Story: Matariki – Māori New Year

Matariki in the night sky

Matariki in the night sky

Amongst other stars and star clusters can be seen Matariki and Puanga (Rigel in Orion). For some Māori tribes, it was the rising of Puanga that signalled the new year rather than Matariki. Whichever the sign, for all Māori it was a time to celebrate seasonal fertility and remember those who had passed.

How to find Matariki

Matariki is found low on the horizon in the north east of the sky. Try looking here between 5.30 a.m. and 6.30 a.m.

1. First find the pot (the bottom three stars of the pot are also called Tautoru, or Orion’s Belt). To find Puanga (Rigel) look above the pot until you see the bright star. To find Matariki, keep going.

2. To the left of the pot, find the bright orange star, Taumata-kuku (Alderbaran).

3. Follow an imaginary line from Tautoru (the bottom three stars of the pot), across to Taumata-kuku and keep going until you hit a cluster of stars.

4. That cluster is Matariki. If you have good eyes you should be able to pick out individual stars. If it looks fuzzy, look just above or just below and the stars will be clearer.

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Diagram by Richard Hall

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How to cite this page:

Paul Meredith, 'Matariki – Māori New Year - Cycles of life and death', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 17 June 2021)

Story by Paul Meredith, published 12 Jun 2006