstantial,
shadowy, or dimly seen. Several variant forms of the word
wairua are encountered in Polynesian dialects, and the wai of
wairua may be the Paumotu word vai (= to be, to exist).
The wairua is termed by some writers the astral body ; it is
assuredly a spiritual life-principle, a volatile essential spirit, the
" soul " of anthropological nomenclature. When a native speaks
of this soul being destroyed it is probably its power to protect
the body that is so destroyed, not the actual soul. But the
physical life-principle having been destroyed, then necessarily the
person dies, though the wairua survives.
The Maori concept of this soul force resembles that of the
ancient Egyptians known as the ka, save that it does not return
to the body after death. Hence it was not necessary that the
Maori should preserve the bodies of the dead by any process of
When collecting native songs many years ago one of my
native friends forgot the concluding part of one. The next day
he came to me and said, " I will now finish our song ; my wairua
found the balance of it last night." The wairua leaves the body
during sleep and wanders abroad, hence we see distant places
and persons in our dreams. I have heard natives say, " I went
to the spirit-world last night and saw So-and-so " mentioning
some dead person. Te Wai-o-hine, a Tuhoe woman, once said
to me, " O friend ! I went to spirit-land last night and saw
Kiriwai (an old woman who had recently died). She no longer
looked old, but young, as we were long ago. So now I believe
that we regain our youth in the spirit- world." It is owing to
these quaint beliefs that such folk as the Maori are reluctant to
wake a sleeping person. Many a time a native, wishing to
speak with me, but finding me asleep, has stood outside the tent
and called softly to me so as to awaken me gradually. You
see his view was that my wairua might be abroad, taking a
little jaunt, and he had to give it time wherein to return to its
Some extremely quaint conceptions connected with the wairua
are noted by any observant person who lives among our native
8 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
folk. It is often a man's wairua that warns him of magic spells
being directed against him, thus giving him time to take preven-
tive measures. When camped at Te Whaiti some twenty-four
years ago, the native children made my tent a frequent place of
call, attracted doubtless by a bulky 100 Ib. case of biscuit in the
mess-tent. When an epidemic of influenza swept the district,
these small folk were gathered by Maiki-nui into Taiwhetuki to
the number of over forty. Bright-eyed Kara of Tara-pounamu
broke out the trail to Rarohenga, and, to lessen the yearning of
the murimuri aroha, took her small sister, Hine-okaia, with her.
Then Wairama, of the Black Dog clan, passed out on the ara
whanui, followed by many another of the Children of the Mist.
Then, from the father of Marewa-i-te-rangi, the Star Maid, I
received a short message : " Greeting to you, the wairua of your
child, Marewa. Come at once. She has been caught in the
snare of Hine-nui-te-po, and the world of life is closed." Here
the four-year-old child was spoken of as mine, and I was alluded
to as her wairua, possibly because she had had many meals at
my camp. After the child's death her parents always greeted
me as the wairua ora (living soul or vital spirit) of Marewa, and
others greeted me with the remark, " Tena koe, te wairua ora o
to mokopuna, o Marewa " (" Greeting to you, the life spirit of
your grandchild, Marewa"). Tiro, an eight-year-old child, whose
father had long been absent among the Raukawa folk, said to
me, " I think that I will shoot myself, because then my wairua
will go to my father, whom I long to see again." Thus she
proposed to visit him in the spiiit. When the Pu Taewa gaoled
Te Wai-o-hine for throwing certain members of that clan over
her shoulder, her friends wrote to her, saying, "Be of good
cheer ; although you are afar off, yet are our wairua ever with
Deniker remarks that spirits are more active than souls,
though the soul of a dead man is sometimes also a spirit. The
Maori wairua is a volatile and active quality, but not aggressive ;
its activities are those of observation and of warning its physical
basis. These remarks apply to the wairua of a living person.
After death a person's soul may become aggressive i.e., be
utilized as an atua to destroy life. The wairua of a still-born
child was believed to be specially malignant, hence such were
often placated and employed as atua mo te riri, or directing war
Many illustrations might be collected of curious usages concern-
ing this term wairua. The late Tuta Nihoniho, when supplying me
with ethnographical data, remarked : " My wairua is very intent
on this work, that it may be well done " (" Ka nui taku wairua
ki runga i tenei take, kia pai te otinga"}.
The Maori tells us with no uncertain voice that all things
possess a wairua, but I do not think that he would claim a
separable soul for inanimate objects, but merely a vital spirit
without which the object could not exist. An old native once
said to me, " If all things did not possess a wairua, then they
would all be lifeless, and so decay." He assured me that even
stones possess a wairua, otherwise they would not be entities ;
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. Q
they could not be seen. We are also told by natives that all
things possess a mauri ; but, as applied to inanimate objects,
the two terms may possibly be applied to the same quality.
A missionary once said to Te Matorohanga, " Your religion is
false; it teaches that all things possess a soul." The old man
replied, " Were a thing not possessed of the wairua of the atua,
then that thing could not possess form." Thus we must grasp the
fact that, in native belief, all entities possess a soul, or spirit.
The things that make for life and superlative welfare all
originated with lo, the Supreme Being. Thus the wairua, the
manawa or a (breath of life), the toiora, and the wananga (occult
knowledge) all emanated from that source. The wairua, the
ate (liver), the manawa (breath), and toto (blood), by means of
which the first woman, Hine-ahu-one, was vivified, were obtained
from lo. When these were implanted in the lifeless image of
earth it acquired life, it was a human being. The wairua returns
to lo at the death of the body, or abides in the haven provided
by the daughter of Hine-ahu-one. A teaching of the Takitumu
folk is to the effect that the wairua is implanted in the embryo
when the eyes are formed. This finds corroboration in a very
old form of ritual chaunt connected with birth :
Ka karapinepine te pu toto i a ia
Ki roto te whare wahi awa
Ka whakawhetu tama i a ia
Ka riro mai a Rua-i-te-pukenga, a Rua-i-te-horahora, &c.
These Rua are personified forms of knowledge, its acquisition and
diffusion, so that the child was endowed with mind after it acquired
lo was viewed as the convener (kai paihere] of all wairua ; and
all ritual, invocations, &c., connected with the soul of man
were directed to him that is to say, among high-grade priestly
The expression orongonui is a season name, but it also seems
to have been employed to denote spiritual life ; while orongo
tapu implies godlike mana, or some such meaning. This note,
however, awaits confirmation.
In Maori narratives we often hear of the wairua being affected
by magic spells. When about to attack an enemy it was a common
custom to recite certain charms in order to affect the wairua of
such enemies. These spells were endowed with power and rendered
effective by the mana of the particular atua of whom the wizard
was the kauwaka or medium. The effect of such ritual would be
to throw the enemy into that peculiar condition termed pawera.
This is a mental condition : the ngakau, or mind, becomes appre-
hensive, fearful of coming evil ; a dread of some indefinite, impend-
ing danger affects the vigour and courage of the individual.
Another term for this condition is pahunu. Animals are liable to
become pawera, hence it is highly inadvisable to speak of wild
pigs, or birds, or fish you hope to secure ; they may become
Pawera, and hence shy or wild, unattainable. Such an unwise
remark is termed a toitoi okewa. As old Paitini passed my camp
one morning he said, "I go to hunt the wild boar of Ma-te-ra."
I replied, " It is well. Now we shall gain some fine tusks where-
10 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
from to fashion aurei (cloak-pins)." The old bushman replied,
" E tama ! Kaua e toitoi okewa, koi patu turi noa iho ahau " (" O
son ! Do not commit a toitoi okewa, lest I weary my knees to no
Natives have told us that when the shafts of black magic injure
or slay a person it is his wairua that is affected. But, although
magic may destroy a person through his wairua, yet the wairua
itself appears to survive. When it was thought that a person
had been slain by the arts of makutu, or black magic, a relative
would obtain a fern-stalk and strike the body therewith, saying,
" Anei to rakau hai ranaki i to mate " (" Here is your weapon
wherewith to avenge your death"). A person's wairua is very
easily affected injuriously if he has had the misfortune to pollute
or vitiate his tapu. Such a condition affects one's toiora and
mauri or a to a very serious extent, and it is necessary to whakaepa
(conciliate) the gods without delay, or life will be very uncertain.
When your tapu becomes polluted you become pahunu and
kahupotia (spiritually blind) ; the powers of evil find you defence-
less, the gods stand aside ; the kouka, or abyss of death, yawns
We have spoken of the toiora, and this term is worthy of some
attention, inasmuch as it is sometimes used in a peculiar and
interesting sense. It is allied to waiora, a word we have already
discussed. Waiora denotes health, soundness, welfare ; toiora
has a similar meaning. Rakau toiora denotes a. sound tree. This
term is, however, sometimes employed to define spiritual welfare.
Thus the Dawn Maid expressed her intention of descending to
Rarohenga, the underworld of spirits, in order to protect the
toiora of man his spirit, or spiritual welfare: " Tukua mai
ki au te wairua o te tangata ; maku e kapo i te toiora o a taua tama-
riki." Evidently this term is used to denote the eternal element
in man, the immortal soul, or its welfare. Both expressions,
toiora and waiora, are based on ora, a word meaning life, alive,
health, welfare, safe, &c. Toi has a meaning of " origin, source
of mankind," and apparently another meaning not yet recorded
by our dictionary-makers. At Tikopia Island, in Melanesia,
where the language is a dialect of Maori, the word ora denotes a
spirit, a ghost. Thus " welfare " and " survival " are two pro-
minent meanings of this term, which we shall meet with again
when dealing with the expressions manawa ora, mauri ora, hau
ora, and kauru ora. One old native told me that toiora denotes
" te wairua o te atua, ara o lo, ki roto i te tangata" ("the soul
of God that is to say, of lo -in man "). This means that it
expresses the spark of the Divine in man, inherited from the god-
sent soul implanted in the Earth-formed Miid, and from Tane,
who was of the ira atua. This latter expression means " super-
natural life, life as possessed by gods and supernormal beings."
Another native authority tells me that toiora is used to define
both physical and spiritual welfare, and this definition is sup-
ported by a number of examples. Observe the following remark-
able and highly interesting passage culled from the myth of the
Earth-formed Maid, describing her acquisition of the ira tangata,
or mortal life life as known to man : " / kona ka whakaao-marama
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. II
a Hine i a ia, ka whakaira tangata hoki ki te toiora o te aoturoa nei "
(" At that juncture Hine brought herself to the world of life, and
also attained mortal life with the toiora of the enduring world ").
The Maori utilized the souls of his dead forbears to protect
both his physical and spiritual life-principles, and this usage will
be illustrated when we come to deal with the mauri of man.
Spirit-voices are often heard, says the Maori, and are termed
irirangi and irewaru. To hear such is an evil omen ; some
trouble is at hand. To sing while travelling at night is also
ominous, and the act is termed tupaoe. The traveller's wairua
knows of some coming misfortune or danger, and prompts him
to sing. A jet of gas from burning wood is said to be caused by
a soul that has come to obtain fire. Inanimate objects are, in
native folk-tales, sometimes credited with the possession of the
power of speech, as we shall see anon. The booming sound
made by a purerehua, or " bull-roarer/' is said to be caused by
In a letter received from old Paitini, of Ruatahuna, he says :
" We have long been parted, and may not meet again in the world
of life. We can no longer see each other with our eyes, only our
wairua see each other, as also our friendship." Aday after old
Hakopa, of Tuhoe, died I thought that I heard one of my camp
natives calling out, and left my tent to see what it was. On
explaining my error, the natives told me that the cry I had
heard was probably the voice of the wairua of Hakopa calling a
farewell to me as it passed on its way to the spirit-world.
Natives sometimes lament the fact that, when they dream of
seeing a friend who has died, such apparitions never greet them.
When Hamiora Pio, of Te Teko, discoursed to me on the subject
of the dead, he remarked : " Never more shall we see them, unless,
when sleep comes to us, our wairua go forth to meet them. But
that is only a kite wairua (spiritual seeing). We cannot touch
them. The living come and go ; they meet and greet each other ;
they weep for dead friends, and sympathize with each other. But
the specties of the dead are silent, and the spectres of the dead are
sullen. They greet not those whom they meet ; they show neither
affection nor yet sympathy, no more than does a stump. They act
not as do folk of the world of life." Now, we know that the souls
of the dead are the only beings who can traverse both realms, this
world, the ao marama (world of life), and the spirit-world. Since
the days of Mataora no living person has entered the spirit-world,
the realm of Rarohenga, and no spirit comes back hither to
abide in the world of life. As old as the days of Niwareka, the
fair Turehu of peerless charms, is the saying, " Ko te Po te hokia
a Taiao " (" The realm of spirits from which none return to the
The Maori had a belief that the wairua of the dead sometimes
appeared in the form of moths, a belief that is also met with in
Polynesia ; while the Shans of Burmah maintain that the human
soul leaves the body in the form of a butterfly. A Maori ex-
plained to me that certain moths are viewed as being he wairua
no te kehua (souls of ghosts). As kehua denotes the wairua after
it leaves the body at death, this concept resolves itself into that
12 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
of the spirit of a spirit, or the soul of a soul, which is abstraction
with a vengeance. Inasmuch, however, as the moth is a material
representation, it would appear to be more correct to style it an
aria another interesting word that we shall have to consider.
