The Maori As He Was : A Brief Account of Maori Life as it was in Pre-European Days
Textiles, Clothing, and Ornaments
Textiles, Clothing, and Ornaments
The art of weaving. Moon-goddess and her functions. Bark cloth. Maori method of weaving. The whare pora. Phormium fibre. Maori garments. Dyes. Varieties of Phormium. Decorative designs. Cordyline and Freycinetia fibres utilized. Belts Baskets. Mats. Cordage. Superstitions connected with weaving. Personal adornment. Hair-dressing. Combs. Chaplets. Plumes. Novel nose-ornament. Nose-flattening. Anklets. Ear-pendants. Greenstone pendants. Sharks' teeth as pendants. Human teeth as pendants. The koropepe. The human ear as substitute for a pocket. The heitiki. Neck-pendants. The pekapeka. Stone spools of unknown use. Scents. Oil. Face any body paints. Tattooing. Mythical origin of tattooing. Tattooing of women.
Lest our readers should think that Maori clothing may be classified with the famous snakes of Ireland, we hasten to assure them that the Maori was acquainted with a rude form of weaving, and wore garments when such did not interfere with his activities. The art of weaving is said in native myth to have originated with, or to be under the patronage of, one Hine-te-iwaiawa, also known as Hina, who is a personification of the moon. This identification of the so-called moon-goddess with the art of weaving is also noted among the beliefs of ancient Egypt. Another old Maori myth is to the effect that when Mataora visited the spirit-world he brought back with him to this world the knowledge of the art of tattooing, and also a famous cloak and belt, known as Te Rangi-haupapa and Te Ruruku-o-te-rangi. These two prized possessions were utilized as pattern garments by the women of this world, who have ever since continued to weave garments in a similar manner.
The style of weaving employed by the Maori may possibly have been introduced; information as to its existence elsewhere is not available to the writer. The same process was employed by the pre-Columbian dwellers in the Mississippi valley. It cannot be termed true weaving, but has been described as a plaiting or tying process. The clothing of the Maori in his former home in eastern Polynesia consisted of bark cloth (tapa) manufactured from the bark of the aute, or paper-mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera). This tree he imported into New Zealand, but it did not flourish in this climate, and could only be grown to a limited extent by the display of much care. Thus its bark did not furnish clothing here, but merely strips of fibrous material employed in dressing the long hair of the men. Very few specimens of this tree were seen by Cook and his companions. Nor would page 193 tapa have proved a suitable clothing material in this climate. At one time the Taranaki natives manufactured some kind of bark cloth from the whauwhi, or ribbonwood-tree. After his arrival here the Maori must soon have cast about for a substitute for the tapa of Polynesia. This he found in the fibre of the Phormium (“flax,” as we term it), a fibre that could not be beaten or pounded into a wearable fabric, hence it had to be dressed, spun, and woven. It would be of interest to know whether the settlers from eastern Polynesia invented the rude local method of weaving, or acquired it from the Mouriuri aborigines.
The so-called weaving process termed whatu by the Maori was performed without loom or shuttle; the threads were manipulated by the unaided fingers only. The only aid employed, a very crude one, consisted of two sticks or pegs inserted in an upright position in the earth (in some cases four pegs were used). When about to weave a garment a strong thread was fastened tautly in a horizontal position to the two uprights. To this thread, called the tawhiu, were attached the upper ends of the io, the warp or vertical threads that are arranged close together. The process consists of working in cross-threads from left to right, these woof threads being known as aho; they page 194 are about half an inch apart. The closer these threads are together the better the garment, for the closer is its texture. In weaving the coloured borders of a cloak, as also the pauku cape used as a defence against spears, the cross-threads are quite close together, making a close, strong, fabric like coarse canvas. In the case of fine garments four threads are employed in the forming of each aho. The operator passes two of these threads on either side of the first io, or vertical thread, thus enclosing it. In continuing the process the two pairs of threads are reversed; those that passed behind the first vertical thread would be brought in front of the next one, then behind the next, and so on. Thus each of the down threads was enclosed between two or four cross-threads every half-inch or so. This process is an extremely tedious one, and the making of a fine cloak occupied a woman for many months. The threads used consist of dressed Phormium fibre twisted by a rolling process, generally performed on the bare leg. The same rolling added to the length when required. This rolled thread is called a takerekere (east coast), the miro being a two-strand page 195 twine formed of two takerekere rolled together. The word whiri is used to denote twisting or plaiting several strands together with the fingers. Plaiting, as in mat or basket making, is raranga.
