The Spirit of Gift-Giving.

“A fine Māori proverb runs:

‘Ko maru kai atu

Ko maru kai mai,

Ka ngohe ngohe.’

Give as much as you receive and all is for the best.”

I shall tell you about hau. […] Suppose you have some particular object, taonga, and you give it to me; you give it to me without a price. We do not bargain over it. Now I give this thing to a third person who after a time decides to give me something in repayment for it, and he makes me a present of something [i.e. another taonga]. Now this taonga I received from him is the spirit — the hau — of the taonga I received from you and which I passed on to him. The taonga which I receive on account of the taonga that came from you, I must return to you. It would not be right on my part to keep these taonga whether they were desirable or not. I must give them to you since they are the hau of the taonga you gave to me.



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