With all eyes on the stars, what are people looking at and why? Let’s introduce Ngā Whetū O Matariki, the stars of Matariki.
Ko Matariki kei runga, ko te tohu tēnā o te tau!
Matariki is up; that’s the sign of the year!
The pre-dawn rising of Matariki, the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades, marks for many Māori the arrival of The New Year.
Matariki is a time to slow down and reflect, come together with family and friends, to feast and remember our loved ones who have passed. It is also a time to plan, look forward to the future, and, most importantly, connect with nature.
Traditionally tohunga would look to the stars and use Matariki as an indicator to predict things such as the upcoming year’s harvest and weather. For example, if Tupuānuku was shining bright, this could indicate a plentiful harvest of kumara or crops from the māra kai (food gardens) in the upcoming season, but if Waipunarangi was difficult to see and hazy a wet and rainy season was to be expected.
Te Iwa o Matariki, the nine stars of Matariki, are each intrinsically connected to the natural world around us:
Matariki is the star that signifies reflection, hope, our connection to the environment and the gathering of people.
Matariki is also the Mother of the other stars in the cluster.
Pōhutukawa is the star connected with the dead, particularly those who have passed since the last rising of Matariki.
Tupuānuku is the star connected with food that grows in or on the ground. ‘Tupu’ means to grow, whilst ‘nuku’ is short for ‘Papatuanuku,’ meaning earth. When Matariki sets in May, the food stores are full from the harvest, ready for winter.
Tupuārangi is the star connected with food from above or in the sky. During the rising of Matariki, kererū are at their fattest. Traditionally they were harvested, cooked, preserved and stored as another food source.
Waitī is the star connected to fresh water and the creatures that live in our rivers, lakes and streams. The rising of Matariki signals the migration of the korokoro or lamprey. This eel-like creature held special significance to Māori as another essential food source.
Waitā is the star connected to the ocean and the many foods gathered from the sea. Waitā is also closely linked to the tides and floodwaters.
Waipunarangi is the star connected to the rain, and its name means “water that pools in the sky.”
Ururangi is the star connected to winds, and its name means “the winds of the sky.”
Hiwa-i-te-rangi is the star connected to the promise of a prosperous season. It is also known as the wishing star and would be used to set intentions with people sending Hiwa-i-te-rangi their hopes and dreams for the year ahead.
The best time to view the rise of Matariki this year is between 21st June and 29th June before sunrise. Watch below for tips on spotting Matariki by using identifiable stars as markers.