Greenstone Hei Tiki Meaning | Mountain Jade New Zealand

The hei tiki is a symbol for the first man created, much like a Maori Adam.

  1. Eyes
    Often inlaid with other materials like paua or mother of pearl

  2. Tongue
    More often coming out of the tikis mouth and is associated with protection

  3. Hands
    Placed near the loins, this is a sign of fertility.

The History

He is the chief son of Rangi and Papa (the Sky Father and the Earth Mother). The belief is some tiki serve as dwelling places for ancestral spirits, while others are vessels for gods and supernatural beings.

According to Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum, the origin of the hei tiki pendant is obscure. One theory is that the hei tiki represents Hine-te-iwaiwa, a celebrated ancestress associated with fertility and the virtuous qualities of Maori womanhood. In marriage the family of the husband often gave a hei tiki to the bride to help her conceive. In some Maori tribes, the hei tiki was buried when their guardian (the wearer) died and would later be retrieved and brought out in times of mourning. It would then be handed to the next generation to be worn. This is how the mana (importance) of the tiki continued to increase.

The Design

The design of the tiki is extremely important. Its orientation, head placement and patterning, have specific spiritual meanings. The poked tongue for instance is said to be associated with protective magic. When worn around the neck, hei tiki made from pounamu are valued as heirlooms for a few reasons. The material is precious, some of it is rare and crafting it is a very labour intensive process. The spiritual value of hei tiki increases with successive ownerships as it’s passed down through the family.

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