Missing Matariki sister

The lead figure of the star Kahui Matariki has a missing sister. Photo: Andrew Campbell.

With Matariki approaching, the gap in the line-up of the Matariki carvings on The Strand is being noticed.

The carvings represent a Maori interpretation of the star cluster also known as the Pleiades or the seven sisters.

The figure missing from the Tauranga line-up is of Waipuna a Rangi who portrays the water that hails the arrival of Matariki and the life-giving properties of water. It is also the figure with particular reference to Tauranga Moana, with three manaia at the top representing the three Tauranga iwi; Ngati Ranginui, Ngaiterangi and Ngati Pukenga.

The carving was removed from its plinth about a year ago as it had started to rot, says a Tauranga City Council spokesperson. It is currently with the carver, and the city council does not know when a replacement will be installed. The carvings were initially installed in December 2003.

According to the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa, the popular story about the cluster is that Matariki is the whaea-mother, surrounded by her six daughters, Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi, Waipunarangi, Waitī and Waitā, and Ururangi.

Matariki and her six daughters journey across the sky each year to visit their tupuna wahine great grandmother, Papatūānuku Mother Earth.

During the visit, each of the stars help Papatūānuku to prepare for the year to come, using their unique qualities or gifts to bring mauri, life force or energy to her different environments. While spending time with their kuia grandmother, they also learn new skills and gain new knowledge from her, which they guard and pass on to others.

Maori astronomy expert Dr Rangi Matamua, whose research fields are Māori astronomy and star lore, Māori culture, and Māori language development, research and revitalisation, says there are in fact nine stars of Matariki.

There are also nine stars in the Greek tradition of the cluster; seven children and their parents. Matariki is actually an abbreviation of ‘Ngā Mata o te Ariki’ – The Eyes of the God. The god referred to is Tāwhirimātea, god of the winds and weather. When Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother, were separated from their dark embrace by Tāne, Tāwhirimātea was distraught. He tore out his eyes, crushed them into pieces and stuck them onto the chest of the sky. This is why Tāwhirimātea is the blind god, feeling his way around the sky and bringing winds from different directions.

Matariki (Alcyone) – the mother of the other stars in the constellation. Rehua (Antares) is the father but is not considered part of the Matariki constellation.

Pōhutukawa – connects Matariki to the dead and is the star that carries the dead across the year (Sterope/Asterope).

Tupuānuku – is tied to food that grows in the ground (Pleione).

Tupuārangi – is tied to food that comes from above your head such as birds and fruit (Atlas).

Waitī – is tied to food that comes from fresh water (Maia).

Waitā– is tied to food that comes from salt water (Taygeta).

Waipunarangi – is tied to the rain (Electra).

Ururangi – is tied to the winds (Merope).

Hiwaiterangi/Hiwa – is the youngest star in the cluster, the star you send your wishes to (Celaeno).