The personification of the natural world provides a means to understand it, and to make sense of its powers. For example, the various winds are associated with the atua (god) Tāwhirimātea, while trees are connected with the atua Tāne-mahuta. Years of observation developed a body of knowledge for a wide range of atua that describe the characteristics of natural phenomena. As a result, Māori learned how to thrive amongst the world around us. Our understanding of the world and its powers can help us make informed decisions about our hauora.
As Māori, we discovered how to navigate the Pacific Ocean by understanding the stars. We came to learn of the relationship between Tama-nui-te-Rā (the sun), Hine Raumati (Summer Maiden) and Hine Takurua (Winter Maiden), which cause the seasons to change. Many regions also developed their own knowledge specific to their area. Within Te Whānau-a-Apanui, waves crashing on local rocks produces a particular sound, a tohu (sign) from Tangaroa to indicate poor weather is approaching. All of the knowledge of our natural environment led to human behaviours and practices that ensured not only our safety, but provided the basis to enhance our wellbeing.
Beyond natural phenomena, there were also man-made objects that developed whakapapa from atua. The taiaha is one example that has a rich history of origin, as has the kō for the garden and the hoe for the waka. The rich stories and whakapapa that these tools carry, are more than mere legend or myth, but are a means of transmitting critical information from one generation to the next. The purpose of which is to ensure the health and wellbeing of whānau and hapū persists. If you understand how to interact with the taiaha you will have the skill and vigour to protect your whānau. Become familiar with the kō and you can feed them kūmara. Understand the movement of the hoe and you can master your waka on the ocean to catch fish. Therefore, becoming a master of your environment and the tools that can support you is key to reaching higher levels of health and wellbeing.
If you made a new year’s resolution to get fit or lose a few kilograms then I’m sure you’ve thought of a plan to achieve that goal. If not then here are a two ways we can learn from our tīpuna about hauora:
Firstly, plan to master your natural environment. Learn how to make the best out of your situation to live a healthy lifestyle. You may target kai and take a greater control of your food environment. Discover the whakapapa or origin of the kai you eat; is it man-made or atua-made? And secondly, find the tools to help you get there. You might buy a bike, or get one of those fitness devices that supports you along the way, like a pedometer or an app. It might even be a human resource, like a lifestyle coach or personal trainer that gives you advice on how to move, and what to eat. Once you can regain control of you environment and come to understand it and all of its powers, and supplement this with the tools around you to enhance your experience, then I think you are on the right track. Kuru raka, good luck!