In the old days there was a whole lot of ways our tīpuna celebrated the arrival of waiwhero, te awa atua. Some of the ceremonies included:

– the kotiro taking moko kauae

– receiving a new name

-presentation of taonga

– whanau hakari

-ceremonial cutting of hair

– ceremonial piercing of ears

When my niece got her awa atua we decided as a whanau to celebrate. The whole whanau got in behind the event and everyone played their part. My niece, for the last 3-4 years, had been counting down the days and months until the arrival of her special day because I had told her that when it arrived I would prepare a hakari for her with whatever kai she wanted. We had a beautiful spread, lots of mihi, gifted her a journal that she can write in at that special time of the month, then returned the first blood back to Papatuanuku, burying it with karakia. It was really healing and empowering for the whole whanau! I feel really excited that we have set that down as a tikanga for our whanau, empowering our tamariki with positive, loving and self assuring messages.

We have also reclaimed traditional names for menstruation that remind us of its cosmological origins. Some of these names include:


-Awa Atua

-Rerenga Atua



NOWHERE in my search of karakia, moteatea, cosmological, tribal and navigational histories did I find the term that most of us use today; mate wahine. I did, however, find it in the colonial ethnographic records where they have translated it as a ‘sickness of women’, aligning with their own Victorian cultural constructs..I have my serious doubts about whether this term is ‘traditional’ and it worries me that by using it we perpetuate negative beliefs about menstruation that stem from a colonial legacy rather than a cultural one.

Please feel free to leave stories about your own whānau – either about your tīpuna or about what you do today to celebrate the divine river.