How can we ensure that the younger generation are connected with the movements of nature, and come to care for this earth as dearly as their own selves?
In Maori, whenua means ‘land’. It also means ‘placenta’.
Just as the placenta feeds life-giving blood and nutrients to a babe in the womb, so does a child’s connection with the land feed her soul. Burying the placenta in the earth creates a bond that will be deep and strong. (See this beautiful post on the Home Birth Association website)
The little one made her first trip to the bach when she was just a few months old. Her father buried her whenua at the base of a young kauri tree that I had planted several decades ago. It is shooting up into the light.
The kauri is now ‘her tree’, the first place to visit when she comes out here. The land has a way of calling to her and for some time she’s been asking to come out to stay. Now at six and a half, on Labour weekend, I brought her out for her first, long-awaited sleepover.
What a joy it is to be with a child who has found her place in nature. She trots off down the bush paths to explore, or sits in a flax ‘hut’ listening to the wind and the sound of the birds. She picks up leaves, twigs and pieces of bark to hold or arrange on the ground. She wanders along the nearby stream, watching the water, the waving grasses and the flashing wings of the kingfishers.
The whenua of my first granddaughter was buried after she died at six weeks, and a dwarf kowhai tree planted for her. Every time I tend the kowhai, I think of her.
For many reasons, my second granddaughter has not really bonded with the land. The placenta of this granddaughter, who is now a young adult, was lost because of a power cut. When I mentioned this to some Maori women last summer, they said that the whenua should never be put in the fridge or freezer because doing so affects its life energy. It should be buried in a pot of earth, and in this way kept until it is ready for its final resting place in the ground. And so this was done after the new baby was born this year.
It was time for the new baby to visit the bach for the first time, and for her placenta to be buried in the land.
After two and a half months, the whenua had become absorbed into the soil inside the pot, making it rich and dark. See the difference between this and the surrounding earth.
Her kowhai tree is planted, and with it her connection with the land. May this tree grow to full height. May these young ones grow up to love and protect this earth, which needs more care than ever before. And may the land feed their souls in return.