Keep calm and karakia: How Stacey uses this age-old tradition to soothe the soul

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28 March 2022

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Described as a prayer, blessing or incantation, a karakia can be used in many ways to calm the mind. Stacey reflects on the soothing nature of this age-old tradition.

One of the great joys of bringing up our tamariki with Māori as their first language has been making new whānau traditions for ourselves. We had to, really, seeing as neither of us could speak Māori as children and so didn’t have all the associated waiata, lullabies and Mum and Dadisms to follow. I do remember an aunty would say to us as kids “kaua e pēnā” (don’t do it like that), which we all got the gist of, even if we didn’t understand word for word.

Being told off in Māori wasn’t a great association to have with the language, so I’ve always been mindful that loving language in te reo Māori is very important and can have a potent effect on our whānau. One tradition we began for ourselves was a nightly karakia.

Sometimes karakia is translated as prayer or blessing, but I think incantation is the most beautiful interpretation, and it’s relevant to add affirmation as well.

Our kids were not great sleepers when they were little, so a karakia was part of the bedtime routine that supposedly would help them to sleep. So Scotty composed the karakia below (as he has been trained to do) that would calm us all.

It soon got to the point that when we started this karakia, I could hear our tamariki take a deep breath and start to settle (to sometimes start up again shortly after – there is no money-back guarantee on this!) We also added in names, rather than “te whānau” we say Māmā, Pāpa. We name all the kids, and they usually add the kurī (dog) Ziggy too. By the time the kids were about two years old, they knew it off by heart themselves, and they still do it now.

I’ve also heard and seen videos of other kids picking it up. That’s the lovely thing – as we developed our little whānau traditions we shared them, in our books, at wānanga (learning workshops) and hui, in our online community Māori 4 Grown Ups, and on social media. During the first lockdown I shared our karakia on Twitter especially for kids who may have been feeling particularly anxious about Covid-19, and many adults replied that it had helped them too.

That’s the calming power of karakia, that I’ve seen work in many ways, for many people. It’s also become a beautiful print for your wall, thanks to design business Maimoa (@maimoa.creative on Instagram), who kindly asked if they could reproduce this karakia, and others have too.

You’re most welcome to use it in your life, too, for mindful calming, knowing that it comes from my whānau to yours, with much aroha.

Āio ana te rangi – The sky is tranquil

Āio ana te whenua – The earth is still

Āio ana te ao katoa – Everything is calm

Āio ana te moe a te whānau – Our whānau sleeps peacefully

I roto i te māī – Immersed in deep love

Te matihere – affection

Me te māoriori e – and contentment

Kia au, kia au, kia au te moe – Sleep well

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