As we adapt to winter and time indoors our spirits are lifted by the appearance of the Seven Sisters, collectively known as Matariki in Māori lore. While there are varying legends around the story of Matariki, this time of year is commonly described as the Māori New Year.
Solistice comes on June 21st and soon after Matariki (Pleiades) emerges from below the horizon. Traditionally the gardeners had a keen eye on the star cluster. If they were clear and bright, it was a sign that a favourable and productive season lay ahead and planting would begin in September. If the stars appeared hazy and closely bunched together, a cold winter was in store and planting was postponed until October.
With harvest complete and the storehouses full at this time, Matariki was a time for singing, dancing and feasting as well as remembering those who’d passed in the preceding year. Festivities vary from iwi to iwi, with some celebrating on the first full moon after the star cluster rises, or on the next new moon.
Flying kites “close to the stars” was an old tradition which has been revived and will be a part of this year’s celebrations as part of Auckland’s Matariki Festival. The festival offers over 100 events region-wide from 30 June to 22 July; from an evocative dawn karakia, to captivating kapa haka, a street party, lighting shows and cultural events across Auckland.
This year’s festival is hosted by Te Kawerau a Maki, the northernmost iwi that affiliate to the Tainui canoe, te kei o te waka tupuna o Tainui. You can see the full line-up at matarikifestival.org
And for stargazers, here’s a video explaining how to spot the Seven Sisters: