Doing the Hongi

No, this isn’t a FanstRAvaganza post but another interruption, because frankly, I can’t help myself.

I’ve talked about RA’s voice and his ear and the wonderful vibrations, and I even posted a little sample of what Thorin may sound like, but aren’t any of you really curious about what’s going on in New Zealand?!! Oh, I want to know! Where is he exactly? What is he doing? Which way did he go? Huh?

Perhaps there will soon be some more photos or at least some words. I know several are hanging on the tweets of Robert Kazinsky and the blog pieces and flickr from Ian McKellen, and maybe a few other things floating around or on the periphery of RA universe. Those have all certainly been treats. I’ve absolutely loved them, but dammit! I want some hard news about RA! LOL! I haven’t gotten any since the cricket match fundraiser and the picture with Vicki Treadell, the British High Commissioner to New Zealand.

I did recently read that ‘The Hobbit’ cast participated in a powhiri or Maori welcoming ceremony the day filming commenced. I knew a little bit about the ceremony since a close friend of mine spent a month in New Zealand a couple of years ago. Actually, I just knew it was a welcoming ceremony, and that’s about it. LOL! So I went in search of info but became a little confused as there was so much terminology to learn. Thankfully, I found a very clear write-up of the parts of the powhiri:

* Kawa – customs or protocols for greeting visitors. These introductory instructions are first given to the manuhiri, or visitors, such that they may be guided “safely through the spiritual and physical realms,” and so “they understand what is expected of them”10.

* Taki (or wero) – a challenge is presented, where warriors appear to determine the intentions of the visitors. If the visitors’ intentions are peaceful, the warriors present a rautapu, or some sort of symbolic peace offering, which the visitors “nod and acknowledge that [they have]… received it”11. Once this is done, the warriors guide the visitors into the sacred marae.

* Karanga – the vocal call of a female begins which will be a kind a purifying preparation or “clear a spiritual pathway between the hosts and visitors… acknowledging the spirits of all our ancestors who have passed on into the veil of the world, without end.”12. It is a type of call to the Maori and visitors’ ancestors.

* Karakia – a prayer or blessing is offered to the gods to “bring everyone together. Asking assistance of a superior being to give spiritual protection to all those who are participating in the powhiri”13. This is a type of demon or devil cleansing such that everyone may be “free from any destructive spiritual influences”14.

* Mihi – formal greetings and identification of who you are. It is a recitation of your ancestors, history, family line (genealogy), and your relationship to one another. These details were often only known by oral transmission and memory.15

* Waiata – a spiritual song is sung. “Traditional waiata of the ancestors were often aligned with spiritual
events, which could include supporting karakia or prayer to evoke supernatural forces”16.

* Koha – the act of gifting, in a very honorable, dignified, way. Traditionally this was done by offering assistance in the gathering of food, or taonga, treasures. Today it is usually a monetary-type gift. 17

* Hongi – the unique and very sacred Maori physical embrace wherein the two sides become one. “The hongi is the traditional greeting of nose pressing. It is the exchange of the ha, or breath of life… This greeting makes the visitor at one with the tangata whenua [hosts]”18. “The most sacred part of the Maori is this portion here – the face and head. When you make contact with a fellow human, it’s the embracing, the light touching of the noses. Because you’re now dealing with the most sacred part of the person. It’s the essence of life to mankind. Where else does the breath of life enter man?”19. This is the portion of the ceremony in which the breath of life is exchanged and intermingled between host and visitor, and makes the visitors one with the Maori, ready to share in all responsibilities and duties. This tradition is said to have come “directly from the gods”20. “In Maori folklore, woman was created by the gods moulding her shape out of the earth. The god Tane (meaning male) embraced the figure and breathed into her nostrils. She then sneezed and came to life. Her name was Hineahuone (earth formed woman)”21. Sometimes this embrace in the ceremony also includes the hariru, which is a handshake between hosts and visitors, and even a kiss or hug. One website describes it thus:

Direction will be given for manuhiri to go forward to hariru/shake hands, hug or hongi with tangata whenua. Whether you hariru, hongi, hug or do all three is entirely up to you at the time. We trust people will feel culturally comfortable whatever their choice. The action of performing hongi is associated with the hariru. The two people shake hands, each using the right hand. At the same time the left hand maybe placed on or near the other person’s shoulder. The head is bent, the eyes closed, and sometimes foreheads touch as noses are pressed. Some choose to press once and some twice – both ways are of equal significance. Invariably, tangata whenua will indicate their kawa/ways by example. It is appropriate to say “tena koe”/”hello to you” or “kia ora”/”greetings” as part of the greeting. In this greeting our ancestors meet as we meet and together we share the breath of life. This physical contact between manuhiri and tangata whenua completes lifts the waewae tapu/sacredness of first time visitors, allowing us all to be one, as tangata whenua for the duration of this Gathering. The running of the marae, for the time of our stay, is now ours to share.22

* Hakari – ritual feasting and sharing of traditional foods in a banquet to finish the binding together. “At the conclusion of that you are finally part of the family. And it’s a very happy occasion. And you can feel it. There’s a warmth in the room amongst everyone”23………

* Poroporaoki (or Mihi-whakamutunga) – final speeches and farewell. It is the returning of the esteem and authority of the Maori hosts back to them. It is a time of reflection on becoming one or a part of the Maori people.

