Kuia karma

Dis­cov­er­ing Maori her­bal reme­dies

Element - - Front Page - by Bridget Quick

On a clear Spring morn­ing, you are most likely to find the revered ron­goa ex­pert, Olive Bul­lock, har­vest­ing medic­i­nal plants in her ram­bling, abun­dant gar­den. “Most gar­dens have so many (ther­a­peu­tic) plants grow­ing in them that peo­ple don’t need to make a trip to the chemist,” says the en­er­getic 81-year-old, point­ing out that we have nu­mer­ous ed­i­ble wild greens in New Zealand filled with su­per nu­tri­ents and suit­able for her­bal reme­dies.

Olive’s school and clinic for Ron­goa Maori, Te Kopere, sits ad­ja­cent to the an­ces­tral fam­ily homestead where she lives with her sis­ter and close col­lab­o­ra­tor, Kuia Sue Jones. Over the fence lies the sweet fam­ily church where Dal­vanuis Prime is buried, an iconic land­mark that looks back to­wards the ma­jes­tic moun­tain Taranaki.

Olive is well versed in the ther­a­peu­tic prop­er­ties of plants and their var­i­ous uses. She was trained in Ron­goa Maori (her­bal medicine) by Te Whare Ma­maku Had­don, an es­teemed To­hunga (ron­goa ex­pert, priest and scholar) who was taught by Te Kooti, the fa­mous prophet.

Ron­goa has a long-stand­ing his­tory, with an­cient Maori sourc­ing all their reme­dies from the bush and us­ing bark, stems, leaves and roots for in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal use. “An­cient To­hunga gath­ered their knowl­edge of the heal­ing plants in the for­est be­cause they were guided – hav­ing greater sen­si­tiv­ity to sprit and na­ture,” says Olive.

She is quick to point out that Ron­goa is not just about her­bal reme­dies, but has a strong spir­i­tual com­po­nent where the phys­i­cal and spir­i­tual worlds are seen as be­ing in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked. Good health de­pends on the in­ter­con­nected bal­ance of mind, body, spirit, whanua and land.

In her own prac­tice and teach­ing Olive uses karakia, kapa haka, clair­voy­ance and med­i­ta­tion. She com­bines this with adept skill in grow­ing, har­vest­ing and pre­par­ing the plants ac­cord­ing to the moon, sun and sea­sons.

At present she’s busy teach­ing or­ganic gar­den­ing and Ron­goa to young peo­ple in schools and Ko­hunga Reo. “If we have healthy soil, then we are healthy,” she says em­phat­i­cally.

Olive has spent a life­time de­voted to prac­tic­ing, teach­ing, and ad­vo­cat­ing health and well­be­ing for her peo­ple. Among many ac­tiv­i­ties she also chairs, and acts as trustee/mem­ber, for Maori health or­gan­i­sa­tions (she helped set up Te Oran­ganui Iwi Health Au­thor­ity with Tar­i­ana Turia) and also par­tic­i­pates in in­ter­na­tional in­dige­nous ex­changes and sum­mits.

“Ron­goa is not about com­mer­cial gain; it’s for shar­ing, for the health and bet­ter­ment of hu­mankind.”

Te Kopere runs cour­ses in Ron­goa Maori through­out the year, with the rst of three in­stall­ments start­ing Oc­to­ber 3. Con­tact Olive through her web­site for fur­ther de­tails www.tekopere.com

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