Single Combats Sacrificing the Slain…

At times the whole army, except the reserve, engaged at once, but their battles were most commonly a succession of skirmishes, or partial engagements. The hooparau, single combat, was not unusual. A haughty and boastful warrior would advance beyond the line of his companions, and toho or aa, (insult,) in opprobrious terms the whole army of his enemies. A warrior from that army would hasten to meet him, and the encounter was continued till one was disabled or slain. We do not know whether, like the Grecian heroes, these combatants addressed each other before engaging in the mortal strife, as did their neighbours in the southern seas. There the challenger, when he beheld his antagonist approaching, would exclaim, “Who are you, that come to contend with me?—I am so and so, who slew such a one, whose name is famous to the farthest of these islands; the son of such a one, who achieved such an action: are you come to add to our fame?” The other would answer, “I am such a one, the son of so and so, who performed such an action, celebrated in every island.” And after much more rhodomontade, one would ask the other, “Know you how to lift the spear?” or club ; and immediately commence the combat. We are not certain, but think it probable, that, like the Society Islanders, they had orators, whose duty it was to go through the camp, and through the ranks, on the day of battle, stimulating the men, by reciting, with most violent gesticulations, the warlike deeds of their ancestors, and the victories their island or district had formerly obtained. Their battles were with confused noise, and boastful shouts. The first that either party slew, they called erehua; frequently the victor jumped upon the expiring body, or, spurning it contemptuously, dedicated its spirit to his gods. He then cut or tore off the hair from the top of the forehead, and, elevating it in the air, shouted aloud, He oho, a frontlet; and if it was a chief or warrior of note he had slain, his name was added. He oho He oho! Was reiterated through the ranks of the victor, while he despoiled the fallen warrior of his ornaments, and then dragged the heana, slain body, to the king, or the priest, who, in a short address, offered the victim to his god. The first offering they called urukoko, increasing blood. The second slain was called maka-wai, face of water, and the third herua-oni, sand-dug. They were all likewise brought and offered to the gods on the field.  (Ellis)

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 (These are excerpts from a book by William Ellis that has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired.)


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