What is Matariki?

Matariki is a time to remember those who’ve passed and to celebrate new life, a time for reflection of the past year and a time to dream and plan for the year ahead. It’s a time to spend with whānau and friends – to enjoy kai (food), waiata (song), tākaro (games) and haka.

Our tūpuna (ancestors) would look to Matariki to guide their harvest time. When Matariki sets around May and disappears from our sky it signals a time to preserve crops for the winter season. When it rises and reappears in July, tohunga kōkōrangi (expert astronomers) would read the stars, informing the people of the year ahead. Each star in the Matariki cluster has a different meaning - clear and bright stars promised abundance while dull hazy stars may represent scarcity.

The 9 stars are:

Tupuānuku - represents food grown in the earth or below ground i.e. kūmara

Tupuārangi -represents food grown above ground i.e fruit from trees

Ururangi - represents the wind

Waipunarangi - represents the skies, rain and snow and watches our water cycles

Waitī - represents our fresh water environment -  the life in the lakes and rivers and springs that flow into Waitā

Waitā - represents our ocean and everything living within it

Pōhutakawa - is the star connected to those that have recently passed, in the past year. Māori believe that when our people die, their spirit goes to the northernmost point in Aotearoa to Te Rerenga Wairua (the departing of spirits).  The spirit travels down the roots of the Pohutukawa tree and into the underworld. All souls that have made that journey in the last year are waiting for Matariki to take them up to the heavens where they become stars. You may hear people calling their loved ones names during Matariki, ushering them up to Heaven.

Hiwa-i-te-rangi -  Also known as our wishing star -  our star of hopes and dreams - the star you make a wish upon this new year.

Matariki - is the mother star - there to guide her children across the sky and encourages our family and friends to gather together.


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