(emphasis mine)

As I was surfing around, it was hard not to realize the importance of the powhiri and in particular the hongi to the Maori:

Essentially it’s the moment the hosts and visitors become one, and I remember my friend telling me how powerful it was to observe.

The Hongi:

Of course eventually I was burning with curiosity to know how RA fit into all of this, and it was almost as if my thoughts were heard and someone took pity on me. I received a note from someone in a position to know something about what went on, or maybe they have only inflamed me some more? :D

To be the leader of the visitors is pretty intimidating – you have to maintain eye contact and yet be diplomatic. Plus to speak Maori in a public occasion is tough. But Richard was the one who replied for the whole cast and even spoke Maori in his reply. Very impressive.

Yes, I think I’ve definitely been inflamed. LOL! My mind is working overtime to imagine him speaking Maori and being honored to represent the cast! Is there any doubt that he did his homework on the powhiri? Yes, that’s what I thought; he definitely was prepared. This is what is so lovely about him — he actually has a wonderful brain and uses it. Thank you, Richard!

I hope some photos emerge to confirm what I’m saying and to help along the wonderful picture in my head. Whatever the case, this is fun to imagine.

Edit: And it turned out to be true! :D More on that here.

All photos are in the public domain.


  1. Ooooooh . . . . our Richard representin’! And speaking MAORI!?!

    You know our fellow was well prepared as always . . . so proud of him once again. Thanks for all the info, Frenz!

    (Tell me, he DOES really exist, doesn’t he? I am not just having one long, delicious hallucination, am I?)

  2. If you are, do you care? :D

    You do know that I”m not 100% sure this is what happened. I’m trusting my source.

  3. And if I am–just let me continue to wallow in my delusion. *grin*

  4. Oh yeah, if we’re wrong, please don’t anyone correct us. :D

  5. “If this delusion is wrong . . . I don’t wanna be right!!” :D

  6. And I can totally believe it did happen. There’s clear commanding presence in that man, and I can see him taking the trouble to learn the Maori, too. ‘Cause he is that kind of guy. *swoon*

  7. I am in two minds about all this trivia that leaks out, officially, and unofficially. On the one hand, I think – just leave them alone to get on with it, people! Everything will be fine, just give it time. On the other hand, I get really excited when I see something new, and I lap it up! Mad I know, especially when it turns out to be something like a fuzzy picture of a complete stranger talking on a mobile phone! This project is under extreme scrutiny like no other, so I don’t blame them for keeping security tight, and I hope that nothing does leak out that will spoil the movie for me when I (eventually) get to see it.

  8. I agree about leaks. If it were something about the movie itself, I doubt I would publish it. I think I’ve already been on my soapbox a time or two about spoilers. But this is not one, and of course, it could be wrong. ;-)

  9. I hope this is true as it’s a great story and nothing to do with the movies themselves. I’m chuffed to think Richard was the one who represented the cast. Fantastic!

  10. I guess after almost a year of using WP, I don’t know how to use it anymore — not! The “final” post was not my final. I’ve now posted the final and blast! if the only thing that was messed up was the quote from the messages I received.

  11. Glad you liked it, Ali. I figured this was something pleasant and not harmful. I appreciate the heads up on it!

  12. Oh wow. RA representin’ AND speaking Maori. Gahhhh stop being so bloody wonderful, man! On the other hand, no please don’t stop doing stuff like that RA, that’s why we love you! And what a wonderful idea, pressing your nose against his … ahh. *happy sigh*

    Aaaaand that’s my dose of fangirling done for today, I reckon. ;)

  13. […] POSTS Good VibrationsSexy Back 3Heyer Audio Book GiveawayThe EarDoing the HongiA Little SweetnerRichard Coming to America — maybeCatching the WaveWait a MinuteWho is […]

  14. Oh wow (actually my very first reaction upon reading this was ‘QUOI?? (heartbeating faster and big grin).

    Just when I think this guy can’t impress me any further, he does something like this. I choose to believe this source too. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised that he took the lead. We all know he can hold intense eye contact and is so polite and respectful that diplomacy must be right up his alley. And how appropriate given his role as the King under the Mountain. And agree with you all that, as with everything else he does, he took this to heart and prepared himself well. And he has the nose (love his nose) to fit the bill, no?

    I also wouldn’t be surprised if we heard that he was interested in the spiritual dimensions of this ceremony, given the quotes he’s used in some of his correspondence to his fans. I just wish we could have seen it (where is that TORn super spy who captures those set pictures when you need him/her…)

    @Frenz, Thanks so much for uncovering this info for us! And also for edifying us as to what this ceremony entails.

    @Angie – LUV your comment: “(Tell me, he DOES really exist, doesn’t he? I am not just having one long, delicious hallucination, am I?)” – I think we are all enjoying this collective hallucination if it is one.

