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Maori shamanism

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#1 ClockworkGhost


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Posted 18 February 2015 - 06:26 AM

This may interest some people here. Information concerning New Zealand Maori shamanism. I'll split it into parts, it will make it easier to read.

When the Maori first came to New Zealand it was by direction of Kupe, the immortal, an all powerful Tohunga (specialist - in this case a master sailor and priest), who saw disaster approaching his race and wished to save all of it that he could. Kupe was a prophet, perhaps an adept; it is clear that he had the power of Matakite (clairvoyance) and could see both the past and the future. He also had the power of Moemoea (seeing visions) and could interpret them. He was a Tohunga Matau (RHP magician).

The Maori in those days were guided in all they did by their Tohungas (specialists/priests), who directed the welfare of the people through powerful Karakias (incantations) to ward off evil and influence things in a positive way. Tohungas were of two kinds, and the Tohunga Makutu (LHP magician) by his spells and incantations could strike men dead from a distance. Makutu (witchcraft) is still dreaded by the more spiritual orientated Maori, though such things have really dropped out of much of the culture over time as many Maori have adopted a very Western world view. There has been a strong push to start educating Maori children about this however, and schools exist that teach solely in Maori, and focus on the old beliefs.

The pre-European Maori believed in the 'Seven Principles of Man'. European missionaries tried to teach Maori about the soul, and translated it incorrectly as the Wairua, but in Maori spiritualism Wairua is only a phantom shadow or ghost, i.e., the astral body.

The correct terms for the seven principles as known to the Maori are:
1. Atua, pure spirit
2. Hine Ngaio, the higher soul — literally 'the hidden', 'lost', or 'concealed woman'
3. Manawa ora, the upper mana (spirit), and Manawa, the lower mana (spirit).
The above three are immortal.
4. Hiahia, desire
5. Oranga, vitality
6. Wairua, the ghost or phantom body, the astral body
7. Tinana, the gross physical body.

For the Maori, the lower four principles are perishable, the second and third are the immortal man, and Atua is the God or All-Father that overshadows and permeates them all. When a man dies, at first only his Tinana decays, the other principles then slowly depart to the Te Reinga (under world, or temporary abode of all spirits). If the departed can resist the desire for food on his arrival at Te Reinga he can return and reoccupy his body, or enter a fresh body if there is one available; but if he touches food then death is complete and he remains there until the Wairua, or astral, perishes and Hiahia and Oranga are set free to disperse into the elements. The immortal part is then free, and goes into a state of rest until the time for rebirth arrives and he is born on earth again.

Absolutely everything, including the natural elements and all living things, are connected by common descent through whakapapa (genealogy). Accordingly, all things are thought of as possessing a life force, or mauri. Illustrating this concept of connectedness through genealogy are the major personifications of nature: Tangaroa is the personification of the ocean and the ancestor or origin of all fish; Tāne is the personification of the forest and the origin of all birds; and Rongo is the personification of peaceful activities and agriculture and the ancestor of cultivated plants. (According to some, the supreme personification of the Māori was Io; however this idea is controversial.)

Certain practices are followed that relate to traditional concepts like tapu. Certain people and objects contain mana - spiritual power or essence. In earlier times, tribal members of a higher rank would not touch objects which belonged to members of a lower rank. This was considered "pollution" and persons of a lower rank could not touch the belongings of a highborn person without putting themselves at risk of death.

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#2 ClockworkGhost


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Posted 18 February 2015 - 06:27 AM

Tapu can be interpreted as "sacred", as "spiritual restriction" or "implied prohibition"; it involves rules and prohibitions. There are two kinds of tapu, the private (relating to individuals) and the public tapu (relating to communities). A person, an object or a place, which is tapu, may not be touched by human contact, in some cases, not even approached. A person, object or a place could be made sacred by tapu for a certain time.

In pre-contact society, tapu was one of the strongest forces in Māori life. A violation of tapu could have dire consequences, including the death of the offender through sickness or at the hands of someone affected by the offence. In earlier times food cooked for a person of high rank was tapu, and could not be eaten by an inferior. A chief's house was tapu, and even the chief could not eat food in the interior of his house. Not only were the houses of people of high rank perceived to be tapu, but also their possessions including their clothing. Burial grounds and places of death were always tapu, and these areas were often surrounded by a protective fence.

Tangihanga or funeral rites may take two or three days. The deceased lies in state, usually in an open coffin flanked by female relatives dressed in black, their heads sometimes wreathed in kawakawa leaves, who take few and short breaks. During the day, visitors come, sometimes from great distances despite only a distant relationship, to address the deceased. They may speak frankly of his or her faults as well as virtues, but singing and joking are also appropriate. Free expression of grief by both men and women is encouraged. Traditional beliefs may be invoked, and the deceased told to return to the ancestral homeland, Hawaiki, by way of te rerenga wairua, the spirits' journey. The close kin or kiri mate ("dead skin") may not speak. On the last night, the pō whakamutunga (night of ending), the mourners hold a vigil and at sunrise the coffin is closed, before a church or marae funeral service and/or graveside interment ceremony, which these days is invariably Christian. It is traditional for mourners to wash their hands in water and sprinkle some on their heads before leaving a cemetery. After the burial rites are completed, a feast is traditionally served. Mourners are expected to provide koha or gifts towards the meal. After the burial, the home of the deceased and the place they died are ritually cleansed with karakia (prayers or incantations) and desanctified with food and drink, in a ceremony called takahi whare, trampling the house. That night, the pō whakangahau (night of entertainment) is a night of relaxation and rest. The widow or widower is not left alone for several nights following.

During the following year, the kinfolk of a prominent deceased person will visit other marae, "bringing the death" (kawe mate) to them. They carry pictures of the person on to the marae. Unveilings of headstones (hura kōwhatu) are usually held about a year after a death, often on a public holiday to accommodate visitors who could not get to the tangihanga. The dead are remembered and more grief expressed.

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#3 ClockworkGhost


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Posted 18 February 2015 - 06:27 AM

Just to reiterate - You cannot touch anything that is Tapu - it is EXTREMELY bad to do so, so much so that people who used to violate Tapu were killed.

1. Guests are considered Tapu until you feed them. You can still touch them with your nose however, and sometimes can shake hands too.

2. A menstruating woman is Tapu, plus she isnt allowed to feed herself. Someone has to feed her without touching her while she is menstruating. If you touch a menstruating woman you will get sick and die.

3. Anyone getting a Moko (face tattoo) is Tapu while they are being tattooed. They are not allowed to feed themselves during that time, or even look at themselves in a reflecting surface.

4. Certain actions can make things Tapu, for instance - you cannot sit on a table as it makes the table Tapu. You also can't sit on a pillow taken from a bed, this also makes the pillow Tapu. Remember - if someone then touches that table or pillow they could be killed.

The only way to remove the Tapu status is through Noa. Noa is a blessing performed by a Tohunga. Certain elements of tapu can never be removed because there are no Tohunga powerful enough to do so any more - stuff involving death, menstruation, and the tapu surrounding important people and tattoos, for instance.

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#4 ClockworkGhost


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Posted 18 February 2015 - 06:31 AM


A Māori welcome on to a marae is a pōwhiri (or pōhiri). Marae are not the only places where pōwhiri take place - pōwhiri can happen anywhere that hosts (tangata whenua) wish to formally greet a group of visitors (manuhiri).

Māori is the language used during pōwhiri. While pōwhiri may vary according to the occasion and the tribal area, Māori language still guides pōwhiri. Basic pōwhiri include the following steps:

Karanga is a unique form of female oratory in which women bring a range of imagery and cultural expression to the first calls of welcome (and response) in the pōwhiri.

Whaikōrero or formal speech making follows the karanga. Some of the best Māori language orations are given during pōwhiri when skilled speakers craft the language into a series of verbal images. The protocols for whaikōrero during pōwhiri are determined by the kawa (practices) of the marae or local iwi if the pōwhiri is not held on a marae.

A waiata or song is sung after each whaikōrero by the group the orator represents. It is common to hear traditional waiata during pōwhiri.

