Tuesday, August 18, 2009


We have lost many practices associated with customary lore which involves the spiritual realm including Makutu and that’s because we’ve lost much of the knowledge regarding that part of our holistic being.

What we consider to be traditional is now so utterly entwined in post-colonial constructs like Christianity that much of the original essence has been watered down even lost. That’s not to say Makutu doesn’t exist any longer because it does.

Makutu is when physical and psychological harm is inflicted even death through spiritual powers, bewitching and spell casting. The actual practise of Makutu isn’t restricted to Maori many cultures around the world use this and it’s known by whatever name they call it.

The Moses case isn’t the first time Makutu has appeared in a New Zealand court either. Eleven years ago, Paul Martin claimed a Makutu made him attack a friend with a crucifix. The Judge gave him a suspended sentence. In 2001, Brian Aporo claimed he was under a Makutu before he slit the throats of his two children. He was found not guilty but was ruled insane.

There was also the bizarre Makutu of River Queen the Vincent Ward movie made on the Wanganui River in 2005. A local group of Maori announced in a local newspaper that they had placed a Makutu on the film project. The group claimed the filmmakers had violated the Wanganui River, the film's location. Whether it was a result of the Makutu, or not: everything that could have gone wrong with the production did. Its star, Samantha Morton, fell sick. Maori lead actor Cliff Curtis drove his 4WD through a house while texting on his mobile, Director Vincent Ward was fired and replaced by the cinematographer and the film suffered a magnificently huge budget blowout.

In this day and age it’s difficult to judge if one’s afflicted with a Makutu. Unless you know it’s actually been placed on you via, newspaper, text, phone, twitter or facebook, or if a Tohunga (a skilled expert) identifies you’re under the influence of one - the ailment one's suffering may be nothing more than a treatable mental psychoses brought about by the stress of modern day living.

The Moses whanau and their Kaumatua (elder), an Uncle thought Janet was under a Makutu because she stole a statue from a pub. It’s hard to believe that this whanau could have thought the slab of plaster was so tapu (sacred) to cause such grief.

How could they have got it so wrong?

How could they have continued to work on something as taumaha (as heavy) and tapu (sacred) as Makutu without heeding the advice of some pretty heavy weight Tohunga and Kaumatua. There are many Tohunga whose advice they could have sought and a couple of Kaumatua did counsel the whanau, but alas to no avail.

The Pakeha Judge Simon France sentenced the Moses whanau to community service including tikanga training. Pakeha may see this as such a light sentence and some Maori too probably. But I couldn’t think of anything more shameful quite frankly. For a Kaumatua, the patriarch, the leader, the man they looked up too and his whanau to be told by a Pakeha no less to go get better tikanga. Shameful.

This whanau isn’t like the Kahui or Curtis whanau both dysfunctional units who allowed or participated in the brutal killing of their babies. The Kahui and Curtis’ were dislocated from anything Maori. They didn’t participate in hui, Marae, Kohanga, they didn’t korero (speak) Maori. So when Maori Party members went in to see the Kahui whanau, the significance of their presence was totally lost on them. Stripping the Kahui and Curtis whanau of any mana would be a complete waste of time.

The Moses whanau however appear a different lot. I don’t know them but they seem very connected to each other and to taha (things) Maori. They will feel the full impact of the sentence. Attending a tikanga programme questions their mana and quite rightly so. They have been criticised for their naivety by known and reputable Tohunga (spiritual experts) and Kaumatua from iwi around the country. These criticisms as well will be heavy shackles of great spiritual burden that not only these five but also their extended whanau will carry for a long time to come.

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