A Window into Te Ao Māori: Pūrākau Poto

Tama Ale Samoa • 23 April 2021

In his second Pūrākau poto, our Pouārahi Māori Tama Ale Samoa delves deep into the origin and etymology of tā moko.

In our last short story segment we talked about the significance of traditional Māori tā moko. This week we look at the word moko, its true meaning and origin.

According to my elders, the word moko derives from the god Rūaimoko. Rūaimoko is said to be the unborn child of Rangi sky father and Papa Earth mother. He is a a god of earthquakes and volcanos and when he works, he leaves his marks in the land. Rū ai moko can be translated as meaning shake, finish or marked, which is what he does. This is how we get our word for Māori tattoo designs, moko.

Everything in the Māori world is connected, our science and spirituality are inseparable. We will delve more into this in our next Pūrākau Poto segment.

Read Tama Ale's first Pūrākau Poto segment here.

Image: Tohunga ta moko at work, 1915, via te Ara.