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Origin of the meaning of Matariki shared

Thursday, June 26, 2008
Origin of the meaning of Matariki shared

The origin of the name of the Mäori new year, Matariki, will be discussed in a lecture by University researcher Dr Rangi Mataamua at the Wellington campus tomorrow morning.

Dr Mataamua has a PhD in Mäori Studies and combines a life-long interest in astronomy and traditional Mäori star lore with interactive technology.

“The story goes that when Ranginui and Papatüänuku separated, Täwhirimätea, the god of the wind, warred with his brothers and plucked out his own eyes and threw them at Ranginui”, Dr Mataamua says. "His eyes stuck to the chest of Ranginui and those are said to be the eyes [mata] of the god [ariki] Täwhirimätea.

“Trees, oceans and kumara all move and grow in a certain way, but the wind never blows from the same direction, this is because Täwhirimätea is said to be blind and has to feel his way around.”

Dr Mataamua has had a lifelong interest in the stars. "My grandfather on my päkehä side is an astronomer, he had star maps, and telescopes and talked to me about Greek mythology. My Mäori grandfather talked about Matariki and other stars.”

His presentation is aimed at a general audience and is essentially an introduction to Mäori astronomy, with a focus on Matariki. “For me Matariki is about practicing what our ancestors did, reviewing the past, assessing the current situation and planning for the future."

Dr Mataamua grew up in Levin but his Tuhoe roots are in Ruatähuna and Waikaremoana, and those connections helped with his research. “Thanks to [19th and 20th century ethnographer and historian] Elsdon Best, Tuhoe has one of the most comprehensive recorded histories. Astronomy is a field that not many Mäori people know a lot about; I’m actually considering doing another PhD in this field.”

The Matariki lecture is open to students and staff and the public but space is limited. Please contact Tracy Mihaere ext 62199. It starts at 10am, Friday 27 June, at Te Kuratini Marae, Massey University, Wellington.


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