the tohunga who foretold the disaster
Tūhoto Ariki was one of the last of the ancient tohunga. He lived at Te Wairoa and was believed to be over 100 years old. He lived alone and was held in awe by the Tūhourangi hapū.
The sighting of the waka wairua about two weeks before the eruption confirmed the old man’s fears for the area and he at once predicted destruction.
“He tohu tēnei, arā kia horo tātau i tēnei takiwā” – it is an omen, a sign and a warning that all this region will be overwhelmed.
Later, to Māori survivors, it seemed that he had caused the eruption. He was therefore left entombed in his whare to avoid further disasters.
However, on 14th June 1886 rescuers dug him out, finding him still alive after 104 hours! The fact that he had survived so long, buried under a mass of mud and ash, enhanced the view that he was a man of great power.
Tūhoto Ariki was taken to Rotorua Sanitorium Hospital where, on arrival, the doctor decided to wash and cut his hair, thereby breaching the belief that the head of a tohunga is tapū. At first he seemed to be recovering, but his condition deteriorated and he died on 1st July..
Qualities: identity, wellbeing, relationships
Did you know?
You can still visit the whare at Buried Village of Te Wairoa where Tūhoto Ariki lived when he was buried by the eruption before being rescued.
More to watch:
About the Tarawera eruption:
More to read:
See the famous portrait of Tūhoto Ariki by Gottfried Lindauer:
This entry is related to these other entries:
Alf Warbrick’s brave rescue efforts; Hinemihi of the Golden Eyes
Rotorua Museum Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa