The four great yet ordinary events to a New Zealander, were Birth, Marriage, Death, and Exhumation; to which may be added, the ceremony of Naming, the arranging of Betrothal, and Tattooing. On all these occasions there was great feasting; particularly in the case of death and exhumation;—when, too, there was grievous lamentation, much of which was very often real. Time, however, will not permit of anything more at present, than a passing mention of those matters.
At the Birth of a child, especially of the first-born of a couple of high rank, there was quite—as much rejoicing as in more civilized countries.
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The maternal aunt, or maternal grandmother of the infant was generally present and ruled on such occasions,—if not, then the paternal grandmother took her place. Sometimes the birth of a daughter was preferred to that of a son for political reasons. The umbilical cord was tied with scraped flax, which sometimes slipping caused a protuberant navel, and not unfrequently hernia; which latter, however, disappeared at adult age.
The natives have been charged with compressing the infant's nose, to flatten it; and while this has been commonly. Female infants had the first joint of their thumbs half disjointed, or bent considerably outwards, to enable the woman the better to hold, scrape, weave, and plait flax. At an early period, the little ears of the infant were bored with a sharp fragment of stone, or bit of obsidian; an operation generally performed by its mother. Betrothal often took place at, or shortly after, birth if not indeed, mentally, and conditionally, before. This was almost certain to ensue in the case of simultaneous births of opposite sexes among friends of equal rank, or distant relatives.
If not then arranged by the parents, or uncles, it was generally done during the early childhood of the children. While, no doubt, all such affiances arose from both good and political motives, nothing the New Zealanders ever did caused them more misery—and yet they could never be brought to see it. No doubt it was a high ceremony in the eyes of a New Zealander; but it was nothing else than a removal of the tapu ,—restraint, or prohibition,—under which the child and mother lay,—more a rite of purification than anything else.
About the age of puberty the Tattooing operation was begun on both sexes; as, in the case of the man, it took several years to complete, and in that of the woman it was necessary, at least, that her lips should be finished ere she could have a husband; red lips in women being abhorred, and black ones being considered the perfection of beautiful feminine lips. Regular tattooing, in the male , was confined to the whole face and to the breech, and sometimes to the thighs: certainly some were very handsomely done.
In the female it was confined to the lips, chin, between the eyes, and a little up the forehead, and on the back part of the leg, from the heel to the calf; the three last-mentioned being always indicative of rank. The women, also, often got themselves irregularly marked on their hands, arms, breast, and face, with small crosses, short lines, and dots. A very few women the writer has seen with tattooed faces just as a man; these belong to Southern tribes; some of whom formerly had a very different style of tattooing such as is shewn in Cook's Voyages, plate 13, 4to.
The Chiefs wore their hair long,. At the Marriage, or coming together as man and wife of the young couple, there was really no ceremony; indeed they have no proper name for it in their own language. If they had been betrothed by their parents, it was merely a matter of time,— always supposing no rupture, or anything serious having occurred, which, however, was rarely the case, —the mats being woven, and the provisions ready for the feast, and the parents, brothers, uncles, and tribe, being of opinion that the long looked for dwelling-together should take place, which they were often too ready to do and the young couple also willing, the betrothed bride was brought, generally by her brothers and uncles, to the house of the bridegroom's parents, clothed in new mats, where she was received with acclamation, and given over to her husband; by whom and by his people gifts were always made to the parents of the girl.
If, however, there had been no betrothal, a marriage between young people was always a very difficult thing to effect, and one which took some time; as everyone, of both the tribes, had something to say, and must be satisfied ere it could take place; particularly the uncles and aunts, the sisters, and female cousins of the young man, and the brothers and male cousins of the girl. Hence, the young couple, disgusted, often ran away to the woods, and there remained some time together in solitude, pretty sure of being soon sought after, and their living together acquiesced in.
Contrary to what obtains openly at least among us; with them, the unbetrothed young woman commenced the courtship; not unfrequently, however, even after all the relations had agreed, other suitors appeared at the last moment, and a passionate and severe struggle took place,—sometimes ending in the forcible abduction of the girl, especially if the newly-arrived suitor was a person of high rank, after being nearly killed through the pulling and hauling she received.
