The magic of a Mirimiri

It’s damp and cold when I arrive, but the welcome is warm and any wariness is dispersed within minutes of our meeting.

As a visitor to Kerikeri, in the Bay of Islands, I’ve come to Rawi Pere for a mirimiri, a traditional Maori deep tissue massage, but I will find it is so much more.

With a wonky neck the physiotherapist says is 10 years older than the rest of me, I’m always nervous about massage – but my friend who is still singing Rawi’s praises two months after her own experience has convinced me all will be well.

The first thing I discover that is so different from my usual massage is there will be three pairs of hands working on me: Rawi and her husband Ngawati Hei Hei work their magic with the help of their nephew, Teri Hei Hei-Webb.

While the three can work individually or in tandem, the real benefits come when they are working together, which they have been doing for just over three years. Their ‘business’ – Nga Ringa Wairua (Hands of Spirit) – offers traditional medicine (rongoa) through healing, prayer and blessings and it proves to be an extraordinary voyage.

The simple way of describing it would be to say that Rawi does the diagnosis, ‘scanning’ the body, sometimes touching, sometimes just skimming her hands above, working out where the hurts are, and what needs to be done.

Ngawati then puts in the physical effort needed while Teri tops up the physical treatment where necessary with something akin to reflexology – and some unerringly accurate spiritual observations. Go with an open heart and mind, and you will leave balanced in mind, body and soul.

Rawi says their skills were not taught in any formal way, but learned, from their ancestors. They are skills that date back to when the Maori people first arrived in New Zealand from their original home, Hawaiki. 

While the trio has always been aware of their gift, it’s only recently they’ve utilised them: Ngawati for five years, Teri for three and a half years. For Rawi, it has been longer.

“I have utilised my skills all my life, but only undercover,” she chuckles, “but I came out in the open in 2005.

“The client gets the benefit of all our skills so it is obviously good for them. They come in like a damaged car and leave as a new car! But it is also good for us to work together. We do it as a safety measure, as some clients can bring negative energies.”

My treatment starts with a prayer between the three. Rawi then explains that she will diagnose on a scale of one to five.

Within minutes my shoulders are noted to be 3.5 (she’s not wrong although I would have thought more) and Ngawati goes to work. There’s warmth and pressure but immediately I sense this is beyond ‘just’ a massage. I can feel myself surrendering to the mystique.

“In terms of the pressure, just let me know if it is too much and I will adjust accordingly,” he says. I can’t say a thing – I can feel it doing me so much good.

Rawi asks about my neck, suggesting it seems ‘scrunched’, like I have fallen on it. No … but I did spend time upside down in a heavy helmet after a rally car rollover, which is where my trouble started.

Warily, I submit this fragile portion of my anatomy to the wizards working over me. Before I can say anything, Rawi erupts, crooning: “oh yes, that is good, my friends. Well done. That’s so much better, Liz, isn’t it?”

The next day I’m wondering if the celebration was a little premature because my neck is feeling anything but better. I usually don’t let anyone but the physio near it and I’m cursing about breaking my own rule. In another 24 hours, I discover the truth in Rawi’s words – and as I write, months later, I’m still feeling that way.

Note: Rawi and her team are based at

Te Whare Wairua (House of Spirit)

84d Keri Keri Road, Kerikeri

Phone: 022-0398495 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


- by Liz Swanton

- photographs: Stellio Designs



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