The Matau or Hei Matau symbol is one of the oldest Maori symbols created by the South Pacific Maori tribes. The Matau, or fish hook, denotes wealth. A fish hook is an essential weapon for the Maori since they depend on the sea for survival. In reality, the sea provides for their daily needs. As a result, the fishhook came to represent abundance or wealth, and Maori people credited the riches to Tangaroa, the sea deity.

Apart from affluence, the Matau represents safe travel. The reason for this is its deep ties to Tangaroa. Thus, fishermen wore the fishhook sign to ensure safe passage across the sea. Furthermore, the Matau is regarded as a good luck charm, representing good health, fertility, strength, and determination.

The Origin of the Matau Symbol

The fishhook form of the Matau symbol represents knowledge. According to Māori legend, the North Island of New Zealand was once a giant fish captured by the great mariner Maui using a hook and a woven line forged from his grandmother’s jawbone. According to legend, Hawkes Bay is shaped like a Hei Matau captured in the fish’s side on the shore. This mythology is reflected in the Maori name for the North Island, Te Ika a Maui, or The Fish of Maui.

The Matau Symbol and Its Function Today

A Matau symbol is a greenstone or bone sculpture of a highly stylized fish hook, which is distinctive of the Mori people. Matau, or fish hooks, were primitively fashioned from pounamu, wood, shell, ivory, or bone; composite hooks were also popular. Moreover, several Matau shapes are functional, but their functions are unknown. Several were modest and functional, while others were decorative. They were frequently prized family treasures and were used as pendants for safekeeping.

Nowadays, their primary utilization is decorative, and they’re often worn around the neck not just by Mori but also by other New Zealanders who connect with the Hei Matau as a New Zealand symbol.

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