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Neo-Shamans and Maori Healers Meet

In New Zealand, I have encountered a number of examples of contemporary Maori healers and neo-shamans working together, forging new relationships and creating unique fusion healing practices. Relations between neo-shamans and Maori have not been as tension-filled as those cases in which Native Americans have accused Westerners of stealing their culture (e.g., Aldred 2000; Churchill 2003; Jenkins 2004; Smith 1994). Although they may, in some cases, have less knowledge or awareness about appropriation issues in relation to Native Americans or other indigenous peoples, neo-shamans in New Zealand are generally aware of potential sensitivities over these matters when it comes to Maori traditions and culture. Their consciousness of the politics of biculturalism and indigeneity in this country led to a reluctance by some neo-shamans to talk to me about their relationships with Maori healers, out of respect for Maori healing traditions and practices. One woman told me: “I feel very presumptuous, but all I know is we do the same things, in my experience of being around them and with them.” She and the Maori healers she knows meet at the interface of their mutual psychic and spiritual understandings, the flow of information going in both directions. I describe one publically prominent relationship between a neo-shaman and a tohunga shortly, which is an exception to the hesitation expressed by this neo-shaman.

In addition, it is likely that changing social and political processes in New Zealand over the last 30 or 40 years have resulted in a shift among Maori themselves, so that they are perhaps less possessive of their cultural knowledge than they were, at least in some instances. The settlement of Maori claims relating to the Treaty of Waitangi by the Waitangi Tribunal,6 and an increased drive to address the negative impacts of colonization, have contributed to a Maori renaissance resulting in greater indigenous agency in managing tribal assets, new Maori enterprises in forestry, fishing, farming, broadcasting and the arts, tourism and business, along with a revitalization of te reo (the Maori language) (Royal 2015). This renaissance is also evident in contemporary Maori healing and the desire of Maori to reassert their healing knowledge as a means of reclaiming power and their “cultural and intellectual estate” (Reinfeld and Pihama 2007: 25). Innovative changes incorporating traditional concepts have empowered Maori, shifting them from positions of victimization to one of selfresponsibility that embraces multiple perspectives and opening them to global cosmopolitan influences.

Lily George’s (2010) case study of an urban marae (meeting place) in Auckland is an example of Maori from many different iwi (tribes) committed to a vision of sharing a space with non-Maori. Through the development of a “third space,” conceived of as an evolving, organic and dynamic space, “Maori and Pakeha ... can find common ground that is negotiated for the benefit of all” (George 2010: 265). The Maori healers I have worked with reside within this third space, willing to work with anyone who wishes to attend their clinics, workshops or wananga (Maori learning institutions).7 Neo-shamans and Maori healers also meet in this third space where all healing traditions and spiritual understandings are honored.

Nonetheless, it is important to note that not all Maori feel like this. For example, debates and confusion have arisen concerning the Waitaha people (a South Island iwi), alternative archaeologies and histories. A Maori scholar, Makere Harawira (1999), has accused former academic Pakeha historian and archaeologist-turned-New Age teacher, Barry Brailsford, of exploitation and spreading “disinformation” after Waitaha kaumatua (elders) entrusted him with their oral history. One Maori woman told me some Maori might not wish to share sacred knowledge because they wish to preserve the traditions of their ancestors without the “taint” of colonizing influences, and may have concerns about the information becoming disrespected, diluted, mutated or misused. When I asked another Maori scholar about the Waitaha story, tellingly, she replied: “Do you mean Waitaha the people, or the new religious movement that has grown up around Barry Brailsford?”

These are complex issues that require careful negotiation. Maori such as Harawira are opposed to the sharing of sacred cultural knowledge which could result in misappropriation, while others such as Dr. Rangimarie Turuki Arikirangi Rose Pere (1994: 170; 1997: 58) and my research participant Te Waimatoa Turoa-Morgan (Wai) think it is time for indigenous people to impart their sacred knowledge to others outside their culture.

But running more deeply than these issues of cultural politics are perceived spiritual connections between some neo-shamans and contemporary Maori healers. A number of neo-shamans I worked with distinguish between their physical and spiritual shamanic lineages, which they feel give their practice legitimacy. By “physical lineage” they mean their genetic or hereditary bloodline, whereas their “spiritual lineage” consists of their soul or spiritual connections from past lives. The belief of these neo-shamans is that those drawn to shamanism in the twenty-first century are remembering past lives and are answering a “call” to return to the earth at this time. They believe the earth is on the brink of ecological, economic and social collapse. The returning shamans are “reconnecting and remembering,” bringing their “medicine bundles from those [past] lifetimes,” one woman told me. The “medicine bundles” she was referring to consist of shamanic tools and spirit helpers acquired from previous incarnations as shamans. The spiritual lineages of those shamans who have chosen to be born at this time are as important as their physical or genetic lineages.

