Hina, the Māori moon goddess, has 30 different faces to help illuminate life’s lessons — and in her new book Wawata, psychiatrist Dr Hinemoa Elder explores each of those faces and what they mean in daily life.
In this extract, Hinemoa talks about the first of the three korerore nights in the maramataka. These are the nights which bring us into the last phase of the lunar cycle. They’re known to mark difficult days, often when things we want are shown to be out of reach.
The first night of the Korekore moons — a time for honouring our losses.
I am returned to stories of my own people and of our wāhine.
Meri Ngāroto of Te Aupōuri was married to Puhipi Te Ripi, chief of Te Rarawa, one of several arranged marriages between our iwi. The old people completed a ritual to ensure they had no offspring. In her grief she composed the famous saying:
Hūtia te rito o te harakeke, kei hea te kōmako e kō?
Māu e ui mai, he aha te mea nui o te ao?
Māku e kī atu, he tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.
If you remove the heart of the flax bush, from where will the bellbird sing?
If you say to me, what is the most important thing in this world?
My reponse is, it is people, it is people, it is people.
The anguish of her words. Realising she would never bear a child.
From our ūkaipō dreaming insights last night, our thoughts expand. Our generational gears are shifting.
This is the moon that takes me back to when it hit me that I could no longer get pregnant and have children.
It was 2020 and I had begun a new relationship. He was younger than me, with no children. At first I was very clear. I do not want to have more kids, I am too old.
That was our understanding. Then I found myself thinking about it differently — maybe, just maybe. The seed of the idea began to take hold. I thought about getting pregnant again and having more children.
I know, right, what was going on, what the hell was I thinking? You are not as shocked as I was to be thinking about this at 54 years of age. What?
I felt physically strong and full of energy. And so loved, adored in a way I had not experienced before. I still had my awa. My whare tangata, my womb, was still bringing her sacred tides. My body felt young.
Maybe it was an ancient evolutionary drive to want to create a baby in that state. High on oxytocin. High on love and desire. And perhaps as an antidote to the pandemic horror around us.
I really wanted us to have tamariki, to have children together. Not for me alone. For my partner, for us as a couple, as a whānau. I felt I needed to be able to give that to him. Anything less felt like I wasn’t doing my part.
And beneath that feeling, there was a sense that without that I wasn’t enough. If I couldn’t do that for us, for our whakapapa, lineage, then what use was I? I saw the next shared generation as a meaningful way to join our whānau together forever.
That was the dream, the fantasy for a while.
It was Korekore, te tuatahi, the first Korekore moon, when I finally realised I was deluding myself. This was my ngeri, my own short inward haka. Dropping the protective emotional shield, and finally facing up to my own inner demons with a raw heart.
Hina’s shadows delivered the final gut punch realisation. I would never have another baby. I would never breastfeed again, wake in the night to the tiny cries and soothe a little one in my arms in the same way. I would never experience that again, as I had with my two precious, and now adult, babies.
I was unprepared for the hard cold grief that washed over me at first.
The dark shadow of this first Korekore smacked my face. Salt in the eyes. The stinging tears. What did it mean about me as a woman now that I could no longer bring forth babies? I had not realised this was such a fundamental part of my identity. Most of my life I had been taking my fertility for granted. I had been fortunate to conceive when I chose to.
This night of Hina’s light and shade helped me to figure out this was the right time for my own private letting go. That freedom, realising I can be in the relationship as just me. I was enough. We are enough.
Korekore is always a deep thinking time for me. The first of these moody days, the contrasting dark shadow moving steadily across Hina’s light face.
And I always take a moment to reflect on my movement up into the next stage of my life at this time of the month. The ruminations about the end of the fertile identity, the treasured core of me for most of my life are farewelled with a warm lingering hug. The idea of my own worth as so intimately tied to my ability to have a pēpi, a baby, loosening in my mind. Relaxing into wawata, dreams of this Korekore light’s embrace.
In our culture, the status of older women can be such a positive one. In this Korekore moon I stop to pay homage, to think about my senior female relations and colleagues. All of their sacrifices. All of their contrasts, their subdued and their loud support. Their encouragement, their challenge, their expectations, their wawata.
I sense the dreams they have for us, their descendants, and for the generations to come. I take the dream baton as they hand it forward. I recognise my place in the whakapapa, in the descent lines, a relay of women’s dreaming.
By the light of our Korekore moon find the stillness within our own pā harakeke, our own families. The courage to catch the dreams passed on by those women willing you on.
You are part of that long line, moving up the generational chain, living our dreams since time immemorial and passing them on again and again, over the horizon.
Wawata, Moon Dreaming is published by Penguin Random House New Zealand.
Dr Hinemoa Elder (Ngāti Kurī, Te Rarawa, Te Aupōuri, Ngāpuhi) has two children and lives on Te Motu Ārai Roa, Waiheke Island. She is a child and adolescent psychiatrist who works at Starship Hospital and in community clinics. Hinemoa also provides youth forensic court reports and neuropsychiatric assessment and treatment of traumatic brain injury in private practice. She is a deputy psychiatry member of the New Zealand Mental Health Review Tribunal. Hinemoa’s first book Aroha was published last year.
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