• Don't Forget Your Roots, My Friend. The Lost Art of Rongoa For Healing Trauma.

Don't Forget Your Roots, My Friend. The Lost Art of Rongoa For Healing Trauma.

Tim Baker

We recently decided to investigate a little-known practice of healing known as Romiromi - a sacred massage performed by Maori healers specifically for releasing unresolved trauma in the body. Our thinking was that since this practice is unique to Maori culture, it may be an effective treatment for Maori men and women wanting to heal from past trauma, something western practices and medications are falling woefully short in doing if one were to take a quick glance at the suicide statistics.

Our journey started on the Parowai Marae, Ngonotaha, just outside of Rotorua, home of Ngati Tutanekai. Our kaiako teacher was Matua Rawiri Tekiripaeahi Te Kowhai, who descends from a lineage of traditional Maori healers. Both his father and his mother’s side have practised Rongoa for at least five generations. Rawiri himself has been practising the art since the early 1990s.


The purpose of the weekend workshop was to teach Romiromi massage to others, with the added benefit of relieving our past trauma as part of the process. Rawiri's ultimate goal, which came to him in a dream is to have a hauora hospital established outside of Rotorua sometime in the near future. He says that in his dream, people of all ages, races and religions would come to the hauora to be treated, much like one would at a western hospital, but instead of western science being the doctrine, Rongoa would be prescribed. And before you say “this isn't real science” well, some of our top scientists would disagree with you: Scientists rubbish Auckland University professors' letter claiming Māori knowledge is not science - NZ Herald.


Rawiri commenced the workshop with an in-depth history lesson on how Maori came to possess this knowledge. He spoke of how the teachings were not created by man but by the Nga Atua gods, or sky people. This process lasted four hours and its purpose was apparent, before we were to learn the sacred knowledge we first had to appreciate how the knowledge came to us. To connect with the knowledge we needed to first reconnect with our origins. We were told about Rangi and Papa the primal son and daughter who came from the great creator, the supreme being IO. I couldn't help but start to notice a very calm and welcoming energy descending on the Marae, we asked about this energy which was almost tangible in its prescience. Rawiri's response, “as soon as you speak the names they are brought about” is true with the power of all words, most of us are oblivious of the things we speak, their effect and how powerful the words we cast can be.


It was time for me to experience Romiromi, something I was eager to encounter for some time, I've had massages before, but something told me this would be special. It began in the feet, with the other person pressing theirs into mine, a sort of grounding into the other person, much different to the earth or shoes I usually stand on/in. Next, the legs, the left lower leg had considerably less pain and tension in it than the right, this is because the left is where we carry trauma from the females of our families and the right is where we carry trauma from the males in our families. I was holding a lot of trauma from my father’s passing, that was obvious. The upper legs were not the same, the higher up the leg the further back the generations go, the generational trauma of two world wars carried by my grandfather and a particularly cruel upbringing on my mother’s side was being squeezed out of me. The next came the back, the arms, the head, the stomach, everything was purposely being squeezed toward my pito naval area.

Finally, Rawiri applied a short burst of pressure on my belly button, I felt this extraordinary release like I was being burst. There was a lingering sensation I couldn't compare to any memory I had. I felt for a moment like my umbilical cord had been cut again for the first time in 33 years, and in that moment I realised that's exactly the point of all this. Romiromi massage was intended to start me again fresh. It was a severing of the trauma which had been a part of me for so long. A removal of that which I no longer needed, like a baby's placenta being removed at birth. It was equally uncomfortable, cathartic and profound. If you haven't experienced this as a treatment for recovery, I wholly suggest you do.

If you'd like to get in touch with Rawiri and take part in a workshop or experience Romiromi for yourself, he can be reached at Rawiri@kiwisforgood.co.nz

Kia ora.

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