Emotions and Māoritanga

He aha te kare ā roto?

Nā Moahuia Goza rāua ko Brian Te Rauroha Emery1

From a Te Ao Māori perspective, there are many whakaaro, names and types of kare ā roto (emotions). Kare ā roto may be referred to as energy in motion. They are related to and connected to everything about you. This includes your mauri, your wairua, your tinana, your whānau, your tupuna, ngā atua, and te taiao (the environment). In this section we kōrero about two ways to think about kare ā roto.

Ngā kare ā roto

One belief is that kare ā roto are personal, dear, and intimate friends who live within you (kare – meaning personal, dear, and intimate friend, and ā roto – meaning within). They are housed in many areas of the tinana, but are usually talked about as being housed in the ngākau (heart), puku (stomach), and ate (liver).

Similar to this view is one that our tinana has a whakapapa back to atua, as do our kare ā roto. There are many different kare ā roto, as there are many atua, and all are designed to help us navigate and respond to this world in which we live. When on a cancer journey, you may experience many kare ā roto. They may include mataku (fear), āmaimai (anxiety and nervousness), whakamā (embarrassment), riri (anger, annoyance, rage), mamae (wounded or hurt), or even a renewed sense of māia (confidence and motivation).

You may also feel the welling up of kare ā roto from deep within you, such that it feels like it wants to be released. This is totally normal, and totally Māori. There are many ways of expressing and releasing those kare ā roto that are bubbling up inside you. They include karanga, haka, singing, composing new waiata, writing stories, writing poems, researching pū rākau (your ancestral stories), mahi toi (art), raranga, going for a swim in the moana, walking in the ngahere, or working out. You will instinctively know the best ways of expressing yourself.

Ngā kare o Rangi

Another kōrero about emotions is connected to our kupu Māori. Each kupu Māori has numerous meanings steeped in mātauranga. Here are some examples of kare ā roto that relate to our rangi (heavens and skies).2

Rangirua – rua – two. The feeling of being in two minds and being confused. This can happen many times during a cancer journey and can sometimes settle with more knowledge.

Pōrangi ‒ Pō – night. “Pōrangi is when the sun is shining and it is daylight, but the moon has moved across the skies and eclipses the sun…. even though you know it is still daytime, it is a time when you cannot see .” This state is usually a temporary experience; the moon will move on and the sunshine will return.3

Haurangi – Hau ‒ winds. “That my mind and emotions are buffeted about like the wind.” This state is a feeling of being pushed around and unsteady on your feet. Lying down on Papatūānuku, smelling the earth, and feeling her heartbeat may help ground you during this time.

Ārangi ‒ a state where you are unsettled and not at ease. Sometimes this can cause you to wake up in the night and not be able to return to sleep. Keeping active, eating good mauri ora kai, and ticking off some ‘to-do list’ jobs may help at this time.

600x400 Emotions

If at any time you feel that these kare ā roto become overwhelming or concerning, please let your family/whānau and your cancer treatment team know as soon as you can.

Lastly, each hapū and iwi will have its own mātauranga about emotions. Seek out your puna mātauranga (knowledge keepers), who may be able to share other kōrero with you. Learning more about the whakapapa of emotions from your own whānau kōrero may itself be rongoā for you.

  1. Nā Moahuia Goza māua ko Brian Emery I tākoha te kōrero nei. Ngā uri o Ngāti Kauwhata, Ngāti Matakore, Ngāti Hauā hoki. 14 Paengawhāwhā, 2020.
  2. Some similarities to the Rangi matrix; however, a more generalised association with kupu Māori.
  3. There are many meanings for the kupu pōrangi. In this context pōrangi means a temporary state ofnot being able to see clearly.


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