Sacred Texts  Pacific  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 121

The Curse of Manaia

(Ko Manaia, ko Kuiwai)

WHEN the Tainui and the Arawa sailed away from Hawaiki with Ngatoro-i-rangi on board, he left behind him his younger sister, Kuiwai, who was married to a powerful chief named Manaia. Some time after the canoes had left, a great meeting of all the people of his tribe was held by Manaia, to remove a tapu, and when the religious part of the ceremony was ended, the women cooked food for the strangers.

When their ovens were opened, the food in the oven of Kuiwai, the wife of Manaia, and sister of Ngatoro-i-rangi, was found to be much under done, and Manaia was very angry with his wife, and gave her a severe beating, and cursed, saying: 'Accursed be your head; are the logs of firewood as sacred as the bones of your brother, that you were so sparing of them as not to put into the fire in which the stones were heated enough to make them red hot? Will you dare to do the like again? If you do I'll serve the flesh of your brother in the same way, it shall frizzle on the red-hot stones of Waikorora.'

And his poor wife was quite overcome with shame, and burst out crying, and went on sobbing and weeping all the time she was taking the under-done food out of the oven, and when she had put it in baskets, and earned them up to her husband, and laid them before him, she ate nothing herself, but went on one side and cried bitterly, and then retired and hid herself in the house.

p. 122

And just before night closed in on them, she cast her garments on one side, and girded herself with a new sash made from the young shoots of the toetoe, and stood on the threshold, and spread out her gods, Kahukura, Itupawa, and Rongomai, and she and her daughter, and her sister Haungaroa, stood before them, and the appearance of the gods was most propitious; and when her incantations were ended, she said to her daughter: 'My child, your journey will be a most fortunate one.' The gods were then by her bound up in cloths, and she hung them up again, and returned into the house.

She then said to her daughter: 'Now depart, and when you reach your uncle Ngatoro, and your other relations, tell them that they have been cursed by Manaia, because the food in my oven was not cooked upon the occasion of a great assembly for taking off a tapu, and that he then said: "Are the logs in the forest as sacred as the bones of your brother, that you are afraid to use them in cooking; or are the stones of the desert the kidneys of Ngatoro-i-rangi, that you don't heat them; by and by I'll frizzle the flesh of your brother on red-hot stones taken from Waikorora." Now, my child, depart to your uncle and relations; be quick, this is the season of the wind of Pungawere, which will soon waft them here.'

The women then took by stealth the gods of the people, that is to say, Maru, and Te Iho-o-te-rangi, and Rongomai, and Itupawa, and Haungaroa, and they had no canoe for their journey, but these gods served them as a canoe to cross the sea. For the first canoes which had left Hawaiki for New Zealand carried no gods for human beings with them; they only carried the gods of the sweet potatoes and of fish, they left behind them the gods for mortals, but they brought away with them prayers, incantations, and a knowledge of enchantments, for

p. 123

these things were kept secret in their minds, being learnt by heart, one from another.

Then the girl and her companions took with them Kahukura, and Itupawa, and Rongomai, and Marti, and the other gods, and started on their journey; altogether there were five women, and they journeyed and journeyed towards New Zealand, and, borne up by the gods, they traversed the vast ocean till at last they landed on the burning island of Whakaari, and when daylight appeared, they floated again on the waters, and finally landed on the northern island of New Zealand, at Tawhiuwhiu, and went by an inland route, and stopped to eat food at a place whence they had a good view over the plains, and after the rest of the party had done eating, Haungaroa still went on, and two of her companions teased her, saying: 'Holloa! Haungaroa, what a long time you continue eating'; and those plains have ever since been called Kaingaroa, or Kaingaroa-o-Haungaroa (the long meal of Haungaroa). Haungaroa, who was much provoked with the two women who thus teased her, smote them on the face, whereupon they fled from her, and Haungaroa pursued them a long way, but she pursued in vain, they would not come back to her, so by her enchantments she changed them into Ti trees, which stand on the plains whilst travellers approach them, but which move from place to place when they attempt to get close (and the natives believe that the trees are there at the present day).

Then the other three women continued their journey, and they at length reached the summit of a hill, and sat down there to rest themselves, and whilst they were resting, Haungaroa thought of her mother, and love for her overcame her, and she wept aloud--and that place has ever since been called Te Tangihanga, or the place of weeping.

