Māori Language Week is a week of national significance. Although we should try for all 52 weeks of the year, from Monday 11 – Sunday 17 September, in particular, New Zealanders are encouraged to actively incorporate Te Reo Māori in their daily vocabulary and to remember the significance of New Zealand’s indigenous language.
Māori have an extensive knowledge of the night sky and the movements of constellations and stars. This astronomical knowledge is known as tātai arorangi and was very important in Māori daily life. Tātai arorangi would determine fishing schedules, the growing of crops, telling the time and changes in seasons and would assist in navigation. Māori would use the stars to calculate the season and time by viewing various stars that would rise in the morning just before the Sun. The stars would rise four minutes earlier each day, which meant Māori could determine the season based on what star would sit on the horizon. In winter, the star Takurua would rise just before the Sun and in summer, it would be the star Rehua. Another example of using the stars in daily life is the spectacular star cluster Matariki, of which its helical rising would symbolise Māori New Year.
Tātai arorangi also had very strong connections to the planting and harvesting of crops, particularly around the different phases of the Moon. A full Moon, also known as rākaunui, meant iwi would plant their crops because the Moon was thought to draw water nearer the surface so the seedling would be quick to take up that water when planted. You can read more about the Māori lunar calendar and phases of the Moon below, or download the calendar for free here.
Unfortunately, with the arrival of the Europeans, much of this knowledge was lost or misinterpreted in Western retellings. A group of people, passionate about tātai arorangi came together in 2009 to help preserve and revitalise Māori star lore. This group, named SMART (Society of Maori Astronomy Research and Traditions) works together to collate knowledge from different iwi and archival sources and work on combining tātai arorangi with current astronomical research.
In celebration of Māori Language Week, we are screening the popular Matariki Dawn planetarium show. It includes Maori stories and myths about the formation of Earth, the Moon and Māori New Year. Fly out to Matariki in the planetarium and learn the Māori names of the seven visible stars, find out why Matariki is visible at certain times of the year and learn more about why the Māori lunar calendar is important. The show includes the tales of Rangi and Papatuanuku and Rona and the Moon. Screening on 13-16 September, 6PM. Book your seats here.
Learn more about Māori Language Week here.