Thursday, February 14, 2013

PAPATUANUKU: the earth mother

Papatuanuku is the mother of all things… she is the earth that we live upon. She stretches out beneath her husband as the foundation of our culture. Ranginui is the great sky father… the vast expanse of the heavens. Papa is of course the nurturing parent and provides sustenance for her descendants. Not only is she the land we walk upon… she is also the life within the land. Everything is linked to the land… the plants, the trees, the birds, the lizards, the seals and the people. Papatuanuku nurtures them all… feeds them all… houses them all and at the end of their life… forms the final resting place for all creatures great and small. Rangi and Papa had many children including Tane, Tangaroa, Tawhirimatea, Tu, Rongo and Haumia. Papa was heavily pregnant with Ruaumoko when the winds of discontent began to blow in the world of darkness.

As the children grew up they became annoyed with life between their parents. Soon they gathered deep in the darkness to discuss the problems of living in such conditions. Tangaroa was very keen to separate his parents but felt he was not nearly strong enough to complete such a task. Tawhirimatea apposed any talk of separation and threatened his brothers with eternal war if they even attempted to break them up. Tumatauenga scoffed at his brother’s emotional outburst and demanded their parents be separated immediately. Otherwise he would kill them himself. Then Tane stood up, “Calm down brothers - Let me try” he said. Tane thought for a while then lay with his back braced against his mother. He raised his feet up and placed them on his father. Tane strained with all his might and eventually he was able to pry his parents apart. Little by little they began to separate. Just then Tawhirimatea roared with anger then rushed off past Tane and the others to join Rangi. Meanwhile the light flooded into the world… it spread quickly into every corner of the land… and life, as we know it, was born.

This is Te Ao Marama (the world of warmth and light)… and the true beauty of Papatuanuku could be seen at last. Her gorgeous cloak of a thousand shades of green, her impressive snow topped mountains, her abundant rivers, her lush valleys and her generous beaches simply confirm Papa as the mother of absolutely everything. When Tane wanted to create the first mortal women he asked his mother if he could use the sacred red soils of Kurawaka. Papatuanuku agreed to let him use it to mould a body and breathe life into it, on one condition. That if the life ever leaves that body, it be returned to Papa… to become soil again. Tane agreed… thus when we die we enter the underworld via the urupa (uru Papa)… and join our whanau whakapapa link to the land. Our whole existence begins and ends with the land. We are the land… and the land is us. Papatuanuku is the mother, the provider, the life and the whenua. We are the tangata whenua (people of the land).