Celebrations.

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Taku mea e haramai nei, ē
He whakahou mai ki ahau, ē,
He torotoro i tō waimanu, ē,
E mau nei, kei te paheke, nā

E hua noa ana te ngākau, ē,
He haohao i aku mahara, ē,
Taria ia rā kia tuakina, ē,
Katea ia rā kei te marae, rā.

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So today was a beautiful day. A niece of mine has begun her sacred lunar cycle, and I was so honoured to share that sacred space with her through the day – sharing stories of our ancestresses, of our divinity, of the incredible power that lies in this process. I shared my first time with her, what it was like… I shared what I knew of how it was for our Nannies. We talked about cramps and sickness and volume and length and all of the related realities. We spoke of our genealogical lineage that goes all the way back to our divine beginnings. We spoke of whenua (land/placenta), of kurawaka (sacred red earth)… we spoke of inspirational women, admired empowering wahine Maori art, listened to inspirational music, we sung, we prayed. We painted hue (gourds) and made cloth pads, while talking about the healthiest way to care for our whenua within and our whenua without.

We are fortunate to have remnants of songs and prayer that reference the divine power – and we’re incredibly fortunate to have people like Ngahuia Murphy, who’s seminal work on menstruation in pre-colonial Maori world, Te Awa Atua has collated these remnants to rebuke the dominant, dis-empowering colonial discourse and provoke a vital, and long overdue discussion around the reclamation of indigenous voice, most especially in relation to our sacred spaces. This woman is a taonga for our people and I have endless love and respect for who she is, the kaupapa she carries, and how she carries it.

I drew from what I knew to create our own ceremonial celebration today – and I would implore all women to do the same for our young wāhine as they step into this, the most powerful aspect of their femininity.

Mauri ora x

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3 thoughts on “Celebrations.

  1. Kia ora Tina, I would really love to do this, but I wouldn’t really know where to start. To make it a celebration that is. I love the idea of talking about goddesses and our tīpuna, inspiring artists and music. Any tips would be awesome.

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    • It’s SUCH an important thing to do e hoa, the years I spent working with young wahine Māori made me hyper aware of how rare it is that we honour our bodies and cycles, and how important it is for self-image. You can prepare them for it by talking about what an important time it is when you first bleed, and how you’re looking forward to sharing that time with them – that it’s a time for remembering the women that have come before us in our whakapapa, who have all bled so that we can be here. That way when the time comes it will be a positive thing for them, not shrouded in uncertainty, and it makes it easier for them to come to you as well. When my neice was sent to me, she’d had an unfortunate incident where her mate arrived while she was at school and they didn’t handle it well at all (sent her to sick bay, didn’t talk to her about what it meant, but declared it to other staff in front of her) – just as well she’s an amazing young woman she was able to make sense of it all and understand that they just didn’t know how to handle it. So in reflection, if it were my daughter, I’d probably also have a word with her teachers about my expectations in the event that she have her first bleed whilst in their care.
      As for the day – well we made some cloth pads (I’ll post a clip on how to do this shortly) and I just asked her if she had any questions, or what she thought it would be like from now on, what she’d heard from others etc (and omg what girls hear from others is amaaaazing)… and then we went into talking about what it’s actually like. We discussed what kind of things help with cramps and sickness (diet, heatpads, etc) and why some people think it’s “dirty” or why it’s not talked about. That’s a great space to enter the discussion about how it’s not OUR way to consider it dirty – that this is an introduced patriarchal idea from christianity/colonization – and in fact for us it has always been a very powerful concept. In some stories the first bleed was when Maui said he wanted to be like Hineteiwaiwa, who dies and then is constantly reborn every month. So Hinenuitepō crushed him between her thighs, granting him his wish and so the first bleed was his death, which happens over and over again every month. In other korero it’s Hineahuone who’s first blood is preserved in the sacred earth of Kurawaka. There are plenty of other similarly empowering stories if you look up Ngahuia Murphy’s book Te Awa Atua. http://waiwhero.com/buy-te-awa-atua-the-book/
      You can also look at Waiwhero, which she wrote with a specific focus for rangatahi. You can also gift her a moon journal – for writing her contemplations at this time – it’s also a great place for her to voice frustrations etc, especially when her cycle enters the stage of Hinenuitepō 🙂 (and again that’s a great space for speaking to the naturalness of feeling edgy at that time). You can kickstart the journal by making a few collage pages of wahine in your whakapapa – images or korero or even just writing their names, or their whakapapa lines down to her. You might have some great stories about some of your nannies to share with her – or you might even consider calling them and asking a few of them what it was like for them in their day, so you can have some more to share with your girls when the time comes.

      As for artists – well we went for listening to her faves which were Maisey Rika – I threw in a little India Arie and Erykah Badu, too. Anything empowering, positive, and reaffirming of the divinity and naturalness of what she’s experiencing is great. I’m sure whatever you do will be wonderful, and incredibly important for them, a time that they will always treasure. Mauriora e hoa. xxxxx

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