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The First Lunar Month (June - July)

Kay Leather By Kay Leather


Pipiri All things contracted by cold, including man.

1st Lunar MonthThere are regional differences in the names of the months. The quote above is from East Coast traditions. In later years, some month names were transliterations of English names.

In some areas the name Pipiri was given to a star of low rank, or rather two stars adhering to each other. It has not been clearly identified. To some tribes, Pipiri is one of the names for the constellation of Scorpius, while to others Pipiri was a star that appeared a little before Matariki.

The first month is sometimes called the Tahi o Pipiri, and the saying Te po tutanga nui o Pipiri refers to the long nights of winter.

In ancient times the year began with the rising of Matariki, the Pleiades star group, in what we now call the month of June. This marked ‘Tahitahi o pipiri’ (according to Matanahira Te Hurupa of Ngati Huarere and Waiohua) that is ‘stay close together’, for men to stay inside the house out of the cold. The following months are the time of Hotoke i.e. Winter, also called Takurua. They are the months of scarfing the trees in a new garden. They are also the months when the main food was stored - kumara, some dried fish, and the occasional stranded right whale. It was the time when there was little to do for the younger men. Tumatauenga (God of war) was the god of this season. A saying applied to this season was, ‘you need something to go with the kumara.’ The young men with a few of the more active chiefs went to war either on raids to avenge an ancient wrong or on more extended take over bids. They always had to be a take, a cause for war, otherwise it was just murder.

Hence the songs which say;

Matariki appears and Whănui descends That is the sign of the year! The anger of the tribe is gathered with me. There is nobody that you can vent your anger on Other than the person sent to the world of the dead. Bestir yourself! Hasten! Let the rising be early!


Tirohia aut nei, ka wheturangitia Matariki, Te whitu o te tau e whakamoe mai ra. He homai ana rongo kia komai atu au- Ka mate nei au I te matapouri, i te mataporehu o roto i au au! See where Matariki are risen over the horizon, The seven of the year winking up there. They come with their message so I can rejoice. Here I am full of sorrow, full of sadness within!

Matariki and the Maori New Year

MatarikiIn some traditions Matariki and Puanga (Rigel) ascended into the heavens from their mother Raro (below, beneath). As the end of the Maori year approaches, Matariki sinks below the western horizon (into the underworld). By the end of the twelfth month the three bright stars of Tautoru (Orion’s belt) are lined up vertically on the horizon, while Takurua (Sirius) is directly above them. Matariki, Tautoru and Takurua together make a post of stars. Like a fence post, its base (Matariki) is buried in the ground, Tautoru sits on the horizon at ground level, and Sirius marks the top of the post. The post stands tall and straight exactly on West. This is the post of Hine-nui-te-Po, the great goddess of death. It marks the end (death) of the year.

“The Pleiades hold the highest rank among the stars, inasmuch as they usher in the New Year and are also visible at its close. These are the phases: in the twelfth month [of the Maori year] they set, to return again with the new year… Rigel is hostile to the Pleiades because it wishes to rule the year itself.”

For a while in late May, Matariki remains out of sight, too close to the Sun to be seen. Then in the dawn of early June the same line of stars (the post) appears in the east. The first bright star to rise is Puanga, rising close to east. In some parts of Aotearoa, the Maori New Year began with the rising of Puanga. Puanga gives notice of the approaching dawn as if “the sun itself is pushing it from behind.”

Over the next few days the rest of the post again appears as a downward slanting pole, with Matariki highest in the northeast, Tautoru in the middle, exactly on east and Takurua at the lowest position in the southeast. Matariki marks the Sun’s rua (the place where it will rise) at Takanga o te ra (the turning of the Sun, the winter solstice).

The Tapu period of the year was the time when Matariki appeared above the horizon in the morning. That was the occasion on which our elders of former times held festival, when the people rejoiced, and women danced and sang for joy as they looked on Matariki”

“Sirius, the Pleiades and Orion’s Belt are important seasonal stars…and the Pleiades [marks] a plentitude of food supplies; hence the saying regarding it scooping up food products of land and sea.” Puanga (Rigel) is also one of the food bringers thus the name Puanga kai rau, denoting early winter, a season of plenty.

Meaning of "Matariki"

Matariki North-east sea breeze

Matariki (i) Pleiades

The first appearance of which before sunrise indicated the beginning of the Maori year; this was about the middle of June.

(ii) Small, minute

Star names

Sirius Alpha Canis Majoris Takurua (Davies; Williams; Best, Beattie)

Rehua (Stowell)

Te Kokota (Best)

Rigel Beta Orionis Puanga (Stowell) Moriori (Shand)

Puaka (Stowell, Beattie)

Pua-tahiwhi o Tautoru (Stowell)

Orion’s Belt Puanga’s whata (Moriori – Shand)

Te-tuke-o-Tautoru (Williams)

Tautoru (Best)

Te Tata o Tautoru (Stowell)

Te Tira o Puanga (Williams)

Te tuke o Maui (Taylor; Stowell)


This is a work in progress If you know other stories, other constellations or star names please just email us and we will add the information for everyone to use. We need to authenticate any additions, so please make sure you include your contact details and as much information as possible on the source of any information you provide.