Pai Marire

Pai Marire

The Pai Mārire movement was a syncretic Māori religion that flourished in New Zealand from about 1863 to 1874. [cite book
last = Walker
first = Ranginui
authorlink = Ranginui Walker
coauthors =
title = Ka Whawhai Tonu Matou: Struggle Without End
publisher = Penguin
date = 1990
location = Auckland
pages =
url =
doi =
id =
isbn = 0-14-013249-6
] Founded in Taranaki by the prophet Te Ua Haumene, it incorporated Biblical and Māori spiritual elements and promised its followers deliverance from Pākehā domination,cite book
last = King
first = Michael
authorlink = Michael King
coauthors =
title = The Penguin History of New Zealand
publisher = Penguin
date = 2003
location = Auckland
pages =
url =
doi =
id =
isbn = 0-14-301867-1
] providing a religious aspect to the issue of Māori independence, which had until then been a purely political movement. [ S. Barton Babbage, "Hauhauism: An Episode in the Maori Wars 1863-1866", chapter 1. A.H & A.W. Reed, Dunedin, 1937] ] The embracing of the religion by Māori also signalled a rejection of Christianity and a distrust of missionaries over their involvement in land purchases. [ S. Barton Babbage, "Hauhauism: An Episode in the Maori Wars 1863-1866", chapter 3. A.H & A.W. Reed, Dunedin, 1937] ] The religion gained widespread support among North Island Māori and became closely associated with the King Movement, but also became the cause of fear and hysteria among European settlers.

Although founded with peaceful motives (its name means Good and Peaceful), Pai Mārire became more well-known for an extremist form of the religion popularly known as Hauhauism, though there is evidence the most violent activities, committed in 1864 and 1865, were led by subordinate prophets acting against the wishes of Te Ua and the basic precepts of the religion.Paul Clark, "Hauhau: The Pai Marire Search for Maori Identity," (1975) as cited by Belich in "The New Zealand Wars" (1986), chapter 11.] The rise and spread of the violent expression of Pai Mārire was largely a response to the New Zealand Government's military operations against North Island Māori, which were aimed at exerting European sovereignty and gaining more land for white settlement. Pai Mārire became well-known for its revival of ancient rites including incantations, a sacred pole and belief in supernatural protection from bullets. Its rites also included beheadings, the removal of the hearts of enemy soldiers and cannibalism. Pai Mārire spread rapidly through the North Island from 1864, welding tribes in a bond of passionate hatred against the Pākehā [ James Cowan, The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Vol II, Chapter 1, 1922] ] and helping to inspire fierce military resistance to colonial forces, particularly during the Second Taranaki War (1863-1866).

Governor Sir George Grey launched a campaign of suppression against the religion in April 1865, culminating in the raiding of dozens of villages in Taranaki and on the East Coast and the arrest of more than 400 adherents, most of whom where incarcerated on the Chatham Islands. Elements of the religion were incorporated in the Ringatu ("Raised hand") religion formed in 1868 by Te Kooti, who escaped from the Chatham Islands after being incarcerated there.

New Zealand censuses have as recently as 1961 showed hundreds still listing Pai Mārire as their religion. [ [ "Three Religious Faiths" by Bernard Gadd, "Te Ao Hou, The New World", (published by Maori Affairs Department) December 1965]

Rise of the prophet

. He later returned to Taranaki.

During the 1850s he became a supporter of the King Movement, which opposed further expansion of European sovereignty and the sale of land to European settlers, and in the 1860s fought against colonial forces in the First Taranaki Warcite book
last = Sinclair
first = Keith
authorlink = Keith Sinclair
coauthors =
title = A History of New Zealand
publisher = Penguin
date = 2000
location = Auckland
pages = 396
url =
doi =
id =
isbn = 0-14-029875-4
] and Waikato War, in which he also acted as a chaplain to the Māori soldiers. By the early 1860s Te Ua was part of a "runanga" (local board of management), which administered local government and also ensured that the boundary of the land that was covered by the "mana" of the Māori King was undisturbed.

By then the cornerstones of Te Ua's religious teaching were set. He believed Māori had a right to defend the boundaries of their territory; believed in national salvation of the Māori from the white settlers; and suspected that missionaries were aiding and abetting the loss of Māori land.

