My rapport with rocks increases as I investigate Earth energy currents and vortexes in the picturesque countryside of the South Island, New Zealand.
The uplifting benefits of making a sacred pilgrimage are well documented throughout history, but it’s only when you’ve been on one personally, that it becomes obvious that mere words don’t even come close to covering the full rewards of the experience. That said, I’ll try and put into words how amazing my sacred journey to Kura Tawhiti was, and still is, as the benefits of my visit are ongoing.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Kura Tawhiti, it's a picturesque hill located near a secluded alpine village about an hour and a half drive out of Christchurch, which is in the South Island of New Zealand. Kura Tawhiti’s other name is Castle Hill because it’s covered in mysterious looking rock formations that resemble an ancient ruined castle. Adding to its majestic atmosphere are the moody mountains and valleys that surround it, which make it an even more impressive location.
The inspiration for my travelling companion Mary-Louise (aka Milou) and I to make this journey came from several sources. I had been researching New Zealand history, ancient cultures and Earth energy when the name Kura Tawhiti kept popping up. Some called it the ‘birthplace of the gods,’ and the ‘university of universities.’
During his visit there the Dalai Lama had called it “the spiritual centre of the Universe.” Kura Tawhiti is sacred to the Maori and the people that were here before them - the Waitaha Nation. They call Kura Tawhiti and its neighbours Flock Hill and Prebble Hill ‘The Sacred Nest,’ because that was where their tohunga (experts) taught the chosen ones who would become the next generation of wisdom keepers.
Those descriptions alone were enough to persuade me to make the pilgrimage there, but the strongest motivator for me was the mystical experience which had etched itself into my memory many years earlier, while working there on the feature film called ‘The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.’
THE DEEPER MAGIC
I was just one of the hundreds of cast and crew members that day shooting the epic battle scene among the huge limestone boulders at Flock Hill when I suddenly felt the sensation of being closely observed. When I looked around to check out who was watching me, everybody I saw was deeply engrossed in their work and not the least bit interested in what I was doing. But instead of easing, the sensation of being watched got stronger and I caught a glimpse of movement in the boulders. As I looked intently at the boulders the strangest thing happened, I sensed a weird magnetic connection to them, which held me in sort of a trance state. It was as if they were making it known to me that it was THEM observing me. Then, as if to confirm my recognition, the boulders did this weird shape-shifting thing from faces and figures back to weathered boulders again. It was quite hypnotic and a little bit disorienting. I hadn’t even had so much as a coffee that day, so my vision wasn’t chemically induced. I shook myself out of the trance and looked around again to check if anyone else could see what I was witnessing. But no one else was paying any attention. Another possibility sprang to mind and I asked around if this place had any spiritual significance, but nobody I asked knew anything about it.
It wasn’t until I read the literary works of authors Freddy Silva, Barry Brailsford and Hamish Miller and others seventeen years later that I learned that this was indeed sacred ground and that the Spirit of the Land had been in communication with other sensitives here for centuries. It’s my belief that I was given that memorable experience back then so that when my knowledge caught up with my sensitivity traits, I would heed the call to return and learn more.
Before our pilgrimage began, I was fortunate enough to interview Barry Brailsford, whose books ‘In Search of the Southern Serpent: A journey into the power of place’ and ‘Song of Waitaha’ had deeply resonated with me and stirred my memories and curiosity. He imparted some of his great wisdom to me about the region, its cultural and spiritual significance and how to interact with the local Atua (Spirits), for which I am hugely grateful. Barry also taught me about white rainbows and how rare and significant their appearance was on a pilgrim's journey. I hoped that we would see one, but didn’t think it was likely.
There were many signs and synchronicities along our journey, one of which was that despite purchasing our plane tickets independently and without knowing where the other was sitting, Milou and I ended up being able to sit next to one another on our flight. The weather was playing ball and it appeared as if we had timed our trip perfectly to coincide with a small cluster of sunny days in an otherwise bleak forecast. By the time we arrived at Castle Hill Village, we were feeling pretty blessed.
Words can’t describe how amazing this place smelt that evening as we walked around the village. Milou and I were sniffing trees and shrubs to figure out where the incredible fragrance was coming from, but we couldn’t put it down to any one thing specifically. Whatever it was smelt so good it could have been supernatural.
As we wandered back to our accommodation we saw a thin white ribbon of cloud in a perfect arch over Kura Tawhiti and the village. A rush of excitement went through us. Could this be the white rainbow that Barry had described? We thought it must be and were elated by this welcoming sign of the trail being opened for us.
My excitement must have triggered my internal alarm clock because I was wide awake by 4:30am the following morning. While I waited for my sleepy travelling companion to wake I meditated and felt more energy movement in my chakras and meridians than usual. My heart chakra positively exploded when I focused on opening it and I wondered if this huge energy flow was due to the intention of our pilgrimage, or us being closer to a sacred place, or the blessed greenstone toki pendant I was wearing around my neck. Perhaps it was all of the above?
Of the three hills in the sacred nest we decided to visit Kura Tawhiti/Castle Hill first for several reasons. It was the closest and the most accessible and we knew there was an energy vortex there, and also because it was the location of the giant stone ‘sculptures’ of Marotini the Kumara Goddess and Rakaihautu the Great Navigator.
From my energy therapy work I knew that energy vortices have border membranes or force fields, so I was anticipating sensing one as we got closer to the vortex. But what I hadn’t anticipated was how far away from the vortex we both sensed this invisible boundary line to be.
We decided this boundary line was the most appropriate place to introduce ourselves to the local Atua and state the intention of our visit, as Barry had suggested. We did so through karakia, mihi and pepeha in both Maori and English. We were rewarded by multiple signs that we were welcome to pass through the boundary. What’s fascinating is that each of the three hills in the sacred nest all have energy vortexes and these exact same signs appeared after we said our introductions at each boundary line.
Some else had already mapped out the spiral shape of the energy vortex with stones at the top of a ridge at Castle Hill and thus created what's known as a landscape temple. An unseen guiding force directed us to enter the vortex to the left rather than via the well worn path straight ahead and instructed us to leave our bags behind. I approached as directed and checked my compass to see which way the entrance was facing and was surprised to find it was exactly South. According to temple building lore a south facing entrance (in the Southern hemisphere) honours the element of Earth and serves as a place for initiation and transformation, which I thought was very fitting given this was the first vortex we had encountered on our first sacred pilgrimage together.
After we paid our respects to this sacred natural temple we continued up the next ridge to visit Marotini and Rakaihautu. It's a steep climb to the top and in hindsight we should have done a lot more fitness training to prepare. It didn’t help that in our enthusiasm we had taken far too much research gear with us.
All the hard work to finally get to the top paid off. Marotini and Rakaihautu did not fail to impress us, not only with their majestic size, but also with their magnificent presence. We spent a blissful afternoon communing with the Atua, doing vision quests and working with the energy lines we found snaking around the boulders.
We were feeling sore but elated by the time we got back to base camp, but oddly I still had energy to spare and went for a walk around the village with my sister who had come to join us for the next part of our journey.
That night I measured the energy flow in my chakras and meridians and compared it to the reading I did on myself before I left Auckland. I suspected I might see a slight increase in my energy flow, but was very surprised to see it had jumped a lot higher than expected.
That night Milou initiated a debriefing session so we could share our insights. I was delighted when she presented me with a charmingly illustrated storyboard she had created to visually describe her experiences. It was the perfect end to an incredible first day.
As we emerged from our accommodation early the next morning, a cheerful rainbow over Kura Tawhiti greeted us. It was accompanied by a full moon which hung in the sky above it and looked out of place against the gloriously blue sky.
The three of us drove to Flock Hill and once again made our introductions when we were stopped at the invisible boundary line. Once again our signs appeared giving us permission to enter. (We also had permission from the owners of Flock Hill Station, which is private land.) This was the hill where I had first met the local spirits seventeen years before and I was very excited to be back again. I had no idea what to expect from this visit.
I recognised areas where we had filmed the Narnia battle scenes and we followed my nostalgic memories up a steep gully to a high ridge of boulders overlooking the whole valley. Amongst the many hundreds of unusual looking boulders one in particular caught my eye and it beckoned me like a beacon. As I approached I felt the familiar magnetic pull of an energy vortex ahead. Some dowsing revealed that this vortex was different, part of it spiralled clockwise and another part anticlockwise, which made me wonder if it was the intersection of two different energy currents. If I had more time I would have liked to find out, but it was not on our list of priorities, so it would have to wait until our next visit.
This double vortex rock felt special and we decided it was the most appropriate place to play the music we had been guided to bring with us. Mary-Louise was the instrumental section of our orchestra and I was our drummer.
A week before our trip I had located a shaman who could show me how to make a medicine drum and I made one especially for this trip. I constructed my drum’s backpack from the Himalayan style fabric I’d purchased on a whim in the 1990s because it spoke to me of exotic Alpine spiritual journeys. How apt that here I was, three decades later, living out a New Zealand version of those aspirations.
The atmosphere at the double vortex was electric and we felt like we were playing to an enthusiastic audience of hundreds. During my vision quest there I saw a light corridor and a pulsing geometric grid, which felt strangely familiar.
While Mary-Louise and I were jamming, my sister had gone off exploring on her own and found the plateau where the beginning of the Narnia battle had taken place. She also remembered this place because I had invited her and her family to set one day and her young son had his photo taken while he was sitting astride a white unicorn that was being led by the film's director Andrew Adamson.
Seeing this place again brought back a multitude of emotions and memories. We were enjoying ourselves so much that we didn’t want to leave, but we had made dinner reservations and planned to squeeze in a walk around the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall and a visit to the Arthur's Pass Visitor’s Centre that afternoon, so we made a speedy descent.
As we returned to the base of Flock Hill I sensed another vortex nearby and looked down. To my amazement I recognised the geometric grid from my recent vision, it was part of a landscaped art installation near the entrance of an underground cave stream. Whoever constructed that installation must have known there was an energy vortex there because it was built directly over it. My compass confirmed this by going crazy when I stood in the centre of the installation.
Our plans to walk to the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall that evening were thwarted by heavy rain, so we contented ourselves with just going to the visitor’s centre. However, we were disappointed by the meagre amount of information there about the cultural and spiritual significance of Kura Tawhiti and the sacred nest. We wondered if it was due to ignorance or a deliberate omission to preserve the sanctity of the place.
After our pleasant dinner at the Bealey Hotel, my sister headed back home to Christchurch and left Milou and I to our pilgrim’s debriefing session. We were both surprised to find that despite having done so much walking over the last two days that we were not as tired as we thought we would be and we stayed up late talking.
Before heading up to Prebble Hill we stopped in at the Castle Hill Village town hall and had a look at the wall carving gifted to the village by members of the Waitaha Nation. To the uninitiated, the carving might look like a strange hodgepodge of cultural motifs, but those familiar with esoteric teachings, symbology and alternative history will be able to decode the carvings message, which tells the story of the Waitaha.
We were blessed with last minute permission from the owners to enter Prebble Hill station, which proved to be the most challenging of the three hills in the sacred nest. There was no carpark, no toilet, no tourist signs and no track. Instead there were rivers, reveens, cliffs, prickly bushes and a herd of scary cows and bulls between us and the boulders at the top of the hill.
By this stage we were down to just one light backpack each and my medicine drum, but even then it was still a struggle to make the summit in good time.
Flock Hill’s boundary line is located under a rock formation we call ‘the scarp dragon’ because it looks just like an enormous dragon crawling along the ridge on its belly. Many metres below the scarpe dragon sits a huge boulder hollowed out by centuries of erosion by a strong flowing river, which is now a small crystal clear stream.
As we stood by the stream making our introductions, both Milou and I sensed the presence of the ancestors to our right. I felt a whoosh as they moved behind us and to our left and led us downstream in the direction they wanted us to go. Perhaps this extra special greeting was because we were completing the final part of our pilgrimage and they knew we needed the extra boost to get us all the way to the top and past that obstacle course.
We followed the ancestor’s directions obediently and quickly came upon an energy vortex curling around a pair of huge boulders at the edge of a river. This vortex is so strong I nicknamed it ‘the washing machine’ because it almost spun me off my feet. Standing on an energy vortex is like plugging into a recharging outlet. As I soaked up the purified Earth energy, I could feel my battery bars going up and up. I don’t think we would have made it all the way to the top of the hill if we hadn’t found this recharging station first. Thanks ancestors!
We had to take the long way around to the top because the herd of curious cows and bulls were following us much too closely for our liking. We darted from boulder to boulder to try and lose them, which worked a treat.
