from ‘Portals in the Earth’
In the maramataka, each phase of the moon has a name. The names often reference different atua, or pūrākau that can help us understand the purpose of that phase. For example, there are the phases Tangaroa-a-mua, Tangaroa-a-roto, Tangaroa-whakapau and Tangaroa-whāriki-kiokio. As the name suggests, these are good days for fishing. On the last set of Tangaroa phases, the pool behind my garage was filled with more tuna than we had ever seen before. There are three or four regulars who usually hide under the rocks there. Under Tangaroa we counted eleven.
Rākaunui is the name for when the moon is full. In the bright light of Rākaunui I feel bloodlines tip over the edges of my fingers, cascade down my throat. I am hectic and dishevelled. Once, I drove the wrong way down the highway. Sometimes, I smoke badly rolled cigarettes and stare up at the moon. Supermarkets are best avoided on Rākaunui, the one day of the month when no one knows how to considerately direct a trolley through the bottleneck of a produce section. On Rākaunui I cry about a leaf on the side of the road or having to share the PS3 controller with Sylvan. Twelve hours after the moon peak, blood flows out of me. The ancestors gather in my lower back for yet another hui. Their feet stamping my hips into rammed earth floors.
When I realised my īkura cycles orbit around the moon phases, my connection to the maramataka was deepened further. Before that, my knowledge around periods had been somewhat disconnected. I saw it as something gross, an inconvenient pain, six days of the month where I had to be extra self-conscious when I was out in public. Now I see a connection to the moon, my īkura as a portal to space. My body is more than what is happening internally; it is a reflection of the world around it. There are so many pūrākau around our periods that cement their significance. Sometimes they are called waikura, or te ata atua. The flow of the gods. Waikura might be translated as the red water, the rusted water, or the water of knowledge.
Observing the cycles in my body and the cycles in the maramataka has also lent me a far greater grace with my own emotions. When I feel anger, sadness, insecurity or self-punishing feelings welling up inside with me, I try my best to locate myself in the world. What is causing those feelings? Where is the maramataka? Where is my body? My questioning further guided by astrological patterns as well. What astrological season are we in? What are my planets doing? Lately I’ve found that I’ll experience a day of dislocated doom shortly before my period. I am accosted by such large waves of depression for 24 hours. I couldn’t figure out what connected those feelings to my body, except for their proximity to my period arriving. I am still navigating solutions and a diagnosis for those feelings. Western medicine and rongoā Māori both on the cards as I find a way to heal.
i was a
pale swollen grass
snapped trunks and river clay
hopelessness was a flood
pooling along my spine,
against my hips,
vena cava driving the surge back to my heart
to be oxygenated and flooded all over again
Mutuwhenua is the last day of the cycle before the new moon. It is one of the more difficult days in the maramataka for me. Energy is low, and so are emotions. On Mutuwhenua I stay in bed, or go for a walk. I avoid loud sounds and busy places. I cook a meal of noodles on the stove. I watch trashy shows about finding love. In my idealised future, Mutuwhenua is a compulsory rest day, no matter where it falls in the week. When my ex-partner and I decided to break up, we realised the day was Mutuwhenua. Our ancestors never made big decisions on that day, so we too delayed our split. Waited for the moon to be a little more agreeable. Waited to make sure it felt right.
Whiro is often called the evil day, and gets a bad rap. Just like the atua that it is named after. Whiro-te-tipua is the atua of diseases, chaos and sometimes of bugs. It’s the new moon, directly after Mutuwhenua. I think of Whiro the atua as an atua who reminds us of our limits and our boundaries. Who warns us away from that which might lead us towards decay. I think of this phase in the maramataka in the same way.
On Whiro I feel like an oyster with an open shell. This is a perfect day for flowing in generative vulnerability if you feel safe. Generative vulnerability is that vibe when you’re really able to sit in your emotions, and understand where they come from. The hard shell is no longer a barrier. The shell that keeps out painful feelings, but sometimes keeps out good ones too. If your vulnerability is feeling generative maybe you’re able to garner answers about why you feel a certain way. Maybe it’s a day where you can really connect with someone on a deep level, learning new things about each other and weaving new strands into your connection. If you don’t feel safe, that vulnerability starts to feel like rolling in a blackberry thicket. A panic may set in.
I feel most settled in the days following the full or the new moon. The relief of making it past the turmoil of a turning tide. The way tension dissolves in the ocean after a wave has been sucked back to sea. On these days I do my work, I see my friends, I walk in the theatre of shared life.
The maramataka taught me that we are more productive when we work with the rhythms of the world around us, not against them. Same is true for the body and mind. The best days for gathering kai are the Tangaroa days. Vitality is high. The ngahere rumbles with activity. The birds that cross my path to see what I’m doing here are extra audacious. My eyes are keener and my body just has more energy to move. Like a thirsty plant being given water, I find myself blooming just a little more.
When I remember that I am part of the whenua, I realise my feelings are bigger than myself. The maramataka provides an avenue for me to direct the emotions pouring out of me at any time. The whenua can grieve with me, can be joyous with me. It can be a vessel for emotions I can’t hold.
The whenua can be a portal, morphing those feelings into other experiences, emotions and connections. The whenua can connect me to other versions of myself, can connect me to people across space and time. It can make me feel close to my partner, when we’re both stuck in an emotional rut and need to get out of the house. The tree that reminds me of feelings of grief for my pāpā can also be a portal to memories of him, a chance for us to connect across time and generations. It reminds me that I am an extension of Pāpā, even when I don’t have his knowledge or experience.
The whenua, the waters, the plants and the trees teach me about the rhythms of my own body. They remind me that we are just another part of this earth, not separate from it. Feelings are meant to be felt. We are meant to move through euphoria and despair, connection and loss. We should gently enquire about all of it. The taiao will always move through it, and so should we. Those are the pathways towards reconnection, towards hope.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kahu Kutia is a writer, storyteller, artist and all round professional haututū from Te Urewera/Ngāi Tūhoe. When not working, you’ll find her talking to the tuna that live behind her garden shed.