After they had rested for some time, they continued their journey, until they reached the open

p. 124

summit of another high hill, which they named Piopio, and from thence they saw the beautiful lake of Roto-rua lying at their feet, and they descended towards it, and came down upon the geyser, which spouts up its jets of boiling water at the foot of the mountain, and they reached the lake itself, and wound round it along its sandy shores; then leaving the lake behind them, they struck off towards Maketu, and at last reached that place also, coming out of the forests upon the sea-coast, close to the village of Tuhoro, and when they saw the people there, they called out to them: 'Whereabout is the residence of Ngatoro-i-rangi? And the people answered them: 'He lives near the large elevated storehouse which you see erected on the hill there'; and the niece of Ngatoro-i-rangi, saw the fence which surrounded his place, and she walked straight on towards the wicket of the fortification; she would not however pass in through it like a common person, but climbed the posts, and clambered into the fortress over its wooden defences, and having got inside, went straight on to the house of Ngatoro-i-rangi, entered it, and going right up to the spot which was sacred, from his sitting on it, she seated herself down there.

When Ngatoro-i-rangi's people saw this, one of them ran off with all speed to tell his master, who was then at work with some of his servants on his farm, and having found him he said: 'There is a stranger just arrived at your residence, who carries a travelling bag as if she had come from a long journey, and she would not come in at the gate of the fortress, but climbed right over the wooden defences, and has quietly laid her travelling-bag upon the very roof of your sacred house, and has walked up and seated herself in the very seat that your sacred person generally occupies.'

When the servant had ended his story, Ngatoro at once guessed who this stranger from a distance

p. 125

must be, and said: 'It is my niece'; and he then asked: 'Where is Te Kehu?'--and they told him, 'He is at work in his plantation of sweet potatoes.' And he bid them fetch him at once, and to be quick about it; and when he arrived they all went together to the place where his niece was, and when he reached her, he at once led her before the altar, and she gave them the gods which she had brought with her from Hawaiki.

Then she said to them: 'Come now, and let us be cleansed by diving in running water, and let the ceremony of Whangai-horo be performed over us, for you have been cursed by Manahua and his tribe.'

When they heard this they cried aloud, and tore off their clothes, and ran to a running stream and plunged into it, and dashed water over themselves, and the priests chanted the proper incantations, and performed all the prescribed ceremonies; and when these were finished they left the stream, and went towards the village again, and the priests chanted incantations for cleansing the court-yard of the fortress from the defilement of the curse of Manaia; but the incantations for this purpose have not been handed down to the present generation.

The priests next dug a long pit, termed the pit of wrath, into which by their enchantments they might bring the spirits of their enemies, and hang them and destroy them there; and when they had dug the pit, muttering the necessary incantations, they took large shells in their hands to scrape the spirits of their enemies into the pit with, whilst they muttered enchantments; and when they had done this, they scraped the earth into the pit again to cover them up, and beat down the earth with their hands, and crossed the pit with enchanted cloths, and wove baskets of flax-leaves, to hold the spirits of the foes which they had thus destroyed,

p. 126

and each of these acts they accompanied with proper spells.

The religious ceremonies being all ended, they sat down, and Ngatoro-i-rangi wept over his niece, and then they spread food before the travellers; and when they had finished their meal they all collected in the house of Ngatoro-i-rangi, and the old men began to question the strangers, saying: 'What has brought you here? Then Kuiwai's daughter said: 'A curse which Manaia uttered against you; for when they had finished making his sacred place for him, and the females were cooking food for the strangers who attended the ceremony, the food in Kuiwai's oven was not well cooked, and Manaia cursed her and you, saying: "Is firewood as sacred as the bones of your brethren, that you fear to burn it in an oven? I'll yet make the flesh of your brothers hiss upon red-hot stones brought from Waikorora, and heated to warm the oven in which they shall be cooked." That curse is the curse that brought me here, for my mother told me to hasten to you.'

When Ngatoro-i-rangi heard this, he was very wroth, and he in his turn cursed Manaia, saying: 'Thus shall it be done unto you--your flesh shall be cooked with stones brought from Maketu.' Then he told all his relations and people to search early the next morning for a large totara tree, from which they might build a canoe, as they had no canoe since Raumati had burnt the Arawa.

