A poem, or mourning chant, of the Maoris of New Zealand has many references to the deeds of their ancestors in Hawaiki, which in this case surely has reference to the Hawaiian Islands. Among the first lines of this poem is the expression, "Kewa was deceived." An explanatory note is given which covers almost two pages of the journal of the Polynesian Society in which the poem is published. In this note the outline of the story of the deceiving of Kewa is quite fully translated, and is substantially the same as "The Bride from the Under-world."
"The Deceiving of Kewa," as the New Zealand story is called, has this record among the Maoris. "This narrative is of old, of ancient times, very, very old. 'The Deceiving of Kewa' is an old, old story." Milu in some parts of the Pacific is the name of the place where the spirits of the dead dwell. Sometimes it is the name of the ruler of that place. In this ancient New Zealand legend it takes the place of Hiku, and is the name of the person who goes down into the depths after his bride, while the spirit-king is called Kewa, a part of the name Kewalu, which was the name of the Hawaiian bride whose ghost was brought back from the grave.
This, then, is the New Zealand legend, "The Deceiving of Kewa." There once lived in Hawaiki a chief and his wife. They had a child, a girl, born to them; then the mother died. The chief took another wife, who was not pleasing 1- the people. His anger was so great that the chief went away to the great forest of Tane (the god Kane in Hawaiian), and there built a house for himself and his wife.
After a time a son was born to them and the father named him Miru. This father was a great tohunga (kahuna), or
priest, as well as a chief. He taught Miru all the supreme kinds of knowledge, all the invocations and incantations, those for the stars, for the winds, for foods, for the sea, and for the land. He taught him the peculiar incantations which would enable him to meet all cunning tricks and enmities of man. He learned also all the great powers of witchcraft. It is said that on one occasion Miru and his father went to a river, a great river. Here the child experimented with his powerful charms. He was a child of the forest and knew the charm which could conquer the trees. Now there was a tall tree growing by the side of the river. When Miru saw it he recited his incantations. As he came to the end the tree fell, the head reaching right across the river. They left the tree lying in this way that it might be used as a bridge by the people who came to the river. Thus he was conscious of his power to correctly use the mighty invocations which his father had taught him.
The years passed and the boy became a young man. His was a lonely life, and he often wondered if there were not those who could be his companions. At last he asked his parents: "Are we here, all of us? Have I no other relative in the world?"
His parents answered, "You have a sister, but she dwells at a distant place."
When Miru heard this he arose and proceeded to search for his sister, and he happily came to the very place where she dwelt. There the young people were gathered in their customary place for playing teka (Hawaiian keha). The teka was a dart which was thrown along the ground, usually the hard beach of the seashore. Miru watched the game for some time and then returned to his home in the forest. He told his father about the teka and the way it was played. Then the chief prepared a teka for Miru, selected from the best tree and fashioned while appropriate charms were repeated.
Miru threw his dart along the slopes covered by the forest and its underbrush, but the ground was uneven and the undergrowth retarded the dart. Then Miru found a plain and practised until he was very expert.
After a while he came to the place where his sister lived. When the young people threw their darts he threw his. Aha! it flew indeed and was lost in the distance, When the sister beheld him she at once felt a great desire toward him.
The people tried to keep Miru with them, pleading with him to stay, and even following him as he returned to his forest home , but they caught him not. Frequently he repeated his visits, but never stayed long.
The sister, whose name is not given in the New Zealand legends, was disheartened, and hanged herself until she was dead. The body was laid in its place for the time of wailing. Miru and his father came to the uhunga, or place of mourning. The people had not known that Miru was the brother of the one who was dead. They welcomed the father and son according to their custom. Then the young man said, "After I leave, do not bury my sister." So the body was left in its place when the young man arose.
He went on his way till he saw a canoe floating. He then gave the command to his companions and they all paddled away in the canoe. They paddled on for a long distance, in fact to Rerenga-wai-rua, the point of land in New Zealand from which the spirits of the dead take their last leap as they go down to the Under-world. When they reached this place they rested, and Miru let go the anchor. He then said to his companions, "When you see the anchor rope shaking, pull it up, but wait here for me."
The young man then leaped into the water and went down, down near the bottom, and then entered a cave. This cave was the road by which the departed spirits went to spirit-land. Miru soon saw a house standing there. It was the home of Kewa, the chief of the Under-world. Within the house was his sister in spirit form.
Miru carried with him his nets which were given magic power with which he hoped to catch the spirit of his sister. In many ways he endeavored to induce her ghost to come forth from the house of Kewa, but she would not come. He commenced whipping his top in the yard outside, but could not attract her attention. At last he set up a swing and many of the ghosts joined in the pastime. For a long time the sister remained within, but eventually came forth induced by the attraction of the swing and by the appearance of Miru. Miru then took the spirit in his arms and began to swing.
Higher and higher they rose whilst he incited the ghosts to increase to the utmost the flight of the moari, or swing. On reaching the highest point he gathered the spirit of the sister into his net, then letting go the swing away they flew and alighted quite outside the spirit-land.
Thence he went to the place where the anchor of the floating canoe was. Shaking the rope his friends understood the signal. He was drawn up with the ghost in his net. He entered the canoe and returned home. On arrival at the settlement the people were still lamenting. What was that to him? Taking the spirit he laid it on the dead body, at the same time reciting his incantations. The spirit gradually entered the body and the sister was alive again. This is the end of the narrative, but it is of old, of ancient times, very, very old. "The Deceiving of Kewa" is an old, old story.
In the Maori poem in which the reference to Kewa is made which brought out the above translation of one of the old New Zealand stories are also many other references to semi-historical characters and events. At the close of the poem is the following note: "The lament is so full of references to the ancient history of the Maoris that it would take a volume to explain them all. Most of the incidents referred to occurred in Hawaiki before the migration of the Maoris to New Zealand or at least five hundred to six hundred years ago."
Another New Zealand legend ought to be noticed in connection with the Hawaiian story of Hiku (Miru, New Zealand) seeking his sister in the Under-world. In what is probably the more complete Hawaiian story Hiku had a magic arrow which flew long distances and led him to the place where his sister-wife could be found.
In a New Zealand legend a magic dart leads a chief by the name of Tama in his search for his wife, who had been carried away to spirit-land. He threw the dart and followed it from place to place until he found a wrecked canoe, near which lay the body of his wife and her companions. He tried to bring her back to life, but his incantations were not strong enough to release the spirit.
Evidently the Hawaiian legend became a little fragmentary while being transplanted from the Hawaiian Islands to New Zealand. Hiku, the young chief who overcomes Miru of the spirit-world, loses his name entirely. Kewalu, the sister, also loses her name, a part of which, Kewa, is given to the ruler of the Under-world, and the magic dart is placed in the hands of Tama in an entirely distinct legend which still keeps the thought of the wife-seeker. There can scarcely be any question but that the original legend belongs to the Hawaiian Islands, and was carried to New Zealand in the days of the sea-rovers.