Written by: Rosemary Wakelin
I must confess, my dear descendant, that my initial encounter with Taine was not what I would have termed a genial one. My arduous journey combined with the disturbing sight of my gravely ill husband had left me more than a little harried. Taine’s manner, which I had foolishly misinterpreted as both boorish and unfavourable, did little to improve my disposition.
And yet, I recalled how impressive Taine appeared in his long cloak, profuse with bright red feathers, his hair pulled high into an impeccable topknot and his face marked with a tempest of graceful black spirals.
“Dr Hanley broke tapu,” Taine said in a voice devoid of any inflections.
I gripped onto the mother-of-pearl handle of my small parasol and swiftly glanced at Mrs Dunstan. “Tapu?”
“A little like our laws,” she said with an dismissing shrug.
Dr Hanley breaking a law? I immediately vented my vexation at such a preposterous idea.
Mercifully, Taine appeared unperturbed by my outburst.
Mrs Dunstan took my hand. “The good doctor may have simply pulled a leaf from a tree where the native’s ancestors sleep; a seemingly innocent act to us but one of great wrong-doing to them.”
“The Doctor is very good,” Taine said. “I can make the doctor whakanoa”.
Again, Mrs Dunstan enlightened me. Taine was a Maori priest and wanted to purify my husband from a supernatural entity.
The proposition troubled me. How could a Tohunga help my dying husband, an acknowledged practitioner himself? With little choice, I acquiesced, not ignoring my own urgent prayers to The Lord Almighty. After many long hours of perpetual incantations, Dr Hanley was bathed on the banks of the Wairoa River. Taine touched him with a karamù leaf, then allowed the river’s gentle ripples to set the leaf free.
“It takes away bad spirits,” Taine said. “The doctor is better now.”
I waited for the morrow and prayed.
Wairoa, 12th December, 1873
My dear descendant,
Dr Hanley has made a remarkable recovery and has returned to his doctoring although I fear his medicines are doing little to cure the Maoris. I do not profess to understand the cause of Dr Hanley’s own odd illness or the unorthodox nature of his healing. But, I remain much obliged to Taine.
Several families have settled in newly built whares – comfortable gabled cottages constructed from reeds and flax of all things. Dr Hanley’s home is not unlike them, a little less distinguishable but just as restful.
I have learnt much about the Māori people since my arrival to this peaceable settlement, shedding my voluminous petticoats to join them in their daily lives. The other English wives declared it wasn’t my station to mingle with the Maoris as I did. I didn’t care.
Oh, I have much to tell you.
More importantly, I need you to know the truth surrounding the unjust acquisition of Maori land.
And I pray that in your lifetime, you can make it right.
 Spiritually sacred, prohibited
 Free of tapu
…the takutaku, involved touching the patient with a karamū leaf, which was then floated downstream. The malevolent spirit would be carried to sea and then to Te Waha o te Parata (a huge whirlpool, caused by a great monster), and finally to the underworld. Freed of the spirit, the patient was then sprinkled with, or immersed in, water.