In Austria, where I live, nature prepares for its winterly rest, a short death before spring renews life.
It’s the season when in many cultures people remember their ancestors, contemplate the finiteness of life. On this blog, as part of our series on cultural identities, we have already featured the Mexican day of the dead, Dia de los muertos. Today I would like to tell you about a place that has special meaning to the Maori.
When my partner and I visited New Zealand, we traveled the northern island to a place called Cape Reinga. Cape Reinga is the northernmost point of New Zealand, on the narrow peninsula Aupori.
Here, the Tasman sea and the Pacific ocean meet.
Here, according to ancient Maori lore the spirits of the deceased leap into the sea.
What a haunting, beautiful, spiritual place.
“An ancient pohutukawa tree and a lonely lighthouse mark this special place. It is here that after death, all Māori spirits travel up the coast and over the wind-swept vista to the pohutukawa tree on the headland of Te Rerenga Wairua.
They descend into the underworld (reinga) by sliding down a root into the sea below. The spirits then travel underwater to the Three Kings Islands where they climb out onto Ohaua, the highest point of the islands.” After a last farewell look at the land of the living, they descend again to the depths and continue their journey to the other world, the land of their ancestors, Hawaiiki-A-Nui.
Te Reinga “the leaping place of spirits”.
We met Huinga, a Māori, who told us many stories about this landscape and about its people. He and I stood on top of Cape Reinga looking across the vast sea, when he sang this song for me.
Featured image: 90 mile beach, across which the spirits travel on their way to Cape Reinga. © Marko Ciciliani
Text quote taken from http://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/historic/by-region/northland/kaitaia/cape-reinga/