Parihaka - Has Its Time Come?

Today marks the 137th anniversary of the invasion by government troops of the Maori settlement of Parihaka, in Taranaki, New Zealand. A community established in 1865, towards the end of the second Taranaki land war, it consisted of people from all over Taranaki and beyond who were dispossessed of their land. It attracted those who chose to come together to live in an intentionally peaceful community to resist further land confiscation. Since then this small, physically isolated village has become a potent symbol of peaceful resistance in the face of aggressive domination. It could be considered a profound New Zealand equivalent of the more widely-known Gandhian non-violent action against oppression.

This tiny summary above is without doubt insufficient, given the symbolic and on-going significance of this community, the trauma it suffered and the depth of subsequent generational pain arising from here and the land wars generally. If you’d like to read up about it I refer you to Dick Scott’s excellent but gruelling book Ask That Mountain or there’s plenty on the web . Being a powerful and poignant moment in New Zealand history I think it’s important to be familiar with it.

Such an event, with its context and ramifications, deserves a fuller astrological study than this, but what follows is a simple and initial exploration of this event. It particularly highlights the process and importance of identifying the primary significators that enable us to find the story in the chart. As I like to point out, such an analysis of a mundane event serves several purposes: it helps gain a fresh perspective on this important event; it shows astrology ‘working’ well, with alive and nuanced symbolism; it makes the astrological point that a resonant chart may offer up much more than simply a description of the immediate event for which it is drawn; and may, on deeper reflection, show us a redeeming or healing course of action for the future.

Below is the chart drawn for the time that the 1600 government troops invaded the village of Parihaka, reported as being just after 5am on Saturday 5th November 1881, a half-Saturn cycle after its founding (from Ask That Mountain and see here)

What strikes me first about this chart is basic: Scorpio rises, the sign of invasiveness; something that penetrates, that is fuelled by obsession and possession. Cancer is highest in the sky: what’s most ‘on top’ is land, family, protection and safety, a place to belong.

Beyond these simplistic yet relevant images, an initial way to enable such a chart to speak is to determine signification: we cannot find our way around such a chart without knowing what we are looking at: the who is who, what is what.

Given this is a chart of an invasion I give the First House/Ascendant to the invaders, those initiating the action. Thus Mars in Cancer in the 9th house, ruler of the Scorpio Ascendant, represents the government troops, and one could say the impulse of colonialism. Their concerns are for land (Cancer); their origins are both largely, literally and figuratively, foreign (9th house). 

Their leadership and the authority from high behind this invasion - the government -  is shown by the 10th house/Midheaven, ruled by Moon in pioneering but aggressive Aries in the 6th house. The mutual reception between these two planets (Moon is in Mars’ sign of rulership; Mars is in Moon’s sign of rulership) strengthens this take - they are in cahoots - as well as underlines the forthrightness of the invaders. It paints the picture that the troops - the forces employed - are firmly on the side of governmental authority. This is increased strongly by Mars, although debilitated, being in his sign of fall (as an aside, it’s perhaps of relevance that another debilitated Mars, in Libra, has been shown to often crop up in war or other aggressive situations, perhaps pointing to the dangerous position of a thwarted or frustrated power or anger) is conjunct the fixed star Sirius (Takurua), linked, in the Indo-European tradition, with military might, and Canopus (Autahi), said by Robson to be “cruel, bad-tempered, envious, jealous”.

The ‘other’ to the invaders, that is the occupants of Parihaka, are shown by the 7th house/Descendant. Although the Taurus stellium in this part of the chart is certainly relevant (in particular Chiron, the tragic image of the gash in the collective psyche arising out of the notion of possession/ownership - Taurus - and Neptune, which could be seen to carry the image of the spirituality in the land), for simplicity’s sake I will concentrate on the ruler of this house, Venus in her full strength in peace-loving Libra. However, she is rather disempowered, in worldly terms, being found in the 12th house, a largely passive or receptive house linked with martyrdom, self-undoing and mysticism experience. Venus here carries what we might call the spirit of Parihaka, the peaceful opposition to invasive forces (Mars). But in this symbol we might also aptly find the two leaders of this movement, working in partnership (Libra): Tohu Kākahi, and Te Whiti te Rongomai. A balanced scale.

In one of those delightful cosmic synchronicities that always makes me smile, we see this Venus on the fixed star Seginus, the third brightest star in the constellation Boötes, the Ploughman; it was the ploughmen of Parihaka who were the actual and symbolic expression of resistance against land confiscation, through continuing to plough their rightful lands through the period of forced confiscation and purchase!

The picture is completed with the inclusion of Saturn, ruler of the 4th house of home, land, the tangata whenua, aptly in the most grounded and gentle and agricultural of signs, Taurus, in the 6th house of work. Here is the astrological imagine of the people of Parihaka; how sadly appropriate, given they were a gathering of people dispossessed (Saturn) of their lands (Taurus). Saturn’s proximity to Neptune is interesting, given a similar conjunction occurred during the remarkably peaceful fall of communism as well as being an important aspect in Gandhi’s chart (trine) and in key moments in his non-violent resistance. Saturn-Neptune: boundaries are dissolved; separateness is undermined by oneness. Curiously, John Bryce, the Minister of Native Affairs who drove and personally lead this attack, has these two in trine as well. The fact that Saturn conjuncts his Sun-Moon-Mars stellium suggests his loyalty is to the authority of control/separation end of this polarity.

