We begin Maori Language Week by honouring Maori philosophy, values and traditions as the foundations for holistic health and wellbeing in Aotearoa. From the beginning of time life was created with the word, the breath of life, the vital essence that we all share in common. That essence is Mauri. We live it, breathe it, create it and share it with every word. Such is the power of language… Tihei Mauriora!
‘Indeed, if human language arises from the perceptual interplay between the body and the world, then this language “belongs” to the animate landscape as much as it “belongs” to ourselves.’
David Abram ~ The Spell of the Sensuous
There was a time, not so long ago, that the Maori language was not only not taught in schools but was prohibited from begin spoken at all. When your means of communication, expression and connection are taken away from you how can you make sense of your world? How can you navigate in a world that does not belong to you, nor you belong to it? How can you remember where you came from and know who you are becoming? If we are to honour Aotearoa and inherit all of her beauty, abundance and majesty then we need to tread lightly on this land. And yet, not tread lightly on the sacred customs. We need to take the time to listen to the sacred spirit of Te Reo Maori that is woven throughout the song of the tui, the crash of the waves and the howl of the wind. Simply claiming to be a bi-lingual nation in theory is not enough. Simply knowing a few nouns is not enough to understand the complexity of meaning behind a whole language. We take it for granted the power of language, we may have lost the art of speech, the sacredness of the word, the healing quality of the voice, but te reo Maori has kept this magic alive. Words are used wisely and with respect because words have great power. Words are used to remember the sacredness of life. Words are used with purpose, to fill a space and create a timelessness. Words are used to connect. By reuniting with the language of this land we can remember that the space between us is not empty but is a conduit for the very real vibration of our voices to flow to and from each other. And with this remembrance, our language, our vocabulary, connects us irrevocably.
The purpose of sharing even a little of our understanding and experience of Tikanga Maori is “to enlighten people so that they do not tread lightly the sacred customs of our people… nor remain in ignorance of our cultural heritage… and above all the sacred value and purpose of the individual person in the scheme of life.”
Pā Henare Tate ~ Tikanga Whakaaro by Cleve Barlow
Rongoā mo te Iwi
Plant medicine for the people
Strong relationships are built from shared experiences and a sense of belonging
Nurture, respect and be generous to one another
Advocate and support the voice of those who are not heard
Everyone brings knowledge, you are both a learner and an educator
Tohunga Mahi Toi
Practice and aspire to be masters of our craft
Meihana is the Maori translation of the name Mason, it is also the occupational name of someone who prepares stone in order to build with it. The Te Whare Tapa Wha foundation of Maori health first constructed by Mason Durie in 1984. This concept of Maori health includes the first four foundations of Wairua, Tinana, Hinengaro and Whanau. The Meihana model has been developed further where the last two of the six following principles was added. Taiao and Iwi Katoa were added so that the understanding of Maori health was not isolated within the Maori worldview but acknowledged the influence of the physical environment and the impact of the wider social structures. Meihana is a model of the interconnected dimensions influencing wellbeing, acknowledges all aspects of life. It is a truly holistic model that we could all learn from and allow it to guide the way we navigate the choices we make for our own health and wellbeing. Beyond our individuality, we understand how everyone and everything impacts our health and wellbeing. And therefore, if we are to take interest in our own health then we must also consider the health of everyone and everything else.
Social wellbeing and support networks
Spiritual values, beliefs and connections
Physical wellbeing of individual and whanau
Mental and emotional wellbeing congruent with cultural context
Physical environment is conducive to healing and wellbeing
Social structures are conducive to healing and wellbeing
… “it is a toanga (treasure), it is immersed in tapu (sacredness) because it is the key to mauri, the gift of life” – Rob McGowan.
Rongoa, Maori medicine, is grounded in the knowledge that the wairua and the physical body are joined by the mauri. MAURI is the life-essence, the power that gives everything a unique and sacred quality. Therefore, when we acknowledge the mauri of a person, we are affirming the uniqueness and sacredness of their spirit and body. And this is an essential step on the path to healing. Rongoa treatment involves balancing physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing with the use of native herbal remedies (infusions, essences, poultices or baths), mirimiri and romiromi (body alignment and deep tissue massage) and karakia (prayers and incantations). According to Rob McGowan, one of the foremost authorities on rongoa Maori, the key aspect to restoring health is by reconnecting with ones ancestors, genealogy and whakapapa, through stories… Restoring mana and a sense of self-worth. He affirms that health is “the whole of you and how you relate to the world around you.”
Plant medicine is utilised in the healing of the physical body, the plants of Aotearoa naturally have very strong anti-microbial, antiseptic and healing qualities and constituents. However, it must also be known that plants are not simply used as a physical substance to heal the body, they are also known as allies that help to store the whole wellbeing of a person, a family or community. Engaging in healing and harmonizing all aspects of physical and non-physical reality. The following are some of our revered Aotearoa medicinal plants:
KAWAKAWA is a pungent peppery plant that is used to cleanse the blood and stimulate the circulation. Its essence is to encourage a leap of faith, to accept the next adventure and move on with courage.
MANUKA is an antimicrobial bittersweet plant that is used to enhance the digestive system and heal skin conditions. In its essence it purifies the mind and body of intense negative emotions or inflammation and encourages self-regeneration.
KANUKA is a softer, mild cousin of Manuka, however that has more anti-viral properties for the body. For the mind it restores inner vitality and encourages spontaneous self-expression.
HOHERIA is a sweet, soothing and calming demulcent plant that eases digestive pain and discomfort. Its essence is calming and consolidating, easing overwhelm, and instead allowing an openness and fearlessness.
TOTARA is a brilliant red and brilliantly bitter plant that strengthens the digestive system and particularly restores the health of gums. Its essence is to restore inner power, whether the bully or the victim, both stem from a power imbalance. Totara restores the strength of will and encourages a positive self-image.
For more information on the holistic healing qualities of plants talk to one of our herbalists at Wellington Apothecary or find out more about the concepts in this article from the references below.
“AIO Wairua, ka nui te aroha mo koutou nga Atua Kotahi ke,
te arahi i ahau ki roto i aku hikoitanga.
Ko te Kuranui! Tihei mauriora!”
Dr. Rangimarie Turuki Arikirangi Rose Pere ~
Guardian of the First Light Flower Essences of New Zealand
Author of Te Wheke Maori Health Model
Tohuna Tipua Sower of the Sacred Seeds of Knowledge
A Great Grandmother and Revered Elder
An upholder of Peace, Love, Joy, Truth and Oneness
Cleve Barlow, Tikanga Whakaaro
David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous