In the beginning the earth was dark. The universe was a million million years old. The Supreme Being circled the dark earth with a ring of light causing the lovers Sky and Earth to begin to separate. The Father Sky and Mother Earth fought to keep together so the separation was long and bloody.
The featured image here is a stained glass window in Te Papa museum in Wellington, New Zealand. It depicts the end of the separation struggle to wrest Sky and Mother Earth apart. The Sky will remain blue but with a smattering of other colors that show in rainbows. The blood leaves the Sky with Mother Earth. Sky is so unhappy he weeps copiously for many days causing a flood upon Mother Earth. When Sky stops crying, Mother Earth’s blood is washed away but she is left in a fertile landscape.
The Supreme Being made a woman to dwell on Mother Earth. Her anatomy made it possible for the Supreme Being to enter her mouth and have a direct path through her body from on high through the birth canal so that the earth would be populated. When the Supreme Being saw that this was not working, he made a man so the woman could be fruitful and multiply.
The number 3 has many meanings to the Maori:
This carving which shows three fingers is the most common motif in all Maori art. The most common explanations for the three fingers are:
- Birth, life and death.
- Good, Evil and Sacrifice. A word about sacrifice … Ancestors are not worshipped in this culture as much as they are deeply appreciated. This is a culture of gratitude. Simply put, without your forbears and the sacrifices they made to raise you to adulthood, you would not be here. Every Maori has ancestor tattoos because these are reminders of those who gave you birth and you want to always remember and honor them.
- Thinking, feeling and speaking. The saying sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me does not translate here. The opposite is true: know what you are thinking and how you are feeling before you open your mouth to say anything. Words can be the deadliest weapons of all.
There is a tribal woodworking school in Rotarua where artists keep the carving skills of their 400 year history alive. Many of their carvings are used to replace worn relics but some are commissioned pieces that are shipped worldwide.
The Maori are first and foremost warriors. What that means is that every man is trained in martial arts, spear skills and the “haka” or War Dance. Watching part of a training exercise was instructive. The thrust out tongue and eye bulging, designed to frighten enemies, takes the level of skill of a ballet dancer twirling en pointe. The breath, originating in the back breathing, moves up through the abdominal cavity, and up through the throat, making the expulsion of air such a force that the tongue and eyes naturally protrude.
This rich, complex culture abides by one governing question and one answer: what is most important in this world? People.