New Zealand – Maori Culture & Spirituality – by Delaney Babich. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
[This is a piece of Greenstone, which holds mana, and its mana increases as it is passed down through generations. This rock belongs to Nga, who was our native guide during the trip. It is six generations old.]
One of the crucial parts to socialization requires understanding the perspectives of other people and their cultures. I was able to immerse myself in Maori culture while studying abroad in New Zealand. I gained a wealth of compassion & knowledge of people other than those I grew up with, as did everyone else in my group. We spent a weekend on a Marae, which is a native land where official tribal business, family functions and special events occur. Here we were introduced to a few traditional customs as well as spiritual practices. One example of a custom that intrigued me was a housekeeping rule at the marae. If anyone brought cups or bowls into the bathroom they are to be thrown away because the energy in the bathroom is not the same as the energy in the kitchen, and it upsets the natural balance of tapu. Tapu is a term describing certain restrictions in everyone’s life, and it was used as a way to control how people behaved towards each other and the environment. Everything also has a thing called Mana. Mana influenced the way in which people and groups conducted themselves, acting as a reference point for the achievements and successes in one s life. Similarly, is mana was attached to natural resources and inanimate objects could affect the behaviors of individuals and group. These are the two fundamental concepts that governed the infrastructure of traditional Maori society, and are interchangeable. They link each person to creation, and the history of ancestors. The aspect of history is detrimental to Maori culture. We were taught that knowledge and stories, all come from someone before us, and will pass through us onto someone else one day. Whether it be about food preparation, child rearing or specific spiritual practices, the Maori have kept their history alive via oral practices, rather than written ones. The leader of the Marae, Keith, taught us that every bit, every feeling, every word is important, and that it must be kept for those later to hear as well.
A crucial characteristic to his teaching while we were there included the importance of spiritual knowledge. He says that spiritual concerns apply to all things. They are never obliterated and must be given full status and recognition. This concept is manifested out of their bond with nature, although it is much more than a bond. The Maori join all beings together; everything is connected into one independent whole, which relies on each of its parts to be healthy in order to keep thriving. It was eye opening to see an opposite way of thinking about life and the things in it, and to be welcomed into a community that desires to have their stories spread in order to keep a culture alive.
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