Photo: RNZ/Lynda Chanwai-Earle
Photo: RNZ/Lynda Chanwai-Earle

ĀteaNovember 7, 2019

Learning to live by the maramataka: Whiringa-ā-rangi

Photo: RNZ/Lynda Chanwai-Earle
Photo: RNZ/Lynda Chanwai-Earle

Whiringa-ā-rangi (November) brings blossoming native flowers and delicious kaimoana.

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

We are well into the second phase of summer Matiti Hana (see list below for phases). This phase ends around December 8, merging into the next, which is Muramura.

A key tohu (sign) is the movements of certain fish. In the next two moon cycles, tākeke (piper) eggs are expected to come ashore. The tākeke are particularly important because of their connection to a larger fish food chain. Tākeke eggs only come ashore for a very short period (around 20 minutes) and only few coastal iwi know how to time their arrival.

The maramataka is the science our tūpuna used to detect animal and fish behaviour using knowledge around tides, stars, tohu on land and seasonal changes. This is how they maintained the wellbeing of fish chains and its ecosystem. Tākeke are food needed by kahawai, which are needed by kingfish which are used by marlin fish and so on. Each are important in maximising the population of marlin and without tākeke, each part is limited. The maramataka tells us exactly when the tākeke eggs will come to shore and it is based on a specific turning tide in the Muramura phase of summer. This knowledge shows the maramataka in action and how it can be used to detect incredibly specific movement. Whānau in the north continue to monitor the tākeke and maintain kaitiakitanga of the fish chain.

Another tohu is known as ‘ngā tama korowhiti a Tangaroa’, meaning the leaping of the mullet. The mullet fish leaps into the air after they have laid their eggs – if you’re on the water keep an eye out!

Other tohu on land are pohutukawa and northern rātā. Some people use the colour and size of a local pōhutukawa flower as an indicator of when certain seafood are ready for catch. When the native local pōhutukawa are bright red, the kina (sea urchin) are big and juicy!

Key dates (Manukau Harbour/Auckland)

1 – 4 November – Tamatea a ngana, Tamatea a hotu, Tamatea a io and Tamatea kai ariki: Take extra caution as people and weather can be unpredictable. This is particularly important if you are on or near the water as weather can turn quickly.

11 – 13 November – Oturu, Rakaunui and Rakau ma tohi: The highest energy days of the month and full moon. This is usually an ideal time for high activity, action, events, sports and planting.

16 – 18 November – Korekore te whiwhia, Korekore te rawea and Korekore piri ngā tangaroa: The lower energy days like Whiro. They are better suited for planning, reflecting and calm activities.

19 – 21 November– Tangaroa a mua, Tangaroa a roto and Tangaroa kiokio: Great fishing, planting and fruitful days. Get through your to-do lists. These days are usually all-around productive.

26 November– Whiro: This is a reflective day. Take it easy, rest and plan.

Learn more about the days of the maramataka and download your own maramataka dial here.

Reciprocity days (utunga)

5 November – Huna (give back to the ocean): A day to give back to Tangaroa, e.g. picking up rubbish and reusing or saving water.

15 November – Oike (give back to land): Give back to Papatūānuku (mother earth) or people.

22 November – Otane (give back to the ngahere): Acknowledging/giving to the forest/ngahere (bush), whenua (land), birds or animals.

29 November – Ouenuku (give back to Ranginui, the sky/heavens): A dedicated day to giving back to Ranginui (sky father) by elevating our thoughts. The intention is to enhance relationships with whānau, friends and community.

The seven phases of summer

Matiti Kura – triggered by the ripening of the small red berries in the bush

Matiti Hana – recognisable when the puawananga/puareinga flowers (clematis) turn the top canopy of the forest a brilliant white

Matiti Muramura – noted for the flowering of the Northern Rātā and the old Pohutukawa. The canopy turns from white (Hana) to red (Muramura)

Matiti Kaiwai – the middle of summer when the ground is so dry it opens up and thirsts for water

Matiti Raurehu – this fifth phase is the most difficult to detect, usually occurs in early February. It may even precede the rise of the harvest star Whanui. A tohu is the hite dust-like substances on the lawn that resembles a frost.

Matiti Rautapata – easily identifiable if you are near a bush area, when the seed pods burst and the seeds fall (tapata) onto the dry leaf bed below

Matiti Rauangina – last phase of summer when leaves are swinging to and fro as they fall from the trees. This rhythmic dance is called “te angina”– “free fall”.


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

Keep going!