Mana | Spiritual Life Force in Austronesia

Published: Apr 12, 2022 | Updated: May 19, 2022

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Mana | Spiritual Life Force in Austronesia

Mana is a concept found in Austronesia, notably among Polynesian and Melanesian peoples. Polynesia is defined as the region with countries such as Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, Hawaii, and New Zealand, and Melanesia includes New Guinea, New Caledonia, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands, among other countries.

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Depending on the region, the local indigenous peoples, situation and/or context, Mana may refer to the powers of Nature as a whole, or it may be an impersonal, supernatural and spiritual force, power, authority, or influence that people, spirits, or inanimate objects possess or can acquire. It may also be the originating Universal Life Force or a Spiritual Healing Power.

In some cultures in Austronesia, it’s thought that Mana is a force that can be cultivated or enriched through certain (positive) actions, or a force that can get dissolved or gradually disappear due to “wrong” actions. Other perceptions see Mana as neither a benevolent nor a malevolent force, nor something inherently helpful or harmful, but just as the all-permeating Universal Life Energy, which can be used for both good and evil doings.

In Hawaii, for instance, Mana can be an energy concentrated in both living things and inanimate objects. It’s a force or power that can be acquired or lost. Sexual activity and fighting are seen as means to gain Mana Energy. By the way, it’s interesting to notice how this idea about sexual activity coincides with concepts in ancient Taoist Sexual Practices in which sexuality is seen as a means to transform Sexual Energy into Life Energy.

Among the Maori peoples in New Zealand (which originally is called Aotearoa) Mana is an extraordinary power, energy, essence or presence that somebody is born with, passed down from higher beings or from the sphere of “ultimate reality.” More Mana may result in more power and influence on one’s surroundings. Nevertheless, Mana can also be acquired during one’s life, or by contrast, get lost, both depending on one’s actions. Inanimate objects can also have Mana.

For the Maori people, Mana is closely related to the concepts of Tapu — the physical presence or restriction in the phenomenal world — and Mauri, which is considered the Vital Life Energy that binds and animates all things in the physical world. Without Tapu and Mauri, Mana cannot be expressed or flow into a person or object.


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