There is a word which by its applications can teach us a great deal of what life is to the Maori. It is the word tupu, “to unfold one’s nature.”
When the world is used about diseases, war and peace, thoughts and feelings, the meaning is evident, that these things arise and unfold their nature. A name unfolds its nature (tupu) by spreading, a grasp by being strong. Below we shall examine the meaning of the special idiom: ‘ka tupu te mate, the insult was revenged,’ and see that actually tupu has the same meaning here. Apart from this expression these contexts are not of any particular interest. The peculiar play of the word is brought out much better in some place which we shall now adduce.
We learn that the world was created by some words which Io planted in it, and “ka tupu nei te ao ki te ao, the world unfolded its nature as the world.” What picture does the Maori see before him here? Are we to imagine the world arising from nothing, growing out of the words, or how? Another and more special myth of creation gives a hint: “Only now did the water unfold its nature (ka tupu te wai). It was Winding-stream, Dividing-stream, Overflowing-stream, Widespread-stream, etc.” A long series of mythical types with graphic names conjure up a picture in which the stress is not on the question whether the water arose on such an occasion, but on the fact that it showed a definite nature or character. This refers back to the former account of creation: to create (hanga, build, construct) is not the act of making things arise from nothing, but letting them obtain and unfold their nature, thus tupu. Tupu makes the difference between chaos and the world, every thing must necessarily tupu in its own way: “All things unfold their nature (tupu), live (ora), have form (ahua), whether trees, stones, birds, reptiles (ngarara), fish, quadrupeds, or human beings.” A stone will presumably tupu by being hard – the literature does not make any such statement, to be sure, but in support it may be stated that a pole does so by standing firm. In the case of the living beings it is not difficult to imagine the meaning.
This Unfolding is the essence of creation and must constantly be renewed by karakias (incantations). There is e.g. a kind which must be spoken “over the fishes, birds, and (any) food, in order that their tupu may be good,” i.e. in order that their growth may be good; for referring to living beings tupu means that they live and thrive according to their kind. Sometimes tupu will naturally be translated by ‘live’, e.g. when it is said about some maggots that they tupu on the fat of a corpse. But behind it is, of course, the idea of growth, and the stress may easily be moved to the positive, the display of force. The priest repeats karakias over the sick person in order that “the blood may be good, in order that the breath may return, the sinews may be good, the flesh tupu, namely in order that power may be given to the sick person.” Here we should, if anything, translate tupu by ‘recover’.
Both the power of unfolding and its peculiar character are brought out in a special way in the transformations reported in the legends. Firebrands from a fire were stuck into a river, “in order that these pieces of firewood might become (tupu) demons (kia tupu taniwha ai aua rakau).”
Referring to plants tupu of course means ‘grow’ if tupu is verbal, as a substantive partly ‘growth and thriving’ in general, partly the concrete result of growth, ‘sprout, shoot’. Here, too, we find that the word includes the unfolding as well as the character given by nature. If the kumara is not well looked after, ka heke te tupu, then its tupu vanishes, i.e. it does not thrive well. But tupu also includes the kind of the plant. In the legendary times, when the Maoris settled in New Zealand, there was a woman, Marama, who sinned by having intercourse with a slave. It affected her fields. Instead of the plants she had sown quite different ones grew up. This is expressed by the statement that their tupu failed (ka he te tupu), the stress being on the fact that tupu is thriving of a definite kind.
We have discussed tupu in these contexts in order with greater certainty to see what it involves when applied to human beings, by which on the one hand we find further corroboration of its meaning, and on the other hand gain some insight into what is meant by a man ‘unfolding his nature’ and hence what is the characteristic and significant in man – what life is as a value and not only as existence.
It is true that tupu may be found in a context so much faded that we shall simply translate the word by ‘live’: “My parents lived (‘tupu’) there; but in this way they maintained their right to the country so that even here the positive aspect of tupu is brought out faintly. Mostly tupu is more pointedly positive.
There is a proverb that “The smallness of man will grow (tupu); but the smallness of the adze is always small.” Here tupu clearly means ‘growing’, not ‘living’, only.
That children tupu of course means that they grow, but particularly that they grow up.
Adults may tupu as well. Maui’s descendants “tupued and multiplied.” The Maori is thinking not only of the quantitative aspect, that they multiplied, but of the qualitative aspect as well. This is evident from the following passage about some people who had been driven out of their own fortress, “and after the fugitive and surviving people had been assembled outside the fortress, only then the party tupued,” and they made a counter-attack. Their tupu thus only began after they had assembled and therefore must consist in finding power and courage. This is described picturesquely in the case of a tribe which has been defeated but rises again. It says: “But we tupued and grew strong, courage returned to the hearts of men and we again held up our heads and determined to take vengeance for our dead.” Tupu probably denotes that they multiply, but particularly that they recover courage and strength.
