Māori are the tangata whenua (indigenous people of the land) of New Zealand. Maori people define themselves by their iwi (tribe), hapu (sub-tribe), maunga (mountain) and awa (river).

A hongi is a traditional Māori greeting in New Zealand. It is done by pressing one's nose and forehead (at the same time) to another person at an encounter.

It is used at traditional meetings among Māori people and on major ceremonies and serves a similar purpose to a formal handshake in modern western culture, and indeed a hongi is often used in conjunction with one.

In the hongi, the ha (or breath of life), is exchanged and intermingled.

Through the exchange of this physical greeting, one is no longer considered manuhiri (visitor) but rather tangata whenua, one of the people of the land. For the remainder of one's stay one is obliged to share in all the duties and responsibilities of the home people. In earlier times, this may have meant bearing arms in times of war, or tending crops, such as kumara (sweet potato).

When Māori greet one another by pressing noses, the tradition of sharing the breath of life is considered to have come directly from the gods.

In Māori legend, woman was created by the gods moulding her shape out of the earth. The god Tāne (meaning male) embraced the figure and breathed into her nostrils. She then sneezed and came to life. Her name was Hineahuone (earth formed woman).

The head is regarded by Maori as tapu, the most sacred part of the body. Their foreheads touching, the two become as one bonded by their ancestral ties and they enter a still deeper level. The connection to their ancestors reminds them of who they are, where they come from and whence they will return and in making this connection they honor each other, thereby honoring themselves. Embodied within the sacredness of the hongi are their primal parents, Ranginui, the sky father and Papatuanuku, the earth mother...

A Maori man with ta moko (facial tattoo) and woman doing hongi (traditional Maori greeting) with the Pohutu Geyser behind, Te Puia, Rotorua, New Zealand Photo Credit: Blaine Harrington

 Māori greeting (hongi) in New Zealand with Princess Diana 

A Maori man with ta moko (facial tattoo) and an elderly Maori woman doing hongi (traditional Maori greeting)- New Zealand Photo Credit: Blaine Harrington 

Traditional Māori greeting in New Zealand (Hongi) 

Responses to "Stunning Pictures Showcase a Sacred Tradition of Maori: The Hongi (Breath of Life)"

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