The Matariki cluster of whetu (stars), that rise in mid-winter marking the start of the Māori New Year, hold special significance for Tamaki Māori Village, so we’d like to share the story behind their creation.
Waikato University professor Dr Rangi Matamua (Tūhoe) is one of the world’s foremost indigenous astronomers leading the revitalisation of Māori astronomy. Here’s his explanation of the Matariki meaning:
Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimātea – The Eyes of the God
Source: From the manuscript of Rāwiri Te Kōkau in Matariki the Star of the Year by Dr Rangi Matamua.
Matariki is a truncated version of the name Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimātea’. This name finds its origins in the turmoil that existed not long after the separation of Ranginui and Papatūānuku.
Of the pantheon of gods who were present when Ranginui was forced from Papatūānuku, only Tāwhirimātea disagreed, and after Tānemāhuta had separated his parents, Tāwhirimātea sought retribution and began a series of attacks on the other gods. (Tāne is the god of the forest. He completed many tasks, including separating the sky from the earth and suspending the stars in the heavens.)
All the gods cowered in the wrath of Tāwhirimātea, except Tūmatauenga (the god of war and humanity). After an epic battle Tūmatauenga emerged triumphant and vanquished his brother Tāwhirimātea.
Defeated and anguished, Tāwhirimātea decided to flee skywards to spend his days with his father. But before he departed, Tāwhirimātea plucked out his eyes, crushed them in his hands and threw them into the sky, a display of rage and contempt towards his siblings. It was also a display of aroha from son to father revealing the deep-seated sorrow and affection Tāwhirimātea felt for Ranginui.
The eyes of Tāwhirimātea stuck to the chest of Ranginui and there they remain to this day.
This is Matariki.
Tāwhirimātea continues to send his descendents, the winds to earth. It is for this reason Māori believe that the winds are so unpredictable, because Tāwhirimātea has no eyes and he uses the winds to feel his way around the world, seeking revenge for the separation of his parents by periodically causing storms that ravage his siblings.