The teaching of the art of weaving the finer garments was one to which a certain amount of tapu pertained. Such accomplishments are called the art of the whare pora. When a beginner commenced to weave her “pattern piece,” one expert was present to conduct certain ceremonial and to recite charms over the pupil. One of these was to render the pupil quick to grasp the lesson received, while another was to fix the lesson in her memory. After the lesson concluded, the tapu was lifted from the participants and the proceedings.
Fig. 85.—Te Rangihaeata, Chief of Ngati-Toa. Illustrating mode of wearing cloaks
Fibre of the Phormium was carefully hand-dressed, then bleached, and in some cases dyed. That intended for the vertical threads was softened by beating it with a stone pounder, a carefully fashioned smooth-faced implement. Fibre to be used for cross-threads was not so treated. In order to cause a cloak or cape to fit over a person's shoulders a number of short aho, or cross-threads, are woven into it. These cross-threads are not continued to the edges of the garment.
The Maori wore but two garments, and these were of the same fashion for both sexes. One was a kilt-like garment worn round the waist, and secured by a belt; it descended to about the knees. The other was a rectangular garment worn over the shoulders. This latter might be a rough cape-like garment, the ordinary everyday style, or a long cloak-like garment, usually of a finer quality, as worn by superior folk; slaves and common folk would possess none of these. No form of sleeved garment had been evolved by the natives, and the upper page 196 garment was cast aside when a man was engaged in any work. Women or girls occasionally wore a kind of apron—some triangular (maro kopua), others rectangular (maro waiapu). Cook seems to have seen such garments adorned with shells.
Cloaks and capes were often worn to meet on the right side, so as to tie on the right shoulder, but sometimes so as to meet in front, or passed under the left arm and tied over the right shoulder. Women found it convenient to wear such garments so as to meet in front. Children wore no clothing until about ten years of age, save under unusual conditions. Truly the Maori of old was a hardy creature! No form of hat was worn, the tipare being but a chaplet or band to retain plumes; the potae also was a mere circlet—it had no top. It was the usual thing to go barefooted, sandals being used only in very cold or rough places.
The dyes employed by the Maori in former times may be said to have been both vegetable and mineral, but mostly the former. The colour black was obtained by first steeping fibre in water in which crushed hinau bark had been soaked, and then burying it in dark-coloured mud. It is left in such mud for about twenty-four hours, then taken out and washed, when it is found to be of a deep black hue, and this black dye does not fade. When the fibre is taken from the wai hinau, or bark decoction, it is by no means black, but is of a light-brown colour; the black colour is imparted to it by the mud. Quite possibly the water, affected by the bark, acts as a mordant. Not only is this dyeing process employed for the dressed fibre of the Phormium, but also for the raw leaf, strips of which are dyed and used in the manufacture of baskets and sleeping-mats. The barks of tawai (Fagus) and of tawhero (Weinmannia) are used for the above purpose in some cases, as when hinau (Elaeocarpus) is not procurable.
The reddish-brown dye formerly used was obtained from the bark of the tanekaha (Phyllocladus). The bark was pounded to break it up, then placed in a wooden trough into which water was poured, and then the fibre to be dyed was immersed in the water. Stones heated in an adjacent fire were then put in the water, this process being repeated for some time. This stone-boiling process was slow but effective, and brought out the colouring-matter contained in the bark. In late times iron vessels have been employed for this heating purpose. I have seen native women take this dyed fibre and place it among hot, page 197 page 198 page 199 clean ashes from a wood-fire for a while. This is said to prevent the colour fading.
A blue-black dye is said to have been occasionally obtained from the tupakihi, whawhakou, and mako trees (Coriaria, Eugenia, and Aristotelia). A yellow dye was gained from the raurekau (Coprosma), though not widely used. Mr. White tells us that bark of the puriri (Vitex lucens) was sometimes mixed with that of the tanekaha to obtain a brownish-yellow dye. Another dye he mentions is a yellow one obtained from a mixture of tanekaha bark with a small plant called kakariki. This plant is not known to us.
Natives recognize a number of varieties of Phormium, each of which has its special name. The quality of the fibre of these varieties differs widely, and the leaves (wha) differ in form and colour. The Tuhoe folk give names of nine such varieties, of which oue is the best. Whanganui natives also give nine names of varieties, only two of which are the same as the Tuhoe terms. In neither list does the name tihore appear, this being the name of the best variety in some districts. In former times the superior kinds were often cultivated at places adjacent to a village, and such a pa harakeke was carefully tended by the women, each pu (flax clump) being kept free of dead leaves, and cut in a judicious manner. In some districts no good variety was found indigenous, and all desired superior fibre had to be cultivated.
The superior fibre only was employed in the manufacture of fine or superior cloaks and capes, such as the aronui and paepaeroa. Some of these were adorned with coloured borders (white, red, and black) worked in geometric patterns, the triangle being much in evidence. Such borders were attached after the weaving of the body of the cloak had been completed. Mr. S. Percy Smith tells us that these designs are also seen on the garments worn by the natives of Pleasant Island. Some of these Maori capes consisted of a body or groundwork to which feathers or strips of dog-skin were fastened. The feather-covered garments were exceedingly tedious to make, each feather being arranged and secured separately during the process of weaving the groundwork. Those covered with the red feathers of the kaka parrot were very showy, and highly prized.
Superior cloaks were often fastened with cloak-pins formed of bone, ivory, or shell, some straight, but many were curved; these latter are known as aurei—autui being a generic term.page 200
When the natives first acquired European garments they utilized them in a very singular manner in many cases. They had been accustomed to plain rectangular garments that were simply wrapped round the body, and the intricacies of European clothing, with the different garments for the two sexes, were too puzzling to be readily grasped. Thus the most absurd and grotesque sights were seen by early travellers and visitors to these shores. Coats and trousers were often worn back to front. Shirts did duty as kilts, even as trousers, the wearer's legs being thrust through the sleeves. One burly native was detected in a vain attempt to force his legs through the sleeves of a coat. Polack mentions seeing a man wearing a black stocking on one arm and a white sock on the other; also, his nether garments faced the wrong way. The Rev. Mr. Yate speaks of a man walking into church wearing the sleeves of a gown as stockings, while two small baskets were fastened on his feet as shoes. He had a wealth of page 201 female gowns, and had donned one after another so that a portion of each one was visible. This choice custume was completed by a pair of trousers tied round the neck. In 1850 a Rotorua native came to greet Sir George Grey with a stocking on one leg, a broken Wellington boot on the other, a striped shirt worn as a kilt, and a soldier's bearskin shako much the worse for wear.
The strong, fibrous leaves of Cordyline and of Freycinetia were utilized to a very much less extent than the so-called flax. Those of the toi (C. indivisa) were employed in the manufacture of strong, coarse, rainproof shoulder-capes that were much more durable than those made of Phormium.
Belts (tatua) were usually made from the same material as garments, the far-spread Phormium; but occasionally other materials were used, such as Freycinetia and pingao, page 202 page 203 page 204 page 205 a seaside plant with yellow-red leaves. Flax belts were often plaited in patterns with black and white stripes. These belts tied with a string. Women often wore a belt composed of many strands of plaited fibre, or of the fragrant leaves of the karetu (Hierochloe redolens). The tatua pupara, a form of belt worn by men, was made double by folding, and this belt was often used as a pocket, a receptacle for small objects.
Baskets were a very important article in a native household. They were plaited from Phormium strips as a rule; occasionally other materials were used. Coarse ones were used for domestic and field work; finer ones, worked in varied designs of black and white, were employed for other purposes. Some were made with a flap, and these were much used to keep small articles in, and were often carried by travellers for that purpose. A pocketless garment is a great drawback, and the basket replaced pockets among the Maori folk.page 206 page 207
Floor-mats were made by the same plaiting process as that employed in belt-making. Coarse mats, called tuwhara and whariki, were used for laying on fern-fronds or Lycopodium spread on a hut-floor, and finer, closely woven mats, termed takapau, were placed over them. These latter were often fine white fabrics made from bleached strips of the kiekie, or Freycinetia. Large mats were made in several widths (papa) or sections, which were joined together.
