Matariki atua ka eke ki runga
Nau mai ngā hua
Nau mai ngā taonga
Nau mai te Mātahi o te tau.
Tūturu whakamaua kia tīna! Tīna!
Hui e. Taiki e.
Matariki has risen.
Welcome the fruits of the year.
Welcome the many treasures.
Welcome the New Year.
Māori believe that the appearance of Matariki, or Pleiades or M45 in the morning sky in mid-winter indicates the Māori New Year, or Te Mātahi o te Tau. The Māori New Year is a time to reflect, remember those who have passed and get ready for the upcoming year ahead. A sacred time it marks the harvest season with a plethora of food related ceremonies. Festivities were a mainstay during this time with a big emphasis on whānau.
With the recent news that Matariki would become a national holiday there have been elaborate celebrations up and down the country. But these festivities have only been brought back to the Māori consciousness very recently. It was during the Māori renaissance of the 80’s and 90’s that Tangata Whenua began their rediscovery of ancient practices and traditions.
Leading astronomers like Dr Rangi Mātāmua have been researching the past 30 years to reeducate the masses on the significance of Matariki. Interestingly his research has revealed that the cluster of Matariki houses nine stars, instead of the perceived seven. Dubbed ‘Te Iwa o Matariki,’ Dr Mātāmua and his tūpuna believe the nine stars to be kaitiaki, or guardian, of a realm in nature.
These nine stars are:
Matariki is the whetū, or star, that signifies reflection, hope, our connection to the environment and the gathering of people. Matariki is also connected to the health and wellbeing of people.
Pōhutukawa is the star connected to those that have passed on.
Waitī is the star connected to all fresh water bodies and the food sources that are sustained by those waters.
Waitā is the star associated with the ocean, and food sources within it.
Waipuna-ā-Rangi is the whetū connected with the rain.
Tupuānuku is the star connected with everything that grows within the soil to be harvested or gathered for food.
Tupuārangi is star linked with everything that grows up in the trees: fruits, berries and birds.
Ururangi is the star connected with the winds.
Hiwaiterangi is the star connected with granting our wishes, and realising our aspirations for the coming year.
The restoration of celebration also means the restoration of ceremonies. Recently people have been participating in rising commemorations known as Umu Kohukohu Whetū or Hautapu. Māori wait until the lunar phase of Tangaroa, the last quarter phase of the moon, to celebrate its rising with a ceremony called ‘whāngai i te hau tapu’. You may want to have your own hautapu ceremony at home with your whānau. It can be as elaborate or simple as you want. The ceremony has four parts.
1: Te Tirohanga – The viewing
Rise early with the stars and start your year off right. The best time to see Matariki is just before the sun rises. Depending on the brightness of the different stars it would determine the bounty of the impending season. Try using a stargazing app to find the direction of the whetū. Many whānau have even started to climb their maunga as part of their ritual and to get a better view.
2: Te Whakamahara i ngā mate – Remembering the dead
Māori believe Matariki cares for those who die throughout the year, and when it rises again the spirits of those passed become stars in the sky. The names of those who had died since the last rising of Matariki should be called out in the presence of the star cluster. Take the time to mourn. The tears and the wailing encouraged the heavenly transformation of loved ones. Karakia and waiata should also be sung throughout this step.
3: Te Whāngai i ngā whetū – Feeding the stars
Here’s the best part, the kai. Because many of the different stars in Matariki are associated with food, and its role is to care for our dead and bring forth the bounty of the year, Māori give thanks to this star cluster by offering food. Special food is cooked in an uncovered earth oven and the steam that rises into the sky ‘feeds’ Matariki. It is important you have the right kai. Try to get food associated with each whetū.
Here are some menu ideas:
Tupuānuku – something from the earth, a kūmara is what we’d use traditionally, but a rīwai (potato) is fine.
Tupuārangi – traditionally this would be a kererū, however, a heihei (chicken) will suffice, or a duck.
Waitī – something from fresh water, tuna (eel) or trout, kēwai (freshwater crayfish), or a bit of salmon.
Waitā – any fish from the ocean, such as a tāmure (snapper) or tarakihi or whatever you can get.
4. Te Whakawhanaungatanga – the festivities
Wrap up your Home-tapu by singing the night away and basking in the presence of your loved ones. Take the time to appreciate your whānau, friends and say thanks to those who matter. This time of year is about reflecting and revising so jump into the new year with nothing but enthusiasm and excitement! Wehi nā!
Walked up Mauao and tried to do a reading of the whetū but the sky was pretty cloudy so I didn’t get much out of it initially. I kept checking through the Tangaroa phase of the marama until I could get a good view of the stars. I was pretty relaxed this year during matariki; I didn’t do a hautapu or anything until last week which is real late but it was the first time we could get together as a whānau so it made sense.
I Spent the day with my family at the markets getting ready for a roast dinner on the first day that Matariki was visible. We cooked a big kai then sat by the fire drinking, sharing stories and appreciating each other’s presence.
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