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‘Te tapa ingoa’ refers to the naming of a child, and in traditional Māori culture there were a number of kawa (rites) for welcoming a new baby to the world.

These rites are explained in Traditional Māori parenting: An historical review of literature of traditional Māori child rearing practices in pre-European times(external link).

Types of Māori birth rites

The tūā rite is for the cutting of the pito, where newborns would be told in karakia (prayer) of all their special abilities and how these abilities could be used to reach their potential.

Then there was the koroingo or maioha (welcoming) ceremony, which took place after the pito had dropped off and the new pēpi was greeted by the whānau. ‘Welcome speeches were made and waiata and pao (chants) were sung which linked the child’s birth to the creation of the universe’ (page 10).

The tohi rite dedicated the newborn to an atua, chosen by their parents. A tohunga would lead a ceremony beside the stream, sprinkling pēpi with water using a branch from the karamū tree and reciting incantations to invoke positive qualities in the child.

The last rite that bound the baby to the whānau was the pure rite. Tohunga would recite ritual chants with mythological references, which were to fix the spiritual powers and lay the foundation of knowledge the child was to acquire.

All of these rites surrounded the baby in positive messages, and the adults present were constantly reminded of the special qualities of the child.

The importance of a name

Naming pēpi is regarded as a serious matter by kaumātua and a new pēpi presents an opportunity for the whānau to celebrate the continuity of their whakapapa.

Traditionally, whānau members held the right to name the child, and much thought was given to choosing an appropriate name for pēpi. They would consider whakapapa and what special events may have coincided with the time that the pēpi was born.

Helping the whānau prepare for the arrival of pēpi

In the Tākai Whakatipu booklet 'Te Kākano' (page 34), there are some suggestions for activities under ‘Ngā mahi a whānau’.

One suggests planning an activity with the whānau to focus on choosing a name for pēpi.

Other ideas are about planning and preparing for baby’s arrival, such as deciding on and sorting out somewhere special for pēpi and their things at home, or decorating a space especially for pēpi.

References

Kuni Jenkins and Helen Mountain Harte (2011): Traditional Māori parenting —An historical review of literature of traditional Māori child rearing practices in pre-European times, Te Kahui Mana Ririki, Auckland.