Category Archives: Chatham Islands
Posted by silverfox57
Etymology – “Eyes of God”
Also known as: Pleiades, Mata Rikie (“Little Eyes”)
Alternate Spellings – Mata Ariki (“Eyes of God”)
For the Maori of New Zealand, Matariki is the name of the Pleiades star cluster. When this asterism is seen rising during late May and June, it marks the beginning of the New Year.
Eyes Of God
In one story, Ranginui, the sky father and Papatuanuku, the earth mother became separated by their children. When Tawhirimatea, the wind god, heard that his parents had been separated, he became so angry that he ripped out his eyes and threw them up into the heavens to become the star cluster Matariki.
Yes, as there are seven stars in Matariki, it means that Tawhirimatea had seven eyes.
As a goddess, Matariki is accompanied by her six daughters: Tupu-a-Nuku, Tupu-a-Rangi, Wai-Tii, Wai-Ta, Wai-puna-Rangi, and Uru-Rangi.
Assisting The Sun
In Maori stories, the Sun god, Te Rā begins his northward journey with Takurua, his winter bride and represented by the star Sirius. The Sun will later make his southward journey with Hineraumati, his summer bride. Matariki and her daughters are believed to appear so they can help Te Rā on his northward journey.
To Great Grandmother’s House We Go
When the New Year approaches, Matariki gathers up her daughters to go visit Papatuanuku, their great grandmother. During this visit, each of the daughters help Papatuanuku prepare for the coming year with each using a different ability to help get the earth ready. The daughters will also learn new skills and knowledge from Papatuanuku to pass on for others.
The Six Sisters
Tupu-a-Nuku – The oldest of Matariki’s daughters, she spends her time helping her great grandmother Papatuanuku tending plants needed for food, medicine and cloth.
Tupu-a-Rangi – She loves to sing. Papatuanuku has her singing to revive the forest and all the creatures of the land. Tupu-a-Rangi song is one of joy bringing the land back to life.
Wai-Tii and Wai-Ta – Twins, they care for the smallest and fastest creatures, typically insects who work in teams such as the bees to pollinate or ants building nests.
Wai-puna-Rangi – She goes with Papatuanuku down to the oceans, lakes and rivers to prepare the fish, who are the children of Tangaroa, the god of the sea for harvest to feed people. In addition, Papatuanuku also teaches her about the rain that falls from Ranginui to provide drinking water and how it evaporates by the sun to become clouds.
Uru-Rangi – She enjoys racing and helps set the tone when her sisters and great grandmother are getting the earth ready for the new year.
The star cluster Matariki was important to Maori sailors when navigating between their islands. Like many astronomers and star gazers, the Maori used the stars for calculating time and the seasons, preserving knowledge and passing on star lore and the history of the tribe.
The New Year begins in New Zealand among the Maori when Matariki is seen rising and the next new moon. Often, the pre-dawning rise of Matariki begins in the last few days of May and the New Year begins with the new moon that happens in June.
Rigel – Also known as Beta Orionis, Puanga in northern Maori, Puaka in southern Maori. This star is said to be the daughter of Rehua (the star Antares), the Chief of all Stars. When Rigel is first seen in the night sky, the rise of Matariki isn’t far behind. The Moriori of the Chatham Islands and some of the Maori use Rigel’s appearance to mark the start of the New Year.
Maruaroa o Takurua – Winter Solstice
Generally, between June 20th to June 22nd is the middle of winter, the new moon that occurs after Matariki can be seen in the morning sky.
If you didn’t already know, south of the equator, this marks the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and the longest night of the year.
The arrival of Matariki marks a time of celebration and preparing for the year’s coming harvests. Depending on how visible and bright the stars of Matariki are, would determine how warm the coming season would be and harvest size. When celebrating Matariki, different tribes would celebrate at varying times, though most festivities last around three days singing, dancing, feasting and sports.
Conservation – Living on an island meant that it was especially important for the Maori to practice conservation of their resources. The youth of the tribes would learn about the cultivation and care for the land, for not just crops, but certain birds and fish would be easy to hunt during this time.
For the Maori, they could ill afford to desecrate the land and over harvest or hunt on their islands if they wanted to continue living there. How they treated the land determined how long they could live on the land.
Offerings – Offerings of crops were made to different gods, like Rongo, the god of cultivated food. Other gods offerings were given too are: Uenuku and Whiro.
Remembering The Ancestors – Matariki also marks a time for the Maori to remember their ancestors, especially those who have passed during the previous year. Some tribes believe the stars of Matariki are where the souls of the departed have gone.
Official National Holiday
The Maori New Year celebrations had been popular for a while and stopped during the 1940’s. In 2000, a cultural revival was started that has come to be thought of as a “New Zealand Thanksgiving.”
Pakau – According to Hekenukumai Busby, an expert in traditional Maori navigation, said that the ancestors of the Maori celebrated Matariki by flying kites, known as Pakau. More modern celebrations have fireworks and hot air balloons to symbolize the ancient kites.
The Maori Language Commission – In 2001, a movement began by this organization to reclaim Matariki or the Aotearoa Pacific New Year. Since then, there have been various private and public institutions that celebrate Matariki that go from a week long to a month-long celebration.
Cultural Heritage – The years 2009 and 2011 saw efforts to pass a bill that acknowledge Matariki as an official holiday with New Zealand’s Parliament. The 2011 bill was successful in recognizing Matariki as an official holiday, it also honored a peace-making heritage founded by Parihaka.
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