Then the people all arose very early the next morning, and with them were the chosen band of one hundred and forty warriors, and they went out to search for a large Totara tree, and Kuiwai's daughter went with them, and she found a great Totara tree fallen down, and nearly buried in the earth; so they dug it out, and they framed a large canoe from it, which they named 'The Totara tree, dug from the earth'; and they hauled it down to

p. 127

the shore, and, launching it, embarked, and paddled out to sea, and the favourable wind of Pungawere was blowing strong, and it blew so for seven days and nights, and wafted them across the ocean, and at the end of that time they had again reached the shores of Hawaiki.

The name of the place at which they landed in Hawaiki was Tara-i-whenua; they landed at night-time, and drew their canoe up above high-water mark, and laid it in the thickets, that none might see that strangers had arrived.

Ngatoro-i-rangi then went at once to a fortified village named Whaitiri-ka-papa, and when he arrived there he walked carelessly up to the house of Kuiwai, and peeping in at the door, said that she was wanted outside for a minute; and she, knowing his voice, came out to him immediately; and Ngatoro-i-rangi questioned her saying: 'Have you anything to say to me, that I ought to know? And she replied: 'The whole tribe of Manaia are continually occupied in praying to their gods, at the sacred place; they pray to them to bring you and your tribe here, dead; perhaps their incantations may now have brought you here.' Then Ngatoro asked her: 'In what part of the heavens is the sun when they go to the sacred place?'--and she answered: 'They go there early In the morning.' Then Ngatoro-i-rangi asked her again: 'Where are they all in the evening?'--and she replied: 'In the evening they collect in numbers in their villages for the night, in the morning they disperse about.' Then, just as Ngatoro-i-rangi was going, he said to her: 'At the dawn of morning climb up on the roof of your house that you may have a good view, and watch what takes place.' Having thus spoken, he returned to the main body of his party.

Then Ngatoro related to them all that his sister had told him; and when they had heard this, Tangaroa, one of his chiefs, said: 'My counsel is, that

p. 128

we storm their fortress this night'; but then stood up Rangitu, another chief, and said: 'Nay, but rather let us attack it in the morning.' Now arose Ngatoro, and he spake aloud to them and said: 'I agree with neither of you. We must go to the sacred place, and strike our noses until they bleed and we are covered with blood, and then we must he on the ground like dead bodies, every man with his weapon hid under him, and their priests will imagine that their enchantments have brought us here and slam us; so shall we surprise them.' On hearing these words from their leader they all arose, and following him in a body to the court-yard of the sacred place, they found that the foolish priests had felt so sure of compelling their spirits by enchantments to bring Ngatoro and his tribe there, and to slay them for them, that they bad even prepared ovens to cook their bodies in, and these were all lying open ready for the victims; and by the sides of the ovens they had laid in mounds the green leaves, all prepared to place upon the victims before the earth was heaped in to cover them up, and the firewood and the stones were also lying ready to be heated. Then the one hundred and forty men went and laid themselves down in the ovens dug out of the earth, as though they had been dead bodies, and they turned themselves about, and beat themselves upon their noses and their faces until they bled, so that their bodies became all covered with blood, like the corpses of men slain in battle; and then they lay still in the ovens: the weapons they had with them were short clubs of various kinds, such as clubs of jasper and of basalt, and of the bones of whales, and the priests whom they had with them having found out the sacred place of the people of that country, entered it, and hid themselves there.

Thus they continued to lie in the ovens until the sun arose next morning, and until the priests of

p. 129

their enemies, according to their custom each day at dawn, came to spread leaves and other offerings to the gods in the sacred place, and there, to their surprise, these priests found the warriors of Ngatoro-i-rangi all lying heaped up in the ovens. Then the priests raised joyful shouts, crying: 'At last our prayers have been answered by the gods; here, here are the bodies of the host of Ngatoro and of Tama' lying heaped up in the cooking places. This has been done by our god--he carried them off, and brought them here.' The multitude of people in the village hearing these cries, ran out to see the wonder, and when they saw the bodies of the one hundred and forty lying there, with the blood in clots dried on them, they began to cry out--one, 'I'll have this shoulder'; another, 'And I'll have this thigh'; and a third, 'That head is mine'; for the blood shed from striking their noses during the previous night was now quite clotted on their bodies; and the priests of those who were lying in the ovens having hidden themselves in the bushes of the shrubbery round the sacred place, could not be seen by the priests of the town of Manaia when they entered the sacred place, to perform the fitting rites to the gods.

So these latter cried aloud, as they offered thanksgivings to the gods for having granted their prayers, and for having fulfilled their wishes; but just as their ceremonies were finished, the priests of the war party of Ngatoro-i-rangi rushing out of their hiding places upon the other priests, slew them, so that the priests were first slain, as offerings to the gods. Then arose the one hundred and forty men from the ovens, and rushed upon their enemies: all were slain, not one escaped but Manaia, and he fled to the town; but they at once attacked and carried the town by assault, and then the slaughter ceased. And the first battle at the sacred place was called Ihu-motomotokia, or the battle of 'Bruised Noses';

p. 130

and the name of the town which was taken was Whaitiri-ka-papa, but Manaia again escaped from the assault on the town. They entered the breaches in the town as easily as if they had been walking in at the door of a house left open to receive them, whence this proverb has been handed down to us: 'As soon as ever you have defeated your enemy, storm their town.' The priests now turned over the bodies of the first slain, termed the holy fish, as offerings set apart for the gods, and said suitable prayers, and when these ceremonies were ended the conquerors cooked the bodies of their enemies, and devoured the whole of them; but soon afterwards the warriors of the other towns of Manaia which had not been assaulted, were approaching as a forlorn hope to attack their enemies.

In the meanwhile Ngatoro-i-rangi and his warriors, unaware of this, had retired towards their canoe, whilst the host of warriors whom Manaia had again assembled were following upon their traces. They soon came to a stream which they had to pass, and fording that they left it behind them, and gained their canoe, but by the time they were there their pursuers had reached the stream they had just left.

Ngatoro-i-rangi now felt thirsty, and remembered that they had no water for the crew of the canoe, so he said: 'There is no water here for us'; and Rangitu hearing the voice of his commander, answered cheerfully: 'No, there is none here, but there is plenty in the stream we have just crossed.' So they gave the great calabash of the canoe to Rangitu, and he returned towards the stream, but before he got there the host of Manaia had reached it, and had occupied its banks.

Rangitu, who did not see them, as soon as he got to the edge of the stream, dipped his calabash to fill it, and as it did not sink easily, being empty and very light, he stooped down and put his hand upon it to press it under the water; and whilst

p. 131

he was holding it with one hand to press it down, one of the enemy, stealing on him, made a blow at him with his weapon. Rangitu saw nothing, but merely heard the whizz of the weapon as it was sweeping down through the air upon his head, and quick as thought be jerks the calabash out of the water, and holds it as a shield in the direction in which he heard the blow coming down upon him; the weapon is parried off from one side of his head, but the calabash is shattered to pieces, and nothing but the mouth of the vessel which he was holding is left in his hand.

Then off he darts, fast as he can fly, and reaches before the enemy Ngatoro-i-rangi and his one hundred and forty warriors; as soon as he is thus sure of support, in a moment he turns upon his foes. Ha, ha! he slays the first of the enemy, and carries off his victim. Then lo! Tangaroa has risen up, he is soon amongst the enemy, he slays and carries off the second man. Next, Tama-te-kapua kills and carries off his man; thus is it with each warrior; the enemy then breaks and flees, and a great slaughter is made of the host of Manaia, yet he himself again escapes with his life. The name given to this battle was Tarai-whenua-kura.

Having thus avenged themselves of their enemies, they again returned to these islands and settled at Maketu, and cultivated farms there. Manaia, on his part, was not idle, for shortly after they had left his place of residence, he, with his tribe, set to work at refitting their canoes.

Ngatoro-i-rangi, in the meantime, occupied the island of Motiti, off 'Tauranga, in the Bay of Plenty. There he built a fortified village, which he named Matarehua, and a large house ornamented with carved work, which he named Taimaihi-o-Rongo; and he made a large underground store for his sweet potatoes, which he named Te Marihope; and he and his old wife generally lived nearly alone in

p. 132

their village on Motiti, whilst the great body of their people dwelt on the mainland at Maketu; whilst the old couple were in this way living on Motiti, suddenly one evening Manaia, with a large fleet of canoes and a whole host of warriors, appeared off the coast of the island, and they pulled straight up to the landing-place, opposite to the house of Ngatoro-i-rangi, and lay on their paddles there, whilst Manaia hailed him, calling out: 'Ho! brother-in-law, come out here if you dare, let us fight before the daylight is gone.' Ngatoro-i-rangi no sooner heard the voice of Manaia, than he came boldly out of the house, although he was almost alone, and there be saw the whole host of Manaia lying on their paddles at the anchorage off his landing-place; but he at once hailed them, shouting out: 'Well done, O brother-in-law, just anchor where you are for the night, it is already getting dark, and we shall not be able to see to meet the edge of one weapon with the other; the warriors could not, therefore, parry one another's blows; to-morrow morning we will fight as much as you like.' Manaia no sooner heard this proposal, than he assented to it, saying: 'You are right, it has already grown dark.' And Ngatoro answered him: 'You had better bring-to your canoes in the anchorage outside there.' Manaia therefore told his army to anchor their canoes, and to lose no time in cooking their food on board; and the priest Ngatoro-i-rangi remained in his fortress.

All the early part of the night Ngatoro-i-rangi remained in the sacred place, performing enchantments and repeating incantations, and his wife was with him muttering her incantations; and having finished them, they both returned to their house, and there they continued to perform religious rites, calling to their aid the storms of heaven; whilst the host of Manaia did nothing but amuse themselves, singing Hakas and songs, and diverting

p. 133

themselves thoughtlessly as war parties do: little did they think that they were so soon to perish; no, they flattered themselves that they would destroy Ngatoro-i-rangi, having now caught him almost alone.

So soon as the depth of night fell upon the world, whilst Ngatoro and his aged wife were still in the house, and the old woman was sitting at the window watching for what might take place, she heard the host of Manaia insulting herself and her husband, by singing taunting war-songs. Then the ancient priest Ngatoro, who was sitting at the upper end of the house, rises up, unloosens and throws off his garments, and repeats his incantations, and calls upon the winds, and upon the storms, and upon the thunder and lightning, that they may all arise and destroy the host of Manaia; and the god Tawhiri-ma-tea harkened unto the priest, and he permitted the winds to issue forth, together with hurricanes, and gales, and storms, and thunders and lightnings; and the priest and his wife harkened anxiously that they might hear the first bursting forth of the winds, and thunders and lightnings, and of the rain and hail.

Then, when it was the middle space between the commencement of night and the commencement of the day, burst forth the winds, and the rain, and the lightning, and the thunder, and into the harbour poured all the mountainous waves of the sea, and there lay the host of Manaia overcome with sleep, and snoring loudly; but when the ancient priest and his wife heard the rushing of the winds and the roaring of the waves, they closed their house up securely, and lay composedly down to rest, and as they lay they could hear a confused noise, and cries of terror, and a wild and tumultuous uproar from a mighty host, but before very long, all the loud confusion became hushed, and nothing was to be heard but the heavy rolling of the surges upon the

p. 134

beach; nor did the storm itself last very long--it had soon ceased.

When the next morning broke, the aged wife of Ngatoro went out of her house, and looked to see what had become of the host of Manaia, and as she cast her eyes along the shore, there she saw them lying dead, cast up on the beach. The name Ngatoro-i-rangi gave to this slaughter was Maikukutea; the name given to the storm which slew them all was Te Aputahi-a-Pawa. He gave the name of Maikukutea to the slaughter, because the fish having eaten the bodies of Manaia's warriors, only their bones, and the nails of their hands and feet, but hardly any part of their corpses, could be found.

Of the vast host of Manaia that perished, not one escaped: the body of Manaia himself they recognized by some tattoo marks upon one of his arms. Ngatoro now lighted a signal fire as a sign to his relations and warriors at Maketu that he wanted them to cross over to the island; and when his chosen band of one hundred and forty warriors saw the signal, they launched their canoe and pulled across to join their chief, and on reaching the island, they found that the host of Manaia had all perished.

Thus was avenged the curse of Mutahanga and of Manaia; however, it would have been far better if the canoe Arawa had not been burnt by Raumati, then Ngatoro and his warriors would have had two canoes to return in to Hawaiki, to revenge their wrongs, and the whole race of Manaia would have been utterly destroyed.

It would also have been far better if Ngatoro and his people had remained at Maketu, and bad never gone to Moehau; then the Arawa would not have been burnt; for from the burning of that canoe by Raumati sprang the war, the events of which have now been recounted.

Next: The Legend of Hatupatu and His Brothers