Maori Divination

Collected by Famed Local historian Herries Beattie in the 1920’s:

An intelligent old Native said to me:—“When I was a boy I went on voyages and knocking about with White sailors I lost my belief in the ancient ideas of my people, until a thing occurred which made me see that there was something in what the old tohukas had taught. I was at the Taiari kaika, near Henley, when the ‘Waimea’  a small two-masted schooner of about twenty-five tons came up the river on her way from Dunedin to the Bluff. The vessel lay at the bridge for about a week then sailed, taking a girl as passenger to the Neck at Stewart Island. This was about 1866 or 1867, and a fortnight passed with no word of the craft’s arrival at the Bluff. At the end of three weeks the girl’s relatives had given her up for dead, and were going to hold ataki-aue over her when the old tohuka Te Makahi bade them wait until he found out if the ‘Waimea’ was lost and the girl dead. They scoffed at him and said that he could not do it as the White men had driven away the măna of the Maori. ‘E kore e măna’ they said, but the old man said he would consult the spirits and see if there was not still power to tell these things. He said no one must follow or watch him and he went out into an orchard. I sneaked out the back door, in my stocking soles, and crept silently along. I could hear the old man reciting words I have never heard before or since and which I did not understand, and he seemed to be casting twigs in the air. All of a sudden he stopped his chanting and without looking round called out angrily, ‘There is someone watching me. It is you. … (naming me). Go inside at once or the măna will depart.’ I was so astonished that I obeyed him at once. Some time after he came in and said the vessel had been blown out to sea and was now sheltering in a place which he had never seen before but which he described exactly, and that all on board were well. The old tohuka was so sure of what he had seen that everyone believed him, and sure enough word reached us afterwards that the ‘Waimea’ had had to shelter in Waikawa Harbour in exactly the position he had told us. Te Makahi died soon after, but he opened my eyes as to what tohukas could do. Witchcraft by sticks or divining by twigs was called rotarota or niu, but I doubt if anyone has been able to do such for many years past.”

http://www.jps.auckland.ac.nz/document/Volume_26_1917/Volume_26,_No._3/Traditions_and_legends,_by_H._Beattie,_p_106-110/p1

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