I moved to Aotearoa/New Zealand thirteen years ago to marry Kirsti, I was thirty-five years old & had lived in the northern hemisphere all of my life, the vast majority of it in my homelands of Britain.
The change is immense & flows through in varying waves of understanding & adjustment, the varying landscapes, the sky above & indigenous culture of Tangata Whenua, people of the land. Although some of the landscape was changed by the colonists to look like England with oak, birch, pine & elder etc the native plant & fauna apart from one is evergreen.
The only indigenous mammal is a Pekapeka-tou-poto – bat, the rest were introduced such as the Kune Kune – Polynesian pig & Kiore rat by the coming of the waka’s/great sea vessels. Waka brought people here, and the name of this land became Land of the Long White Cloud – Aotearoa. Many species were later introduced by Europeans which decimated the native populations which previously had no prey apart from humans.
There was once a great realm of bird life, some of which were ground dwellers as they had no ground predators, the weasels, stoats, cats etc decimated their numbers, some to extinction.
Here, the movements of the stars and skies are so different. We acknowledge the movement of the sun as the opposite to how it moves in the North, and so we work our circles anti-clockwise. Sunwise but for the South. Here the North for us is hot, elemental fire South is cold – the Antarctic – elemental Earth. The moons course is different, so waxing is waning & waning is waxing from a northern hemispheric perspective. To explain, our moon cycles appear opposite in our skies to in the North, and our Moon moves from right to left across the night sky. The constellations are completely different or the other way for example Orions Belt known here as The Pot, because it looks like an upside-down saucepan.
Then there is indigenous layers & ways, the sacred places, rich culture & mythology, the land wars with the British, the peaceful approach of Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi – non-violent resistance to their land being unlawfully occupied. They practiced ploughing the crops up and pulling out fences that made no sense of indigenous understanding of land ownership – Tino Rangatiratanga… sovereignty of the land. While in theory the act of parliament that settled relationships between the British Crown and the people of the land, Te Tirirti o Waitangi – the Treaty of Waitangi, safeguarded the spiritual beliefs of the people, in 1907 the British Crown authority brought in the Tuhanga Suppression Act (shaman would be the nearest) that outlawed them, the Treaty of Waitangi and contributed to generations of subjugation of people.
The incoming colonists & empire not only took land & subjugated the people politically & spiritually, they imposed months & Christian festivals that make no sense with the turning of the seasons, Christmas, Yule the re-birth of the sun is held at Midsummers, Midwinter is June, which is also the Māori festival of Matariki (Pleiades and in Te Reo Māori – little eyes or the eyes of the god). Subsequently there are no public holidays during the winter here. Easter is held in autumn & Samhuinn/Blõdmonađ in spring, so what to do?
With the seasonal festivals the majority of folk on the druid or pagan path have swapped it all about to make seasonal sense, we in our household for example put up the tree, tinsel, sparkly lights in June, book a few days off, honour our ancestors, the re-birth of the sun, season, that it is Matariki too & just be.
Honouring & communicating with the spirits & guardians of place, this can only ever be my personal journey & it’s been a long & ever evolving one. Firstly I’d like to say through Kirsti’s existing relationships, knowledge of my own mythologies & just being myself I have been privileged & honoured to see, hear bear witness to things that your average white New Zealander doesn’t Have I made mistakes, yes I have, they have been genuine ones & the attitude has been if he wasn’t shown or told, fair enough that’s on us, this is the correct protocol.
Although there are some places that are Tapu (sacred, not for us) communication with spirits of place has taken time & I’ve found that I have to let go of all cultural associations of any kind at times, in my opinion spirits of place were here before humans & will be here once we are no more. I have had some deep connection to help me on my journey, when it has been more specifically Māori, the only way to describe it is being witness to, to gain understanding I am not part of, it’s not my whakapapa, my story is different even though we are all connected to the great web.
One of the hardest things I have found is ancestral connection to the land for want of better words, I was born in Hastings, Sussex to an old Sussex family, My Grandma, her maiden name was Foord, used to tell me our ancestors fought in Harold’s Fyrd against William the Bastard (can’t prove it, a good tale none the less) among many other things. My mother’s people of Wessex, all around the same area of Somerset more or less with the exception of a 18th century grandmother from the Isle of Mann, my point being my Grandad used to walk me around Hastings & show & tell me things etc same for Somerset when I visited & later lived there for a few years in my early 30’s & in truth wherever I travelled in the UK I could let my imagination go & it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility my ancestors had been there & a sense of connection. Here is different. I know I am the first of my direct lines to have travelled out here, would be interesting to know if others who have moved to other lands felt similar?
This piece of writing in truth only really scratches the surface, the journey is like a stone thrown upon still waters, the ripples ripple out, yet there is more beneath the surface as the stone journey’s through the depths to the water bed.
There will be more words to weave as the tapestry unfolds.