Much of Māori theology was based around the sea as the Māori people crossed the Pacific Ocean to find New Zealand (Aotearoa) in sailing canoes. Originally the Māori have been fishermen. Their main food source was the sea so a fish hook of high quality was a valuable item to posses.
In Māori legend New Zealand was once a huge fish that was caught by the great mariner Maui using a line of woven plant fibre and a bone hook.
The Hei-Matau is therefore one of the most powerful symbols used in Māori culture as it represents prosperity, abundance and fertility. It also is said to provide good luck and safety when travelling over water.
The wearer of a Hei-Matau is seen as a provider and protector who is strong willed and determined to succeed in life. They are also symbols of power and authority which are held in great reverence by the Māori people. They were used as a practical tool for fishing and were often decorated as a sign of respect for the creatures of the sea.
There are many styles of Hei-Matau from the true hook designs to more ornamental styles which became treasured heirlooms.