Koha – a gift, generally an envelope of money, is laid on the ground by the last speaker for the manuhiri (visitors). A local kuia (female elder) may karanga as an expression of thanks. A male from the tangata whenua will pick up the koha.

Hongi – the pressing of noses signifies the joining together of tangata whenua and manuhiri. Tangata whenua invite the manuhiri to come forward to shake hands (hariru) and hongi.

Hākari – the feast, a meal is then shared. This usually signifies the end of the pōwhiri.

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#5 ClockworkGhost


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Posted 18 February 2015 - 06:35 AM

Mihimihi are introductory speeches which take place at the beginning of a gathering after the more formal pōwhiri (formal meeting of strangers). Mihimihi are generally in te reo Māori (Maori language) and can be given by females and males.

Mihimihi establish links with other people present. Mihimihi involve individuals standing to introduce themselves by sharing their whakapapa (genealogy, ancestral ties) and other relevant information. It is important for Māori to know and to share their whakapapa - to know one’s whakapapa is to know one’s identity.

Mihimihi can vary in length depending on the reason for the gathering, how well the individuals at the hui (meeting) know each other and their links to one another.

A person will usually identify specific geographical features associated with their tribal area including their maunga (mountain), awa (river) and moana (sea). They may also identify their waka (ancestral canoe), hapū (sub tribe), iwi (tribe), marae (meeting house) and an eponymous ancestor. This information is considered more important than the individual’s own name which may be the last piece of information given in mihimihi.

Some people include pepeha - well known set verses that describe their whakapapa links to a particular hapū or iwi, especially if you are related to a well known or famous person.

Here is an example of a simple mihimihi:

Ko (name of your waka) te waka
My canoe is (name of your waka) - If you or your ancestors came to wherever you live by boat or plane, then this is the name of that boat or plane.

Ko (name of your mountain) te maunga
My mountain is (name of your mountain) - this doesn't have to be a mountain you live near, it is a mountain you identify with

Ko (name of your river) te awa
My river is (name of your river) - again, a river you identify with

Ko (name of your tribe) te iwi
My tribe is (name of your tribe) - this is usually your last name, unless you have a tribe.

Ko (name of your sub tribe) te hapū
My sub tribe is (name of your sub tribe) - this is often your partners last name, or your mothers maiden name if you don't have a partner. If youre Maori, this is usually your mothers tribe or your partners tribe.

Ko (name of your chief) te rangatira
(Name of your chief) is the chief - most dominant male relative in your family or ancestry (preferably alive)

Ko (name of your marae) te marae
My marae is (name of your marae)

Ko (your name) ahau
I am (your name)

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#6 ClockworkGhost


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Posted 18 February 2015 - 06:36 AM

This post provides the basic meanings of some popular Maori designs or symbols. The meanings provided are the result of many books and web pages of information, and as such is as accurate as we were able to get it. Some meaning's will not agree with every tribal interpretation as not all interpretations are exactly the same.

Koru (spiral)

These Maori Designs are the Koru, which is the Beginning of Life. The Maori have taken their symbolism from the unfurled new leaf of the silver fern. It depicts new beginnings, growth and harmony. New Zealand is the home of the most beautiful ferns in the world

Hei Matau (Fish Hook)

These Maori Designs are the fish hook. It symbolizes prosperity. Much of Maori traditional food is fish. The fish were so plentiful to the Maori that the simple ownership of a fish hook meant prosperity. Today it also represents strength, determination and good health. It provides safe journey over water.

Single Twist - infinity Loop

These Maori Designs are the 'single twist' and represent the joining together of two people. Even though sometimes people move away, their journey of life will have their paths cross again. The single figure eight represents the path of life, it is the eternity symbol. (The single twist is different to the double or triple twist in that it refers to individual people, where the double and triple twist refers more to the joining of peoples, or cultures)

Triple Twist

These Maori Designs are the triple and double twist and represents the joining together of two people, two peoples, two cultures for eternity even though they experience highs and lows of life they remain bonded by friendship and loyalty for life. (The single twist is different to the double or triple twist in that it refers to individual people, where the double and triple twist refers more to the joining of peoples, or cultures)

Manaia (The Guardian)

The carrier of supernatural powers. Traditionally depicted with the head of a bird, the body of a man and the tail of a fish - representing sky, earth and sea and the balance between. It is likened to a bird sitting on your shoulder looking after ones spirit, and when your time comes it will guide your spirit where it is supposed to go

Circle or Disk

The circle of life which includes the path of life ever ongoing, with no beginnings and no end. It also represents inner harmony and balance.

