Karakia are Māori incantations and prayers, used to invoke spiritual guidance and protection. Karakia are generally used to increase the spiritual goodwill of a gathering, so as to increase the likelihood of a favourable outcome.
Why we use them today
Increasingly mainstream primary schools and early childhood settings are exploring the use of karakia. In this resource we have included karakia for a range of purposes, both Christian and in the the traditional style, to tautoko or support enviroschools in that exploration. The karakia have come from a range of sources, including the Enviroschools Kit.
- Karakia tīmatanga (tīmata – to begin)
- Karakia whakamutunga (to close or end)
- Karakia kai (before you eat)
In traditional times, karakia was an integral and indispensable part of the way of doing things. There were different karakia for different tasks and situations e.g. planting a garden, greeting the new day, harvesting natural resources, launching a waka, calming a storm. Karakia invoked spiritual guidance and protection, but was not necessarily “worship” of those spiritual elements. Karakia was one of the ways Māori recognised and gave effect to the whanaungatanga, or web of relationships, between all things.
Christianity’s introduction changed the practice and meaning of karakia. The Bible was translated into te reo Māori and ‘prayer’ was translated as ‘karakia’. Like many translations from the language of one people within the context of their world view to another, it wasn’t entirely accurate. However for many Māori who took up Christianity, in time the words became synonymous and the karakia used most frequently were Christian. Traditional karakia began to be lost.
As Māori have worked to reclaim lost language and culture, traditional karakia and new karakia in the traditional style have appeared again and are being used more frequently in increasingly wider contexts.
The word karakia has come to mean both prayer and traditional karakia.
Karakia tīmatanga (tīmata – to begin) at the beginning of a day or gathering is a way to focus and settle, to be still for a moment and connect with others, and to acknowledge our spiritual element in whatever way is appropriate for the group and occasion.
Whakataka te hau
A traditional karakia, it is said this was originally used at sea in the face of an impending storm. It is now used widely in education to begin the day or a learning session. Its use of figurative language makes it useful as a literacy text, with the opportunity to explore occasions that figurative language is used in English and Māori. It can be recited or sung, with two tunes to choose from! There are multiple websites with information, translations and sound files.
Whakataka te hau ki te uru
Cease the winds from the West
Whakataka te hau ki te tonga
Cease the winds from the South
Kia mākinakina ki uta, kia mātaratara ki tai
Let the gentle breezes blow over the land
E hī ake ana te atākura
Let the red tipped dawn come
He tio, he huka, he hauhū
With a sharpened air, a touch of frost
A promise of a glorious day!
When introducing this karakia to children, I ask them what is distinctive about the westerly – it is often very strong and with some local variation is our prevailing wind, and the southerly – it is rather cold. (There are wonderful opportunities to veer off into weather and compass directions.) We talk about sea and land breezes – “ki uta” means on to the land, and “ki tai” means towards the sea or offshore. Depending on the age of children, we investigate how land and sea breezes are created by temperature changes of land and sea between day and night. Children share experiences of watching the sun come up from the horizon at dawn and what it feels like at that time of the morning, especially in autumn or winter – a fantastic camp activity. This discussion allows children to connect with the metaphor in the karakia. Metaphorically we are trampling or dissipating any negative forces that might impact on our focus or learning for the day, instead inviting gentle forces to support and encourage us. We are inviting the discovery and learning that a new day brings, with the feeling of anticipation, excitement and feeling alive that you get at dawn on a cold morning.
Tukua te wairua
Tukua te wairua kia rere ki ngā taumata
Allow your spirit to soar to its potential
Hai ārahi i a tātau mahi
To guide us in our work
Me tā tātau whai i ngā tikanga a rātau mā
And in our pursuit of the tikanga of our ancestors
Kia mau kia ita
Take hold and preserve it
Kia kore ai e ngaro
Ensure it is never lost
Kia tina! TINA! Hui e! TAIKI E!
Draw together! Affirm!
He honore he korōria
He honore, he korōria ki te Atua
Honour and glory to God
Maungārongo ki te whenua
Let there be peace and tranquillity on Earth
Whakaaro pai ki ngā tāngata katoa
Goodwill to all people
In the traditional style, this karakia is used in closing a day, hui or perhaps a distinct learning session where people will then go back to their usual activities. The translation below is my attempt to provide an explanation that children of all ages can identify with easily - it is not a literal translation. The parts in bold everyone says together (with gusto!).
Hikitia hikitia te rongomaiwhiti o tēnei wānanga
Tukua kia ea, tukua kia ōi
Ko Ranginui ki runga
Ko Papatūānuku ki raro
Tūturu whakamaua kia tina (tina)
Hui e, tāiki e!
Lift the sacredness and focus of this learning session
Let it go so that we can return to the everyday world
Where Ranginui is above us and Papatūānuku is below us.
This is a Christian prayer commonly used to end a gathering or, in a number of schools, the learning day.
Kia tau, ki a tātau katoa
Te atawhai o to tātau ariki a Ihu Karaiti
Me te aroha o te Atua
Me te whiwhinga-tahitanga ki te Wairua Tapu
Ake ake ake
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
And the love of God
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us
Now and forever
Nau mai e ngā hua
Nau mai e ngā hua
O te wao, o te ngākina, o te wai tai, o te wai māori
Nā Tāne, nā Rongo, nā Tangaroa, nā Maru
Ko Ranginui e tū iho nei
Ko Papatūānuku e takoto ake nei
Tūturu whakamaua kia tina, tina!
Hui e! Tāiki e!
Welcome the gifts of food from the sacred forests, from the cultivated gardens, from the sea, from
the fresh waters
From Tāne, from Rongo, from Tangaroa, from Maru
I acknowledge Ranginui who is above me and Papatūānuku who lies beneath me
Let this be my commitment to all!
Draw together! Affirm!
Whakapaingia ēnei kai
Whakapaingia ēnei kai
Hei oranga mo o mātau tinana
Mo o mātau wairua hoki
Bless this food
For the health of our bodies
And our spirits