In Sisters Collective’s quest to find tāonga[1] in Te Tau Ihu (Nelson Marlborough, NZ) with Māori carver Timoti Moran, and to uncover some of the ancient knowledge around tāonga (reminding us of the power of nature) we found a super rare white hyrdogrossular garnet[2] in 2015, and we have also created red pounamu from Nelson inanga (through fire).

Creating red pounamu[3] really was an auspicious discovery. SIC often has issues with the very beautiful white Kōhatu, which fractures and breaks all the time, either as Tim is carving it, or as we wear our pendants.  A breakage is always heart-breaking.

In November, Tim was carving a SIC order of 10 white garnet Waiaroha (link) pendants, and became frustrated with his efforts due to fractures.  He rang us to offer pounamu inanga[4] as an alternative.  The crystals in pounamu are woven, and therefore don’t fracture as easily when cablogrved.  Sadly, the sisters are not really fans of the largely grey, black and white inanga, but we had heard him talk of an ancient Māori practice of firing pounamu, so asked him to “toss some in the fire”.  The results were incredible – turning his Nelson inanga bright gold and red!

It was auspicious that the creation of red pounamu, occurred around the time of the largest Perigee Psyzgzy Supermoon (11-14 November 2016) – a time when many women seemed to be searching for something deeper in their lives, and ironically, lots of us seemed to bleed out-of-cycle.  This supermoon has been described as the ‘time of the great reveal’, a time to make us ask deep questions and consider what is real in our lives, ourselves and our worlds. Since then we have all become a bit fascinated about seeing the tāonga together:

  • Kohatu  –  Hukatai    –    White   –    Masculine    –    Water stone
  • Red Pounamu –  Rehutai  –  Red  – Feminine   –  Fire stone. 

 Working with both of these stones has made the sisters very curious about the traditional use of Hukatai and Rehutai for gaining knowledge as it symbolises our own journey with taonga.  Not a lot is written about the practice which was largely a male domain, passed down through oratory, and largely dying out with colonisation, which valued the colonisers systems of western science and knowledge. While we know Hukatai was symbolised by white stones, and Rehutai by red stones, we know hardly anything of what tāonga were used.  By writing down what we have found, and sharing with people, we hope to uncover more of the ancient knowledge.   For now, we can start with discussing the symbolism of the Hukatai/Rehutai practice.

A Metaphor of Learning Journey to Wisdom

The symbolistic ritual of swallowing Hukatai and Rehutai was used by tōhunga as a metaphor for the student’s transition through knowledge into wisdom. The symbolic swallowing of Hukatai, followed by Rehutai, showed how wisdom could be achieved. The assimilation of intuition with knowledge symbolises the path to wisdom, a balance of natural forces with each other.

blog-2Hukatai – the white stone, represents knowledge.  White represents the search for Te Ao Marama, the realm of being and light and knowledge in the physical world.  White also symbolises harmony, enlightenment and balance.

Rehutai, the red colored stone represents emotional knowledge and intuition. Red represents Te Whei Ao, the realm of coming into being.  It symbolises the female element.  It also represents active, flashing, southern, falling, emergence, land and gestation.  Red is Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother, the sustainer of all living things. It represents the colour of earth from which the first human came.

Hukatai (sea foam) and Rehutai (seaspray) is a metaphor taken from a canoe en passage on the sea.  Hukatai – the sea foam or wake generated by the canoe in motion symbolises the pursuit of knowledge as an accumulation of facts.  By themselves information and facts constitute an un-organised set of ideas nonspecific to a person.   It is so fascinating that the white hydrogrossular garnet we found, fractures so easily – like a set of disjointed facts or knowledge.

For those who become open, who begin to think more deeply, and reflect on life, we come to believe that all things must be connected to a centre – no matter how specialised they are.  At the centre, rest our most basic convictions – ideas, thinking, reflection that transcends the busy world of knowledge, facts and information.  Our insightful-selves emerge.

Insight is not subjective or relative, nor influenced by convention. Without insight our actions inevitably lead to disaster. How often do people in the modern world block these core feelings and knowledge? 

If we have face up to the ultimate questions posed by life, our centre no longer remains in a twisty vacuum, which continues to ingest any new idea that seeps into it.

Swallowing Rehutai (listening to our inner voice) is a symbolic answer to the problem. Rehutai is a metaphor for the canoe that is heading out into the sunrise. As the sea foam is thrown up by the bow, the rays of the sun pierce the foam, creating a rainbow effect as we peer through.

By thinking deeply, reflecting, meditating and discerning, illumination comes. And, in that moment, an un-organised set of ideas can suddenly transform into an integrated whole, where tensions and contradictions are resolved. Knowledgeis thus transformed into insight – and insight into wisdom. Reflection in nature, can often bring us back to our core, because to live in balance with nature is to understand life.

It is thus hugely symbolic to us that on the turning of He Marama Nui[5], through reflection on these precious taonga, theforces of nature and the spiritual journey of many female friends (along with their physical symptoms of bleeding) and finally through collaboration with a timeless ancestral energy, Pounamu Te Whei Aō, has once again come to

Mā te whakatau, kā mohio, mā te mōhio ka marama, mā te marama kā mātau, mā te mātau ka ora.

 From discussion, comes understanding, from understanding comes light, from light comes wisdom, and from wisdom comes life.

Tihei Mauri Ora



[1] A most treasured possession – in this case, New Zealand gemstone

[2] Kōhatu – cutting stone

[3] Nephrite, Bowenite, Serpentine (also called tangiwai)

[4] Pale – cream nephrite

[5] Supermoon