Thursday, 5 July 2018

Matariki : The Pleiades

The Pleiades 

Quoting from Elsdon Best's "Astronomical knowledge of the Maori" c.1922. pg's 42-45.

The far-famed star group exalted and venerated by many races from time immemorial...
Maori tells us that 'Matariki' their name for the group is a female... and speak of it as if it were a single-star.  Best quotes Colenso's writings in which he says "I found that the Maori could see more stars in the Pleiades with unaided eye than I could, they see 7 sometimes 8 stars" 

Best goes on to write "Matariki's task is to keep moving in a cluster, to foretell lean and fat seasons, and bringing food supplies to man. Thus Ao-kai is applied to it.  He quotes Sir George Grey's writings that give four other sayings 'Matariki ahunga nui (provider of plentiful supplies), Matariki tapuapua (abundance of pools of water in winter), Matariki hunga nui (has numerous followers) and Matariki kanohi iti (small eyed Matariki).

Best further writes 'A notable event in Maoriland greeted in two ways, by laments for those who have died recently, and by women with singing and posture dances. It is marked by a festival of feasting and universal joy' 

This booklet by Best is available to read in the Don Stafford Room, 2nd Floor of the Rotorua Library.

Review of : "Matariki : the Maori New Year" by Libby Hakaraia.

In her introduction Libby Hakaraia gives the reader a meaning of the word Mata = eyes Ariki = God.
Libby goes on to briefly give an overview of her subject. This is great for those wanting a meaning and reason why Matariki is so important to Maori and the Maori New Year.

For those readers who want to delve deeper into the historic celebration and astronomical lore of Matariki : The Pleiades and other stars of significance to planting, harvesting and storage of food, including birds and fish traditionally caught and preserved in times past.

Throughout this book the author has drawn on research already published, but also from the memories of people such as Hapimana Rikihana (Te Arawa) pg. 30-31, who recalls learning about Matariki with the use of Mahi Whai which recreated the patterns, and facilitated the passing on of stories, cosmology and Maori star law and knowledge.

New Zealand. Tourism Department. Maori girls playing a string game. Ref: PAColl-5671-34.
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22710365
Libby Hakaraia goes on in her book to inform the reader of other view points and ancient cultures who have their own legends centered around this group of stars. Throughout this book the author starts each chapter with a quote or proverb and illustrates with photographs and drawings of the traditional kite of Matariki.

This book is available to borrow from the Maori Collection on the 1st Floor at 394.2614z HAK

This amazing kite was made by children who attended the 'Avalanche of Activities'
April 2013 holiday programme at Rotorua Library

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