As you enter our bush, it is piwakawaka, the fantail, who comes to greet you. Their chattering voice is an invitation onto Tane’s marae: ti-ti-ti, ti-ti-ti.
Sometimes too, this bird crosses with a message into our waking world. This has happened to me twice: once in a cave, once in a house.
The first time I was living in Kawhia, on the west coast of the North Island. I had tucked myself into a sand-cave, under the roots of a giant pohutukawa, and I was crying.
Suddenly, there was piwakawaka, laughing at me! Dancing in front of my face, it twittered & twisted from side to side. On and on it chattered, until I got the message, stopped crying, and joined in.
The second time, the bird didn’t laugh – but cried.
I was still on the west coast, but further south (in a place where I’d never seen the bird) when it entered a bedroom. The bird beat itself on the glass, wings spread and fluttering, and cried. I opened every window for it to escape, but it would not.
Then, when I sat and gave thanks for my teacher – who had just died – it left of its own accord.
The bird had come to honour a man who taught me to look for the Christ light (white/heart energy) within the earth herself.
So why does piwakawaka dance and chatter so? Because it is one of the forms of Maui, the trickster.
In the story, Mauipotiki (the youngest) was once again left behind by his brothers. They absolutely refused to take him fishing.
Maui did not like it! Determined that he would go too, he changed himself into a piwakawaka. Then he flew out over the ocean, following them.
Arriving at their canoe, he danced in front of their faces.
Then he perched on a seat, and shed his feathers one-by-one, until finally he was Maui. Still laughing, still chattering. As it does: ti-ti-ti, ti-ti-ti.
Story from Maori Bird Lore, by Murdoch Riley