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Te ahi tawhito, te ahi tipua, te ahi nā Mahuika: Re-igniting native women’s ceremony

This research examines the multiple ways in which Māori, and Hawai’ian and Native American women, are re-activating feminine ceremonial forms and recovering sacred relationships with customary feminine deities. Attention is focused on the creation of personal ritual practices that respond to contemporary decolonising and ecological contexts. A mana wahine theoretical and methodological framework motivated by emancipatory agendas that seek to facilitate transformation is used. Key to mana wahine projects is the creation of space for Native women to define themselves and their own stories and knowledges. This is important because Native women’s voices, knowledge and ritual histories continue to be marginalised. Furthermore, debased colonial renditions of femininity, which have been reproduced, perpetuate patriarchal and colonial politics that engender discord in Native communities today. The study used a suite of complimentary methods to engage 45 Native women and men. Interviews and kōrero (discussion), ceremony, mana wahine wānanga (women’s sacred learning space), Native sacred site visits, solicited journals, collaboration in ritual theatre productions, and analysis of mana wahine artworks as discursive texts were employed to gather stories of spiritual continuation that are unique and largely unchartered in academia. The empirical material is organised around four themes in four different chapters. The first of these empirical chapters re-interprets colonial ethnographic material alongside karakia (incantations), mōteatea (songs), cosmological and tribal stories, to reveal bold examples of Māori female ritual leadership. The second empirical chapter comprises an analysis of key colonial processes that have attempted to erase Native women’s ritual ontologies and the strident expressions of Native women’s resistance to colonial imperatives. The third empirical chapter investigates the multiple channels through which Native women are restoring their ceremonial lives. The fourth chapter investigates rerenga atua (menstruation) rituals that celebrate the Native feminine body as a cosmological site of communion with feminine deities. The rich weave of Native women’s stories of ceremony, old and new, threads into decolonising Indigenous scholarship around the world that also seeks to recover the sacred feminine as a key site of Native sovereignty. These discussions reveal a self-renewing Native belief system based on vibrant and evolving rituals that respond directly to current socio-political, spiritual and ecological realities.
Type of thesis
Murphy, N. A. G. (2019). Te ahi tawhito, te ahi tipua, te ahi nā Mahuika: Re-igniting native women’s ceremony (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12668
The University of Waikato
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