Nga Mihi O Te Tau Hou – Greetings of the New Year Matariki 2014
Happy New Year from one of the most spectacular places in Wellington, the top of Mount Victoria.
Top of Mount Victoria is where I feel on top of the world. To the South, I can sense Antarctica’s frozen breath. I feel wishes of being bold and daring when I look that way. To the North, I see glimpses of my far far away home-beacons: Andromeda, Arcturus and Vega. They are like my safety net. I always feel safe and happy seeing these signposts of my origins. East and West are obviously looking weird – the Sun moves from right to left in the sky in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere it moves from left to right. So it always puzzles me to look their way, even after nine years and that’s how I also feel when getting inside my car. Almost always I want to go in through the wrong door.
Being in the city of Wellington (that I grew to love after all these years) makes me feel grateful for the courage to leave my safe shore back home to seek for my diamonds in the sky. Wellington at night glows like a net of diamonds itself. Even though we have a love-hate relationship (me and Wellington) its sky, makes me forget about all my petty complaints on the winds and other things. It keeps me inspired knowing there is always more beyond the horizon in all directions. I don’t know how else I can say this. And it’s the best sky that probably any capital of the world has ever seen. As for the star lore that people brought here… well … it’s the most spectacular by far! I love it!
A dawn ceremony starts at… 5 AM
Whilst I am lost in contemplation at 5 AM and surrounded by the chilly fresh breeze, through the pitch black of the morning, there comes a smell of hot chocolate, invading my nostrils. Rachel, from Wellington City Museums who organised the entire event, woke up VERY EARLY to make hot chocolate for all of us! How is that for a treat!
I feel loved by the gods. That said, Rachel is spot on, as hot chocolate is the compulsory modern-traditional beverage for stargazing! The moment is perfect, the organizing, the people, the magic of the night.
Standing here, on top of Mount Victoria at 5 AM on a wintery Saturday morning, I feel that I am in the flux of everything that matters to me. That’s what I call happiness. I have this huge smile on my face, which nobody can see as it’s yet very dark. The sky starts to clear and the air is warm. Seeing so many people making their way here at this very early hour of the morning, also makes me feel very happy.
What is Matariki?
The day before, on the 27 June at 8:09 p.m., the Moon turned new again. Which, means, with a bit of luck, the New Year should start in Aotearoa, this next mornisng. That is, according to the tradition, if the Tohunga Tatai Arorangi are able to SEE Matariki rising – before the Sunrise. If not (aka the sky is cloudy), then they return the next day and so on, until they see it. Only THEN the New Year would begin.
The short answer is: Matariki is the name, which Maori give to the star cluster Pleiades (ONLY AT THIS TIME OF THE YEAR), when they can observe it rising heliacaly, the next morning after the New Moon, which falls after the longest night of the year.
The long answer, all that you need to know and more you can find in here: MatarikiEvents site. I stand here on top of Mount Victoria and my thoughts also go to Butch from Maori Tourism who actually lead the work for the new site. What a wonderful achievement, I think and I feel very grateful for the chance to have been the science advisor for it. And it’s an honour for me to do that! The hub-site allows people from all over Aotearoa to share their joy and thoughts by publishing on it events they do, related to the celebration of Matariki. Even though some tribes judge the New Year by the sight of the star Puanga, Matariki is more and more assimilated with the New Year. And the MatarikiEvents site is great!!
Sharing the magic
Matariki is all about sharing. It’s all about getting together and it’s all about thinking of those who have gone. But there is also something else… my mind flies away with a glimpse of an unfinished thought. The sky clears up. Matariki, which was hidden behind the cloud, appears in all it’s glory.
I am very busy, borderline with very annoyed, aligning a stubborn telescope but seeing the cluster makes me feel really awesome. And I remember what my mind was trying to tell me. There goes a stray legend I heard many years ago, from a Pakeha who heard it from a Maori – so we can’t really be sure: that from this moment until the next new Moon, we are in between realms. Time stops and nobody is held accountable for any silly things they do. It’s the realm of the mist. Perfect to try new things, despite how silly they seem – a bit like the modern version of our ‘science hack days’.
For the daring who are not really sure, for the shy who can’t have the courage to speak up and for the curious humans inside ourselves… the month of Matariki has arrived…
I hear the kaumatua saying their karakia. That touches me almost to the tears, as it always does, hearing the voices in the wind paying respects and tribute to the elements, the ancestors, the ancestors-gods and to the humans-explorers that we are.
Happy Human Courage and Insight Month and Happy New Year after that!
P.S – Here is the link to the pictures I took on Matariki morning.