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In the Southern Hemisphere June marks the begining of autumm. Matariki, the seven-star cluster, appears over the New Zealand sky in late June. At this time Māori community shares with each other the ancient tradition of Matariki.

The characters, timing and versions of Matariki passes through the Māori generations in varying details. And in all the sharing from the oldest members of the community down to the very youngest toddler, the message and meaning of Mataraki remains the same. 

Some members of the community share the story of seven beautiful sisters who bewitched men. Others will speak of Ranginuiyje : the Sky Father. And Papatūānuku : the earth mother. 

But the message and meaning of Mataraki always remains the same. 

Matariki is the Māori New Year celebrated over the three weeks when the Pleiades star cluster is visible before dawn in the Southern Hemisphere sky above New Zealand.

Rita Powick is a Māori resource teacher on New Zealand’s South Island. Ms. Powick says: “Stars are not an unknown phenomena. They are linked to us as a people, Stars play a huge role in Māori life.”

Ms. Powick tells her students that the seven stars are thought to be Māori ancestors: “Stars are not separate from the living. We are all part of the whole cosmos.”

“Stars are also an important way to read the world, the seasons, the weather and navigation.”  For example if the stars are bright and clear, you should start your planting in September or if they are murky it is best to wait until October.”

Matariki represents the end of autumn harvest in Māori culture. It is a time to gather and give thanks for our bounty. This is done when whānau : family, friends and community join together to share a kai : meal.

Over the autumn weeks of Matariki families will rise at dawn to see Matariki and marvel at the stars. And to marvel at the interconnectivity of people, earth and the cosmos.

Ms. Powick says she is happy to see the resurgence of Matariki as a national celebration and affirmation of Māori culture.  “It is a time to take stock: to acknowledge who you are and what you are thankful for and look forward to the next year. It gives another focus to celebrate our indigenous cultural heritage: not as something that was done. But as something that is.”

“Every culture has its stories and our understanding of humanity and the world is enriched by celebrating different cultures,” she says. “Everyone is welcome to celebrate Matariki and share its story. You will find so many similarities, everything is linked.”  

“Make the time to reflect, to plan forward and get up before dawn to see the stars.” 

Adapted from: Ka Puta a Matariki : Matariki appears. Reporter Rachel McFadden/Stuff.nz  Jun 22 2015.


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