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Karakia performed at the beginning of the construction of the Pike 29 Memorial Track

Karakia are Māori incantations and prayers,[1] used to invoke spiritual guidance and protection.[2] They are generally used to increase the spiritual goodwill of a gathering, so as to increase the likelihood of a favourable outcome. They are also considered a formal greeting when beginning a ceremony.

According to legend, there was a curse on the Waiapu River which was lifted when George Gage (Hori Keeti) performed karakia. In Māori religion, karakia are used to ritually cleanse the homes of the deceased after a burial.

The missionary Richard Taylor gives a 19th-century view of the traditional role and scope of karakia:

The word karakia, which we use for prayer, formerly meant a spell, charm, or incantation [...] [Maori] have spells suited for all circumstances – to conquer enemies, catch fish, trap rats, and snare birds, to make their kumara grow, and even to bind the obstinate will of woman; to find anything lost; to discover a stray dog; a concealed enemy; in fact, for all their wants. These karakias are extremely numerous [...][3]

With the nineteenth-century introduction of Christianity to New Zealand, Māori adopted (or wrote new) karakia to acknowledge the new faith. Modern karakia tend to contain a blend of Christian and traditional influence, and their poetic language may make literal translations into English not always possible.[2] In modern Māori society, performances of karakia frequently open important meetings and ceremonies, both within a Māori context (such as tribal hui, tangi, or the inauguration of new marae), and in a wider New Zealand setting in which both Māori and Pākehā participate (such as the beginning of public meetings or at the departure of official delegations for overseas).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Newzealand.com
  2. ^ a b "Karakia", Otago University website. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  3. ^ Taylor, Richard (1855). Te Ika a Maui ; or, New Zealand and its inhabitants: illustrating the origin, manners, customs, mythology, religion, rites, songs, proverbs, fables, and language of the natives : together with the geology, natural history, productions, and climate of the country; its state as regards Christianity; sketches of the principal chiels, and their present position. London: Wertheim and Macintosh. p. 72. Retrieved 2 September 2013.