Matariki and the Māori New Year

The Māori New Year

The birth of the New Year comprised of a series of events and ceremonies.  For some tribes, following the sighting of Matariki in the dawn twilight a watch was kept on the western evening twilight for the appearance of the thin sickle of the New Moon. This began the time of misrule, which lasted about six days and ended with the rising of the Full Moon. During the time of misrule acts that would normally be unacceptable, could not be punished. While the sighting of the New Moon marked the beginning of a month, the New Year began with the Full Moon.  This was a pre-European tradition. With the coming of Christianity the period of misrule disappeared from the calendar and the year was said to begin with the New Moon.

By Kay Leather and Richard Hall
Taatai Arorangi: Maori Astronomy by Kay Leather & Richard Hall; Viking Sevenseas

Find out more in Richard and Kay’s book Work of the Gods, the first in a series of books by Kay Leather and Richard Hall that explores Taatai Arorangi, Māori astronomy and star lore. Creation myths are the most ancient, perhaps dating to tens of thousands, rather than a few thousands of years. Encoded within these creation myths are knowledge and important information on the values and belief system of a people. In this book Māori legends from the Matorohanga manuscripts are explained in order to bring to light the fundamental basis and structure of Maori astronomy and cosmology. The work of Kay and Richard follows the insight of the nineteenth century elders in recording their knowledge in writing, by making that knowledge available in published form. Young and old people of today and tomorrow may look and learn to see the heavens from a Maori perspective.

David Simmons, Ethnologist