But another statement is to the effect that such moths can be
seen by matatuhi (seers) only, so that possibly they are not
ordinary moths possessing material forms. Wairua atua (super-
natural spirit) is a name applied to butterflies by the Maori,
wherein he upholds the Burmese concept. The Malays hold a
similar belief. In Ireland butterflies are said to be the souls of
ancestors, and in Yorkshire the term " soul " is applied to the
Perhaps the most interesting spiritual concept of the Maori
folk is that of the awe of the wairua, or refined essence or spirit
of the human soul. Presumably the exponents of the higher
cultus saw that the common conception of the soul was much
too materialistic. A spirit that appeared to possess a material
body in the spirit-world, and that could be destroyed, did not
satisfy the higher minds, hence they evolved the concept of the
awe. After the lapse of a certain time after the death of the
body the released soul gradually sloughs off its gross elements,
and this process leaves a refined, immaterial, and immortal
essential spirit termed the awe. This word was apparently selected
as a name for it because it denotes extreme lightness. The light
down found under the feathers of birds, clouds, and the light
soot deposited by the smoke of a wood fire are all termed awe.
This etherealized spirit seems to have been called the hamano in
some districts, a word that is a variant form of mano, and means
the precise centre or heart, as of a tree. Thus it was that the
Maori broke away from the materialistic tendencies of popular
thought, and purified his conception of the human soul.
We have now another interesting matter to scan, and that is
the old custom of performing certain ritual in order to despatch
the soul of a dying person to the spirit-world. In some districts
such ritual was known as the wehe, a word meaning " to detach,
or separate/' A charm known by this name was recited over the
corpse prior to burial, in order to despatch the soul to the spirit-
world, to prevent it remaining here to annoy or frighten living
folk, and also to prevent the living following it to spirit-land.
The following is a simple form of wehe ritual : " Haere ra, e taku
tama. Kei mihi mai koe, kei tangi mai koe, kei aroha mai koe, kei
konau mai koe ki ton matua i waiho e koe i te ao nei. E oti atu koe.
Haere ra, oti atu koe" (" Farewell, O my child ! Do not grieve ;
do not weep ; do not love ; do not yearn for your parent left by
you in the world. Go ye for ever. Farewell for ever"). And
then, in the evening, after the burial, all the kiri mate, or mourn-
ing relatives, cut their hair short with shell or stone flake, leaving
one long lock on the left side of the head. It was believed that
the soul would not depart to spirit-land until this ceremony had
Another name for the above rite is tuku wairua, or soul-
despatching. Some years ago an old native and his wife were
proceeding from one native village to another in the Patea district.
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 13
As they trudged along the old man was taken ill suddenly, and
lay down by the side of the track. Feeling that the end was
near, he said to his wife, " They are calling me. The end has
come." The old woman at once commenced to lament ; but he
said, " Do not lament. It is well. We have trodden the path of
life together in fair weather and beneath clouded skies. There is
no cause for grief. I do but go forward to explore the path."
Then the thought grew in the woman's mind there was no expert
present to recite the tuku wairua, and she said, "E pa ! Ma wai
etuku i to wairua?" (" O sir! Who will despatch your soul?").
Then the thought came, "A, kati maku e tuku" ("Ah, well; I
will despatch it "). And so the old lady lifted up her voice and
intoned the chaunt that sends the soul of man to Rarohenga.
When she finished her recital the worn old companion of a life-
time had passed out of the world of light on the golden path of
Tane that encircles the great earth.
The peculiar rite known as iri enabled the performer to see
the wairua of living persons of absent folk and natives firmly
believed in this alleged power of the tohunga. Thus, when
Himiona, of Whakatane, left his wife Kumara'at that place, and
went to Turanga, where he became attached to another woman,
Kumara enlisted the services of a wise woman named Riperata.
The latter took the deserted wife to the river-bank, made her
take off her garments and enter the water. She then sprinkled
water over her body and recited the iri charm, whereupon she
saw the wairua of Himiona landing beside his wife. She said to
the latter, " Return to your home. In one week your husband
will return to you." So the woman departed. Riperata's next
act was to perform the atahu rite in order to cause Himiona's love
for his wife to return, and induce him to seek his home. This
ceremony included the despatch of a small bird, the miromiro,
as a messenger or medium. This highly intelligent bird at once
flew to Turanga, a hundred miles away, went to the village where
Himiona was staying, entered a hut in which he was at the time,
and alighted upon his head. At once the affection of Himiona
for his wife was rekindled, so much so that he rose and without
delay began his return journey. Thus all ended happily at
least, so I was informed by Tikitu, of Ngati-Awa ; and who am I
that I should doubt it ?
A similar ceremony was performed in order to visualize the
wairua of a thief or wizard, and in such cases the ahua, or
semblance, of the article stolen, or of the delinquent, was
employed as a medium between the ritual and its objective.
Here we enter the domain of sympathetic magic.
The word koiwi is employed to denote a skeleton, or bones
and perhaps the body sometimes, but in some cases appears to
mean " soul." We have an illustration of this use of the word
koiwi in the legend of Te Ao-huruhuru, who sang her death-song
ere casting herself from the cliff since known as the Rerenga o Te
Ao-huruhuru. Her husband and others brought their canoe to
land at the base of the cliff in time to hear the last lines of her
song : Ka rongo ratou ki nga kupu o te waiata a te wahine ra.
Ano, torino kau ana mai i runga i te kare o te wai, ano he ko e pa
14 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
ana ki tetehi part, na ka whakahokia mai ; ano te mamahutanga ki
tona koiwi. Ana I koia ra, ko te hou o te waiata a tuawahine
mataaho mai ana ki nga taringa (They heard the words of
the song of the woman. Lo ! They were wafted across the rippling
waters like unto a call re-echoing from a cliff ; truly had they a
soothing effect upon her wounded soul (koiwi}. Ah ! but the
penetrating sound of the song of our heroine came clearly to the
The term koiwi was also employed in the same manner as is
kohiwitanga. Both are used in another sense than that of the
representation of an atua. In speaking of objects or happenings
of pre-human days a Maori will say, " Tona koiwi i tenei ao he
mea." This appears to mean the nearest allied form in this
world is such a thing. A rock at Whakatane is the kohiwitanga
of Irakewa, an ancestor.
The word kohiwi is also used as meaning the human medium
of an atua when not possessed by such atua. The form kohiwitanga
seems to almost equal aria in some cases (the visible form, or form
of incarnation, of a spirit or soul it may be an animal, bird,
fish, or reptile, or 'some inanimate object, a tree or stone).
The spirit gods located in the small carved wooden images
called tiki by some do not endow such images with any permanent
tapu or mana. The said images are viewed simply as temporary
shrines or abiding-places for such atua.
The souls of the dead return to the old homeland of the race,
Irihia, where, in the spirit-house, Hawaiki-nui, they separate,
some ascending to the uppermost heaven, others descending to
the subterranean spirit-world. The superior teachings of the
whare wananga do not refer to any ultimate extinction of the soul
in either spirit-world, and the conception of the awe, or purified,
refined spirit, appears to be evidence against such a belief. Some
seem to have held that the wairua was mortal at least in some
cases but the awe or hamano was immortal.
When the spirit of a deceased progenitor is conciliated and
becomes a familiar of the mediumistic conciliator it seems to be
referred to as an apa, or apa hau.
This term denotes the soul of a dead person, apparently
carrying an apparitional sense. Williams' s Maori Dictionary
notes it as a modern expression. Its usage is equal to that of our
word " ghost." The term kikokiko may bear an allied meaning,
but Williams gives it as a name for malevolent demons, also known
as atua kikokiko. The Matatua folk often use the word whaka-
haehae to denote spirits of the dead that appear as ghosts, whether
seen or merely heard. This term carries the sense of " terrifying."
The mythical beings termed turehu, parangeki, and patupaiarehe
are said to be souls of the dead, or wairua tangata. Tutakangahau,
of Tuhoe, maintained that kikokiko and kehua are both names
for souls of the dead, but it seems to me that these terms are
employed only when such spirits are troublesome or apparitional,
otherwise the word wairua is employed. Mate kikokiko is an
expression used to denote bodily ailments believed to be caused
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 15
by such evil beings ; souls of the dead are afflicting such sufferers.
Persons so afflicted sometimes become mentally deranged, we are
told doubtless an allusion to the incoherent speech of those stricken
by severe illness. When such a sufferer recovered, Tutaka said,
he in some cases became the waka, or human medium, of the
spirit that had afflicted him ; thus he would become a tohunga
kehua, a shamanistic medium.
Mr. White tells us that when a person died, some of his hair
was cut off and burned, while a charm was repeated over it. This
ceremony was performed in order to prevent the wairua of the
dead returning and annoying his living relatives. The most
favourable time for interviewing kehua, we are told, is at dusk,
and just prior to dawn. Daylight is too glaring for them ; and
one native blandly remarked that a spirit cannot see at night.
A Whanganui native tcld me that the appearance of a flock of
moriorio (the bird called " whitehead ") precedes the coming of
kehua (souls of the dead). Few persons, however, could see these
beings ; the vision of a matatuhi (seer) was necessary.
Colenso has said that the wairua and kehua are two different
spirits ; but there is no evidence to support the statement. The
evidence as to wairua of the dead remaining in this world is very
contradictory, if we include popular beliefs. The whare wananga
teaching was that the soul of a dead person remained in this
world for just so long a period as had elapsed between the birth
of the person and the fall of the pito (umbilical cord). Popular
belief varied ; some held that the soul would not depart until the
tuku wairua ritual had been recited ; and in fact each person
seems to have believed what he pleased in regard to these
matters. But ever the dread of ghostly apparitions lay heavy
on the Maori mind.
The expressions " Tini o Parangeki" and " Tini o Puhiata " are
applied to the multitude of spirits in the subterranean spirit-
world, the charges of the ex Dawn Maid.
An interesting but puzzling note collected by the late
Colonel Gudgeon is to the effect that the names Tama-rangi-tauke,
Whatu-takataka, Pu-whakarere, Haere-tu-te-rangi, Marere-i-waho,
and Taka-ra-waho represent in some unexplained manner the
spirits of the dead. The only explanatory remarks are as follows :
" These are the wairua of the dead that have abandoned their
bodies " ; and " These are the spirits that have passed out of
[human] bodies, abandoning the body to death the wairua
proceeding to Hine-nui-te-Pc."
This word in Maori denotes " the head," and perhaps " the
skull," while anga means " a skeleton." Neither seems to te
employed by the Maori in connection with any spiritual concept,
but at Samoa the wairua of a person is termed the angaanga.
This may be a parallel concept to that of the koiwi noted above ;
in both cases we see that the term means both " skeleton " and
" spirit." The latter was apparently viewed as the support or
mainstay of the body, as is the skeleton. Or the conjunction
may hinge on movement, anga meaning also " to move, to turn,
l6 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. z.
to act " as was the case with the Greek term thymos, of which
Williams's Maori Dictionary gives this word as meaning form,
shape, semblance, as opposed to substance ; also shadow and re-
flected image ; also ataata = shadow, ata-a-rangi =sha.dow, and koata-
ata = reflected image in water. Tregear's Dictionary gives boldly
ata = the spirit, the soul. In far-away Taumako Isle, in Melanesia,
where a Polynesian dialect is spoken, ata denotes the soul.
" Shadow " and " reflection " are meanings of the word through-
out Polynesia. In Samoa ata means " shadow," " reflected image,"
and "spirit." Colenso's attenuated dictionary gives the word as
meaning " reflected light," and also as a synonym for ahua.
Ata is employed also by the Maori to denote "radiant light," as
a synonym for aho. We see the ata of the moon before that orb
rises. Atarau denotes the moon in its crescent form, also moon-
light. Tuta Nihoniho, of Ngati-Porou, maintained that ata is
employed to denote the wairua of man, and that ata-a-rangi is
used in the same sense. Now, in an exceedingly tapu chaunt of
the cult of lo connected with the ceremonial initiation of a
matakite (seer) we note proof that the term ata-a-rangi was
employed to define the wairua of man. One line of the chaunted
invocation runs, " Kia turuki mai te ata-a-rangi o mea " ; and
an explanatory remark reads, " At this juncture was repeated
the name of the person whose wairua was seen in the vision."
