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Puanga and Matariki

In this Taringa podcast episode, special guests Che Wilson and Rangi Matamua join the crew to answer some audience pātai and speak in depth about the tikanga of Matariki and Puanga. (Starts at 25 minutes, 42 seconds)

All iwi (tribes) in Aotearoa celebrate the ending of one year and the beginning of another around the same time, usually around June or July in the Gregorian calendar. Across different regions, iwi may acknowledge different stars to signify this important time. For some regions Matariki marks the new year. For others, Puanga is that star. 

While Puanga and Matariki are both associated with the Māori New Year, they are not the same. Matariki is a star cluster also known as the Pleiades that appears in the New Zealand sky in late May or early June. Puanga, also known as Rigel, is a bright star in the Orion constellation that is visible in the pre-dawn sky during the winter months.  

It’s important to understand that accepting one cluster to mark the new year doesn’t disregard the other, as both Matariki and Puanga are important. 

Many iwi from the west – including those around Whanganui, Taranaki, and parts of Te Taitokerau and the South Island – look to Puanga to mark their new year, mostly due to geography. As the stars rise, Puanga, which is situated higher in the sky, can be seen around the same time from the west as Matariki can be seen from the east. 

Next time you are looking at the night sky, try to locate both Matariki and Puanga. Understanding their positions will also help you understand how several regions maintained the same timing for the changing of the Māori year.

Ka ara mai a Matariki, ka ara mai a Puanga, ka mānawatia a Puanga, ka mānawatia a Matariki.

Matariki rises, Puanga rises, celebrate Puanga, celebrate Matariki

Image kindly supplied by Stardome Observatory and Planetarium, 2023