June 2022 Monthly Meeting

When: Wednesday 1st June at 7:30 pm.
Where: Space Place / Carter Observatory and also available via Zoom. Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 898 5793 4315
Passcode: 12345
What: Matariki – and how to find it.  – WAS President Matt Boucher

The Matariki star cluster. The two meanings of Matariki both refer to stars: mata ariki (eyes of god) and mata riki (little eyes).

We are about to enter the season of Matariki. This is an ancient custom of the Māori people in New Zealand. Matariki is a time for reflection, remembering and honouring those who have passed away since the last rising of Matariki, and planning the year ahead.

Haere atu rā e koro ki te paepae o Matariki, o Rehua. Haere atu rā.

Farewell, old man; go to the threshold of Matariki, of Rehua. Farewell!

But the Matariki season and its significance had almost slipped from modern memory when it was revived in the late 1990s by one man, Te Papa Curator Arapata Hakiwai (now Te Papa’s Kaihautū). Knowledge of Matariki spread quickly, first to kohanga reo and other early childhood education centres, then to schools. Most Pākehā were introduced to the concept by their kids, but it was quickly embraced by everyone. After all, we needed a new mid-winter holiday!

Māori astronomy is based on the morning sky, not the evening sky, as in Western astronomy. As every 4 year-old can tell you, Matariki begins when the constellation Matariki (aka the Pleiades, Seven Sisters, Subaru, etc) first appears above the horizon in the early morning sky. (It disappears during the lunar month of Haratua and reappears during Pipiri.) This year we will be celebrating the first official Matariki public holiday on 24 June.