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Ko whea a Matariki?–Where is Matariki?

<--Matariki: A wānanga with Dr Rangi Matamua

To locate Matariki, look north-east toward the horizon, before sunrise. Go high if you live near ridges or buildings. Look for stars, clusters and constellations you recognise.

  • Find Tautoru that form the three bright stars which form the base of The Pot, or Orion’s Belt, the constellation of Taurus. These stars are some of the brightest in the night sky.

  • Follow Tautoru in a straight line along the horizon toward the left.

  • Look for a triangle of stars. This is Te Kōkota, Mata Kaheru, or Hyades (the face of Taurus the bull).

  • Look further to the left.

  • See the small group of clustered stars. This is Matariki.

Matariki in the night sky.

Image: Matariki_location, ©Living by the Stars

Matariki is an important navigation feature of the night sky. It forms the prow of Te Waka o Rangi (the sky canoe). The waka extends along the horizon, toward Tautoru (the three stars of the Pot) to the bright star Takurua (Sirius).

Some stars, constellations, and planets have different names given by different iwi. For example, the Southern Cross is Te Pae Māhutonga, or Te Punga (the anchor) amongst other names. Some of the names depend on how the stars look in the sky from different tūrangawaewae, as well as local seasonal activity.

Te waka o Rangi
Image: Te Waka o Rangi, ©Living by the Stars

Another important star indicating the beginning of the Māori New Year is Puanga (Rigel) which appears above Tautoru. This star rises at the same time as Matariki. Matariki has many names from many cultures. It is often called Pleiades from Greek culture, which tells the story of seven sisters who became stars. Here are a some names for Matariki from the Pacific:

  1. Mataliki - Tonga, Nuie

  2. Mataali’i -Samoa

  3. Makali’i - Hawai’i

  4. Matali’ - Tahiti

  5. Matariki - Aotearoa, Cook Islands, Rapanui/Easter Island, Kiribati, Rapa, Pitcairn

Other cultures and Matariki

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Key words / Rerenga kōrero

Te Takurua Sirius
Te Tautoru the three stars which form the base of the Pot (in Orion’s Belt)
Tūrangawaewae Tūranga, standing place, and waewae, feet. A place to stand.