Matariki atua, ka eke mai i te rangi e roa e
Whāngai iho ki te mata o te tau, e roa e.

Divine Matariki, come hither from the distant heavens,
Bestow the first fruits of the year upon us.

Ref: 35-R50, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Matariki is the Māori name for the Pleiades star cluster.  The Māori New Year is signalled by the heliacal rising of Matariki.  The heliacal rising is when a star first becomes visible on the eastern horizon at dawn.  In some rohe the New Year begins with the first new moon after the heliacal rising of Puanga.

Puanga signals the end of one year in Aotearoa, and the beginning of the next cycle of life.  Matariki also has great significance for ocean voyagers as a navigation beacon.

The Matariki constellation is well known throughout the world and especially the Pacific where it is known as Matali’i, Mataliki, Makali’i, Mata-ali’i and Makahiki. In Japan Matariki is known as Subaru.  It is also known as the Seven Sisters. 

The Matariki constellation is made up of 7 stars. The Māori names are:  Te Uru o Te Rangi, Tupua a Rangi, Tupua a Nuku, Waiti, Waita, Waipuna a Rangi and Mereope.

However in some iwi Matariki is not just the name of the constellation it is also one of the star names used instead of Mereope.

There are two translations in Te Reo Māori for Matariki: Mata riki, tiny eyes and Mata ariki, eyes of god.

If the stars appear to stand wide apart, this indicates a bountiful season; should the stars seem close together it denotes a cold season with less abundance.

Author: Raewyn Paewai