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Te Ika a Maui, or New Zealand and its Inhabitants

Chapter XI. Personal Ornaments

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Chapter XI. Personal Ornaments.

Tattooed Head.

Tattooed Head.

In every age and nation, men have been dissatisfied with their natural appearance, and have adopted various ways of improving it, which implies a general conviction of natural deficiency, and this runs through all grades of society. When a greater impression was to be made, man did not trust to his natural countenance to make it, but called in the aid of various adjuncts. To give the Bishop the venerable look becoming his high and sacred office, a wig, almost as large and white as the fleece of a lamb, was deemed requisite. This strange idea, however, has passed away; the good sense of the age caused it to be laid aside at the proper time, for had it been longer persisted in, it would doubtless have had a contrary effect to page 149 that intended, and excited ridicule rather than reverence. The bar has not profited, however, by the good example of the church. The judge and barrister still cling to the wig, and, in spite of the ludicrous appearance they make, we see the youthful face surrounded by this imitation of venerable age. But even this is not thought sufficient. The Judge, when called upon to pronounce the sentence of death on a fellow creature, summons additional aid to give him, in that affecting moment, a more than usual amount of solemnity. The firm look of inexorable justice, is not thought sufficient to convey to the convicted felon a proper sense of his inevitable doom. The Judge, therefore, gravely puts on a black cap to increase the effect. It is not many years ago since it was the fashion for both young and old to wear white powder on the head. This custom found general favor, even amongst the ladies themselves, as imparting a very aristocratic-look to the wearer, and additional beauty to their fair locks. The very children themselves, in polite circles, made their appearance thus ornamented.

The custom also of plastering up the hair, contrary to its grain, with pomatum, to give increased elevation and dignity to its fair wearer; and that of the gentleman, with his queue or pigtail, mark, not only the age, but the feeling, that the natural dignity of the human head required artificial aid to improve it, and the savage agrees with his civilized brother. Now that the custom has passed away, we can see the absurdity of it. The New Zealanders have not been behind the rest of the family of man in these particulars. They gave the preference to a red color, and plentifully anointed their heads with a mixture of ochre and oil, which certainly imparted to them a very remarkable look, the skull appearing as though it had been cleft, and was streaming down with gore. The general effect was heightened by a large tuft of albatross down, which was stuck in the lobe of each ear, and formed a fine contrast with the bright red.

In former times, the chief ladies and gentlemen had their entire persons anointed, or painted, with ochre and oil; this was considered both ornamental and useful, rendering the page 150 limbs more supple, and the skin less sensible to cold, or to the bites of the mosquito.

Wigs were not worn, although a bald head (he pakira) was considered a reproach. I once recollect seeing the head chief of Taupo with an English wig, made of a light brown colored hair; this he wore over his own raven locks, which descended on every side full half a foot below the artificial covering, and gave him a most extraordinary appearance, which was heightened by his total unconsciousness of the ludicrous figure he was making.

Ear ornaments are, of course, in general use, as they are about the last remnants of heathenism which will be given up by the fair sex. In New Zealand they are worn by both sexes, and are of great variety. Those of green stone are the most highly prized; sharks' teeth, if of large size, are, if possible, still more thought of. But the natives are not very particular; the ring of a musket, a little roll made of a leather strap, or even of paper, are frequently to be seen in the ears of the most distinguished individuals. Many persons wear the skins of the Huia or Tui birds stuck in their ears. The neck ornament is generally the green stone, which is wrought into the form of a human figure, and called hei tiki. The hair of a chief's head is tied up in a knot, with one or more feathers stuck in it, which are very ornamental; the favorite feathers are those of the Huia, which are of a velvety black, tipped with a snowy white.

But the grand ornament of all was the moko or tattoo; this was of general use. All ranks were thus ornamented; a papatea, or plain face, was a term of reproach. Some were more fully tattooed than others, but all were more or less so. The grand chiefs had their faces and thighs entirely covered with this ornamental renting of the skin. The ladies had their lips and chins operated upon, with a little curl at the corner of the eye. Frequently their persons also were covered with small strokes of tattooing; these might be called beauty patches, such as the ladies used to wear on the face made of a bit of court plaster, which were once thought ornamental.

To set off the moko to advantage, it was necessary to give up page 151 the beard, which was not considered in the light of an ornament. In former days, a pair of muscle shells were generally employed, but since their acquaintance with Europeans, a pair of large tweezers, an inch and a half wide, and three or four inches long, will generally be seen hanging from the garment or neck; and whenever the gentleman can find no other employment, he will occupy himself with them.

To allow the beard to grow, is a sign of old age, and a proof that the wearer has ceased to care for his appearance. A person with a beard, is addressed as e weki, which is a salutation equivalent to, old man.

Before they went to fight, the youth were accustomed to mark their countenance with charcoal in different lines, and their traditions state, that this was the beginning of the tattoo, for their wars became so continuous, that to save the trouble of thus continually painting the face, they made the lines permanent by the moko.

The substance generally used as coloring matter is the resin of the kauri or rimu, which, when burnt, is pounded, and converted to a fine powder. At Taupo, I went to see the place where this pigment was manufactured. A narrow pit was sunk at a little distance from a precipice, and from the face of the cliff a passage was cut to the bottom of it, over the mouth of which pieces of wood containing the resin were burnt, and the residuum falling within, was taken away by means of the passage.

The uhi or instrument used was a small chisel, made of the bone of an albatross, very narrow and sharp, which was driven by means of a little mallet (a mahoe) quite through the skin, and sometimes completely through the cheek as well, so that when the person undergoing the operation took his pipe, the smoke found its way out through the cuttings. The pain was excruciating, especially in the more tender parts, and caused dreadful swellings. Only a small piece could be done at a time. The operator held in his hand a piece of muka (flax) dipped in the pigment, which he drew over the incision immediately it was made. The blood which flowed freely from the wound was constantly wiped away with a little page 152 bit of flax. The pattern was first drawn either with charcoal or scratched in with a sharp-pointed instrument. To tattoo a person fully, is therefore a work of time, and to attempt to do too much at once, endangered the life. I remember a poor porangi, or insane person, who, during the war, was tattooed most unmercifully by some young scoundrels. The poor man's wounds were so dreadfully inflamed, that they occasioned his death.

During the time that any one was being tattooed, all persons in the pa were tapu, until the termination of the work, lest any evil should befal them. To have fine tattooed faces, was the great ambition of young men, both to render themselves attractive to the ladies, and conspicuous in war: for even if killed by the enemy, whilst the heads of the untattooed were treated with indignity, and kicked on one side, those which were conspicuous by their beautiful moko, were carefully cut off, stuck on the turuturu, a pole with a cross on it, and then preserved; all which was highly gratifying to the survivors, and the spirits of their late possessors.

The person operated upon was stretched all his length on the ground, and to encourage him manfully to endure the pain, songs were continually sung to him. The following is one which was used on such occasions:—

He tangata i te wakautu, He who pays well, let him be beautifully ornamented;
Ki ata wakanakonako, But he who forgets the operator,
He tangata wakautu kore, let him be done carelessly.
Kumekumea kia tatahi, Be the lines wide apart.
E hiki Tangaroa, O hiki Tangaroa,
E hiki Tangaroa. O hiki Tangaroa.
Patua kite waka tangitangi, Strike, that the chisel as it cuts along may sound.
E hiki Tangaroa hai, O hiki Tangaroa.
Tangata te kitea, Men do not know the skill of the
Te waihanga patua, operator in driving his sounding
Ki te wakatangi tangi, chisel along.
E hiki Tangaroa hai. O hiki Tangaroa.