In deeply touching aptness Venus (the spirit of Parihaka, as carried and lead by the partnership of Kākahi, and Te Whiti) and Saturn (the people of Parihaka and their land) are in mutual reception, showing great connection and source of mutual strength, a poignant image of the people’s embrace of this spirit of peace, absolute trust in their leaders, and their intimacy with Papatuanuku, the Earth herself..

Other receptions offer ways of understanding the relationships between these two basic sides. Venus (the spirit of Parihaka) is in a sign of Mars’ detriment (Libra): put simply, she doesn’t get on with the pushy and grabby colonists. Mars (the troops), being in Cancer, shows loyalty only with the Moon in Aries (as ruler of the MC, the aggressive organising authority). That Mars is in mutual detriment with Saturn (Mars doesn’t like being in Saturn’s sign, Taurus; Saturn doesn’t like being in Mars’ sign, Cancer) shows not only the animosity between the Parihaka residents and their invaders but also carries the symbol of the invaders’ lack of respect for the land. It might even be interpreted that, although they might not know it, the invaders are not going to like the land they are seeking to steal.

Unsurprisingly we see Mars and Venus (the two sides) in square to one another, a relationship of challenge and struggle. The square is separating (moving further apart), indicating the most significant confrontation has already happened some time in the past, and this situation on the 5th of November may be seen as an outcome of it. Venus, though disempowered from action through her placement in the most cadent (“falling away”) of cadent houses, the 12th, certainly carries herself best in this drama - she moves on from that confrontation with full integral strength and mana. In fact, from an astrological perspective, she is not disturbed by any further aspect before she leaves the sign. Known as being ‘void of course’ this could be seen as further symbol of her lacking any ability to alter the situation, but I believe it also shows the untainted purity of the Parihaka response to the invasion.

Moon, like Venus, being Void of Course (making no more aspects before she leaves Aries) actually suggests the actions of the government authority (Moon) would be ineffectual. In her move off an opposition to this strong Venus, being her last aspect some 9º before, is the symbol of a past challenging stand-off or confrontation, one that Parihaka (Venus) holds its own. In this, the chart provides a useful example of what might be interpreted from planetary dignity. Venus has by far the most essential dignity or strength in this chart, pointing to the dignity, authority, integrity, responsibility, and perhaps mana, of the Parihaka people and leadership. Venus’ 12th house placement here speaks volumes: though she has the most mana, she is disempowered, denied worldly embodiment or strength, and so is sent into the future as an ikon or archetype of the regal dignity of peaceful opposition that is Parihaka.

Of the two leaders, only the date of birth of Kākahi is known. This shows him to be a Pisces with a Taurus Moon, and a Neptune-Saturn opposition; the gentle inclusiveness of his Sun-Moon combination suggests his prime loyalty is to Neptune, not Saturn: peace, inter-dependence and unity, not division, independence and isolationism.

0n the 9th of June last year the crown finally recognised the “atrocities” the people of Parihaka were subject to with a formal apology and the signing a reconciliation package with the Parihaka Trust. After years of rather empty apologies, this was the breakthrough that may allow some deeper healing to take place, and, as some sort of release, enables the spirit off Parihaka to work its way into the world; perhaps this could be seen as symbolising a sort of world readiness. This is also evident in a bill before parliament to formally commemorate the 5th November as Te Rā ō Parihaka, Parihaka Day (see here). Transits at the time of the formal apology strongly support the aliveness of the Invasion chart - see chart.

Three of the four significators identified above are the focus of major transits. In particular note transiting Uranus crossing directly over Moon (blue), a perfect sign of an awakening, a relieving sudden change of heart, a breakthrough, with respect of the government (Moon). We also see the positive (Jupiter) transformation (Pluto) of the fundamental tension between the two sides in their transit to Mars (the settlers/colonialism) and Venus (the spirit of Parihaka). To me this speaks of a deep ancestral shift.

Perhaps these transits do suggest that things have evolved enough for something so shameful to be deeply recognised and go out and do good in the world.

The last words I will leave to the poet. Here are a couple of extracts from Elizabeth Smither’s Parihaka - Twelve Little Poems.

Te Whiti and Tohu

On the last morning of his life

Te Whiti fed corn to his pigeons.

Tohu was buried on the top of his coffin

smashed in a dozen pieces.

Tohu had his left hand middle finger

Shot away by a bullet. Te Whiti’s

right hand middle finger was torn off

by a millstone. They married sisters.

At Tohu’s death a canoe-shaped cloud

with a figure lingered for three days.

Te Whiti spoke of ko manawanui: forbearance

the canoe by which we are to be saved.

A European Postscript 

‘Good-night, Sir John,’ said the parson

in Hardy’s tiny crossed-out hand.

Goodnight to Tohu and Te Whiti.

May new inspiration jump into those who follow

their wish for the whole of us to live

peaceably and happy on the land.

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