Within Te Ao Moriori (the world as it is perceived by Moriori)  the concept of  mana or manawa may be likened to a plasma which connects the tangible with the intangible, sight with perception, belief, feeling and action.

It is a way of thinking, believing and acting which encompasses and regulates the relationships of Moriori at Rēkohu and Rangihaute with their gods, with nature and with one another.

What is Mana?

Mana is a method of apportioning value including the value one places on authority and rights.  Its function is to enable groups such as Imi (Iwi)  families, whanau and individuals (t’chakat, wahine,tane) to identify, recognise, define, refine, acknowledge, accept, transfer, delegate, apportion, attach, test, measure, control and direct value, respect, merit, prestige, honour, status, authority, priority, rights, responsibilities, significance and importance to all that pertains to and stems from the sacred essence (mauri) of the parent god (Aiorangi), the children who were the keepers of the taonga, eg, Tangaroa, the demi-gods, eg, Maui, and all of their properties, real or personal together with their associations, determinations and practices.  This mana comes from the gods and it is transmitted down through Moriori hokopapa from the Karāpuna (te hunga mate) into the hokopapa of the living (te hunga ora).  The two transition points are referred to as te ahuru mowai (the entry, birth) and as te hononga wairua (the forming and joining place of the spirits at death or death exit).

Moriori believe that a people are only as good as their god or gods.  An acceptance of tapu is the means by which Moriori acknowledge, defer to and show respect for the authority of the gods, their properties or creations (taonga), associations (hokopapa) interactions (whanaungatanga), determinations (kawa) and practices (tikanga).

Mana is the off-spring of tapu.  It cannot exist without acceptance and acknowledgment of a system and hierarchy of respect.  Moriori mana is based on faith in the gods.  This includes respect for other people their kawa and tikanga.

The tikanga of a people (the right way of proceeding) is founded on an accumulation of experience, successful problem solving and precedents established over a long period of time.  In all of this it is important to be able to trace down from “the first instance in things”.

One might ask “No hea to mana?”  (Where does your mana come from?)

The full and correct answer should begin with the gods and come down to the ancestors and then down layer by layer to the living, in the present.

Songs, karakii, place names and their explanations, fishing grounds, historical events, discoverers, founders, hapu, whanau, proverbs, special local knowledge and traditions.  All these things are what constitutes manawa Moriori.  Moriori people are a people whose mana is of the heart, the heart of things.  In this respect it is like establishing one’s credentials.  Establishing  mana is about linking people and events through kinship over time to oneself.

How does one arrive at an accurate perception and assessment of the merits of mana in relation to all aspects of life?

Within Te Ao Moriori one needs to be guided by or take into account these factors or elements:

Taha wairua – a spiritual aspect

Taha ngakau – an emotional aspect

Taha hinengaro – a mental, conceptual, intellectual, cerebral aspect

Taha whanaunga – a social aspect

Taha tinana – a physical and material aspect


Consider these as cultural filters rather than dimensions or heavens.  Their purpose is to sharpen, colour and add depth to understanding and perception.  Just as a system based on the concept of mana cannot exist in isolation from a system of respect beginning with the gods, so mana cannot be perceived, weighed and balanced in the absence of these filters and this process.

Manawa ka is the accumulation or sum total.  It is important to know also that there are sub-filters as well.  For instance a hapu may express its mana through manaakitanga ie by showing hospitality to visitors.  Manaakitanga is one of the progeny of whanaungatanga.  Whanaungatanga in this earth dimension is a reflection of the whanaungatanga of the gods in the dimensions of the heavens which they occupy.

One can go further and say that there are at least two broad categories of mana.

  • The mana of the gods properly belongs in the category of permanence (ie it is fixed, immortal, infinite).  That category of mana is called Te Ao Tuturu (permanent, inviolate) and we are unable to change or influence it.  An example of this kind of mana is that surrounding the discovery and settlement of a country or a part of it.  In the case of Moriori, Rongomaiwhenua, one of the founding Karāpuna on Rēkohu, would have established a tuahu or altar to the gods and as part of this process that Karāpuna would have accepted the manawa ka and arikitanga of that place from the gods.  No-one can change that.  – “E kore e taea te whakahe.” It cannot be disputed!
  • Mana which is finite, subject to variation or influence belongs in the category called Te Ao Hurihuri (variable, changeable, experimental).  The arrival of European and Māori on Rēkohu signalled the advent of Te Ao Hurihuri or a change in the order of things for Moriori.  But significantly, Moriori people held fast to their own covenant of peace and manaakitanga; thereby keeping  faith with Te Ao Tuturu as passed down to them from Mu, Rongomaiwhenua, Pākehāu and Nunuku.