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A trilogy of Wahine Toa


My flesh, muscle, sinew, and cartilage are composed of rock, granite, dirt, mud, stone, sand, and all that is dense and solid.

My bones are fossilised trees, veins of granite, gold, silver, copper, and all precious metals, branching from my core, from the centre of my being.

My blood is molten lava, liquid rock, water, boiling mud, nourishing bone and flesh through a labyrinth of rigid veins.

My breath is sulphur, gas, air, and mist, seeping through countless layers of hardened skin, a skin of regenerating life. Life for my children, my grandchildren, and the countless offspring which derive from them. They are the forests, plants, seas, rivers and creatures which clothe me. They are my wondrous korowai which sustains us all.

This is my story.

My new born, Rūaumoko, suckles at my breast, kicks and plays as any child, causing my belly to rumble, my body to shudder, and my children to be wary. Rūaumoko stayed with me when I was separated from Ranginui, Sky Father, when we chose to allow light to come between us.

It was the right time for us to grow apart, my husband and I. It was also the right time for our children to grow and understand the responsibilities of becoming all they possibly could. And so we allowed our son Tāne to brace himself against me, to thrust his legs upward, pushing Sky Father away, to severe our embrace.

And the journey of following the unspoken words of our forbearers continued. This was their gift to us, an imprint in our consciousness, handed down from Te Kore, the nothingness, through Te Pō, the nights. A gift of love which we in turn passed on to our children, to continue the cycle of creation.

Creation requires pain, requires sacrifice, requires possibility and belief, as food, water and light for any living thing. Our separation was a time of inward turning – a time of discovery, a time of power, a time of regenerating energy, a time of change.

My korowai which cloaked my body in the past was also the foundation to receive the seed for the future. Ranginui instructed Tāne, our son, to plant the seed, to weave it into the tapestry of my korowai. And as he did so, Ranginui's tears nourished the seed, so too did light give the seed food, fulfilling a promise from the past.

This was the beginning of my journey as the mother of all, from whom all living things are created, to whom all will eventually return.

We had allowed our children to create a space between us, a space which admitted light. Light which allowed growth and the ability to stand tall.

And now that our children have been free to create whatever their will desires, some have forgotten from whom they came.

But I hear them calling, a karanga of acknowledgement, of understanding that they will not forget. They call to celebrate a new day, to honour those who have passed to the next world, they call to acknowledge their ancestral parents, Sky Father and Earth Mother.

I am Papatūānuku, Earth Mother.

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My flesh is the deep red clay of Kurawaka, the blood of my parents. This blood is my blood, a sacrifice Ranginui and Papatūānuku endured so that I, the first woman, could come in to being. My bones are the bones of my ancestors, gifted by my mother. My breath, the first breath of life was mine to take – was mine to hold, was mine to release.

And following the first breath was consciousness, encompassed in this newly formed body. A body filled with love, beauty, wonder, and every emotion that I, the first human vessel, could possibly contain.

Blood, bone, flesh, spirit, and breath. "Tihei mauri ora!" Behold I live!

This is my story.

Following the separation of Ranginui and Papatūānuku, light flooded the world. And with light came the possibility of life.

The children of Ranginui and Papatūānuku had only talked of life, had debated and argued over it. They had not experienced it for themselves, not in the physical forms that tormented their imaginations.

Life could not be commanded, could not be forced. Life in the physical form eluded the children of Ranginui and Papatūānuku long after Tāwhirimātea's rage had abated.

The two celestial parents, newly separated, needed time to consider how life, in all its wondrous forms, should be created. They prayed, at this time, that their lives apart would continue to follow the pathways of their ancestors, that their decision was truly for the future.

Tears of love and remembrance spilt from the eyes of Ranginui, as too did ascending mists of love rise into the sky.

And after this time of sadness, of letting go, the tears and mists which followed finally settled, covering the newly woven korowai Papatūānuku had prepared long before the separation.

It was Tāne, the male essence who followed the instructions of his father, who was gifted the seed and guided by him to weave life into the fabric of the enormous korowai. A korowai of life, of creatures, of living things, held by the earth, nurtured with water and warmed by the sun.

It was the human form that eluded Tāne, and was hidden from him. Papatūānuku waited until she knew the time was right, then led Tāne to her sacred place, to Kurawaka. This was where he fashioned me from the red clay he found there.

I was the first. The first to breathe, to touch, to feel, to hold, to know, to experience everything of the newly created world.

I was in awe with what had preceded me, with what had ensured my creation. Overwhelmed with responsibility, I felt the guiding hand of Papatūānuku in my prayers, in my blood and in my body. I felt the spirit of Ranginui in my mind and the breath of Tāne in my lungs. These things helped me understand.

And when Tāne came to me he helped sooth my fears, showing me his world as an atua, the creations that had passed by him. And in turn I helped him understand what it was to be human, to feel, to touch, to experience the world as a physical being. And from that time we brought our worlds together to conceive our first born, Hinetitama, whose journey was also written before her time.

I am Hineahuone, the creator of people.


My pores excrete the absence of light, darkness. My bones are memories of past lives, my flesh, nourished with stories and gifts left by those who continue past me. My arms are forever open, lovingly held in welcome.

This is my story.

Beyond Te Rerenga Wairua, beyond the pōhutukawa tree standing at the cliff's edge, is the darkness. The darkness is my marae, my wharetipuna, my tūrangawaewae, my home. This is the place I choose for myself, this is where I dwell.

I wait for them here, the children, the grandchildren, the parents, the grandfathers and grandmothers. I wait for them to come to me, "Haere mai, haere mai haere mai ra..." I call.

"Welcome my children, to your ancestress, to your tipuna whaea. Welcome to life beyond the earthly realm, welcome to Rarohenga, the home of the spirit."

My tupuna, Ranginui and Papatūānuku, were pushed apart and light entered the world. With light came possibility, aspiration and desire, a desire for growth, a desire for life.

It was Tāne who felt this desire in his bones and flesh, who sought that his desire be satisfied. It was Tāne who searched in vain until finally Papatūānuku, my grandmother, chose to guide his path.

And so Tāne came to Kurawaka, the pubic area of Papatūānuku, where the sacred blood of my ancestors, Ranginui and Papatūānuku had spilt into the earth. And from the red clay that he found there, he fashioned Hineahuone, the first woman, the first human, my mother.

I was conceived at this time when my parents joined themselves.

As I grew inside my mother's womb, she sang to me the teachings of creation, gifted by my grandmother.

And as a young girl these teachings continued until I reached an age when blood became a sign of womanhood. Blood that not only shaped my mother but also shaped me, shaped my future.

And at this time questions of my past and future troubled me, questions of my place in this newly created world, questions of who I was to be.

I asked these questions of my mother and she sent me to pose them to the carved posts of our whare.

The posts told me my father was of the spirit realm, an atua, my mother of the earth, a physical being, and I, the first born, the mātaamua, traversed these worlds, encompassing them both.

I realised as I read the carved stories that the animals, insects, plants and all living things were also part of this wider order of things. And that my father, mother and grandparents were the procreators, the storytellers.

This was when I wondered about the pathway of the spirit and also about the physical being, these two parts of myself. I wondered about the future of my siblings ultimately returning to Papatūānuku when their lives came to an end. I prayed to my grandmother to guide me, and a space opened up on the carved posts, a space for my future to be created.

And as the newly formed carvings revealed themselves my journey became clear. This was the gift, he taonga tuku iho, from my grandmother, to my mother, to me.

And so I left my parents and travelled to Rarohenga, to receive all those who passed from the physical world to the next.

Since this time, I have welcomed them to my marae, my whare tipuna, my tūrangawaewae, to give thanks for past lives and to start anew.

I am Hinenuitepō, guardian of the spirit.

(c) Wiremu Grace

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