Moko maori

For some people, the tattoo is an ornament, for others, a symbol carrying information about the man's life. For the Maori, who are living in the southern part of Oceania, the tattoos are a way of communication with the world. This element of the Maori culture is not applicable or decorative, but fundamental. Also, it is not so easy to evaluate the whole significance of the tattoos for the Maori. For this is required an analogy with well-known cultures, where the tattoos are important, as well. But, no example will be fully accurate, as the culture of the Maori tattoos hides a unique beauty and depth.

The sacred ornament

Up to this day, the Maori have kept a sacred attitude to Moko (tattoo in Maori language). The Maori believe that Moko can be applied only on the body of a Maori. Once, I witnessed the ritual of tattooing of a representative of their people, and one of the Australian attendees there, asked to be made the same tattoo. The refusal was so emphatic that it caused a strong reaction from the guest, after which he was read a lecture about the importance of the tattoos for the Maori.

Today, if you are longing to make a Maori tattoo is not impossible, but, in fact, it is not so simple. Besides the fact, that Moko carries a certain energy load on the body and consciousness of man, a fact known only to the devoted, there are cases of rampant reactions of the same Maori to such an amateur performance.

The same happened, for example, with the famous boxer Mike Tyson, who by surprise decided to adorn himself with a Maori tattoo. The Maori strongly condemned him, accusing him of ignorance and lack of understanding of the real meaning of Moko. At the same time, the head of one of the tribes declared that no man in the world has the right to use the sacred ornament for decorative purposes.

The Maori are the original people of New Zealand. This tribe belongs to the group of the Polynesian peoples, who moved out of Southeast Asia to the islands of Polynesia, in several stages. The Maori word Maori means “normal”, “natural” or “ordinary”, which indicates the difference between people and gods and spirits. The Maori worship the common Polynesian gods - Tangaroa, Tane, Tu, Rongo. The worship to the ancestors is also very common. At present, in New Zealand (the Maori call it Aotearoa, which means “Land of the long white cloud”) live more than 500 thousand Maori, about 14% of the total population of the country. Prior to the Maori, in New Zealand lived another people, apparently, also of Polynesian origin. The Maori legends preserved evidences of the encounters with this tribe, which they subsequently oppressed. The first Europeans in New Zealand were the sailors of the Dutch captain Tasman (1642).

Polynesia is a vast portion of Oceania, covering the territory of the Hawaiian archipelago in the north, to New Zealand in the south and the Easter Island in the east. Melanesia, allocated to the north-east of Australia, and Micronesia, a small group of islands, are also distinguished in Oceania. The Polynesian ethnic type is mixed. There are features of the Caucasoid and Mongoloid races, to a lesser extent the Negroid, despite the apparent similarity of languages ​​of the Polynesians and the island of Madagascar.

The word “tattoo”, in most of the Polynesian languages, ​​means “scheme, image, picture”, and reflects only one application aspect of Moko. The tattoo is much more important for the Maori. Moko is the manifestation of all levels of existence, from the designation of social status to the identification of certain energy correspondences in the body. The tattoos in Polynesia have played a role, analogous to the designation of the meridians in the Chinese medicine. Their lines and patterns fixed the connections of the bioactive zones in the body. In fact, the single pattern of the Maori tattoo is a reflection of the energy map of man.

Moko, on the body of a Maori, is fixing the internal connections and organizing the energy processes in the human body, more than being a reflection of his social status.

Tattoo: a fixation of internal connections and a method of development

Being a pattern related to the internal processes in the body and consciousness of the person, the tattoo did not only fix the already taken place in his life changes, but also influenced the upcoming changes. In fact, moko is a whole system of knowledge, determining the development and way of life of, both, male and female Maori.

The differences between the male and female Maori tattoos are quite significant. The women's bodies are far more less tattooed than men's. In all likelihood, this is due to the fact that, in the Maori culture the body of a woman is looked upon as externally complete. Respectively, her internal processes are less in need of correction by the help of moko. She, in a bigger extent, needs an emotional nutrition. That's why, the woman's tattooing is most likely to happen only on the lips and the chin.

By using a tattoo illustration, the Maori women created an extra emotional nutrition for themselves. Typically, according to these purposes, the tattoo was applied on the area of the lips and the chin, in order to activate the endocrine and exocrine glands, located on the face.

Maori beleive the man's “external” body is more connected to the macrocosmic processes, and it is necessary to create additional internal energy connections for a proper development. In addition, moko is also used for the fixation of the already existing connections. Therefore, the perfect the consciousness and energy of a Maori, the more complex ornament is applied to the body. The main places for the application of the male tattoos are the hips, the shoulders and the face. The accuracy is very important in this process, in order not to violate, but to strengthen the internal connections in the body. The symmetry of the patterns, or the evenly distributed power, fixed in the lines of the drawing, is also very important.

An interesting fact is that, in some Polynesian cultures, outside of New Zealand, the woman's body is more tattooed. The reasons for this may be several. The understanding of the woman's body could be different, or, it is also possible that, the general knowledge of the Polynesians was lost in the Maori. If we take attention to the tribes, living on the Marquesas Islands, we'll note that their women are tattooed “richly” and profusely. Besides, the tattoo of these tribes is more embossed and reflects, in a greater extent, the already finished processes in man's life.

The most likely reason for this separation is that, the Maori migrated to New Zealand in the period from VIII to XII century, and since then, their culture developed separately. The uniqueness of the environmental factors is unconditional – none of the islands of Polynesia and around, cannot compare with New Zealand in size, which puts its culture in a particular situation.

The most durable tattoos live longer than their owners

Against the whole variety of ornaments, the Maori tattoos share one feature. The tattoo is the key to the knowledge of the Maori's view of life, and their notion of the possibilities and ways of human development. The essence of each person, from the point of view of the Maori, is a certain sphere, where some changes take place, depending on the quality of transformation of the energy of the body and consciousness. The Maori consider the tattoo as a code, indicating the work of the body in relation to this sphere. The Maori believe that, in contrast with the physical body, moko is immortal. The drawing creates an independent energy structure, which continues to exist after man's physical death.

An interesting fact is that, the Maori consider the body not only as a physical object, but as a specific container, a receptacle of power, interacting with the environment. However, the tattoo application is nothing but an outward manifestation of this volume and its regulation. Being associated with the internal human structure, every tattoo has its external features and characteristics. The tattoo drawing can be very simple or very complex, depending on its energy content and the solved by the man issues in this particular segment of his life.

In some “male” Maori tattoos, the patterns divide the face into 13 parts, symbolizing the 13 lunar months. The lines of moko are supposed to activate certain exocrine and endocrine glands.

The structure of the face is divided into 13 parts, symbolizing the 13 lunar months. As a result of that, in the Maori culture, the development of man is associated with a certain figure, representing a model of the Universe. The geometrical parameters of this figure indicate the principles of the ancient lunar astronomy. Also, the tattoos are applied in a way, allowing the patterns to link with the endocrine and exocrine glands.

If a person doesn't have a tattoo, then they say about him, that he hasn't attained a body. Such people are called papa-tea (people without a body, Maori language). Sometimes, it may be seen asymmetrical tattoos. They are an indication of various failures in the energy structure of man and they solve the problems connected with these failures. Interestingly, the center of the body, according to the Maori, is the nose, or rather, the tip of the nose, in relation to which is built moko.


The central point of the pattern of the Maori tattoo, moko, is the nose. Maori tattoos could be asymmetrical, if you look at the patterns on the edges of the face, the nose and chin. Usually, it used to point to the failures in the energy structure of the body and showed the attempt to evenly distribute the energy.

The tattoos of the different Polynesian nations are characterized by a geographical division. The center of the tattoo, according to the tribes living north of the equator, is the lower part of the abdomen. The tribes that live below the equator orient the lines of their tattoos relative to the face. This is a very important aspect, because the energy in the body changes its orientation.

