Matariki 2020

Written by Kahn Denton, Iwi Partnerships Manager, solarcity

This month we celebrate Matariki which begins from dawn 13 July, when the cluster of stars, also known as “The Seven Sisters” become visible again in Aotearoa’s night sky, signalling the beginning of the Māori New Year. 

Conservation and respect for the environment are strong themes for the celebration of Matariki. Giving thanks for the land and waters that have provided kai is important, and we are reminded also to respect and protect nature so that future generations may enjoy the same quality of life. 

Matariki is also about remembering the past and preparing for the year ahead. We are at a time where we could come together and look at ways in which we can make a difference to our land, our country and our planet. 

“Having been through COVID-19 as a country we are now entering a new time of being, giving us an opportunity to think about how our world has been able to recover, and the changes we all can make to help ensure our kids and grandchildren have a safe place to live.” 

The Meaning of Matariki

Matariki has two meanings, both of which refer to a cluster of stars. Mata Riki means tiny eyes and Mata Ariki means Eyes of God. Traditionally Māori were keen observers of the night sky, determining from the stars the time and seasons, and using them to navigate the ocean. 

Lookouts would watch for the rise of Matariki just before dawn. When sighted, preparations began for the period of celebration to coincide with the next new moon, however, the exact timing varied from tribe to tribe. For Māori this signified remembrance, fertility and celebration. There are different korero (talk/stories) for different tribes about Matariki. One of the many legends is that when Papatūānuku (mother earth) and Ranginui (sky father) were separated by Tane Mahuta (God of the forest and son of Papatūānuku) Tāwhirimātea was so angry he ripped out his eyes and threw them into the heavens which formed the cluster of stars that we today call Matariki. 

Priests would gather up young shoots of the kumara and other plants which would be burnt and offered to Matariki. Māori believed Matariki to be a star that predicted the upcoming season. 

If during its pre-dawn rise, the stars in the cluster are clear and bright, the saying “he kaihaukai te tau” would be applied meaning it would be a warm and bountiful season. If Matariki appeared hazy or shimmering, people remarked “he tau tūpuhi” meaning a cold difficult season was to be expected. Matariki is a time to prepare the whenua in anticipation of Spring and to plant certain vegetables to appease the land-based gods Rongo, Uenuku and Whiro. 

Let’s hope that this year’s Matariki gives us clear, bright stars for the upcoming year ahead.

This Matariki I will be reflecting on the year that has passed, what we have been through with COVID-19 and how we all came together as a team of 5 million to beat it. My thoughts will be directed towards how we can make a change for good and the small changes we can all make at home with whanau to continue our mahi on saving this planet.

Celebrate Matariki

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Learn more about Matariki >

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