Used substantivally tupu means the natural unfolding, that is, for man, his life. That people die is tantamount to meaning that their tupu, their life, vanishes. On the other hand the reverse does not apply; for tupu is not only life as existence, but life as value as well. The grey hairs of old age, as Tura says, are “a sign that the tupu of man is dwindling, a sign of weakening.”
It is told about the first Maoris in New Zealand that they waged wars against the previous inhabitants and carried off their women and male children in order to use them as slaves. “This was the way in which the invading Maoris’ tupu increased.” This does not only mean that they increased in number and strength – as indeed they only did indirectly –; the context suggest that the narrator is particularly thinking of the fact that they won higher repute.
This aspect of tupu appears very clearly in the myth of Ruatapu, who was Uenuku’s (or Ouenuku’s) son by a prisoner of war. In spite of his low birth he was very haughty, so that one day his father, Uenuku, found it necessary to remind him of his position, saying: “My son, it is not correct that you should go to your elder brother’s house; for you are not a prominent man.” He said this “in order to make Ruatapu’s tupu small (kia whakaitia te tupu).” It is too little just to say that Ruatapu’s repute was to be reduced. It is life in him which is to be put down to the level where it belongs. It is not only the others’ valuation, but quite as much his own valuation of himself which is to be adapted. We cannot easily bring out this view in a better way than through the word ‘honour’.
Nor can we translate tupu differently in Heketewananga’s words to an old man whom he met with on a journey. The old man was sitting under a tree when Heketewananga caught sight of him. In his presumption he climbed the tree, made water on the old man’s head and said, “Ho! ho! you, down there, your chieflike honour (tupu rangatira) has vanished; my water has dripped on your head.”
On the other hand, honour can in no way be separated from repute. It is a weakening of one’s tupu to be refused at an offer of marriage. Repute and honour are one. Ponga indeed was a nobleman, but belonged to a lower line, “so his tupu was weakened by some of his companions’ tupu and influence (mana).” His repute is overshadowed by that of the nobler men, but it is an inner concern as well. The whole saga is a long illustration of Ponga’s modest tupu. There is something dispirited and passive about him. It cannot be said that he carries off his beloved, Puhihuia, from her tribe; it is she who goes away with him. It is she who is the nobler of them and who – although it is not stated anywhere – has most tupu. She, not he, stands out with courage and strength and advances their claim throughout the saga. The lesser tupu means less repute as well as less courage and less vitality.
In the saga about Ponga this is brought out only indirectly, to be sure; but it is seen the more distinctly and dramatically in other accounts. During a fight Pahau seized the head of Tamure, the enemy chief, forced it down, and made water upon it. There Tamure’s tupu vanished and with it his position as chief, and Pahau became chief of his tribe.
Life, strength, courage, honour, and repute thus are one in tupu. A fall in repute drags a man’s whole life down. When it came to light that Hotu had stolen something, he felt much ashamed and feared that by the scorn and derision of the tribe “his tupu would dwindle and thus the influence (mana) of his words.” His influence dwindles with his honour, and his shame penetrates into his soul until he collapses from within, gives up, and leaves his tribe, which had seen his theft. In this connexion it should be remembered what it means for a Maori to give up his kinship group; accordingly, he leads a dispirited life as a kind of small vassal under another tribe, which treats him with disrespect (he iwi whakaheke tupu tangata); Only much later, when his son found him, did conditions change.
A defeat will invariably be an attack on the tupu of a tribe. Here, inversely, it is the fall in the strength of the kinship group revealed in the defeat that drags courage and esteem down with it. When Marutuahu had defeated a tribe decisively, he allowed the survivors to live on their old land; “but their tupu was brought down (i wahakahekea iho te tupu); it was only left for them to look after the land and be cooks (i.e. a dishonourable occupation) and this reduction of their tupu has lasted right down to our day.” Thus they were allowed to exist, but only in order to lead a poor and dishonourable life. With their tupu they lost strength, courage, and repute together, and never recovered any of these qualities. There is good agreement when it is stated about Hape that he “took land and reduced tupus,” for these things generally go together.
The difference between a free man and a slave very clearly illustrates what tupu involves. The slave is a prisoner of war, whose tupu has been lost irrecoverably. It means exactly that his life is without value. His master may take it at will. The reflections of a Maori on the difference between the good old times and the times introduced by colonisation are characteristic. “In the old days,” he says, “if the kind of people… namely people whose tupu had vanished… if they did not obey their master’s commands, they were killed. But now you must not kill them because of the law (i.e. English law) although they still receive orders. In our day they may go on being conceited and impudent (whakakake).”