The elevation of Te Ua to the role of prophet followed an incident in September 1862 in which the British steamer "Lord Worsley" was wrecked off the Taranaki coast and local Māori debated what action should be taken with the cargo and crew. Te Ua – then living at Wereroa Pă, near Waitotara – argued that goods salvaged from the vessel should be sent to New Plymouth untouched, but was ignored and the cargo was instead plundered. On September 5, aggrieved over what had taken place, he claimed to have experienced a vision in which the Archangel Gabriel announced to him that the last days of the Bible were at hand and that God had chosen him as a prophet who would cast out the Pākehā and restore Israel (the Māori) to their birthright in the land of Canaan (Aotearoa/New Zealand). There are conflicting reports over Te Ua's response to the vision: he is claimed to have killed his child, explaining in a letter circulated to tribes that it was as a redemption for his people, "forgetful, desolate and in doubt"., while there are also claims he broke the child's leg and healed it miraculously. As reports about Te Ua began to circulate, he quickly gained a reputation for having other miraculous powers. The view among settlers was less sympathetic: Bishop William Williams claimed Te Ua showed strong signs of insanity and colonial soldier and historian T.W. Gudgeon claimed he had been thus far regarded as a "harmless lunatic" of "weak intellect, but yet of peaceful disposition".

Formation and spread of the religion

Te Ua began to formulate his new religion, complete with a holy book, "Ua Rongo Pai" (the Gospel according to Ua) which combined elements of Old Testament morality, Christian doctrine and primitive Māori religion. Its goal was to create a peaceful society in which righteousness and justice prevailed. They believed they were a second Chosen People and that, with divine aid, they would regain control of their hereditary land when the Creator, Jehovah, fought for them and drove the English into the sea. [ S. Barton Babbage, "Hauhauism: An Episode in the Maori Wars 1863-1866", chapter 2. A.H & A.W. Reed, Dunedin, 1937] ] To help him propagate the religion, Te Ua chose three men – Tahutaki, Hepenaia and Wi Parara.

Ahuahu attack, April 1864

Among white settlers, the existence of the new religion was brought into dramatic focus with a series of attacks in April and May 1864. On April 6, a force led by Tahutaki and Hepenaia mounted an expedition to Ahuahu village, set amid dense bush south of Oakura, near New Plymouth, believing some
Pākehā would be delivered into their hands. The group surprised a combined force of 57th Regiment and the newly-formed Taranaki Military Settlers, a total of 101 men, as they rested without their weapons during a mission to destroy native crops. The Māori force killed seven and wounded 12 of their enemy. The bodies of the seven dead, including their commander, Captain P.W.J. Lloyd, were stripped naked and decapitated. The leg of one of the soldiers was also removed. [,_B._The_History_of_Taranaki/CHAPTER_XXIV:_THE_RENEWAL_OF_HOSTILITIES/p1?action=null B. Wells, The History of Taranaki, chapter 24, 1878.] ]

The easy victory of the Māori over the numerically stronger British-led force gave a powerful impetus to the Pai Mārire movement and confirmed in the minds of many Māori the protection of the Archangel Gabriel, of whom Te Ua was now regarded as a prophet. The number of adherents swelled and Pai Mārire rites continued to develop, some incorporating the decapitated heads of the slain soldiers, through which Te Ua claimed to communicate with Jehovah.

Assault on Sentry Hill, April 1864

. Atiawa Māori viewed the construction of the outpost on their land as a challenge and formed a war party of the best fighting men from west coast iwi. When they came under fire at close range, they shielded themselves from the fusillade only by holding their right hands up and chanting. As many as a fifth of the Māori force were killed in the assault. [ James Cowan, The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Vol II, Chapter 2, 1922] ]

In a 1920 interview with historian James Cowan, Te Kahu-Pukoro, a fighter who took part in the attack, explained: "The Pai-marire religion was then new, and we were all completely under its influence and firmly believed in the teaching of Te Ua and his apostles. Hepanaia Kapewhiti was at the head of the war-party. He was our prophet. He taught us the Pai-marire karakia (chant), and told us that if we repeated it as we went into battle the pakeha bullets would not strike us. This we all believed."

Led by Hepanaia, the warriors participated in sacred ceremonies around a pole at the Manutahi pā, with all the principal Taranaki chiefs present: Wiremu Kingi and Kingi Parengarenga, as well as Te Whiti and Tohu Kakahi, both of whom would later become prophets at Parihaka. The force, armed with muskets, shotguns, tomahawks and spears, marched to Sentry Hill and at 8am launched their attack, ascending the slope that led to the redoubt. Te Kahu-Pukoro recalled:

cquote|We did not stoop or crawl as we advanced upon the redoubt; we marched on upright (haere tu tonu), and as we neared the fort we chanted steadily our Pai-marire hymn.

