University Of Otago Karakia

Karakia are prayers or incantations. They are generally used to ensure a favourable outcome to important events and undertakings such as tangihanga (the ritual of farewell to our deceased), hui (meetings), unveilings etc., however they can cover every aspect of life. For example: welcoming the dawn and farewelling the day, to ensure a safe journey, for different types of illness, when undertaking tā moko (tribal ‘tatoo’), when carving wharenui (meeting houses) orwaka (traditional canoe), and more. Karakia, in their true essence, are ritual chants invoking spiritual guidance and protection.

With the introduction of Christianity to New Zealand in the 19th Century, new karakia were written to acknowledge the Christian God and Jesus Christ.

These karakia have been used since that time, however there is a current move towards using our more traditional karakia (which were often chanted or ‘sung’), which call upon many of our Atua (Gods/guardians) for direction; these karakia are poetic and full of beautiful imagery and metaphor.

It is important however to remember that there are not always appropriate English words which can fully reflect the essence of the Māori words used; often literal translations need to be considered metaphorically.

Where possible, we have included examples of both Christian and traditional karakia (in shaded boxes) for the following occasions, to:

  1. Start a meeting (karakia timatanga)
  2. Close a meeting (karakia whakamutunga)
  3. Bless food (karakia mō te kai)

Karakia Timatanga (To open a meeting)