KARAKIA - MEANS TO ONENESS

A normal way to move into the world of ritual where we experience our oneness with people, with creation and with God, is through the use of the karakia, the ritual chants.

The karakia cover every aspect of life. There are individual karakia, for the weather; for different types of sickness; for playing games; for work, such as fishing and hunting; for weapons; for tattooing; for overcoming love. Then there are the karakia for the major ritual complexes: for the child; for warfare; for death; for the kuumara and for the canoe, the canoe being our pathway to heaven, the kuumara being our food from heaven.

The karakia are the work of the people, not of one individual. The only author mentioned is one of the great leaders of the past, or some mythical figure, such as Maui, or one of the spiritual powers. They are the voice of the people, speaking the words of the ancestors. Their power comes, not from the words themselves as though they were some kind of magic chant, but from faith in the ancestors and in the spiritual powers. To quote Wiremu Te Rangikaheke:

I te wa i whakapononga ai te ngakau o nga tangata pupuri i enei tikanga, i te wa hoki e mahara ake ana te ngakau ko nga atua maori ano to ratou mananga ake, me a ratou karakia maori hoki uaua i roto i aua wa. A, ka whai kaha, ka whai toa, ka whai mananga. It was a time when people in their hearts believed in these customs, a time when in their hearts they held that their mana came indeed from the Maori spiritual powers, and their Maori ritual chants were their strength in those times. And, indeed, they did acquire strength, determination and power.

The knowledge we experience in the world of ritual, an experience of oneness with people, with creation and with Io, God, is the knowledge that comes to us from the third basket of knowledge, te kete tuaatea, the basket of the knowledge which is 'beyond space and time'.

E RERE, E RERE, E TE KOOTARE

The karakia e rere, e rere, e te kootare, is a karakia which was taught to children. Sir Peter Buck tells of himself being taught this karakia when he was a child. It is a karakia telling the rain to go away.

E rere, e rere, e te kootare, ki runga ki te puuwharawhara. Ruru ai o parirau. Ka mate koe i te ua. Tiihore mai i uta. Tiihore mai i tai. He rangi, ka mao mao mao mao mao te ua.

Fly, fly, O Kingfisher, up into the astelia bush. Shake your wings. The rain is killing you. Clear off the land. Clear off the sea. The heavens are clear, the rain has gone, far, far, far away.

This is a very simple karakia, yet in using it we are speaking the words of the ancestors and being introduced into a world in which the word is very important as our way, as human beings, of being one with the ancestors and taking part in the evolving of the universe. The same simple karakia is also used as the concluding part of a karakia "for the lifting of a tapu off the waters". and could well be used to protect us from nuclear fallout. The puuwharawhara, the astelia bush, could be used as a symbol of the church.

TUUTAKINA I TE IWI

The following karakia is a 'binding' karakia. It is part of a hohou rongo, a peace binding karakia. Similar karakia on their own were used for healing wounds after battle. In the context of a peace binding karakia the karakia here is used not so much to heal the physical wounds of battle, but to heal the wounds dividing us as peoples.

Tuutakina i te iwi. Tuutakina i te toto. Tuutakina i te kiko. Tuutakina i te uaua. Tuutakina kia uu. Tuutakina kia mau. Teenei te rangi ka tuutaki. Teenei te rangi ka ruruku. Teenei te papa ka wheuka. E Rangi e, awhitia. E Papa e, awhitia. Naau ka awhi, ka awhi. Naau ka aaka, ka aaka. Naau ka toro, ka toro. Tupu he toka whenua, tupu he toka Mata-te-raa.

Join the bones together. Join the blood together. Join the flesh together. Join the sinews together. Join them so they will be firm. Join them so they will hold fast. It is the heavens which join. It is the heavens which bind together. It is the earth which strengthens and supports. Heavens, embrace us. Earth, embrace us. What you embrace, is indeed embraced. What you cherish is truly cherished. What you stretch out and join stays stretched out and joined. It grows, a rock of the land, a rock like Mata-te-raa.

To use this karakia is to go back to the beginning of creation, when all was still dark and Rangi and Papa, the spiritual powers responsible for the heavens and the earth, were caught up in an embrace so close and so strong that no light could come through to their children. So we call on the strength of their love for each other to bind us together.

E KAU KI TE TAI E

The following Ngaapuhi karakia is said to have been used by the great priest Nukutawhiti, the nephew of Kupe, on his arrival in the Hokianga harbour some eight hundred to a thousand years ago. It is a karakia expressing both the conclusion of a great undertaking and the beginning of a new undertaking.

With its references to Marerei-ao and Taotao-rangi, places in Hawaiki, and to the spiritual powers Taane and Tangaroa, it takes on a cosmic significance. So to live with this karakia is to live as part of the cosmos.

E kau ki te tai e, e kau ki te tai e, E kau raa, e Taane. Waahia atu raa te ngaru hukahuka o Marerei-ao Pikitia atu te aurere kura o Taotao-rangi. Tapatapa ruru ana te kakau o te hoe, E auheke ana, e tara tutu ana te huka o Tangaroa I te puhi whatukura, i te puhi marei kura o taku waka. Ka titiro iho au ki te pae o uta, ki te pae o waho. Piki tuu rangi ana te kakau o te hoe; Kumea te uru o taku waka Ki runga ki te kiri waiwai o Papa-tuu-a-nuku E takoto mai nei; Ki runga ki te uru tapu nui o Taane E tuu mai nei. Whatiwhati rua ana te hoe a Pou-poto, Tau ake ki te hoe naa Kura, he ariki whatu manawa. Too manawa, e Kura, ki taku manawa; Ka irihia, ka irihia ki Wai-o-nuku, Ka irihia, ka irihia ki Wai-o-rangi, Ka whiti au ki te whei ao, ki te ao maarama. Tupu kerekere, tupu wanawana Ka hara mai te toki E Haumie Huie Taikie!

