Friends since they were six years old, Jillian and Jolz have done a lot of life together. They’ve raised whānau, seen mokopuna enter the world, and have also founded Four One Seven ORA, a business inspired by the knowledge of their tūpuna, dedicated to improving the well-being of whānau through rongoā Māori.
Their own whānau raised them in a world of self-sustainability and reliance, where knowledge on how to live and heal from the whenua wasn’t specifically taught, but it was woven through their everyday lives. Jillian’s calling came to her through her mahi in the shearing industry, built on her knowledge and experiences from long days out in the ngahere with her father.
“My father was one of those men that made all these concoctions – unreal stuff to get rid of colds and flus. He’s a big part of how I’m journeying now. Even though he’s passed away, I am lucky that I did get quite a lot of knowledge from him in that space.”
Her interest lies in the chemical make up of plants, and the spiritual properties that can contribute to healing and wellness.
“I started making pain balms, [for the shearers] playing with different rākau and seeing what would work and what wouldn’t.”
Jolz grew up with rongoā, but not quite realising specifically what it was.
She says, “it was just a way of life for me. It was there through karakia and waiata, implemented into our daily life. Some of my most fondest memories was of my mother in our kitchen mixing up what I know now to be beautiful balms and healing creams that she often used on us.”
Looking after her mother through illness was a turning point in Jolz’s journey of learning how to heal. The experience of caring for her mother through this time led her on the path of natural healing and exploring her mother’s world of alternative rongoā.
Sadly Jolz’s mother passed away before passing on any knowledge but through learning from others and each other Jillian and Jolz are now building more insight into the way they take care of their whānau and communities viewing themselves as conduits of information. They are eager to teach and encourage others to make natural healing a holistic part of their own whānau lives. Their design of self-care for example, begins with seeking mental clarity as the first steps to physical health.
“Rongoā doesn’t just come in a jar” says Jillian.
For those who aren’t neighbours of Jillian and Jolz, Te Pūtahitanga WAVE funding has helped to build their online shop. The pair sell products made using ancient knowledge of plant properties, and incorporate introduced plants as well as native flora into their products.
Both of them acknowledge the significant changes that modern ailments and illness have taken since they were young, and how non-native plants are able to contribute to their products and recipes. They’re happy with the recipes they have, but will continue to tweak things as new knowledge is gained.
“We do lots of experimenting, we have cupboards full of jars that may get used, or may not“ explains Jillian, “you never know who’s going to turn up and need awhi and you just never know what’s going to be in that cupboard that might help that person that day.”
As Jillian and Jolz hold the mantle from their tūpuna, they have hopes that someone from the next generation will take it from them and continue to teach and grow their whānau knowledge. Both of them acknowledge that even if there’s just one person in the next generation who takes the torch and carries on, they’ll be happy knowing the knowledge and whānau traditions will continue.