This shows conclusively that the expression was used- in olden
times to denote the soul of man.
We have seen that the term wairua denotes the soul of man
that leaves the body at death and proceeds to the spirit-world ;
also that the terms ata, ata-a-rangi, and koiwi were occasionally
applied to the same abstraction. The expression kehua defines
the apparitional soul after death. Turehu, patupaiarehe, and
parangeki are sometimes employed to denote souls of the dead
that appear on earth, but the two former terms are also used to
denote what we call fairies or elves.
We have now to consider certain expressions, such as aria,
ahua, mawe, &c., that denote the material representation of
immaterial qualities, as also the immaterial semblance of a
material body. We shall then proceed to inquire into other life-
principles of Maori belief. \
This is a term of considerable interest, and one that illustrates
a phase of mentality common to all Polynesian peoples. It
denotes the conception of a material representation of an im-
material being or condition ; thus the aria of an atua is its form
of incarnation, the form in which it is visible to mortal eyes.
We have seen that the term kohiwitanga is used in a similar sense.
The words kohiwi, koiki, and toiki are all employed to denote the
hard, sound heart-wood of a tree from which all sapwood has
fallen away owing to decay. On the other hand, we have a
series of words, such as ata, wairua, ahua, and mawe, that denote
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 17
immaterial forms or representations of material objects. The one
illustrates the ever-present desire for a visible symbol, the other
a phase of abstraction in which the semblance of an object serves
as a substitute for its original, even in connection with ceremonial
Williams's Maori Dictionary gives the following meanings of
the word aria : " Likeness, resemblance. 2. The visible, material
emblem or representative of an atua." Curiously enough, the
same word is used to define an intangible, imaginary semblance
of a material object ; and here it seems to bear the same
meaning as ahua. As a verb it is used in the sense of
" to appear indistinctly." Thus I once heard a native say,
" / kite tinana ahau i a ia, ehara i te mea i kite aria " ("I saw
clearly his bodily form ; it is not the case that I saw him indis-
tinctly"). These two meanings seem 'contradictory, but the per-
sistent underlying meaning is that of representation ; such repre-
sentation may be material or immaterial. In the sentence " Ko
te aria i kite ake ahau e aria ana i waho " a native explained to
me that, as he sat in my tent, he saw indistinctly the form of a
person outside. The Arawa folk employ the word arika to denote
the form of incarnation of an atua. Thus one, in speaking of
the god Makawe to me, said, " Ko te matakokiri tona arikatanga "
(" The meteor is his form of incarnation " i.e., visible form).
In some cases aria may be rendered as " idea " or " feeling/' as
in the expression aria aroha (feeling of sympathy, &c.).
We do not hear of the superior gods possessing any aria, but
only inferior ones. In many cases such a visible form of an atua
was a lizard, in some cases a bird. Among the Tuhoe folk lizards,
birds, the whe (mantis), dogs, stars, meteors, and the rainbow
were viewed as aria of inferior gods. In one case a lock of hair
represented an atua. When Hine-nui-te-Po obtained a drop of
Maui's blood to serve as his aria, she was enabled to use it as an
ohonga (medium) in sympathetic magic, and so cause his death.
Ohonga is any thing that is taken from a person in order to
serve as a medium between the spells of black or white magic
and their objective, such as a shred of garment, a hair, a drop of
spittle, &c. Something that has been in contact with the objective
was ever the desideratum. The terms aria, ahua, hau, and manea
are all used to denote this medium, though the last-mentioned
is applied only to something connected with a person's feet or
footprints. Is does not appear that the term hau is correctly
applied to the ohonga, but rather does the latter represent the
hau of a person.
At the junction of the Waikare and Whakatane Streams is a
large stone that is the aria of one Wheterau, a chief of Ngati-Ha
who flourished about two hundred and fifty years ago. In the
same valley, the Ohora and Kanihi Streams are the aria of two
persons of the same names who lived some four hundred years ago.
In the following generation lived one Okiwa, whose aria is a dog
that is yet heard howling in the grim canons of Whakatane at
night. The breath of that spectre hound is the local wind called
okiwa at Ruatoki. In the same tribal district the aria of Tamoe-
hau is a tree, that of Rongo-te-mauriuri a pond on the summit
i Inset Spiritual.
l8 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
of Maungapohatu, and that of Takuahi-te-ka a rock. It was at
this rock that I first took part in the singular ceremony known
as uruuru whenua.
In the strange rite known as lira or a two rods or wands were
used, and these were called the aria of life and death, of welfare
and misfortune. These were thrust into two small mounds termed
Tuahu-a-rangi and Puke-nui-a-Papa, which represented the same
qualities. The first represents the male sex, the latter the female
sex. In many of these sacred ceremonies it was considered
absolutely essential that both sexes should be represented, the
diverse elements and inherent powers cf the tamatane and tama-
wahine. The female element is destructive, as it also is in Hindoo
belief, as witness the concept of Sakti. It also represents sin,
misfortune, weakness, the "tapuless" -condition, and death. Truly
a load of tribulations has been placed upon the shoulders of woman !
The ceremony referred to above was of an absolutory nature.
It caused all moral blemishes, sins, evil deeds of the participants
to be absorbed by the lira mate, or wand and mound representing
evil, sin, and death. Thus such persons were freed from the
dangers to their spiritual, intellectual, and physical welfare always
induced by wrongdoing. They were rendered clear-minded, and,
above all, were pure in the sight of the gods. They acquired
resourcefulness, presence of mind, clear spiritual vision, and a clean
crime-sheet. And all this was done ere going forth to war.
The tapu manuka tree at Whakatane, that was the mauri of
the district was the aria of life, health, and general welfare.
The aria of Hine-ruarangi, an ancestress, is a cormorant, which
is the tribal banshee of the Ngati-Whare folk of Te Whaiti. The
aria of Hine-pukohu, the Mist Maid, is the white mist you see
rising from the breast of the Earth Mother when Tama-nui-te-
ra (the sun) thrusts Tawera (morning star) up into the realm of
Watea (personified form of space).
A hill named Ruatahuna is the aria of the district of that
name that is, it is the tino (precise place) from which the district
derives its name.
The aria of Karukaru, an atua of the Whanganui district, is
an owl the common morepork. This atua achieved fame as a
protector of human welfare, as, for instance, in warning persons
of attempts being made to bewitch them. Now, this Karukaru is
the only god to which the writer of these notes ever stood up to
in fair fight, and the contest was marked by keen interest and a
considerable amount of incisive language. Party feeling ran high
in the mountain-valleys, and dour old bushmen wondered if the
reckless pakeha would be consigned to the gloomy realm of Tai-
whetuki ; but that, as Kipling would remark, is another story.
When a rahui (embargo) was instituted over land, water,
path, or products in days of old, a post was often set up as a token
of the prohibition. A frond of fern would be tied to this post
to serve as what is termed a maro, and this, together with a stone,
were then taken away and carefully concealed. With them was
taken and hidden the kapu of the pou rahui, or prohibitory post.
This is the aria of the post, and it does not consist of anything
material. The hand of the expert clutches at the top of the post
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. IQ
as though plucking at something, but brings away nothing material.
This imaginary symbol, or aria, the maw and stone, all represent
the post and what that post stands for. The object of this singu-
lar performance was to prevent any ill-disposed person destroying
the efficacy of the rahui (embargo or prohibition). Those articles
and the immaterial aria represented or contained the mana, the
power and virtue, of the rahui. They occupied the same place,
and served the same purpose, as does a material mauri. Another
stone, one possessing no power or virtue, was left at the base of
the post, as a blind, in order to deceive any person who wished to
destroy the powers of the rahui by means of magic. Such a person
would wander about seeking the kapu, repeating as he did so
certain charms in order to make the kapu disclose its whereabouts.
When the expert was erecting the rahui post he recited charms to
render it effective in protecting the land or products, and also
another to empower it to destroy any person who interfered with
it. In doing this he made a pass with his hand as though marking
a line on the earth. This was the waro rahui (the rahui chasm,
the abyss of death) to which the offender was to be consigned for
his nefarious act. The expert then recited another charm in
order to sharpen the teeth of the rahui, as the Maori expresses it.
These final words consign a meddler to black death, for behind all
these performances lies the dread power of the gods. Should the
expert learn, in after-days, of any act of kairamua, or infringe-
ment of the rahui, he would know that the rahui had " gone
to sleep " ; hence he would proceed to turuki it that is, to
supplement it, to awaken it and make it exercise its powers, to
Another form of whakaoho, or rousing act, was performed when
it was seen that the land, forest, or water was not furnishing food-
supplies as well as usual that such fruits, game, or fish were in
poor condition or poor supply. The expert would convey the
kapu (the immaterial, imaginary emblem of the material em
blematical post) to the ahi taitai, a specially generated tapu fire.
At this fire certain ritual was recited over the kapu in order to
make it restore the fertility or productiveness of the land, forest,
&c. The mauri of the land, of man, of water, &c., were included
in this ceremony, presumably to render it the more effective. At
the same time, the kapu itself certainly acted as a mauri.
We have here a word very similar in its meaning to the
term aria that is, to one of its meanings that of semblance
or immaterial, intangible representation. Williams 's Maori Dic-
tionary gives as one meaning of the word ahua " form, as
opposed to substance." In one sense which we have to deal with
the ahua of a thing is its semblance or likeness, its non-material
form. It is also used in another sense, applied to material
things to persons, for example. It has often been applied to
myself, as in greetings " Tena koe, te ahua o to mokopuna, o
Marewa" ("Greeting to you, the ahua of your grandchild,
Marewa"). Also, " Tena ra koe, te ahua o nga tangata o mua"
(" Greeting to you, the ahua of the men of yore "). This was
20 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
a reference to my ceaseless habit of collecting data anent the
doings of former times.
Another illustration of a material ahua is noted in the con-
ciliatory rite performed ere a tree could be felled, so as to placate
Tane, the parent of all trees. In this ceremony the ahua of an
axe or, rather, stone adze was employed. It was merely a
leaf tied to a twig. Again, when a gift of food-supplies was
received from another people, the taumaha rite was performed
over it, lest the mana of the givers should injuriously affect the
recipients, or there might perchance be some magic power
pertaining to the gift, such as the dreaded matakai. Even so,
an expert would take the ahua of the food (a small portion
of it), cook, and eat it during his ceremonial performance. This
precautionary act would remove all danger to man.
The term ahuatanga is also employed to denote the semblance
or likeness of a thing. A totara tree at Hokianga, and two others
at Nukutaurua, are the ahuatanga of three of the skids of the
famous vessel " Takitumu."
The word ahua does not mean " spirit," though it might be
used by a person in describing the meaning of the term wairua.
When my worthy friend Pa Pirini, of Ruatahuna, had some
money stolen, he took the ahua of the stolen coins to a wise
woman at Whakatane, to find out who had taken the money.
That ahua was a coin the thief had overlooked. The fact that
Pa bestrode a long saddle of one hundred and fifty miles showed
his faith in the seer.
The ahua of a fight or battleground, employed in certain
ceremonies, was often a handful of grass or leaves from the
place. The ahua or aria of Tamarau, a hero of old who pos-
sessed the power of flying, was a pakura, or swamp-hen.
Of the immaterial ahua we might give many illustrations.
As applied to inanimate things ahua seems to be equivalent to
hau in many cases. The term ata is also used in the same sense
as ahua- i.e., to denote the semblance of an object.. In the
folk-tale describing the adventure of Te Kanawa with the fairies,
as recorded by Sir George Grey, we note that the fairies merely
took the ata or ahua of the ornaments offered to them by Te
Kanawa ; they left the material articles on the ground.
In treating a sick person in former times a Maori practitioner
sometimes took the ahua, or semblance, of his disease or com
plaint. In doing so he procured a piece of puha (a plant) and
passed it under the left thigh of the patient, then waved it
toward the heavens as he repeated his charms. By this means
the ahua of the complaint was absorbed by the herb, and then
passed out of it into space when the shaman waved his hand.
In Hewitt's Primitive Traditional History certain references are
made to old-time ceremonies of India in which the left thigh of
man occupies a prominent place.
Gods absorb the ahua of any food offered to them by their
adherents, but do not consume the substance thereof. A people
who had defeated an enemy on the lands of the latter would
sometimes settle thereon hai pupuri i te ahuatanga o te raupatu
(to retain the semblance of the victory or conquest).
