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. The breath of life can also be interpreted as the sharing of both party's souls.
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.
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 folklore, 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).
- Performed by Hillary Clinton by a 4 November 2010 visit to Wellington New Zealand 
- Performed by Ambassador of Turkey
- Performed by Prince William and Sir Paul Reeves
- "Hillary Clinton's First Powhiri Hongi". scoop.co.nz. 2010. Retrieved 26 September 2011. "Scoop Images: Hillary Clinton's First Pōwhiri Hongi"
- "Hongi | The Governor-General of New Zealand Te Kawana Tianara o Aotearoa". gg.govt.nz. 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2011. "The Ambassador of Turkey, HE Ali Yakital, hongis a member of the Defence Force Cultural Party"
- "Prince William on America's Cup yacht". newspix.photoshelter.com. 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
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