Listen in on two people, Tiaki and Rachel, tangata whenua and tangata Tiriti, chatting about the coming season of Matariki, including the prophet Amos who also makes mention of this star constellation. 

Rachel Kia ora Tiaki. I am aware that Matariki is coming up on Fri 24th June and this year is the first time that we are commemorating it with a public holiday in New Zealand. I have heard  bits and pieces about its significance, but as someone who has not grown up knowing about it, I would really like to understand it more.

Tiaki Thank you Rachel, for your interest in this and in your openness to embrace Māori values and learn more. Matariki is a cluster of stars that is also known as the Pleiades. They become visible to the naked eye between late May through to early July Traditionally, when Māori sighted Matariki they believed that it was their Māori gods looking down on them and it reminded them of their whakapapa/genealogy and the importance of connection to those who have gone before them.

The timing of the appearance of these stars coincided with the harvesting of winter crops, and many Māori believed their visibility was a forecast of the weather and seasons ahead. It was a time of harvesting and preparing for the next season. 

Rachel I have read Pleiades in the Bible. Is the viewing of this constellation celebrated in other cultures too?

Tiaki Yes, Matariki is celebrated in many other cultures including the Hebrew culture and so we read about it in Bible:

Amos 5: 8 “He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns midnight into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land — the Lord is his name”

Amos was writing this to the people of Israel who were in a covenant relationship with God but were neglecting the suffering and injustice of those around them. Amos was calling them to repent of their hypocrisy and arrogance and to remember that their God is the one who has absolute control over the entire universe. He is the one who made the Pleiades and Orion, he is the one who sets the season and controls times.

Rachel So as a local church, what can Matariki teach us?

Tiaki Like traditional Matariki celebrations, we can use this time to thank God for all He has given us and His care for our whānau/family. We can also use Matariki as a time to come together and eat, worship and fellowship with whānau and create spaces for everyone’s voices to be heard. To make sure that no one is left out or neglected. We are currently doing this at Riccarton Baptist Church on Sunday mornings by using the Alpha Film Series. We all sit together: kōeke/grandparents, mᾱtua/parents, rangitahi/youth, tamariki/children and mokopuna/grandchildren, and sit and eat breakfast, sharing kai and great korero, then move into a time of sharing in small groups where every person has a chance to share and ask questions.

I also think Matariki invites us as Christians to be more aware of those around us. As Amos challenged the religious people of his time to be aware of injustices in their community so we as a local church are challenged to do the same. To be a body of believers that holistically engage with all people no matter their age, race, culture or social standing.

Mauri Ora!

Tiaki Leathers of Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Te Arawa descent. Rachel Sangster is a co-pastor and Children & Family Ministry Coach for the Upper South Island Baptist Association. Both Tiaki and Rachel are part of Riccarton Baptist Church in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

For more on Matariki, see:

Matariki – a time to look beyond, by Jo Hood and Elyse Stubbington

Matariki gathers people together, by Kelly Enright and NZBMS

Matariki Celebration at Ōtūmoetai Baptist Church by Jan Ozanne

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