One woman, Franchelle, founder of the Medicine Woman Centre for Shamanic Studies, is an example of a neo-shaman who believes that both her physical and spiritual lineages support her shamanic practice. She works closely with a Maori tohunga, Dr. Rangimarie Turuki Arikirangi Rose Pere (Rose). Franchelle’s shamanic gifts come through her maternal and paternal physical bloodlines, her Russian and Native American ancestors whom she says she has always been able to communicate with.

Thus, she is a hereditary shaman through her genetic lineages, but she also believes her spiritual lineage contributes to her shamanic powers. It is through her spiritual lineage that her relationship with Rose manifests. Her understandings about various arcane Maori concepts are teachings received both through her ability to function as a tohunga in this lifetime, and through a Maori mystery school (the Kura Huna) whose teachings she is able to directly access spiritually in nonordinary reality. Franchelle was able to correctly answer specific test questions about the atua (gods) and tupuna (ancestors) posed to her by Rose in te reo buna.8 (which at the time Franchelle did not speak or understand), demonstrating she had direct access to information held in the psychic plane and generally only available to Maori. As a result of their unique spiritual connection, Rose Pere serves as the “Official Spiritual Patron and Guardian in Perpetuity” for a range of New Zealand native plant flower essences cocreated by Franchelle and her husband.9 Writing in a book published about the flower essences, Rose says: “In this lifetime Franchelle and I have chosen two different cultures to work from and within ... We both wear our cultural cloaks with pride and integrity, but on a spiritual level we are one with each other” (Ofososke-Wyber 2009: 13).

One Maori man commented to me that “Franchelle has certainly received an awesome reference from Dr Pere and seems to have been initiated into some extremely esoteric Maori teachings. It is the closest connection I’ve seen between occult knowledge of the Maori with ‘new age’ (for lack of a better word) wisdom, the two ‘cultural cloaks’ referred to by Dr Pere” (pers. comm., 28 Sept 2009). In a second communication (5 October 2009), he continued: “Dr Pere is surprisingly revealing of her kura buna/hidden world and Franchelle must surely be of the same soul group. It is powerful stuff indeed when the aspirations of a soul-group are able to manifest on the physical plane.” The relationship between Rose and Franchelle illustrates the complexities that can arise when traditional hidden knowledge appears to be blended with neo-shamanic and New Age notions—or perhaps it is the case that they are not, in fact, exclusively neo-shamanic and New Age notions. In some circumstances, it seems that previously hidden sacred indigenous knowledge, once revealed outside its own culture, has some similarities to ideas in Western esoteric traditions about the occult and astrology, now commonly disseminated within New Age circles.

To facilitate his understandings of Maori healing practices, O’Connor (2008) drew on anthroposophical philosophy developed by Rudolf

Steiner (1861-1925), mind-body medicine and quantum mechanics theories proposed by a contemporary medical and ayurvedic doctor, Deepak Chopra, to explain the subtle and intangible spiritual and energetic concepts embodied by the healers. Such comparisons highlight the similarities between notions intrinsic to the “traditional” work of these Maori healers and much New Age thinking, principles that are also familiar to sha- manic, and complementary and alternative practitioners who work within subtle energetic healing realms. These concepts all push the boundaries of Western rationality and epistemologies (Kent 2007: iv), but, as Hume (1999: 5-6) points out, “ideas of alternate realities that have woven their way through Western occultism for centuries” begin to become avenues for Westerners to comprehend indigenous worldviews. It is at these crossroads that Franchelle and Rose meet.

Early in 2015, in a three-part sacred ceremony held at Lake Waikaremoana,10 Dr. Pere adopted Franchelle into her iwi as a tohunga ruahine (ruahine = an old woman, a Maori woman elder or kuia), “keeper of the sacred ceremonies and the ritual priestess who is a spiritual guardian of the First Voice—the spiritual language and vibrations of the divine mother from the whare wananga house of higher learning” (http://www. accessed 9 September 2015). As the Maori man I corresponded with observed, this is an extraordinary occurrence. Franchelle’s spiritual endorsement and credentials are being used to give credibility to a very successful global New Age business. A recent workshop advertisement for the ninth Medicine Woman Residential Workshop (under the auspices of the Medicine Woman Centre for Shamanic Studies) promises participants they will “personally experience and participate in sacred ceremony and aspects of divine mysteries that have never before been publically available.”11 Recently, 11 Japanese women traveled to New Zealand to participate in a three-day Japanese Medicine Women Workshop, and they will apparently return to continue the work in 2016 (First Light Flower Essences e-Newsletter, 29 October 2015).12 The global spiritual market place is patently flourishing.

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