Te ao Māori


Matariki is the Māori name for the Pleiades star cluster (also known as the Seven Sisters). This huddle of stars appears low in the north-east horizon, at the end of May or beginning of June.

In some areas, the new Māori calendar year begins on the first full moon after Matariki becomes visible on the eastern horizon. Matariki is a time to prepare the land for planting in the spring. Matariki also has great significance for ocean voyagers as a navigation beacon.

The Matariki constellation is well known throughout the world and especially the Pacific where is known as Matali'l, Mataliki, Makali'i, Mata-ali'i and Makahiki. In Japan, Matariki is known as Subaru. The Matariki constellation is made up of 7 stars and their Māori names are: Te Uru o Te Rangi, Tupua a Rangi, Tupua a Nuku, Waiti, Waita, Waipuna a Rangi and Mereope. However, in some iwi, Matariki is not just the name of the constellation, it is also one of the star names (used instead of Mereope).

There are two translations in Te Reo Māori for Matariki: Mata riki, tiny eyes and Mata ariki, eyes of god. If the stars appear to stand wide apart, this indicates a bountiful season; should the stars seem close together it denotes a cold seaon with less abundance.


Celebrating Matariki

Matariki is a time to prepare; to learn, to share ideas, and to celebrate the future. It is a time to prepare the whenua for planting in the spring. Matariki falls at the end of harvest, therefore in the past it was often celebrated by sharing of the crop. Offerings or koha of specially prepared delicacies were often presented to manuhiri.

Matariki is also a time for wānanga - such as learning about whakapapa and other activities promoting the transference of whānau, hapū or iwi knowledge.

You could celebrate Matariki by preparing a garden in your backyard, having a family gathering to share family history and knowledge and then have a feast to celebrate the New Year.

Legends of Matariki 

The legends of the origin of Matariki vary. One of the most popular tells of how the god of the winds, Tawhirimatea, tore out his eyes and threw them into the sky, after becoming angry that Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatuanuku, the earth mother, had been separated. The seven stars are Tawhirimatea’s eyes.

Other traditions tell of how the stars are a woman, Matariki, and her six daughters, who help Te Ra, the sun, after his winter journey from the north.


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