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 21
When a woman wished to separate from her husband she
hied her to a tohunga that he might perform over her the toko
(divorce ritual). His first act was to conduct her to the wai
tapu (sacred water) of the village community, that her aroha
(affection, sympathy) for her husband might be miria (effaced).
This was the miri aroha ceremony. To effect this the operator
took the ahua or aria of her affections. He merely made a motion
with his hand as though picking something from her body,
and this act represented taking the semblance of her affections.
A charm was here recited to bring about the desired effacement,
" a ka miria e te tohunga te aroha, ara ka horoia atu te aria, te
ahua o te aroha, ka whakakorea atu " (" and the priest effaced the
affections that is, he cleansed or washed away the semblance
of such; he abolished it"). After that the divorce ritual was
When a deep-sea voyage was about to be undertaken the
Polynesian navigator took the ahua (semblance) of his vessel to
a tuahu (sacred place) to have the pure rite performed over it.
After Whiro had murdered the child of his brother Hourangi,
the latter took the ahua of his child to his elder, Whirikoka, in
order to ascertain what had become of his child. In this case
the ahua was represented by a material symbol some dust from
the path on which the child had last been seen.
This term seems to have the same meaning as ahua i.e..
semblance. It is at least sometimes a material object, or is
represented by such. Williams styles the mawe of a canoe a
"talisman," but it often means "semblance." When a person
took to an expert the mawe of some property he had had stolen,
the latter would see the wairua of the thief preceding the bearer
as he approached. The mawe of a successful fight was often taken
in the form of a lock of hair from a slain enemy. As the force
returned home the person carrying this object marched in front
of the party, and, on arrival at the home village, it was deposited
at the tuahu, where the ceremonial function took place When
my w r orthy old friends Horotiu and his daughter Mautini mur-
dered six Wairoa natives who were their guests, as they lay
asleep in their hut, Horotiu cut out the heart of one Roto-a-
tara, and took it to the priest of the Matuahu pa at Waikare-
moana, as the mawe of their gallant exploit.
When a raiding-party was about to attack a fortified village,
a wily scout was, in some cases, first despatched in order to
procure the mawe of the place. This was usually taken in the
form of a small splinter from one of the stockade timbers, or a
shred of bark from the aka used as lashing-material for the
palisades. Over such a medium certain ceremonies were per-
formed in order to render the enemy nervous, apprehensive.,
unstrung, to affect their minds and courage, to induce in them
the condition of mauri oho, and to ensure a successful attack.
Here we again encounter sympathetic magic acting through a
medium. Should the official priestly expert of the raiding force
chance to be the medium of an atua toro, a spirit god employed
2 Inset Spiritual.
22 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
as a reconnoitring agent, such as Tamarau, then he would
despatch that being to procure the mawe, which would probably
be brought to him in the form of a hair from the head of an inmate
of the enemy village.
When Ira-tu-moana slew the great monster Tarakura at Te Awa-
a-te-atua he conveyed the mawe of that victory to his sacred
place (tuahu), near Te Umuhika. When Maui of immortal fame
drew up this Island from the depths of Hine-moana he took the
mawe thereof back to Hawaiki. In these cases the term ahua
might have been employed with equal correctness, so far as my
We now have to deal with the second of the three most
important abstract qualities pertaining to man. It is by no
means so easy to define the meaning of this term as in the case oi
the wairua. It has been rendered as " soul," but we cannot
employ that term, for it would be mistaken for the spirit that
leaves the body at death and goes to the spirit-world. The
mauri cannot leave the body, and ceases to exist at the death of
Tregear's Dictionary gives " Mauri = I. The heart, the seat of
the emotions. 2. Life, the seat of life. 3. The soul." It must
be remembered that the word does not denote the organic heart.
Also, it is only partially the seat of the emotions ; thus anger,
sorrow, joy, &c., do not emanate from the mauri. Under " oho
mauri " we shall see how far emotion is connected with it. Nor
does the word mean " life " in our New Zealand dialect, although
it may be termed the seat of life. As for " soul," we have already
seen that this term would be a misnomer, and tend to mislead
the inquirer. If it be not presumption on my part to differ with
our philological giants, I would define the mauri as the active
life-principle, or physical life-principle, and the most appropriate
word to describe it, so far as my limited researches have extended,
is the Greek term thymos. This so far as the mauri of man is
concerned. The word thymos originally meant " inward com-
motion." But the thymos did not, like the psyche, continue to
exist after the death of the body ; like the mauri, it was an
active principle that ceased to exist at the death of the body.
Hence the Maori expression " Kua ukiuki te mauri " is equivalent
to saying that the person referred to is dead.
The mauri is the activity that moves within us, and, like the
wairua, is not located in any organ of the body. It is a vital
principle, but is wrongly rendered by some as " the breath of life,"
which is the manawa ora of the Maori. Some have defined it as
" the spark of life." The material mauri (of which more anon)
may be termed a talismanic symbol, and in some cases it might
be called a shrine.
An old missionary with whom I discussed these terms described
the mauri of man as his personality ; but the term hau is more
applicable to that quality. For instance, in the expression " Ka
oho taku mauri," how could we possibly render the word as
" personality " ?
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 23
The definition of these terms is by no means an easy task,
and calls for much inquiry and much patience. It is, however,
always pleasing to observe the tribulations of other people, and
we are told that the Burmese have four spiritual potentise to
deal with. Again, there are three terms in Hebrew to express
"soul," six to express "mind," and eight to express "heart";
seven in Greek to express "mind," and two to express "heart."
However, as the Maori puts it, " Kei rau o whenua ona raruraru "
(" The troubles of other lands are their own ").
We have now to scan the expression mauri ora one that is
frequently heard used by the older generation of natives. It
denotes the same quality, but stresses its tapu nature, and might
be rendered as " sacred life-principle." It includes a sense of
spiritual welfare. Should the mauri ora of man become noa, or
defiled, then his physical, intellectual, and spiritual welfare is
seriously endangered, and he is exposed to many perils. Informa-
tion concerning material mauri will assist in the explanation of
this singular conception. We have seen that a material mauri
is a talisman, and sometimes also a shrine or abiding-place of
a protecting atua (god).* Now, the mauri ora of man has very
similar powers and functions, and so may be viewed as something
more than what we commonly understand by " physical life-
principle." It is a protective power or quality, but if defiled in
any way its protective powers cease until restored by means of
ceremonial placation of the god or gods in whose care the person
is, and without whose care he cannot remain in the world of life.
In a paper written twenty years ago I described the mauri ora as
" the sacred spark of life."
When the oho rangi rite was performed at the baptism of an
infant, and responsive Hine-whaitiri (the Thunder Maid) rumbled
to east or north, it was alluded to as a mauri ora for the child.
It would survive and flourish. Thus this term has come to be
employed as denoting welfare, much as the expressions waiora
and toiora do. When Turahui and Whatonga were cast away on
the Island of Rangiatea their friends despatched a number of
atua in search of them. Tu-nui-a-te-ika (personified form of
comets) returned and reported as follows : " Popo roroa, a tena te
hokinga." My informant explained this message as a mauri ora
i.e., as denoting the welfare of the castaways.
When a person commits some hara that is to say, disregards
some law of tapu his protecting genius, or atua, at once deserts
him, withdraws his favour and protection, and that person's
mauri ora becomes seriously affected and loses its virtue. For
the gods are the strength, the mainstay, of tapu, of mana, and of
such qualities as the mauri, be it the immaterial mauri of man
or the material mauri of land, forest, ocean, or village. Now, the
Maori believes his decline in numbers, in health, and in mana is owing
to the fact that his mauri has become noa, or "tapuless," owing
to his changed habits and lack of precaution ; he has not protected
the sanctity of his mauri. When the natives accepted Christianity
(most of them for reasons not explained in missionary journals)
the appalling duty of defiling their tapu represented to them a
terrible ordeal. Many effected it by washing their heads, the
* See Frontispiece, Fig. i .
24 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
most tapu part of the body, in water warmed in a cooking- vessel.
No European can conceive what a terrible trial this act was to the
Maori. Natives who performed it have stated that they com-
mitted it in deadly fear, expecting every moment to be their last.
It is highly probable that fear did kill some of them. The
knowledge that their mauri or a is defiled has ever since had a very
serious effect on the Maori's outlook on life, and also on his general
welfare. He feels that he has lost caste, that he has become a
common, graceless being, like unto the slaves of old, and that he
will never regain his old-time physical, intellectual, and spiritual
vigour. This conviction, and his racial fatalism, are responsible
for the dejected attitude of the Maori of to-day. Many a con-
fidential talk have I had with old native friends on this subject,
and these were the convictions they expressed. Europeans are
not aware of this mental attitude of the Maori, and but few
pakeha will agree with me, but assuredly the statement is a correct
one. The noa condition of the mauri or a is the cause of the
decadence of the race so says the Maori.
In pre-European times the mauri of an infant was rendered
tapu, and so protective, by means of a ceremony performed by a
tohunga, or priestly expert. The ritual recited over the child
was often termed a mauri. In some cases, a post was set up to
act as a kind of talisman that is, a material mauri to protect
the welfare of the child. Such posts were known as tuapa
tamariki. The mana, or power, of such a post emanated, of
course, from the gods, and was implanted in it, as it were, by
means of sacredotal ceremonial. It preserved the health, mana,
and general welfare of the child ; it averted misfortune ; it was
a protective power because it symbolized the protective power of
the gods. It was sometimes alluded to as a tira ora. The basic
meaning of the word tuapa is "to ward off."
When the child was twelve days old it was baptized, the same
being an imposing and very peculiar ceremony we have now no
time to discuss. In the concluding part thereof the officiating
priest dipped his hand in the stream in which he stood, and drew
his wet hand across the face of the child as it lay on his left arm,
at the same time reciting the following :
Mauri hikitia, mauri hapainga
Mauri ora ki te whai ao, ki tc ao marama.
The expression " Tihe mauri ora," rendered by Tylor as
" Sneeze, living soul," was repeated by a parent when a child
sneezed. This phrase is a favourite one with the Maori, and is not
infrequently employed to denote prosperity or welfare. A sneeze
was the first sign of life that came from Hine-ahu-one, the Earth-
formed Maid, when vivified by Tane ; hence the above usage.
The repetition of this expression when a person sneezes is said to
avert misfortune and ensure the sneezer's welfare. A lengthened
form is " Tihe mauri ora ki te whai ao, ki te ao marama." The
word tokomauri means " hiccough," but the origin of the term is
obscure. It may have been thought that when a person hic-
coughed his mauri was affected, or was perhaps the cause of it.
In one account of the vivifying of Hine-ahu-one occurs the sentence,
" At that juncture the panting of Tane-te-waiora in the mouth
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 25
and nostrils of Hine caused her to acquire the ira tangata " (human
life) ; a sigh betokening life came from her, the mauri ora welled
up, tihe mauri ora ki te whai ao, ki te ao marama (the mauri ora
manifested itself by a sneeze in the broad light of day, in the
world of light).
It has been said that the mauri is partially the seat of the
emotions : this has reference to what is termed oho mauri. Any
nervous start of alarm is an oho mauri : the life-principle is startled.
If, by a sudden movement or sound, you so startle a native, he
may say, " Ka oho mauri ahau i a koe." If you waken a person
from his sleep suddenly, he will probably be affected by the oho
mauri, and give a convulsive start : that is caused by the wairua
returning to the body ; it was absent from it when you acted so
unwisely. The phrases "Ka oho taku mauri" and " Ka ohorere te
mauri" are also heard. Mauri rere means "panic-stricken," and
mauri tau a placid, calm mauri ; it implies presence of mind.
The term mauri appears also under the variant form of mouri,
as at Taranaki. At Tahiti mauri denotes a ghost ; at Rotuma
Island it means " to live " ; at Futuna tamauri means " life."
At Samoa mauri is applied to what the Rev. J. B. Stair calls the
spiritual portion of man, and an expression equivalent to oho
mauri is employed there. At Efate, New Hebrides, mauri means
" to live," and bakamauri " to cause to live " -the whakamaui
of New Zealand. In the Mota language of New Guinea tamaur
(the final vowel omitted) means " a. live man," and tamate " a
dead man." In the Motu language of the same island mauri
means " life " and " living," and at Saa it means " to live." At
Taumako Island mauli means " alive " and " life." We thus see
how farspread this term is as denoting life and the life-principle.
