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  • Shaquille Shortland

The Whale & The Kauri

A long time ago, pakiwaitara Māori tells us that the Tohorā (Whale) once walked on land and was a brother to the Kauri Tree. Unlike the young and small Kauri who loved the land, the old and giant Tohorā yearned to be free from Iwi (Tribes) who constantly hunted him for wealth and mana. Knowing that his younger brother Kauri will face the same fate when he grows tall and strong, Tohorā suggested that the pair take refuge within the depths of the Whare belonging to their uncle Tangaroa, Atua of the sea; where they would be far from the reach of those who hunt them. Kauri loved the land and the embrace of his grandmother Papatuānuku the Earth Mother so much that he rooted himself deep within the land so that Tohorā could not take him to the sea. Tohorā knew that he himself could not stay, so for his protection he bestowed upon Kauri a cloak made of his skin to protect him from the tools of the Iwi who would undoubtedly hunt him for his golden blood and fled to the sea. As time went by, Tohorā would rise from the depths of the sea and send bursts of wai (water) towards his grandfather Ranginui, the sky father, in the hopes that his message of yearning for his younger brother will be carried along by the winds of Tāwhirimātea and touch his teina. Kauri too would soak up mana from Papatuānuku to grow taller and stronger in the hopes that he will one day be able to look out to sea and gaze upon his brother once more. Over the years Kauri became well aquainted with the local Iwi who looked after him and the house of his Father, Tane Māhuta (Atua of the Forest). One day the people observed Kauri crying golden tears, mourning for his long lost brother. Kauri then asked the Iwi to uproot him so that he could search for his brother but the Iwi did not know how Kauri would be able to achieve this. Kauri had been rooted within the embrace of Papa for so long that he had lost his legs and his ability to walk. Kauri then remembered that he wears the skin cloak of his brother Tohorā and told the Iwi that his skin would grant him the ability to walk on water and that he only needs help to be moved from the forest to the shore. Upon hearing that Kauri was the brother of Tohorā the Iwi were possesed by Whiro, the Atua of bad intent in remembering the value of hunting Tohorā and tried to capture Kauri for wealth and mana too. A fierce battle took place, the Iwi used all sorts of methods to try and take down Kauri, axes, fire and a wide range of poisons. After years of skirmishes, the Iwi had damaged Kauri so much that one of his arms fell to the ground causing even Rūaumoko, Atua of earthquakes and volcanoes to shake in awe. The Iwi hauled the trophy arm away blinded by the golden glow in the blood of Kauri. They traded the golden blood of Kauri to other Iwi in exchange for kai and other treasures, they also fashioned a waka out of his skin to carry them to the house of Tangaroa and capture Tohorā. Upon seeing the waka of Kauri, Tohorā rushed towards the surface in excitement that his brother had finally come to visit him, only to be met by the sharp spears of the Iwi. Tohorā fought bravely and sent many of the warriors who ambushed him to Hine nui te Põ the Atua of death, but was heavily injured from the battle. As Tohorā began to bleed the Iwi were again taken a hold of by Whiro at the sight of the golden glow and fought even harder causing Tohorā to retreat back in to the protection of Tangaroa who washed away his pursuers and used rimurimu to heal his wounds. Enraged by the loss of their whānau members the Iwi called upon Tumātauenga, the Atua of war for strength and gathered together to hunt and capture Kauri once and for all to create more waka and weapons. Kauri was still weak from his last struggle with the Iwi. Tohorā felt the prescence of his uncles Tumātauenga and Whiro heading towards Kauri and rushed to shore to protect his brother but found that due to the amount of time he had been within the whare of Tangaroa he had lost the power in his legs which had disappeared completely. Tohorā threw his body in to the air and let out a thunderous roar proclaiming that he will offer the taonga (treasure) of his body in exchange for the protection of his brother. Kauri saw, heard and felt the love of his brother and offered a deal to the Iwi that he would bring the whānau that Tohorā had sent to the cold realm of Hine nui te Põ to the loving embrace of Papatuānuku where the Iwi could visit and pay respect to their memory as well as purify the air to bring health to their uri whakaheke (future generations) if the Iwi promised to care for and respect Tohorā in his next life as well as the children of Tohorā in the days to come. At the same time, Tohorā shot a final burst of wai towards Ranginui while Kauri embraced Papatuānuku for the last time and inhaled the poisons of Whiro from the air with their last breath as a promise of their deal with the Iwi. Karakia were said over Tohorā as his body was transformed in to beautiful taonga to give the taonga the same protection and love to the wearers that Tohorā had for Kauri. Karakia were said over Kauri as his body began to petrify from the poisons of Whiro and regrow his roots back in to the embrace of Papatuānuku to honour the relationship between Kauri and the Iwi as kaitiaki, acknowledging that one will no longer be able to exist without the other. Today Tohorā returns to the shore before he dies to see his brother one last time and to offer his body to the Iwi as promised to provide them wealth and mana, wearing his kõhiwi (bones) as a reminder that they are kaitiaki (guardians) of Kauri, whilst Kauri continues to purify the air and allow tūpāpaku (the deceased) in to the embrace of his Grandmother, Papa to remind the Iwi of their promise to look after the children of Tohorā. Nā Shaquille Shortland

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©2019 by Shaquille Shortland