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Tabu (Taboo, Tapu)

Subject Religion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631181392.1995.x


[ xxix ] A restriction or ban on potent and sacred things. In P olynesian religion anything possessing great M ana is tapu (kapu in Hawaii). Chiefs and their families are surrounded with restrictions to protect the mana of their divine ancestry from being lost through contact with common things. The chiefs's person, especially his head, is sacrosanct, as are his house, food and utensils, clothing and possessions. Also highly tapu are tombs of chiefs; shrines and sacred stones; first-fruits and offerings for the gods; chants, genealogies and sacred lore; and groves or springs of water for ceremonial use. Tapus govern agriculture, fishing, building and carving, since all such work requires the help and protection of patron gods (A tua ) [7; 16; 30] A danger to mana , and thus also tapu , are bloodstained warriors, women menstruating or in childbirth, the sick and dying, and corpses or bones of the dead. Tapu -removal is the reason for many religious rites. Using incantations, water, cooked food and other neutralizing things, the T ohunga lifts tapus , purifying people and objects from the potentially harmful effects of misplaced mana. Children are freed from the tapu of birth by ceremonies of purification and name-giving. Newly made buildings, war canoes, weapons and tools are freed of tapu and consecrated to endow them with fresh mana. Tapus are enforced by ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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