Mākutu in the Māori language of New Zealand means "witchcraft", "sorcery", "to bewitch"; and also a "spell or incantation". It may also be described as a belief in malignant occult powers possessed by certain people.
Elsdon Best (1859-1931) portrayed the belief in mākutu as "universal and prominent in pre-European times", stating that it acted as "a disciplinary force in the old days; it was one of the substitutes for civil law that preserved order in a Māori community". Best noted that the effectiveness of mākutu was heightened by the fact that it could be carried out in secret; the element of uncertainty produced caution on the part of those who might otherwise transgress the laws of the community. It was widely believed[by whom?] that those expert in mākutu were able to use the art to kill people. But there were limits on their freedom to act: should an irresponsible practitioner of the dark arts become a nuisance to a tribe, the solution to the problem simply involved killing the errant magician without delay. The training undergone by an apprentice was long and difficult, involving secret rituals and tests.
- Williams, Herbert W., 1975. A Dictionary of the Māori Language. 7th edition. Wellington: Government Printer
- The Maori: Yesterday and To-day Chapter VI. – Makutu: – The Belief in Witchcraft
- Best, Elsdon, 1982. Māori Religion and Mythology, Part 2. Dominion Museum Bulletin No.11. Museum of New Zealand: Wellington.
- "Charlatans may be to blame, says scholar". The Dominion Post. 13 November 2007. Retrieved 19 October 2011.