David Bain's mother Margaret Bain was involved with a lot of "new age things", and some people would say she was "slightly mental", one of her friends told the High Court at Christchurch today.

Margaret also believed she was related to Winston Churchill and the emperors of Egypt in a past life, Barbara Short told the court.

Margaret would also use a pendulum to "divine" her choices about what she should buy.

Mrs Short, a retired school teacher living in Sydney, lived and taught at a school in Papua New Guinea and met Robin and Margaret Bain there.

Speaking via video link, she told the High Court today that the Bains later visited her in Sydney, and she visited the Bains in Dunedin after they returned to New Zealand in 1988.

During her visit she noticed a spiritual divide between Robin and Margaret.

The court has heard that the pair were separated prior to five of the family dying of gunshot wounds in June, 1994. David Bain, 37, is on trial for the murders.

During the Bains' stay in Sydney, Mrs Short said Margaret told her about her belief in past lives, and how she believed they were closely related in a previous life.

Margaret also told her she believed she was related to Winston Churchill and the emperors in Egypt in a previous life. Mrs Short said she was very concerned about this.

Mrs Short said Robin asked her to travel to Dunedin because he thought she could help Margaret.

During her visit to Dunedin in 1991, Robin was sleeping in the caravan at the rear of the family home, and Mrs Short said she slept in the bedroom that belonged to Laniet Bain.

On the first morning of her stay, Mrs Short heard Robin come in to the house, and she went in to a front room to find him praying. She recalled he was on a bean bag with his hands to his head, and his elbows on his knees.

The prosecution say David Bain shot dead his father while he was kneeling and praying in this room, but Mrs Short said she did not see Robin kneeling.

Margaret would not get out of bed until about 11am or midday. She did not bother with breakfast, Mrs Short said.

The Bain family had joined a group of Quakers and would have meditation sessions, Mrs Short said. She learned that Margaret was also using a pendulum, to "divine" her choices on what she bought.

Margaret wanted Robin to do more around the house, and would have wanted to go back to work. But Robin was the old-fashioned type and wanted to be the breadwinner, and for Margaret to stay home.

Mrs Short said Margaret talked to her a lot about Robin, and she was standing up for Robin a lot of the time.

"I myself think she wanted him to change and accept her beliefs that she was getting from her meditation and from her god."

Robin was praying and getting certain things from his god.

"The problem between them was spiritual."

They would pray for each other to change, Mrs Short said.

She said she felt sorry for the children, because Margaret was very bossy. The family came to understand Margaret's beliefs and "a little madness".

On the surface, Robin and Margaret still seemed to have a loving relationship, but wanted different things. She did hear at least one decent argument which she felt was put on for her benefit.

David Bain, 37, is on trial for murdering his parents and three siblings in their Dunedin home on the morning of June 20, 1994. His defence team say his father Robin, 58, shot dead the family before turning the rifle on himself.