Matariki: The Maori New Year

Traditionally, Matariki is the period of time referred to by Maori, to mark the changing of the year. It is a time to reflect upon the previous year and plan for the next. The common Maori translation of Matariki is “eyes of the god”.

According to myth, when Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother, were separated by their children, the god of the winds, Tāwhirimātea, became so angry that he tore out his eyes and threw them into the heavens.

Since this time, every year at a time around mid-winter, a cluster of stars called Matariki rises to mark the new year.

However, the name Matariki is not only used to describe the entire cluster of stars, but a specific single star within the group. The total number of stars in the cluster varies too. Some Maori talk of Matariki and her six children, and others talk of eight children. Regardless, each star is connected to the Maori world in its own special way.

Matariki

Matariki is the star connected to well-being, and at times viewed as an omen of good fortune and health.

Pohutukawa

Pohutukawa is connected to the dead.

Tupuanuku

Tupuanuku is connected to food grown in the ground.

Tupuarangi

Tupuarangi is associated with food that comes from the sky, such as birds and fruit and berries from the trees.

Waiti

Waiti is connected to fresh water and all the creatures that live in rivers, streams and lakes.

Waita

Waita is the star connected to the many kinds of food Maori gather from the sea.

Waipunarangi

Waipunarangi is connected to rain.

Ururangi

Ururangi means “winds of the sky”. This star determines the nature of the winds for the year.

Hiwa-i-te-rangi

Hiwa-i-te-rangi. It is to the star Hiwa, that Maori would send their dreams and desires for the year in the hope that they would be realised.


Hear the Matariki story of Ngāti Toa Rangatira iwi (tribe), Te Papa's iwi in residence, retold for children by kaumātua (elder) Te Waari Carkeek. Beautiful time-lapse photography reveals places in the Wellington region that are significant to Ngāti Toa, such as Mana Island, Kapiti Island, the Tararua Ranges, and Te-Upoko-o-te-Ika-a-Māui (Wellington Harbour).
Here's a little story about why we celebrate Matariki, the Māori New Year. Video produced by Maui Studios for The Wireless. This content is brought to you with funding support from NZ On Air.