The logarithmic spiral1 of the Koru is used extensively in Māori art and resembles the unfurling trichomic frond of the silver fern.
The lands of New Zealand have been isolated until relatively recently and the country still has some of the world's most ancient forests. The Silver Fern tree (Māori language: ponga; Latin: cyathea dealbata) is endemic to New Zealand and can grow to ten metres or more. The fronds are huge, about four metres in length, and have the same unfurling characteristic as most ferns. The new frond slowly unfurls to capture the sunlight.
It is not surprising that these magnificent floral swirls are found in indigenous art, tattoos, sports team badges and corporate logos.
The tails of the chameleon, seahorse and other animals have similar engineering; copied by man in many applications, such as the stylised G and F used in musical notation (clefs) and the clock spring.
Therefore the unfurling frond symbolizes new life, growth and strength. As such, the symbol is perfectly suitable for adorning the Christian cross. It is because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross that we can have a new spiritual life, grow in wisdom, and have the strength to overcome life's difficulties.
In the example shown on the left, the swirls are reminiscent of the Asian Tomoe and the three elements are a clear reference to the Holy Trinity.
The koru can also be confused with the paisley design; a kidney-shaped swirl named after the Scottish town of Paisley but based on a Zoroastrian symbol from Persia and the Indian mankolam (resembling a mango). (The Paisley Cross is a cenotaph in the centre of the town.)
This next version (shown on the left) is an original design with koru swirls, similar to the Everlasting Cross. This particular style was designed by Fr. Mike Coleman, an Anglican Priest in the Christchurch Diocese, New Zealand, who kindly gave his permission for us to reproduce the image here. He sees "the centre of the Koru, like our spiritual core, the place where God sits. We are called to live our life out of this place."
Fr. Coleman arranges for crosses to be made with this design in silver and stainless steel, and if you would like to order one, you can contact Fr. Coleman directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
A card accompanying the cross reads:
"The Koru Cross brings together two images from our beautiful New Zealand nature. Koru, or baby fern frond, symbolizes new life and growth. Flax represents welcoming, respecting and caring. The koru in the cross speaks of new life coming from God. From the centre of the koru flows God's life to all things. People are created by God; they are renewed by the Son of God, Jesus. The koru connects to flax. As we are welcomed, loved and cared for by God, so we show this kindness and care to those around us. The three strands running through the entwined flax depict Father (Matua), Son (Ihu Karaiti), Holy Spirit (Wairua Tapu) flowing through every aspect of our life. The flax winds its way back to the centre of the koru; we begin and end in God."
The same design is etched on a cross made of rimu timber from ChristChurch Cathedral, which was so badly damaged by an earthquake in February 2011. This cross, and several other styles, is available from the Cathedral gift shop www.christchurchcathedral.co.nz