Sunday, June 9, 2013

Welcoming Matariki

 As Matariki - the Maori new year - approaches, the light changes.
 The winter light turns thin and watery, casting deep shadows.
 In the sky, a lost constellation is due to appear.
Over the weekend, I went out to the bach. When I went outside at night, and stood enveloped in the complete darkness that can be found out in the wilds, I noticed how bright the stars were. I knew it must be new moon, and that very soon, Matariki — the Pleiades — would be peeping over the eastern horizon at dawn.
 Walking to the beach with some golden sand and white stone chips in my bag, and a hot flask of ginger tea to fortify me against the biting easterly, I searched for some smooth black sand on which to do my rituals. The first arrangement was suddenly swept away by a tidal surge that arrived without warning around the promontory.
 I made another on a different piece of sand, that seemed safe. Just as one might shine a little mirror to guide a balloon or flying creature to its landing place, there I was creating little Matariki mirrors to greet the returning stars.
To Maori, the ancestors reside in these stars, and to be without the wisdom of the ancestors is to be bereft. And so Matariki was greeted with chants and action songs, and even tears, for Matariki is the home of those who have died.
 Matariki was the bringer of food, and marked not only a new cycle of growth but also the bird hunting season, when this prized delicacy was caught, cooked and preserved in its own fat in gourds.
Ka kitea a Matariki, na kua maoka te hinu: When the Pleiades are seen, then the preserved flesh is cooked.'
 My greeting rituals for Matariki became freer and more fluid just before I left.
 Welcome, Matariki kainga kore (homeless/wandering Matariki). Welcome Matariki, the eyes of the gods.

16 comments:

Max said...

what a beautiful ritual and gorgeous photographs to match. it feels so good to return to looking at the winter night skies again x

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Juliet .. I love your knowledge of NZ lore and reading and learning from you .. the Matariki story is just beautiful ..

Cheers Hilary

juliet said...

* Max, those winter night skies are so clear. Thanks for your comments.

* Hilary, I learn so much from you that it's nice to return the compliment! Thank you.

Hotly Spiced said...

It must be so lovely to have the bach to escape to on weekends. I can imagine at this time of year you would definitely need a flask of ginger tea. I didn't know that part of Maori history xx

juliet said...

Charlie, the bach is such a haven for me, and the ginger tea was very warming. I cut fresh ginger into a thermos flask, added fresh lemon juice and a little honey. The ginger really brewed in the flask and had quite a hit by the time I drank it. Matariki was little known when I wrote Celebrating the Southern Seasons in 1995, but there has been a big revival and it is now part of the mainstream culture.

cecilia g said...

oh just wonderful and such beautiful pictures of our homeland, I love the sound of your bach, what a joy, and your wise and gentle rituals.. lovely... c

juliet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
juliet said...

* Celi, so glad you could visit. Yes, it's another world from where you are! The bach is a great blessing.

Penny O'Neill said...

Another of your Maori rituals to enrich my life, Juliet. My life always feels enriched when you post about them. Thank you.

juliet said...

Penny, you are very welcome. Thank you. This has been a special time.

Lynley said...

Your sand pictures are beautiful Juliet. It feels as if your have tempted the stars from the sky to visit the sands.

That cheeky wave might have been a taniwha watching for Matariki and teasing you for fun.

juliet said...

* Lynley, what a nice thought, tempting the stars down to the sands. Thank you.

Vicki Lane said...

I love this post! A beautiful ritual!

juliet said...

Thank you Vicki, I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Jessica Vivien said...

I live in Perth, Australia, and for the last 6 weeks before winter solstice,
the sun seems to slow down, to rise on a low angle, taking two hours from
cold grey dawn to warming sunlight. My 17yr old cat cries because
there is no sun to soothe away her arthritic pains. I have decided to make this
two hours a time for a warm cup of tea in the spa, then a bit gentle thinking,
planning and writing (with a cat on my knee), mostly about the vegetable
garden I am about to seed for spring

juliet said...

* Jessica, what a beautiful description of the time around winter solstice. It's always such a contemplative season for me. Thank you.