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The Whare Kohanga (The "Nest House") and its Lore

Ceremonial Ear-Piercing

Ceremonial Ear-Piercing

This practice seems to have been viewed as a somewhat important one in India and Burma, as it was among the Maori folk, at least among the higher-class families. All my notes pertain, I find, to the ceremony as performed over female infants, although males also wore ear-pendants in former times. Pendants were sometimes suspended from a child's neck long before its ears were pieced. The operation was performed when a child was four or five years old. In the case of an infant of a high-class family the piercing might be done by a near relative or by some expert at such work—by the ubiquitous tohunga, perchance. Occasionally the piercing-instrument was fashioned from human bone, the bone of an enemy; but iwi toroa (albatross-bone) seems to have been more commonly used. In the former case the bodkin-like instrument would be known by the name of the hapless individual who had furnished the bone. The human-bone tools were prized for the purpose of piercing the ears of boys. So it might be asked, "Ko wai rawa te iwi i pokaia ai o taringa?" ("Whose bone was it by means of which your ears were pierced?"). The reply might be, "E! He toroa a ruru" ("Oh, it was an albatross-bone"). The operator would probably receive some form of gift from the near relatives of the child.