MANA WĀHINE TOA - A Prologue
Stories of the sacred warrior feminine from the islands of Oceania
I am so happy to be writing to you again. I went on an unplanned trip which stretched for a while. As I am a keen observer my learnings never stopped. I am excited to share many insights with you about some more obscure stories. But before that, as promised, this week we shall embark on a journey inside the heart of the Māori culture. Since the topic is broad and complex, I intend to set some context for the upcoming weekend edition.
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One cannot attain those sacred marks without spilling their blood. The women wear the marks as protective spells cast by their fierce ancestors.
Last year around fall, I sat down to write a book on theoretical frameworks about the interconnected nature of the universal feminine. For months, I ceaselessly wrestled with the pragmatics to base my theories. I looked back at the history of women. I studied their relationship with nature (which mirrors female biology), and the cultural constructs that enable or inhibit them. I looked at various totems, artifacts, crafts, archetypes, experiences, and art forms to discover the connection between me and my distant sisters. However, I was unable to find the cord that connected us in this physical realm. My cynical brain said that we had nothing in common, except for our bodily functions. And yet, I found myself drawn to the stories and interpretation of their history. Their pain and suffering shook me awake from my slumber of casual comfort. I ran barefoot into the landscape of their psyche, absorbing their cultural conditioning. I piggyback their stories, taking them everywhere I go, narrating their sentience and philosophies. Hoping that their struggles will propel us towards inclusivity and change. To hold space for their sorrows and to drink from their pool of authentic audacity. If there isn't any tangible complex connection between us, then why do I feel as if their stories are mine? There is a profound recognition in these stories. I know that the energies that flow through them also flow through me. These collective feminine experiences bring us closer, pulling us in strong magnetic orbits around each other. The female body is a temple of mystical experiences. The mysteries around it are universal. Why do women from the same tribe often menstruate around the same time of the month? Why is the excruciating process of giving birth is unique to a female body? Why is menopause associated with wisdom in most eastern and pagan religions?
Eventually, I put my left brain to rest and started using empathy as my map. I soon discovered that the only thing connecting all the spiritual aspects of the feminine is Blood. Thick, velvet, rusty blood, shedding of which unites us. We have written our stories in blood. All the sacrifices we made, the derision we faced, the food we gathered in the backyard of our homes - bears the mark of our blood and sweat. It is our blood that turns into milk, it is our blood that turns into fire. We have fed our babies from it, we have raised warriors and hermits on it. We have built the whole world out of it. Our spiritual strength arises either from the ability to shed blood from our bodies or from drawing it out of our enemies. Our blood connects us through the history of endurance of innumerable war rapes, mutilations, and murders. The motif of blood is the essential connection between all women. Starting from the initiation into womanhood with the onset of mensuration till the process of giving birth. In many traditions, women are marked (tattooed) in the essence of their mana (spiritual energy) to indicate the strength of their clan so that men don’t dare to abuse them. One cannot attain those sacred marks without spilling their blood. The women wear the marks as protective spells cast by their fierce ancestors.
If you notice closely, both Moko kauae and Tiipe are chin tattoos worn by women. The resemblance is uncanny. Separated by space and time, these women embody the same feminine spirit (mana wāhine). These hauntingly beautiful images from across two starkly different cultures and periods, are solid proofs of our deeper connection and belonging to the all-mother. Call her Ane Donyi or Papatūānuku, she is one-and-the-same, the creator from whose womb all life emerges and with whose nourishment life proliferates.
In my upcoming article, I intend to take you on a journey inside the Te Ao Māori (the Māori world) where we will trace the importance of Wāhine Māori (Māori women) within their iwi (community) and whanau (kin). We will travel together through the islands of Polynesia to understand how colonialism hardwired shame into their psyche. How the misogynistic hegemonic intruders abused their power to separate the sacred circles of the Wāhine, which were knit together with love and mutual respect. We will examine the visual art of tatau and Moko and the legends of the goddesses who gifted the sacred art of inscribing the body. We will meditate on the Polynesian art forms and languages that were obliterated by the missionary settlers. Contemplate on how they rampaged the native people's mana taonga (spirit of the people), and deliberately misinterpreted their mythology. Then we will move ahead in time, arriving at a point in the present. We will find ourselves amidst a titanic wave of revival of the ancient visual art of tattooing, and how identity is central to its post-colonial interpretation. We will behold the rise of the artistic rebellion spreading like wildfire across the island nations. We will walk beside our sisters as they unlearn the patterns of abuse integrated into their lives and reclaim their power. We will find out how the marks of their whakapapa (ancestry or genealogy) are helping them purge the old colonial frameworks and heal them from the generational traumas of their tupuna (ancestors).
Read the full series here:
Also, let me know if you want me to research and write about some of the obscure stories that you are interested in. Go to the comment section and tell me where I can find more such stories and bring them to you wrapped in the essence of Berkana.
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See you on the weekend, until then stay strong and rave on!