The soldiers who were all hidden behind their high parapet, did not open fire on us until we were within close range. Then the bullets came thickly among us, and close as the fingers on my hand. The soldiers had their rifles pointed through the loopholes in the parapet and between the spaces on top (between bags filled with sand and earth), and thus could deliver a terrible fire upon us with perfect safety to themselves. There were two tiers of rifles blazing at us. We continued our advance, shooting and shouting our war-cries. Now we cried out the ‘Hapa’ (‘Pass over’) incantation which Hepanaia had taught us, to cause the bullets to fly harmlessly over us: ‘Hapa, hapa, hapa! Hau, hau, hau! Pai-marire, rire, rire — hau!’ As we did so we held our right hands uplifted, palms frontward, on a level with our heads — the sign of the ringa-tu. This, we believed, would ward off the enemy's bullets; it was the faith with which we all had been inspired by Te Ua and his apostles.

The bullets came ripping through our ranks. ‘Hapa, hapa!’ our men shouted after delivering a shot, but down they fell. ‘Hapa!’ a warrior would cry, with his right hand raised to avert the enemy's bullets, and with a gasp — like that — he would fall dead. The tuakana (elder brother) in a family would fall with ‘Hapa!’ on his lips, then the teina (younger brother) would fall; then the old father would fall dead beside them.

About 34 Māori and one imperial soldier were killed. Among those shot dead, at almost point-blank range, were chiefs Hepanaia, Kingi Parengarenga (Taranaki), Tupara Keina (Ngatiawa), Tamati Hone (Ngati Ruanui) and Hare Te Kokai, who had advocated the frontal attack on the redoubt. According to Cowan, the slaughter temporarily weakened the new confidence in Pai-marire, but Te Ua had a satisfying explanation: that those who fell were to blame because they did not repose absolute faith in the karakia, or incantation.

Battle of Moutoa, May 1864

Two weeks later, on May 14, a Pai Mārire war party from the upper Whanganui River advanced on the settlement of Wanganui, intent on raiding it. In what became known as the Battle of Moutoa, Lower Wanganui "kupapa" (Māori loyal to the Queen) routed the war party, killing 50 of them including the prophet Matene Rangitauira. [ James Cowan, Vol.2, chapter 3] ]

East Coast killings, March, April 1865

near Wanganui with Māori loyal to the New Zealand government and determined from then to murder missionaries they encountered.

Among European settlers unease grew at the spreading influence of Pai Mārire. In a latter to the Native Minister, the Resident Magistrate for Central Wanganui warned: "The Hauhau fanaticism is spreading very rapidly in the Province, and I fear will be the cause of great mischief. It is now the mainstay of the King movement."

The warning came too late to save the life of one North Island missionary. At Taupo the Pai Mārire recruiting party ransacked the house of the Rev. T.S. Grace and at Opotiki on March 2 shot, hanged and decapitated the German-born Rev. C.S. Volkner. His head was taken to the local church, where his eyes were removed and eaten by the prophet Kereopa. The killing was claimed to be in part revenge for Volkner's activities in spying on local Māori for the government, but may also have been motivated by Kereopa's wish to bring government retaliation on local Te Whakatōhea Māori as a payback for an earlier intertribal battle with his Te Arawa "iwi". [ S. Barton Babbage, "Hauhauism: An Episode in the Maori Wars 1863-1866", chapter 4. A.H & A.W. Reed, Dunedin, 1937] ] Grace, who had fled from Taupo to Opotiki, was arrested and put on trial by the Pai Mārire party. He was rescued from captivity two weeks later by a British man-of-war, "HMS Eclipse" after an attempt by local Pai Mārire leaders to negotiate a prisoner swap with Tauranga chief Hori Tupaea.

On July 22 Taranaki prophet Horomona led the murder of the master and two of the three crew members of the schooner "Kate" at Whakatane.

Government suppression

, raided dozens of villages to arrest hundreds more adherents.

In February 1866 Te Ua was captured near Opunake in Taranaki by Cameron's replacement, Major-General Trevor Chute. Chute claimed Te Ua was immediately abandoned by all those in his village, who swore an oath of allegiance to the Crown and were set free. He reported that "kupapa" (loyal) Māori urged his immediate execution. Te Ua was taken to Wanganui, writing en route to his North Island supporters, urging: "Let evil be brought to an end ... in order that the General may cease operations against you." Te Ua and Patara were freed in Auckland and most other leaders were pardoned, but Grey transported 400 East Coast followers, including Te Kooti, to the Chatham Islands for incarceration. Elements of Pai Mārire were later incorporated into the Ringatu religion founded by Te Kooti.

Te Ua died at Oeo in Taranaki in October 1866.

