Spirits on fog shrouded hills


Not all the supernatural beings of the olden Maoris were grim monsters or fierce goblins; the fairies and elves are in a different category. The hill near Palmerston South, known as Puketapu, is sometimes swathed with fog as picnickers who have arranged to ascend it find out to their disappointment. The Maori legend avers that the mists only come on Puketapu when the spirits are holding high revel on its summit and sides. Their flutes and their musical voices gleefully singing and calling to each other can be heard through the white curtain they have imposed between man and themselves. My Maori informant added that curious pakehas, as well as inquisitive Maoris in the past, had sometimes tried to “beat the mist” but their endeavours to penetrate the veil of mystery shielding the elves had always been unsuccessful. One man said the fairy people are fond of playing the kind of flute known as koauau, and it is a female spirit who plays in the hills near Catlins. He reckoned these elfin musicians came in the canoe “Takitimu,” but other natives considered that these spirit people came in a very much earlier canoe.

-H. Beattie


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