The creature illustrated on this stamp is one of the patupaiarehe – sometimes translated as ‘fairies’ or ‘goblins’. However, these terms are not accurate as patupaiarehe were generally described as being taller than humans, fair skinned, red- or light-haired and dangerous. These ghostly beings were sometimes heard deep in the bush by diggers of fern root, but were often only visible to powerful tohunga. For humans there were two forms of defence against them – cooked food and kōkōwai (red ochre mixed with shark oil). Patupaiarehe were believed to be living in New Zealand before the first human arrivals, and offerings of fern root or fish were often given to placate them.
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New Zealand Post
Reference: 2000 Spirits and Guardians stamp issue
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