Some of us are looking at the stars . . . Matariki

This Friday, 24 June, is the first time that Matariki will be a public holiday in Aotearoa New Zealand. It marks the rising of the star cluster Matariki above the horizon, and is an important time in Māori culture. Matariki symbolizes the beginning of the new year, with remembrance of the deceased, and with wishes for good health and good harvest going forward. 

Here is how to find Matariki in the night sky.

As a star cluster visible around the world, Matariki bobs around our shared horizon.   In Japan it is called Subaru (though the cluster is only considered to include 6 stars).

In Australia, the stars are known as the Seven Sisters, whose songline runs throughout Australia. In Greece, they are the Pleiades.

Both myths refer to a group of sisters, moving across the sky, chased by a hunter. In Aboriginal science, as in Maori science, the Seven Sisters are an important part of the calendar, and their rising marks the start of winter.

In 2018, the National Museum of Australia shared that Songline in a beautiful interactive exhibition tracking the Seven Sisters. (I was lucky enough to see it twice, and will never forget it).

The seven sisters move around the world–the cluster is always moving–dipping above and below the horizon, and their stories appear in cultures on all continents. They are among the oldest of the world’s myths. Perhaps their appearance, and disappearances, remind us of our shared horizons, and our shared cultures.

All the best for Matariki!

Elizabeth Hale

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