Friday, August 2, 2019

Maori Culture Essay

Abstract The Maori, which means â€Å"ordinary or common,† arrived in New Zealand in the 14th century. Polynesian by descent, they came from the mythical land of Hawaiki, believed by many experts to be a combination of places, including Tahiti, Samoa, Hawaii and the Cook Islands. Upon arriving in New Zealand, the Maori dubbed the picturesque land Aotearoa, or â€Å"land of the long white cloud.† The Maori Culture The Maori like many other Pacific Islanders started their journey in a canoe. Living on an island afforded the Maori with a unique and diverse culture that is still evident in Modern day New Zealand. In the next few pages I will give you a brief glimpse of the Maori way of life then and now. I will discuss the belief and value system, gender roles, healing the sick and also the impact of Colonialism on the Maori way of life. There are three basic beliefs and values of the Maori. I nga wa o Mua, Whakapapa and Mana. I nga wa o Mu. Maori believe that ancestors and supernatural beings are ever-present and able to help the tribe in times of need. The Maori world view is to look in front of us to the past for guidance as that is where we came from. It was because of this philosophy that the Maori did not conveniently forget about the Treaty of Waitangi once it was signed. Through facing the past they can learn from past mistakes and not repeat them. This concept is totally reversed in other cultures, who try to encourage them to forget about the past and to put things behind them Whakapapa Whakapapa translated means genealogy. The Maori believe that everything and everyone are connected and therefore a part of their Whakapapa. Whakapapa includes genealogies of spiritual and mythological significance, as well as information about the person’s tribe and the land he or she lives on. The Whakapapa is passed down orally in the form of stories. One of the most famous stories is story of the creation of Aotearoa. Aotearoa was pulled from the sea by the demi god Maui. Maui was the last of five brothers and was known to be clever. He hid in the canoe of his brothers and when they would not give him bait to fish he took his magical hook and slashed his face and smeared the blood on his hook so that his blood would attract the fish. Smelling the blood the god of the sea gave Maui his biggest fish. Maui asked his brothers to not cut up and eat the fish until proper arrangements had been made to appease and thank the gods for their gift. While Maui was on land trying to pull the boat to shore his brothers started to cut the fish because it started to move. That is why Aotearoa the fish and the mountains and the valleys are where Maui’s brothers tried to cut the fish. Mana According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Mana is â€Å"Among Polynesian and Melanesian peoples, a supernatural force or power that may be ascribed to persons, spirits, or inanimate objects. Mana may be good or evil, beneficial or dangerous, but it is not impersonal; it is never spoken of except in connection with powerful beings or things. The term was first used in the 19th century in the West in connection with religion, but mana is now regarded as a symbolic way of expressing the special qualities attributed to persons of status in a hierarchical society, of providing sanction for their actions, and of explaining their failures†. The Maori believe in three forms of Mana. The first type of Mana is the Mana that you have when you are born. This Mana comes from your Whakapapa and can attribute to the rank and status of your descendants. This Mana is not only the ancestor themselves but also the deeds that they did and the skills, traits and abilities taught to them by their tupuna (elders). The second type of Mana is Mana given to you by other people. Today there are people who seek Mana and deliberately go around trying to gain Mana by telling people about their own importance. There is a Maori saying: â€Å" The Kumara does not talk about its’ own sweetness.† But Mana seekers do exactly that. Humbleness is a very highly valued trait in the Maori world. Many of the great leaders are very humble people, hence part of their greatness. The Maori people sing their praises, thereby heightening their Mana. You will never hear the great leaders singing their own praises. It is not that they are trying to be humble; it is that they just are. The third type of Mana is Mana from the group. The best example I could come up with is the Mana of the marae. The marae is the sacred courtyard that you must be formally invited to enter for the first time. The marae is where challenges are met and issues are debated. When you stay on a Marae all are treated well and fed great food. When the visitor leaves they tell everyone about the great time they had thus increasing the Mana of the marae. If they tell everyone they were treated ill and unkind then the Mana of the marae decreases. Traditional Maori folklore focuses on oppositions between pairs, such