The Matariki Story

Did you read our article on Paptūānuku and Ranginui? Head there first, the story of Matariki follows on from when Paptūānuku and Ranginui were separated to let in Te Ao Mārama.

Read about Paptūānuku and Ranginui.

Tāwhirimātea, the god of weather and winds, was not happy and felt sorry for his parents being separated. He sought revenge and raged war against the other gods, sending storms and hurling lightning bolts in all directions. Everything fled from the wrath of Tāwhirimātea, hiding deep in the ocean, in the earth and under the thick canopy of the forest.

As time went on Tūmatauenga, the god of war and humanity, challenged Tāwhirimātea and an epic battle took place between the two, shaking the entire world with each of their blows. Tūmatauenga was the ultimate winner, using his skill in warfare he defeated Tāwhirimātea, restoring order to the world.

In one last act of defiance, Tāwhirimātea pulled out his eyes and crushed them in his hands before throwing them in the sky. These eyes stuck to the chest of Ranganui, becoming stars. The stars were given the name Ngā mata o te ariki Tāwhirimātea, meaning the eyes of the god Tāwhirimātea – although they’re most known as Matariki.

The Matariki stars were given names by Māori ancestors and are said to guide people throughout their lives. Before calendars, Māori relied on natural events, like the movement of stats or the bloom of plants, to understand the time of year. The Matariki star cluster in the skies above Aotearoa signal the beginning of the Māori New Year and happens at the time of the Autumn harvest. It is said if the Matariki stars are dim, the next harvest will be poor. But if the stars, the harvest will be plentiful.

The Matariki stars are made up of Matariki, the mother who is surrounded by her six daughters who each year join her for a trip across the sky to visit their tupuna wāhine – Paptūānuku. The daughters names are Ururangi, Waipuna-ā-rangi, Waitā, Waitī, Tupu-ā-rangi and Tupu-ā-nuku,

Different iwi have different ways of celebrating Matariki, however, it is widely understood that Matariki is a time of planning, reflecting, peace and a time for acknowledging the dead, and releasing their spirits to become stars.

How are you and your whānau celebrating Matariki? Here are some great activities that you can do abroad to mark the occasion!