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The rising of the star cluster known as Matariki (Pleiades) marks the beginning of the Māori New Year. It is a unique celebration that not only celebrates te ao Māori (the Māori world) but Aotearoa New Zealand’s natural cycles. This year Matariki will be celebrated between the June 25 and July 3.
In ancient times, the rising of the Matariki stars marked the time for Māori when food gathering had been completed and it was time to hunker down out of the cold for the months of winter. This allowed time for joining with whānau to feast, to wānanga (learn and discuss) – for entertainments and indoor games (tākaro). It was also a special time of year to reflect on the past and look forward to the future and to honour and farewell those who had died. It was believed that loved ones had transformed into stars – te hunga kua whetūrangitia – shining down from the heavens.
For tohunga (spiritual leaders), the rising of Matariki provided portents of the year ahead. Each star symbolised different aspects of the new year and whether they appeared bright or hazy dictated how the year might unfold.
Today Matariki offers us an opportunity to celebrate our unique culture and natural world. It is a time to reflect in the latency of winter and to celebrate with whānau and friends.
Page authorised by Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Māori
Last updated on Tuesday 18 June 2019