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Matariki is celebrated over a period of several days in mid-winter – but these days are not the same each year, or even by region and iwi. So how do you know when Matariki starts? The Matariki Advisory Board, led by Rangi Mātāmua, says there are key things to look out for when determining the start of the Matariki period.

The method used to find the best holiday date was to use the phases of Tangaroa during the lunar month of Pipiri (around June/early July). The maramataka (Maori lunar calendar) often has four lunar phases which honor Tangaroa, (god of the sea, lakes, rivers and their creatures). These phases of Tangaroa occur in the last quarter of the moon’s cycle, when it goes from a quarter moon to completely dark. Today is Tangaroa-ā-muathe first Tangaroa phase of the current lunar cycle.

Tangaroa’s unique relationship with the moon is through his domain as the god of the seas and oceans – whose tides and flows are tied to the phases of the moon. Tangaroa has whakapapa connecting all forms of life, from the water that flows through the valleys and sustains crops to the water we consume. The Tangaroa phases are also periods of relatively high energy, according to the maramataka, and encourage people to come together with the whanau, to challenge themselves creatively and physically, and to give back to the whenua.

The start of Matariki occurs when the star cluster can be seen before sunrise on Tangaroa’s first clear day. After that, there are about seven or eight days when Matariki is celebrated while the cluster can be seen, before the new moon.

So if you ain’t out for see cluster in the early morning sky this morning, you still have plenty of days to do so.