A cramping muscle is one of the mysteries that exists in the world of sports science. There are a couple of theories out there to explain how they occur, but we are not completely sure why they happen, or how to prevent them. Despite not having a definitive understanding within the sporting world, I believe muscle cramps and the pain they cause have a close connection and relationship with the atua Whiro.
What do we know about muscle cramps? Without diving too deep into human physiology, the two, big, popular scientific theories explaining cramps are known as the ‘traditional theory’, and the ‘new theory’ (how original!). The traditional theory believes cramps occur due to low levels of electrolytes like salt in the muscle. This causes the muscle cells to behave erratically, triggering spasms and involuntary contractions. This is the basis for all of the electrolyte-enhanced sports drinks we see in the market.
The New Theory believes it has nothing to do with electrolytes and everything to do with our nervous system. Our brain gets tired and then starts to send erratic signals causing muscle malfunctions. As it stands, the traditional theory has pretty much been disproved, and the new theory has not quite been proven conclusively. So the truth is, we just do not have all the evidence yet. But what has all of this got to do with Whiro?
Whiro is known in various accounts as the atua of illness, disease, evil and death. He is one of the senior sons of Rangi and Papa, and with this comes a great level of mana. Within our pūrakau and pakiwaitara we learn that Whiro is constantly at war with Tāne for many of the deeds that he accomplished. These were feats that included the separation of their parents Rangi and Papa, and also the retrieval of ngā kete wānanga, the baskets of knowledge. As a result of Whiro’s jealousy, he continues to bring his revenge on Tāne and his descendants through illness, disease and misfortune.
Tūmatauenga and Tūmatakaka gifted the flesh and sinews to Hineahuone the first female human. With this in mind, our bodies already contain the necessities to battle cramps as they were gifted to Hineahuone during her creation.
As the atua and personification of evil, Whiro dispatches Maiki-nui, Maiki-roa and other atua, to inflict their misfortune and catastrophe on the offspring of Tāne through illness and disease. Whiro’s war party, te aitanga ā Whiro (or Te Tini o Poto to some iwi), include various insects, mosquitos, birds, bats and owls. Together they seek to destroy the water, the blood, the flesh, and the breath of all things. When our muscles begin to cramp, this is an attack by Whiro on a descendant of Tāne that causes pain in our tinana. In fact, we could possibly extend this connection out to 'the stitch' as well. Despite the fear we might feel towards Whiro, and the mana he has to cause such afflictions, he plays an important role in bringing balance in to our world.
But what we all want to know is how to avoid cramping or getting the-stitch. If we are working against the actions of Whiro then we can look back at our pūrākau that describes the moment Whiro was defeated. Tūmatauenga, the atua of war, and Tūmatakaka are known as great warriors who assisted Tāne in the successful battle against Whiro and his army. Interestingly, Tūmatauenga and Tūmatakaka gifted the flesh and sinews to Hineahuone the first female human. With this in mind, our bodies already contain the necessities to battle cramps as they were gifted to Hineahuone during her creation. What needs to happen is the preparation of the flesh and sinews in such a way that the body can function to a high standard in the event Whiro attacks. This means feeding the mind, body, and wairua the right fuel.
There is no quick fix to battle cramps. My suggestion is, to prevent them occurring you must put in the work and effort to prepare yourself for a moment when Whiro may turn up. Be at constant readiness in order to keep Whiro at bay at any moment, and at any time!