This song was chiefly to remind the gentleman of the duty page 153 he owed to the operator, who, not having any regular professional charges, chiefly depended on the liberality of his patient, who was expected not only to feed him with the best, but to make him a very handsome present as well. And when the operator suspected that he should not be remembered, he frequently became very careless in his work, and rendered the person an object for life. Some of the mokos are very coarsely done, whilst others are finished with an artist's touch, by which we are able to judge of the way they have severally paid the owner of the sounding chisel.

Whilst the males had every part of the face tattooed, and the thighs as well, the females had chiefly the chin and the lips, although occasionally they also had their thighs and breasts, and a few smaller marks on different parts of the body. There were regular rules for tattooing, and the artist always went systematically to work, beginning at one spot and gradually proceeding to another, each particular part having its distinguishing name. Thus, they commenced with—


Te kawe, which are four lines on each side of the chin.


Te pukawae, six lines on the chin.


Nga rere hupe, the lines below the nostrils, six in number.


Nga kokiri, a curved line on the cheek bone.


Nga koroaha, lines between the cheek bone and ear.


Nga wakarakau, lines below the former.


Nga pongiangia, the lines on each side of the lower extremity of the nose.


Nga pae tarewa, the lines on the cheek bone.


Nga rerepi, and Nga ngatarewa, lines on the bridge of the nose.


Nga tircana, four lines on the forehead.


Nga rewha, three lines below the eyebrows.


Nga titi, lines on the centre of the forehead.


Ipu rangi, lines above the former.


Te tono kai,* the general name for the lines on the forehead.


IIe ngutu pu rua, both lips tattooed.


Te rape, the higher part of the thighs.


Te paki paki, the tattooing on the seat.

* The name derived from the movement made when a person assents that he wants food cooking for him, by raising the eyebrows.

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Te paki turi, the lower thigh.


Nga tata, the adjoining part.

The following are female tattoos:—


Taki taki, lines from the breast to the navel.


Hope hope, the lines on the thighs.


Waka te he, the lines on the chin.

Connected with tattooing, is the art of embalming. This was done in order that great warriors might show the heads of all the distinguished chiefs they killed But this art was not employed for that purpose alone; it enabled them to preserve the heads of those who were dear to them, and to keep these remembrances of beloved objects ever near. It was no uncommon thing to embalm in this way the head of a beloved wife or child. I have seen several instances of this kind.

To prepare them for drying was called paki paki, or popo, which signifies the taking out of the brain; they were then subjected to repeated steamings in the oven. After each steaming, the heads were carefully wiped with the flowers of the kakaho, or reed, and every portion of flesh and brain was removed. A small thin manuka stick was thrust between the skin and bone of the nose to preserve its form. When this process was ended, they were dried in the sun, and afterwards exposed to the smoke of their houses. One of the first things, however, was to extract the eyes, and fill the sockets with flax, and then sew the lids together. These heads, thus prepared, seemed to be exempt from the attack of insects, being thoroughly impregnated with pyroligneous acid. In former days the preparation of heads was very general; they were done for sale to the Europeans, and so great was the demand, that many a murderous attack has been made solely to obtain heads for the market; and those who were the most finely tattooed, were chiefly sought for. How many of the sins of these savage islanders have been participated in by their European visitors! Few are aware to what extent this abominable traffic has been carried, but it has now totally ceased. I have, however, been assured, that not a few of the heads thus preserved were those of Europeans, and some of them of page 155 the very individuals who came to purchase such things for the European market.* If the person to whom the head had belonged was a relative or friend, the operators had to remove to some distance from the pa, and neither they nor the relations were allowed to touch any food until it was cured, for if the process were witnessed by the friends of the dead, they would be unable to repress their tears, and the head would be spoiled; but if it were only the head of an enemy, the operation was performed before all the people.

These preserved heads of relatives were kept in baskets, carefully made and scented with oil. When brought out to be cried over, they were ornamented with feathers and placed in some conspicuous place.

Native Names have always a signification, and are never given at random; those of chiefs, are selected with much thought, from the waka paparanga, or genealogical tables of their ancestors, for none can exceed the natives in their pride of descent. Their genealogical tree was compared to the hue (calabash), the main shoot or stem of which is called the tahuhu, and the branches kawae. Very little is thought of a chief who cannot count back some twenty or thirty generations, and the high families carry their's back even to the beginning of all things. I was once very much amused in obtaining a tradition of this kind, beginning with na te kore i ai, from the nothing the something, which went on gradually introducing name after name, and at last terminating with that of the speaker. The Tupunas and Arikis carefully taught their children the names of their ancestors, and to aid them in this work, each family had a curious carved board, called he waka paparanga rakau. This was made something like a saw, each tooth representing a name; and here and there where a tooth was wanting, it implied that the male line had failed, and been continued in that of a female.

It is considered rude to ask a chief his name, as it implies that he is a person of no consequence, from his not being known. A person speaking ironically of another, who thinks

* See Life of Andrew Powers.

page 156 much of his dignity, says, “O yes, he is a great chief indeed; wherever he goes, they inquire, who is he?” The polite way of apologizing for a person's ignorance of another's name, is to say, “Ka patau i kai ahau i te umu o to tapanga.” If I had partaken of the feast given when you were named, then indeed I should have known you.

A chief generally receives three names during his life: the first immediately after he comes into the world is given by his mother, and might be called his child's name, such as Tangi kai, from the child crying for food; Poaka (pig), from its greediness; Mokai, pet; Moe one, a little lively grub; Mouri, heart's blood; &c. The next was given at the tuatanga, or naming, and was assumed as he grew up; the last being taken at the death of his father, which might be called the family name. When Pehi died, Pakoro his son took it; and Te Hiko, the second son, assumed his father's second name, Turoa. So also when te Heuheu died, his younger brother, Iwikau, adopted his name. Frequently, however, names were acquired by something occurring to the individual. The head chief of the Rarawa obtained the name of Panakareao, from his being entangled amongst the supple jacks in the forest, whilst fleeing from a battle where his men were routed; in that state, he was captured by a woman, and honorably restored to liberty, with this name, which he has ever since borne.

Tumuwakairia, a principal chief of the Mani-a-poto, was taken prisoner, and threatened with being hung from the tumu, or knot of a tree, but being rescued by another chief from the fate intended him, he hence acquired his present name, which signifies, the suspended from the knot of a tree.

Te Wakaahu, a Wanganui chief, slew Tuwhare, a head chief of the Ngatiwhatua from Kaipara; he did not die at once, but lingered for a day or two. The dying chief told his conqueror he was no warrior, but only a husbandman; that he had not the hand of a man accustomed to fight, but only he ringa ringa mahi kai, a hand accustomed to work, or he would have killed him outright. His conqueror ever after retained that as his name, and his son after him.

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Rau paraha, the leaf of the convolvolus, was a name given to that chief by his father's murderer, who said, if he caught him he would be a relish for that vegetable.

Huia, the daughter of Pomare, gave her infant the name of Nota (north star), the vessel on board of which Pomare was carried a prisoner, in defiance of a flag of truce. The widow of Matene Ruta, who was taken prisoner at Porirua, during the late war, and cruelly hung, to commemorate the event, called her infant, which was born after its father's death, Repeka, the hung.

Some derived their names from their occupations. Rua kiri kiri (gravel pit) was the name of a slave, chiefly employed in digging and carrying gravel to the kumara and taro grounds, which are so covered, nearly a foot deep, in order to obtain better crops.

Some names are taken in defiance, although they have originally been given by way of reproach, or as a curse; thus, when a woman made a song on Poto, a great chief, and said, “Taku kuru kanga ko koe e Poto te kai mo roto ko te Rangi wakarurua,” which is, literally, You are the pounder of my rotten corn, O Poto; the food for my stomach is Rangi wakarurua, your father. This was a great curse, and to show his indignant defiance, Poto took the name, Kuru Kanga, and his friend Taui, who was his relative, to show his entire sympathy with him, also took as his name Te kai o roto. Horpatene's first name was Taui, but now his surname is Te kai o roto.

Chiefs frequently acquired names from their peculiar way of fighting. Mawai is a creeping plant like the cucumber, which climbs over the fortifications of the pa, a name given to its original bearer to commemorate his crafty way of surprising pas. Heu heu implies that the chief suddenly came upon his enemy by sculking amongst the brush wood. Tinirau signifies the warrior, who slew many hundreds with his own hand. Other names mark the lofty pretensions of their owners. Rangi-iri-hau is the heaven lifted up above the wind or storm, to show that he was too great to be moved by any of the outbreaks of his enemies. Rangi i runga, the heaven above, one page 158 of the ten heavens, is a name for a great man. Rangi tauira, the heavenly pattern. Rangi hae ata, the first ray of morning; Te ihi, the sun-beam. Te Heuheu was overwhelmed, with nearly sixty of his tribe, by a great landslip; his surviving son assumed the name of Horonguku, the sliding landslip.

Warekohuru is the name of a child whose parent was murdered in his own house. Marupo and Patupo, are the names of midnight murderers. Paerangi (fair sky) is the name of a man of peace, or it may be the same as Paeroa, the long pae, or mountain range, to express his high pretensions. Kau moana and Oe waka are names for great sailors. When a beloved child or great chief dies, the last thing eaten is frequently taken as a name by some surviving member of the family; thus, the name of Hararuta (arrow root) has been assumed. When, however, a person dies, the survivors carefully avoid mentioning his name, if it be one relating to food, as Kapana, taewa (a potatoe), Thus Kai (food), the name of a Rotorua chief, at his death died with him; it being considered a curse to repeat the word. Tami has there been substituted, instead. Some names appear very blasphemous, such as Puku atua (God's belly); many are very obscene.* Taiariki, little walking-stick, is a name for a short person, and Taiaroa, one for a tall gentleman, the taiaha being a chief's staff.

Everything has its name; their houses, canoes, weapons, and even garments, have distinctive appellations given them. Thus, when Hori Kingi built a new house, he named it Ingarani (England), to show his friendship for our country. If the natives perceive any honor attached to our English names, they immediately adopt them. They have thus assumed kingi, for king; kuini, for queen; kawana, governor; pihopa, bishop; kanara, colonel; Kingi Wiremu, King William; Wikitoria te Kuini, Victoria the Queen.

One chief inquired if Earl Grey was not a higher title than Sir G. Grey, and when told it was, then, said he, my child shall be called Earl Grey, “Takerei.” Names also mark the

* The natives formerly went naked, and did not think there was anything indecent in doing so. In the same way they spoke naked, using most obscene language without seeing any impropriety in it.

page 159 arrival of anything new in the country: paura, powder; tupara, double-barrelled gun; hota, shot; pu, a gun; and pu nui, a big gun (cannon); pukera, bugler; kai paura, powder-eater: these are names showing their love of war. Others mark their growing attachment for domestic comforts, and a peaceful life:—Kai kuka is sugar-eater; nga hiti, sheets; ti kapa, tea cup; ti kera, tea kettle; tupeka, tobacco. Nor is even the final abode of man lost sight of: kawena (coffin) is a favorite appellation. Names thus chronicle the introduction of new articles, and record any striking event. It was only last year (1854) the measles made their first appearance in New Zealand. A child was brought for baptism; on inquiring what its native name was, the mother said it was Mate haere, the spreading disease. In the same way, a person who is grateful for his recovery from some dangerous disease, assumes the name of Tumahu, the convalescent.

Their lands are all named; so also the sea beaches round the island; their horses, cows, and pigs, even their trees, especially karaka trees; rocks and fountains. Go where you will, in the midst of an apparently untrodden wilderness, and ask, Has this spot a name? and any native belonging to that district will immediately give one.

He Waka Paparanga Rakau, or Geneological Board.

He Waka Paparanga Rakau, or Geneological Board.