Moko Maori tattoo : meaning of the Maori tattoo

The Moko Maori tattoo on the face of warriors, called “Moko”, is a heavy tattoo of meaning, a true identity card to define the social rank of the subject. The lines of the Moko Maori all have their own symbolism and are reserved for specific areas of the face: ancestral descent is indicated by both sides of the face. The right side is in general (reversed sometimes according to Maoris clans), the side of the father, his tribal affiliation and the left that of the mother

Descent is an essential prerequisite for the development of a Moko in the Maori civilization. The social rank of the parents, according to whether it is hereditary or acquired, is important for the reason of the tattoo. If one of the two parents is not of high social rank, the side of the face dedicated to him will not be tattooed. Similarly, if none of the parents has a high social ancestry, the center of the front is not tattooed: this absence means that the tattoo does not have a high social status or has not inherited it if he has a.

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The different levels of social status that can be spotted in the Maori culture according to the Moko tattoo lines on the face are:

Taiopuru: supreme leader: he is the one who unites all the tribes and their descendants
Tapairu: female supreme leader
Ahupiri: chief of high rank responsible for a confederation of tribes
Noaia: Warrior descending from one of the first two ranks, ensuring political stability
Konini: rank given by the Noaia. A authority over region or a confederation
Kaitahutahu Arikinui: High-ranking leaders who have united a confederation of tribes
Kaitahutahu Ariki: High-ranking leader of a tribal group consisting of a defined number of units
Rangatira: Head of a tribal village, whose rank is granted by a higher authority
Tutua: Ordinary people with little Mana (between magic and religion, Mana is an emanation of spiritual power)
Slaves: No mana are granted to them from their ancestors unless they are granted by their services
The Moko Maori is divided into several parts, on the face, the following sections:

Symbolic motives of Moko Maori Tattoo

  • The Te Karu section of the Moko Maori tattoo: Located above the nose, between the eyes and the eyebrows. The Te Karu lines are a way to identify hereditary lines or to relate the history of the social rank accorded by the Taiopuru. This division identifies for example the custody of a child for the Taiopuru, or a woman with the know-how of the weaving.

The Ngakaipikirau section of the Moko Maori tattoo, located in the center of the front between the Ngunga lines. The Ngakaipikirau lines give information on the direct lineage of divine descent and the individual ranks of Taiopuru, Ahupiri, Arikinui or Ariki, authorities of specific regions. This is also the place where the Te Wairua Tapu is represented, the sacred water that gives life.

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The Ngunga section of the Moko Maori tattoo, located on the front above the Uirere and the Uma, and on either side of the Ngakaipikirau. The spiral above the nasal ridge above the Uirere and the design of the tattoo on the center of the chin in the middle of the Wairua are also associated with the Ngunga, which identifies the position in society, the social rank transmitted by the first or Second lineage if the status has been given by the Nöaia and if the status will be transmitted to the children. The lines of the spiral above the nose carry the baskets of knowledge, carried by the Tohunga (priest, expert artist or craftsman). The lines in the center of the chin are the sign of the one who has learned knowledge in the tattoo: the orators or messengers of Taiopuru.

The Kirupa section of the Moko Maori tattoo is located under the nose and includes the spirals of the nose. She identifies a Tohunga, whose knowledge and knowledge are protected, Tapu, a serving of Ariki or an untouchable protected by the Taiopuru.

The Uirere section of the Moko Maori tattoo is the center of the face, under the Ngunga, at the top of the Uma and above the Raurau. She understands her eyes and nose (except the top of the Ngunga spiral). This part represents the affiliations within the tribe, of each parent, the oldest or the youngest son, the inheritance of mana within the tribe, the extinction of a hereditary line succeeded by a second, the An hereditary rank, a warrior of the past or the present, affiliation with the hierarchical leader whose subject depends.

The Uma section of the Moko Maori tattoo: on each side of the face, on the temples, next to the Uirere, under the Ngunga and above the Taiohou. This part represents each kinship line according to a first or a second marriage, a service rendered to the Taiopuru, the protection of the tribal borders or the medicinal knowledge

The Keikoro section of the Moko Maori tattoo: located on the contour of the lips, symbolizes the tribal affiliations and the fact of having elevated above the status of slave

The Raurau section of the Moko Maori tattoo: located in the center of the face above the mouth, above the Wairua. It includes the lower and upper lines of the tattoo around the mouth and identifies the personal signature, political orientation and protection status by the Taiopuru, Ahupiri, Arikinui or Ariki. This privileged position is acquired by birth, by the spokesman of the chief or by a warrior.

The Taiohou section of the Moko Maori tattoo: in the middle of the cheeks and the upper jaw, symbolizes the craft, the work (mahi), such as the master gardener, the warrior, the village chief, the sculptor, The war canoe commander, and so on.

The Warunga section of the Moko Maori tattoo, placed on the chin under the lips: represents a woman of high social rank, the first born descending from a lineage by a blessed marriage, an authorized union.

The Wairua section of the Moko Maori tattoo includes tattooed rays around the mouth, but excludes the central lines on the chin, which are part of the Ngunga. The Wairua lines represent the personal Mana, and give information about its origin and status: whether this Mana depends on the social rank, if it is hereditary, if it will be transmitted to the next generation.

The Taitoto section of the Moko Maori tattoo: tattooed on the lower jaw, under the Taiohou and next to the Wairua. Its lines symbolize the rights of birth, the succession of rank, and can also represent a man become tribal chief before the age of 25 years.