The grumpy old gentleman speaks the pure and unadulterated Maori truth. A slave is no real human being. He lacks that which is most important of all, life, i.e. the life which is of value, for he has no tupu. Law in its absurdity may protect his bit of life. But what is the good of that? It cannot restore his tupu to him. He is and remains a man without honour. The only thing the law can do to him is that it can make him whakakake, impudent and conceited. This is because tupu develops from within and is maintained outwardly. As we shall see below, mana can be given and taken; but nobody can give or take tupu; for it is life in man as it wells out from within exactly in man’s very nature, i.e. in vitality, courage, and honour, and asserts itself amongst other people as esteem.
Even thought one cannot give tupu to others, one may of course promote their tupu. The causative whakatupu thus means ‘bring up’. With a reflexive meaning it is nearly the same as tupu, but it indicates a more conscious effort. “Katahi ka whakatupu kuri te tangata ra: now this man transformed himself into a dog;” whereas “ka tupu kuri’ means ‘he became a dog’. About Tawhaki, who had been nearly killed, it says that he “had not suffered so much that he could not restore his strength (whakatuputupu) by means of an incantation (karakia).”
Tupu for man is his natural and characteristic unfolding of life, as firmness is to the pole and thriving to the plant. In the myth man comes into existence, i.e. obtains his nature (tupu) by Tane creating him. Here the same word, whaihanga, is used as is used about the building of a canoe or the like. It means that man tupues by taking form.
The distinctive character of man’s tupu pervades all. It does not appear in his form only, but in his honour as well. It is a deeply rooted peculiarity in the Maori that the high-born man will shun all that is connected with ordinary cooking. “The steam (from an oven) is something bad to a Maori; it reduces the human tupu.” This expression indicates that it is something special to human beings that their tupu will not stand steam from the oven; other beings perhaps may thrive excellently by it.
Again, each human being has its characteristic tupu different from all others. There are those whose “tupu has taken an adult form (kua ahua pakeke te tupu)” in contrast to children. Toarangatira and his brother were sons of a chief, but a little delicate. Therefore they were particularly well cared for by the tribe. Particularly Toarangatira was well fed because they saw that “he unfolded a brave nature (i tupu maia a ia).” The chief has a ‘chiefly nature’ (tupu rangatira), i.e. courage, strength, and esteem as suitable for a chief. In practice it appears by the fact that he can lead the kinship group or tribe by virtue of his personal qualities and his direct authority.
Tupu is used adjectivally, too, but as a rule only in connexion with a word which is the object of a genitive and only referring to something belonging to human beings. Within this narrow scope only the aspect of tupu is brought out which indicates a definite nature, as tupu (‘natural, characteristic’) very closely connects the object of the genitive with the latter: Tana tamaiti tupu ‘his own child’. Ko Whakauekaipapa tana tane tupu, he tane tahae a Tuwharetoa, ‘Whakauekaipapa was her actual husband, Tuwharetoa was a lover (a ‘thief-man’)’. Nga tangata e heke ana i o ratou whenua tupu ‘The people who emigrated from their native country’. Ka mahue te kainga tupu ona i whanau ai ‘He left his own village where he was born.’
Life in its essential meaning, life which is worth living, the strength and courage of life thus are identical with honour. Life and honour constitute an indissoluble whole: “tupu”. As regards the word this may only be quite clear in the case of the northern tribes: the experience itself is common to all Maoris; their actions show that life and honour are one.
So it may seem strange that at the translation of the Bible it was necessary to introduce foreign words for honour: kororia, honore from ‘glory’ (or ‘gloria’?) and ‘honour’. But the simple reason is that the Maori lacks a word for honour in itself. It only seems strange until we have seen that the weightiest words for the values of life, tupu, mana, and to a certain extent tapu, include honour, Honour is not isolated in language because it is not experienced at all as something which may be separated from the other values of life.
The weakening of life may be expressed by stating that tupu dwindles. The word mate, however, is used much more frequently; but this word by its scope refers back to exactly the same experience that vitality and honour are identical.
Mate is very nearly, if not exactly, the opposite of tupu. Starting from its use as a verb we may define mate as ‘to be insufficient’, which may be either ‘to be weakened’ or ‘to lack’. As a substantive the word correspondingly means ‘weakening’ or ‘lack’.
One may be in lack of food or drink; but it may also be a beloved one. If so, one may feel tempted to translate mate by ‘love’ or ‘in love’, but then it should be kept in mind that this is a shifting of the contents of the word; for one cannot mate (miss) a woman or man whom one possesses; for through the union the want is satisfied: “Ponga searched for a way in which to have satisfied the desire in his heart, which longed for this girl (e na ai te mate o tana ngakau aroha ki te kotiro ra).” This, indeed, does not prevent us still for practical reasons from often rendering mate by ‘in love’; but it is important to realize how the concept is changed thereby.
Just as mate to denote ‘lack, want’ ranges from slight thirst to the intensest longing for a woman, so in the meaning of weakening it denotes everything from a slight indisposition to death.
Applied to things and animals mate everywhere has a meaning opposite to that of tupu. The tupu of the moon is waxing, its mate is waning. The mate of the sea is being calm, that of the fire is to die away, go out. The mate of a fish is to be caught, that of a tree to be felled, that of work to cease, to be finished, etc.
What is most interesting, however, is the fact that mate, weakened, when referring to human beings is point by point the counterpart of tupu. Tupu may mean ‘arise, come into existence’ and mate may mean ‘to be dead’. Just as tupu includes the meanings of ‘thriving’ and ‘gathering strength’, so mate may denote all degrees of ‘being weakened’. The context must decide how bad things are. “If this man, Kairangatira, dies (mate), then this tribe is weakened (mate).” Thus mate is used about various kinds of weakness, e.g. birth pangs and the pain at being tattooed to more exactly that one is worn out by the pain. One is also exhausted (mate) by cold and rain. The word is further used about being paralyzed with fright and about being dejected with shame (whakama), a fact which we shall discuss in more detail below. Every defeat is a matenga, whether one is thrown in a wrestling match or is put in the wrong in a discussion. Mate thus is the opposite of the vitality and spirit contained in tupu.
Mate, however, is also the opposite of tupu when the reference is to honour and reputation. Mate is any insult and verbally means ‘insulted’. We saw above that the tupu vanished in the old man whose head was insulted by a younger man who made water upon it. Later this was described to the tribe as his mate.
It was an insult (mate) to Tamure that Pahau corrected a word in his incantation.
When Tuhourangi uninvited came on a visit in a period when food was scarce and thus forced Kapu to entertain him poorly, this was a matenga. Should it be considered a defeat or an insult? After all a decision of this problem is not very important, for there is no great difference. Killing, defeat, and insult are one and the same thing, viz. a weakening of life; and this weakening is in itself a step towards perdition and therefore in itself a serious matter whether great or small.
As life and honour are one, the Maori must guard honour as his life, and his life in honour. It is not strange that he is jealous of his honour; it is only saying in other words that he is fond of life. Any insult is a mate, a direct attempt on his life, whether it is his brother who is killed or a word is changed in his incantation. He cannot calmly submit to an attempt on his life whatever the reason. Therefore a mate is a mate. This is not a question of great or small, for any insult, great or small, is aimed directly at his life.
The peculiar thing about the Maori’s experience of life is that it is complete, indeed perfect. So it is, and so it must be. There are no departments in his life; he cannot, as a European, be a great man at the office and be henpecked at home. Life is a whole, therefore the whole of life is affected by an insult or weakening. The Maori may also term the insult a ‘making small’ (whakaiti), exactly because it makes the whole human being small.
A challenge is in itself an insult because it will leave a fall in esteem if it is not accepted. Therefore the chief acted very incautiously who said that “if Rauparaha ever dared to come upon his territory, he would rip his body open with a barracouta-tooth;” for no sooner had Te Rauparaha heard this than he at once set out from his island with a fleet and selected men and in practice disproved the incautious chief’s statement.
Life in honor is so precious that the Maori must necessarily be so jealous of his honour as to be nearly touchy. It is not necessary that anything depreciatory is said, the mere suggestion of it in a situation is enough. There was a woman who saved a boy’s life by pretending that he was a girl before her husband’s enemies; but this was also an insult to the boy for which they came to suffer. Presumably Taupori must also be called touchy, who was most exasperated because two fugitives had passed his fortress and sought protection in his neighbour’s. He sent for them and said, “Did you know that I was here for the express purpose of protecting Ngatata and his friends? Did you doubt my powers to protect your lives? I am in doubt now whether I shall not kill you both for the insult you have offered to me.” However, they succeeded in reassuring him. There were two chiefs who were partaking of a calabash with preserved birds. At last only one bird was left, which one of the chiefs took out, saying, “Here is a morsel for you and me, but as you have already seen it, I will do the eating.” But in matters of honour the Maori cannot take a joke, and this joke became the cause of a war.
We might continue quoting these kinds of examples indefinitely, but had better illustrate in more detail what on a more philological basis we have seen of the completeness of life, the fact that it includes courage, strength, and honour in one.
As a consequence a weakening (mate) affects life as a whole. This is by no means only a philological matter, but dead earnest. For the weakening has the effect that it may make the very will to live crumble away. MANINO e.g. mentions that he knew a man “who, having been for two days plagued with toothache, cut his throat with a very blunt razor,” adding that this kind of thing was not unusual. It is not the pain in itself which is decisive, for in that respect the Maori is not inferior to others, and there are instances on record of fantastic hardiness. No, it is the feeling of the weakening as a disease of both soul and body which eats away the zest for life, because there is no visible enemy from which he may demand satisfaction.
This is illustrated still more distinctly when we see what shame may effect in the Maori.
Life and honour are one. The Maori cannot segregate honour; hence it follows that any defeat is also felt in his honour and affects it. This does not mean that he cannot distinguish between an attack of a corporal kind and one which is directed immediately at his honour and thus drags down life. Both, indeed, are mate and the difference is rather superficial, but it exists and is acknowledged by the fact that an attack on honour is felt as shame (whakama). Even here the boundary-line is not well-defined; we understand that grey hairs are a weakening; but when Tura is ashamed of his grey hairs, it is presumably because the weakening of life drags honour with it. Otherwise the shame in nearly all cases is a direct consequence of an insult or a fall in esteem.
An open insult is not needed. Many a time shame rises in a man because the situation reveals that he is found wanting. If a man cannot serve food for his guests, and so is not equal to the situation, then ‘one is weakened by shame’ (ka mate i te whakama), to use a set phrase. When Marama’s fields failed because of her sin with a slave, she felt ashamed. Tama felt ashamed because he and his family at a dance were more poorly dressed than Tu-te-koro-punga and his family. Shame does not rise immediately from inferiority, but from its revelation. When his brothers laughed at Maui because he caught no fish, he felt ashamed, not because he was bad at catching fish, but because they laughed at him. It is the situation which immediately causes the shame. Ruawharo had long challenged his elder brother, Uenuku, by coming down to the shore when he landed his net and selecting the best fishes. One day Uenuku and his men turned Ruawharo over so that he fell into the net and was smeared with fish slime. “Then Ruawharo was weakened, he felt ashamed and wept and wailed.”
Whether the reason is that others ignore one, or one’s own offence, e.g. a theft coming to light, it is the degrading situation itself which causes the shame. Therefore it is unimportant whether a charge with theft is true or not if it cannot at once be averted. The charge alone causes the shame and its consequences follow without regard to guilt or no guilt. The saga about Hotu will take quite the same course whether the narrator believes that Hotu has committed the theft with which he is charged or not.
Presumably we understand the importance of the situation best of all – without regard to guilt – in the case of the shame felt when one’s modesty is insulted, or when, like Hinetitama, one has committed incest without knowing it.
Shame is an inner attack on man, but this is not to say that one need succumb to it. When Maru, whose father had left his home even before his son had been born, heard the other boys shouting after him, “Bastard, bastard! Where is your father?” he felt ashamed; but he stood his ground and finally sought out his father. In the same way Tukutuku, who wooed Paoa, overcame her shame when he pushed her hand away, and even in the end got him as her husband.
Finally the shame may be so small that we should rather call it modesty, as the one which Paoa felt when he was invited into a house full af women only; but he overcame his modesty (whakama) and entered.
Even though the shame may be overcome, it is always a danger, always a weakening. The chief who dropped his revenge with the words, “I leave it to shame to beat them,” knew very well what he was doing.
“Nothing is like my shame which makes me weak,
It is like a burning heat;”
so runs a song, and using the same simile Ngarue puts the action of shame before us with terrible clearness. His brothers-in-law had dropped some remarks to the effect that he was an idler. So Ngarue said to his wife, “Shame in me is great, it is like a fire burning in me. My love of you pales before the strength of my shame.”
Shame thus is a fire which makes everything else fade and scorches it away. But this is only to expatiate on what is inherent in the common Maori saying “Ka mate i te whakama, he is weakened by shame;” for as we have seen, weakening seizes the whole of life if it is not checked. The fatal thing about shame is that it is often due either to the revelation of inner defects or to a kinsman’s words, and therefore cannot be remedied.
So we witness how shame burns like a fire and scorches everything else away, –all that makes life worth living, strength, courage, and honour. With life also the love of one’s kinsfolk crumbles away, and thus shame has eaten the whole kinship I in man. Perhaps the catastrophe stops here, and what we hear about the effects of shame is only the consequences of it. Perhaps the destruction is not quite so great, but at any rate it makes man smaller, and it may happen as it happened to a chief who could not carry a fortress which he tried to storm and for shame of his powerlessness gave up his wives.
But in a way this was a mild case as compared with the great number in which the whole of the kinship I dies; for then the man, or rather his poor remnants, the individual I, leaves family and home and goes away into strange parts.
So when we see what may be the cause of this sad spectacle, what was said above is again corroborated. Any insult is a weakening. It is the situation which can produce the shame and thus all its consequences. Hotu felt ashamed of the charge of theft and left family and home without regard to the question whether the charge was true or not. Things are not different in the more mythical parts of the traditions. Whiro, who with full knowledge had had intercourse with his daughter-in-law, and Hinetitama, who discovered that her husband was also her own father, reacted exactly alike and fled in desperate shame.
We find that flight from the kinship group and the feeling of shame actually have common causes. There is Paoa, who could not serve good food for his guests, Kahurere, who was rebuked by his father, the woman who was charged with theft or was beaten by her husband, Tamaahua, who was mocked because he was circumcised, and in the myths the Tura mentioned above whose hairs turned grey to his shame, Whaitiri, who heard her husband say about her, “Her skin is like the wind, her skin is like the snow,”Rongoitua, who is mildly reproached, – they all feel ashamed and fly away from their kinship group and kinship I, or at least from a spouse. Whaitiri (Thunder) fled to heaven. This is not done by everybody; but after the beginning of the colonisation one might at least escape to America, as a Maori did out of shame because he could not pay for a canoe.
