Waiata oriori (lullabies) were sung to the babies to reinforce the purpose and the spiritual nature of the child’s life. They are beautiful poems, and were composed to build up and mould the child as a useful member of the whanau and hapu, that is, they were a socialising tool. They linked the child to the gods as their spiritual helpers. The child’s grandparents or parents usually composed an oriori for the baby. It was sung repeatedly so that all listeners learned it and all knew the whakapapa and qualities of the child and thus, the special treatment they required. They were a poetic and repetitive way to fix personal, whanau and cultural messages in the minds of the listeners.
Some of the lullabies were centred on utu; some instructed in history and geography; and some were to identify other inherited taonga of the child41. What follows is a summary of a selection of six oriori as recorded by Apirana Ngata in Nga Moteatea and Elsdon Best in Te Whare Kohanga and its Lore.