#matariki – As our Maori Aotearoa brothers and sisters celebrate the changing of seasons with a new public holiday, we reflect on what Matariki might means here.
Some of the Cook Islands traditionally celebrated Matariki – although slightly differently – at both the winter and summer times.In winter, Matariki rising in the dawn was a sign that spirits of the year were departing. In summer, the rising of Matariki at dusk was traditionally a time of great celebration. Wyatt Gill wrote of the commencement of the new year occurring in mid-December, a time of ‘extravagant rejoicing”. Gerald McCormack from Cook Islands natural heritage trust writes of the rising of Matariki at dusk in mid-November, with the new moon.
An old Mangaian story of Matariki is interesting. Matariki was originally a beautiful bright star, brighter than the others. However, this beauty drew jealously of other and Tane ganged up with Mere (Sirius) and Aumea (Alderban) to hunt Matariki down. Through the sky’s they chased, and Matariki ended up hiding in a stream, Mere drained the stream, and Matariki fled. Tane so frustrated picked up Aumea and threw it at Matariki – smashing Matariki into pieces.
This story is referenced in the pe’e:
“Ua riri paa Vena rai a Aumea
Noa kite ake I te kakenga
Noa ui atu I te ara I pao ai Matariki ma
E mere ma E!
Tuarangi Maiti tuarangi Maiti”
“Vena (Procyon) was angry at Aumea, On account of the brilliance of his rising, she demanded that he remember what happened to Matariki, shattered by Mere”.
Now Aumea always regretfully follows Matariki.
Over the past 20 years in Aotearoa, knowledge relating to Matariki has been rediscovered through sharing oral histories, written histories and patterns. Through this, the different tribal histories and values are also celebrated. Much in the same way that different islands in the Cook Islands have different stories and rituals. Master Navigator Peia Patai and Te Puna Marama Voyaging Foundation held an Iriiri Kapua held in April this year to formally initiate conversation and discussion, around Cook Island stories of etu kaveinga, Matariki and ceremonies such as Kava.
The celebration of Matariki as a public holiday is a celebration of Maori Aotearoa cultural revival. Te tuatau Matariki – A time for reflection, letting go, and looking forward. Manawatia Matariki.