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James Morrison's Account of TahitiIndigenous Histories
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Dress &c.


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Dress &c. (continued)

— in lieu of the Marro they Wear a Shorter Parew by way of an inside petticoat and a large pi[e]ce of Cloth by way of a Cloak consisting of several fathoms folded up in a square — Over their eyes they wear a kind of shade like the fore part of a Bonnet made of Cocoa Nut leaves, which they weave in a few Minutes & Change several times in a day, as they never Carry one of them over sacred Ground; for these Shades, which they call Tow Matta (the same name they Give our hats), they prefer the Yellow leaves to the Green and are proud to get one of that kind, tho perhaps they must tear it in pieces in half an hour after they have made it, and look for another — these and Garlands of Flowers are the only things they ever Wear on their Heads, except at Heivas, and then none can wear any thing on their heads, but the performers, who wear a kind of Turban; evry other person must be uncovered in presence of a Chief — in War or Mourning the Men may wear Turbans and Other head dresses made of Wickerwork Covered & decorated With Feathers and Breastplates of the same work Ornamented with Dogs hair, Pearl shells, Sharks teeth & Red & Black feathers, Garlands of Feathers &c. — The Heiva Dress shall be discribed in its place — they have also Garlands for Mourning Made of the fibers of the Cocoa Nut Curiously platted in which they fix the Finger Nails of their departed friends, with bits of Pearl shells cut into many forms and of these they are particularly Careful.

The Children of both Sexes go Naked till they are 5 or 6 Years old and at about 13 or 14 the Males Cut their foreskin, not from any religious Custom but from a Notion of Cleanlyness, it being only split on the upper part with a sharks tooth, and after the Blood is stopt by putting ashes on the wound it is suffered to get well as it may & nothing more being applyd is somtimes a Month or more before it gets well tho their Flesh in general heals quick. This, like the Tattowing or puncturing their hips &c., is at their own option, but a person who is deficient of either is reproachd and told of it in Public and it is as bad to want these Marks as it would be among us not to be Christened or to go Naked, tho some want both — They have their Tattowing begun about the same age and both these Offices are performed by a particular set of men who make it a Trade and subsist partly by it always getting well paid for their Work.

The Instruments used for the Tattowing are made of Hogs tusks fixed to a handle in form of a hoe, the Instruments being of different sizes having from 3 to 36 teeth about one eighth of an inch

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© Derived from the 1935 Print Edition edited by Owen Rutter, page 220, 2004
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