Rongoā Māori Renaissance

Sept. 6, 2018, 4:49 p.m.

The once-forbidden practice of rongoā Māori – traditional Māori healing – is now having a renaissance.

The high interest is evident in the numbers willing to learn more. Kaitaia rongoā Māori practitioner Peter Kitchen runs marae-based courses, teaching up to 30 people at a time about rongoā Māori and tikanga, which is integral to the practice.

Rongoā Māori is an holistic healing approach, focusing on the person’s spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing, using karakia, mirimiri (massage), romiromi (manipulation) and native plant medicines.

Rongoā Māori is for everyone who needs it, as long as they believe in it, says Ngarui (Louisa) Harris.

Kitchen agrees: “Rongoā is for everyone … It fits all races, all creeds, all colours, all ages.”

But wide acceptance of rongoā Māori was certainly not the case in the early 1900s. The 1907 Tohunga Suppression Act banned Māori healing practices with a spiritual element, particularly if conducted by a tohunga (Māori priest).

The act was repealed in 1962 but it still impacted the numbers practicing rongoā Māori.

Kitchen says this is why it is important to pass on the knowledge. “The more that we share, the more people will understand that their backyard is actually their medicine chest,” he says.

“It’s better to teach the people how and what to use, that way you don’t have to be at the doctor, you are the doctor.”

But he warns that rongoā Māori will not be sustainable unless more is done to care for the environment and clean-up Mother Earth. This includes planting more native trees, particularly in gullies where they can clean waterways, and bringing back bird life.

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