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The belief that all sickness was caused by the sufferer's breach of tapu has long vanished, and the Tohunga Suppression Act of 1907 was repealed in 1963. in the case of traditional tribal burial grounds and traditionally venerated objects), observation of tapu is common.In utu and mana the Maori were carrying in their culture the seeds of self-destruction.Tapu was a positive force, associated with life, immortality, masculine objects and women of the highest rank.
Tapu was in one sense a religious or superstitious restriction, and all who violated it were doomed to be overcome at least by misfortune, at worst by death.
To remove tapu, for example from a newly completed meeting house, a tohunga would have to perform an appropriate ceremony and the tapu might in the case of a house be neutralised by a woman of rank entering. If a mistake were made and an even number of rafters erected in a meeting house, the tapu of the house would be so powerful it could never be removed and so the house could never be used by women.
Curiously absent were large religious constructions. Maori religion left little material trace, and the small tuahu (altar) does not compete with the massive shrines of Easter Island and Tahiti - factors which suggest that religious developments there post-dated contact with New Zealand.
The dual concept of tapu (sacred) and noa (free from tapu) regulated and constricted every facet of Maori life.
An alternative is that they were used following the extremely painful process of tattooing the lips.