Aponga is a month for planting. Image: Qiane Matata-Sipu

Learning to live by the maramataka: Aponga

Introducing our new maramataka column, focusing on the cycles of the Māori lunar calendar. Each month Ayla Hoeta will share insights into the tohu of the whenua, rangi and moana, as well as key dates to add into your calendar. 

The maramataka is the Māori lunar calendar. These calendars were used by our Māori and Pacific ancestors for thousands of years and were responsible for their survival wherever they journeyed through the Pacific.

It is important to note that the maramataka aligns with nature’s time, not man’s time, and each day has a natural flow, with a name according to that flow.

There are different maramataka for different regions and each side of the coastline is different too. To begin each month/phase, you set your calendar or dial to Rakaunui, a day that brings a high amount of energy and is perfect for big events and action. On the west coast Rakaunui is set on your dial the night before the full moon; on the east coast Rakaunui is set on your dial the night of the full moon. For my columns, I will be aligning with the west coast.

Maramataka Dial. Supplied by Ayla Hoeta and Rereata Makiha.

Sometimes the phases of the maramataka don’t directly align with the Gregorian calendar – for Aponga, the phase we’re in now, Rakaunui was on July 27.

We define our days and months by tohu in our natural environment. The three key areas are tohu o te rangi (sky), tohu o te moana (water) and tohu o te whenua (land). The tohu are all connected and change as the year progresses.

So welcome to Aponga (August) – there are hundreds of different maramataka so you may have also heard it referred to as Hereturikōkā, Here o Piripi, or something else entirely. This is a month for planting.

What happens in Aponga?

Aponga is known as a great time to plant kai. There are more planting days in Aponga than most other months in the year. Aponga gets its name from the ancient practice of gathering tools and people to help prepare gardens, fishing nets, crayfish pots, eeling equipment and whitebait nets. Aponga is also a time to predict when special fish species will gather in shallow water. When the fish gathered people would prepare smoke houses and bottle plants in readiness to preserve food for the months ahead.

I tested my own garden in Aponga last year by planting kale, lettuce and spinach. The garden was incredibly successful and provided unlimited supply of kale for six whole months! The kale took two months before it was ready to eat, but from then on it flourished. Kale is highly nutritional and quite expensive to buy so if you want to test your garden, try planting kale seedlings on the planting dates below.

Tohu in Aponga

Tohu o te rangi: When facing the eastern sky you can still see Matariki. The new rising stars this month are Whakaahu Kerekere (Castor), and Whakaahu Rangi (Pollux). Facing the western sky, Rehua (Antares) has already disappeared. Rehua is the star Tainui and other iwi on the west coast use to mark their New Year, rather than Matariki.

Tohu o te whenua: We now await the arrival of the Pipiwharauroa (shining cuckoo). When you hear it call, you know spring is here. The flowering of fruit trees and other plants, as well as newborn lambs, are also a good sign that spring has arrived.

Tohu o te moana: Whitebait season! The whitebait will start to run up the rivers and waterways. How exciting!

Key dates to add in your calendar:

1 and 2 August – Korekore Piri nga Tangaroa and Tangaroa a Mua: Fishing starts to get better.

3, 4 and 5 August – Tangaroa a Roto, Tangaroa Kiokio and Otaane: Fishing, planting and fruitful days. If you didn’t get a chance to plant on Rakaunui you can plant now. We love Tangaroa days because they are fruitful days with more positive outcomes.

7 and 8 August – Omauri and Mutuwhenua: Planting all types of kai.

9 August – Whiro: Lowest energy day of the month and darkest night. Relax on this day; this day is definitely for quieter activities.

15, 16 and 17 August – Tamatea a Ngana, Tamatea a Hotu and Tamatea a Io: These are fishing days but kaumātua say the winds change quickly so take extra caution when out on the water. Not low or high, but moderate energy, quite good all round days.

24, 25 and 26 August – Oturu, Rakaunui and Rakau ma Tohi: Great for planting watery crops like hue, pumpkin, kamokamo and melons. Try some kale.

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Want to know more? Check out the maramataka Cheat Sheet and download your own maramataka dial here.

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