As I am sure you know, at this time of the year we celebrate Matariki here in Aotearoa New Zealand. This is the Maori New Year – the time around May or June when the Matariki star cluster (also known by Europeans as the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters) appears in the north-eastern sky.
Traditionally, on a practical level, Matariki was a time to celebrate a successful harvest, and a time to prepare for the next growing season. On a more symbolic level, it was therefore a time to reflect on the past, celebrate the present, and plan for the future. In particular, it was a time to remember loved ones who had passed on, and a time to reflect on your whakapapa, your family history and stories. Whanau would come together to share food, songs and dance, and kites – manu aute – were often flown.
Manu is a word that translates as either bird or
kite, because like birds, there was a sense where they had a spiritual
connection with the gods. Kites were highly decorated, often to look like
birds, and were flown as a way to communicate with those who had passed on, as
a way to connect the heavens and the earth. In chapel this week I read a story called
The Seven Kites of Matariki by Calico
McClintock and Dominique Ford. You can listen to it here on Radio NZ’s “Storytime” page!