The flight in shame has also given rise to a saying: “Mahanga whakarere kai, whakarere waka, Mahanga who abandoned food and canoe.” Mahanga had drummed people together to drag his canoe to the water and provided food to feed them, but by ill luck the canoe was shattered. This was enough: “He could not even face his friends, or wait to partake of food, but started off at once,” He never returned.
All these instances corroborate what we have already seen: that a weakening is a weakening. If it is not checked, it is unimportant whether the cause is great or small. When the fire of shame has been lit, it must be put out or life is laid waste.
Against this background we understand still better the meaning of manaaki and the politeness and gentleness towards the kinship group which it involves; for just as manaaki unites the kinship group, so a thoughtless insult may push a kinsman out of the group.
Even towards strangers it may happen that the Maori shows the same delicacy, because he knows how serious an insult is. Once Te Popoki met with an unauthorized person, Whainu, who was setting bird snares in one of his trees. Te Popoki’s son told Whainu to get down, but Te Popoki, who thought that Whainu was miserable with shame (kua mate a Whainu), shouted to him, “Set your snares.” But – as it characteristically says – “Whainu had not strength enough for that, he was too much weakened (mate) because his encroachment had been seen and he had been told to get down; therefore he returned home.”
The Maori’s shame thus may destroy his relationship to those with whom he is living, mostly his kinship group, or in other words eat away the kinship I. This throws a certain light on the relationship between kinship I and individual I. The latter may, indeed, exist apart, but then certainly as a being with very little life, i.e. tupu. It shows how the glory of life, the value of life, courage, strength, and honour are inextricably bound up with the Kinship I and found in this. As tupu for the most important part is thus invested in the kinship I, this also shows how fundamentally important it is to the Maori, as tupu is something developing from within in each individual. This intimate connexion between kinship I and life is perhaps the most penetrating illustration that can be given of the significance and essence of the kinship I, when this is to be interpreted in a civilization which like the European is individualistic in its root.
Still the Maori – as we have seen – need not perish completely with the kinship I. As an individual he may maintain an existence among strangers, indeed, if he is of some prominence, he may attach people to him and obtain a kind of new I.
The family sagas bear witness to the great possibilities open to a prominent personality even when he was not backed by his kinship group. Several tribes might carry their origin back to such a lonely man, among them Ngati-Kahungunu, Ngati-Paoa, Ngai-Tahu, and, in a way, Ngati-Maru. Men in exile and illegitimate children play a statistically disproportionately great part in the traditions. They fascinated and interested the Maoris, who had a sense for the extraordinary effort necessary for the person with a poor or no kinship group to assert himself. A proverb says, “Ka mahi te moenga mokoi, bravo, oh illegitimate child, (many of whom were considered anxious to distinguish themselves, and make a name).”
But the interest in the self-made man is of the kind shown in the extraordinary. Indeed it was far from possible for everybody to found a new kinship group. We need only refer back (p.24ff.) to the inner and outer inhibitions which such a man has to fight, concentrated in the saying that he has no tikanga.
It is of course still more difficult for a slave to assert himself. Still, it might happen that a slave secured a position – evidence of how enormously plastic the Maori was in his social life (to the dismay of those who try to give a general description of this!). EARLE tells about a slave who enjoyed no small reputation because of his rare skill in tattooing. It even happened that a slave was admitted to the tribe and obtained a position as chief. Waharoa also had an extraordinary fate. Having been a slave from his second to his twentieth year he returned to his own tribe, was accepted by it against common practice and developed into one of the great chiefs of the 19th century. These cases are of interest because they throw light on the Maori’s respect for the great personality, but they are decidedly exceptions and should not blot out the picture of the slave or the exiled man as an unhonoured and irresolute nobody, who has half-way done being a human.
If only we adhere to the view that this is the normal, we understand that the Maori will many a time prefer death by his own hand to going into exile. Suicide in so far is on a level with flight, but it contains possibilities of a particular kind.
Whakamomori means being desperate, or doing a desperate deed. It may be that of leaving family and home, as has been mentioned above, but the word is used almost only about suicide.
Suicide thus is the extreme consequence of the fact that life is a whole and therefore stands as a whole or falls as a whole. Once again it is confirmed that there is no direct proportion between cause and consequences. Any weakening may without regard to magnitude hit home. Exactly the same causes may lead to suicide as to flight from the kinship group.
