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Matariki Creation

Matariki in creation

Proudly presented by Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, join Dr Rangi Matamua as he shares with us extensive knowledge around Matariki and Māori cosmology. 

Matariki Lecture with Rangi Matamua
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Te Orokohanganga: Rangi and Papa

The Union and Separation

Ranginui eloped with Papatūānuku, together they became the primordial sky father and earth mother bearing over 70 children including Tāwhirimatea, Tāne and Tangaroa, all of whom are male. Both Ranginui and Papatūānuku lay locked together in a tight embrace, and their sons forced to live in the cramped darkness between them.

These children grew restless and discussed amongst themselves what it would be like to live in the light. All but one, Tāwhirimātea, were in agreeance that they would separate their parents. The brothers put their plans into action—Rongo, the god of cultivated food, tries to push his parents apart, then Tangaroa, the god of the sea, and his sibling Haumia-tiketike, the god of wild food, joined him. Despite their joint efforts, Rangi and Papa remain close together in their loving embrace.

After many attempts, Tāne, god of forests and birds, forces his parents apart. Instead of standing upright and pushing with his hands as his brothers have done, he lies on his back and pushes with his strong legs. Stretching apart Rangi and Papa. The connection was likened to sinew and bone and as Tāne pushed them apart, their strands had to also be cut. Tāne pushed and pushed until, with cries of grief and surprise, Ranginui and Papatūānuku were pried apart.

Te Paerangi

The battle of the gods

Now with their parents apart, the tamariki of Ranginui and Papatūanuku see light and have space to move for the first time. However, it wasn’t as great they expected. It was an expanse of dark and cold emptiness which quickly filled with a great flood of their parent’s tears. Amidst the rain, and from the darkness, lightning flashed. A figure of dread emerged – it was Tāwhirimātea, the god of storms and winds, angered that the parents have been torn apart.

Te Paerangi – The battle of the gods

 He cannot bear to hear the cries of his parents, nor see the tears of Ranginui as they are parted. He promises to his siblings that from henceforth, they will have to deal with his vengeful anger. He flies off to join Rangi in the sky, and there, carefully fostered his many offspring who include the winds. To fight his brothers, Tāwhirimātea gathers an army of his children —winds and clouds of different kinds, including fierce squalls, whirlwinds, thick gloomy clouds, fiery clouds, hurricane clouds and thunderstorm clouds, and rain, mists and fog. As these winds show their might the dust flies and the great forest trees of Tāne are smashed under the attack and fall to the ground, food for decay and for insects.

Then Tāwhirimātea attacks the oceans and huge waves rise, whirlpools form, and Tangaroa, the god of the sea, flees in panic. One by one Tāwhirimātea defated his brothers to seek his revenge.

Tāwhirimātea next attacks his brothers Rongo and Haumia-tiketike, the gods of cultivated and uncultivated foods. Rongo and Haumia are in great fear of Tāwhirimātea but, as he attacks them, Papatūānuku determines to keep these for her other children and hides them so well that Tāwhirimātea cannot find them. So Tāwhirimātea eventually turns on his brother Tūmatauenga for an epic battle. He uses all his strength but Tūmatauenga stands fast and Tāwhirimatea could not prevail against him. Tū (god of warfare and humanity) stood fast and eventually defeated Tāwhirimātea.

Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimātea

The final act of defiance

Tāhwirimātea vowing to never let his brothers forget, had one final act of defiance. Clawing out his eyes in anguish and grief, he crushed them in his hands and cast the shards into the heavens. As if still possessing sight he turned his gaze to Tūmātauenga and declared to have his vengence and attack his children with chaos and destruction forever. Tāwhirimātea’s storms and hurricanes attack humankind to this day.

To this day, whenever we look up to the skies Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimātea “Matariki’ can be seen looking down at us as a reminder.

Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimātea
A historic view of the Matariki star cluster
What we know as Matariki, is Pleiades to most of the world. The Pleiades are a prominent astronomical figure for many cultures throughout the world, and it has been featured, observed, celebrated and worshipped since as far back as 20,000 years ago.
Matariki ki Te Moana nui a Kiwa
The peoples of Polynesia are undeniably connected as represented in langauge similarities, art, tikanga, stories, and ocean navigation. These connections are also reflected in the way that Pleiades is observed throughout the various people of the Pacific.
Te Tikanga o te ingoa o Matariki
We understand Matariki to be a truncated version of the long name 'Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tawhirimātea' which translates meaning 'the eyes of the god Tawhirimātea'. This name originates from the turmoil which occurred soon after the separation of Ranginui and Papatuānuku.