Te Rangi Hiroa. The Sky Raker!
A Pakeha Appraisal.
By Ivor Hughes.

Moko = Facial Tattoo.
Pakeha = A Caucasian.
Kete o te wananga = The three baskets of knowledge.
Tane = The first man with super natural powers. We call him Adam.
Io = The Supreme Being

We all have those special moments when the world stops at a crossroads and we make a conscious or unconscious change of path that alters our life forever. The words of Te Rangi Hiroa otherwise known in Academic circles as Sir Peter Buck, was one such epiphany on my road. I can best explain by narrative but first let me explain that Sir Peter Buck was a Maori academic and other academics are seen to criticize his work and point out what it is they consider to be errors in his anthropological conclusions. This is in the realm of science and measure, which as a personal opinion it is surely just another way of seeing the world. Therefore I feel that the criticism is unfairly made, if only from that angle, that the world of the Academic is the polar opposite to that of the Shaman.

He wrote a most wonderful book, and very well illustrated �The Coming of the Maori� In the epilogue he re-worked an old Maori Prophecy .. "Behind the Moko stands a paler face" and in the wisdom of that time, it was generally taken to mean that the Maori would die out and that the Colonists would inherit the land. Sir Peter re-worked the prophecy .. and said .. What those words really mean is that .. "there will be a blending of the races .. I wish you all a happy blending". Those are the words of a Shaman of high rank. For if we follow his words closely, we may see � that in New Zealand .. the Moko stands behind many a suit. Te Rangi Hiroa also said .. "The Seer is never wrong � the only thing wrong � is the interpretation which is placed upon the Seers words".

The words of the Matriarch Dame Whina Cooper gives off echoes .. she was asked by a Grand Daughter .. "Grandma how do we get rid of the Pakeha? .. to which the matriarch replied .. "Marry them! marry them my dear".

Sublime! For here we see the varied universes of the mind, and the group think which is used to mould societies and to herd them along different paths of seeing and way of experiencing the world, and how the wrong interpretation as a zeitgeist can have tragic consequences. It is rather like the native Australians having a bone pointed at them, but on a societal scale. The outcome of course, depends on who is pointing the bone, at whom and for what purpose .. What is shown is another way of seeing and another way of being. Another way of doing things. Exemplars of their people.

We may suppose that the same analogy of polar opposites applies to Pakeha and Maori mind sets � and on superficial levels that is true. However it is the roots of every race that bind us all, and it should come as no surprise that the different races of peoples are only branches on the same tree. We all have common roots � we all came from the same place � and our respective legends and myths may be super imposed one on the other, and this in spite of the adornment of cultural embellishment.

However the full impact of his words did not strike me until much later, but let me tell you what happened, and in its appropriate stage set, because that also has a great effect on how we perceive things. But one thing is for sure � when the string is plucked, or the bell is rung � for better or for worse � we may not ignore it!

It was an old kauri wood farmhouse, one of the first in the region, and from the planted and mature trees one could see the shades of the self sufficient lifestyle of yesteryear. I had made my weekly trip by row boat around into the next bay to pick up supplies for the family. A weekly treat was a visit to the second hand book shop. For I knew that I lived on an island of scholars as evidenced by the well stocked and ever changing shelves, and a couple of wise store owners who seeded shelves with those little gems for the diligent customer. The pleasure of a find, and at a bargain at that, is not to be missed.

A glance at the index and a casual riffle of the pages and the many photographs and illustrations and then the price tag, NZ$5 .. the wheels had spun and I had hit the jackpot! Clutching my find and hoping that I had not misread the price I approached the counter. She was a middle aged Pakeha lady in the best traditions of the Crone or Wise Woman, one may not mistake them. She looked at the book and then at me with eyes atwinkle .. she said .. I had a feeling about that book � and I wondered who would come to collect it. She placed the book in a brown paper bag and sealed it with sello tape and refused my money, "buy something for the kids" she said.

