What is Matariki?
The Māori name for a small group of stars (Pleiades) that reappear in June. When this happens, it is the signal for the Māori New Year to start in New Zealand. Matariki is a celebration of people, culture, language, spirituality and history. Early Māori sailors used these stars to help them find their way. Matariki is a Māori word that can be translated as tiny eyes, or eyes of God.
When is Matariki?
Each winter the stars of Matariki and Puanga signal the end of one year and the beginning of the next. Matariki tribal celebrations are held at different times by different tribes. For some it was when Matariki rose in May/June. For others it was celebrated at the first new moon, or full moon, following the rising of Matariki.
In the 21st century it is the new moon following the rising of Matariki that signals the New Year.
For 2016 it begun on 06 June.
Where is Matariki?
Matariki is sometimes hard to spot if you’re not sure what you’re looking for but if you follow the line of Orion’s belt (the bottom of the ‘pot’ or Tautoru) down to the left, through Te Kokota (the bright triangle of stars) known also as the face of Taurus the Bull, then Matariki can be seen as a small twinkling mass of light.
How do we celebrate Matariki?
This year my family celebrated Matariki with my daughter’s school. They made kites that were designed using their whakapapa (family history) and went down to the beach to fly them. I hope you enjoyed the video!
Some things we might do at Matariki include:
- Fly Kites – kites were seen as connectors between heaven and earth, and were often flown at this event, especially on the first day of the New Year.
- Share Food and kai – preparing a meal for friends and whanau is traditional at Matariki.
- Focus on Whakapapa – we focus on our whakapapa, our family history, during Matariki.
- Learn or do some weaving.
- Learn about stars and see Matariki through a telescope.
- Learn about Māori myths and culture.
- Give respect to the whenua (land) on which we live.
- Learn more about how we can care for our Mother Earth Papatūānuku
The Legends of Matariki
There are many different stories about Matariki.
One is that Matariki is a mother with her six daughters around her. Another is that the god Tāwhirimātea was angry that the Sky (Ranginui) and the Earth (Papatūānuku) were separated and tore out his eyes and threw them into the sky to comfort Ranginui. Other countries also have their own stories about these stars.
My favourite that was taught to my daughter at her school this year was;
„The Seven Star Fishes“:
One day a mother fish said to her little fishes;
“Now listen carefully, dear children,
be sure you keep close to the rocks.
Do not venture out to the open sea,
as today Tataraimaka goes fishing“
Tataraimaka was a boy who fished with an enormous black net. His black net is magic and has been woven from a special kind of flax.
On this day however the sea was smooth, the sun was at its brightest. Rainbow colours danced about the little fish as they played their games. They were having so much fun they forgot their mother’s words.
Without warning disaster struck. The big black net of Tataraimaka hit the water and all seven fish were caught. They cried, making the sea salty with their tears.
Tane the God of Light heard their cries and felt sorry for them. He took away Tataraimaka’s net and hauled it up into the high heavens.
There the seven little fishes were turned into stars. You can see them right now in the evening above the horizon. Six of the star have names – they are Toheti, Toheta, Tupuanuku, Tupuarangi, Ururangi and Waipuna-a-rangi.
But one star remains nameless. It has been left for all the children of the world. Just before going to bed, you may put your name on this star, and in this way you will be among friends as you sleep.
I hope you enjoyed learning about Matariki in New Zealand, it is a good time to reflect on your place in the world, to reawaken old skills or try out new ones and to set new goals.