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Te Awa Atua: Menstruation in the pre-colonial Māori world

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Te Awa Atua: Menstruation in the pre-colonial Māori world – by Ngāhuia Murphy

Te Awa Atua is a ground-breaking study of menstruation in pre-colonial Māori society. Many early ethnographic accounts of menstrual rites were distorted beyond recognition by the colonial lens of their authors, yet their misinterpretations continue to be accepted as authoritative. This book is a challenge to that authority.

By examining stories about menstruation located in Māori cosmologies, tribal histories, oral literatures, ceremonies and rites, Ngāhuia Murphy argues that menstruation was seen as a medium of whakapapa (genealogy) that connected Māori women to their pantheon of atua (deities).

Ancient rites, recorded in tribal songs and chants, reveal that menstrual blood was used for psychic and spiritual protection. These examples unveil striking indigenous constructs of womanhood that radically challenge notions of female inferiority and menstrual pollution.

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About the Author:

Dr Ngāhuia Murphy (Ngāti Manawa, Ngāti Ruapani ki Waikaremoana, Tūhoe, Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Arawa) is a researcher and educator. In 2011 she gained her Masters with a groundbreaking study of Māori pre- colonial stories, ceremonies and practices regarding menstruation. Ngahuia extended her research through a doctorate examining the revival of Indigenous women’s rituals and relationships to pre-colonial feminine deities in Aotearoa, Hawai’i, Canada and North America.

Other books available by Ngāhuia Murphy:

Waiwhero: The red waters – A celebration of womanhood – He whakahirahiratanga o te ira wahine


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