Hei Matau

Well, I can cross one entry off my List of Things to do in New Zealand. I was walking by the Octagon, which is Dunedin’s main town square (despite the fact that it is, indeed, octagonal), when I discovered that a local market had set up camp. The artisans were mostly grey-haired and smiling, fiddling with their glasses (for the men) or their knitting (the women) as a contingent of cruise ship passengers prowled the stalls. I sauntered by, planning to just admire the wares. Though the kiwi-emblazoned tea towels and knit pot-holders were adorable, I wasn’t sure I needed to buy any.

Then I saw it. Tucked away in the corner: two men with a collection of carved-bone necklaces.

For the last year or so, I’ve been wearing a necklace that I picked up in Costa Rica. It’s metal, with a stylized fish-hook pendant similar in design to those made by the Māori. I quite like it, but I’d long ago promised myself to get a proper bone hei matau: the Māori fish-hook.

The men and I chatted about the weather, Canada, and the market as I scrutinized the rows of pendants. Finally, after much debate, I settled on one which fit my criteria: decent size, slender enough to look kind of like an actual fish-hook, and incorporating a few specific Māori symbols.

Hei matau: The fish-hook – symbolizes determination, strength, good luck, and safe travel over water (useful for me, eh?).

Koru: Represents an unfolding fern leaf and symbolizes growth, potential, and my favourite: perpetual motion, while always coming back to centre.

Whale Tail: Strength, protection, harmony with the ocean.

Quite a lot for one small carving, and quite a lot that resonates with me.

Kia kaha! (Be strong!)

Posted on March 1, 2012, in Travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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