Mānawatia a Matariki!

The constellation Matariki has made its journey back to the Eastern skies and with it Matariki brings on the Māori new year or “te mātahi o te tau”.

Stories of Matariki and the Māori new year differ between different regions and Iwi, but today we can talk to some of the stories and how we can celebrate Matariki.

Matariki is made up of nine visible whetū (star/s), in Te Ao Māori (the Māori world) each whetū had an important role in telling the forecast for the coming year. Dependent on how brightly one shone it may tell you what the year ahead would look like for the harvest or what challenges you may face.

The names and roles of the whetū that make the constellation are:

  • Matariki: the star that signifies reflection, hope, our connection to the environment and the gathering of people. Is often referred to as the mother of the other stars in the constellation.
  • Waitī: fresh water and food sources in it
  • Waitā: salt water and food sources in it
  • Waipuna-ā-rangi: the rain
  • Tupuānuku: is associated with any food that grows in the ground
  • Tupuārangi: is associated with any food above our heads
  • Ururangi: the wind
  • Pōhutukawa: associated with those that have passed on, and acts as a way for us to remember our loved ones that have gone
  • Hiwa-i-te-rangi: the youngest of the constellation, charged with helping to realise our aspirations and wishes for the new year

With the return of Matariki we remember those that have passed away, the whetū tell of the story and the larger constellation known as “Te Waka O Rangi”. The constellation Matariki acts as the head of the waka, with Tautoru (the pot, or in English Orion’s belt) being at the rear. The star known as Taramainuku leads the waka across the sky for 11 months of the year.

During this time Taramainuku collects the souls of those that have passed on in his net, and around May in the English calendar he dives down to empty his net to return to the sky marking te mātatahi o te tau in the East. When Taramainuku sets those free from his net, our loved ones that have passed are returned to the skies to shine down on us as stars and guide us forward. This is the origin of the saying “kua whetūrangihia koe” translating to “take your place amongst the stars along with your ancestors that adorn the sky”.

To find Matariki, look to the East before Sunrise and find Tautoru (the Pot or Orion’s Belt). Follow the line of the bottom of the Tautoru to the left-hand side and find the triangle shape (Te Kokota, Taurus the Bull), just left of Taurus is the Matariki cluster.

Matariki brings guidance for the year ahead, closure for those that have passed and gives us time to look to new aspirations for us in the coming months.

Gather closer in these cold months, and prepare for the time ahead. Celebrate Matariki in a way that is meaningful for you, set aspirations, talk with your whānau (family) and friends, learn about your whakapapa (genealogy), and remember those that have left us and most importantly eat some good kai (food).

Mānawatia a Matariki!

Iraina Gibbons is an Iwi Engagement Advisor and kindly guest wrote this journal post for Alberts.

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