So, we can make a conclusion that, the correct tattooed man is experiencing certain sensations, on which his body and consciousness are focused. If the tattoo is applied by the laws of symmetry, in accordance with the proportions of the human body, it also affects specific centers in man, by linking them on the surface of the body and inside it.

Sacred Maori anatomy

A very interesting fact is that, the “external” Maori tattoos are a perfect match with the Chinese medicine ideas of the “internal” energy meridians of the body. Also, according to the opinion of the tattoo researcher Steve Gilbert, the properly made tattoo helps to release and unblock the unnecessary energy. This shows a deep understanding of the human nature in the Maori culture.

According to the opinion of several Maori tattoo researchers, their pattern, applied in accordance to the knowledge of the energy structure of the body, helps to release and unblock the unnecessary energy.

Since, the objective of this article is to show the tattooing as a method of display and correction of the structuring of man’s fine energy body, which has guided the men of old, and also as a system aimed at the studying and understanding of the body, so let’s focuses on this aspect. We'll briefly note only that, the Maori tattoo has a number of functions: protection, application of secret inscriptions, recording the knowledge for the origin of man's features. Next, we'll point out the basic principles of the sacred Maori anatomy, upon which are based the drawings of Moko.

  1. The tattoo is a spatial part of the body, reading the three-dimensional stay of our body in the universe.
  2. All parts of the body are connected with each other, and each part has its own tasks. The body is divided into parts, and each of these parts has its own local tasks, where the energy is developed according to the laws inherent to the particular fragment.
  3. The body is symmetric relative to its own central axis, connecting the right with the left side.
  4. The body is centered relative to the nose.
  5. The drawing has precise geometric parameters, orienting the human body in relation to the universe, and then to the body itself.
  6. The drawing consists of special patterns and spirals, which are designed to save energy in the body. According to the Maori belief, all things have power, the spirit of waria (Maori language), creating the essence of the existence of mana (Maori language). The properly applied tattoo is aimed at the protection and conservation of this essence. These rules of the conservation of energy are called tapu (Maori language).
  7. The drawing of moko reveals human sexuality as the main source of life energy, connecting man with the cosmic night Po (Maori). In addition, the drawing stimulates a particular reaction of people to man, protecting him from the negative influence of some of them, and attracting the positive energy of others.

The body, with the help of the tattoo, must be "read" and understood. For this purpose it is described by the following parameters:

Tiki (Maori) – the body has a form, representing his personal rhythm. After the physical death, this form remains.
Manaya (Maori) – the body must understand the terms of its development, embodied in the hands and feet.
Moko (Maori) – the body must have a personal expression, i.e. to correspond to the character of man.
Marakihau (Maori) – a submission of personal power, which in the Maori cosmology is related to the notion of a sea monster.
Pakaka (Maori) – types of effort, incarnated in a certain body. For example, one person is more able to jump, while the other, to run. Also, this parameter is reflected in the representation of various powers and monsters from the Maori mythology.

According to the teaching of the Maori, the external forces, for example, the earth or the space can also be linked to the energy structure of man, by means of the shape and lines of the tattoo. Such a tattoo, is not only an object of connection, but also has the ability to self-generate energy, up to the influence on the processes, that appear to be external for man. Let's remind the influence of the tattoos on the reaction of other people - it occurs, due to the visual perception of people and, as a result of the energy interaction at the level of the structure, the created form of the tattoo. It is not surprising that, a well-crafted structure can influence not only on the human reactions, but also on the natural processes.

The structure of the tattoo - the form and the energy generated by it, carries the concept of the force Maui (Maori). It is a place where energy can be developed. Thus, the properly tattooed body has a place for conception, like the womb of a woman. Different areas of the body can serve as such place, where we can connect and combine energy. The main areas are: the face, shoulders, hips, and knees.


The face, shoulders, hips and knees, in the culture of the moko Maori, are called “Maui” and they are the main places in the body where the energy can develop, connect and combine.

Maui is a very popular hero in the Maori mythology. The extent of his significance for the Maori can be derived from the names of two large islands, composing New Zealand. The northern island is called Te Ika-a-Maui, which can be translated as “a fish that belongs to Maui”. And the southern island - Te Waka-a-Maui – “a boat that belongs to Maui”. One of the symbols of Maui is considered the dove. According to the legend, Maui turned into a dove, in order to go on a search of his father.

