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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Hauhauism was the name given to the beliefs of the Paimarire Churchas revealed to, and annunciated by, its founder and prophet, Te Ua Haumene. In so far as the cult possessed clear doctrines, these were based upon an interpretation of Old Testament scriptures first revealed to Te Ua in September 1862 by the Angel Gabriel. Like certain Christian missionaries before him, Te Ua identified the Maoris with one of the lost tribes of Israel, New Zealand being “New Canaan”. The Maoris were held in bondage by European overlords and Gabriel's revelation indicated the means by which God's (Jehovah) children were to be set free. The central theme was one of salvation – not from any original sin, as the missionaries taught, but from the Pakeha and the troubles which his coming entailed. Salvation was to be attained through complete faith in the power of the “karakias” (prayers or chants) in strict adherence to the prophecies of the High Priest (Te Ua) by proper utilisation of the “anhera” (Angel Gabriel) in the Niu pole ceremonies, and by the communion of Maori minds consciously “willing” the expulsion of the Pakeha. Within this broad outline many facets of Old Testament religion became blended with Maori religious traditions and with European military ceremonial. For instance, many Hauhau karakias were meaningless to the Maori themselves, but were chanted with great fervour in the belief that Jehovah had given his children the gift of tongues.

Hauhau ceremonies centred around the “Niu” pole, which was Te Ua's particular gift to Maori religion. The basic design of this, as revealed by Gabriel, consisted of a tall central column surmounted by a crosstree, the two arms of which terminated in round wooden knobs. These knobs were the symbolic resting places of the two Hauhau gods, Riki (war god) and Ruru (peace, or the gospels), and of these the greater was Ruru. Two pennants flew from the central pole representing these gods, with the Hauhau “Church” standard between them. In the centre, and enclosing the pole, was a low picket fence, inside which the priest stood when he commenced the ceremony.

The cry Hapa, hapa, paimarire hau, which gave the sect its name, was chanted by the warriors as they ran into battle with their right hands raised. This, they believed, gave them immunity from bullets.

The sect was served by a special priesthood, Te Ua being High Priest and having five disciples. These were Matene (“Martin”), Hepanaia (killed at Sentry Hill, New Plymouth) Patara, Kereopa (who killed Volkner and who was eventually hanged), and Horomona (who killed the Government agent, Falloon). After the death or discrediting of the prophet and his disciples, in the mid 1860s, the cult faded away. Hauhauism, a religious fighting organisation, was an episode rather than a vital force in the struggle between Maori and Pakeha. At its widest extent, Taranaki, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Poverty Bay, and Hawke's Bay were disaffected, but today only a few score followers remain. It has influenced many later Maori religious movements. Te KootiRikirangi used it as a basis upon which to erect his more stable Ringatu faith; while Ratana later took over many of Te Ua's theocratic ideas, as well as a portion of the Niu ceremonial, which had been incorporated in his modern movement. Finally, the many close parallels, particularly in revealed religion, afforded between Hauhauism and Mormonism perhaps provide a clue to the latter's immense popularity among many present-day Maoris in areas once dominated by Te Ua.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • The Upraised Hand, Greenwood, William (1942) (Polynesian Society Memoir No. 21)
  • Hauhauism – An Episode in the Maori Wars 1863–66, Babbage, S. B. (1937)
  • Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 62 (1953) “The Doctrine of Hauhauism”, Winks, Robin.


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.