Matariki Star Names And Activity Ideas: Written by Angela Milnes of the Ngai Tahu Iwi
Matariki, also known as the Maori New Year, is celebrated in Aotearoa, New Zealand and other parts of the world with festivals and traditional activities. Whether you live in the North Island or the South Island the Matariki celebration is an important time for Maori and New Zealander’s to remember who they are as they take part in Matariki celebrations.
Whether you are of Maori descent or not, celebrating the Maori New Year is a great way to teach your kids about the Maori culture and the Matariki stars.
What Is Matariki?
The word Matariki comes from the Maori language and means ‘the eyes of God’.
In Maori mythology, Matariki is a group of seven stars that appear in the sky just before winter. These stars are said to be the guardian spirits of those who have passed away in the previous year.
Today I’ll be sharing the Matariki Star Names, teaching you more about the star cluster and the Matariki celebration. I’ll also be sharing some fun Matariki activity ideas for the family to enjoy.
What Are the 4 Different Names for Matariki?
There are actually four different Matariki star names.
- Seven Sisters
- The Star Of Rememberance
Why Celebrate Matariki?
During Matariki, people traditionally spend time with family and friends, remembering their ancestors and those who have died.
They also give thanks for the harvest and look forward to the new year. It’s a time to learn about the Maori lunar calendar and share tikanga Maori practices and values. In the past Tohunga and Maori experts looked to Matariki to predict if the next harvest would be successful.
Matariki is a time to reflect on the past year and set goals for the future. Matariki celebrations usually include stargazing, singing, storytelling, feasting, and decorating houses with greenery.
When to Celebrate Matariki
Not all iwi (Maori tribes) celebrate Matariki at the same time. Some iwi celebrate Matariki when Matariki rises in late May or early June. Others choose to wait until Matariki disappears from the sky again, which can be in July or August.
In New Zealand the official Matariki celebration runs from the last week of May to the first week of July.
The Matariki Star Names
So how many stars in Matariki?
There are seven Matariki stars in the Matariki group. According to Maori legend, the main star Matariki is the mother or whaea of six daughter stars.
Here are the six daughters of the Matariki star cluster and some meanings and lessons that we can learn from each individual star or sister.
Waiti is the Matariki star that represents the water. The water element is often associated with healing.
Waitī watches over our freshwater environments. Our awa (rivers), roto (lakes), kūkūwai (wetlands), and waipuna (springs).
As the waters flow, Waiti sees how the waters support us, provide for us, connect and sustain us.
Waita is the twin of Waiti. She is the star that shines on the sources of salt water protecting all life within it.
Waita is a reminder to us as the tangata whenua to protect the treasures of our coats and oceans including the treaure of kai moana (food gathered from the sea).
Waipuna-a-Rangi is the Matariki star of rain and moisture. She is said to be the bringer of dew and Fog.
Waipunarangi knows that if you give to others, all of that generosity will be returned to you, a lesson she wishes to teach us.
Tupu-ā-rangi, is one of the stars in Te Kāhui o Matariki, the Pleiades star cluster. Tupu-ā-rangi is associated with food that comes from the sky, such as birds, or elevated fruit and berries from trees.
Tupu-ā-rangi loves to sing. Tupu-ā-rangi has a beautiful voice and reminds us to share our talents and gifts with others.
As the eldest daughter of Matariki, Tupu-ā-nuku watches over the plants. She ensures that we have everything we need to grow plants and food from the ground. Once harvested we can share this kai with our whānau and friends.
Ururangi is the Matariki star that represents the wind. She is well-known for her ability to bring about change, as she delivers messages from Matariki through the air.
Uruarangi reminds us to look forward to the future as we make small changes in our lives that can have a big impact.
The Matariki star group can be seen in the southern sky in late May or early June. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, Matariki will appear in the north sky.
Matariki has also been known as takurua (the star cluster), ururangi (eyes of god) and ngutu-kārearea (red eye).
Matariki is a seven star cluster but it can appear as nine stars depending on the clarity of the night sky.
Matariki was used by Maori to predict when to plant crops. If Matariki was bright in the sky it meant that there would be a good harvest.
The Matariki star group also has its own constellation, known as Matariki-takurua or Matariki-ururangi.
One of the best ways to celebrate Matariki is to get outside and enjoy the Matariki stars. Here are some fun Matariki activity ideas that you can do with your family:
Picnic Under the Matariki Star Cluster
Pack a Matariki-themed picnic and head to your nearest park or New Zealand beach to enjoy the Matariki cluster.
Make Matariki star decorations: get creative and make your own Matariki star decorations out of paper, cardboard, or even recycled materials. You could even use your cricut machine to make matariki stars.
Get creative and make your own Matariki star decorations out of paper, cardboard, or even recycled materials. You could even use your cricut machine to make Matariki stars.
A Few Matariki Craft Ideas
- Create an intricate hanging 3D Cardstock Matariki Star.
- Matariki Star Cluster Chart
- A Matariki Wall Garland
- Matariki cards
Write Matariki Stories
Get the family together and make up your own Matariki stories. You could even write them down or illustrate them to create a Matariki storybook.
Read The Little Kiwi’s Matariki a fantastic children’s book all about Matariki.
Go online and look for more stories about Matariki, harvest time and the Maori new year!
Go on a Matariki Night Walk
Take a walk under the Matariki stars and look for constellations. You can look for Matariki’s daughters and find the star clusters in the night sky.
Count how many stars you can see with the naked eye and discuss the individual stars and the significance of each Maori name.
You could also go on an early morning walk and search for the Matariki sisters in the early morning sky.
Plant a Matariki Tree
Matariki is a time to give thanks for the harvest. What better way to do that than by planting a Matariki tree. You could plant a fruit tree in your garden or even a native New Zealand tree.
To learn more about tree planting why not read this article!
Matariki Treasure Hunt
You could create a fun Matariki treasure hunt to help celebrate the Maori New Year. Why not make lots of little stars.
Color each star differently to represent the different Matariki sister and daughters. It will be so much fun and the kids can count or many stars of Matariki they have found.
Matariki Scientists- Explore the Stars
The ancient greeks name for the matariki constellation is the Pleiades. Matariki is a star cluster that is about 400 light years away from Earth.
Although it appears to be one star to the naked eye, Matariki is actually made up of nine stars.
The Matariki constellation can help us learn about star formation. By studying Matariki we can understand how our Sun and planets were formed.
Matariki is also a binary star system which means that two of the stars are orbiting each other. Teaching kids about the stars of Aotearoa New Zealand.
You can learn more about Aotearoa New Zealand star clusters by visiting the website Living By The Stars by Dr Rangi Matamua, a Maori Professor of Astronomy. His Astronomical knowledge is fantastic and his site is a great resource for anyone wanting to learn more about other stars from a New Zealand and Maori perspective.
Learn a Matariki Song or Dance
Matariki songs and dances are a great way to celebrate the Maori New Year. You can learn and teach new songs to the whanau (family) and get everyone involved in the festivities through song and dance.
There are some great Matariki songs for kids that you can listen to and sing along to.
You can also find Matariki kapa haka (traditional Maori performing arts) groups who perform Matariki waiata (songs) and haka (dances).
Celebrate the Maori New Year With a Food Feast
Make Matariki-themed food: try making some Matariki-themed food such as Matariki kites ( Kiwi fruit on sticks), star-shaped sandwiches, or star shaped cupcakes.
There are lots of fun Matariki games that you can play with your kids to celebrate the rising of Matariki. Try playing a star memory game, I Spy or play Bingo using the cluster or stars on bingo cards.
Color in Matariki Stars
If you pop on over to Craft Play Learn you can download a free Matariki coloring page for the kids to enjoy!
I hope you enjoyed learning about Matariki and the Matariki star names. I also hope you have fun celebrating the Maori New Year with your family and friends.