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Maaori New Year

Matariki is the herald of the Maaori New Year. For Maaori the New Year begins with the rising of Matariki in the North-Eastern sky at dawn after the New Moon in Ao Nui.

Now in modern times it has been suggested to shift the Maaori New Year start away from the new moon.

The basic logic behind this shift is that in the Maaori calendar the night of the new moon is called Whiro.

Whiro as a name is also attributed to the elder brother of Taane known as Whiro te Tipua, the sixth son of Ranginui and Papatuuaanuku.

Over the course of time Whiro te Tipua became known as the god of evil and it is this attribution which is cited as a reason not to celebrate anything on a day with the name Whiro.

However within the teachings of  ‘30 nights of the moon’ (as given within Te Kauwae Runga) Whiro is not referred to as one of the actual five listed bad days.

Whiro is simply referred to as ‘the moon is invisible’.

Upon the waning of Tatau Ururoa, Matariki will disappear from the sky -now being to close to the the sun- to reappear just ahead of the sun upon the waning of Ao Nui -appearing in the tail of the Milky Way bringing the New Year close to the winter solstice-.

By the end of the twelfth month the three bright stars of Tautoru are lined up vertically on the horizon, while Takurua is directly above them.

Matariki, Tautoru and Takurua together make a post of stars.
Like a fence post, its base (Matariki) is buried in the ground, Tautoru sits on the horizon at ground level, and Sirius marks the top of the post.

The post stands tall and straight exactly on West. This is the post of Hinenuitepo, It marks the ending of the year.

Matariki holds the highest rank among the stars, inasmuch as they usher in the New Year and are also visible at its close.

For a while, Matariki remains out of sight, being behind the Sun. Then in the dawn of late may the same line of stars (Hinenuitepo) appears in the east.

The first bright star to rise is Puanga, rising close to east. Over the next few days the rest of the post again appears as a downward slanting pole, with Matariki highest in the northeast, Tautoru in the middle, exactly on east and Takurua at the lowest position in the southeast.

Matariki marks the place where the sun will rise at the turning of the Sun, (the winter solstice).

In the Northern Hemisphere Matariki is known as 'The Pleiades' which is a cluster of up to fourteen hot blue stars which, dependant on one’s location can be seen with the naked eye.

In the northern hemisphere myth of the Pleiades is represented as seven sisters: Maia, Alcyone, Asterope, Celaeno, Taygete, Electra, and Merope.

Their parents were Atlas, a Titan commanded by the god Zeus to hold up the earth, and Pleione, the mythical protectress of sailors.

In the southern hemisphere however they are sometimes known as the seven sons.

Along with the seven acknowledged stars there are four others which were never talked about and are the four binds/ lores which hold the seven sons in place.

These are known as Te Pou Wha o Te Whare Matariki:-

Te Poo
Te Hi
Te Pou Toru
Te Pou Whaa

... ... ...

The first wife of Uru te Ngangana was Hine Turama and they had:

Tamatakuku - Alderbaran

Puanga - Rigel

Tautoru - Orion

Autahi - Canopus

Matariki - Pleiades

Whanui - Vega

Takarua - Sirius

Puutara - Betelgeuse

Rehua - Antares

All of these were distributed by Taane te Waananga a Rangi to the front of their parent Ranginui.

The Septuplet sons of Uru te Ngangana and Hine Turama collectively known as Matariki –pleiades- are;


Tupu Aa Nuku

Tupu Aa Rangi




Uru Aa Rangi

Now the seven sons of Uru te Ngangana, were taken to the Paeroa o Whanui –one of the names for the milky way- to guard the Whanau Punga –those little stars in the milky way that are just distinguishable as such by the naked eye-, least they be cast out by their elder brethren and fall down below.

... ... ...

The saying Matariki kainga kore –homeless Matariki- refers to the constant travel of this constellation.

If during its pre-dawn rise, the stars in the cluster are clear and bright, the saying ‘He kaihaukai te tau’ was applied, meaning it would be a warm and bountiful season.

However, if Matariki appeared hazy or shimmering, people remarked ‘He tau tuupuhi’, meaning a cold and difficult season was expected.

The literal meaning of Matariki is little eyes, referring to the appearance of this beautiful, jewel like cluster of seven small stars. Matariki may also be read as eyes of god, Mata meaning eyes and Ariki god.

The stars are seen as a home of the Gods, a place where souls returned after death.

Matariki is an important constellation associated with the providing of food, as expressed in the old saying,

Nga kai a Matariki nana i ao ake ki runga’.

-the foods of Matariki, by him brought forth-.

The actual moment of first sighting is an emotional occasion.

Woman would sing laments for the recent dead, or line up facing Matariki to greet the star cluster with a three day festival of action songs and dances. The important New Year festival would then follow, the food being offered to Matariki with invocations:

Matariki atua ka eke mai i te rangi e roa, eiii!
Whangainga iho ki te mata o te tau e roa eiii!

-Divine Matariki come hither from the distant heavens,
Bestow the first fruits of the year upon us-.

The songs often refer to the sadness people felt when looking at Matariki, for this was where the dead went to after leaving the earth:

Tirohia atu nei, ka wheturangitia Matariki, te whitu o te tau e whakamoe mai ra! He homai ana rongo kia komai atu au ka mate nei au i te matapouri, i te mataporehu o roto i a au!

-See where Matariki has risen over the horizon, the seven of the year winking up there! They come with their message that I may rejoice. Here I am full of sorrow, full of sadness within!-

At the funeral rites of the Tangihanga the seven of Matariki are often mentioned by male orators in speeches that refer to the dead and the past. The female Kaikaranga chant phrases like this:

Haere atu ra e kui/ koro
Ki te paepae o Matarik
O Rehua of Rehua
Haere atu ra!

-Farewell old woman/man
go to the threshold of the Pleides

When Matariki rose it is said

Tirohia atu nei ka Wheturangitia Matariki, te whetu o te tau.

behold Matariki the star of the year has made its appearance-.

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