It was considered unlucky to weave a superior garment in the open air, or to do such work after sunset; but, at the same time, it was unlucky to leave a woof thread incomplete. Exception was taken to strangers seeing the weaving operations of a family, and such work would be put away when strange folk were about. Many superstitions, prejudices, and queer conceits exist in connection with Maori weaving, as with all other native activities.page 208
A considerable variety of cordage, rope, and twine was manufactured by natives. Round, flat, and square plaits were used. The following are some of the names used:—
Tawai, tamarua—a twist of two strands.
Paraharaha—a flat plait of three strands.
Kawe—a plait of three strands.
Tuapuku, iwituna—a round plait of four strands.
Puku—a plait of four strands.
Tuamaka, tamaka—a round plait of five strands.
Tari karakia, whiri o Raukatauri—a square plait of eight strands.
Pekapeka—a flat plait of nine strands.
Whiri taura kaka—a square plait of ten strands.
As is the case with most people of the barbaric culture stage, the Maori was much given to personal adornment, albeit it was confined in most cases to special occasions, as social meetings and functions of divers kinds. As a people our native folk cannot be said to have been a cleanly race; a colder climate doubtless had its effect in restricting bathing as compared with the Polynesian area. The practice of smearing the body and head with a mixture of ochre and oil was in itself an offensive one. The observation of tapu often made for dirtiness and a slovenly appearance. When about to adorn himself for some function, however, the Maori might indulge in a partial bath. He would then repair to the nearest creek, for, like our own folk of a few decades ago, he did not possess the luxury of a bathroom. Allowing that he did so wash himself, the next operation was the adornment of his head, and this process was often a lengthy one, probably performed by his wife.
In former times the Maori reversed our mode of tending the hair; as a rule the men wore their hair long, and the women cut theirs short, or comparatively so. Occasionally women seem to have worn their hair long, and to have arranged it on the head as men did. In such cases it would be difficult to distinguish between the sexes at a little distance. Men tied their long hair on the top of the head in a knob, and in this knot they might place feathers or a head-comb. These combs were made from bone or hard wood, and the bone ones were sometimes adorned with page 209 page 210 small counter-sunk pieces of Haliotis shell and carved designs. In many cases the long hair was drawn up on the top of the head and a tie secured round it; this clump was called a putiki. The loose ends were then brought down and again tied. In some cases the hair was passed through a small wooden hoop, then brought down outside the hoop so as to cover it, and secured under it with a tie. Again, the hair seems to have been plaited and tied up on the head. In other cases a man's hair was gathered and tied in several bunches. To cut the hair off close to the head, except a long lock on the side, was a token of mourning. Sharp-edged flakes of obsidian were employed wherewith to cut hair. Crozet tells us that natives of the page 211 Bay of Islands tied up their long hair on top of their heads and cut it off above the tie, leaving a brush-like top-knot. Parkinson states that a shark's tooth was used in cutting hair or shaving the head. Of the Maori mode of dressing hair he remarks, “Some of them had their hair most curiously brought up to their crowns, rolled round, and knotted.” Of others, seen near Palliser Bay, he tells us that their hair was knotted up on the crown in two bunches, one of which was plaited. Banks says that sometimes they had one knot on each side, and pointed forward, presenting a disagreeable appearance. He also remarks that the women seldom decorated their heads.
Prized ornaments, such as plumes and valuable greenstone pendants, were kept in small boxes called waka huia and waka kautuku. These boxes were often adorned with carved designs exceedingly well executed.
A tipare or pare (chaplet or fillet) was sometimes worn, as during functions of a social character. These often served to contain or retain plumes worn as a head-dress. Strips of tapa, of the inner bark of the ribbonwood-tree, and of leaves of Celmisia were used in hair-dressing as ties, &c. The white-tipped feathers of the huia were highly prized for head-decoration, as also were certain feathers of the white heron, the tropic-bird, and a few others in lesser degree. A very curious form of decoration was that termed by early voyagers the “spritsail-yard.” It consists of two long plumes (wing or tail feathers) thrust through the septum of the nose, and projecting horizontally on either side of the face—a truly grotesque sight. The writer has seen men so adorned, but Dr. Thomson tells us that the custom was also practised among women.
