There is another example of hand-washing and spirituality that New Zealanders would encounter regularly.
Maori have a deep and complex understanding in spirituality of tapu and noa, usually translated as “sacred” and “common” – but such an oversimplification can also cause confusion. Polynesian cultures often share the Maori understanding.
Tapu things or places are to be left alone and sometimes not even spoken of. Noa is the opposite of tapu. Noa lifts the tapu from a person or thing. This can make noa have the appearance of a blessing. A house would have a noa ceremony to lift the tapu – Pakeha (non-Maori) would often think of this in terms of a house blessing. [Hence, the Pakeha tendency to think of a blessing as making something sacred cannot simplistically translate into the Maori context].
When leaving a museum exhibition of Maori taonga (treasures) it would be normal to wash hands. Museums should provide a bowl of water for this. Taonga are tapu and washing hands is part of whakanoa (making noa). When leaving an urupa (cemetery), similarly, hands are washed.