Kia ora whanau and mānawatia a Matariki!
We’re a little early with the big day being next Friday. However, for the first time in NZ we have a national holiday to celebrate! So, no blog next week. One thing I’ve always loved about New Zealand is how it acknowledges its first people. It is not perfect by any means and you still have small-minded lunatics that will flood the phone lines of Magic Talk to tell Banksy their utter tosh. What I will say is how proud I am that for the first time in its history, NZ is embracing Māori custom and for such a significant event. In the spirit of Matariki, we will be spending it together collectively reflecting on the past and looking towards the future. For those of the readership not from Aotearoa you may be wondering what Matariki is? And for you locals please forgive this pasty Pākehā interpretation but I do so with the utmost respect. I’ll add my sources at the bottom so you can further explore the many stories connected to Matariki.
To start at the beginning Matariki is the name of the family of stars that rise after the winter solstice. The appearance of Matariki heralds a time of remembrance, joy, and peace. It is a time for Whānau and the wider community to come together, tell stories and celebrate. To really start at the beginning; Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatūānuku (the earth mother) were separated from their eternal embrace by their children. The children had lived cramped together in the darkness between their parents and wanted more freedom to be able to move around. One brother, Tūmatūenga (god of war and people), had suggested that they slay their parents. However, Tāne Mahuta (god of the forests) suggested that they separate their parents forever. All the brothers agreed, except for Tāwhirimatea (god of weather). Tāne Mahuta was able to separate his parents by lying on his back, using his legs to push their father Rangi higher into the sky. As a side note, if you are thinking of things to do for the long weekend, the Tāne Mahuta walk in Waipoua Forest is home to Aotearoa’s largest known living Kauri tree estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years old! Back to our story. Tāwhirimatea was so furious with what his brother had done he gouged out his eyes, crushed them, and threw the pieces into the sky. His eyes make up the cluster of stars, Ngā Mata o Te Ariki O Tāwhirimātea or the shortened Matariki which translates to The Eyes of God.
Matariki is the perfect time to sit with friends and family for a kōrero, there are some brilliant stories. Like how Tāwhirimatea went to live in the sky with his father exacted revenge on his brothers, causing trees to snap and fall and swells to cause waves as big as mountains. Haumia-tikitiki & Rongomātāne, gods of fern-root and both cultivated and uncultivated food escaped with their mother, that is why Kūmara and fern-root burrow into the Earth. The Seven Sisters is another popular story that is important in telling the story of what the stars represent. There are about 500 stars in the Matariki cluster but only 9 are viable without a telescope. Each star tells a different story which is poignantly put together by the folks at Sky City, they are as followed.
Matariki is the star that signifies reflection, hope, our connection to the environment, and the gathering of people. Matariki is also connected to the health and well-being of people.
Waitī is associated with all freshwater bodies and the food sources that are sustained by those waters.
Waitā is associated with the ocean and food sources within it.
Waipuna-ā-rangi is associated with the rain.
Tupuānuku is the star associated with everything that grows within the soil to be harvested or gathered for food.
Tupuārangi is associated with everything that grows up in the trees: fruits, berries, and birds.
Ururangi is the star associated with the winds.
Pōhutukawa is the star associated with those that have passed on.
Hiwa-i-te-rangi is the star associated with granting our wishes and realising our aspirations for the coming year.
Matariki is a time of renewal and an opportunity to reflect on who we are at this moment. To appreciate the people that have come before us and build connections with our whanau, community, and friends. It’s also a time to look forward to the future and bring into life what we wish to achieve. We’re halfway through the Gregorian Calendar and what a great time to pause, and appreciate what we have, where we are, who we’re with, how we got here, and what is yet to come. Ngā mihi o Matariki, te tau hou Māori from us here at Rice. To find out more about Matariki and the many stories explore the links below or visit the brilliant Te Papa.