The pre-dawn rising of Puaka (Rigel) and Matariki (Pleiades) during the winter months of May/June signals the start of the new year for Maori. The cluster known as Matariki was an important time for Maori for calculating time and seasons, celebrating the full food storehouses from the harvest, determining future harvest times and remembering ancestors.
The following are some of the legends surrounding Matariki.
Matariki literally means the ‘eyes of god’ (mata ariki) or ‘little eyes’ (mata riki). Some say that when Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother were separated by their offspring, the god of the winds, Tāwhirimātea, became angry, tearing out his eyes and hurling them into the heavens. Others say Matariki is the mother surrounded by her six daughters, Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi, Waitī, Waitā, Waipuna-ā-rangi and Ururangi. One account explains that Matariki and her daughters appear to assist the sun, Te Rā, whose winter journey from the north has left him weakened. (http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/matariki-maori-new-year/page-1, accessed June 2016)
Matariki was celebrated by iwi up until the 1940’s. It was revived in early 2000’s and has been taken up with enthusiasm around New Zealand. Celebrated this year from the full moon 6 June through to 30 July with all sorts of events on around New Zealand. Happy Matariki.
A great resource to learn more about Matariki can be found here on the Maori Language Commission website.
Recognition: Nightsky photo by Greg Rakozy, Creative Commons Zero licence, published with thanks from www.arcavee.com
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