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Although some of their practices are offensive to every feeling of delicacy and propriety, yet they are certainly a remarkably cleanly people. This regards
not only their repeated ablutions, but their care to remove every thing unsightly from their persons. No hair was allowed on their limbs; formerly it was plucked out by the roots, or shaved with a shell or a shark's tooth; and those who do not wear the European dress, are still very particular in removing the hair from their legs and arms. This is usually done with a knife, the razors they have among them being reserved for removing the beard.
The adults formerly wore their hair in a variety of forms; the heads of their children they always shaved with a shark's tooth. This operation was frequently repeated during their juvenile years. The females generally cut their hair short, but the men wore theirs in every diversity of form-sometimes half the head almost shaved, the hair being cut short, and the other half covered with long hair-sometimes the crown cut, and the edges left the original length. Frequently, it was plaited in a broad kind of tail behind, or wound up in a knot on the crown of the head, or in two smaller ones above each ear. Since the introduction of Christianity it has been worn remarkably neat: the men's hair is usually short, the females the same, excepting in the front, though some wear it long, curled in front, and bound up on the
Nothing at first sight produces a stronger impression on the most careless observer, in the difference between the inhabitants of an island where paganism prevails, and those of one where Christianity has been
introduced, than the appearance of their hair. I have often seen one who was an idolater, or who had but recently embraced Christianity, and whose hair was uncut and his beard unshaven, standing in a group of Christians, and I have been struck with the contrast.
Sometimes the men plucked the beard out by the roots, shaved it off with a shark's tooth, or removed it with the edges of two shells, acting like the blades of a pair of scissors, by cutting against each other; while others allowed the beard to grow, sometimes twisting and braiding it together. These fashions, however, have all disappeared, and the beard is generally shaved at least once a week, and by the chiefs more frequently. These cut their whiskers rather singularly sometimes, and leave a narrow strip of their beard on the upper lip, resembling mustachios: the greater part, however, remove the beard altogether, which must often be no easy task. There are no barbers by profession, yet every man is not his own barber, but contrives to shave his neighbour, and is in return shaved by him. Some of the most ludicrous scenes ever exhibited in the islands occur while they are thus employed. Only a few of the chiefs are so far advanced in civilization as to use soap; the farmers cannot understand how it can help to remove the beard, they therefore dispense with it altogether. When the edge of the razor or knife is adjusted, the person to undergo the operation, in order to be quite stationary, lies flat on his back on the ground, sometimes in his house, at other times under the shade of a tree, and his friend kneels down over him, and commences his labour. When he has finished, he lays himself down, and the man who is shaved gets up, and performs the same office for
his friend. Sometimes the razor becomes rather dull, and something more than a little additional strength is necessary. A whetstone is then applied to the edge; but if this be not at hand, the man gets up half-shaved, and both go together to the nearest grindstone; and I have beheld that the transition from the grindstone to the chin is sometimes direct, without any intermediate application to the edge of the razor. The hone and the strap, however, have been introduced, and ere long will probably supersede the use of the grindstone, and also the whetstone.
The islanders appear to have paid at all times great attention, not only to cleanliness, but to personal ornaments. On public occasions, their appearance was in a high degree imposing. At their dances, and other places of amusement or festivity, they wore a profusion of ornament, and on ordinary occasions, with the exception of the aged and decrepit, devoted much time to the improvement of their appearance. The hair of the females, which was neatly trimmed, and sometimes appeared in short loose curls, was an object of great attention; the eye-brows were also reduced, or shaped according to their ideas of beauty. The hair was ornamented with elegant native flowers, sometimes exhibited in great profusion and variety, at others with only one or two single jessamine blossoms, or a small wreath interwoven with their black and shining ringlets. They displayed great taste in the use of flowers, and the adorning of their hair. Frequently I have seen them with beautiful wreaths of yellow flowers, worn like fragrant necklaces on their bosoms, and garlands of the same around their brows, or small bunches of the brilliant scarlet hibiscus rosa chinensis
fastened in their hair. Though totally unacquainted with what we are accustomed to call artificial flowers, yet the brilliant and varied odoriferous plants, that grew spontaneously among their mountains or their valleys, did not suffice to gratify their wishes; they were therefore accustomed to manufacture a kind of artificial flowers, by extracting the petals and leaflets of the most fragrant plants and flowers, and fastening them with fine native thread, to the wiry stalk of the cocoa-nut leaf, which they saturated with monoi, or scented oil, and wore in each ear, or fixed in the native bonnet, made with the rich yellow cocoa-nut leaf. The men, though unaccustomed to adorn their hair with flowers, were careful of preserving and dressing it. They generally wore it long, and often fastened in a graceful braid on the crown, or on each side of the head, and spent not a small portion of their time in washing and perfuming it with scented oil, combing and adjusting it. When it was short, they sometimes dressed it with the gum of the bread-fruit tree, which gave it a shining appearance, and fixed it as straight as if it had been stiffened with rosin. The open air was the general dressing-place of both sexes; and a group of females might often be seen sitting under the shade of a clump of wide-spreading trees, or in the cool mountain-stream, employing themselves for hours together in arranging the curls of the hair, weaving the wreaths of flowers, and filling the air with their perfumes. Their comb was a rude invention of their own, formed by fixing together thin strips of the bamboo-cane. Their mirror was one supplied by nature, and consisted in the clear water of the stream, contained in a cocoa-nut shell.
The attention of the people to personal decoration rendered looking-glasses valuable articles of trade in their early intercourse with foreigners; and although the habit has very much declined, and their taste with regard to ornament, &c. is materially changed, lookingglasses are still, with many, desirable articles. Those, however, who have furnished them, have often made a mistake in sending, on account of their cheapness, an inferior kind, which, in consequence of a defect in the glass, exhibits the face in a distorted and ludicrous shape. Nothing will more offend a Tahitian than to ask him to look in one of these glasses. They call them hio maamaa, foolish glasses, and, instead of purchasing them, would sometimes hardly be induced to accept them as presents.
Since the introduction of Christianity, the use of flowers in the hair, and fragrant oil, has been in a great degree discontinued-partly from the connexion of those ornaments with the evil practices to which they were formerly addicted, and partly from the introduction of European caps and bonnets, the latter being now universally worn.