Māori word of the Month: Matariki

The legend of Matariki goes like this …

The star cluster is made up of Matariki, the whaea (mother), surrounded by her six daughters, Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi, Waipunarangi, Waitī and Waitā, and Ururangi. 

Each year, Matariki and her daughters journey across the sky to visit their tupuna wahine (grandmother), Papatūānuku (Earth Mother). 

During these visits, each of the stars help Papatūānuku to prepare for the year to come, using their unique qualities or gifts to bring mauri (life force) to their different environments. Whilst spending time with their kuia (elder), they also learn new skills and gain new knowledge from her, which they guard and pass on to others.

The gift of Tupu-ā-nuku is tending plants in order to provide us with food, medicine and clothing. 

The gift of Tupu-ā-rangi is using waiata (song) to revive the forests and all creatures, and fill the world with joy. 

The gift of Waipunarangi is the care of the waters – the oceans, lakes and rivers – where she prepares the children of Tangaroa (God of the sea) to feed the people. 

Waitī and Waitā are Matariki’s twins and they work as a team. Their gift is the care of the insects. When insects work together, they can they can do amazing things. Ngā pī (bees), for example, pollinate all the flowers so that the plants grow, and we have air to breathe. When we see these two stars in the sky, we are encouraged to join in and support each other.

The gift of Ururangi is tenacity, excitement and a positive attitude, after the cold and darkness of winter.

And the gift of Matariki is the support and encouragement of a mother to enable her tamariki (children) to do their very best. 

– Adapted from Te Papa Museum of New Zealand’s website, The Legend of Matariki and the six sisters. Visit their website find out more about Matariki (https://www.tepapa.govt.nz/discover-collections/read-watch-play/maori/matariki-maori-new-year/legend-matariki-and-six-sisters).

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