Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The Twilight Godzone

You don’t have to look to far-off crumbling Gothic mansions or European castles for a good Ghost Story, we have plenty here in New Zealand.

Happy Waitangi Day, if that well-wish can ever be applied to a day so infused with controversy and discord. Whatever this significant date has come to mean, it’s my belief that New Zealand is now a country of many cultures, though most often characterised by the designations Maori and Pakeha.
And this seems no more obvious than in the two volumes of collected ‘true’ ghost stories published by Shoal Bay Press and Long Acre press respectively: Where No Birds Sing (1998) and it’s follow-up When the Wind calls your Name (1999) both by Grant Shanks and Tahu Potiki.

My learned friend and proud fifth generation New Zealand friend over at Jetsam: : discovered that we each owned a different volume and suggested a synchronised blog, both of us writing about the book we had. Mr Jet's erudite post can be found here
As both volumes very much represent this country’s dual identity, through differing but intersecting spirituality and shared history, he went on to wisely recommend today for going ‘live’.

When The Wind Calls Your Name is the second book, published due to the enthusiastic response the first collection provoked. It is true that the tales can be roughly divided in nature into Maori and Pakeha-themed accounts, often by the European convention of the haunted house (or more disturbingly, Satanism as in the stories The Ouijia Board and Satan’s Knife) and the equally-chilling consequences of Tapu. But I would suggest subcategories as well:

Apparitions from, and ghostly re-enactments of, Maori history (Waka in the Forest and Pa on the Peninsula) can manifest without Tapu being broken or any willful wrong committed. Elsewhere, in both cultures helpful, benign entities can make an impression upon the living - as can darker forces. And some accounts are merely inexplicable; co-incidences and unique combinations of circumstance reaching just to the other side of the rational (The Little Boat). In the case of stories involving a ‘bad place’, often exorcisms or liftings of Tapu are performed by elders from either New Zealand culture (and in this book at least this is always successful). And in one case the tainted location is vacated without resolution (The Store of Memories). Interestingly, in the Maori-themed stories the ‘bad place’ is usually often found in the great outdoors, while the European instances they are almost always a house or building.

Throughout my years in this beautiful and welcoming country, my own encounters with Maori and the rich cultural heritage permeating this land have always been positive and enriching. When the Wind calls your Name only increases my respect.
This little paperback has also been a cherished companion over the years, and has accompanied us on camping holidays when turns are taken for torch-lit readings. Naturally, the fact that the accounts are not only New Zealand-grown, but true, always adds more than a small frisson of chills as we unconsciously burrow down deeper into our sleeping bags and glance at shadows cast on the canvas around us.

Tomorrow I will post my own supernatural encounter, hardly worthy of inclusion in either of Shanks and Potiki’s books, but no less true.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely stuff! I, too, have shared the odd bedtime read with Mrs Simian from our volume, and I agree that it's a great way to experience them. We seem to be of a like mind regarding what the stories represent (even though I'm none too clear on my fifth-generation status; I think maybe one generation might have to be struck off for behaviour unbecoming of an actual native), so I'm glad this little exchange has worked on this day of all days. Happy reading - I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Where No Birds Sing!