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Home and the spirit in the Maori world

Today we explore home as a place of spiritual belonging and continuity and how tangi relies on the genealogical connectedness of ancestral and living communities to care for the tūpāpaku, the human remains, and wairua, the spirit of the deceased, as well as the living. While colonisation and westernisation have changed us, the institution of tangi, our rituals of death and mourning, have remained since pre-encounter times. In the face of death, tangi and its repetitive ritualised pattern of encounter and mourning might be viewed as a lifeline to hold on to as the disturbance and turmoil spawned by death is endured. We begin this paper by returning to the beginning, the place of potentiality to contemplate our spiritual origins and life endowments. We consider the nature of Māori beliefs about a spiritual afterlife and how through the institution of tangi we guide and support the departing spirit on its way. We argue that these rituals of departure and support are most optimally performed within the context of our marae and spiritual landscapes. Reinforcing this, the interment of the deceased amongst kin enhances our togetherness, in life and death, and protects us from entities with malevolent intent. For these reasons, we reaffirm the rightness of our beliefs and practices. Contestation of tūpāpaku, an act of spiritual responsibility in which tūpāpaku are returned to their tribal homelands for mourning and interment amongst kin is presented as an exemplar of right spiritual practice. We conclude with a discussion of some challenges Māori must confront to live life more consciously in spiritually responsible ways and in continuity with our origins and futures.
Conference Contribution
Type of thesis
Tangihanga Research Programme
Nikora, L., Te Awekotuku, N., & Tamanui, V. (2013). Home and the spirit in the Maori world. Paper presented at the He Manawa Whenua Indigenous Research Conference, 30 June-3 July 2013. Hamilton, New Zealand.
© Copyright 2013 The Authors