There was a time when I was one with Rangi, but now we live far apart. Between us, but not separating us, were our many children to whom we had given life and nourishment and into whose hands had been given future life and growth. But this future life and growth required light and space. So our children set us apart, causing Ranginui the father, and me, Papatuanuku the mother, great pain and anguish. (Kahukiwa & Grace, 2000:22) Dr Ranginui Walker (1978) refers to the ‘myth-messages’ embedded in Māori mythology, and how in contemporary society these myth-messages need to be more clearly stated for understanding. In addition he writes:
The validity of myths was not questioned by the Māori until the post-Christian era when they were displaced by the mythology of a new culture. Today ‘kōrero pūrākau’ has the same negative connotation of untruth as it is only a myth. This is unfortunate, since an analysis of Māori myths will show that even today Māori will respond to the myth messages and cultural imperatives embedded in their mythology…The myth-messages now need to be spelled out to the modern Māori. (Walker, 1978: 20) In essence, pūrākau centre on the actions, feelings and behaviours of a whānau. As discussed by Sullivan (2002):
A famous English writer, William Shakespeare, once wrote that the whole world is a stage. In the Māori world, the whole world is a story. The world is family of stories, beginning with Ranginui and Papatuanuku. Your own story, your life story, is a part of this great family story. The stories of our gods set examples of how to live our lives, how to live well and to live with each other. The gods weren’t perfect…but the gods were there to guide us and our ancestors who came after the gods. (Sullivan, 2002:28)
Te Wehenga: Separation
The kōrero pūrākau highlight the impact of separation. After Ranginui and Papatuanuku were separated, their children all had different reactions. Korero pūrākau show us how our atua coped, adapted and dealt with change, separation and loss. Aspects of tikanga came about from the actions of the atua who were reacting to the changes. In addition, the pūrākau show the capacity for both positive and negative actions. When considering the behaviour of each of the children, the pūrākau reflect a strong, strengths-based focus. This is relevant to viewing conduct problems within a Te Ao Māori perspective.
For example, consider Tāwhirimatea, god of the winds, who reacted angrily against his brothers:
After the separation the brothers continued to fight. One particular brother, Tāwhirimatea who was known as God of the Wind became very angry. He had never agreed to the separation and believed that his mother and father were meant to stay together. He showed his anger by attempting to destroy his brothers. (Cherrington & Rangihuna, 2000:2) Tāwhirimatea sent great winds and storms to beat upon Tangaroa (god of the ocean) and Tāne Mahuta (god of the forest). He destroyed property and caused much devastation. Despite his ability for anger and destruction, he had many strengths. Later he helped Tāne obtain the three kete (basket) of knowledge. Whiro, the eldest brother, attacked Tāne as he ascended the heavens, and Tāwhirimatea sent the winds to disperse the hordes of insects Whiro had sent. In his actions Tāwhirimatea displayed the attributes of aroha (love), tautoko (support) and manaki (caring). Despite Tāwhirimatea’s potential to destroy, we also acknowledge his potential for healing, as evident in the whakatauaki:
Hokia ki nga maunga kia purea koe e nga hau Tāwhirimatea
Return to the mountains to be cleansed by the winds of Tāwhirmatea. As stated by Robyn Kahukiwa in her introduction to Wahine Toa: Women of Māori Myth:
Myths provide answers in human terms to the way things are in our world. The characters act as we do but on a grand scale. They can be an important guide to philosophy, values and social behaviour; to correct procedures for certain acts. They can show us the results of certain acts and provide pointers towards social order. (Kahukiwa & Grace, 2000:10) The potential for kōero pūrākau to be used in intervention settings has been advocated for in the past (Cherrington, 1999; Cherrington, 2002; Cherrington & Rangihuna, 2000, O’Conner & MacFarlane, 2002; Tapsell, R, cited in Brookbands & Simpson, 2007).2 It is seen as a taonga tuku iho, a gift handed down from our ancestors, and needs to be treated with respect.
Many legends, chants, historical accounts and proverbs have been interpretated and translated from Māori into English. In many instances it was a literal translation with little or no understanding of the depth of information and knowledge from which they project themselves. (Pere, 1991:10) The separation of Ranginui and Papatuanuku prompted change in the way the family functioned. There were both positive and negative consequences. The separation allowed growth and human life to come about:
So now Rangi dwells far above, giving space for growth. From his dwelling place he is ever witness to life and death, joy and sorrow, hope, despair, destruction, invention, jealously, treachery, courage, faith and love, and the many earthly happenings. (Grace, 2000:22) While it is acknowledged that the separation allowed space for growth, there is a suggestion, by looking at the words used to describe abnormal reactions or behaviour in Māori society, that too much space of separation has the potential to impact negatively. For example, the word pōrangi is used to describe abnormal behaviour, such as impulsiveness and dis-inhibition. Pō refers to the night and rangi is the sky. The mind is thought to be between the surface of sky and darkness (Stewart, 1997). Similarly, the word wairangi is described as a lesser state of mental illness where the mind is seen as being between water and sky (Stewart, 1997). These states also refer to Rangi, the sky and space. If there is too much space, difficulties and confusion may result.
Working with Māori who have conduct problems can be viewed as dealing with tamariki, taiohi and whānau whose separation is the greatest.