The Māori people have many legends about the creation of the earth and how New Zealand was discovered. These legends include a number of mythical beings, some of whom have control over each of the elements while others belong to the realm of ancestral spirits.
The Manaia can be blended into many Maori designs with subtle differences between tribes. Most Maori art tells the story of a tribe or event. The Manaia therefore has many forms as it is intertwined with other shapes and patterns to depict its different powers and its interaction with the spirit or mortal worlds.
The Manaia is regarded as a kind deity that protects people and helps them communicate with their ancestors. It is regarded as a mythical being with a bird’s head a human body and fish tail. It is believed to be the invisible light, or aura, surrounding a person.
Manaia are considered the messenger between the Gods and mortals. In Māori culture the bird is thought to be an omen-carrier or intermediary between man and the spirits. Often they are carved with three fingers which are believed to represent birth, life and death. The Manaia is seen as the guide that leads the spirits to heaven.
They are worn to guide and protect.
Manaia carvings are often detailed and intricately carved - they are very beautiful.