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The Stars of Matariki


Photo credit: Hāriata Mann



At the heart of the constellation is Matariki, the mother of the eight other stars.  She symbolises health, wellbeing and hope. If the Matariki star is bright and high in the sky, it is a signal of good luck for observers. If she was seen when a patient was suffering from an illness it was taken as a sign they would soon recover. This is affirmed in the saying ‘Matariki, huarahi ki te oranga tangata’; ‘Matariki, pathway to the wellbeing of man’. 



Tupuānuku, associated with food from the ground. This star is looked upon during the month of May as a  signal that the summer harvest is coming to an end and winter is near. This whetu is connected to all cultivated and uncultivated food products and is the reason for the proverb ‘Hauhake tū, ka tō Matariki’; ‘Harvest of crops ends when Matariki sets’



Waipuna-ā-rangi, meaning "water that pools in the sky," governs rainfall and replenishment.The pooling of water on the ground in winter caused by heavy and persistent showers are referred to as: Matariki tāpuapua- The pools of Matariki

If you can’t see Waipuna-ā-rangi clearly during Matariki, the year will bring lots of rain and maybe some flooding. If she’s bright and clear, the rain will be light.



Waitā (twin of Waitī) is associated with the ocean and represents food gathered from the sea. This whetu also has significant influence over tides and floodwaters. 



The final star is hiwa-i-te-rangi. She is connected to the promise of a prosperous season and for this reason is also known as the wishing star. Māori traditionally would use this star to set their desires for the year ahead. 

‘Ki a koe e Hiwa’; ‘I send my wishes to Hiwa’



Pōhutukawa bridges the realm between the living and the dead. As souls embark on their journey along Te Ara Wairua, the pathway of spirits, the journey ends at the tip of the North Island at Te Rerenga Wairua where an ancient Pōhutukawa tree stands on a rocky ledge facing the ocean. The spirits then descend the aka (root) of the tree entering the underworld. The Pōhutakawa whetu (star) is why the constellation of Matariki is connected to the dead and why people cry out the names of those who have passed and weep when Matariki rises. 



Tupuārangi celebrates foods from the sky and is associated with birds but also includes fruits, and berries. Kererū feature prominently during this season, they were traditionally harvested, cooked and preserved in their fat during matariki, giving rise to the statement ‘Ka kitea a Matariki, kua maoka te hinu’; ‘When Matariki is seen the fat of the kererū is rendered so the birds can be preserved’

The brightness of Tupuārangi foretells the availability of aerial harvests in the year to come. If Tipuārangi is hard to see at Matariki - kai from the sky will be scarce. If he is nice and bright – there will be plenty.



Waitī is connected to fresh water and the living creatures of the rivers, streams, and lakes. The association Waitī has with the creatures of fresh water is reflected in the proverb:

‘Ka kitea a Matariki ka rere te korokoro’; ‘When Matariki is seen, the lamprey migrates’

If Waitī is dim when she rises, the food from freshwater sources will be scarce. If you can see her clearly, it will be bountiful.



Ururangi is connected to the wind. The name means "the winds of the sky". Traditionally used to forecast the nature of the wind for the year to come.If Ururangi is hard to see when the cluster of Matariki rises, the year will be windy. If he is bright and clear, the winds will be calm.

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