It is widely used in the Melanesian area, probably carried thither
by the many Polynesian colonies in that region. Moreover, we
have a kindred form to scan, for mam, with its variant form
moui, carries a similar meaning. Thus in New Zealand whaka-
maui means " to regain life," as it were, to cause to live, as a person
recovering from a severe illness. At Niue fakamoui means " to
save," and moui "life" and "living." At Tonga moui means
" life." The hero Maui of Maori myth is certainly a personifica-
tion, and is associated with the above meaning of maui, as witness
his contest with the Queen of Death, who destroyed him. For
Maui had proposed that man should die as does the moon, and so
regain life. Maui represents light and life, as his adversary stood
for darkness and death. And, far away in Egypt, in days of long
ago, Moui was a god who represented the splendour and light of
Everything possesses a mauri, we are told by natives -the sky,
sun, moon, stars, seasons, wind, rain, mist, winter, summer, night,
day, trees, stones, animals, and all other things.
When the ancestors of the Maori left the hidden homeland
of Irihia and sailed out upon the vast ocean to see if there was a
passage between the sea and the hanging sky, they first took the
mauri of the heke (migration) to the thrice-sacred edifice known
as Hawaiki-nui, that the pure rite might be performed over it.
By this means the life-principle of the migrants as a body was
26 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
revivified, as it were, and so rendered more capable of protecting
Material mauri : We now come to the material mauri, and
here we have something that is easier for the European mind to
grasp. For here we have to deal with an entity, a symbol that
represents the life-principle, the vitality of things. The mana or
innate power to protect held by such a symbol comes from the
gods. As an old native friend of mine put it, the material mauri
is a taunga atua an abiding-place of the gods. Hence is it some-
times termed a taumata, or resting-place. In some cases an
ancestral spirit was implanted, as it were, in the symbol, but in
most cases, apparently, gods of the third class were utilized for
the purpose, such as personified forms of natural phenomena.
These symbols were employed or instituted in order to protect
and foster the life-principle and general welfare of man, birds,
fish, land, forests, &c. The ark or covenant of the Hebrews was
undoubtedly a mauri. We are tola that when the Philistines
defeated the Hebrews they carried off in triumph the ark of the
covenant, the symbol of the Divine presence, without which it
were vain for Israel to appear in battle. Naturally, for they had
lost their mauri, the aria of their war god, and could not possibly
be successful in battle. The zaimph, or sacred veil of Carthage,
was also a mauri.
The material mauri was in many cases a stone, doubtless
selected on account of its durability. Such a symbol pertaining
to a house was buried at the base of the rearmost post supporting
the ridge-pole. In the north a young tree was sometimes planted
at the birth of a child, which tree was viewed as the material
mauri of the child, hence it was closely observed as to its vigour
and mode of growth.
Deep-sea voyagers apparently carried a mauri of their vessel
with them. The stone brought by the Arawa, mentioned at
page 284 of Volume 2 of the Journal of the Polynesian Society,
was probably such a symbol. But here in New Zealand canoes
were also provided with material mauri, though only the larger
and more important seagoing craft, and possibly not all of these.
The smaller harbour and river canoes were apparently not pro-
vided with these protective symbols. On the East Coast I was
told that a stone often served as the mauri of a seagoing canoe.
It was not carried in the vessel, but concealed on shore, lest it
be found and carried off by some evilly disposed person, in which
case it would, apparently, lose its virtue. This stone served as
an abiding-place for the gods in whose care the vessel was placed,
who preserved it from the dangers of the ocean, and, in the case
of a fishing-canoe, brought good luck to the fishermen ; as my
Ngati-Porou informant quaintly expressed it, " Kia ngawari hoki
nga ika o te moana." This talisman also retained the tapu of the
craft ; that condition being derived from the fact that it was
in the hands of the gods, who are the one and only source of tapu.
Another interesting illustration of this quaint usage was the
mauri of a pa, or village community, the fortified village of pre-
European days. In this case the mauri protected the welfare
of the village that is to say, of its inhabitants. The symbol
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 27
was endowed with the mana of an atua (god), or gods, and such
gods acted as guardians over the village. Here we see that the
charge was not the life-principle of an individual, but that of a
community. The general welfare of the village commune was
enhanced, and its mana strengthened, by means of this arrange-
ment. The village was, as it were, dedicated to such god, who
became its patron or tutelary being. Not but what the village
would also have dealings with other gods the departmental
system demanded that.
When, some seven hundred years ago, the Whetu-kairangi
pa was built on Seatoun Heights, Wellington, old Whatonga, the
courageous sea-voyager who reached these shores from eastern
Polynesia, advised the locating of a material mauri of the place.
He said, " Locate the mauri of the pa below the village midden.
Let it be an onewa stone, or the stone called huka-a-tai ; do not
use any other kind. Locate in it the gods Tuhinapo and Tunui-
o-te-ika ; two will suffice, and those have been utilized as such
guardians from time immemorial. Maru was another so employed.
These were the village protecting deities. They gave warning of
the approach of hostile forces, and of evil fortune or ominous
events pertaining to the village, or to an armed force."
A fortified village, I was informed, would possess no mana,
and inspire no fear in enemies, unless it were provided with a
mauri. If this talisman chanced to be found by an enemy he
would carry it off and perform over it a ceremony to deprive
it of its virtue, and then the village would lose both its mana
and its luck. An inevitable and natural consequence of this
condition would be that the people would lose their assurance
and courage ; they would become unnerved, and so defenceless
against the buffetings of fate.
Another account relates that the stone used as the mauri of a
pa was often buried at the base of the first stockade-post erected,
which was a corner-post. It was laid in the bottom of the post-
hole, and the massive timber was set up on it. This stone talisman
was often alluded to as the whatu of the pa, and certain ritual
was recited over it when so deposited. There was a considerable
amount of religious ceremonial connected with the building, con-
secration, and the tapu lifting of a new pa. The ritual chaunted
over the stone .symbol was for the purpose of conciliating the
gods, and to promote the welfare of the village. It was specially
impressed upon me that no material mauri per se could protect
the village ; it was but a taunga atua, an abiding-place or shrine
for the gods ; they were the true guardians. The stone was but
a symbol of the gods and their power. When the tapu was lifted
from a new pa, the girl who took so important a part in the rite
took her stand near the mauri, because it represents the mana
of the place.
The amorangi, or iorangi (emblem of an atua}, carried by a
priest in the van of a marching force going forth to battle, I have
never heard styled a mauri, though it may have possessed some
of the attributes of that useful object.
The material mauri of a stream was often a stone concealed
somewhere near the source of the stream, unless that chanced
28 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
to be on the lands of another tribe. That of the Rangi-taiki
River or, rather, of that portion of the river within the tribal
bounds of Ngati-Manawa is a large stone in the bed of the river
near old Fort Galatea. A Ngati-Porou native informed me that
in his district the stone mauri of a river or stream would have
certain ritual recited over it to endow it with the necessary powers
or virtue, and would then be concealed somewhere near the stream.
The result would be that an abundance of fish would be found in
such river. Of a similar nature were mauri of lakes, of forests,
and of pools or streams resorted to by pigeons, and where they were
snared. Should such a talisman be taken away by any person,
then the fish or birds would become scarce ; they would move away
to other parts. Natives of the Whanganui valley did not place
the material mauri of an eel-weir at the weir, but concealed it
near a waterfall or cataract. The object was to frustrate the
designs of ill-disposed persons who might attempt to locate the
mauri and deprive it of its mana, or powers, by means of magic
spells. The idea was that the stone mauri would not be able to
hear the noxious spells on account of the sound of many waters.
This is decidedly a novel idea, but probably originated in the
belief that the protective spirit gods inherent in the stone might
be affected by the powers of the charm if heard. Such a mauri
is often referred to by Whanganui natives as an iho, a curious and
In Volume 10 of the Journal of the Polynesian Society is a
reference to a rock at Motu that is the mauri of the sea-fish called
kahawai. The mauri of sea-fish was sometimes a small stone,
which, together with the gills of a kahawai, or whatever might be
the principal fish of such place, would be concealed. This talis-
man would preserve the productiveness of the ocean, cause fish
to be plentiful, and bring luck to fishermen. When the Atiawa
Tribe of Taranaki occupied Wellington district a century ago
there were but few kahawai in these waters, hence they sent back
to Waitara for the mauri, and on its arrival and location here
those fish became plentiful. The sea mauri of the Whanau-a-
Apanui Tribe is said to be a rata tree. The first fish caught of
any season was deposited at that tree, evidently as an offering
to the gods. The mauri of an eel- weir was deposited at the
opening thereof, at the base of one of the supporting-posts.
The mauri of a forest was deemed a very important matter,
more especially among such tribes as were unable to produce
large quantities of cultivated food products. In the Waiapu
district is a hill called Taupa-nui, said to resemble a bird in form.
It is viewed as a manu tipua, a supernormal bird, and is the bird
mauri of the district. This place was much frequented by forest-
birds. The forest mauri at Maungapohatu was a stone resembling
a dumb-bell in form. It was sought in vain since the death of
the old men who had known its hiding-place, but was discovered
by accident during the excavation of a hut-site at the settlement
formed by the followers of Rua, the so-called " new Messiah."
Another mauri, at Tauwhare-manuka, on the Tauranga River,
consists of two rows of stones half embedded in the earth. These
forest mauri ensured the productiveness of such forest, and caused
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 2Q
birds and other products to be plentiful. They represented the
hau of the forest that is, its vitality or vital principle and its
mana. A curious form of charm was recited by a person en-
deavouring to find a mauri in order to destroy its virtue. Other
formulae were repeated in order to attract birds to a forest. Should
a mauri become deprived of its virtue, or a forest become tamaoatia
(defiled) by some feckless person carrying cooked food into it,
then the birds would forsake it, and flocks of them would be
seen, or heard, migrating to other districts.
Travellers sometimes hied them to a priest and obtained from
him a mauri for the period of the journey to be made. In that
talismanic object would be located the mana of the particular
atua or god in whose care the traveller placed himself. . When
he returned from his journey he would hand the mauri back to
the priest, who would make it noa (common) by banishing its
virtue that is, by disassociating from it the mana of the pro-
tecting deity. A protective charm repeated by travellers was
termed a mauri ariki ; its repetition ensured the protection of
Material mauri were utilized in connection with agriculture ;
they were placed in the field where crops were planted, and it
was a firm belief that they had a highly beneficial effect on the
growing crops. This belief and practice hinge on the conviction
that such crops are possessed of a mauri, or life-principle, without
which they could not possibly flourish. This belief carries us back
to Indonesia, where certain agricultural tribes believe that rice
possesses such an active life-principle. In both regions the belief
has been the origin of very singular ceremonies. The Maori main-
tains that forests, birds, fish, &c., also possess this immaterial
mauri or vital principle. In all cases the material mauri represents
the immaterial mauri and protects it from all deterioration or other
harm. This means that the gods whose mana is implanted in
the talisman protect and cherish the life-principle, the vigour,
vitality, and fruitfulness of crops, forest, birds, fish, &c.
The mauri of a crop as, for example, a field of kumara (sweet
potatoes) was in some cases a rudely fashioned stone image,
specimens of which can be seen in the Dominion Museum. Some
at least of these represented Kongo, the patron deity of agricul-
ture, who, as we have seen, represents the moon. Thus the moon
god that nurtured the crops of the old-time folk of Accadia has
crossed the wide seas to protect and vivify those of the Maori
at your doors. And when the Maori of yore planted his crops
with much ceremony and ritual, the swaying, feather-decorated
'spade-shafts, 10 ft. in length, carried on their upper ends the old,
old symbol of Kongo, the crescent.
In some cases the first kumara planted in a field served as
a mauri, and the puke, or small mound, in which it was planted
was tapu. The product of this plant was utilized as firstfruits
offerings to Kongo. A very curious custom of former times was
the utilizing of skulls or bones of the dead as mauri to cause a
crop to flourish. These might be remains of either friends or
enemies. They were conveyed to the field with much ceremony,
and there deposited until the crop was lifted. When Tuhoe slew
30 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
Tionga, of the Arawa, they cut off his head and carried it home
to serve as a mauri for a bird-snaring tree. In after-days Ngati-
Awa, of Te Teko, borrowed the head to use as a mauri for their
When the kumara was first introduced into New Zealand,
fear was entertained that its mauri might return to Hawaiki, its
former home in Polynesia. Hence the introducers were advised
to slay one Taukata, who had been the cause of its introduction,
and sprinkle his blood on the door of the storehouse in which
the seed-tubers were kept. This had the desired effect, and, for
many years after, the skull of Taukata was used as a mauri for
the kumara plantations of Whakatane. The employment of bones
of the dead for such a purpose is assuredly a survival of human
sacrifice for the same purpose. Certain folk of India slew a
person each year in order to render their crops prolific, each
landowner obtaining a small portion of the flesh of the victim
to bury in his field.
