Matariki: The Māori New Year

Traditionally, Matariki is the period of time referred to by Māori, to mark the changing of the year. It is a time to reflect upon the previous year and plan for the next. The common Māori 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 Māori talk of Matariki and her six children, and others talk of eight children. Regardless, each star is connected to the Māori world in its own special way.


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


Pohutukawa is connected to the dead.


Tupuanuku is connected to food grown in the ground.


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


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


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


Waipunarangi is connected to rain.


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


Hiwa-i-te-rangi. It is to the star Hiwa, that Māori 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.