The process of demonstration and realization of power in the body, certainly, is the basis of the Polynesian sacral anatomy of the body, expressed through the tattoo. We shall specially mention the culture of the Marquis islands, where the tattoos cover the entire body. In this tradition, the whole body is a kind of an act of creation and a comprehensive communication with the world. This, implicit in the culture of the Polynesian tattoos, ability to reveal the real possibilities of man, is called hana.


Fragments of the tattoos of the aborigines on the Marquesas Islands. These tattoos covered the whole body, becoming a sort of a “gateway” through which man communicated with the universe.

In conclusion, it seems even superfluous to say that, the use of the moko Maori motifs without a clear understanding of the hidden force in them is, at best, a banal copy. This copy will not have any value to the person, and at worst, this wrongly applied code can damage the energy structure of the body. The Maori tattoo is not just an exotic decor. As we were able to see, the culture of the Polynesian tattoos, in general, and Moko Maori in particular, is a highly organized art with a unique knowledge about the methods of human development. This knowledge, as well as many other hidden treasures of the Polynesian culture, still waits to be explored.



I ask you to help me with the interpretation of the tattoos. As I understand, this particular tattoo has some Polynesian roots, and, precisely, the Maori tribe.

The tattoo that you sent is a stylized transmission, i.e. it is not the original form. However, the one who has remade it, even has, to some extent, brought some geometry, proportion, by representing, I think, the sun god Tama-nui-te-rā. Further, as the saying goes, you can continue to fantasize. For example, to associate the sun god with the mythological hero Maui, his full name is Maui-tikitiki-a-Taranga. He is known in the Maori culture as the one who came back to Earth, transformed himself through rain and his name is associated with the god of Heaven, Rangi. In general, here is implicit the concept of transformation or immortality. The symbol does not violate, neither energetically, nor geometrically, the energy of the body. That's already good.

I read with great interest your article about the Maori tattoos. Could you tell us something about their instruments for tattooing?

The tools of the Maori for the tattoo application are ritual objects. The tools for the Maori were important not only for their utilitarian value, the stable position when holding the hand, the comfort while working, etc., but also the consecration of these objects. In fact, these are ceremonial tools.

Instead of needles, the Maori used knives and chisels – Uhi. These chisels are smooth or jagged. The dye was applied by means of incisions. Uhi is made from the bones of an albatross.

Two types of ink were used for the tattoos, one for the body and one for the face. The dye for the body consisted of one half of plant materials and the other half was from a caterpillar, infected with a certain type of fungus. The darker and black inks for the face tattoos were made of burnt wood.

I found on your website a section where You answered a question about the interpretation of the Maori tattoo. I would, like the previous reader, ask You for help in the interpretation of the tattoo.

This is a stylized tattoo. It has some Polynesian patterns, but it isn't the style of the Maori. Although, you might be able to tie to some local community and, even, a family issue, and select, for example, the pumpkin vine. The pumpkin, for the Maori, is a symbol of connection with the power of Earth. The instillation of a pumpkin in the land has a ritual character, and the making of the ritual food Hangi, as well. The pumpkin vine is, also, another symbol of the woman's hairstyle.


I would be grateful, if you help me to form the Maori ornament, where the center of the ornament is a bird. I plan to make the tattoo on my left shoulder and part of my chest. I would like that in the ornament are present the gods of Rangi, Maui, and Rongo.

Manaya is a mythological creature, a bird, on which is based the creation of everything. It is also a protective tattoo, uniting the body. The tattoo of some force is recommended to be applied on the shoulder.

What does the tattoo of a dolphin and a stingray mean?