Rites and beliefs

Te Ua's followers identified themselves with the Jews, calling their ministers "Teu" (Jews) and accepted the Jewish Sabbath. They believed they were a second Chosen People and that, with divine aid, they would return from the wilderness to freedom in their hereditary land. Te Ua taught that the Creator, Jehovah, would fight for them and drive the English into the sea. When the last of the enemy had perished, every Māori who had died since the beginning of the world would be resurrected and stand in the presence of Zerubbabel, healed of all of diseases and infirmities. Men would be sent from heaven to teach Māori all the arts and sciences known by Europeans. Their first great day of deliverance would be in December 1864. [ S. Barton Babbage, "Hauhauism: An Episode in the Maori Wars 1863-1866", chapter 2. A.H & A.W. Reed, Dunedin, 1937] ] He urged men and women to abandon monogamy and live together communally to produce as many children as possible.

Services were held at a "niu", a tall pole, often about 18m high, with yard-arms from which hung ropes. The first of these "niu" was the mast of the "Lord Worsley". Members of the congregation circled the "niu" several times a day, chanting and touching a decapitated head mounted on a pole while priests conducted prayer services. Historian Babbage wrote: "The worshippers worked themselves into a state bordering on frenzy during the proecure of the ritual, until catalepsy frequently prostrated them." The chants as devotees circled the "niu" were described as "a jumble of Christian and ancient concepts, of soldier and sailor terms, of English and Māori language with the barking watchword of the cult interspersed". [J.M. Keesing, "The Chaning Maori", Memoir of the Board of Maori Ethnological Research, 1928, as cited by Babbage, chapter 2.] The "angels of the wind" were said to be present during the service, ascending and descending the ropes dangling from the mast's yard-arm. By the end of 1865 a "niu" stood in almost every large village from Taranaki to the Bay of Plenty and from the north of the Wellington district to the Waikato frontier.

The chants

Historian James Cowan described many of the chants as "simply meaningless strings of English ords rounded into the softer Māori; others were either transliterations or mispronunciations of parts of the Church of England services, with a sprinkling of Latin from the Roman Catholic ritual. Some phrases were military orders, picked up at the soldiers' camps. Some others showed a nautical origin; Te Ua boxed the compass like any pakeha sailor."

The chant began:

:"Kira, wana, tu, tiri, wha—Teihana!:"Rewa, piki rewa, rongo rewa, tone, piki tone—Teihana!:"Rori, piki rori, rongo rori, puihi, piki puihi—Teihana!:"Rongo puihi, rongo tone, hira, piki hira, rongo hira—Teihana!:"Mauteni, piki mauteni, rongo mauteni, piki niu, rongo niu—Teihana!:"Nota, no te pihi, no te hihi, noriti mino, noriti, koroni—Teihana!:"Hai, kamu, te ti, oro te mene, rauna te niu—Teihana!:"Hema, rura wini, tu mate wini, kamu te ti—Teihana!"


:Kill, one, two, three, four—Attention!:River, big river, long river, stone, big stone—Attention!:Road, big road, long road, bush, big bush—Attention!:Long bush, long stone, hill, big hill, long hill—Attention!:Mountain, big mountain, long mountain, big staff, long staff—Attention!:North, north-by-east, nor'-nor'-east, nor'-east-by-north, north-east, colony—Attention!:Come to tea, all the men, round the niu—Attention!:Shem, rule the wind, too much wind, come to tea—Attention!

Divine protection in battle

Te Ua taught that the divine service and strict adherence to his instruction would make them impervious to bullets if, when under fire, they would raise their right hand and cry, "Hapa! Hapa! Pai Mārire, hau! Hau! Hau!" "Hapa" meant to pass over, or ward off, while the exclamation "Hau!" at the end of the choruses – said by one soldier to uttered in a way that sounded like the bark of a dog – [Lt Gudgeon, as quoted by Babbage, Ch.2] had a literal meaning of "wind" but referred to the life principle or vital spark of man, while the wind angels were named "Anahera hau".

According to Cowan, a similar belief in the mystical power to avert bullets had earlier been reported among Islamic groups in Africa and Asia.


Clark, P. (1975) "Hauhau: The Pai Marire Search for Maori Identity". Auckland University Press/Oxford University Press. Head, L.F. (1992) The Gospel of Te Ua Haumene. "Journal of the Polynesian Society" vol 101:7-44. Complete text of Te Ua's own copy, now in the Grey Collection, Auckland Public Library.Lyall, A. C. (1979) "Whakatohea of Opotiki". AH & AW Reed.

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