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Home arrow Articles by Topic arrow Heritage arrow "The Maori Superstition in the North"
"The Maori Superstition in the North" PDF Print
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Articles - Heritage
Written by PapersPast, National Library of New Zealand   
Sunday, 01 February 2009

Tuapeka Times, 9 August 1893, Page 4.

A correspondent of the Auckland 'Herald* writes thus : — While staying at Ngunguru (one of the places you mention) I had ample opportunity of seeing the tohunga At work and his mode of treatment, as he came while I was there. The local Natives were all on the qui vive for some weeks previous to the tohunga's coming, as he had notified his intention of spending a few days at Tommy Wellington's pah at the mouth of the Ngunguru River. For days the Maoris had been cooking and preparing food for the tohunga and his people. About the 10th March he arrived with upwards of 100 followers, and great feasting and speeches of welcome were the order of the day for the first day. The next morning after his arrival the tohunga commenced his cures. He first pointed out a Native, and said that he or she was makutued, or was possessed of a bad spirit His assistants, of which the tohunga had two, would then seize the supposed patient, drag him to a whare, strip him of every vestige of clothing, and put him in scalding hot water. If in the opinion of the tohunga this did not suffice to drive the makutu or evil spirit from the person being treated, he would order the patient to be doused in the river. These two extremes were considered absolute, but in many cases (when the poor things were suffering so much they could not help yelling and shrieking from pain) hot roasted potatoes were placed next their skin. Under this treatment it is no wonder so many deaths have occurred. In the case of the girl Harriet Graham, she was a daughter of one of the Natives residing in the district, and it was with her that I went down from the hotel to see the tohunga at his work. Although a Native girl, Harriet had never seen a tohunga before, and during the time we were watching him and his assistants she was absolutely terrified that he would order her to be treated. Her father seems to have had perfect confidence in this man-fiend's power, as he eventually placed his family under the tohunga's treatment ; and I see by your report that four of the family have died, including the girl Harriet. Most of the patients I saw treated were females ranging from 11 years to 25 years. Their cries were heartrending, and they would piteously appeal to those around for help as they were thus being slowly murdered. But the more the patients yelled the more "treatment" they got, as the tohunga would say their shrieking was only due to the spirit, or makutu, coming out of them. What I have here written is an outline of what I really saw myself. A more hideous or disgusting spectacle I never wish to see again, and it all occurred within 100 miles of Auckland.

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