ページの画像
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

The notion of the untoward fate of a chief slain in battle, will, indeed, be a stimulus to eager and desperate violence when he comes into actual conflict; but it must be a strong incitement to the practice of destroying an enemy in the way of treachery and surprise. This degrading doom must admit of exceptions; for, on passing a rotten memorial of a great warrior chief who had fallen in battle, and whose head had been secured, dried, and preserved as a trophy by the hostile party, our author was assured that the demolished champion was become a formidable river-god, active in the proper business of his station, that is to say, 'up

setting canoes, and playing divers feats of a similar nature, such as causing the river at times to be impassible, by raising heavy swells, as some satisfaction for the detention of his head.' A bird, of a common species, that happened to be perched and uttering its monotonous note on the monumental post, was instantly recognized and dreaded by the party as the vehicle of the atua ; and caused, after its disappearance, a very serious consultation as to the purport of the threatenings, presumed to have been pronounced by him in the person of this poor flutterer.

Under the denomination of Reinga, they delieve there is, somewhere aloft, a city or region of the dead, where the spirits are as numerous as the sand;' where they enjoy, as the greatest happiness of spirits, excellent good cheer; and all is pleasant, except that no fighting is allowed. We know not what authority it can be that keeps the peace; for the chiefs (the magistracy, as one would suppose), feel so strongly the necessity of some such pleasurable excitement, that ever and anon they are descending for a while to the earth, to haunt the scenes of their former earthly exploits, to perpetrate such mischiefs as may well raise among the unprivileged mortals the envy of such power combined with such impunity. One spot on the coast is mentioned as being reputed in a peculiar manner the place of exit of spirits passing to the Reinga. The only vegetation on the acclivity is a long spear grass, and a kind of creeping plant which runs in strong

fibres

up

the sand-hills. This serves as a ladder for the spirits to climb by. “The wrath of the natives would be unbounded were these steps cut away by the wantonness of Europeans.

If the spirit belonged to a village in the interior, it is supposed to carry with it some tufts or leaves, of such shrubs or branches of trees as flourish most in the place where they had their residence on earth.

These tufts are called wakaous, or remembrancers ; and the spirits, it is said, leave one of the cards’ in every place where they may have rested, according to custom, on the way to the Reinga.'

-Vol. i. p. 245. They acknowledge the white man's atua to be more powerful

[ocr errors]

than any of their own; and say that to him they owe the introduction of certain malignant diseases. There is a plentiful nuisance of priests, with a sprinkling of priestesses. They manage what business is to be done with and about the atuas, including the trade of doctors, conjurors, and fortune-tellers. They are ultra privileged; for they seem to lose nothing of their credit by the failure of their incantations and predictions; having always plausible explanations, in the alleged caprices or spite of the atuas; and these explanations go down with the gulled populace. It is the gods that are at fault for whatever comes amiss.

• Priests possess the gift of prescience, and are supposed to foretell to an hour what is likely to happen ; and should the contrary to the prediction take place, it is accounted for that the atua is in an illhumour, thus venting his bile on the priest ; whose flock observe, * Nu Tilani,' man no fool ; so they return the supposed anger of the atua, with double applause on the priest, and a proportionate contempt on the faulty divinity, who is unable to know his own mind—which is a national feature.'— Vol. i. P.

246. Since, according to our author, the sacerdotal profession, supplied most commonly from the families of the chiefs, is taken up as a convenient, respectable, and profitable resource, without any special qualification for its employments, we might wonder (as nothing similar is seen any where else) how these personages can have acquired such a hold on the minds of the people. There are some, indeed, who venture, in words, to make light of the priestly character and claims; but their infidelity is apt to shrink when put to the trial. There is, virtually, a spiritual court to deal with them.

• The younger relations who possess but little in worldly goods in respectable families, generally take to this profession. There are many sensible natives who laugh at this class of men ; but these free-thinkers, by the force of habit or example, succumb to the crafty old men on being taken ill ; but no sooner recover than they become again faithless. The priests do not fail to notice these independents, and they are doubly mulcted when taken unwell.'---Vol. ii. p. 245.

These sages are the oracles consulted respecting the commencement, the continuance, or the cessation of war. A victory brings them double work, that of soothsaying and that of privileged eating. When the body of a principal enemy is to be cut up, 'partly roasted, and tasted by these people, auguries are elicited by the appearance of the intestines; and on their position and

taste depends the renewal or the cessation of the contest.' The • priests eat wholly [i. e. we suppose, they alone] of the first body slain in battle; the chiefs and people partake of all that may be

* slain after. Thanks and offerings are presented to Tu, the • native Mars, and to Wiro, the evil spirit.” (Mr. P. should have indicated whether these be regarded as of generically superior nature and origin to the atuas into which mere human spirits are manufactured.) A female chief when slain, is cut up and sacri'ficed by priestesses ; that is, if the men have sufficient subjects in • hand of their own sex.

These feminine incarnations of Satan are treated with much respect, are believed and trusted with the same implicit faith as the priests.'

The ritual for the celebration of victory is not content with merely satisfying the demands of superstition and cannibal taste.

· Among other refinements in barbarity, practised on those occasions, the dissecti'ns take place before the captured relatives, who are made witnesses of the horrible fate of their friends. And when the endearing affection with which these people view each other among their families, is considered, it is impossible to conceive the agony and horror of the miserable children, and the enslaved wives and relations, whose strength as a tribe is perhaps broken for ever. Yet it is certain, that after some time, when the memory no longer lingers on the losses they have sustained, the captured people throw their

affections on the tribe who conquered them; and I have seen many thus circumstanced, who in after years have been on visits to the villages where they were born, and the relatives from whom they were torn, and have always returned to their conquerors, having formed new connexions and tastes.'

