My Unexpected Discoveries in New Zealand
My time in New Zealand was amazing, incredible and unforgettable. I loved so many things about it. The landscape was lush and beautiful. I was mesmerized by unfurling ferns that brought to mind the cycle of growth and expansion.
The water – fjordlands, ocean, islands, waterfalls, rivers and lakes – epitomized abundance.
I was inspired to see Polynesians with such a sense of pride and connection in every aspect of life. Each curve of the carvings, the artwork, the symbols…even the tattoos all have deep meaning!
I loved our stay in the traditional marae, which is the Māori meeting house and temple. We were so privileged and fortunate to be able to sleep in their meeting house, whare nui. Each wall was lined with carved images of their ancestors. Woven mats with symbols of their creation stories provided another reminder of Māori connection to their culture and heritage.
As we entered into the marae on the first day of our journey, we were greeted in a traditional ceremony called the powhiri. Po is the darkness; Whiri means to weave. The intention is to weave two people together, or two clans together, or to welcome others to the whare, house.
The ceremony begins with a greeting by the guests as they enter the marae. We chanted in Hawaiian as we walked toward the gate. Our hosts chanted their Māori reply. The language, seemed so similar.
As we entered the main meeting house, whare nui, we looked up to see the Pow, a carved image of a head with its arms outstretched. The hands are welcoming you and makes the roof of the whare nui. As you enter in, you feel as though you go into the womb of the mother, moving from the light back into that welcoming place.
When the Māori landed in Aotearoa, they knew they had found a new home. They would no longer be traveling from island to island, way finding. They crafted the roof of the fare nui and carved it like the hull of their waka, traveling canoe, because they were headed for a new journey of growth on the land.
Today, if you look up onto the ceiling of the whare nui, you can see the structure of the hull of the canoe. And each of the beams represent the paddles of the canoe.
I asked one of our Māori students, “Tell me about the marae. What is the significance?”
She said, “It’s a place that we can always go when we’re feeling lost. We are connected to it. Our family is there. We introduce ourselves and begin with, ‘This is my mountain, and here is my ocean. That my river and my tribe, and this is me. And we see ourselves, and identify with places. So the marae is a place where we can go when we’re lost. We have somewhere to go, to be found.”
“Wow. Beautiful”, I thought.
Many of us today are looking for our roots and connection.
We’re on 23 And Me, and Ancestry.com just trying to find some understanding in what has happened. We want to know our timeline. We are trying to find our way.
The marae is a wonderful example of connection. What a gift to understand our connection to the earth, our sense of place and trace our roots. It’s a beautiful gift to be able to find your way back and be supported by a whole community that’s family to you.
I really wish we had that here in Hawaii. Even though many of our traditions are similar, what I really learned is the importance of having a place where people can gather.
I’ve always seen Ho’omana as a place where people can gather, and feel that sense of family. Home. Connection.
Find your root. Find your connection, and create a space of healing for those who are feeling lost. Or if it’s you that is feeling lost, know that you can connect.
Even if you don’t have that family is physically near, you can still plug in to that energy – the root of the family. Create your own sense of family and ‘Ohana.
You have the ability to create safety, security, and Aloha in any space.
So Mahalo to my Māori brothers and sisters, and mahalo to all of you.