WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Matariki: Te Tau Hou Māori – Matariki: The Māori New Year

WelCom June 2018:

In Aotearoa New Zealand Matariki celebrates people, culture, language, spirituality, history and respect for the environment.

Matariki is the Māori name for the small but distinctive cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades. It disappears below the horizon in April and reappears in the north-eastern pre-dawn sky in late May or early June heralding the start of a new year.

Matariki literally means the ‘eyes of god’ (mata ariki) or ‘little eyes’ (mata riki). According to one traditional version, when Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother, were separated by their children, the god of the winds, Tāwhirimātea, became so angry that he cast out his eyes into the heavens.

Traditionally, Matariki was a time for remembering the dead, and celebrating new life. Different tribes celebrated Matariki at different times. Each tribe had its own traditions and knowledge around Matariki, based on the tribe’s understanding of the stars and phases of the moon, and how these affected the rhythms of Papatūānuku ‒ Mother Earth.

The Maramataka Māori (Māori Calendar) has closer to 355 days in its year cycle as opposed to 365 days in the Gregorian calendar, which apparently follows the sun. Matariki must be read when the moon is in the right phase in Pipiri (June): when the moon is in Tangaroa at the end of its third quarter and into the last quarter. Celebrations take place after this.

During Matariki, giving thanks for land and waters that have provided sustenance is important, as is respecting and protecting nature so future generations may enjoy the same quality of life we cherish.

For 2018, Matariki rises on the north-east horizon around half an hour before dawn in late May or early June.