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Under The Martinborough Stars

July 6, 2020 July 2020 No Comments

Much of my time is spent learning new information to share about the sky, myths and legends. This year I’ve been researching more Mequation.pdfori star lore and in particular the stars of our beautiful winter marker, Matariki.

When it rises in the east before the Sun in late June, early July, Matariki symbolises mid- winter. Once it is spotted, Māori will then restart their calendar when they see the following full moon or new moon depending on their iwi. The following 12 cycles of the moon make up the rest of year. 

But what is Matariki? Firstly, it is a star cluster, not a constellation. A star cluster is a group of stars that were all born from the same cloud of gas and are gravitationally bound to each other. A constellation is different; it is a group of stars in the sky that aren’t actually near each other but form a pattern as we see it from Earth.

There are over 500 stars in this cluster, but we can only see nine stars of Matariki with our naked eyes.  Each of these stars have their own name, responsibility, and position.

Each iwi will have a slightly different story to how Matariki appeared, but my favourite is about Tāwhirimātea, the god of the wind. When he discovered that his beloved parents, Ranginui and Papatūānuku had been separated, he became so angry that he ripped out his eyes, crushed them up and threw them into the sky in disgust.

What I found most fascinating, is the connection between the meanings of the stars and their position in the sky. The star Matariki, loves to gather the people together, and to connect them with our environment, so it makes sense that this star is near the centre of the cluster.

Tupu-a-rangi, the sky is above Tupu-a-nuku, the earth, Waitī is above Waitā because fresh water flows down to salt water. Waipuna-a-rangi and Ururangi are above all the rest because the rain and wind come from above. 

Pōhutukawa, the bottom star, holds tight to our memories of treasured people who have passed on.  The final star is Hiwai-i-te-rangi, the wishing star, who helps us to recognise our hopes, dreams, and aspirations for the coming year. These two sacred stars are away from the others because there is no tapu in the areas relating to food.

Observing the Matariki cluster has also been used to help in working out the coming year’s weather. If it appears fuzzy, the harvest will be poor. However, if the stars are bright and clear, then an excellent year for crops will be had. Let’s all hope that the year 2020 brings a good harvest to our Martinborough vineyards and gardeners and that Tupu-a-nuku shines brightly for all of us.

Becky Bateman runs Under The Stars, an award winning nomadic stargazing service here in the Wairarapa.

Photo attached


Image thanks to Forest & Bird’s Kiwi Conservation Club

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