Photo of Matariki star cluster by Arnaud Mariat

Matariki, more than a star: Remember, reflect, and reset

Matariki e rau ana;

He hōmai tau i nga mahara

 Pleiades are gathered together;

 Which gives rise to many thoughts

(Matamua, 2017, p. 66)

Matariki, which signals the Māori New Year, holds the title ‘The star of the year’, according to Professor Rangi Matamua. It really became ‘a star’ this year at Waitangi when Prime Minister Jacinda Adern announced Matariki would become an annual public holiday starting 24 June 2022. This elevated ‘star status’ shows Aotearoa is ready for a deeper bi-cultural conversation.

Matariki is also known by its Greek name the Pleiades. In the Pacific is it known as Mataali’i in Samoan, and Makali’i in Hawaiian. However, Matariki is not actually a single star but rather a cluster of stars. Different Māori hapū count either seven or nine stars. In Japan it is known as the Subaru and is marked by six stars – which are represented on the Subaru car maker’s logo.

Hine-takurua, the winter maiden, is a heavy ‘influencer’ of Matariki. Pūrakau tell us that Hine-takurua was one of Tamanui-te-rā’s (great-son of the Sun) two wives, and marks Te Maruaroa o Hine-takurua (the winter solstice). This auspicious date occurred on 21 Pipiri and signals the shortest day of the year as Hine-takurua makes way for Hine-raumati, the summer maiden.

Matariki – Māori New Year, signals a time to reflect on what we have learned, contributed, and are grateful for. Remember to pause at Matariki to acknowledge those who have passed, and their impact on us. The connection between Matariki and the passing of loved ones is captured in this lament composed by Nawemata for the loss of her husband in battle (Matamua, 2017).

Tera te whetu e,

Kapohia ana mai,

ka rumaki Matariki.

 There is the star,

 Shining above,

 Setting with Matariki.

(Grey, 2010, p. 346)

Remembrance and reflection are opportunities to also reset goals. A time to remind ourselves that we need not be defined by our past, but by the actions we take now.

Mānawa maiea te putanga o Matariki   Hail the rise of Matariki

(Matamua, 2017, p. xi)

Discover more

Abigail McClutchie, Kaiārahi, Te Tumu Herenga

Portrait of Abigail McClutchie


Grey, G. (2005). Ko ngā Moteatea me nga Hakirara o nga Maori He mea kohikohi mai. New Zealand Electronic Text Centre.

Matamua, R. (2017).  Matariki: The star of the year. Huia.

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