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

4 comments:

Nancy said...

In looking up who else was born on July 26 (this past Sunday), because of your post about Karl Jung, one of the people I found was George Bernard Shaw, born July 26, 1856. Life rhymes.

Robert Moss said...

You are rhyming with interesting people, Nancy!

Wanda said...

In my healing journey with breast cancer and in a significant healing dream in which I faced my death at the pool of Bethesda, I discovered for myself the overlay of meaning and possibility in these world places of healing. Bethesda's association with the angel of the waters is not as straightforward or as comfortable as people believe in a cursory reading, not even in its Biblical version. There are responsibilities for healing - the person entering the pool must be the first person to enter when the elusive waters rush in - must be invited by a higher power [for me, the dream and the outstretched hand of the angel accompanied by a trusted friend] - and then must - with intent - rise under his/her own power and take the first step toward accepting the coveted invitation. Then there is an additional responsibility - share the story and go out into the world with new purpose. My dream was an important and undeniable invitation to healing and to share my story.

Robert Moss said...

Wanda - Thanks for evoking what Bethesda has been for you, and for others who have made the visionary journey to that pool of healing on the imaginal plane.

In this physical world, I believe I found a kindred power at work in and around the extraordinary cliffs at Moshup's beach at Gay Head on Martha's Vineyard, where the local tribe conducted rituals of healing and initiation involving pressing the whole body into the clays. I wrote about this under the mask of fiction in my novel THE INTERPRETER