Heliacal rising of the Pleiades star cluster.
Heliacal rising of the Pleiades star cluster.

ĀteaJuly 9, 2020

Learning to live by the maramataka: Hōngongoi

Heliacal rising of the Pleiades star cluster.
Heliacal rising of the Pleiades star cluster.

While Matariki and Pūanga rose last month in Pipiri, they are most visible this month, in Hōngongoi (July). Our celebration of them continues.

With thanks to Matua Rereata Mākiha, Sam Rerekura and Rangiānehu Mātāmua for sharing their knowledge.

Pūanga and Matariki shine high and bright in Tāmaki (Auckland) this month, bringing with them not only the Māori New Year but maramataka knowledge and practices. The resurgence of Matariki, Pūanga and maramataka is so exciting, especially here in Tāmaki and south Auckland, and a great way to embed indigenous cultural narratives into the urban landscape of different communities. The even more important wero for our generation is to not only study this Māori knowledge but to put it into practice.

There are three ways to practise and honour the Māori New year. The first is to remember those who’ve passed on since the last rising of Matariki (Pleiades) or Pūanga (Rigel). Second is celebrating the present time, sharing and feasting on the fruits that Pūanga and Matariki gifted in the last year. And lastly, planning for the future and preparing for the New Year (Mātāmua, 2017).

When we think about the different stars of the Matariki cluster and Pūanga, they all connect to a different part of the environment. Many of the stars of Matariki are tied to the foods we eat. So what is really important about the Māori New Year celebration is to honour those different parts of the environment that each star connects to and find a way to connect to our own area that you’re passionate about. For example, becoming a kaitiaki of the water if the water is your calling.

Pohutukawa (Sterope) – connects Matariki to the deceased; a time to mourn

Tupuānuku (Pleione) – (tupu – grow, nuku – Papatūānuku) connects to food grown in the ground

Tupuārangi (Atlas) – connects to birds

Waitī (Maia) – (to be sweet) connects to fresh water

Waitā (Taygeta) – connected to the oceans and tides

Waipunarangi (Electra) – connects to the rain

Ururangi (Merope) – connects to the winds

Hiwa-i-te-rangi (Caleano) – connected with prosperity and growth. Tūpuna would send their dreams and hopes for the year to this star.

Different iwi use different star markers based on location. For us in Tāmaki we can use Pūanga and Matariki, and to throw another into the mix, Rehua (the Antares) (Makiha, 2020). When Rehua sets in the west, Pūanga rises in the east. Pūanga and Matariki are often recorded in songs, karakia and pao together. Pūanga is the star marker used by iwi on the west coast, Tainui, Kawhia, Ngāpuhi iwi and in Tāmaki. It is brighter from the west coast than Matariki therefore it was used to mark the Māori New Year (Rerekura, 2014).

The Māori New Year will not always be on the same day every year. When you are familiar with the maramataka you understand that the maramataka dictates to us when the environment is ready, not the other way around. Therefore, Pūanga won’t rise the weekend we are free or the public holiday, it will rise around the day of Oturu in July and Matariki will rise during the Tangaroa phase in June. Confusing? Well that’s why the maramataka is so important! It is a guide or compass to ensure we align our days with the environment and to ensure more successful planning, kaitiakitanga, planting, harvesting and fishing and so on.

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.

Key dates

Rakaunui phase: 4, 5, 6 July – High energy. Oturu, Rakaunui and Rakau ma tohu. This phase is te marama nui (full moon) and brings the super high energy. It is a time of abundance, physical activity and to get it done sis. Also during July, when the Oturu moon appears one day before the full moon we plan to see the rising of Puanga.

Kore phase: 9, 10, 11 July – Low energy. Korekore tē whiwhia (don’t achieve), Korekore tē rawea (don’t celebrate) and Korekore piri ki ngā Tangaroa (half kore, half Tangaroa). Take care, keep warm and renew. This is a low phase. Take this time to slow down, don’t achieve and don’t celebrate.

Tangaroa phase: 12, 13, 14 July – Tangaroa a mua, a roto, kiokio. When the Tangaroa moon appeared last month during the month of Pipiri, Matariki was up. However we may not see it very clearly from Tamaki until now – July. Tangaroa is a productive, fruitful time yay.

Whiro phase: 18, 19, 20 July – Lowest energy. Mutuwhenua, Whiro and Tirea. This phase is opposite to Rakaunui and has the opposite effect with the lowest energy. Be cautious. Take this time to look after yourself and check in with whānau and friends.

Tamatea phase: 24 – 27 July – Unpredictable/changing weather and energy. Tamatea a ngana, a hotu, a io and kai ariki. You could look at it as ‘do the unexpected and be prepared for the unexpected’. This is the ultimate unpredictable time. The best way to prepare for it is to be organised and aware. And if there was ever a time to be unpredictable, it is now.

Utunga reciprocity days

Each give back day is about giving back to the environment in some way. It’s a great reason to clean up our backyards and streets.

Oike (8 July) give back to mother earth

Otane (15 July) give back to the forest

Ouenuku (22 July) give back to the heavens

Huna (28 July) give back to the ocean

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 might be accurate for Auckland Manukau Harbour area, dates may vary slightly for those in other rohe.

Keep going!