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  • Ashleigh Putt-Fallows

Some kōrero on Matariki & Puanga 

Ashleigh Putt-Fallows (she/her/ia) Ngāti Whātua, Ngāpuhi - Ngāti Hine, Tūhoe 

Despite growing up in Murihiku (known for being makariri) mid-winter was always special as it was the Māori New Year, signified by Matariki or Puanga or for my family; the only time of year we weren’t hōhā about waking up before 6 a.m. 

Matariki, or Puanga, has been celebrated by Māori for a long time, officially recognised as a holiday in Aotearoa since 2022. Matariki and Puanga can be seen for most of the year, aside some weeks usually from the end of May to June or July, marking the new year. Puanga rises between May and June and signals the beginning of winter. Ngā whetū (the stars) are important guides for Māori. Traditionally, Māori used Maramataka for a lot; in relation to the New Year it was used to navigate seasonal changes, monitor kai availability, and track fish and animals.

Matariki (Pleiades), is a cluster of stars, some iwi/hapu identifying seven, and others nine. Some iwi/hapū say they are sisters, while others say Matariki is the mother and the stars are her children. The genders of the stars can also change, sometimes daughters, sometimes sons. Matariki is actually only one name for the cluster, and is the shortened version of Ngā mata o te ariki o Tāwhirimātea. It speaks to the star clusters’ origins in te ao Māori. After Ranginui and Papatūānuku were separated, Tāwhirimatea fled to the skies and, out of anger towards his siblings, plucked out his eyes and threw them into the sky—where they stuck to his fathers chest. The stars of Matariki and what they are connected to are: Matariki (Health and well-being of people), Waitī (Freshwater and its food sources), Waitā (Ocean and its food sources, Waipuna-ā-rangi (Rain), Tupuānuku (Kai from the soil), Tupuārangi (Kai from above), Ururangi (Winds),  Pōhutukawa (The deceased), Hiwa-i-te-rangi (Growth and prosperity: ‘the wishing star’). 

Puanga (Rigel), is often either the older sibling or cousin of Matariki. The star’s gender also changes. Sometimes Puanga is known as the wife of Rehua, and other times Takurua. Puanga also has a second name: Puanga Kairau, often interpreted as connecting to abundance of kai, but also interpreted as Puanga, the lover. This gives insight to the star’s special connection with Miro, Kumara and Kererū. 

There are many ways to celebrate Matariki and Puanga; you might only celebrate one. I have always lived in places where we could see both, and it depends on what one of my iwi or hapū you ask what one I should prioritize. Traditionally, there were three main celebrations, the viewing—to interpret what the next year would bring, the Hau tuku (farewell to passed on loved ones and release of past challenges) and the Hautapu (feeding the stars). Puanga celebrations last a little longer—often going for a month or more—and include alot of wānanga around reflection and preparation.  Though how you celebrate is really up to you and your whānau, simply having or attending a shared kai, connecting to te Taiao, setting intentions, reflecting and remembering, kōrero or star gazing are all ways of celebrating. 

It's important for me to acknowledge that I am not the authority on this kōrero. Matariki and Puanga are known and celebrated in cultures globally and kōrero can differ. This is just kōrero that I have been gifted from my tūpuna and others that I am now gifting to you. 

Mānawatia a Matariki.


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