Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Matariki

Matariki is a very important time of the year, which is celebrated throughout Aotearoa/New Zealand. The heliacal rising of the Pleiades or the Matariki star cluster on the eastern horizon at dawn marks the start of the Māori New Year. This occurs during the colder months of the year, usually around May or June and soon after the shortest day.

Ref: Frederick George Radcliffe, Thule by moonlight, Stewart Island, Tourist Series 1181, no date, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 36-R1402
Only 7 of the 500 stars are visible in Aotearoa and remain in the sky until March, when they 'disappear' for two months, before rising again a few months later. The stars are seen at different times around the world and many other cultures attach their own significance and meaning to this most beautiful cluster of stars. For example, in Samoa, Matariki is known as Matali‘i and becomes visible in October each year.

Ref: Frederick George Radcliffe, Welllington night scene, Tourist Series 1728, no date, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R1819
The Matariki star cluster was also used by Māori as a navigational tool and was linked to the growing season - with harvesting and preserving for the leaner months, taking place just before the rising of the star cluster. The stars were also used to predict the weather of the coming season.

Ref: Auckland Weekly News, storing the season's kumara harvest, east coast of the North Island, 1910, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19100602-11-4
As well as being linked to these practical purposes, Matariki was and remains a spiritual time of the year. Those who have passed away in the previous year are remembered. During this time, people also take the time to treasure their whānau/family and to celebrate the natural world.

Ref: Hubert Earle Vaile, Maori family near Broadlands, Waikato River, 1907, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 2-V356
A search through the Auckland newspapers on the Papers Past website using Matariki as a keyword, brings up a wide variety of interesting articles. For example, did you know that Matariki was a popular name for boats, people and pets? For example, a yacht called Matariki took part in the first race of the season organised by the Richmond Cruising Club race in 1927. Whilst in June 1942 Wharenui Matariki, the eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs Horne married William (Pire) Carroll, the only son of Mr and Mrs Arona Paul. And finally in March 1938, Winiata's sheep dog Matariki came second in the sheep dog trials in the Coromandel. Why don't you do a search and see what you can find?

Ref: New Zealand Herald newspaper, 16 January 1933, p. 6, cruising boat race to Surfdale, showing the boat Matariki N10, Papers Past
Keen to find out more? Then look no further:

Ref: Auckland Weekly News, a new constellation now visible, Auckland, 1908, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19080625-7-1
Author: Natasha Barrett (NB)

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