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Waimarama Maori

Star Gaze in the Hawke’s Bay

On a crisp winter morning, we opened our new stargazing site, Te Kōripitanga o Tama-nui-te-Ra. The pre-dawn ceremony attended by many whānau, friends and members of the community. Together, we participated in the traditional custom to cleanse the land and instil the mauri. Most importantly, our ceremony ensured that we would be safe from spiritual harm and that we can occupy the site. Jeremy MacLeod was our tohunga who lead the recitation of the ancient chants. We all participated in the ceremony by responding to the tohunga at the end of the chants. