The legend, and significance of the Hei Matau
20 Dec 2019

The legend, and significance of the Hei Matau

The hei matau, or hook, is said to grant strength, good luck and safe travel to its wearer, and signifies connection to the ocean (or water).

The fish hook shape of the hei matau finds its origins in Māori legend; that the North Island of New Zealand was once a huge fish that was caught by Maui, using a fishhook taken from his grandmother's jaw-bone.

Cultural significance

The ocean plays a significant part in the history of New Zealand's people - the great ocean explorers of Polynesia who arrived here - but also because it provided a huge source of food, and therefore life source. The ocean was also the focus for ceremony, due to the strong relationship to Tangaroa, the god of the sea.

The fish hook was originally a practical tool used for the very purpose of catching fishing but, due to it being worn on the person for safekeeping, it become perceived as an adornment and slowly the hook became an ornamental item they could use when trading with Europeans.

Pounamu Fish Hook

Pictured: One of our hei matau corded necklaces. Today, kiwis can be found wearing the fish hook and is a much-loved design for all generations.

New Zealand Pounamu Wide Fish Hook Necklace

A pounamu hei matu is the perfect piece to show respect for Maori heritage and beliefs. It comes in many contemporary styles, from tribal and stylised to incorporating koru or other design aesthetics.

Hei Matau example


Designing a greenstone fish hook

Carving a greenstone hook, or hei matau


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