Polygamy being encouraged, and divorce allowed, all chiefs had several wives; which increased their power and influence considerably. Polygamy was not the cause of disagreement or jealousy among the wives, who lived together in great harmony. Nor did it cause a disproportion of marriageable women, as many males were being continually killed in their frequent battles.
The sudden bringing home of a new wife, which sometimes happened, perhaps a slave, or from a distance, as a matter of course made quite a sensation among the old wives, but it was only temporary. Often the old wives themselves encouraged their husband to take another, and aided efficiently in his doing so. Their injudicious early betrothals, marriages of policy, not love, which must take place; their great desire of offspring; their belief that barrenness always proceeded from the female; and their rule of a brother always taking the widow of his deceased brother; were among the main causes of polygamy.
Politically speaking, had polygamy and divorce not been too early and rudely ecclesiastically interfered with and prohibited, the New Zealanders as a nation would, in all probability, have now been very much more numerous and better off. Whether they slowly died from disease, or from barbarous cruelties practised by their enemies;—whether suddenly from unlooked for casualty, or the excited anger of a superior, or in the battle-field, they all, young and old, of either sex, died bravely, though not willingly. This is the more striking, from the fact of their belief, that, whether they died at home from disease, or at sea from a canoe upsetting, or from a fall from a lofty tree, or through a house taking fire, or in the battle-field, or as a captive,—such was invariably owing to the anger of the Atua or, man-destroying demon,.
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Often did they when sinking, calmly give their last words alas! They rarely ever died in a good house; mostly in the open air, or under some wretched shed; this was done because the house in which anyone died would have to be forsaken as tapu. At death there was much loud lamentation, accompanied with gashing themselves on their arms, chests, and foreheads, through which the blood flowed profusely.
They also further disfigured themselves by cutting their hair close on one side; sometimes a few locks of long hair were left untouched, and these were seldom afterwards trimmed, but allowed to grow and mat together as a constant and ever present memento of the departed. The whole place was very sad; several of the principal resident mourners have been known to die from sheer exhaustion.
Such miserable wailing continued for a long time; as fresh parties of mourners kept continually arriving. Some came before the body was removed; some not till long after; but this made no difference. Sometimes, though not frequently, it was boxed up in the corner of the verandah of the house in which it had lived; oftener it was placed on a small canoe or bier, and taken to a gloomy forest anciently set apart for the purpose , and there put up in the broad forked branches of some dark tree.
In all such cases to remain until the flesh should have decayed. The Exhumation, or hahunga,—i. For this work great preparations were made—in the way of preparing provisions; and not unfrequently the ceremony was put off until a sufficiency should have been provided. Of course all engaged in cleaning the bones were very tapu ; —and rightly so.
Not one of the smallest was ever left behind; they were cleaned, anointed, and decorated, the head especially, with feathers and ornaments. After being exhibited, seen, wept, and wailed over, they were carried by a single man and near relative to their last resting place. The exact spot of deposit, for wise political reasons, being only known to a select few.
Sometimes the bones were thrown into some old volcanic rent, or chasm; sometimes thrown into very deep water-holes;. Their principal object being, to prevent their falling into the hands of their enemies, who would dreadfully desecrate and ill-use them, with many bitter jeers and curses. The skull might be made to serve as a dish for food, or be placed on a stake to be daily mocked,—or even taken out to sea on fishing excursions to be taunted and derided afresh there with new indignities. The bones of the body would also be used for fishhooks, flutes, needles, skewers, dining-forks, etc.
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All such ill-usage was always dreaded and detested. Some tribes, especially the Ngatiporou, E. Cape extracted the teeth, and, having strung them, wore them as a necklace.
Of Rank and Class, the New Zealanders had keen and clear if not subtle distinctions. First, there were the great ones of bond and free:—. Of the free , there were— a. The tribe or sub-tribe having sprung from one progenitor, the greatness of any one of it depended, partly, on his nearness to that progenitor, and, partly, on the rank, power, and influence of his own immediate parent or ancestor male or female , who had married into the tribe.
Thus, paradoxical as it may appear, the children were often of higher rank than either of their parents; this often caused what would be by us termed gross insubordination. The children of a principal chief by wives of unequal rank would not all be of one rank; as their rank always depended on that of their mothers as well as on that of their fathers. The first-born of the eldest of the tribe, whether male or female, was called ariki, i.