That night when the house was quiet, I kindled the fire in the old fireplace to banish the chilliness of the Autumn air. I sat upon the sofa my hand upon the book, willing and watching the taking of the fire, the flames licking around the tea tree logs, the hissing spitting and the crackling .. when suddenly a monstrous apparition .. from out of one of the logs hollow core he came .. so fast the eyes found it hard to follow. A very large black Weta with large coal like bulbous eyes. Prehistoric in his awfulness of form. I have never seen his like and size again � and just as well because he near stopped my heart .. for I do not like such creatures.

On the topmost tip of the log he stood .. as yet safe from licking flames. Why he did not jump from there to hearth? I will never know, but before my gaze, the licking flames slowly consumed first one leg and then another and he toppled lopsidedly into the glowing heart of the fire. Like a moth in a candle � one bright flare and it was all over. I was stunned, by the sight but my mind could not muster up a meaning. I am not sure how long I sat there before picking up the book and commencing to read, to probe the roots and meanings of a people.

In the illustrations of artifacts and decorations of curvilinear lines one may see the cultural underpinnings of a race in the deep embrace of our common Mother. A race whose perception of the natural world was as old as Adam. A vision caught like a fly in amber, and protected from the ravages of time, the colours and the frame still pristine, and all speaking of another way of seeing and another way of being. If we lose that then we lose our common soul, and the grapes will wither upon the vine. And came the echo of his words .. I wish you all a happy blending. To which I must add � time waits for no man on the way to destiny.

I must stand in awe of the mighty vision, the great cloak of Tane within which he enfolded his people and what firm bridges he made, moving easily from one culture and consciousness to another. A weaving of the kete o te wananga. Through Te Rangi Hiroa�s pen Tane channeled the three baskets of knowledge. The gift of Io! A Shaman of high rank, Tohunga of Royal line which as a �. Oh nonsense! � said the academic, we can see what he has written. But have they seen? for I cannot escape this nagging feeling there is something that they have missed through the swirling mists of time, for surely even the high branches on a tree may feel the tug of its roots within the earth, even as it reaches for the sky. And mark my words � for if we fail to discern it � then individually or collectively we will go down in ruins and savagery as thousands of years of learning � the blood sweat and tears, laughter and joy of untold millions of lives lived over unknown millennia .. draining out like sand in an hour glass, with the last trickle moving real fast.

Those things I learnt from the words of Te Rangi Hiroa. And in the great vast halls of the individual gods, that line the road � to the One source of all, he surely will be of good standing, and in my heart a little shelf, upon which I keep his name, a little pearl, a part of a necklace of things � things that have endured, through the lives of unknown generations of our kind. It was through the Maori peoples that I learnt again the meaning of community. And without our roots we wither and die, and yet those roots live within the people themselves. It is the Shamans task, male or female to weave the flax for �kete o te Wananga� the three baskets of knowledge. Every nation has its tradition of knowledge which is embedded in the peoples themselves perhaps the baskets of knowledge are woven from willow tips. In our Western tradition it is possible to find cultural bridges if that is required to gain the understanding, but that should not be necessary for it is the same root in all.

So in a sense you also become a weaver of traditions. Which is rather like a safety net into which the people tumble in times of want and trouble. View the tree in hard winter conditions .. its life is in its roots � until that first clear note which is herald to the journey. And so it is ..mirrored in the life of peoples.

Te Rangi Hiroa drew his power from the love and pride he felt for his peoples, and his essence � he stirred into an extraordinarily rich cultural broth made from his roots. He was an exemplar of his culture and in the same tradition as that the Western Paracelsian tradition.

Paracelsus was also a Shaman for he too moved easily across the bridges of cultural divide.

So you will understand in the contemplation, that vast horizons open up before you, journeys of a thousand years than can be made in the twinkling of an eye, backwards and forwards. A good tip for this if you decide to study the other ways of seeing; The lamp that holds the light of self is ego � and this must placed to one side and then simply let the images wash over you. This without judgment. Wring it out ... drink what you need and move or stay there ... this is as you wish. For the seed will beget a flower, that is in the way of things as you become what you were meant to be.

See also NZ Botanic Materia Medica:   One   Two  .. NZ Lichens .. NZ Tea Tree .. Whispers.