Last year, we had the pleasure of listening to a talk from Dr Rangi Mātāmua, a New Zealand indigenous studies and Māori cultural astronomy academic and Professor of Mātauranga Māori at Massey University, about Matariki. We share our key learnings from our time with him.
Matariki, the Māori New Year, offers a time for introspection, celebration, and the strengthening of cultural connections.
As the Matariki cluster rises in midwinter, it reminds us to reflect on the past, celebrate the present with loved ones and plan for the future. The interconnectedness between Matariki and the natural world inspires us to adopt a more holistic approach to knowledge, appreciating the wisdom embedded within indigenous traditions. Here at RUBY we embrace the significance of Matariki, recognising its beauty and the lessons it imparts to all who celebrate it.
Matariki: A Cluster of Stars and Cultural Diversity
Matariki is not just a single star but a cluster of stars. There are different iterations of Matariki based on various regions and tribes across Aotearoa. The influence of Matariki extends beyond New Zealand and is widely acknowledged in variations in many places across Polynesia.
The Interconnectedness of Matariki with Papatūānuku:
Within the Māori worldview, each star within the Matariki cluster is intricately connected to different aspects of Papatūānuku. These aspects include food, water, land, rain, wind, and life and death. The appearance of the Matariki cluster during midwinter provides insights into the productivity and well-being of these domains, serving as a long-term forecaster for the year ahead.
Matariki Celebrations and Rituals:
The Matariki festivities encompass various rituals and practices, emphasiszing connection and remembrance. There are three integral parts to the celebrations. Firstly, the stars are read to gain insights into the year ahead, helping individuals plan for the future. Secondly, the names of those who have passed away are called out, bidding them farewell to the underworld via the waka of Taramainuku. Lastly, letting the steam from the umu rise into the sky, symbolically nourishing the stars and expressing gratitude to Papatūānuku for her bountiful provisions.
Indigenous Knowledge and Matariki:
Matariki and its associated customs highlight the profound connection between indigenous knowledge and scientific understanding. Māori science recogniszes the interconnection of all things, emphasising our responsibility as human beings to care for the Earth. This perspective contrasts with the disconnected nature of Western science.