The Maori Use Fungus For Tattoos

Samuel Reason | July 14th, 2019

As we are sure you have seen the pacific islanders have an intensive cultural and ancestry of face and body tattoos. And this is something that has been an integral part of their culture for generations, of course, you may ask how in the world did they create ink for the use of tattoos. Well, one thing that the Maori people have mastered is the knowledge of fungi.

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They use fungi for medicine, for food and also for creating tattoos. One of the most important colors when it comes to tattoos in the Maori culture is black. And one of the ways the blank ink was produced was by using fungus. The special fungus is actually more of a light brown color than black, which is not really seen that often today. But the ancestors of Maori tribes would have used it intensively, in fact, they would learn where the fungus grew and collect lots of it.

Then to make the light brown color black, it would be burnt. The fungus was known as awheto, and unlike wood that would become grey when burnt this fungus would turn black. Once burnt it was trivial to grind it up into a black powder. The final ingredient would be to mix the black powder with bird fat to produce the black color you need for tattooing.

Once you have the black ink, then a tattoo export who would have been known as a moko would use his chisel and blade to create beautiful tattoos with the pigments.

Awheto is very different when it comes to fungus, it is not like a mushroom, you see to grow it needs an insect. But not just any type of insect, awheto requires caterpillars. This means awheto only grows if it gets lucky enough with a caterpillar to stumble upon it. You see the tiny spores are hopefully eaten by the caterpillar, and once that happens it actually starts to grow from inside the insect.

These caterpillar carcasses would become hard, and this is what the Maori tribes would collect to produce their tattoo ink and also could be eaten as food. An amazing use and knowledge of local nature to survive.

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