as earth and sky, life and death, and male and female. From the time of creation the original couple, Rangi (sky) and Papa (earth) were locked in sexual union until the god Tane was able to push them apart and provide for the creation of human life. So as you can see opposition existed before the creation of human life according to Maori traditional stories. It then would suffice that opposition would exist throughout Maori culture. Premarital sexual relationships were considered normal for Maori adolescents. Both males and females were expected to have a series of private relationships before they married. When Maori females became sexually active, they were to publicly acknowledge this so that they could become tattooed. Tattooing marked their ritual and public passage into adulthood. It was also considered extremely attractive and erotic. Tattooing among the Maori was highly developed and extremely symbolic. Maori facial tattoos were created by two methods. One was by piercing and pigmenting the skin with a tattooing comb. The other was by creating permanent grooves in the face with a chisel-like instrument. . Females were also tattooed in Maori society. Female facial tattooing was known as ta ngutu. Designs were placed on the chin and lips. When it comes to sickness and healing in Maori culture things were very different before Colonization. In traditional times before the colonization of New Zealand, Maori saw science and religion as the same entity and believed that illnesses were caused by supernatural sources. Maori had a good concept of anatomy, physiology and the use of plants for healing; however there was an undefined distinction between the mind and body. Maori believed an evil spirit or a type of witchcraft would attack an individual to cause ill-health as a punishment for breaking the tapu (sacred restriction) of the family that the spirit belonged to. This type of illness was called mate atua (disease of the gods) since there was no obvious physical cause. The individual would experience pain, weakness, loss of appetite, malaise, fever and occasionally delirium due to possession of the spirit. When Captain James Cook colonized New Zealand in 1830 he brought with him, evasive plants and animals as well as guns, alcohol and diseases that the Maori were previously exposed to. New Zealand’s isolation meant that the Maori people lacked immunity to bacterial and viral infections that were common in other countries. The Maori found that their healing methods were ineffective against the new diseases and had to rely on the medicines of the missionaries. The effectiveness and popularity of the missionaries’ medicines assisted in the conversion of Maori to Christianity. It appeared to the Maori that the Christian god had superior powers and this attributed to the health and prosperity of the Europeans. The fundamentals of Maori society, culture, religion and medicine became strained as religion was involved in their everyday lives and many of their beliefs were based upon it. The people began to lose their Mana due to the shift of religion and the spread of Western knowledge undermining the tohunga’s ( spiritual leader) authority The downfall of the whare wananga (school of learning) was also due to conflict between Maori religion and Christianity. In 1907 the Tohunga Supression Act was passed due to concern being raised over the practice and safety of some tohunga. Maori healing was seen as ‘dangerous’ by Western modern medicine as it was not scientifically proven. The Tohunga Suppression Act was repealed in 1962 however this had little significance as some tohunga had practiced throughout the 20th century especially in remote rural areas of the country. Tohunga are still significant in current Rongoa Maori however modern tohunga have not been trained in traditional methods giving them a position of authority and prestige however they are still recognized as experts in their field. Many modern tohunga showed potential in their childhood by spending time with their elders and learning tribal and cultural lore. They then became an apprentice under an established tohunga to learn their expertise Current Maori healthcare is based on a holistic model that incorporates the physical, emotional, family and spiritual aspects of health. Each aspect must be treated or used to ensure full recovery of a patient. The current function of modern tohunga is varied. Conventional medicine is incorporated into the tohunga’s practice however traditional methods of karakia (chants) and inoi (prayer) are still extensively used. Native plants for medicinal purposes are widely used however application of uses varies between each practitioner. References 1. Franklin- Barbajosa, Cassandra. â€Å"Tattoo: Pigments of Imagination.† National Geographic News. March 7, 2008. 2. 3. â€Å"Moriori.† Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 4. The Legend of Maui. 5. The Definition of Mana. 6. Maori Colonization.

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