Yate, Taylor, and some other early writers have told us that native mothers were in the habit of pressing the noses of babes in order to flatten them. Presumably this custom was inherited from olden times, when the straight - nosed Polynesian immigrants mated with the flat-nosed aboriginal women.
Anklets, termed tauri komore, were occasionally worn by women. These were formed of a woven band of Phormium fibre, adorned with coloured patterns (taniko) in some cases. Others were of plaited grass, or strings of shells. Sometimes a young woman would have bands of tattooing to resemble anklets. There is some evidence to show that simple forms of bracelets were occasionally page 212 worn, but apparently not often. The hangaroa with which anklets and belts for young women were adorned were probably Dentalium shells.
Ear-pendants.—The generic term for ear-pendants is mau taringa. It is not assured that whakakai is a precise synonym, but it certainly includes all ear-pendants of stone. The kope, or turuki, is an ear-ornament of aute. Pohoi are bunches of feathers suspended from the ears, often composed of soft, white down obtained from sea-birds, such as that of the albatross (awe toroa). Kahu raurekau, a thin, film-like white tissue stripped from leaves of Coprosma grandifolia, was also used as an ear-ornament.
Greenstone ear-pendants were the most highly prized ones; but that name, also the native term pounamu, includes several different kinds of stone, as nephrite, bowenite, serpentine, malachite, &c. The kuru mahora is a straight stone pendant; the kuru kapeu, or kapeu, or tautau, has a curve at its lower extremity; the kuru papa is a flattened form. Kuru tongarerewa simply implies a page 213 pendant fashioned from the kind of greenstone called tongarerewa. Koko has a similar meaning to that of kuru, apparently, as we see in koko tangiwai, a bowenite pendant. The tara pounamu is another form of greenstone pendant; the poria, whakarupe, pau, pirori, and motoi are yet others.
Another highly prized ear-pendant was the shark's tooth—the tooth of the porbeagle shark (Lamna cornubica), called mako by the Maori; it is also known as ngutukao. A few greenstone ear-pendants made in the form of these sharks' teeth have been seen. Human teeth—those of relatives—were sometimes worn as ear-pendants. Inasmuch as the garments of the Maori lacked pockets, it was quite a common practice to carry small implements suspended from the ears; thus small stone chisels were often so carried, and if that chisel were a greenstone one, then the pendant was viewed as a desirable decoration apart from its usefulness. A peculiar pendant, of which but few have been seen, is the koropepe, made in the form of a coiled page 214 page 215 snake; several specimens made from greenstone (nephrite) are known.
In modern times the Maori has been much in the habit of carrying his pipe in his ear, the stem thrust through its aperture. When early traders brought many articles unknown to the Maori, such items as were small were often carried by natives in their ears, apparently on account of their novelty. Thus, as Thomson says, gun-swivels, coins, and small bottles were used as ear-pendants; also buttons, buckles, and all sorts of odd things. Nicholas remarks that the hippocampus was dried and worn as an ear-pendant by natives. Banks tells us that when the voyagers gave them nails the natives often thrust them into their ears, and so carried them. Missionary Yate wrote: “I have frequently seen dead birds with the head squeezed through the hole made in a person's ear, where it has remained until it rotted off; and I have seen live birds served in the same way, and allowed to hang there and flap their wings and struggle till they were dead.”
Neck-pendants.—In neck-pendants we do not find so wide a range. The most highly prized of such decorations was the tiki, or heitiki. This odd-looking, grotesque object has been the subject of much speculation and some erroneous statements. It is a rudely fashioned figure intended to represent the human embryo, and it was viewed as a fertilizing agent, hence it was properly worn by women only. The tiki is a phallic symbol. In native myth we note that the first tiki (which is, properly speaking, the correct name of the pendant) was made for page 216 one Hine-te-iwaiwa, or Hina, who is the being presiding over women's handicrafts, and also childbirth. Hina is the personified form of the moon. The prefixed word hei simply denotes a neck-pendant, and tiki was a very old sacerdotal term for the phallus. Most tiki were fashioned from greenstone, but a few were of ivory and bone. The variety of greenstone called kahurangi was the most highly prized, inanga taking second place in native estimation. The fashioning of these figures from a stone somewhat harder than steel was an extremely slow task, and was effected principally by grinding processes.
