Friday, March 18, 2016


My wife is employed at a Kohanga Reo and a few years ago decided to take on the "Whakapakari" training that they offer within the Kohanga movement.  Of course one of the things they needed to do for each "kete" of study was to write a karakia.  Not having a lot of confidence in karakia she asked if I could help, so I was a challenge for this Māori boy atheist!  It also came in handy when I couldn't be bothered to tell everyone at whatever hui I was at that I don't pray because I don't believe and then get into the whole thing all over again.

I also needed to work through for myself the idea of needing to karakia in the first place.  As you may know from my previous writing that I have mainly chosen to not participate in karakia so to now write karakia was a challenge but my wife was asking for help so I did.

So how do you write a karakia without referring to atua or superstition?

Here's how I did it.

I needed to consider the purpose of a secular karakia.  What would it do for the reciter?  What it would it say.  I also wanted to write a karakia that would reflect a Māori world view without the superstition.

So these were the questions I asked myself and tried to find answers for.  I know there are studies on how traditional karakia are written but I chose not to go down that route.  On reading through some of that it would make the karakia long and not really what I wanted although that may make an interesting exercise in the near future.

So what would be the purpose of a secular karakia?  To be absolutely honest though I just wanted to help my wife succeed in her studies but on another level it would allow participation, if they so choose, in part of the Māori culture that is somewhat closed to the Māori atheist.  These karakia also had to be Kohanga friendly so that meant short.

To answer the next two questions I found my answers in mōteatea.  Many, many mōteatea start with a reference to the surrounding environment

"Tirohia ki te rangi e parewaikohu ana"
"E tō e te rā"
"E ua e te ua"
"Tirohia atu rā ngā whetū"

are just four examples of many so this became my starting point. I would start my karakia in a similar fashion.  I also wanted to invoke positivity and not the sycophantic prostrations of the religious.

Please note: I know the english translation aren't very good but it's the gist!

This is obvious in this first karakia.  This was a karakia for the beginning of the day

Kua riakina te rā i te pae
Kua tīoriori te hakuturi
Hikina ngā manuka o te rā
Whakanuia te oranga tangata
Korou nui
Korou ora!

The sun has risen over the horizon
The birds morning chorus rings out
Take up the challenges of the day
Celebrate human flourishing

here's one for the end of the day

Kua tō te rā ki tua o te pae
Kānapanapa ana ngā whetū i te rangi
Kua mahea ngā here
He rā anō kei tua
Kua tau te mauri
Korou nui
Korou ora!

The sun has set
Stars shine in the sky
The bonds of work are gone
There is another day ahead
I am content

Here is a karakia kai that my family use

Tenei te kai e hora nei
He oranga rānei kei roto?
Ae he oranga kei roto (mā te katoa)
Kia mihia te ringa whakatō
te ringa kohi
te ringa ruku
te ringa tao
Tihei Kai Ora!

The food lays here before us
Is there sustenance in it?
Yes there is! (said by everyone present)
Let us acknowledge the hands that
planted, gathered, dived for and cooked it
Tihei Kai Ora!


  1. I've just been hijacked into standing respectfully in prayer at the pōwhiri my son's new school had for the incoming students. I don't speak or understand te reo Maori, but I do know the cadence of prayer... especially with a closing 'amen' in any language! Went up to the ceremony leader after and asked if it was, and he said yes. Gave him my opinion on the matter and left, maybe he'll take in what I said:
    I'm not Maori, and I'm not Christian. While I agree with the incorporation of Maori custom into modern life here as a means of cultural preservation, professions of Christianity have nothing to do with that and are in no way part of the pre-colonial heritage we are meant to preserve by continuing these Maori practices.

    I found your secular karakia interesting, and want to ask if you have any further resources to point me to for more? I want to provide the school with many options to replace the prayer they are currently using.

  2. Kia ora Sorry for not responding earlier. Sorry I don't really know of any other resources to point you to. There are very few outspoken Māori atheists that I know of and even fewer that produce resources. Thanks for reading the blog!