Swim on the sea, swim on the sea, Swim now, oh Taane. Split the foamy waves of Marerei-ao; Ascend the sacred current of Taotao-rangi. The foam of Tangaroa is standing in crests, is descending On the sacred plumes of my canoe, I look down on the inner and outer rows of surf. The handle of the paddle is lifted to the sky, The head of my canoe is pulled forward Onto the skin of mother earth lying here, With the sacred head of Taane standing above. The paddle of Pou-poto breaks in two. And the paddle of Kura is taken, A great chief and high-priest, of very great heart. Your heart, oh Kura, bound to my heart, Lifted, lifted up in the waters of the earth Lifted, lifted up in the waters of the heavens I cross the mortal world, to the world of light. Let it grow in deep wonder and awe. Bring here the axe, Come, gather in full force, it is done!

The references to Taane and Tangaroa bring us into contact with two of the great created spiritual powers of our world, Taane responsible for the forests covering the land and reaching up to the heavens, and Tangaroa responsible for the seas.

The references to Marerei-ao and Taotao-rangi give this karakia a cosmic significance. Marerei-ao and Taotao-rangi are places in Hawaiki where everything begins - in our Christian understanding, Heaven.

Kura is a person very precious to the person reciting the karakia, and is an Ariki, the person who is our link with God. So we become one with Kura, one heart, rising out of the material waters of the earth and the spiritual waters of the heavens and crossing over to the eternal world of light. The axe referred to is probably Awhiawhiorangi, which enables us to cut through the bindings of heaven and earth and allows us to move into the light, into full knowledge.

With this karakia we identify with Nukutawhiti and link our own undertakings, no matter how small, with the great undertakings of the past and give them a cosmic significance.

It is not hard for Christians to see the canoe as the church, as the 'kingdom', and Kura as Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, the person of great heart who himself was lifted up on the cross, his paddle, between earth and heaven and who fulfils perfectly the role of Ariki.

KA MATE WHIRO

The following karakia comes from one of Edward Shortland's manuscripts. It was given to Shortland by the Arawa chief, Ringori Te Ao, a descendent of Hei who is said to have arrived here on the Arawa canoe. I believe this karakia sums up all that has been said in this web page.

Ka mate Whiro Whiro dies Ka mate Whiro Whiro dies Tuu takeke It is done! Kei runga nei teetehi rangi There is a world above Kei raro nei teetehi rangi There is a world below Poo ki tupua te poo Night given over to the spirits, Poo ki tawhito te poo Night given over to those long since dead. He karere, he karere i tukua A message of peace has been sent Ki too tini i runga to your many above Ki too tini i raro to your many below. Kei reira te puu The absolute potential. Kei reira te kaitaua There in the realms of Tuumatauenga. Kei reira te rongomaiwhiti There are the ancient rituals. Ko toou manawa, ko taaku manawa. Your heart, my heart. Kia hoomai toou manawa mate You give me your dying mooku. heart. Kia hooatu taaku manawa ora I give you my living heart. moou. Whiti ora! Cross over to life! Maranga mai ki runga! Rise up above!

According to the story given by Te Ao, this karakia was said by Uenuku who worked on the Arawa and Tainui canoes. His son, Whiro, was killed by the Arawa chief, Tamatekapua, when he found him taking some of the special food being set aside for the people working on the canoe. The karakia was recited by Uenuku to bring his son back to life.

The final section of the karakia, from the words 'Your heart, my heart', occurs with slight variations in different karakia.

When I first looked at this karakia I was with Dan Whata of Te Arawa, who was very ill and dying at the time. We realized then how moving this final section of the karakia was, first as expressing the depth of being human and then as expressing the depth of Jesus' love for each person. Dan died in August, 1991. Some three years later, October, 1994, after I had been diagnosed as having a type of Motor Neuron disease, Progressive Bulbar Palsy, and given a short time to live, the karakia took on a very personal meaning for me.

The words of the karakia are not part of the European Christian Gospel, but are at the heart of the Maori (New Zealand) Gospel and at the heart of the Eucharist.

Jesus is bigger than European Christianity. Jesus is bigger than any one religion. Jesus is bigger than the Gospels. Jesus embraces all peoples, all persons. Jesus is found with the poor. the oppressed, the marginalized, with the 'non-persons'.

The words of the Maori ritual chant express what Jesus says to me, what Jesus says to every person and to every people, what Jesus says to the whole of creation.

They express what is at the heart of being human. They express the 'being' of Jesus. They express the 'being' of Io, God.

When I first looked at this karakia, I could not make much sense of the first part, so I put it aside. I was more than satisfied with its final section. In particular I was put off by the son being called Whiro. Why would anybody want to call his son Whiro? Whiro is the personification of evil and the spirit regarded as the source of evil.

Then came the realization. What human being has not got a touch of Whiro? Moreover, Uenuku is, at least for the Waikato people, the representative of Io, of God.

At this level of understanding the karakia is the story of both Jesus and Io, the prodigal son and his more prodigal father. It gives insight into the absolute unconditional love of God, especially for the poor and the sinner. It speaks the love of the Father for his son and for every human person. It speaks the union we have with his son, Jesus, who identifies with every human person, especially the sinner, no matter how much that person has come under the spell of Whiro. It speaks the sure hope we have in the resurrection.

To recite this karakia is to express our oneness with Jesus and with Io, to live ourselves the kingdom begun by Jesus, God with us. Here the fulness of mana is the fulness of being, the fulness of giving. We ourselves are taken into the life of Io, God, for whom to be is to give.

Your heart, my heart. You give me your dying heart. I give you my living heart. Return to Maori theology home page