"The Tabu Tale" |
The Tribal Totem Pole
THIS IS A PICTURE of the Tribal Totem Pole after it was put up on the banks of the Wagai river. That fat thing at the top is the Tribal Beaver of the Tribe of Tegumai. It is carved from lime-wood, and though you can't see the nails, it is nailed on to the rest of the pole, which is all in one piece. Below the beaver are four birds-two ducks, one of them looking at an egg, a sparrow-bird, and a bird whose name I don't know. Below them is a rabbit, below the rabbit a weasel, below the weasel a fox or a dog (I am not quite sure which), and below the dog two fishes. On the other side of the pole is an otter, a badger, a bison, and a wild horse. The rope that steadies the pole is looped round next to the fishes. This shows that the Tabu is a Fish Tabu. If the Head Chief wanted to tabu the tribe killing rabbits or duck, he would have put the rope next to the rabbit or the duck carving; and so on with the other animals and birds.
The two black figures below the rope are meant for the Bad Man who didn't keep Tabu, and so grew all knobby and uncomfy, and the Good Man who kept Tabu and grew fat and round. They are painted on the pole with a paint made from oak-apples and pounded-up pieces of iron. At the very bottom of the pole (but there was not room to put it in the picture) are six copper rings to show that the Tabu was to last for six months.
You will see that there is nobody at all in the woods and hills behind. That is because the Tabu is a Strong Tabu and nobody would break it.
ŠThe National Trust for Places of Historic
Interest or Natural Beauty 2006