Matariki is the Māori name for the Pleiades, or ‘seven sisters’, a group of stars which in June or July becomes visible just above the horizon at dawn. Matariki means ‘the eyes of god’ (mata ariki) or ‘little eyes’ (mata riki). In Māori mythology, Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother, were separated by their children, causing the god of the winds, Tāwhirimātea, to fly into a rage, pluck out his eyes and hurl them into the skies.
Traditionally, the first new moon after the the appearance of Matariki signals the start of a new year. It’s a time for acknowledging the cycle of life and seasons, remembering the dead and celebrating the turn toward lengthening days.
Each year the southern New Zealand city of Dunedin celebrates the winter solstice and Matariki with a midwinter carnival. Thousands of people, young and old, gather in the Octagon in the heart of the city to enjoy music, street food and fireworks – but the highlight for everyone is always the lantern parade, a procession of children and adults bearing (or wearing) a gorgeous array of luminous flora and magical beasts. Light glows and flows around the Octagon, and face after face bursts out smiling. Click on the images below to share the experience.
Happy new year!
Read more about celebrating the seasons and see pictures from the 2017 Dunedin Midwinter Carnival lantern parade in last year’s Corpus article: Celebrating the turning points: solstice in the south.
Images by Doug Lilly.
Sue Wootton is co-editor of Corpus.