Chapter 6: Flowing Into God

Just like a river flowing to the ocean

We are flowing into God

Peter Kearney, “This is Our School”

A popular song used by many Catholic schools in New Zealand and Australia with connection to river imagery. In the river narrative, she refers to “Io-Wairoa” as a “He” who reveals the vision to her. Io is a word used to describe a creator God – some say Maori have always known Io in this way, others say He was invented after Maori were introduced to the Christian God as a way of expressing their new monotheism. In the Old Testament, God is referred to as Jehovah- __________ with various second names attached after the hyphen to describe a certain aspect of His nature. For example, Jehovah-Jireh means “God who provides”. Similarly, Io has many compound names. Io-Wairoa describes God as a headwater, a source for a river and thus, a good term for a river to use in describing God. In this way, the book contains an image of a monotheistic God within Maori spirituality. 

Chapter 7: Dark Places

 And this also has been one of the dark places of the earth.

Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”

Heart of Darkness provides a structure for the book – Malory searches upriver for Kurtz and we don’t meet him until the end. Along the journey, we learn about him through documents and rumour. In part, my book is a response to HOD in that, I posit a different view of what one might see in the heart of humans when all is stripped away – particularly if God and/or faith are involved. The “dark places” introduces a potentially threatening element to Conrad’s arrival in Wanganui in this chapter.

 Chapter 8: Māori Jesus

 I saw the Māori Jesus

Walking on Wellington Harbour.

He wore blue dungarees,

His beard and hair were long.

His breath smelled of mussels and paraoa.

When he smiled it looked like the dawn.

James K Baxter, “The Maori Jesus”

As my intended audience for the novel was my brother, my muse was James K Baxter. His poetry integrates Christianity, even Catholicism, with Maori spirituality and experience; he was the spearhead of a commune in Jerusalem (Hiruharama) in the early 70s (when I was born) and he is buried there. He is the poet mentioned at the end, the one acknowledged as a prophet by Rawiri. Great title – no pristine robes or ornate paraphernalia in this image. 

Chapter 9: Longing 

Let the spirit that rested on Ratana rise up in this land again.  I speak to the land, to the whenua who is longing for the sons and daughters of God to be raised up out of our own soil, ma te wa.

Cindy Ruakere, Prophets Hui

Cindy Ruakere is a Maori Christian singer, speaker and modern day prophet. I have heard her speak in Taumarunui – her last name possibly links to a famous Maori prophet and healer from the 19thC, Te Kere, though I have no evidence of this. These words are from a prophecy a few years ago – images of people and land (whenua) intimately and organically connected. Ratana – another prophet, healer, political force. Conrad visits the community he established. Cindy Ruakere is also the inspiration for the “prophetess from Taranaki” that Frankie was rumoured to have contact with in Australia. In Maori spirituality, gifts of healing, etc. can be handed on, so the literal, physical passing on from (for example) Te Kere to Ratana to a prophetess to Francis is important. This quote is also another example of a female calling out to the people as the river does for the people who have left in, what she calls, a “diaspora” which is also a term used to refer to the dispersion of the Israelites after the burning of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD. 

Chapter 10: Power To Undo The Past 

This alone is denied to God: the power to undo the past.


I forget where, on the internet, I found this quote. This links with Te Wahine’s attempts to seek out her former lover in the river’s vision/narrative. As the river says, she wants to go upriver, back in the past (where the water used to be).

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