The heitiki appearing on page 217 is said to have been obtained by one of Cook's officers. It is now (1915) in the possession of Mr. John Baillie. Its length is 6¾ in. (Photo supplied by Mr. A. T. Bates.)
The pekapeka, or kapakapa, was another peculiar form of neck-pendant; some fine greenstone ones have been preserved, but it was not so common as the tiki. Early voyagers tell us of necklaces of shark's teeth, of bones cut into lengths, and of shell. Forster tells us that green and red ornaments, such as beads, were preferred in page 217 page 218 New Zealand, black ones at Tonga, and white at Tahiti. The same writer saw necklaces of human teeth among the Maoris. Fossil shells of Dentalium were used for necklaces, and imitation teeth fashioned from shell, found in middens, &c., were probably used in the same manner. The triangular teeth of the great blue shark were possibly formed into necklaces, as they are found in a perforated condition, and trimmed as though for being placed side by side.
An article of unknown use is a cylindrical object of black stone with projecting rims. These outstanding rims are from two to five in number, and are usually serracted. One side of the spool-like object is usually flattened, as though intended to lie on or against a flat surface, and all are pierced longitudinally by a hole that has cost much time to bore. Such boring was done from both ends. They are most carefully made, extremely symmetrical, and have been found from the North Cape to Invercargill. Some curiously unlikely theories as to their use have been evolved by enthusiasts. One that sees in it a form of drill-control is one of the most improbable. Some well-fashioned bone objects of somewhat similar form, but without the high rims and flattened side, have probably been strung together; they were found all together at an old village site.
Flowers were not often employed as personal decorations in former times. A number of odd articles were occasionally used as ornaments, but the above-mentioned articles give a fair idea of native objects of adornment.
Clear pools of water were utilized as mirrors by persons engaged in decorating themselves in the manner Maori. Such pools were called wai whakaata and wai rakaia. Rakai and rakei mean “to adorn”; and the word hakari has a similar meaning.
A kind of sachet containing fragrant leaves was sometimes worn suspended from the neck, also occasionally a bird-skin that had been saturated in scented oil and rolled up. Oil obtained from the seeds of the titoki was made fragrant by means of various herbs, &c., and used for oiling the hair. Leaves of koareare (Panax Edgerleyi), of heketara (Olearia Cunninghamii), of tarata (Pittosporum eugenioides), &c., and a moss called kopuru were so used; also the gum of tarata and of taramea (Aciphylla) were so employed.
Oil obtained from the livers of certain species of sharks was used in mixing paints for personal use, or for painting canoes, houses, &c. It usually possessed a highly objectionable odour—at least, to Europeans; natives did page 219 not mind the smell. The Maori was much given to bedaubing himself with red ochre (kokowai, horu) mixed with oil. Occasionally a blue paint was made from pukepoto, a blue earth; also black, or which charcoal formed the basis, and white made from taioma, a white clay. If sufficient paint were available a man would smear himself all over with it. The Rev. R. Taylor remarks that the oil and ochre served as a protection against mosquitoes, and also against cold. The different designs painted on a person's face were known as tuhi kohuru, tuhi mareikura, &c. The mythical origin of the red ochreous earth is that it is the result of the blood of the Sky Parent Rangi that soaked into the body of the Earth Mother. When their unruly offspring separated the primal parents, Rangi clung so fast to the Earth Mother that it was found necessary to cut off his arms, hence the flow of blood.
Tattooing.—The art of tattooing, so widely practised throughout the world, was universally known in these isles, where it was practised by both sexes. Women invariably had the lips and chin tattooed, sometimes a small design on the forehead, and, rarely, the ngu or nose design. Some had short straight lines marked on the legs. Shortland mentions a woman of the South Island who had one half of her face (only) tatooed all over as that of a man. D'Urville saw, in the same region, a woman with her face wholly tattooed. Bidwill saw a woman with her buttocks tattooed like those of a man. Of natives seen in the vicinity of Bream Head, Parkinson says they lacked spiral designs on their faces, the style being different to anything seen before. This unusual form is probably that illustrated in his work.
