Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Healing at Hell's Gate
I'm glancing at a directory of "25 places with healing powers" at an excellent nurse practitioners' website. My eye slides over the familiar and over-touristed places (Stonehenge, Macchu Picchu etc) but pauses at "Hell's Gate." Now that's an intriguing name for a place of reputed healing!
I slip over to the Hells' Gate site and discover that this is a geothermal park in New Zealand, run by a Maori tribe, with the hottest waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere. It was given its name by George Bernard Shaw, the English playwright and wit, who - though an atheist - speculated that the steaming hot falls could be the gate to the Inferno. The Maori name for those falls is more original, and no less cautionary, than Hell's Gate: they are called O Te Mimi O Te Kakahi, which means The Urine of Kakahi, a legendary warrior who came here to heal his wounds, renew his energy and look into the future.
The hot pool of Hurutini derives its name from a more sinister story. Hurutini was a Maori princess who killed herself by throwing herself into the boiling waters after being shamed and abused by her husband, a local chief. The Maori name for the whole park - Tikitere, meaning Precious One - is derived from her mother's lament.
I can't vouch for the claimed benefits of the mud baths and hot sulphurous waters of this place. But I'm reminded of an undoubted place of ancient healing with close ties to the powers of the Underworld: the pool at Bethesda, where Jesus told the lame man to get up and walk. I write about the long association of Bethesda with deities of the Underworld, especially Serapis, in the chapter titled "The Angel That Troubles the Waters" in my Secret History of Dreaming.
Kahaki falls, Tikirere geothermal park, New Zealand