Time to reflect, and to feast! (Photo: Leoboudv)
Time to reflect, and to feast! (Photo: Leoboudv)

ĀteaJune 3, 2020

Learning to live by the maramataka: Pipiri, Matariki and Pūanga

Time to reflect, and to feast! (Photo: Leoboudv)
Time to reflect, and to feast! (Photo: Leoboudv)

The Matariki and Pūanga stars are due to rise this month, signalling the Māori New Year. Rehua will set in the west at the exact time Pūanga rises.  So how do we see them and what are the best dates? 

With thanks to Matua Rereata Mākiha

We often hear about Matariki (Pleiades) as the marker of the Māori New Year and for many iwi and regions it is. “Ko Matariki te whetu kei te arahi i tēnei marama, he wehenga tau ki ta te Māori whakahaere”. The Pleiades is the star that heralds this month and divides the year according to the Māori system. This is particularly relevant to inland regions away from the sea, such as Tūhoe. However, the closer we are to the sea the more we are influenced by Tangaroa, and different star markers, such as Pūanga (or Pūaka in Te Wai Pounamu) are easier to see.

Tainui tribes such as Manukau, Raglan and Kawhia use two stars: Pūanga (Rigel in Orion) and Rehua (Antares, setting in the west). The setting of Rehua is observed in the west at the exact same time that Pūanga rises in the east. Other Ngāpuhi northern tribes also use Pūanga as the marker for the new year.

Our marker stars hold significant importance and are tohu for our sciences and epistemologies, as well as cultural and spiritual connection. Matariki in particular is known as a time of mourning and reflection, as well as indicating the coming season and weather patterns for the year ahead.

To help keep track of the days, you can download your own maramataka dial here. If you are on the west coast, set your dial to Rakaunui the day before the full moon. If you are on the east coast, set your dial to Rakaunui the day of the full moon. Reset your dial each new moon cycle.

The different energy phases on the maramataka dial.

When will Matariki and Pūanga rise?

Matariki and Pūanga will rise this month (pipiri) in the east before sunrise, during the phase of Tangaroa. If you set your dial you will find these dates fall around June 13 – 16. Although they rise around this time, it does not mean we will be able to see them with the naked eye, especially in Auckland. The best time to observe Pūanga and Matariki from Auckland is in July (Hōngoingoi) on the Ōturu day, one day before the full moon. With your elbow pointing down and your palm facing you, try placing your left pinkie on Taumata-kuku (Aldebaran) and looking to your thumb to find Matariki.

So when should we celebrate the Māori New Year?

It’s really up to you! The best thing I’ve learned is to try to observe the stars and other tohu from wherever I am. I might not see anything and that’s OK, at least I’m trying! Every rohe is different, rich with different pūrākau and it’s up to us to bring them to life. Traditionally, the New Year was celebrated with festivities for one week between the phase of Tangaroa and Whiro. Most importantly, the start of the Māori New Year is different everywhere you go. The maramataka is in tune with tides, tohu and the environment, it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ calendar.

Key dates

Rakaunui phase: 5, 6, 7 June – High energy. Oturu, Rakaunui and Rakau ma tohu brings te marama nui, the bright full moon and super high energy! Just like in the movies, when animals act up or people get a bit reckless, well… there is a reason. It is a time to be out, not contained, when energy and natural vibrations are heightened. It is also a time of abundance. As Papa Rereata says, if you need to plant or get things done, now is the perfect time.

Kore phase: 10 – 12 June – Low energy. Korekore tē whiwhia (to not achieve), Korekore tē rawea (to not celebrate) and Korekore piri ki ngā Tangaroa (half kore, half Tangaroa) are a reflective, low phase so relax, reflect and rest.

Tangaroa phase: 13 – 16 June – Matariki – Tangaroa a mua, a roto, kiokio. When the Tangaroa moon appears during the month of Pipiri, Matariki will rise. This is a productive period and a sign of the start of the Māori New Year.

Whiro phase: 19 – 21 June – Lowest energy, mutuwhenua, Whiro and Tirea. This phase is opposite to Rakaunui. It is on the opposite side of the moon cycle (month) and has the opposite effect and ahuatanga (likeness) of energy. So instead of feeling high you may feel very low. We can’t be 100% all the time, so take this time to look after yourself, whānau and friends.

Tamatea phase: 25 – 28 June – Unpredictable/changing weather and energy, Tamatea a ngana, a hotu, a io and kai ariki. Be cautious and prepared for unpredictability. If you are keeping a diary try note down anything out of the ordinary. Get more rest, drink more water and be prepared.

Utunga reciprocity days

Oike (9 June) give back to mother earth

Otane (16 June) give back to the forest

Ouenuku (23 June) give back to the heavens

Huna (29 June) give back to the ocean

The give back days are spread out across the 30 day moon cycle. A first step to try to give back is to note down the day. The next step will be to understand the different atua (gods) each day represents.

Some people give back by feeding fish or cleaning the beach on Huna. Others clean the ngahere or plant on Otane. Ouenuku could be about devoting time to mindfulness.

Please note: This is intended as a guide to help you learn to about key dates in the maramataka and read the tohu (signs). Tohu will change from area to area and therefore while the dates above are accurate for Auckland Manukau Harbour area, dates may vary slightly for those in other rohe.

Keep going!