Matariki is the Māori name for a cluster of nine stars that reappear on the north-east horizon each year, sometime in early winter. The pre-dawn rise of Matariki signals the time to celebrate the Māori New Year for many iwi around Aotearoa.(1)
Here at Taonga By Timoti Matariki also signals the time for us to design and carve our annual, limited edition, Matariki pendant.
What is it all about?
Historically Matariki was an important celebration. The Matariki star cluster reappears on the horizon at the beginning of winter and the end of the Autumn harvest. Its reappearance marked a time for whanau to come together, to rest from the hard work of harvesting and (hopefully) to celebrate full storerooms, ready for the scarcity of winter ahead.
Matariki was a time to reflect on events of the year past. A time to remember your whakapapa and those who have moved on to their ancestral home of Hawaiki. It was also a time to look forward to the future with hope for the things that are to come.
Māori also looked to the Matariki stars as a signal for when to plant their crops in the year ahead, after the long winter. If a particular star was clear and bright, it was a sign that the food from that source would be plentiful in the season ahead. If a star appeared hazy or missing, the foods from that source were not facing a good year ahead. The stars intensity also signalled either the coming of a short winter and an early planting season or a cold winter with planting put off till a little later in the year.
There is a wealth of information about Matariki out there, I recommend you take some time to read about it from the experts. But here is a brief summary of where the nine stars came from and what their roles are:
Ngā Mata o te Ariki – The Eyes of The God
The god of this story is Tāwhirimātea. Tāwhirimātea is the god of the winds and weather. When his parents,(Ranginui, sky father and Papatūānuku, earth mother) were separated from their loving embrace by Tāne Mahuta, Tāwhirimātea was distraught. He tore out his eyes, crushed them into tiny pieces and stuck them onto the chest of the sky. Hence we have the stars of Matariki, the eyes of the god.
The nine stars of Matariki
Each of the nine stars represents a different element.
We find Matariki with her 6 daughters:
- Matariki – the mother of the other stars in the constellation.
- Tupuānuku – is tied to food that grows in the ground.
- Tupuārangi – is tied to food that comes from above your head such as birds and fruit.
- Waitī – is tied to food that comes from fresh water.
- Waitā– is tied to food that comes from salt water.
- Waipunarangi – is tied to the rain.
- Ururangi – is tied to the winds.
The last two stars are:
- Pōhutukawa – connects Matariki to the dead and is the star that carries our dead across the year.
- Hiwaiterangi/Hiwa – is the youngest star in the cluster, the star you send your wishes to.
Throughout Aotearoa, Matariki celebrations are being recognised and revived. As the winter sets in, it is a wonderful time to come together with whanau and friends, to celebrate, to reflect and to look to the year ahead.
Here in our home at this time, we enjoy a whanau feast while Tim retells the stories of his tūpuna. We reflect on what we are thankful for in the year past. Then everyone has a turn to say what they want to do with the year ahead. We also take this time to clear out our vegetable garden and prepare it for the new plantings in spring. Its a fun time for whanau. It’s wonderful to take a little time out and spend time in reflection and contemplation together. Its a tradition worth nurturing in the hope that the kids will take it forward with them as they go out in to the world on their own. Do you celebrate Matariki too? Let us know in the comments below what you guys do to see in the New Year.
The Matariki Pendant
Every year we have the fun of designing a new, limited edition, Matariki pendant. We carve 9 pendants, to represent the nine stars. We do not repeat the Matariki designs. Every year we create a new line of only 9 Matariki pendants.
This year we have worked our Matariki pendant design around the arero of the Kō. The kō is a digging stick used by Māori to turn ground for planting and harvest. ( Te Ara encyclopedia image of kō). Etched into the front face you’ll find the Matariki star cluster. While the kō was used to work the new ground, making it ready for new seedlings and the year ahead, similarly the appearance of the Matariki star cluster signals the new year, new beginnings and all the potential that lies in the year ahead. The star cluster also reminds us to remember loved ones past and to take time to learn from things passed.
Matariki pendants are a beautiful way to mark a significant time for you or your loved ones. Each one is gently etched with the year and number. They can serve as a reminder of loved ones past, significant events or times of renewal and growth.
And if you missed all those links above here is one more for you to jump to and check out our limited edition, 1 of 9, Matariki pendants.
“Ngā mihi o te Mātahi o te Tau”.
1. Some iwi look to different celestial signs to herald the New Year, mainly because they struggle to see Matariki clearly from where they are(search Puanga for more information) But all iwi celebrate in June or July.