Traditionally, the fisherman was regarded with an honoured status. His responsibility as a provider earned him great respect from the Iwi (tribe). The symbol of the fish-hook was often related to this status; therefore character qualities such as prosperity, determination and strength are often associated to the wearer. The fishhook is also a talisman of good luck for travel especially over water.
Fishing provided a large part of Kai Moana or food from the sea for the iwi. However, it was also important for trade and making the tribe prosperous. Contemporary fish-hook’s do not have the practical application they once did, they are now decorative versions and strictly for wearing. It is believed that the hei matau and many other fish-like amulets, more common in the south, may have been worn as talismans during fishing expeditions.
The Hei Matau signifies abundance and plenty, strength and determination, it brings peace, prosperity and good health. It is a device for catching good luck and positive energy and provides a safe journey over water.