This month tuna (long-finned eel) begin their migration to the sea. Image: Auckland Zoo

Learning to live by the Maramataka: Poutūterangi

The summer is nearly over and it’s time to harvest and store for the winter months ahead.

Learn more about the maramataka, the Māori lunar calendar, here.

Tēnā koutou te hunga e kauawhitia nei i tēnei kaupapa! We have reached Poutūterangi, the tenth lunar month of the Māori year, which is equivalent to the month of March. Poutūterangi is also the name of the star Altair, which is the brightest star in the constellation of Aquila. It is around this time of March that Poutūterangi becomes visible in the night sky.

Poutūterangi is also known as the harvest season. Our tūpuna would store kai in preparation for the winter months ahead. The pātaka (cupboards and storehouses) would be full of food for everyone to last them through the next few months. Today we see preserving of peaches, jams and pickles and also the use of neighbourhood pātaka kai.

Some pātaka kai (community pantries) from around Aotearoa. Image: patakakai.co.nz

Pātaka kai is a movement of community pantries, set up for neighbours, by neighbours to support those in need. It’s a storehouse that you can put food into and other whānau can help themselves, free of charge. Swanie and Terry Nelson first set up a pātaka kai outside their house in Ōtara, South Auckland to help their neighbours and it has since spread to over 100 pantries throughout Aotearoa. This time of year can be tough for many whānau and it is helpful to know that pātaka kai may be available to them depending on their location. In the spirit of harvest and storage to tide your community over through hard months, it’s a good time to get involved in this kaupapa.

Tohu in Poutūterangi

Tohu o te whenua (signs on land)

Poutūterangi is in the sixth phase of summer (Matiti Rautapata) as the heat cools down. Matiti Rautapata is easily identifiable if you are near a bush, when the seed pods burst and fall (tapata) onto the dry leaf bed below.

Tohu o te rangi (signs in the sky)

When Poutūterangi appeared our tūpuna knew it as the start of the lunar month. Other iwi used the star Ōtamarākau (Fomalhaut) as the tohu for the start of the month. Different areas (west and eastern skies) show different stars more visible than others (Rereata Makiha, 2019).

In terms of the maramataka and how we use it, it is based on a lunar (moon) cycle not a solar (sun) cycle. The moon shape and cycle changes every day and so does the energy it brings. The sun however does not change, every day it rises and sets. In te ao Māori we see the moon ‘te po’ the female and the sun ‘te ra’ the male.

Tohu o te moana (signs in the water)

The tohu this month are the tuna (eel). The eel now start to migrate to the sea.

Key maramataka dates (Auckland, Manukau Harbour, West Coast)

4 March – Whiro: The lowest energy day and the darkest night when the moon is not visible. This is the perfect time to study, plan and/or reflect. Take it easy.

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9, 10, 11 and 12 March – Tamatea a ngana, Tamatea a hotu, Tamatea a io and Tamatea kai ariki: The weather, winds and sea can be unpredictable especially near the water. This could also be the same for people’s emotions. Try and take note of how you feel over this period.

19, 20 and 21 March – Oturu, Rakaunui and Rakau mā tohi: The three highest energy days of the month and the fullest moon. These are ‘hype days’, ‘get it done’ days. Double up at the gym, push your physicality and make the most of the extra energy. This is also a great time to plant. I always plant seedlings on the full moon and my garden is thriving! If you can, add these dates to your calendar.

23, 24, 25 and 26 March – Oike, Korekore te whiawhia, Korekore te rawea and Korekore piri ki ngā tangaroa: These are low energy days like Whiro. Are you feeling tired or lethargic and not sure why? Naturally the moon brings low energy and you feel it. It is a time to rest, think, reflect, plan. It’s also a time for fasting (Rereata Makiha, 2019).

27, 28 and 29 March – Tangaroa a mua, Tangaroa a roto and Tangaroa kiokio: Here we have positive and more energetic days, especially near the water e.g. water sports and fishing. If you’re not near the water the energy is still really high, so it’s great for training, hui and ticking off your to-do list.


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