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The Aborigines of New Zealand: Two Lectures

The New Zealander's Ideas of a Future State

The New Zealander's Ideas of a Future State.

They seem to have fully believed in the existence of a spiritual world and a future state. They have their place of departed spirits, said to be the Reinga, near the North Cape. The spirits leaps into the sea and emerges into an Elysium situated in the island of the Three Kings. What a strong presumptive proof of the soul's immortality we have in this fact. All nations, savage and civilized, have the idea that there is a spirit in man that never dies. Whence came this idea? Did not the great Creator himself communicate the knowledge of this fact to all nations? Did he not write this great truth on the human mind so deeply that nothing can erase it?

Southey, in his Songs of the American Indians, makes the path of the Indian to his final abode much more intricate than that of the New Zealander.

“To the country of the dead,
Long and painful is the way.
O'er rivers wide and deep
Lies the road that must be past,
By bridges narrow wall'd,
Where scarce the soul can force its way
While the loose fabric totters under it.”

The New Zealander has but to leap into the sea, and he emerges into his final abode.

Their ideas about the spirit's journey to the land's end are somewhat earthly. They thought he would have rivers to cross, and would need food for his journey; and a small canoe was placed by his side, with a paddle in it, and a kete of kumeras to eat by the way. The idea was, that the spirit of the canoe would enable him to ferry himself across the rivers, and the spirit of the food support him. Some of the tribes do not seem to have practised a custom so com-page 18mon in many other islands, that of killing slaves and strangling wives to attend their chief to the world of spirits; though this practice was common at the North.

They suppose the spirit often lingers on its journey to look upon them ere it reaches its final abode, and sings as it travels—

“I am flying to the winds of the Reinga,
But still awhile I linger and prolong my flight.
I hover on the mountains looking south,
And take a last farewell of husband, child, and friend;
For they are about to pierce me with a spear,
To treat me as a plebian,
And eat me as their food.”

The last expression refers to the prevailing notion, that they go to the Reinga as food for the gods.

The following Lament contains the same idea on the subject of the spirit's journey. Our idea, learned from infallible Scripture, is, that a spirit's flight to its final abode is quick as thought: “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” But the New Zealander does not calculate on so quick a transit.

“Weep, weep ye tides of Hokianga, for my Kura.
These were thy walks, and these thy favourite haunts, oh! Kura.
But Kura is not here:—
She is traversing the path that leads to the land of spirits.
Lovely in life was the form of thy visage, oh! Kura.
We see thy beauty no more.
Thy attendants now are the guardians of the dead.
Alas! my Kura.”

It appears their Hades has a Kainga Pai, and a Kainga Kino, a place of happiness and a place of misery. They say their friends return and whistle to them, to whom they reply, saying, Ko Koe tena? “Is that you?” He Kainga pehea tou Kainga? “What sort of a place have you got?” Some reply “It is a vile place, we have constant war, and nothing but dung to eat.” Others reply, “It is a fine place, we have plenty of kumeras, and plenty of birds.” When one of the first Missionaries had been preaching the scriptural doctrine of two eternal states, an old man began to protest against it with great vehemence, declaring he should not go to heaven, nor would he go to hell and have nothing but fire to eat; but he would go into the Reinga to eat kumeras with his friends who had gone before him.

The following Laments are illustrative of their views of the spiritual world—they have been translated and kindly furnished by Mr. C. O. Davis.

The evening star* is waning. It disappears
To rise in brighter skies,
Where thousands wait to greet it.
All that is great and beautiful I heed not now;
Thou wert my only treasure. My daughter.
When the sun-beams played upon the waters,
Or through the waving palm,

* The deceased person is addressed as the evening star, which is supposed to rise in another world, the inhabitants of which world recognise their relation in the star, and hail its arrival among them with great delight.

page 19 We loved to watch thy gambols
On the sandy shores of Awapoka.
Oft at the duwn of day,
Thou girdest on thy garments,
And with the daughters of thy people,
Hurried forth to see the fruits of Mawe* gathered in.
Whilst the maidens of Tikaro
In quest of the rock-sleeping muscle,
Braved the surges, and in turn
Entrapped those stragglers of the finny tribe,
That linger near the shore to feast awhite.
When the tribes assembled
To partake the evening meal,
Thy fond companions gathered round three,
Each eager to bestow some dainty,
And await thy smile.
Where now? Oh! Where now?
Ye tides that flow and ebb,
No longer may ye flow and ebb,
Your support is borne away.
The people still assemble
At their feast of pleasure,
The canoe still cuts the wind in twain,
And scatters the sea foam;
Still the sea birds, like a cloud,
Darken the sky, hovering o'er the crags,
But the loved one comes not;
Nor even a lock of thy waving hair
Was left us, o'er which to weep.