Dr. Savage speaks of a semicircular figure over each eyebrow as a part of a woman's tattoo, but this has not come down to our time; it may have been a merely local usage. Crozet says that the Bay of Islands natives had the figure S tattooed on their hands—again probably a local practice. Taylor speaks of women having a little curl at the corner of the eye.
A fully tattooed man had his face covered with designs of varied form; also his buttocks and thighs were so adorned. Curiously enough, the breasts and arms were not tattooed. Occasionally, perhaps, some man might have a design marked on his breast; early writers seem to have seen such things. Mr. John White speaks of men having a large design of a fern-leaf tattooed on the back; but corroboration seems to be lacking. The Maori did not, so far as we know, copy such natural objects in his artistic work.page 220
Many brief accounts of Maori tattooing have been published, and these do not agree as to the method employed. Some say that the instrument was dipped into prepared pigment for each insertion; others that the pigment was rubbed into the cut, or that a wisp of tow saturated in the pigment was drawn across the incision when made. The first-mentioned method is the one I have seen employed by natives, though possibly details differed in page 221 page 222 different districts. The pigment was made from soot obtained from the burning of resinous wood or the gum of the kauri pine. The Tuhoe folk burned the curious object known as vegetating or vegetable caterpillar in order to use the residue for black pigment. Such soot was mixed with water or the juice of berries of the mahoe tree, formed into lumps and so kept for years. In this condition it was called kauri. The design was first traced, and then the operator dipped his little uhi, or adze-shaped implement, into the pigment, placed it on the traced line, and struck it a sharp tap with a piece of wood held in his right hand. This process was continued, but, being very severe, little could be done at one time.
[Note added by NZETC as annotator:]
Description: Fig. 105.—Maori tattooing
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The instrument used, the uhi, was usually made from a piece of albatross-bone, ground flat, thin and pointed, and with a cutting-edge of varying width, up to a quarter of an inch. It was hafted as is an adze—i.e., at a right angle to the handle—and the cutting-edge of the blade also at a page 223 right angle to the same. A few men made a profession of this art of tattooing, and were paid for their services in such articles as garments, objects of adornment, and implements. In order to be well adorned with finely-executed designs we are told that it was necessary to pay the artist a good price, otherwise the work would be performed in a hasty and careless manner.
The art of tattooing is said in native myth to have been introduced by one Mataora, previous to which man was adorned with painted patterns only. Mataora is said to have visited Rarohenga, the subterranean spirit-world, and to have acquired there the art of ta moko, which he brought back to this world. Some see in this myth a perverted remembrance of a voyage made by some old-time Polynesian ancestor to a land where tattooing was practised.
We are told that, originally, the only designs tattooed on women were a cross on each cheek, and one on the forehead. As a matter of fact, we do not find these Maori tattoo designs in Polynesia.
The act of tattooing a person of importance had a considerable amount of tapu pertaining to it, inasmuch as the process meant the shedding of blood. It was thus performed out-of-doors, perhaps under a rude temporary shelter. The conclusion of the ordeal was often marked by a social function, a meeting of the neighbouring peoples, and a ceremonial feast. When a girl of position had her lips tattooed the function was sometimes marked by a form of human sacrifice. Such person, however, was not slain as an offering to the gods, or for any truly ritual purpose, but simply to add éclat to the occasion, and to provide a prized dish at the feast. When such a girl had passed through the ordeal, she was adorned with fine garments, with pendants, albatross plumes (kaiwharawhara), and other decorations, then exhibited to the people.
Some unusual forms of tattoo occurred in the South Island, but, unfortunately, intelligent and interested observers were lacking in that district, and so no ethnographical data were there collected. Colenso was of the opinion that the curious face designs illustrated by Parkinson represented a southern practice. He himself had seen a few persons so tattooed, but does not tell us in what district he saw them. Tattooing on the tongue, practised by the Hawaiians, does not seem to have been favoured here, though an east coast tradition makes some reference to it. Men occasionally had the penis tattooed; among women the tara whakairo was rare.