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Mākutu in the Māori language of New Zealand means "witchcraft", "sorcery", "to bewitch"; and also a "spell or incantation".[1][2] 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".[3] 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?][citation needed] that those expert in mākutu were able to use the art to kill people.[citation needed] 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.[3]

An October 2007 mākutu-lifting in the Lower Hutt suburb of Wainuiomata led to the death by drowning of a woman and the hospitalisation of a teen, allegedly due to attempts to remove such a curse.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Williams, Herbert W., 1975. A Dictionary of the Māori Language. 7th edition. Wellington: Government Printer
  2. ^ The Maori: Yesterday and To-day Chapter VI. – Makutu: – The Belief in Witchcraft
  3. ^ a b Best, Elsdon, 1982. Māori Religion and Mythology, Part 2. Dominion Museum Bulletin No.11. Museum of New Zealand: Wellington.
  4. ^ "Charlatans may be to blame, says scholar". The Dominion Post. 13 November 2007. Retrieved 19 October 2011.