Behold the lightning's glare!
It seems to cut asunder Tuwhara's rugged mountains.
From thy hand the weapon dropped;
And thy bright spirit disappeared
Beyond the heights of Raukawa.
The sun grows dim and hastes away,
As a woman from the scene of battle.
The tides of the ocean weep as they ebb and flow,
And the mountains of the South melt away;
For the spirit of the Chieftain
Is taking its flight to Rona.

* Fruits of Mawe—the kumera.

Tikaro—name of a tribe at Hokianga.

The following is the Legend of Rona. One bright moonlight night Rona was sent to fetch some water from a stream; in her hand was a basket, which contained a gourd. On her way to the water the moon suddenly disappeared behind a oloud, and the road being bad, she kicked her foot against some of the shrubs. This made her angry, and in her rage she cursed the moon saying, “Wicked moon, not to come forth, and shine.” This conduct of Rona's displeased the moon very much, who at once came down to the earth, and seized her. Rona, in her turn, seized a tree, which grew near the margin of the stream; but the moon tore up the tree by the roots, and flying away carried off Rona and her calabash, together with the tree. Rona's friends thinking that she was making a long stay went in quest of her. After searching for some time, they called out, “Rona, Rona, where are you?” “Here am I,” said she, “mounting aloft with the moon and the stars.”

page 20 Open ye the gates of the heavens!
Enter the first heaven, then enter the second heaven.
And when thou shalt travel the land of spirits,
And they shall say to thee “What meaneth this?”
Say, the wings of this our world*
Have been torn from it, in the death of the brave one—
The leader of our battles.
Atutahi and the stars of the morning
Look down from the sky,—
The earth reels to and fro,
For the great prop of the tribes lies low.
Ah! my friend, the dews of Hokianga
Will penetrate thy body.
The waters of the rivers will abb out,
And the land be desolate.

They have many curious superstitions about the spiritual world. The following song is said to have been composed by a spirit from the other world. She was one of two wives, and died childless, but bye and bye returned and stole the child of a more favoured wife. The mother of the missing child, greatly distressed, applied to the priest, who engaged to induce the spirit to bring it back again. When he had performed his incantations the spirit kidnapper was seen on the top of the house nursing the child and singing the following plaintive poetry. The translation was kindly furnished me by Mr. Davis.

Song of the Spirit while Nursing a Child.
I am pierced by the wintry blast,
My body is slender and wan;
I weave not—my weaving is past,
And all my warm garments are gone.
Full oft to fair Arikirau
All lonely I posted my way
To gather the flax leaf—but now,
My members refuse to obey.

'Twas thoughtless of thee to come here,
With nought but thy paddle in hand
Some power must have silenced that fear
Ever felt in approaching this land.
Ngahue, methinks it was thee
I beheld on the dark distant Isle;
And fain would I hasten to see,
And sit by thy side for a while.

As the kelp of the sea is uptorn,
By the high swelling tide, from its bed;
So o'er the wide waters I'm borne
And cast on the shore as one dead.

* The deceased person is supposed to have supported the world—his death, therefore, affects the tides of the sea, the mountains, &c., &c.

Arikirau—a place celebrated for flax.

Addressed to one supposed to have just entered the land of spirits.

Ngahue—a friend of the spirit's.

page 21 Anon I am lash'd by the surge
That beats on dread Hingarae's* reef
So sacred—but soon I'll emerge,
And triumph o'er danger and grief.

O come ye soft airs from the plain,
Where Hinerau fans the fair trees;
And waft my fond spirit again,
Where the lov'd ones are dwelling at ease,
To linger a while, or to roam,
Where once I was youthful and gay,
Would draw off my heart from its home;—
O then let me hasten away.

Let me hasten to Hiwawe's vales,
Where the hosts of the mighty ones trend;
Where they fly on the sweet-scented gales,
Far, far from the tombs of the dead.
Great Rangi, thou comest for me;
Ah, haste thy kind message to tell;
Again my bright home I shall see,
Then mortals and death—fare ye well.

What a dark and cheerless system is Paganism! It creates a thousand fears in life, which it cannot relieve in death, and sends the spirit into eternity without a hope that hath foundation. In the case of the New Zealander it has given place to a religion that brings life and immortality to light.

* Hingarae—a sunken rock.

Hinerau—said to be the name of a wind in the world of spirits.

Hiwawe—supposed to be in the world of spirits.

Rangititoke—a god of reputed greatness.