Matariki is an open star cluster, that consists of several stars. According to the traditional custodians of
Kirikiriroa-Hamilton, Ngaati Wairere and by extension, Waikato and the people of Tainui. It consists of seven stars.
As shown above, each of the seven stars are associated with a specific food source, or weather pattern. Therefore, Matariki was vital to our ancestors, as a key environmental sign, that foretold the pending fortunes, or misfortunes of the people.
After a month-long absence in the night sky, Matariki would reappear before dawn, during the lunar cycle of Pipiri (between late June to July) to mark the completion and the beginning of a new, lunar year. Over a series of mornings during that moon phase, our Tohunga Whetuu (Star Priests) would observe and interpret the ascent of Matariki, before the sunrise.
By doing so accurately, our Tohunga Whetuu could determine where to direct the collective energies of our people, in terms of food gathering, ensuring the survival of our people and our traditional way of life. For example, if Waitii was dim, whilst Waitaa shone brightly, our Tohunga Whetuu would instruct the people to focus on fishing and diving, as opposed to trapping eels.
Spiritually, it was both, a time to farewell those who had passed on in the preceding year, as their souls leave Earth to become stars. But also, a time to gather and celebrate, sharing in each other’s lessons and experiences, reaffirming familial ties and looking towards the future with hope.
Matariki ki runga.
Image source : Te Wānanga o Aotearoa