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The Magical Wooden Head

(Kon Ga Puhi a Puarata Raua Ko Tautohito)

THIS head bewitched all persons who approached the hill where the fortress in which it was kept was situated, so that, from fear of it, no human being dared to approach the place, which was thence named the Sacred Mount.

Upon that mount dwelt Puarata and Tautohito with their carved head, and its fame went through all the country, to the river Tamaki, and to Kaipara, and to the tribes of Nga-Puhi, to Akau, to Waikato, to Kawhia, to Mokau, to Hauraki, and to Tauranga; the exceeding great fame of the powers of that carved head spread to every part of Aotea-roa, or the northern island of New Zealand; everywhere reports were heard , that so great were its magical powers, none could escape alive from them; and although many warriors and armies went to the Sacred Mount to try to destroy the sorcerers to whom the head belonged, and to carry it off as a genius for their own district, that its magical powers might be subservient to them, they all perished in the attempt. In short, no mortal could approach the fortress, and live; even parties of people who were travelling along the forest track, to the northwards towards Muri-whenua, all died by the magical powers of that head; whether they went in large armed bodies, or simply as quiet travellers, their fate was alike--they all perished from its magical influence, somewhere about the place where the beaten track passes over Waimatuku.

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The deaths of so many persons created a great sensation in the country, and, at last, the report of these things reached a very powerful sorcerer named Hakawau, who, confiding in his magical arts, said he was resolved to go and see this magic head, and the sorcerers who owned it. So, without delay, he called upon all the genii who were subservient to him, in order that he might be thrown into an enchanted sleep, and see what his fate in this undertaking would be; and in his slumber he saw that his genius would triumph in the encounter, for it was so lofty and mighty, that in his dream its head reached the heavens, whilst its feet remained upon earth.

Having by his spells ascertained this, he at once started on his journey, and the district through which he travelled was that of Akau; and, confiding in his own enchantments, he went fearlessly to try whether his arts of sorcery would not prevail over the magic head, and enable him to destroy the old sorcerer Puarata.

He took with him one friend, and went along the sea-coast towards the Sacred Mount, and passed through Whanga-roa, and followed the sea-shore to Rangikahu and Kahuwera, and came out upon the coast again at Karoroumanui, and arrived at Maraetai; there was a fortified village, the people of which endeavoured to detain Hakawau and his friend until they rested themselves and partook of a little food; but he said: 'We ate food on the road, a short distance behind us; we are not at all hungry or weary.' So they would not remain at Maraetai, but went straight on until they reached Putataka, and they crossed the river there, and proceeded along the beach to Rukuwai; neither did they stop there, but on they went, and at last reached Waitara.

When they got to Waitara, the friend who accompanied Hakawau began to get alarmed, and

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said: 'Now we shall perish here, I fear'; but they went safely on, and reached Te Weta; there the heart of Hakawau's friend began to beat again, and he said: 'I feel sure that we shall perish here'; however they passed by that place too in safety, and on they went, and at length they reached the most fatal place of all--Waimatuku. Here they smelt the stench of the carcasses of the numbers who had been previously destroyed; indeed the stench was so bad that it was quite suffocating, and they both now said: 'This is a fearful place; we fear we shall perish here.' However, Hakawau kept on unceasingly working at his enchantments, and repeating incantations, which might ward off the attacks of evil genii, and which might collect good genii about them, to protect them from the malignant spirits of Puarata, lest these should injure them: thus they passed over Waimatuku, looking with horror at the many corpses strewed about the beach, and in the dense fern and bushes which bordered the path; and as they pursued their onward journey, they expected death every moment.

Nevertheless they died not on the dreadful road, but went straight along the path till they came to the place where it passes over some low hills, from whence they could see the fortress which stood upon Puke-tapu. Here they sat down and rested, for the first time since they had commenced their journey. They had not yet been seen by the watchmen of the fortress. Then Hakawau, with his incantations, sent forth many genii, to attack the spirits who kept watch over the fortress and magic head of Puarata. Some of his good genii were sent by Hakawau in advance, whilst he charged others to follow at some distance. The incantations by the power of which these genii were sent forth by Hakawau was a Whangai. The genii he sent in front were ordered immediately to begin the assault. As soon as the spirits who guarded the fortress of

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[paragraph continues] Puarata saw the others, they all issued out to attack them; the good genii then feigned a retreat the evil ones following them, and whilst they were thus engaged in the pursuit some of the thousands of good genii, who had last been sent forth by Hakawau, stormed the fortress now left without defenders; when the evil spirits, who had been led away in the pursuit, turned to protect the fortress, they found that the genii of Hakawau had already got quite close to it, and the good genii of Hakawau without trouble caught them one after the other, and thus all the spirits of the old sorcerer Puarata were utterly destroyed.

When all the evil spirits who had been subject to the old sorcerer had been thus destroyed, Hakawau walked straight up towards the fortress of this fellow, in whom spirits had dwelt as thick as men stow themselves in a canoe, and whom they had used in like manner to carry them about. When the watchmen of the fortress, to their great surprise, saw strangers coming, Puarata hurried to his magic head, to call upon it; his supplication was after this mariner: 'Strangers come here! strangers come here! Two strangers come! two strangers come!' But it uttered only a low wailing sound; for since the good genii of Hakawau had destroyed the spirits who served Puarata, the old sorcerer addressed in vain his supplications to the magic head, it could no longer raise aloud its powerful voice as in former times, but uttered only low moans and wails. Could it have cried out with a loud voice, straightway Hakawau and his friend would both have perished; for thus it was, when armies and travellers had in other times passed the fortress, Puarata addressed supplications to his magic head, and when it cried out with a mighty voice, the strangers all perished as they heard it.

Hakawau and his friend had, in the meantime, continued to walk straight to the fortress. When

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they drew near it, Hakawau said to his friend: 'You go directly along the path that leads by the gateway into the fortress; as for me, I will show my power over the old sorcerer, by climbing right over the parapet and palisades': and when they reached the defences of the place, Hakawau began to climb over the palisades of the gateway. When the people of the place saw this, they were much exasperated, and desired him, in an angry manner, to pass underneath the gateway, along the pathway which was common to all, and not to dare to climb over the gateway of Puarata and of Tautohito; but Hakawau went quietly on over the gateway, without paying the least attention to the angry words of those who were calling out to him, for he felt quite sure that the two old sorcerers were not so skilful in magical arts as he was; so Hakawau persisted in going direct to all the most holy places of the fortress, where no person who had not been made sacred might enter.

After Hakawau and his friend had been for a short time in the fortress, and had rested themselves a little, the people of the place began to cook food for them; they still continued to sit resting themselves in the fortress for a long time, and at length Hakawau said to his friend: 'Let us depart.' Directly his servant heard what his master said to him, he jumped up at once and was ready enough to be off. Then the people of the place called out to them not to go immediately, but to take some food first; but Hakawau answered: 'Oh, we ate only a little while ago; not far from here we took some food.' So Hakawau would not remain longer in the fortress, but departed, and as he started, he smote his hands on the threshold of the house in which they had rested, and they had hardly got well outside of the fortress before every soul in it was dead--not a single one of them was left alive.

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