The Tapu

Tapu is the main source of vigor in Māori life. Tapu has many meanings, and is referred to often. The word “tapu” can be interpreted as “sacred”, and includes a strong obligation to respect regulations and prohibitions.




A person, object or place that is “tapped” should not be subjected to human contact. Sometimes you don't even have to approach her. A person thus tapped is in the power of a god, or evil genius which one calls Atoua.

In the early days, high ranking members of a tribe should not touch an object belonging to a lower rank member. It was considered "pollution". Likewise, people of lower rank should not touch anything belonging to a person of high birth. The penalty was death.

Breaking the "tapu" could anger the gods. Certain objects were particularly “tapu”: the mere fact of touching them was a dangerous act, except for priests duly qualified to do so. In 1772, the French explorer Marion du Fresne was killed at Tarcoury's Cove, in New Zealand, for committing a “tapu” offence.

Likewise, in the past, the food prepared for a chief was tapu, and could not be eaten by an inferior. "Noa", on the other hand, lifted the "tapu" weighing on a person or an object. “Noa” is like a blessing.

And although people are no longer subject to “tapu” as in those ancient times, tapu and noa are still part of Māori culture today.

Today, a new house can be the subject of a “noa” ceremony, to remove the tapu, and ensure the safety of the house before the family settles there. Nowadays, the observance of the "tapu" still exists in an obvious way with regard to the disease, the death, the funeral. It is also found in the Marae and in the Whare.

The initial reason for "tapu" no longer appears very clearly today in certain cases, but in other cases, for example in everything relating to the conservation of the natural environment, its beneficial action for the whole. of community is evident.