Of him, or her, great care was taken. To him from his birth, being of much higher rank than his father or mother, it was, as if the world around was made for him. In every case the eldest child ruled all the younger children; and they generally promptly obeyed him. Sometimes, in consequence of the will of the father, or owing to a quiet or retiring disposition, to bodily deformity or ailment, to want of capacity, or of signalizing himself, on the part of the elder child, or to the scheming daring character of the younger,—the younger superseded the elder, and governed the tribe in all ordinary matters; but not in the greater tribal matters.
A chief generally lost his influence among his own tribe, if not his rank, by not asserting his position and rights. Here, as in other countries, might very soon became to be considered as right. Hence the constant exertion and struggle, and the difficulties continually arising in the daily jostle of New Zealand life.
Chiefs of rank were also known by their tattooing, dress, insignia, and ornaments. The black and white tail-feather of the Huia bird, and the white plume of the crane Kautuku , were worn by them alone in the hair; the prized tooth mako in their ears; the quaintly carved greenstone heitiki suspended on their breasts; and the greenstone mere , and ornamented hani in their hands; these, with their best mats, of flax, dogskin, and birds'.
Poor men and low plebeians, though free, were the children of remote lateral descendants of a tribe, especially if their mothers, or fathers, had been slaves— f. With the slave , too, it was much the same; if skilled, or if active and industrious, and willing to serve his new masters, he was sure to rise and have some influence; which, however great his rank might have been in his own tribe, he would never again have there,—even if he could return.
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This was a strange and cruel trait in their character, but it is easily understood, when it is considered, that his own tribe attributed his being enslaved to the anger of the Atua , evil demon and that by his becoming so he had lost his tapu ; and if they were to compassionate and restore, they too would incur the anger of the Atua , which they dreaded above all things.
Slaves have been known to rise to very important positions among their new masters; and, even when having opportunities to escape, or set at liberty, to choose to remain and live and die with them. The writer has known several instances, especially among the Ngapuhi Bay of Islands tribes, in which the slave, although without original rank, has become the principal man, or leader, in the sub-tribe in which he was a slave. A New Zealand slave had full liberty, even of speech, before his masters, and plenty to eat; and was generally as cheerful as the free.
True, he could not wear the clothing, or ornaments of patrician rank; nor would he be greatly bewailed at death; nor have his bones ceremonially scraped; but these things now did not move him. Those about him knew, and he too knew, that his lot of to-day might be theirs tomorrow. Bad, irritating language was sometimes used towards a slave by tyrannical, passionate masters; but such was the exception, not the rule, and was secretly disapproved of among themselves.
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All things considered, ordinary slavery among the New Zealanders was not so bad as the word imports, and as some Europeans, from want of due knowledge, have made it to appear. Their views of property were, in the main, both simple and just; and, in some respects, even including those most abnormal , wonderfully accorded with what once obtained in England. Among the New Zealanders property may be said to have been divided into two great classes,—immovable and movable;—or, ordinary and extraordinary;—or, peculiar and common;—perhaps the latter definition may be most advantageous for consideration.
Of peculiar, or private, rights :—With them, every man had a right to his own, as against every one else, but then this right was often overcome by might. A man of middle or low rank, caught, perhaps, some fine fish, or was very lucky in snaring birds, such were undoubtedly his own; but if his superior or elder chief wished, or asked for some, he dared not refuse, even if he would.
At the same time such a gift, if. The whole of a man's movable property was his own, which included his house and fences, as well as all his smaller goods. All that a freeman made, or caught, or obtained, or raised by agriculture were his own, private and peculiar; his house erected by himself was his own, but if not on his own land rarely the case he could not hold it against the owner of that spot, unless such use had been openly allowed to him by the owner before all i te aroaro o te tokomaha.
So a plantation planted by himself, if not on his own land also a rare thing , he would have to leave after taking his crops, on being ordered to do so; but not so if he had originally and with permission felled the forest, or reclaimed that land from the wild; in which case he would retain it for life, or as long as he pleased, and very likely his descendants after him. To land, a man acquired a peculiar right in many ways. Definite:— a.