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Maori Books Online Article

Hei-Tiki or "Maori Tiki"

Hei-Tiki are traditional figural necklaces worn by the Maori people of New Zealand. There are many theories regarding the history or legend of these pendants, which are often regarded as good luck charms or symbols of fertility. In New Zealand, the hei-tiki figures are typically carved from green stone, such as jade or nephrite, and worn around the neck. Today, Hei tikis are mainly worn by woman.
The Maori have occupied New Zealand for at least three thousand years, and the historical origins of many aspects of Maori culture, including the hei-tiki, are not well understood. In fact, the Hei-Tiki is one of the more mysterious Maori symbols, with many stories surrounding its traditional meaning.
Hei-Tiki are often referred to as 'tiki, ' or 'tiki necklaces, ' although the name tiki usually refers to large human figures carved in wood and originating in various islands in Polynesia. 'Tiki' may also be used in some Polynesian cultures as a general term for carvings, not just the human figures famously known as tiki gods. One theory of the story behind hei-tiki pendants connects them with Tiki, who in Maori legend is the first man. The two most prevalent beliefs about the meaning of hei-tiki are representations of memorials to ancestors, or the goddess of childbirth.
In ancient Maori society, hei-tiki were often buried when their wearer died. Later, they would be retrieved to be used in times of mourning. These pendants were also given as symbolic gifts to women having trouble conceiving. Their power is believed to increase as the pendant passes from generation to generation, and it is often believed that the hei tiki holds the spiritual presence of previous owners. For many modern Maori, the wearing of hei-tiki pendants represents a generalized sense of New Zealand identity. Today, hei-tiki remain treasured heirlooms (toanga) in Maori culture and are worn on ceremonial occasions.
Today, there are several styles of hei-tiki which may be found in New Zealand. The first style has a head/body ratio of around 30/70, with delicate ears, elbows, and knees. The head is typically carved in a tilted fashion, with one hand on the chest and the other on the thigh. The other style of hei-tiki has a larger head and eyes, with both hands placed on the thighs. Many have noted that this type of hei-tiki looks much more like the wooden tiki sculptures found throughout Polynesia.
Traditionally, these figures were carved from nephrite, a green stone also known as pounamu, which is prized by Maori culture for its hardness and beauty. Maori call the South Island of New Zealand 'Te Wai Pounamu, ' a reference to this important stone. The stone is used for pendants and other ornamental carvings, as well as for weapons and tools. Often, tools such as rectangular adze blades served as the raw material for these carved figures. First, the stone would be smoothed by rubbing it with an abrasivepound, such as sand. Then, the details would be painstakingly carved using sticks and water, removing as little material as possible. This was very difficult work, given both the primitive tools of the ancient Maori people and the desire to preserve as much of the valuable stone as possible. Finally, the stone is polished and suspended on a cord.
Royal Tiki's genuine Hawaiian royaltiki Tiki statues, totems and masks make a great addition to any Tiki bar. Also check for current specials on our royaltiki Tiki-MasksTiki hut decor

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