Now, when Hape, sire of Tamarau, the flying man, went from
Whakatane to the South Island he took with him the mauri, or
life-principle, of the prized kumara, the chief cultivated food
product of the Maori. The result was that the crops of Whaka-
tane did not flourish, and the Sons of Awa were in parlous plight.
Hence Tamarau followed his sire to the south, where he found
that he had died. However, he recovered the mauri and brought
it home with him, after which the crops flourished once more.
Among the Ngati-Porou folk a peculiar divinatory rite was
performed in order to ascertain what fate held in store for man,
as in cases of illness. For this purpose a small shrub of karangu
(Coprosma) was employed as a temporary mauri. The operator
would go forth in search of such a shrub of a suitable size. He
would then endow it with mana, or power to act as an oracle, by
reciting certain charms over it, and these located temporarily
in the shrub the wairua, or powers of the wairua, of a defunct
forbear of the patient. The shrub now possessed the necessary
powers to enable it to peer into the future and to notify man
as to the result. The operator or augur grasped the stem of the
shrub and repeated the words
Tohungia te tohu o te mate.
Tohungia te tohu o te ora.
(Give token of the sign of death.
Give token of the sign of life.)
He then pulled at the shrub so as to tear it up by the roots,
as he repeated-
He unuhanga a nuku, he unuhanga a rangi
Ka unu to peke mua, ka unu to peke roto,
Ka unu to peke taha, ka unu to peke maui.
If the roots of the shrub came away and were not broken in
the pulling process the fact was viewed as a good omen, and the
augur exclaimed, " Turuki ki tahito o te rangi." Should the roots
break it was an evil omen, and he cried " E ! Taukuri E ! He atua !
He taitahae!" (" Alas ! There is the devil to pay").
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 31
The word mauri must not be looked upon as denoting the
mind, but the following remark made by an old native is sug-
gestive : " Ko taua mea ko te mauri he whatu mahara i roto i te
ngakau ; ko te whatu o roto i te manawa " (" That thing the mauri
is a source of thought in the mind ; the nucleus within the
heart"). This looks as though the speaker viewed the mauri as
being a source of thought or memory ; but I have never known
any other native to express this view.
In the old saying, " Mauri mahi, mauri or a ; mauri noho,
mauri mate," it is difficult to see how the word mauri should be
rendered. It is probably here employed much as we do the
word "soul" in such expressions as "He is a good soul." So, an
industrious soul is prosperous, while an indolent one suffers
We have now seen that the term mauri denotes the physical
life-principle, and that in Maori belief it extended to what we term
inanimate objects ; also that certain material talismans, called
by the same name, represented and protected the vitality and
welfare of animal life and of inanimate objects ; that either the
immaterial life-principle or the material talisman loses its virtue
and protective power if defiled in any way, hence the necessity
for preserving the tapu, or sanctity, of one's mauri ora. Taranaki
natives tell us that the moa became extinct because its life-
principle was denied by the early Maori settlers.
In Volume 29 of the Journal of the Polynesian Society, at
page 149, appears an interesting paper by Mr. Percy Smith on
" Clairvoyance among the Maoris." The writer states his opinion
that the Polynesians were acquainted with some branches of
psychic science, such as hypnotism, telepathy, clairvoyance, &c.
Trie first illustration given is as follows : About the year 1853
the natives of Taranaki were fast decreasing in numbers, owing
to introduced diseases and change in habits and beliefs. The
natives believed that it was their abandonment of tapu that was
the cause of their misfortunes, and that the existence among them
of old tapu objects and places had a very harmful effect upon
them. This was because such tapu objects, &c., were not respected
as formerly, and this failure to respect them was the cause of the
afflictions suffered by the people. This meant that, despite their
acceptance of Christianity, the natives still believed in the powers
of their old gods.
Now, at many of the old deserted pa (fortified villages) and
other places in that district were concealed or buried material
mauri of former times. It was believed that trespass on such
places caused the gods to punish the offenders. Hence it was
resolved that all such tapu places and objects should be rendered
noa, or free from tapu, by means of proper ceremonial.
In certain divinatory ceremonies performed in public we are
told that the powers of priests would cause a dead body to turn
slowly over, and cause leaves to fall from green branchlets in the
raurau rite.* The mysterious power described by the word hoa
enabled an expert to shatter a hard stone with a tap from a light
wand, to blast a tree, to slay a person or animal with no weapon
but this strange force, this neolithic vril.
* See Frontispiece, Pig. 2.
32 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
THE HAU, OR VITAL SPIRIT.
The hau of a person is another vital principle or attribute that
we have to consider, and we shall find, as in the case of mauri,
that it is a term also used in connection with forests, land, inanimate
objects, &c. In some cases it is employed where ahua or ohonga
might be used, and it is an extremely difficult quality to define ;
it is doubtful if the English tongue contains a word to meet the
The hau of man, of land, &c., is an intangible quality, one
of three potential pertaining to such things. It is the vital essence,
but is not the same as the mauri, or active life-principle. It
represents vital force, vitality perhaps " vital principle " is the
best definition that can be given. It must be clearly understood
that it is not a spirit as we generally understand that term ; it
is not an apparitional soul ; it has little in common with the
wairua, save that it is intangible, and it is not located in any
organ of the body. The hau of a person, of land, of forests, &c.,
can be destroyed by the arts of black magic, hence great pains
were taken to protect it ; such protection has already been
described under the heading of "Mauri" The hau is more
closely allied to the mauri than to the wairua. The ordinary
meanings of the word hau are " wind," " air/' " breath/' &c.
Coleridge's definition of personality plus vital power gives some
idea of the hau of man.
As in the case of the mauri, we have to deal with both
immaterial and material hau. The immaterial hau is a necessary
vital principle ; the material hau is some object that represents
such vitality. It serves a similar purpose to that of the material
mauri, the material aria, and the material ahua, inasmuch as it
represents an immaterial quality ; it is a symbolic medium.
Certain objects used in divinatory ceremonies were called hau.
Material objects representing a battleground or a fight, &c., were
termed hau. In these cases such things, so far as I can see, might
equally as well have been styled mawe, aria, or ahua. The rite
known as whangai hau was the offering of such hau to the gods ;
in the case of a fight the heart of the first enemy slain was so
In cases of makutu, or black magic, it is often said that the
hau of a person was taken, but it would be more correct to say
that the ohonga, or material object designed to be employed as a
medium, was taken, and through which medium the hau, or vital
principle, or essence, of the person was affected. One explanation
seems to show that, if the intended victim were within sight of
the wizard, the latter might affect his hau by means of "direct
action "- by simply repeating his charm, no material medium
being employed. In the act known as matakai a wizard recited
a spell while the victim was eating, so that food and spell entered
his body together, the result being death. This fatal result
presupposes that the person attacked had not had his life-
principle protected by means of the safeguards we have already
When it was desired to avenge a person slain by witchcraft,
a leaf was moistened with saliva from the dead man's mouth,
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 33
and this leaf was used as a medium in retaliatory magic.
Tarakawa has told us that the avenging tohunga would cause the
wairua of the wizard to appear before him, which it did in the
form of a fly. This fly he then destroyed by means of a rite known
as the rua torino, and so the original, the physical basis of the
wairua, was destroyed. Thus would a person be slain by magic ,
unless his mana was strong enough to protect him, to render him
immune as it were. This word mana is an interesting study.
!t means "authority," "control," "influence," "prestige,"
"power"; but also denotes psychic force, hence we hear of
mana tangata and mana atua. Of what may be perhaps termed
supernormal mana the gods are the origin and mainstay, as they
are of tapu. If a man possesses strong mana he may be able to
withstand -any attack by magicians. The hau of man has been
compared to mana, but the two qualities are quite distinct in the
Tarakawa has told us that when, many years ago, he
accompanied his father to a Ngai-Tai village, his father's hau was
taken from the spot on which he had sat, by some enemy. As
they returned homeward his father observed their guardian atua
appearing on either side of them as they walked, and so knew
that there was something wrong. After they reached home the
father was taken seriously ill, though the prompt measures taken
saved his life.
The first bird taken in the fowling season by fowlers was used
as an offering to Tane, and was placed in a tree. With it was put
the hau of the land and the hau of the head chief of the district.
These might be represented by material objects, or perhaps by no
symbol whatever, as we have noted in other cases. The object
was evidently the protection of the hau, or vital principle, of man
and land. In some cases the body of the bird might be buried as
an ika purapura in order to protect the vitality of land, birds,
and man. This extraordinary name seems to apply to an object
employed as a material mauri ; the two terms are apparently
synonymous. The ahua of a person seems to have been used as
an ika purapura in some cases. Some information concerning
these matters may be found in Volume 9 of the Journal of the
Polynesian Society at page 194.
In the story of Kuiwai and Haungaroa being insulted by their
husband and his friends we note the sentence, " A, kamu tonu
atu nga ringa ki te kapo i nga hau o nga waha o te hunga e
kanga mai nei." Here the hau of the voice was caught by the
Inasmuch as the hau represents vitality, it follows that it
cannot leave its physical basis, the body, and it ceases to exist
at the death of the body. Hau is used in an anagogic sense ; it
is the vital principle or ichor, but it is an external element as
well a subtle aura. It must exist outside the body, apparently.
This is shown by the fact that a person leaves a portion of his
hau in his footprints as he walks, and also at any spot where he
chances to sit down. The hau of a person can be taken, " scooped
up," as it were, from the spot where he has been seated ; so we
are told by the Maori. It is possibly the ahua, or semblance,.
34 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
of the hau that is so taken, and this immaterial ahua serves as a
medium through which to affect the vital powers of a person.
Certain branchlets used in a singular divinatory rite called
raurau were known as hau, and here such objects were probably
viewed as representing the vital powers of the enemy ; they would
be material symbols of such powers. Agents were very frequently
employed by the Maori in his dealings with gods and supernormal
forces. By endowing portable symbols with the protective mana
of the gods he was enabled to preserve the life-principle and
vitality of all things ; a forest so protected was as safe as though
its vital principle were concealed in the material symbol called
The wairua has appeared as an active force that does much to
protect its physical basis. The hau seems to be a passive element
that needs every protection, though the name is also applied
occasionally to the talisman that protects it. This transference of
many of these terms from one condition or element to another is
very confusing to Europeans.
The term apa hau denotes the spirit of a dead person that has
passed into a living descendant that is, the latter has become
the medium (waka, kauwaka, and kaupapa] of the spirit of his
forbear. Such a spirit was alluded to as an atua apa hau, and
was consulted by its medium in all crises and troubles. It does
not appear that such spirit abode permanently in its waka, but
it was ever accessible when wanted. Offerings of food and other
things were made to such atua, and this act was known as kumanga
The hau of the human footprint is known as manea on the
East Coast. This can be taken and used as a medium in black
magic ; hence, when travelling in enemy country, people often
walked in water as much as possible, so as to avoid leaving their
manea in their footprints. Another peril to such travellers would
be that danger might lurk on any path. By reciting certain
spells over an object, and then burying it in a pathway, an expert
could make such a path a death-trap. Any person walking over
that spot would either perish or be seriously affected, always
supposing that his mana was not sufficiently powerful to save
him. There also appears to have been a material manea, the powers
of which seemed to be those of a mauri, and employed to protect
the welfare of land and man. In the Taranaki district the term
manea seems to have been applied to stones used as mauri of
streams or of fish.
When Maui drew up these lands from the depths of the ocean
he went back to Hawaiki in order to take the hau of this land as
an offering to the gods. In this case the term hau would be best
rendered as " semblance."
Hau ora is an expression used to denote welfare, health, vigour,
&c. In some cases it must be rendered by some such term as
"'salvation" or "saving-power," as in the expression, " Ko te
paepae, koinei te hauora o te tangata." Again, hauora is employed
to denote not only physical welfare, but also intellectual vigour ;
and hauora, toiora, manawa ora, and mauri ora may all be employed
to define a condition of spiritual welfare.
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 35
Here we have another term that is allied to many others the
world over that is, in its lengthened form of manawa ora. The
two primary meanings of this word manawa are the organic,
material heart, and breath ; while the form manawa ora denotes
" the breath of life." All three vowels are short, and the word
must not be confused with manawa, a word meaning " welcome "
and " to welcome." Manawa is also used much as we employ
the term " heart." to express mind or spirit, as in the sentence,
" E hiakai ana ahau, kaore aku manawa korero " (I am hungry,
and have no heart to talk that is, no spirit for conversation).
The heart is viewed by the Maori as one of the seats of the
feelings, as seen in the expressions manawa kino (uneasy, appre-
hensive), manawa nui (stout-hearted), manawa pa (grudging,
parsimonious), manawa popore (anxious, considerate), manawa
rau (distracted), manawa reka (gratified), manawa rere (rash,
impetuous), manawam (anxious), manawa wera (excited, angry).
Manawa is also used to denote staying-power or support.
I heard a native remark, " Ko te manawa o te pakeha he pia "
(" Beer is the support of the white man "). In the old saying
" E warn nga pu manawa " reference is made to inherent talents
of man, as courage, industry, generosity, &c. The expression
Kuku o te manawa implies that which has a hold upon the
affections. Natives have often asked me for some special food to
serve as a manawa for a sick person, and here we see the meaning
of " support " again. The expressions wai manawa whenua and
komanawa wai denote water gushing forth from the earth, and
manawa has sometimes to be translated as " bowels."
Manawa as meaning " breath " is well illustrated by such
sayings as tanga manawa (breathing-space) and " Ka he toku
manawa " (" I am out of breath "). Manawa may be compared to
the Latin anima, a term that originally meant " breath," but in
course of time came to signify the infinite in man, and so anima,
was employed to denote the soul. Our word "spirit" is derived
from a word meaning " to breathe." Again, the Greek term psyche
originally meant " breath," but came into use to express " soul."
The psyche was not located in any organ of the body ; it per-
vaded, as it were, the whole body. The manawa ora of the Maori
I render as " the breath of life "; the expression carries a sense
of something more than mere breath a spiritual sense. The
manawa ora obtained from the Supreme Being, and implanted in
the image that was to be Hine-ahu-one, the Earth-formed Maid,
the first woman, was something more than the mere power of
breathing. It was the pneuma or anima, the spiritual breath of
life, that, together with the wairua, obtained from the same
source, endowed Hine with her twofold life essence, the ira atua
and ira tangata. It is evident that manawa (breath) was the
origin of the manawa ora concept, as was the case with anima
and psyche. The manawa ora is one of the vivifying agents or
potentiae that impart Hie to man.
In Hebrew terms for these phenomena we have ruach, that
meant " breath," but also denoted the soul, or vital spirit, as
some term it. The Hebrew word neshamah seems to nearly
36 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
approach the manawa or a of the Maori. Max Muller explains it
as " the vital breath which every creature has received from
God." This was the power or quality that endowed Adam with
a living soul. In this expression the definitions of " breath of
life " and " soul " are clearly combined. In later times the Jews
denned more clearly the five spiritual potentiae in m?n
(i.) The vital power Nephesh.
(2.) The vital spirit Ruach.
(3.) Consciousness Neshamah.
(4.) (5.) Epithets only of the soul.
The term manawa ora, says the Maori, denotes life itself, as
mauri also denotes life, and the hau represents life, but in a
somewhat different sense. But the Maori did not view the blood
as representing life, as some Semitic folk did. One old sage
remarked to me that all things possess a wairua, and manawa ora,
and mauri. In regard to the wairua, he would not, I believe,
assign an apparitional soul to a tree or stone, but simply a spirit.
As to the manawa ora possessed by such inanimate objects, here
is proof that this expression implies something more than " breath,"
for no native would connect the power of breathing with a stone,
albeit the stone is not absolutely lifeless in his eyes.
This expression (manawa ora) is sometimes used in the same
sense as is hauora, and so a person of a cheerful nature is alluded
to as being in a condition of manawa ora, or of a manawa ora
disposition. Some old folks consulted have not carried the
possession of manawa ora outside the animal kingdom, so that
an element of doubt pertains to its extension. Again, the ex-
pression is used to denote fresh air, as illustrated in the remark,
" Tend mea te manawa ora e hangia nei e tatou ". (" This thing,
the breath of life, breathed by us "). Moriori mothers of the
Chatham Isles recited certain ritual over a newly born infant in
order to endow it with the breath of life, the power of breathing,
and also to cause its wairua to attain life and vigour in this
The expression manawa waiora is occasionally heard, and
seems to carry the same meaning as does manawa ora. I have
heard natives say of a dead person, as during mourning cere-
monial, " The manawa ora has departed, the ahua alone remains."
At one time I gave evidence in an assault case to show that the
accused had been struck himself before he retaliated, whereupon
he remarked, " Ae, ko koe taku manawa ora " ("Yes, you are my
manawa ora ").
In olden days the Maori firmly believed that tohunga of high-
class mana could endow a person apparently dying with the
breath of life by means of reciting certain ritual formulae. This
peculiar ceremony is known as whakanoho manawa. We have
collected several of these charms, and their wording is peculiar,
as in the lines
Tukua atu tama kia puta ki te ao
He ohorere te tokomauri
Tihe mauri ora ki te ao marama.
A somewhat similar composition was recited over young infants
with the same object as that in the case of the Moriori mother.
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 37
The employment of the term manawa ora seems to show that
the Maori believed life to be something more than the actual
breath. He certainly used words of material origin to denote
immaterial conceptions ; but then, what race does not do so ?
Ere passing on to the last series of words in our list we will
peer a while into the realm of animatism, and discuss the Maori
belief in non-apparitional, indwelling spirits pertaining to in-
animate objects. Such objects are described as tipua, and this
term is also applied to such animals as were believed to be
possessed of supernormal indwelling spirits, [t is occasionally
applied to persons, as to such as possess strange, abnormal
characteristics, and to any strange sickness. The first Europeans
seen by natives were styled tipua, on account of their uncanny
appearance. Thus the word tipua, of which tupua is a variant
form, may often be rendered as "demon/' "goblin," or "object
of terror." The Ngapuhi folk called Marion and his French crew
Tylor drew our attention to the fact that savages do not
make the distinction between animate and inanimate objects
that civilized folk do. The question of preanimistic religion
is a very doubtful matter, and we cannot speak with any
confidence concerning it. The theory of such a strange, un
familiar cultus hinges on the mental attitude of early man to-
ward natural phenomena ere he personified them, or viewed
them as being animated by an indwelling spirit. The conjecture
is of too vague a nature to claim much of our attention and
time, hence we pass on to review the animatism of the Maori.
Shortland tells us that a tipua is the spirit of a person who,
when living, was noted for his knowledge of potent karakia, or
ritual formulae. But it is with material tipua that we are dealing
now. It is true that tipua objects are possessed of an indwelling
spirit, otherwise they would not be tipua ; but the original human
owner of that spirit need not necessarily have been an adept
in the karakia line. What was necessary was that he should
have been a person possessed of mana, for that quality it was that
endowed the material object, rock or tree, with its mana. Such
mana was shown in its powers the power to punish offenders,
to cause storms, &c. Nor were all tipua animated by spirits
of deceased persons. When Tamatea, annoyed by his wife's
lamenting their desertion of their former home in Polynesia,
uttered the dread matapou spell that transformed her and her
two dogs into blocks of stone, all three of them became tipua.
It is thus apparent that the spirit of a person is not a necessity
in our tipua objects. And in cases where some common object
a weapon, a log, a piece of a canoe, &c. became a tipua, there
is nothing to show that any animal spirit has passed into it, yet
an indwelling spirit it assuredly had in Maori belief. Anthro-
pologists would possibly term the material tipua a " fetish."
East Coast natives informed me that many tipua originated
in the death of a traveller, or in the act of resting by bearers
of a corpse at some place. A rock or tree at or near a place
38 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
where such an occurrence took place would come to be looked
upon and treated as a tipua. This would probably be the
result of the fact that such a spot would become tapu, and a
symbol for such tapu would be required, some visible representa-
tion of the sacredness of the place. The object selected as a
tipua would be animated, as it were, by the wairua of the dead
person on account of whom the place was made tapu, and it was
thus that the tipua obtained its mana. This belief seems to
clash with that of the wairua going to the spirit-world, but
apparently the Maori does not worry about such inconsistencies.
Probably the original concept was that, while the wairua of the
defunct person proceeded to the spirit-world, yet its influence,
combined with that person's mana, rendered the object a tipua
i.e., a supernormal entity. That tipua stone, rock, tree, or log
in many cases came to be used as an uruuru whenua. This
expression denotes the making of an offering to such tipua
objects, the act being accompanied by the recitation of a short
charm. This performance was certainly a placatory one, a placa-
tion of the spirit inhabiting the tipua object, the guardian, as
it were, of the tapu spot. Should any traveller neglect to make
such an offering, which usually consisted of a branchlet, or
handful of herbage, then he would meet with some mishap. The
giving of this propitiatory gift is described by the word whangai,
a term meaning " to feed, to offer as food." The persons dwelling
on the lands near a tipua were apparently allowed some latitude,
but woe betide any stranger who neglected to perform this
simple ceremony ! Some misfortune would assuredly assail him
death or sickness; or a storm would render his journey an irk-
some one. The offerings preserve the mana of the tipua, and
that mana brings the offerings. The offerings also show that the
descendants of the person whose wairua and mana originated
the tipua still bear him in mind and still uphold his mana.
Even a stream in which a corpse has been washed has been
treated as a tipua, an offering to it consisting of a stone cast
into it. Any person who denies such a tapu place, as by taking
cooked food to it, would be slain or seriously afflicted by the
inherent wairua of the tipua.
When people were traversing a strange district, a matakite
(seer) among them would, we are told, recognize any tipua
object passed on the way. He would see the guardian wairua
of the place, and so would know the place to be the location
of a tipua.
Leaves of the kawakawa, a small tree, were, if available,
preferred as an offering to a tipua, but for what reason I cannot
say. Can it be in remembrance of the kava of Polynesia, a
plant of the same genus ?
As a person approached the tipua, offering in hand, he recited
such a charm as the following :
Tawhia kia ita
Kia ita i roto, kia ita i waho
Tamaua take ki a koe
Hurenga a nui, hurenga a roa
Tamaua take ki a koe
He kopinga a nuku, he kopinga a rangi
Ki a koe, e koro.
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 39
He then deposits his offering. The following is a short,
simple form of recital used, should a person not be acquainted
with the longer one : " Ina au taku aitu, taku arangi." This
acknowledges the tapu of the place.
Some tapu trees, such as tipua, or burial-trees, or a tree in
which the umbilical cord of an infant had been deposited, had
more valuable articles deposited at, on, or in them occasionally
a small piece of the prized greenstone. In late times, bright-
hued handkerchiefs or strips of cloth would.be hung on such tapu
When exploring Waikaremoana many years ago I was warned
not to touch stones and rocks at certain places, for, if I did so,
a storm would ensue.
In the Paumotu dialect tupua denotes a ghost. In many
of the isles of Polynesia the word carries similar meanings to
what it does in New Zealand. At Taumako Island atupua
means " a spirit."
The tipua log known as Tutaua, that is said to have drifted
for many years athwart the confined waters of Waikaremoana,
possessed the power of singing. In the dead of night the
mountain-folk would hear the weird voice of the enchanted log
as it drifted across the troubled waters of the Star Lake, and
would say, one to another, " Ko Tutaua e waiata haere ana "
(" It is Tutaua singing as it goes ").
We know also that many of the mountains and great hills
were viewed as tipua. They were tapu, and so could be ascended
with safety only after the recital of certain placatory formulae.
When, long years ago, I ascended Maungapohatu in company
with my worthy old friend Peka-hinau he who shot Pane-
takataka at Te Kakari that grey-haired old tohunga of the
Children of the Mist made me leave my pipe and tobacco at the
base of the range, lest its tapu be denied.
Much more might be said concerning tipua, and a great
number of illustrative stories related anent such phenomena as
enchanted objects, mountains, &c., endowed with powers of speech
and locomotion, inanimate articles possessed of mana, weird
powers and influences of which we find illustrations in our fairy-
tales. All of these things were real, very real, to the Maori mind,
as they were to those of our own forbears in the centuries that
MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI.
It is when we come to deal with Maori terms for the mind
that we encounter words denoting organs of the body. We have
seen that the heart (manawa) is viewed as being partially the
seat of emotions, but the terms puku and ngakau are more widely
used in this connection.
The Maori employs the expressions aro, hinengaro, and ngakau
in order to define what we call " mind." Hinengaro is also used
to denote " conscience." The definitions of the word aro are
" mind, seat of feelings, desire, the bowels, to know or understand."
In connection with the meaning " to know or understand," however,
the initial vowel seems to be lengthened, hence Williams treats it
40 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
as a different word. By adding the causative prefix to aro we
get the form whakaaro, meaning " thought, intention, opinion,
understanding, plan " ; as a verb, " to think, to consider, to plan."