Still, suicide holds a special position in the case of ‘weakenings’ which do not immediately concern honour and where, therefore, the kinship I is not in the first place attacked. We have already heard about the man who cut his throat because he suffered from toothache. The typical suicide, however, is that of the widow. In the northernmost part of New Zealand it was nearly an institution. The consequence was, of course, that every decent widow made an attempt at suicide. In elderly widows it was undoubtedly at the same time the consequence of their inner ‘weakening’; but in younger widows it must have been a more complicated matter. Presumably they often felt driven towards suicide while at the same time they felt that life might still offer possibilities for them. The fact that suicide was an institution then decided the matter. But still there was more to it; for it was a common thing that the family kept an eye on the young widows and took care to save them before death supervened. Perhaps we are allowed to believe that the same young widows did not either make this too difficult. Such a rescued widow might face the world, for one thing; but something also happened in herself on account of the violent event. We have a record from a widow who tried to drown herself, but who was saved. It was certainly grief that impelled her, but when she was lying under water and the want of air oppressed her chest and she felt pain in the ears, her grief ceased and she wanted to live after all. She succeeded in doing so when some people came to her assistance.
However, this is a side track which does not concern the principal matter, that there is an inner weakening which eats life away from within, and that suicide is only a realisation of this. Therefore it did not always help, however much the tribe watched her. It might, indeed, prevent the suicide, but then it might end as in the case of Hauraki’s sister, who simply died of grief at the loss of her brother.
Sometimes the widower also did away with himself.
Turi killed himself by throwing himself down from a tall rock when his eldest son had died. BEST tells about a mother who shot herself when her son had died. Hongi tried to hang himself after his brother’s death,– to mention only some cases of similar reasons for suicide.
Love is also a mate, a ‘weakening’ or a ‘want’, – it comes to the same thing whatever we call it – and if this want is not allayed, there is a possibility that it may make life void, and make the unhappy lover do away with him- or herself.
Shame also often drove the Maori to suicide. A chief, Terekau, who was visited by some people asked his wife to cook some food for the visitors. She told him to do so himself. Soon after Terekau was found in a tree, where he had hanged himself. The debtor who cannot pay, and the woman whose modesty is violated, and many others whom shame fills – guilty or innocent – are found among the suicides. But the greatest expression of the fact that shame carries death, is found in the myth about Hinetitama, the primal mother of man, who war first begotten by Tane and since became his wife and by him gave birth to man. For when she realized that she was married to her own father, she was seized with shame and whakamomori by fleeing to the underworld, where she later under the name of Hinenuitepo has drawn her descendants down into the land of the dead. This is the reason why people die, and thus we see the terrible power of shame in the fact that the shame of the primal mother puts death for man into the world order. But the myth also shows something else, viz. that by founding the land of the dead Hinenuitepo holds fast to her kin, which she draws down to her.
This is ultimately what divides suicide from flight. By flight the Maori gives up his kinship I, but by suicide there is a possibility of retaining the connexion. It may perhaps be said that the Maori in suicide sacrifices his individual I in order to recover his kinship I. (In this connexion it may be pointed out that suicides were actually common). Unfortunately one must express oneself with a certain cautiousness; for the sources are not sufficient to give real certainty in this question where so many threads are twisted into a difficult psychological knot.
It is, however, possible to approach a little nearer to the matter by looking in more detail on the ways chosen by the Maori when he takes his own life. It may happen that he quietly hangs himself; but not infrequently he kills himself in such a way that it is felt that he asserts himself by doing it. An instructive story is e.g. that about the young
Te Aohuruhuru, whose modesty had been violated one night by her old husband’s guilty action. He, who was somewhat older than she, saw that in her sleep she had thrown off part of her blanket. He admired her beauty and put more wood on the fire in order that because of the heat she might get restless and uncover herself further. Then he awakened some other elderly men in the house in order that they might see her; but she awoke and felt ashamed. The next day her husband went fishing while she remained at home. In her shame she then decided to whakamomori, to take her own life, by throwing herself down from a tall rock at the coast. This is described as follows:
“Now she began to adorn herself; she combed her hair, she adorned herself with a fine cloak with a border and put feathers in her hair – feathers and down from the huia bird, the heron, and the albatross. When this was done she rose, went to the steep rock, climbed it, and sat down up there. Then the young woman collected her thoughts on composing a song which she might sing.
The words of the song were finished. Her husband and his comrades were paddling towards the shore. His canoe was close to the foot of the rock on top of which the young woman was sitting, and her old husband’s heart warmed at the beauty of his young wife. Then they heard the woman singing her song. They heard the words of the woman’s song. Listen! They were borne over the ripples of the sea, and when the sound struck another rock it was returned to comfort her. Indeed, the sound of her song came distinctly to her ear. It was like this:
Half uncovered I slept
When the fire was made to blaze
In order that I should throw myself about in my sleep,
And I was made ridiculous.
When she had sung, she threw herself down from the rock in order to destroy herself. There the old man saw her falling from the rock. He watched her clothes which gleamed white (?) as she fell.
