I’ve been amongst a rite of passage of my own. These passages are transformation at their core, and always into what has been growing in us, shaping us for a longer time. They arrive after an entire journey and story, and eventually burst forth to be lived in us, making it very real.
Sometimes it’s the letting go stage that really annihilates us, sometimes it’s the passage through the unknown, finding our way, for me recently it’s been the integration of all of that; the claim, making it real and known to others. This is how we walk all that we know to be true.
A month ago I celebrated the end of this rite of passage in the official change of my name back. I’ve returned to my birth name Holly, and to stand in my traditional (Waitaha, Māori) name, Haaweatea (Haa-way-ah-tay-ah) legally my middle name. You can call me Haawea (Haa-way-ah) for short.
This celebration brought together friends and family at dawn by the ocean, to mark these last three years, to acknowledge this change.
If you’ve known me as Bahadur, 10 years ago I was given that yoga name and had an incredible experience with it – it offered me the exact message I’d needed to be learning and embodying in all things. It means; to let the winds of time and space move by you without touching you, to hold to your soul in fearlessness. Simply - courage.
A name exists to call you forward, and this became my practice. And yoga, if anything, is about practice. The name Bahadur carried me through some incredible situations. It asked me to show up differently no matter what was going on. This was an inner guide for 10 years while I worked in prisons, with survivors and deep trauma, with shattered communities, with remarkable people stuck in a struggle with heroin and ice, and with kids and families in gangs. It enabled me to practice with others, that no matter what is going on, there is strength and honesty and peace in the centre of the storm.
The other thing it gave me, was an experience in not caring what anyone else thought. Over those years it was met with incredible resistance from a handful of friends and family, along with continually being referred to as a man, yet amazingly no comment could touch me, it just dripped off me like water because its purpose in my inner world was so obvious to me.
The past three years have been a new journey, comprised of daily challenges, rites of passages and quests. From a week out at sea, sailing the whale’s migration, feeling the seasickness as the movement of water took over my whole body, swimming alongside their calves, sleeping in their sound current, and finding their bones.
This whale migration eventually led me to Aotearoa (NZ) to visit and walk my ancestors places, and meet these places in the old language, which I’d finally dedicated myself to speaking.
Another year later, it meant spending 5-weeks in the desert, and 5-days sleeping out alone in the desert under the stars, with just drinking water and a hand-drawn map of those ancestors names back 1,000 years.
One reason why I focus on rites of passage is that I’ve been made to continually walk through them. They seem to keep coming, like waves in different swells. They don’t need to be days on top of a mountain or out at sea, they can be big change, loss, or an illness. They can be waking one day, and knowing something has changed, even when we have no idea why.
This three-year journey has been about my traditional name, which really was about who I am as a woman in this world, a new way of relating.
My Waitaha/ Māori name was not something I planned on using. I always assumed it was to be held close and listened to, like all significant things with a lot to teach us. What I didn’t know was traditionally there’s a time when your tipuna (ancestors) ask it of you, and they can be relentless. Of course they are. When we really decide that what we do now is for the many generations to come, then we have tipuna speaking in our ears and ongoing messages that show up in our ordinary world.
What was the last message that you kept pushing aside? Some part of you knows this answer. It could be something really small, but anything we ignore is worth paying attention to.
So when this began a few years ago, I knuckled down. I resisted like never before. Many of us know when there’s a truth or action we’re avoiding, the first thing to happens is we get sick. My adamant resistance to this change would’ve showed up my best tantrum as a 2 year old!
One thing I do know is there’s nothing easy about stepping into what’s true. Transformation is never easy but always worth it and impossible to ignore.
The night before my celebration I stayed up nervous like a firecracker, by 2am, I opened a book and an envelope fell out. It was addressed to "Haaweatea Bryson" with my address on the front and sealed. I had written it to myself when I was solo camping on a mountain in the freezing cold in New Zealand at an ancestral site, almost exactly a year ago. I'd forgotten about it completely. I could barely remember writing it. I opened the letter and it changed everything, it spoke to my nerves and guided me into sleep so I could wake and meet the celebration.
So I celebrate this change with you! And I share to include you in my passage. No rite of passage is done lightly, and all are life changing.
Haaweatea comes through 4,000 years of lineage of one of my female lines, and is also my connection to our kaitiaki/ guide, the whale. As life delivers it, it holds the meaning of ‘Bahadur’ but in a new way. It is to hold space and to cut to the essence. The two things I’m here for in this work.
Below are some photos from our celebration.
The first puure (purification) was in the dark ocean, before the dawn. I was in the water within a triangle of three amazing women, (one being my mother).
The second puure followed the dawn, and followed the rain. The sun came out and my friends gathered and sang loudly along the shore! A kuia, aunty and teacher of mine met me in the ocean in the karanga (women’s call), which she'd been handing down to me over these three years. The karanga sang an ihi, a cord between us and out to the meeting of the horizon, mother earth and father sky. Drawing in what I was now to embody, and releasing the death of the old. I cried out my karanga as I went under the waters and her and the voice of elders sang me back up. My parents and sisters (one overseas but represented, and my nana's also represented), stood in the ocean with me, each with a hand on my back.
Later two dolphins appeared next to us in the water, a sighting which I'd not heard of here in 20 years, as they swam the length of the puure positions along the beach, and out to sea!
I'm grateful, relieved, happy and excited to be in this claim of who I am, and to encourage each of our emerging with each new day!
Thank you to all of you for your own passages, as we lend courage to those we share with. I’m so grateful to spend my life exploring these transformative processes with people, and all they elicit in us to emerge!
In great love,
Haaweatea (Haawea) Bryson
My gorgeous dad.
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