Matariki - a moment in time
May 01, 2023 | Stories

By Niki Partsch

Last year we shared a historic moment in time as we celebrated Matariki together as a nation for the first time.  

As the days shorten and the winds blow a little cooler, we humans along with birds and other living things feel the coming of winter. Soon our eyes will lift to the skies seeking the rising of the star cluster we now know as Matariki. We will observe this special public holiday on Friday 14 July.  

Now is the time to make plans. Where will you be and what will you do to celebrate?  

Prepare, learn, think about how to participate. If you’re not sure what to do then find out what’s on and consider what matters to you, your whānau and friends. 

Perhaps rise early and take a walk or travel somewhere special. This may be a day of rest for you, or an opportunity for art or music, or a time to bring out the old photo albums and tell stories. Will you celebrate hautapu? Something traditional, or perhaps an old family recipe. Put aside the electrical appliances and get the kids or mokopuna to cook and learn some family history. 

Many of us will have lost loved ones over the previous year. When Matariki rises and the new year and new cycle of seasons begins, it is also the time when, according to Māori astronomy, the recently departed are released into the night sky to become stars. 

The rising of the Matariki star cluster is known throughout the world and is recognised by different cultures and in many languages including The Seven Sisters, Subaru and Pleiades. 

Many of us can now identify and name at least seven of the nine stars of Matariki and we know the stories of how each is representative within our environment. Perhaps this year dig a little deeper with your learning. There are hundreds of stars within the Matariki cluster but only a few are visible to the naked eye. 

They are: 

Matariki, the brightest star in the cluster, connecting us with the environment and bringing people together for this time of hope, rest and reflection.  

Tupuānuku for the earthen soils and the bounty that grows from it.  

Tupuārangi links us to the realm of Tānemahuta the place of trees, fruits berries and bush where birds, insects and mokomoko live.  

Waitī is for the freshwater rivers, lakes, springs and all the life within.  

Waitā for the saltwater oceans and estuaries and all the precious life there.  

Waipunarangi connects to the rain and the cycle of its arrival.  

Ururangi is associated with the wind, from breezes to hurricanes.  

Pōhutukawa is associated with those who have passed on.  

Hiwa-i-te-rangi is associated with our wishes and aspirations for the coming year. 


Niki Partsch | Kaitohutohu Whanake - Māori Heritage Advisor
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