Initially, there wasn't a tattoo of a dolphin in the Maori, there was the tattoo of a fish, representing the idea of ​​the power of water. The dolphin, this is the modern, more "decorated" version. The dolphin tattoo is an associative tattoo, where the primary reaction of the people is on the dolphin, and, of course, as a consequence, to the owner of the tattoo. The dolphin should be applied on the man's shoulder. For women, there are a lot of variants. But in fact, none of them carries the cosmogenic power of the Maori. That is, no need to pull the ears of something more serious. But, if you associate the idea of a dolphin, as the conqueror of the water space through the prism of movement, then you can get one of the most important ideas of the Maori tattoos associated with the rhythm. However, in order to make such thing, in reality, will be difficult, as the tattoo master should be, at a minimum, a mystic. That's why, it's so difficult to find the right dolphin tattoo. It's important to understand that, the Maori do not make "beautiful" tattoos. They do not paint or decorate the body, they just change the man's geometric perception of the body.

For 38 years, I ripened for the idea of this particular tattoo. I have already shoveled a lot of options. The next sketch very much sunk into my soul, but I don't know its meaning. I want to apply it on the left side of the chest, up to the neck and on the left shoulder.

This bat is in the modern, so to speak, presentation. It means that, it isn't the original symbol. It's simply presented in the Maori style. The drawing is good, although the head a bit heavier. Make sure that the one, who makes it for you, has the right energy, needed for the proper tuning.
What does the bat for the Maori mean? Almost in all cultures, it is associated with negativity.

The bat, in the Taoist tradition, is a symbol of immortality, so talk about it as a negative is not worth it. You should put the task that you want to get. When the tattoo is being applied, it is very necessary to proceed from the internal perception, rather than the external beauty, which is important, but, after all, is secondary. If you want to emphasize or highlight certain qualities, it's one thing, if a symbol, that's another thing, and if personalize yourself, that's completely different. And the most important is the person who will apply your tattoo. And by the way, why did you choose the Maori? Do you know, that they very much don't like when a tattoo is not done within the tradition?


I want to make this tattoo. Please, tell me about it.

The tattoo on his arm is applied well. The mythological story, associated with the sun god, is well submitted. But, the very application of the god and the chest tattoo are weak. It is evident that he loses energetically his hand. This gap cannot be tolerated. In general, the application of the tattoo should have a unit cycle.   The Maori are doing this within a specified time and place, in order not to violate the connections. It is also clear that, the tattooing was started from his hand, not from his chest. It means that, the sequence of the tattoo should be correctly constructed.

Please tell me the meaning of this tattoo.

This is a stylized representation of the god of Sun, Tama-nui-te-rā, and the idea of ​​his eight incarnations.

This is not a Maori tattoo, it is from the Polynesian tradition. In all likelihood, this is one of the totem Polynesian gods. It also maybe a guardian god of the Meh-neh-HOO-neh, representing the power of the little people, who live hidden in the islands.

In this case, perhaps, they are some Hawaiian magical creatures.   

I want a tattoo already about 10 years, but did not know what I want to see on my body. Three years ago, I found a drawing that fell in love with. It turned out that, it's a tattoo-mask of the Polynesian tribe Ta Moko.

This is a stylized, modern idea of ​​the trinity, the transition of the human soul from earthly life beyond the grave. But in my opinion, the transmission of Māngo-pare, the force or sphere, ejecting the human soul, is violated. Hence, it's important that the person, on whom is made the tattoo, understands this inner spiral, otherwise it will be a sketch on the theme.

Please, describe the meaning of this tattoo.

This is a very nice Ta Moko tattoo. Made in black, it implements the task of mani (conservation of power). Line curves are sustained. The idea of ​​this tattoo, in all probability, is associated with the name of the Maori warrior Mataora, who pulled out power from the underground world that, in fact, was used for the formation of the Maori tattoo, as something which the warriors were “dressed” in. Let's simply say, the shoulder was dressed in power.

Could you point out the highlights of the Maori face tattoo?

The face in the Maori tattoo has a sacred meaning and is tabooed. There are several resonance points in it, covering all levels of the face, which must necessarily be manifested.


Please help me decipher the stylized drawing under the original Moko Maori.

This is a stylized tattoo of the god of Sun, Tama-nui-te-rā.


22 may 2008

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