  15. Oh Lordy! Thank you Frenz.

    I also want to hear and see some news (and wiill scream if I see another photo of James Nesbitt!)

    Thank you for this news – I can imagine RA staying up all night learning to respond in Maori. Am I in love – YES! Of course, he’s their leader!!!!! I also want to see some photos!

    I understand the apprehension about seeing anything that will spoil the film experience, but I think there are a few things they can let us see without spoiling things – bits of news., a photo or two of them not in costume! (I’m one who is grateful to Rob Kazinsky and Ian McKellen)

  16. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if Richard took part in this ceremony, sounds just like the kind of thing he is best at! It sure must have been impressive!
    I also rely on Robert Kazinsky and Sir Ian for any kind of news…always trying to find a hint about what Richard has been doing.

  17. Somehow I managed to miss the but about Richard speaking Maori the first run round. That’s fantastic. I do hope it’s true. A scoop, Frenz!

  18. Thanks so much for posting, Frenz!

    I’m one of the ones following these movies closely (before he was cast) and therefore have been hanging out for news. (Not sure about the ethics of the papparazzi shots but I look at them regardless!). What I like about this story (thanks to Frenz’s secret source) is that it shows RA appearing to be embracing the culture and hopefully settling in to living somewhere so far from home. I also love the fact that he answered for the cast – a very postive affirmiation that he has been accepted :)

  19. There might have been a bunch of women warriors looking forward to do the HONGI thing with we-know-who….

  20. I’ve just been reading the article that Mulubinba linked on her twitter (yes, I’m one of the lurkers of the Rob K, Ian M. accounts) and there we have yet again pictures of several cast members but still no Richard. Where is he? Just shy? Staying out of the spot light? Or spending all his time prepping for his role? BTW – I’m surprised at all the down time the cast have – on Sunday night, several were at the Tommy Tiernan show, last night they were at the opening of the Roxy Theatre. Don’t they have to work? Come on people, we are anxiously waiting for RA to appear in a lead role on screen! Hurry up!! ;)

  21. Oh, and Mulubinba, if you are reading this…thanks for keeping an eye out for RA Hobbit news and sharing it! Much appreciated.

  22. I hope it is true as I’m always cautious when it comes to anonymous sources. If it is, I’m pleasantly surprised, not by him doing well and being well prepared but by him representing the cast. I would have expected PJ, MF or Sir Ian to do that. But then, it is Thorin’s quest after all and all the other are his companions. To be honest, the lack of info about him in contrast to the amount of info available about others is starting to make be believe that he isn’t one of the leads and dwarf number one but just one of thirteen dwarves.

  23. Thanks for posting, RAFrenzy. I’m a bit skeptical about RA at the powhiri story, just because it sounds like the M.O. of someone on facebook who was making up things about RA. She’s in NZ and claims to know all these personal things about Richard (even before he was cast in the Hobbit). Anywho, not asking you to confirm or deny if this is your source, but it just makes me a little suspicious, as much as I’d love the story to be true. In any case, it sounds like a powerful ceremony.

  24. For now this is wonderful to imagine, and I really can see him doing this. But I have added some verbiage to my piece so that it’s clear I’m not 100% sure. Given the nature of the communication I received and whom I received it from, I tend to think it’s true. I guess that should really go without saying since I published it, but I wanted to make that clear. However, I’m completely willing to be wrong.

  25. I admit I am hungry for more information about how things are going for RA . . . not anything that would spoil the movie, mind you, just interesting tidbits, a crumb here and there. Please, pretty please? Do I need to do another PSA? And what voice would ya’ll like me to use this time? LOL

  26. @Angie – what about doing it in Dwarvish…How could he resist that? ;)

  27. Hmmmm . . . a crash course in Dwarvish . . . do they make Rosetta Stone programs in that language? :LOL

  28. Oh wow this is so lovely. The thought of him speaking Maori; and the honour for him to be representing the cast.

    Thanks for the info on the Powhiri. I’m bats for rituals like this. I’ve always wondered about the significance of the Hongi and now I know.

    How fabulous is that. I’d love to see them in action.

  29. BTW the strange fact that he never seems to go anywhere even if his castmates do respectively that he is never spotted confirms my believe that he is not human and takes on some non-human form if he wishes. It is absurd that no citizen of Wellington ever notices him and no press photographer ever captures him on film.

  30. Well, as crazy as it sounds to us, RA has said in previous interviews that he doesn’t get recognized very much. Either that, or he leaves everyone in such a state that they dare not approach him for fear of seeming like babbling idiots…

  31. Wow, what an honour for Richard! I’m sure he took it completely serious and was well-prepared, as always. *impressed*

    The fact that we don’t see him in the press doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s preparing for his role as Thorin and he has said it before that it’s not always easy for him to let go of the character and ‘become himself’ again after a day at work. And he’s just not the kind of person who would look for the spotlight. He gives the credit and the attention to his characters and his work, not to himself, and I respect him so much more for it!

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  34. […] cast attended a Powhiri, a traditional Maori welcoming ceremony. A unconfirmed source has stated on RAFrenzy’s blog that Richard led the cast in this ceremony and spoke some Maori in reply. Note – although […]

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