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Matariki from a Historical Perspective

Rosemary Cole

Historically, te reo Māori was an oral language and Matariki (Māori New Year) was a time when knowledge was shared orally, as in reciting whakapapa (family trees). Matariki was also a time when legends were passed on orally.

One such legend is about Tāne-mahuta – the guardian spirit of the forest and the god of light. He pushed Rangi-nui (Sky Father) and Papa-tū-ā-nuku (Earth Mother) apart, so that he and his brothers had more light and space. One of Tāne-mahuta’s many brothers was Tāwhiri-mātea, the god of wind and storms. Tāwhiri-mātea was angry about his parents being forcibly separated and cried seven tears that became the seven stars of Matariki.

A Moonlight Sonata with Bronwen & Alfie Kākā

Alfie Kākā

Alfie: “What a great night to be out Bronwen. There’s something special about a night tour around the valley don’t you think? There’s so much more to see. But I don’t see many other humans around. What are you doing here – not monitoring kākā nests surely?”

Bronwen: Isn’t it beautiful Alfie, and you’re right. The valley is just amazing at night. Right now I’m tracking ducks, helping Katie Sheridan with her research on their habitat behaviour. You remember, Katie, you interviewed her last year. Forest ducks, brown teal, or to put it simply, pāteke.

Matariki

Jenny Way

Matariki, the start of the Māori New Year, is signalled by the appearance of seven stars low on the north-eastern horizon at dawn. Also known as Pleiades, the stars arrive any time from late May to mid June. This year the stars arrived on 18 June. Different tribes celebrated Matariki at different times. In the 21st century, the New Year starts with the first new moon following the rising of Matariki.

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