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Matariki Rising

The mark of a new year

The rising of Matariki

Join Dr Rangi Matamua as he shares with us knowledge around the rising of Matariki.

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The mark of a new year

Every winter the rising of the stars of Matariki (and Puaka (Puanga)) herald the end of the lunar year and the start of the next within the Māori world. Traditionally Māori viewed the rising of Matariki as the time to farewell those who have passed in the previous year, celebrate the arrival of the new year and prepare for the coming year in the custom of the local iwi. Specific customs can vary from iwi to iwi however they are commonly themed around new beginnings. 

The rising of Matariki in the morning sky is observed in the month of Pipiri (around June and July) and although the first lunar phases of Whiro, Tirea under the star of Pipiri occur sooner (from 30 May 2022 this year), Matariki cannot be seen during the new moon phase. So most Māori iwi wait until the lunar phase of Tangaroa (the last quarter phase of the moon) to observe and celebrate Matariki. This is to take direction from the stars, to make a connection between the celebration and the environment. The idea is about responding to the environment, aligning with it rather than trying to shape it to suit ourselves.

Matariki’s rising this year of 2022 is considered to occur from 21 June to 24 June 2022.

How can I participate in this phase of Matariki?

Ngā tikanga me ngā whakahaere – Observance, ceremony and celebration

The ceremony to welcome Matariki for many will often take place on a high vantage point. However, for others it is performed at marae, community centre or even at home. After arriving the whānau would prepare a small hāngī while they waited for Matariki to rise – this hāngī is especially prepared for Matariki and is called ‘te umu kohukohu whetū’. The first sighting of Matariki was greeted with karakia, those that had passed the previous year appropriately acknowledged. Following this is acknowledgement of each whetū within Matariki. Tohunga Kōkōrangi would then read the tohu. The conclusion of the ceremony would be the opening of the umu allowing the steam to rise up and give sustenance to Matariki – particularly the whetū connected to kai. Finally, to conclude that part of the ceremony, there is a formal acknowledgement of Te Mātahi o te Tau, in celebration of welcoming the New Māori Lunar Year. 

Te pānui i ngā whetū - Reading the stars

Reading the tohu (signs)in the whetū (stars) indicate the success of the season ahead; clear bright stars are a good omen and hazy stars predict a cold, harsh winter. If one star is brighter than another, there will be lots of yummy kai from the source it represents. If one is dimmer, or completely missing, then that kai source may be diminished in the year ahead:

Te Iwa o Matariki are:

  • Matariki – signifies reflection, hope and our connection to the environment. This whetū also has a connection to our wellbeing;
  • Pōhutukawa – connects with those who have passed on;
  • Waitī – ties to bodies of fresh water and the food within it;
  • Waitā – ties to the ocean and the food within it;
  • Waipuna-ā-rangi – associated with the rain;
  • Tupuānuku – is for food that grows within the soil;
  • Tupuārangi – is for food that grows up in the trees;
  • Ururangi – is the star associated with the winds;
  • Hiwa-i-te-rangi – the youngest, is the wishing star that also ties into our aspirations for the coming year.