Hei Tiki (Neck Figurine)

The Tiki is commonly known as a good luck charm (Hei meaning to wear around the neck). these Maori designs are considered a symbol of fertility. The wearer of the Hei Tiki is assumed to be clear thinking, perceptive, loyal and knowledgeable. Their strength is their character. The Tiki is a talisman of New Zealand and her Maori people. From ancient times it has been regarded as a good luck charm. It is widely believed that it represents the unborn human embryo. And in Maori culture this represents a particularly powerful spirit for warding off bad luck. Years ago the most valuable tiki's were hand carved from greenstone. They were handed down through the generations and are treasured New Zealand Souvenirs today. You can still get such tiki's and start your own cycle of good luck.

Other popular Maori designs or symbols are...

Drop: Indicates strength, independence, unity and pride. Often called a comfort stone.

Heart: Indicates love, emotional balance, compassion and generosity.

Adze: Signifies strength, control, determination and focus.

Teardrop: signifies reassurance, positive energy, healing and comforting.

Dolphin: A symbol of protection. Dolphins in large schools often attacked sharks that got to close to canoes. Shows affinity to nature, especially the sea. A free spirit. Today the dolphin represents protection on all forms of transport.

Whale Tail: Another symbol of protection. Many whales in an area often meant an absence of sharks. Shows empathy for conservational issues. Strength but sensitivity. Today the Whale represents protection on all forms of transport.

Stairway: To assist you in your spiritual journey.

Adze: Signifies strength and honer and a tremendous amount of determination.

Turtle: The sign of the Turtle is the symbol of the sea navigator.

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#7 ClockworkGhost


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Posted 18 February 2015 - 06:37 AM

This is an example of Maori mysticism - an invocation of Tangaroa, god of the sea and father of everything that resides in it.



From the divine heartbeat of Mother Earth and the ever-elusive constant of Sky Father
All descend and all ascend the natural world
The timeless current of tranquil stillness
The harmonic music of ones infinite ocean
Resilient are the vital influences of the universe
Stand liberated by the inner radiance
Be still be silent and all shall be revealed.

Edited by ClockworkGhost, 18 February 2015 - 06:38 AM.

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#8 Guest_monsnoleedra_*

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Posted 18 February 2015 - 12:25 PM

Sounds like your talking about Mana as it is used in conjunction with Anamatism though it crosses over into animism as well in some capacity. Perhaps even into some aspects of totemism though totemism has pretty much fallen from usage in many shamanic like practices and discussions i've seen.
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#9 travsha


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Posted 18 February 2015 - 04:36 PM

Thanks for sharing. My wife is a small bit Maori, so she is always interested in connecting with her culture more (she is part Samoan too).

Just recently in Rotorua I got to stay for a week at the families house right on the lake in the middle of the Maori community. My wifes grandparents helped the Maori evade prosecution back in the day, and the Maori invited them to live among them, so we were the only white people allowed in that neighborhood (their house is right next to the community house on the water). Everyone would look at us weird and give us strange vibes till we told them who we were - they were very stand-offish when they thought we were tourists invading their space, but much more friendly when they learned we were related to friends.

Really interesting culture - we took childrens tales of Maori myths with us camping and would read them while we tramped around the island... Was especially helpful for my wife who focused on connecting with her ancestors that trip.... I especially love their artwork and wood carvings - really beautiful!

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#10 FrozenThunderbolt


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Posted 16 August 2017 - 06:40 PM

@ ClockworkGhost This is really interesting information - do you have a written resource that we could pursue for more in depth information?

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