Saturday, June 28, 2014

Happy New Year!

Today marks the beginning of the Maori new year here in Aotearoa New Zealand.
For this is the first new moon after the reappearance of Matariki, the little eyes (mata) of god (ariki).
Matariki is the bringer of food, and so the appearance of this jewel-like constellation is greeted with much joy. It is also the home of god and the ancestors, the resting place of dead souls after they left the earth.

Matariki is known to Europeans as the Pleiades, and the Pleiades new year, beginning in late autumn or early winter, was known throughout South-east Asia, ancient Egypt, Sumeria and Celtic Britain.
 In Europe, winter solstice marks the threshold of the new year also. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, winter solstice falls very close to Matariki. This year it fell on June 21 and the two festivals are only seven days apart.
The return of the sun, the ripener of crops, was greeted with as much enthusiasm as the return of Matariki, also a food bringer.
The holly and the ivy
Now both are full well grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown.
In my book 'Celebrating the Southern Seasons' (1995 and 2005) I recommend that we celebrate our new year, not in January when everyone is rushing away for their summer holidays, but in the quiet of winter, according to the old traditions of both Maori and European. Winter Solstice and Matariki: the festivals of sun and stars, fire and food, uniting us in the land that we now share. This is the vision that I hold in my heart, like a seed tenderly nurtured in the winter darkness.

13 comments:

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Juliet - it does sound good to be at peace for a while and mark the return of longer days and greater light with some thought of the older traditions - where the seasons and growth in the natural world were well respected.

Love the Pleiades ... thanks for the reminders of our ancestors and their practices .. cheers Hilary

Marja said...

I agree a great time to celebrate new year Hara matariki

Juliet Batten said...

* Hilary, we are entering a very quiet period, and I have good books in a nice little pile waiting for me.
The Pleiades are beautiful and well loved in many cultures.

* Marja, Happy Matariki to you too!

Thank you Hilary and Marja, good to see you here.

Nadezda said...

I love this idea of celebrating New Zealand new year in " the quiet of winter, according to the old traditions of both Maori and European"
Happy Matariki and Solstice , Jukiet!

Juliet Batten said...

Nadezda, good to see you, and thanks for your response - very welcome.

Penny O'Neill said...

I admire how you honor the seasons, Juliet, and no more so than with this post. It is really very beautiful. Happy New Year to you.

Juliet Batten said...

Penny, you are very welcome. Thank you.
It's so encouraging to see how much more aware everyone here is becoming about our southern seasons. Matariki is widely celebrated now throughout our society. Libraries make displays, councils create events, schools join in . . . it's just wonderful.

Vicki Lane said...

Of course the new year should begin on or near the winter solstice -- it makes no sense otherwise. I love your pictures -- is there a native holly in NZ or is this an import?

Juliet Batten said...

Vicki, the winter solstice new year is obvious to those in the northern hemisphere, but here we have followed the calendar dates rather than the seasons, so things end up being out of joint. The holly is an import. Thanks for visiting.

Friko said...

A Happy New Year to you.
There’s nothing better than following the seasons and honouring each new one as it comes.

Juliet Batten said...

Friko, thank you. The seasons seem to be moving faster these days! I hope you are enjoying your summer.

silkannthreades said...

A lovely post for Matariki.

Juliet Batten said...

Thanks Gallivanta. This festival has become so much part of our lives now.