The word mea is also employed as meaning " to think, to say,
to do, to wish," &c., but in a secondary manner, as it were.
Familiarity with the use of this term alone enables one to under-
stand its marvellous adaptiveness.
Hinengaro is the name of one of the internal organs, but, like
aro, is much better known by its other meanings " mind,
conscience, seat of thought and emotions, the heart (as seat of the
foregoing), desire." This term is a far-spread one, as shown by
the forms finangalo of Samoa, hinaaro of Tahiti, inangaro of
Mangaia, finangalo of Tonga, finangaro of Futuna, hinangaro of
Paumotu, hinenao of Marquesas, &c. ; the meanings being " mind,
desire, affection," &c. The Moriori form means " conscience."
In the expression " Kai te mohio taku hinengaro ka taea e au
tenei mahi " (" Mv mind knows that this task can be accomplished
by me ") the meaning of " mind "is clear. In the following
remark, made by a person when condemning the action of another,
" Hua atu ma te hinengaro e whakaatu mai te ahua he" (" One
would think that the hinengaro would indicate the pernicious
aspect ") [" of your act " understood], the meaning of " conscience "
must be assigned. The word hua here employed means " to
think, to decide, to know," &c. The affections do not emanate
from the hinengaro. A native made the following singular remark
to me : " The emotions may originate with the hinengaro and
descend to the ngakau in order to find expression." The same
person remarked that the affections pertain to the ngakau, to the
puku, as seen in the expression puku aroha (affectionate), and to
Katahi ano ka kitea te mea nei kua eke ki runga ki ta te
hinengaro i whakatakoto ai (I have at length seen what the mind
In the remark " E hara te hinengaro o mea he ngakau kino "
the terms hinengaro and* ngakau are synonymous in meaning.
Te hinengaro o mea kua maruapo (The mind of So-and-so has
Mahara is a word meaning " thought, memory, recollection " ;
as a verb, " to remember, to think upon, to be anxious." Whaka-
mahara means " to remind." Williams tells us that the term
mahara also denotes some part of the intestines.
Mohio means " to know, to understand, wise, intelligent, a
person of knowledge." Mohiotanga = knowledge ; whakamohio =
to teach, instruct.
Matau means "to know, to understand." Matauranga =
knowledge ; whakamatau = to teach.
Ngakau : This word is commonly used to denote mind, and,
figuratively, the heart as the seat of feelings, also desire, inclination,
&c. As in the case of manawa, it enters into a number of
expressions, as oranga ngakau (comfort), ngakau-nui (eager),
ngakau-kore (disinclined, dispirited), ngakau-rua (uncertain, vacil-
lating). Ngakau also means " the bowels, viscera." It also
denotes a medium (also termed tiwha] by means of which assistance
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 41
in war was asked for ; such a medium might be material or merely
a song. Various forms of this word, carrying the meanings of
" bowels, entrails," and of " mind, conscience, seat of feelings,"
&c., are widely employed throughout Polynesia.
Ritual chaunts were intoned by priests over newly born infants
in order to render them clear-minded, intelligent. A similar
ceremony was performed over men about to engage in war, or
some other matter of importance.
The word ate denotes the liver, and it is also employed to define
the seat of affections, figuratively the heart, though not often
heard in that sense. It is employed as a term of endearment, as
also is the expression tau o te ate. " Kei hea te tau o taku ate ? "
(" Where is the darling of my heart ? " ).
Puku : The location of the seat of feelings in the puku, or
stomach, is a common usage, hence we have such expressions as
pukuriri (quarrelsome) ; pukutakaro (playful) ; pukukata (amused).
Thus this term puku has come to mean also emotions, affections,
memory, and desire. In such expressions as pukumahara (cautious,
provident) and pukumahi (industrious) it may almost be said to
be used in the sense of "mind" or "disposition." Also, natives
will tell you that their ancestors conserved all their knowledge
and traditional lore in their puku; which should certainly be
rendered as " mind " or " memory." The word pumahara
meaning " thoughtful, sagacious," also " sage, counsellor," is
probably not a corrupt form of pukumahara, but a compound of
pu (a skilled person, a wise man, an authority) and mahara as
given above. The Greek term phren was applied to the mind,
or intellect, and phrenes to the diaphragm, viewed as the seat of
feelings and thought.
It seems probable that the Maori located the seat of emotions,
&c., in the stomach, because he noted the effect of pronounced
anger, grief, &c., upon that organ, and he would naturally connect
the mind with the seat of such feelings. This conception recalls
the matter published by the psychic-research folk on the subject
of the abdominal brain, the solar plexus that controls the
emotional nature of man, and how to control it. Are civilized
and barbaric men to meet on common ground in regard to these
conceptions, as they have in regard to the spiritual nature of
man, and the belief in one all-pervading God with many names ?
The important, underlying facts connected with the mental
attitude of the Maori towards the spiritual and intellectual
potentiae of man may be explained as follows : The Maori believed
himself to be the descendant of supernatural beings ; his ultimate
forbears were the personified forms of natural phenomena ; his
soul came originally from lo the Parent. Thus man has inherited
a modicum of ira atua (supernormal life, the Divine nature). This
belief led to very singular results ; it led to the conviction that
this spark of the Divine in man is not only extremely tapu, but also
that it represented the true vitality of man, his physical, mental,
moral, tind spiritual welfare. This spark is the mauri ora, or
toi ora, of man, and it is this quality that needs to be very carefully
protected from any polluting agency, the effect of any such contact
being disastrous. For, inasmuch as such quality is the subtle
42 DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPH NO. 2.
vivifying and protective agent, should it by any means become
denied, then its physical basis, man, becomes helpless ; he is left
in a condition of spiritual destitution ; he lies open to every
baneful influence ; every shaft of magic and other evil powers.
He loses the important protective power of second sight ; the
ability of his wairua to preserve his welfare wanes. His hold on
life thus becomes precarious ; his only hope is to restore the con-
dition of tapu that alone represents safety and general welfare.
The vitalizing-power of tapu, be it remembered, emanates from
the gods, and the favour of those gods must be retained.
We have now made a fairly comprehensive survey of the
spiritual and mental concepts of the Maori folk, at least so far
as they are known. We have seen that these barbaric Polynesians
have evolved some very singular and interesting conceptions
concerning the spiritual and intellectual powers of man. Some
of these are pitched upon a high plane of thought, and remind us
of those of Asiatic peoples, both possessing similar mystical and
mythopoetic temperaments. Isolated for many centuries in small
and far-scattered isles the Polynesian has made but little advance
in material culture. His artifacts are crude, his industrial methods
are antiquated and verge on the primitive, his social customs
those of uncultured man. But, bound as he was by ignorance,
by fossilized conditions and lack of opportunities, he yet advanced
in one direction. No retarding conditions could efface the superior
mentality of the race, no cloud of superstition and ignorance
prevented the neolithic Maori seeking to learn the origin and
meaning of life, the whence and whither of the human soul. His
amazing genius for personification, his powers of introspective
thought, his long-developed faculty of abstraction, have resulted
in some of the most interesting concepts known to man. The
post mortem purification of the human soul, and the evolving of
the belief in a Supreme Being untainted by human passions,
represent the acme of the intellectual powers of the Maori. In
his lack of teachings as to fiendish tortures of the soul of man
in the spirit-world the cannibal Maori stands the superior of the
cultured peoples of the Occident, and emphasizes the abominations
of the pernicious doctrine of some Christian priesthoods. In his
allegorical myths of the golden path of Tane, of the protection of
the souls of the dead by the fair Dawn Maid, of the celestial maids
welcoming the souls of the dead to the uppermost heaven, we
observe the finest conceptions of the mythopoetic mentality of
In his endeavours to conceive the marvels of life the Maori,
as we have seen, evolved the belief in several spiritual and intel-
lectual potentiae. He not only endowed man with these prin-
ciples, but also assigned them to animals and to inanimate objects.
His belief in the ever-present and ever-active powers of evil led
him to protect such life-principles by means of material and
immaterial symbols, or talismans. These media again were pro-
tected by divers methods, of which the gods were the active power
and mainstay. The vitality of land and forest were protected
in a similar manner. In infancy our Maori was dedicated to the
Supreme Being, or to departmental gods ; in the serious crises
SPIRITUAL AND MENTAL CONCEPTS OF THE MAORI. 43
of life he placed himself unreservedly in the hands of his gods,
with such a simple remark as " Ki a koe, e Rehuaf" ("To thee, O
Rehua !"). And in face of all this evidence cultured writers have
told us that the Maori has no power of abstract thought !
It is for us to read the lesson contained in these beliefs and
conclusions of man the barbarian. It is for us to retrace our
steps down the path of intolerance, and regain the broad highway
of altruism to tread the four- way path of Tane over which, from
all quarters of the fair earth, the souls of the dead fare on to
Hawaiki-nui, the domain of purification. And whether the wai-
rua of man seeks the care of the ever-beautiful Dawn Maid, or
his awe ascends to the realm of lo the Eternal, to be greeted by the
Mareikura, the golden light of Tane-te-waiora shall cheer them ;
the end is peace, the terrorizing myths of priesthoods a byword.
The tasks of Hine-ahu-one, the Earth-formed Maid, and of
her fair daughter have been well performed. The ira atua and
ira tangata are made one, the kauwae runga joins with the kauwae
raro ; perverse man alone bars the thrice-sacred four-way path.
The life-weary Maori will never again break out the trails of
new realms, never again turn his mythopoetic mind to seek the
secrets of the universe. For his sacred life-principle is befouled
of man ; he has lost caste, and there is no health in mind or body.
Even so his wairua will desert his "tapuless" body and fare out
upon the Ara whanui in search of the Daughter of the Sun, who
ever stands between it and misfortune. Then the great ocean
world that he explored, and peopled, and traversed for so many
centuries will know him never again, and the last of the gallant
old path-finders may truly say, " Tangi kau ana te hau ki runga
o Marae-nui o Hine-moana " (" Nought save the wailing of the
wind is heard on the vast plaza of the Ocean Maid ").
By Authority : W. A. G. SKINNER, Government Printer, Wellington.
JOMINION MUSEUM PUBLICATION!
Jullctin No. 1. Out of print ^^^^^^H
Bulletin No. 2. -FISHING AND SEA-FOODS OF THE ANCIENT MAORL
Mythological and historical tales ; notes on matters connected with the
art of fishing as practised in former times. By A. Hamilton 1908.
73 pp., 79 halftone illustrations.
Price, 10s. 6d., post free.
Bulletins Nos. 3 and 4. Out of print.
Bulletin No. 5. MAORI STOREHOUSES AND KINDRED STRUCTURES:
Houses, Platforms, Racks, and Pits used for storing Food, &c,
Bv Elsdon Best 1916. I OS pp., 46 illustrations.
Price, 10s, 6d., post free.
Bulletin No. 6. THE .PA MAORI. An account of the iortfied vi
the Maori in> lire-European and modern times, illustrating methods o
village defence by means of scarps, ramparts, fosses, and stockades
With numerous plans and half-tone illustrations/ By Elsdon Best
To he published shortly.
Bulletin No. 7. THE MAORI CANOE. A description of various types o
canoes as employe^ by the Maori ; with notes on Polynesian vessels
With illustrations. By Elsdon Best -...,
Awaiting publication. WJ^Hi
Bulletin No. 8. GAMES, EXERCISES, AND PASTIMES OF TmE l|
FOLK, with Notes on their Songs and Musical Instruments
illustrations. By Elsdon Best ^^_
Bulletin No. 9.-- THE MAORI SYSTEM OF AGRICULTURE : its Method
Implements, and Ritual. With illustrations. By EKion Best
HHK Awaiting publication.
Bulletin No. 10. tyAORI MYTHOLOGY AND RELIGION. An acco
the cosmogony/anthropogeny, mythology, religious beliefs, and pra
of our Native folk* By Elsdon Best IL
DOMINION MUSEUM MONOGRAPHS
A New and Interesting: Series.
No. I. Some Aspects of Maori Mvt'h and Religion.
No. 2. Spiritual and Mental Com epts of the Maori.
i'O BE FOLLOWED BY
No. ;i. Maori division of Time, Is- 6 d., post
No. 4. Maori Star Lore.
ie above have b^en written bv Mr. El&doii li-^st, F.N.Z.li
^|^^^B Order through ytivtr bookseller ;or from
THE DIRECTOR, DOMINION MUSEUM, WELLING^
\ll orders should be accompanied by 'remittance. To country
e<<~'har,$e ' f>d f^flwH
GN Best, Elsdon
667 Spiritual and mental
concepts of the Maori
PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE
CARDS OR SLIPS FROM THIS POCKET
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LIBRARY