MATARIKI – A reflection by Eruera Keepa - Campbell Squared
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MATARIKI – A reflection by Eruera Keepa

Kua whetūrangitia!

As the days drew closer to the rise of Matariki, my thoughts and imagination took me to Te Waka o Rangi. Te Waka o Rangi is this great canoe in the sky captained by Taramainuku who carries a large net with him. For 11 months of the year, Taramainuku casts his net down to earth to gather the souls of the people that have passed. He carries the souls along behind his waka and when Matariki rises, Taramainuku releases his net into the sky for the souls to become stars.

It’s quite an enduring visual for me leading to the rise of Matariki. When you lose someone close to you, the thought of their wairua or spirit leaving this earth to be amongst the stars suddenly becomes real and you can feel this as their close presence starts to fade.

Yesterday morning at 4.30am, my good friend Ngairo Eruera and I met at Moturiki, or else known as Leisure Island which is connected to the main beach in Mount Maunganui. This was to observe the rise of Matariki, farewell the dead and make a bold and daring reading for the year ahead. Moturiki was deemed to be the suited location as it’s the most eastern point in Tauranga, minimising the light pollution emanating from Tauranga City.

This time a few years ago we both scaled the Hakarimata Summit in Ngāruawāhia, alongside Dr Rangi Matamua to observe the rising and carry out ceremonial rituals. Quite the trek to the summit for those that have been there, but this ensured we avoided city lights. Dr Matamua has been instrumental in the revitalisation of Matariki and he travels extensively throughout the country giving public lectures about Matariki and Māori astronomy. Having spent that time with him, Ngairo and I both like to think we now have a basic understanding on how to locate Matariki and carry out the ceremonial duties to acknowledge this moment.

It was a clear sky and visibility looking to the east was excellent. We arrived at the furthest point of Moturiki and stared into the night sky. There are a few stars and constellations that are prominent in the night sky to inform where we should look and at about 5.40am, we spotted Matariki on the horizon.

About 20 minutes later, Matariki became very clear which bought a tinge of excitement as we both woke up fairly early for this exact moment. Ngairo began to recite karakia to signal the mana of Matariki, to welcome the dawn and acknowledge those that have passed. To conclude our ceremony, we both recited the names of those close to us who have passed and sent their spirits on their way. I lost a number of people close to me in the past year, so this was as much a healing process as it was an opportunity to observe the rising. Kua whetūrangitia – you have been adorned like a star!

Viewing Matariki at this exact moment is also an opportunity to make a bold prediction of what we can expect in the coming year. This part of the process is reserved for experts, but since Ngairo and I both woke up at 3.45am, we felt daring enough to make an assessment. And so, we observed Matariki in great detail and assessed the brightness and placement of the nine individual stars.

We both couldn’t help but notice that Matariki (the individual star) was shining the brightest of the nine stars. Although it’s the largest star of the cluster, I’ve never seen it stand out as distinctively as it did that morning. It was consistently bright and most times you would see the stars flash in and out of view. Matariki (the individual star) is connected to wellbeing and viewed as an omen of good fortune and health for those who observe it.

The next brightest stars in our reading was Ururangi and Waipunarangi. Ururangi is connected to wind and Waipunarangi to rain. Ngairo and I did not see Pōhutukawa at all which was quite strange and significant at the same time. Pōhutukawa is connected to the dead and I hope to catch Dr Matamua in the next few weeks for his opinion on this.

Ngairo and I both left Moturiki on our separate ways and I stopped for a coffee to reflect on the morning. My āhua and mind suddenly become clearer and I felt relaxed enough to now celebrate Matariki and set my intentions for the year ahead.

Nau mai te mātahi o te tau!

Where can I find out more?

Book – Matariki: The Star of the Year by Rangi Matamua

Facebook – Living by The Stars with Professor Rangi Matamua

Education Resource – Te Wānanga o Aotearoa

In case you missed it! – The Project NZ

*I would like to acknowledge Dr Rangi Matamua for sharing his knowledge and bestowing his encouragement to Ngairo and I.