Getting to the top of the hill was like finding our way through a giant's stone labyrinth. The colossal size of the boulders made us feel like ants and we shuddered to think what we would do in the event of an earthquake.
The view from the top was utterly breathtaking and worth every drop of perspiration we spent getting there. Sitting in a patch of sunshine at 2665 feet above sea level, we watched as a storm passed us by, drenching Castle Hill Village in rain and hail.
Satisfied that we had meditated and played enough music to uplift the ancestors and local Atua we made our way back down the hill with renewed vigour and bravery. As we confidently walked towards them singing power anthems, the herd of huge black cows parted like a bovine version of the Red Sea. It was an awesome moment and it made our descent an even more victorious one.
That evening, as I was sitting in bed writing up my trip journal, my concentration was interrupted by an inner voice urging me to call the number on the piece of paper that our host had given us that morning. I had asked our host if she knew who had designed and built the cave stream art installation. She didn’t know, but thought a friend might, as he is a local artist and Waitaha, and she gave us his number.
I thrust the piece of paper with this phone number into Milou’s hand and said “We have to call him now, and you need to do the talking.” She was a bit hesitant, but I insisted.
It turned out to be Divine Timing. Once our new friend learned about our pilgrimage he completely understood and supported what we were doing and praised us for it. We were rewarded with the most uplifting and reassuring words we could have been given. It was very emotional and Milou and I were both brought to tears by the deep resonance we could feel uniting the three of us through the Universal Field.
My early morning meditation session was epic and featured me entering into a corridor of light and exploding out into the vast cosmos. I passed through a rainbow threshold and found a rainbow carousel of huge iridescent lotus flowers opening and radiating light from within. I zoomed around on a rainbow slippery slide for a while before going straight down a very long waterfall. Beyond the waterfall there is a city (which could have been Christchurch) and in the middle of it was a clear crystal temple in the shape of a pyramid. The crystal temple contained the technology of coherence and resonance which possessed the power to unify the human spirit and bring it back into balance and harmony with Nature. There was something about this vision that made me felt like I was looking into the future.
Before we left the sacred nest we said a final karakia and farewell to the ancestors and local Atua. We were sad to leave, but knew we would return someday. There were many more questions that needed answers.
As I mentioned in the intro, the benefits of my pilgrimage are ongoing. Since our trip my life has become much more Zen and organised. Once I was back home in Auckland I was finally able to clear the clutter that had been overwhelming me for nearly two decades. It felt so easy letting go of things that had previously caused me such emotional turmoil, and it was very therapeutic to finally be free of the past so I could make room for the life I wanted to create.
Post pilgrimage I have a lot more energy, I have greater recall and can think clearer. I’m more confident and I’m less triggered by things that used to piss me off. I feel more deeply connected to Mother Earth and the five elements and my energy sensitivity has increased. On top of all that, my mediumship abilities have increased and I find myself communicating with Spirit more and more in my energy therapy work.
If you’ve been considering going on a sacred pilgrimage, I can highly recommend it. It’s been a life changing experience for me and I’m already planning my next one.
I’d like to leave you with an excerpt from a book I’m enjoying at the moment called ‘The Dance of the Dragon: an Odyssey into Earth Energies and Ancient Religion’ by Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller, who sum up sacred pilgrimages perfectly.
“Anyone who has been a pilgrim for any length of time (and this includes most people - for holidays are based on the idea of ‘holy-days’ when time off was taken to visit a sacred place) will know that it can be a life-enhancing experience. One immediately becomes aware that this form of travelling is far more than merely moving from one place to another: that it has other dimensions. Such journeys take on a life of their own, almost as if they have their own particular character and intelligence, and our senses are sharpened by it. The people we meet, the events that take place, are signs that we must read correctly if we are to make the most of this transforming experience. This is all intimately bound up with our own consciousness. Gradually we lose that feeling of being merely observers passing through a dream, and instead become part of it, until we are aware of the whole experience having a reality of its own. This impression creates a spiritual level of perception, where each event has meaning and purpose. Who has not experienced a significant meeting with someone that ten seconds before would not have been there? Who has not visited somewhere that beckoned mysteriously, only to find that it possesses some previously unknown meaning or significance? Pilgrimage in many ways is a condensed form of that other journey that we all experience, that of life itself.”
I hope this encourages you to take a pilgrimage yourself one day soon.