-Vol. ii. p. 249. The author does not appear to have actually witnessed one of the orgies of cannibalism. But no one thing in the habits of these islanders was more plainly and uniformly attested to him than the wide prevalence of that practice. It was as constant a part as slaughter itself of every story of war; a luxury combining triumph, revenge, and epicurism. It was related as the result of more than one sanguinary conflict, of a recent time, that many

of the victors killed themselves hy gluttony in devouring human • flesh.' No wonder at this fatal effect in one of the instances; since of a thousand men slain of the defeated army, one fourth part were devoured on the same day, on the spot, by the conquerors, who were to the number of three thousand at the commencement of the battle (the greatest battle, in point of numbers, within the memory or traditions of the people). But the practice is not confined to formal war. It is a gratification additional to that of revenge in treacherous murders. Slaves are sometimes less valued for their services, than as materials for gluttonous debauch. We can recollect to have seen an affectation of scepticism as to the existence, anywhere, of such a practice; any doubt pretended with respect to the New Zealanders would be simply ridiculous.

Iu the savage conflict just referred to, the commander of the

victorious party killed the leading chief of the opposite tribes, and drank the blood as it gushed from the decollated head. The left eye was hastily scooped out, and swallowed by the demoniac leader, that it might add to the refulgence of his own eye, when at his death it would be translated as a star in heaven.' This chief was no other than the noted E’Ongi (usually written Shungie), who had made, previously to these hostilities, a visit to England, where he conducted himself with a manly, easy decorum; was introduced to George IV.; received much attention from a religious body with a view to engage his favour to missionaries; manifested a sagacious policy for the purposes of his ambition, in sedulously procuring useful implements, decidedly preferred by him to showy trifles; but was especially intent above all to supply himself with fire-arms and ammunition, a new aliment to his unmitigable ferocity. It was even believed that his eagerness, after his return to New Zealand, to prove the irresistible efficacy of these means of destruction in the hands of his warriors, was the real instigation to the war; while the pretext was, that one of his relations had been murdered and devoured by a neighbouring tribe. The leader of that tribe offered him any payment or satisfaction he should require; but he vowed extermination; and only a forlorn relic of the tribe was left alive, in slavery or dispersion. He was by far the most renowned and dreaded warrior in the island, or in the memory of its inhabitants. It was believed that he aspired to make himself master of them all-all that his ferocious massacres might leave in existence. But his own horrid life was prematurely brought to a close after a tedious decline, in consequence of a bullet-wound received fifteen months before ; and of which our author's account, given, as it looks, in good faith, makes a more exhorbitant demand on our faith than any other thing in his book. Pursuing some retreating enemies to where they made a stand among bushes,

* E'Ongi, who fought after the native fashion, namely, by lurking behind the trunks of trees, stepped on one side to discharge his musket, when a ball struck him, supposed to have been discharged by one of his own party. It broke his collar bone, passed by an oblique direction through his right breast, and came out a little below his shoulderblade, close to the spine. The wound stopped his career. Most of the surgeons in the different whale-ships that entered the Bay of Islands, examined it, but found his case past all remedy. The wound never closed ; and the whistling noise caused by the air in entering, afforded amusement to the chief.

His last moments were employed in strenuously exhorting his followers to be valiant, and defend themselves against the numerous enemies they had provoked, and who would take advantage of his departure to the Reinga, or world of spirits ; adding, he wanted no other payment after his death. He besought them to allow the Church

Missionaries to subsist in peace, for they had ever acted for the best. His dying lips were employed in repeating the words kiá toá! kiá ' toá!' be courageous, be valiant. The demise of this indomitable warrior was awaited in fear and trembling by many of his nearest friends, who were fearful that the Hokianga chiefs would kill them as sacrifices to accompany their master's spirit; but the chief of the place bade them dismiss their fears.

· The village resounded with the discordant tangi, and streams of blood were shed with the aid of the muscle-shell. Innumerable ad. dresses and speeches were made on the merits of the deceased. Dancing and singing in mournful cadences ensued; while the chants of the Piké, descriptive of the valiant enterprises of the magnanimous defunct, with continual discharges of artillery, added to the solemnity of the scene.'—Vol. ii. p. 186.

He died in March, 1828. So absolute a fiend as he was in war and victory, he is described as of very mild and inoffensive habits in time of peace; liking to play with little children ; extremely affectionate to his relations; and almost overwhelmed by the loss of several sons, and of a favorite wife, whom, though blind, he regarded as his best friend and wisest counsellor.

It is pleasing to be informed that the scene of his destructive exploits has become like an extinct volcano by his death. There has been no inheritor of his predominant power and ambition, and the chiefs in that northern territory have agreed in the policy of settling their differences in other ways than by mutual slaughter. The improvement is partly ascribed to the location of many Europeans among them. It was quite time to consider whether they should be willing to perish wholly from the earth. The face of the land is like the fine scenery of the tragic theatre; an enchanting imagery to set off the horror of crime and death; tracts smiling and glowing in natural beauty, but frowning with the memorial of exterminating murder. Our author surveyed one fair and fertile tract after another; which, within memory, or according to tradition, had once been occupied by a living multitude, but are now desolate; marked here and there with some traces and relics of the works of tribes extinct. We

We may wonder how the population should ever have been numerous, if their temper and habits were the same in past ages as within the period of our acquaintance with them. And when we take into view the wars, the treachery, the cannibalism, the infanticide, the suicides in honour of deceased relations, and the diseases imported from Europe, we may and do wonder that their numbers have been kept up to even the present amount.

A habitual distrust of one another prevails between the tribes; since they are mutually conscious of a disposition to watch for opportunities to take an advantage, inflict an injury, or wreak a revenge, with the least hazard to the aggressors. For it is re

« 前へ次へ »