Woman Free Article

As we enjoy our first public holiday in recognition of Matariki this month, I’m filled with gratitude for those who have ensured the survival of Matariki practices and the mātauranga (knowledge) around its meanings. This time last year, I wrote an introductory background for Woman about Matariki, and one of the benefits of this new public holiday is that the resources about this kaupapa (topic) are growing. Tamariki will now learn about Matariki in school, unlike my generation, and have opportunities to recognise and celebrate this special time with school and community events.

For the past few years, I’ve been part of wānanga reo – Māori language learning events – at Ngā Whare Waatea Marae in Auckland, which we’ve run for the community to learn about language and traditions to do with Matariki. After a kauhau (speech) on the first night, ensuring everyone knows the background of Te kāhui whetū o Matariki – the Matariki star cluster – and is ready to be part of the karakia (incantations) the next morning, we all gather pre-dawn on a maunga (mountain) for karakia recognising each of the stars of Matariki.

The nine stars of the kāhui (constellation) are each connected to different aspect of the taiao (environment), and both physical and spiritual aspects of our lives. Matariki is the name of the cluster and also known as the Mother of the group.

Matariki signifies connection to the environment, and to each other, asking us to reflect on the past year. Pōhutukawa is the whetū (star) connected to the spirits of those who have passed on. One of the most touching and healing parts of the karakia held at the time of Matariki is when Pōhutukawa is called to take the wairua (spirits) of those we’ve lost over the past year. Waitī is joined to freshwater bodies and all the lifeforms that reside in them.

Waitā is similarly linked to the moana (ocean) and all the ika – fish and sea creatures. Tupuānuku connects to kai grown in the ground, and Tupuārangi with the foods that grow in trees and fly in our skies.

When you look at the line-up of these stars, you can see why hākari (feasts) celebrating Matariki usually include each of the types of food sources connected with these stars – freshwater fish, those from the sea, and crops from the ground and trees. Waipuna-ā- rangi reflects the rain, and Ururangi the winds. Hiwa-i-te-rangi is the youngest star, and speaks to hopes of prosperity in the year ahead, so is also our wishing star, the one to send our dreams and hopes to!

With these impressive narratives, you might expect Matariki to be a large constellation, but it is actually small, so you need to make an effort to see it. Look for Tautoru (Orion’s Belt) and follow those three stars off to the left until you find the tight cluster of Matariki. Some iwi recognise Puanga (Rigel) rather than Matariki as signifying the new year, which is yet another layer to our history and also to the new chapter we are embracing.

This public holiday signifies the culmination of years of growth in reclaiming Matariki traditions and events and gives us all a chance to embrace the depth of our own unique way of recognising the year passed and reset for the year ahead. Mānawatia a Matariki, with wishes for the best for you all.

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