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hei tiki

small neck pendant in the form of a human fetus, used by the Maori of New Zealand as a fertility symbol. Usually carved of green nephrite or a jadelike stone called pounamu that is found along the western coast of the South Island, hei tikis normally are worn only by women. The object is believed to possess magical powers that increase as it is passed on from generation to generation. According to one idea, the hei tiki protects its wearer against the vengeful spirits of stillborn infants, who have been deprived of the chance to live. Another theory holds that the figure represents the Polynesian god Tiki, the creator of life.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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