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Ethnology of Manihiki and Rakahanga



The public appearance of the girl took place at puberty. She had had her first menses and was considered fit for marriage. The ceremony of showing her to the people was termed whakahinga, according to Mr. Savage, and was associated with the father of the girl. Thus, if Mika was the father of the secluded girl, the approaching ceremony was promulgated through the village as “te whakahinga a Mika” (Mika's whakahinga). The event took place at a religious inclosure or marae at which the people gathered, after the announcement of time and place. The maid was dressed in a particular form of tipora garment, consisting of a sennit belt (tu kaha) supporting a small rectangular apron of plaited material (tautape) in front and a similar tautape behind. She was escorted to the gathering place by her family and on the marae was subjected to the scrutiny of the people, who appraised her physical beauty. It was stated that girls treated with seclusion and good feeding developed beautiful figures with skins of velvety softness. The brother of the girl's mother had the right to remove the maid's garment. He untied the tukaha belt and removed it, with the two tautape aprons. The girl thus stood entirely naked, but she folded her hands in front of her for concealment. The adults inspected her figure and shape. Viewed from the back, if her lower limbs were close together (piri) it was held that she had been virtuous. Her general demeanor was also observed. From the native point of view, no girl had any need to feel shame at the exposure of her naked form which custom allowed on such an occasion. If well formed, page 41 she had every reason to be proud, for the ceremony was a public honor from which she would derive the appreciation and admiration of the people. She was getting publicity that would insure an advantageous marriage. Her only cause for fear was that if she had managed to elude her guards and had given away her virginity, the fact might in some way become known to the public The shrewd onlookers studied her with the knowledge that guilt is sometimes manifested in psychological behavior.

During the ceremony on the marae the maid, from association with a religious structure, was tapu. During the period of seclusion she was also tapu, in the sense of being restricted from intercourse with outside people. After the inspection on the marae had been concluded, the maid was conducted through a complementary ceremony. Presumably her garments were restored to her, and she was taken to a place called Taipari. This excursion found expression in the words, “E ue haere ki to koutou whenua ko Taipari.” (Go to your land at Taipari.) There she was bathed, and a ceremony in which incantations and leaves were used was performed over her. No details were available, but I was informed that the ceremony made the girl noa (common), to enable her once more to mix with the public. I understood from my informants that the second ceremony was termed whakapu, but Mr. Savage seems to indicate that the word whakahinga used for the first part is an alternate term with whakapu. After the ceremony, though the girl moved about with fewer restrictions, she was still watched, as all the trouble taken was for the purpose not only of advertising the family but of making an advantageous marriage. A certain amount of restriction was enforced until the marriage was arranged and completed. The family and the social group had contributed food in order that she should be kept fair and virtuous for marriage. They had a share in her, and a worthy alliance was necessary to justify the interest and support they had given.

The whakahinga and whakapu ceremonies were observed in the few families of high rank, particularly for the high-born tapairu of the ariki families. Among the general mass of the people such restrictions were not imposed. Both sexes had early love affairs with sex experience. Sex restrictions were not actively imposed as a rule until after marriage.

I was informed that young men were also treated at puberty to seclusion and the subsequent public appearance on the marae. It was after or during the visit to Taipari that a father took his son to all the islands on which he owned property. He pointed out his shares of land and indicated the landmarks. The visit formed an instructional tour during which the boy committed the information to memory for future guidance. After this, the boy was qualified for marriage.