May 13, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

About the symbols used in kowhaiwhai, tukutuku and carvings; what are they about really?

For years I felt that there were deeper and more meaningful messages hidden within them but I couldnt find anything that would support that until I took up religious studies. I discovered metaphysics and esoteric writing.

Olly_Ohlson_Key_Profile.jpg.161x142As a young child I learnt about parables and proverbs at the Sunday schools I attended, mainly to get lollies which the Ministers and Priests gave us for attending and getting correct answers to questions they asked about the stories they told us. I walked home with bulging pockets quite a few times at the end of three or four Sunday Schools I use to frequent regularly: Anglican, Catholic, Open Brethren and Presbyterian – pretty much in that order. I had quite a few friends back then. In my school days, children were seen and not heard but I couldnt shut my inquisitive mind down. While it got me into a lot of trouble it also got me something else, better than lollies indigenous tapu knowledge.

My auntie Rangi Ruri told me the names of the different tukutuku patterns like the poutama. Koro Pine Taiapa called me aside when I was touring the east coast of the north island with the St. Stephens rugby team. He took me up to a small church in Tikitiki. The tukutuku patterns were absolutely fantastic and they had an immediate impact on me. Koro Pine knew it. He showed me the Poutama that my aunty had shown me years earlier, only this time, he told me a story that went with it – Tanes quest for the baskets of knowledge. His words flowed like liquid honey and I was wrapped. Some years later I learnt that he was known as a Tusitala a teller of tales. My family was full of Tusitalas. They not only told stories, they sung, poeticized, chanted, dramatized and performed them – as in action songs and haka and all the while they laughed and joked.

I was given deeper meanings to some of the symbols by my Tuhoe uncle John Rangihau and over the years, different Kuia and Koro took me aside and gave me a piece of their wisdom knowledge precious taonga. They spoon fed me up to a certain level and then left me to feed myself. By then I had reached the stage where I wanted to discover things for myself.

I wanted to know more than the general answer I received when I asked the meaning of mauri, which was, Its the life principle.

What does that mean? My whole being knew there was another deeper meaning that would satisfy and feed my Papatuanuku energies of spirituality, intuition and emotion (Mother Earth female traits) as well as appeal to my Ranginui energies of time and space consciousness, action and work ethic, and the application of logic and rationality (Sky Father male traits).

The Tuhoe side of me knew about the ladders my ancestors used to scale up, to the caves of Maungapohatu. They were known then as cliff dwellers and children of the mist because they disappeared right in front of their enemies, pulling their rope ladders up behind them. The caves could not be seen from below; courtesy of Hinep?kohurangi our mist maiden. Through my fathers training and my mothers encouragement, I still rise i te atapo, just before dawn, and sit in quiet contemplation, something, I believe, we can all benefit from these days.

My Koro Te Tuhi and my father Tapui believed that te atapo is the time Papatuanukus mauri begins to slowly rise toward Ranginui. Some of that mauri is wrapped up in the cloak of Hinepukohurangi. I sat on my fathers shoulders on our verandah while he and my Koro Te Tuhi soaked up the mauri and learnt from it. I didnt hear anything though, I just fell asleep. Since 1964 after the Tohunga Suppression Act was repealed, I began putting what I had learnt, together into a program as a guide line for my life. I got it to a stage where I felt confident enough to teach it to others. I was shocked at the resistance I met especially from Maori in Government Departments and Churches.

Gradually I found pockets of people keen to relearn the things I had been told. I say relearn because the Tohunga Suppression Act meant that from 1907 1964 it was illegal for Maori to practise their cultural beliefs and practices, especially healing.

Most Maori I met in the 60s through to the 80s were churchified and found it difficult to accept the teachings of Io as Ive come to know them. People told me that there was only one church, one power and one God and that I was wrong to do what I was doing. Another group told me I was blaspheming against the Holy Spirit and so there was no salvation for me any more – I was condemned to hell and a life of purgatory.

There are many stories like this; all unfounded after all what I was doing had nothing to do with religion or a church. Why were they so afraid? Conformity is a way of making people feel safe and is still strong in all societies. There was no name for the sort of information that was passed on to me so I constructed one Mauri Hauora, which is about the health and use of our gift of consciousness energy i.e. our personal mauri. This way of philosophizing and believing poses the statement as its opening wero every human is perfect.

ollie-ohlson-now-e4I think this is what set the proverbial cat amongst the holy pigeons.

With every Hui I ran, I learnt more and more about me. My turangawaewae grew stronger and stronger and more of my mauri began returning to me. I began to be more aware of the mauri in me and around me. With each day I became more tuned in to my mauri and could reach the stage of an objective observer more consistently a significant goal of this indigenous philosophy and psychology. And now I bask in the light of the greatest teacher in the universe someone to whom I will refer in the next edition. I know it will surprise some of you.

As the years went by more of our own people started to take notice and get excited along with me. With every delivery, I learnt about timing and content packaging. Thanks to the internet, I researched other indigenous cultures that use similar methods to pass on cultural knowledge in their unique ways like I was doing. The name Io was frowned upon by many elders when I first started out in the 60s. Now I hear it being used time and time again and it makes my heart sing like a bell bird. I use the haakari way coupled with the koru system when running workshops. And I conclude with a poroporoaki as our way of assessing and evaluating our learning/teaching.

My fee is based on the koha system i.e. give what you can. I want to return the knowledge or at least some of the knowledge that disappeared through the Tohunga Suppression Act of 1907, so I want it to be affordable. By the 80s I had toured the country at least twice, mostly by invitation, thanks to TVNZ. The media is a powerful tool but then again, so are our traditional ways.

Mauri Hauora has taken me, by invitation, to different countries around the world including Sweden where I discovered that my Scandinavian grandfather actually came from Norway. I now have a sketch of the Ohlson Coat of Arms registered in Reitstaps Armorial General. I have never been taught by tohunga. My teachers were Kaiako teacher learners. Some were Pukenga which they defined for me as carriers of knowledge. They were chosen because they had no political interest in the material that was given to them.

Wherever there was an audience they would do their thing and that was all they were required to do. People in the audience with the gift of awareness would hear, see, sense, taste, smell and feel though the wairua. With lasers-like precision, their heart minds would switch on and they would begin their quest for the baskets of knowledge ira tangata in the making.

Most of the carriers were not aware, nor were they interested, in the inner meanings of the two systems used to pass on sacred knowledge from generation to generation. The poutama shows us that no matter how much we learn, there is always more to learn; a subtle reminder of the gentle spirit of humility a taonga from Rongo the gate way to wisdom.

In Mauri Hauora Walk Talk I am going to share some of what I know to date using some of the content of the Mauri Hauora E-Studies which I have just launched nationwide. For comments or queries I can be contacted at: [email protected].

Te Hata Olly Ohlson, Kaiako
Ngati whare o Tuhoe, Ngati Kahungunu, Ngapuhi, Ngati Porou.

2 thoughts on “Mauri Hauora Walk Talk

  1. Yes Olly lovely to read about your journey, so much of it I can relate to. A bit like you my Grandfather was from Norway and my Gran was a Harpur from Southland, Ngai Tahu. I look forward to following this…..Lois P.

  2. lovely to read about your journey, and that it hasn’t finished. Look forward with eagerness to hear more. Thank you for sharing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.