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Learn about the magical Matariki stars

Take a closer look at the special significance of the cluster
The Matariki stars

This year, Matariki falls on June 28, but the date differs from year to year as Matariki follows the Māori lunar calendar system rather than the solar calendar one.

Stuck on the language? Scroll to the bottom of the article for a list of translations.

He aha te nuinga o Matariki?

What is the significance of Matariki?

Matariki is the shortened name of Ngā Mata o te ariki Tāwhirimātea – the eyes of the god Tāwhirimātea. When this cluster of stars rises at dawn, it signifies the start of the Māori New Year.

Matariki is a time to reflect and celebrate the year that has gone and the year that is coming. It’s a time to come together with whānau to remember loved ones, to kōrero, reflect on whakapapa, and share kai, waiata and kanikani.

The Matariki cluster is made up of nine stars. Some rohe of Aotearoa recognise seven stars. And for some, the dawn rising of the star Puanga marks the new year instead.

Mānawatia a Matariki!

Whānau family

Kōrero talk

Whakapapa family tree

Kai food

Waiata song(s)

Kanikani dance

Rohe regions

Mānawatia a Matariki! Celebrate Matariki!

Silhouettes of two people standing on top of a hill looking at the stars

Matariki

Matariki is the cluster also known as the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters. The nine stars of Matariki are Matariki, Ururangi, Waipunarangi, Waitī, Waitā, Tupuārangi, Tupuānuku, Hiwa-i-te-rangi and Pōhutukawa.

Activity: Tirohia ki te rangi. Look to the sky. If it’s a clear night, haere ki waho. Go outside. How many whetū you can spot?

Puanga Part of the Orion constellation, it’s called Rigel in English.

Haere ki waho go outside

Whetū star(s)

Puanga

In some pūrākau, the whetū Puanga is the older brother of Matariki. Puanga sits higher in the eastern sky than Matariki, so appears earlier. For some rohe, it’s Puanga who welcomes in the Māori New Year, as Matariki is not as visible.

Pūrākau legends

Rohe regions

The stars

Matariki

Matariki is the whetū that represents your hauora and wellbeing in the coming year. She is a symbol of rangimārie and waimarie.

Hauora health, wellbeing

Rangimārie peace

Waimarie good fortune

Woman with hair blowing in the wind

Waitī

Waitī is the whetū that is connected to our fresh waters and all of the creatures that live in them.

Awa river
Roto lake
Wairere stream or waterfall

Tupuānuku

Tupuānuku represents food grown from Papatūānuku Mother Earth. Think about your favourite huawhenua grown from the ground, eg korare, kūmara, kamokamo, kāroti, paukena or rīwai.

Huawhenua vegetable(s)

Korare silverbeet

Kamokamo squash

Kāroti carrot

Paukena pumpkin

Rīwai potatoes

Rows of crops planted in the ground

Waitā

Waitā – the twin of Waitī – connects us to the ocean, the tides and all the creatures in the moana.

Moana ocean

Waipunarangi

Waipunarangi is the whetū whose name means “water that pools in the sky”. This star represents the ua and water that falls from Ranginui.

Activity: Next time it rains, grab your coat and head out for a tākaro. Pay attention to the sounds the raindrops make and feel them on your skin. Jump in puddles.

Ua rain

Ranginui the sky

Tākaro play

A toddler in a pink raincoat and yellow gumboots stomping in puddles

Tupuārangi

Tupuārangi embodies the food that grows above the ground and in the trees, like huarākau. For example, āporo, ārani, panana and pea.

Huarākau fruit

Āporo apples

Ārani oranges

Panana bananas

Pea pears

Pōhutukawa

Pōhutukawa is the eldest child of Matariki and honours whānau and loved ones who have passed on. Some iwi believe that when a person dies, their spirit travels along Te Ara Wairua, all the way to the tip of Te Ika-a-Māui, to a place called Te Rerenga Wairua. When they arrive, there is a pōhutukawa tree on a rocky ledge. The spirits follow the aka of the tree to the underworld. Pōhutukawa encourages us to reflect and be thankful for those who have been special in our lives.

Te Ara Wairua the Pathway of Spirits

Te Ika-a-Māui the North Island

Aka root

The pōhutukawa tree that shares the name with the Matariki star

Hiwa-i-te-rangi

Hiwa-i-te-rangi is the wishing star. We look to this whetū to carry our hopes and dreams for the future year.

Activity: When you wish upon a star, you’re hoping for good things to come. What are you looking forward to this year for you and your whānau? Think about the goals and dreams you have for the coming year.

The Matariki stars in the night sky

Ururangi

Ururangi means wind of the sky, and is the whetū of the hau.

Hau wind

The cover of the book we extracted this Matariki information from: Piki te Ora by Hira Nathan and Jessie Eyre

Edited extract from Piki te Ora by Hira Nathan and Jessie Eyre (Allen & Unwin NZ, rrp $29.99). Find your copy at Paper Plus today.

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