W hat I believe to be genuine and authentic the collected publications of William Colenso


(3.) A Charm, or Invocation, used at the Planting of the Kumara Roots



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(3.) A Charm, or Invocation, used at the Planting of the Kumara Roots.


1. Now (is) the planting-season favourably indicated from the sky (of the) mainland;

2. Now (is) the season (for) planting favourably indicated from the sky (of the) ocean.

3. Verily, and now it is from (or according to) Raukatauri, together with Raukatamea,

4. (And) Maitiiti,715 (and) Marekareka:—

5. Ye sought it out;

6. And it was divulged (or caused to creep silently) abroad by thee [44]

7. At Waeroti (and) at Waerota.

8. At early dawn let the attendance here be numerous;

9. Let the appearing of the sun be waited for here;

10. Be ye all coming-in hither from every-where round about.

11. Here, indeed, shall be Regular-Distribution (of seed);

12. Here, Abundance (of seed);

13. Here, Visiting-little-hillocks (with the seed).

14. The little hillocks shall be all severally visited,—

15. Throughout—through all—far on—round about.

16. Thinly-encumbered (or scantily clad with earth),

17. O Son of noble birth!

18. Incline thyself towards the warm sea-breezes;

19. Thy face shall be favourably marked with the waters causing vegetable growth;

20. Be (thou) soon seizing, grasping the soil with thy rootlets,

21. Even as a bird lays hold,—or grasps,—(with its claws);—

22. For thou art naked, unclothed, having only thy skin!

23. Therefore, be thou seizing, laying fast hold (of the earth);

24. For thou art naked, possessing only thy skin!

25. Whence shall the future fruit,—or increase,—be obtained?

26. Let the proper fruit,—or increase,—be seized, be laid fast hold of through me;

27. That is, the proper fruit,—or increase,—from without;

28. That is, the proper fruit,—or increase,—with Pani,—or, which Pani has in her possession.

29. O Pani! O! come hither now, welcome hither!

30. Fill up my basket (with seed kumara roots) placed carefully in, one by one;

31. Pile up loosely my seed-basket to overflowing:

32. Give hither, and that abundantly!

33. Open and expanded awaiting (is) my seed-basket:

34. Give hither, and that abundantly!

35. By the prepared little hillocks in the cultivation (is) my seed-basket placed;

36. Give hither, and that abundantly!

37. According to the spell of Space (is) my seed-basket awaiting;

38. Give hither, and that abundantly!

39. By the sides of the borders of the plots (in the) cultivation, (is) my seed-basket placed;

40. Give hither, and that abundantly!

41. By,—or according to,—the proper form of power and influence,—or potential power,—(is) my seed-basket placed;

42. Give hither, and that abundantly!

43. The (doors of the) row of seed-kumara store-pits are not yet closed hitherwards;

44. The floors of the same are not yet in view, or seen (lit. met—with the eye).

45. Let all the roots (for planting) be spread about carefully.

46. Let the whole be everywhere properly done.

47. Now, jump! move your legs and arms briskly;

48. Carry the roots for planting throughout the plantation.

49. Go forth! (ye) selected food-bearing seed (of) Whaitiri, into the plantation;

50. (There) to be carefully set in the soil one by one.

51. Let the fruitful seed go hither and thither; [45]

52. Let them be carefully carried about.

53. Be (you) diligently occupied in planting carefully.

54. Planted, verily planted (are the seed of) my baskets.

55. Spread open, empty, verily scattered around, (are) my (empty) used seed-baskets!

56. Above (there) in the sky (thou art) far away out of sight, hidden;—

57. Give, therefore, here in this place, as a reward

58. Of the believing this,—or our making it (to be) real and truthful,—

59. And let it be alike truthful and real (to us);

60. Yes; just so, indeed.

(The figures beginning each verse, are added merely for the sake of reference:—See Analysis, infra.)

Few subjects among the many of this class known to me have afforded half the satisfaction I have obtained from this one; but I have only gained it through a long, patient, and tedious amount of heavy labour! The translation of this semi-poetical charm, or invocation, being exceedingly difficult, owing to so many archaisms, allusions and ellipses. Desirous, however, of laying it before you in its original beauty—of meaning and arrangement—I have studied to translate it as literally as possible, consistent with perspicuity and the dissonant idioms of the two languages.

Of the various spells, etc., anciently used in planting the kumara, that I have acquired from several tohungas during many years, there are no less than three which contain this direct invocation to Pani; and while the introductory words of those three forms vary a little, the kernel—the invocation itself—is almost literally the same in them all! This circumstance, together with its evident antiquity (as shown from their genealogical tables), the fact of its being one of the very few known forms of direct invocation to any being or personification ever used by the ancient Maoris,716 its poetical structure, and its regular fitting and progressive disposition,—make it a subject of extreme interest if not of importance.

Those charms, when used, were always muttered in an under-tone by the tohunga, who performed this duty while walking about the plantation, solus. This one, used in the spring, at the first planting season, serves to remind us of the vernal sacrifices and prayers of the ancient Egyptians and Romans,717 and other ancient Northern nations; and like those by them, it was used to precure fertility; and when simple, (as in this instance), they may be regarded as among the most beautiful and becoming of the rites of natural religion. [46]

For this purpose, also, another strange plan was long observed by the Maoris of the interior. A portion of an ancient relation I received from them runs thus:—“Tia718 and his party” (who, it is said, had come to New Zealand from “Hawaiki” in the canoe Arawa), “did not return from Taupo (inland), whither they had gone, to Maketu (on the coast); they all died inland at Titiraupenga, where their bones and skulls long were, and were, indeed, also seen by the Maoris of this generation just past. Those skulls were annually brought out, with much ceremony, and placed in the kumara plantations, by the margins of the plots, that the plants might become fertile and bear many tubers.”

Captain Cook also relates, that in the plantations of kumara at Tolaga Bay, which he and his companions visited (on his first voyage to New Zealand),—“they saw there, a small area of a square figure, surrounded with stones, in the middle of which one of the sharpened stakes which they use as a spade [koo] was set up, and upon it was hung a basket of fern-roots: upon enquiry the natives told us, that it was an offering to the gods, [?] by which the owner hoped to render them propitious and obtain a plentiful crop.”719 This is in the main correct, as I have myself proved,—omitting the words “an offering to the gods.”

It is just possible, that the kernel of this charm or invocation to Pani, may be among the very oldest known!

And here, to make it still more plain, I will just briefly give a simple analysis of the contents of this Invocation, with a few explanatory notes; through which, I think, its suitability, beauty, and regularity, will be the more clearly perceived.




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