Then their canoe headed towards the foot of the rock from which the woman had jumped; the men landed and when they had gone ashore they saw her as she lay there completely crushed.”
The whole account clearly shows that the woman made her death a point of honour. She adorned herself, she, sang, she did that intentionally before her husband’s eyes. In this way she recovers her honour and is remembered for ever so that the rock is still called “Te Rerenga-o-Te-Aohuruhuru”, ‘the place where Te Aohuruhuru jumped’. This memorial is an outward sign that she still lives in the kinship I from which she was separated by her shame and with which she was reunited in honour.
If we ask how her honour can rise, the answer must probably be that it does so because she avenges herself on her husband.
This story pictures the situation to us more vividly than any other, but as regards the aspect of vengeance in suicide others are cleare; GUDGEON tells how he once witnessed that a young Maori who had fallen out with his wife first wanted to throw himself down from a rock, but instead went openly into an English military camp and took two rifles. By doing so he fell into the hands of Gudgeon, who elicited the statement from him that he had counted on being shot, and his train of thought then was that this would force his tribe to seek revenge, which would not take place without also some of the tribesmen being killed; but through this he would be revenged himself.
The question as to what suicide involves then leads on to another: what is revenge?
When – as we have seen – a mate which is not remedied is a menace to life, a disease which in a short time can eat it away, then we understand that it is of vital importance for the Maori to seek healing of this disease. The remedy is revenge.
We are accustomed to consider revenge as a brutal manifestation of hatred, and I think we are right in so far as this is actually the nature of revenge with us. It is a different matter when we are faced with revenge in a foreign civilization, among people whose experiences are different from ours. Here the customary ideas do not help, we must patiently try to find out what revenge is among the Maoris.
Merely seeing what mate involves is helpful. It may be expressed like this: mate is a void in man, whether it is most in the character of an absorbing desire or an undermining of the zest for life. Revenge fills in this void, satisfies it, as the Maori may say: “Hauraki’s mate was not yet satisfied (na),” for which reason they set out and killed another man.
Revenge has a healing effect and makes the weakened person whole. How this is possible we may come to realize better by looking at the different variations of revenge found.
The normal revenge consists in killing one or more members of the kinship group that has offered the insult. It may be said with truth that revenge has two aspects: partly that the avenger asserts himself, partly that the insulter is hit. This division is justifiable because the Maori himself makes it, if not in thought, at any rate in deed. For he may very well avenge himself by killing people who have nothing to do with the insult, i.e. are not related to the insulter at all. Thus it is recorded of a detachment of Ngatipaoa that they went to war far away
35 AHM. IV, 188.
36 Grey, M. 118.
37 AHM. IV, 36.
38 AHM. V, 73.
39 AHM. IV, 44
40 E.g. JPS. 5, 166: ka whakatupu nei a Turereao I tana tamaiti…, a ka tupu, a, ka tangatatia…
41 Williams s. v. whakatupu.
42 AHM. I, 86.
43 AHM. I, 135.
44 AHM. V, 62.
45 AHM, IV, 144.
46 AHM. IV, 93.
47 AHM. V, 101.
48 The substantival use of tupu about human beings especially comprising honour is found with certainty only among the tribes in the northern half of the north island of New Zealand, viz. from Ngapuhi in the north down to and including the tribes Ngatihaua and Ngatitoa. In addition there are some scattered examples. From Tuhoe we have the compound tupuheke ‘lose tupu, i.e. honour’ (TNZI. 36, 65 Best). From Ngatikahungunu a proverb is recorded: “He taina whakahoki-tipu, taina whakahirahira, he potikikahiatoa!” (Lore I, 41): “A younger brother who violates tupu, who exalts himself at the expense of others; a crafty little brother”. (On kahiatoa or kahia a toa sec JPS. 37, 373). Thus tupu here includes honour, but the strange thing is that it reads whakahoki tupu instead of the usual whakaheke tupu. It might be tempting to correct this whakahoki into whakaheke if there were not in a Ngatitoa text a corresponding expression: ‘te hokinga o te tupu’ (AHM.VI, 28) with the same meaning of ‘reducing tupu’. As hoki means ‘(to) return’, these expressions with whakahoki must be interpreted in the way that tupu is made to make the opposite of its natural movement, which is unfolding, thus to be reduced. The expression ka hoki taku tipu (JPS. 17, 171) is presumably to be interpreted in the same way: “then my tupu decreases”; but the meaning of the passage is not quite certain. This interpretation is supported by a parallel use of hoki in connexion with ingoa (name): kei hoki te ingoa ‘lest the name suffer’ (Ngata, no. 13 = Grey, Mot. 117 from Te Arawa).
[#17] J. Prytz Johansen, “Maori: Tupu and Mate,” The Maori and His Religion in its Non-Ritualistic Aspects. (Copenhagen: I Kommission Hos Ejnar Munksgaard, 1954), pg. 40-61. Footnotes deleted.