11 Jun 2017

Māori healers share their work

From Te Ahi Kaa, 6:06 pm on 11 June 2017

Te Ahi Kaa visits a healing expo in Whakatane to learn about the power of mirimiri (massage), Rongoa Māori (natural tonics) and spiritual guidance.

Hana Te Pou says she is not a healer but she is simply a tool, guided in her work by Te Atua (God).

Hana Te Pou says she is not a healer but she is simply a tool, guided in her work by Te Atua (God). Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

A community hall in the middle of the town of Kopeopeo is transformed into a space of healing.

Nga Tohunga o Te Moana a Toi is a collective of spiritual advisors, therapists and practitioners who take a holistic approach to the healing of mind, body and spirit.

The collective runs weekly sessions from the Wairaka Kokiri Healing Centre in Whakatane and monthly expo days for the general public.

Koro Tutua was brought up in the Ringatu faith and says the collective's work is about helping people.

Koro Tutua was brought up in the Ringatu faith and says the collective's work is about helping people. Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

Koro Tutua is a prominent kaumatua and tohunga in the area and established the group in 2005. He was indoctrinated into the Ringatu church at the age of ten and says his uncles were tohunga.

“I was amongst them, I was more or less their tonotono (gopher). Concerning the [word] 'tohunga', there are many variations where a tohunga is concerned, it’s [about] what you are good at, whether it be a minister or whatever the occasion may be.”

Brought up in the Ringatu faith, Koro says the rituals that came with the teachings was not done in the open, everything was conducted behind closed doors.

“That was our learning at that time, ...it took me a while to get out of that and I’m glad I did because the world is changing and we need to change with the world to allow things to be open for our younger generation”

Leah Heta runs Happy Native with her cousin, a rongoā Māori business.

Leah Heta runs Happy Native with her cousin, a rongoā Māori business. Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

Leah Heta runs Happy Native, a Rongoā Māori business that produces creams and tonics made from native plants.

The matipo, patete, and the kumarahou plants are used to make tonics, and kawakawa is used to make ointments and balms.

Producing natural therapies was not Leah’s first experience in traditional Māori healing - as a teenager she says she could see her ancestors in spiritual form.

“Being a young girl and not knowing that there were other people that weren’t real… that didn’t have skin or bones. I thought they were just part of my daily life, it wasn’t until I reached double digits that I thought there was something not quite right here”.

Leah’s mum took the family to see Koro Tutua for spiritual guidance.

“It was more or less [about] letting people know I’m not crazy, I’m not mental… My tupuna come and visit me every now and then and give me kōrero".

Bonnie Pearson says western medicine is from books, whereas the Māori approach to health is about the wairua.

Bonnie Pearson says western medicine is from books, whereas the Māori approach to health is about the wairua. Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

Bonnie Pearson attended the one-day expo with a couple of friends. She said when she arrived she could feel the spiritual energy of the space.

Her half-sister whom she has never met before came to her during a clairvoyant reading, she says.

“It’s my first time through the door, it’s all about the wairua how I feel as a person, how I feel as a Māori woman. So many times we carry on in our work life that we forget about the tinana."

A few years ago Bonnie was diagnosed with cancer, but recent blood tests have revealed she is now in remission.

She also has bone spurs that affect the spine. Although back surgery is recommended, Bonnie has chosen to explore alternative treatments for her pain.

“This is another [way] to perhaps finding another solution to this pain in the back, I don’t wanna do any operations.”

As she deals with her health issues, Bonnie says that whanau is a vital part of the healing process.

"You've got everything to live for you know when you've got your mokos and they were my light at the end of the tunnel, and my son, but in saying that, it's all about whanau and the people that you connect with... in your lifetime, no matter how long a lifetime you have".

Rongoā Māori (Tonics made from native plants)

Rongoā Māori (Tonics made from native plants) Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

Ointments and balms made from native plants

Ointments and balms made from native plants Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray