While much of my focus in the winter is by necessity on coughs and colds, there is one very special part of winter that, in a way, offers the jewel of the whole year.
We are heading right now to the winter solstice (June 21st). Which, here in New Zealand, is tied up in Maori traditions and associated with the rising of the Matariki stars that mark the beginning of the traditional Maori new year.
Of course, all over the world, the winter solstice is a spiritual celebration of the life/death cycle, of new hope and of thanksgiving. But in New Zealand, it is the rich Maori culture, alive and reviving from the roots up, that gives us the message to help us sustain our wellbeing on our precious planet that they call Papatūānuku.
The date for Matariki celebration (this year 25th June) is generally decided by the first new moon following the appearance of Matariki (the constellation also known as Pleiades) in the eastern dawn sky. For Maori, it is time to reflect and to hold wananga (or knowledge meetings) to re-enforce past knowledge and to ponder new futures.
Presumably, the new moon is connected with the tradition of planting trees in reverence of new life, as an important part of the ritual celebrations. While trees are symbolic in themselves as representing the connection from the earth mother to the sky father, there is the very real and practical import of replenishing and nourishing the natural world.
Long before scientists could explain it, tribes connected with nature understood that trees were essential to our wellbeing here on the planet.
Community plantings ensured that the wisdom was sustained and passed on through generations. Matariki is the time when the food stores are full from the recent harvests. It is a time to celebrate and share the abundance of nature. It is also a time to give back to the earth, to prepare the land for the new crops and to nurture a deep respect for the passing of the seasons.
The legend of sun Te Ra leaving his winter bride to make the long journey back to his summer bride imparts an equal reverence for the barren winter months of cold weather. What's more, Matariki (translated as both 'tiny eyes' and as 'eyes of the gods') reminds us to look to the stars, where the ancestors reside. To connect with their light, wisdom and their love that has so much healing and nourishment to offer to the living. And to open our hearts to friends and whanau in celebration of who we are and of our place in the world.
These are deep spiritual messages that seem even more important today than ever before. Certainly, there is much in this that resounds with my own longings to live closer to nature and in greater harmony with my world.
Absolute Essential is all about rekindling that healthful connection.
Our natural health products and organic essential oils are very much the harvest of a bountiful planet. And holistic health care is nothing if we do not give back to the soil and respect the seasons for planting and growing and gathering.
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A clear conscience is simply better for your health. Everything is connected. I especially feel a kinship with the tree planting. We have planted thousands of trees over the years and the physical planting alone does us the world of good.
So, make a wee kite this week and take it out in celebration of life, right in the middle of winter. My vote is with the Maori brothers and sisters who want to see Matariki become an official national celebration in New Zealand.
- Dr Bo Hendgen