Hei Tiki are pendants originally found in the traditional Maori culture. According to the first Polynesian inhabitants of New Zealand, the carrier of the Hei Tiki was thought to enforce happiness, fertility, clear thinking, open communication and power over himself.
Hei means to suspend or wear from the neck and Tiki is the historical first man or entity in Maori mythology.
The Tiki is one of the more mysterious Maori symbols because no one is absolutely sure about its exact historical meaning. Most commonly are the thoughts that Tiki was an entity who came from the stars and was the first (male) human to set foot on the earth. Many Tiki carvings have webbed feet, suggesting a direct link with nautical beings.
The wearer of a hei-tiki pendant necklace is said to possess great wisdom, inner strength and balance and a clear mind. These attributions are derived from the fact that the mythological Tiki was "the teacher of all worldly things".
Historically, hei tiki functioned as heirlooms (toanga) in Maori families and later on by European settlers and their families as well. They are still worn on ceremonial occasions by Maori.
Pounamu plays a very important role in Maori culture. It is considered a taonga (treasure). Tools, ornaments and weapons were made from it; in particular adzes, mere (short clubs) and hei-tiki (neck pendants). These were believed to have their own mana, were handed down as valued heirlooms and were often given as gifts to seal important agreements.
It is found only in the South Island of New Zealand, known in Maori as Te Wai Pounamu ("The Greenstone Water") or Te Wahi Pounamu ("The Place of Greenstone"), and in 1997 the Crown handed back the ownership of all naturally occurring pounamu to the South Island tribe Ngai Tahu, as part of the Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement.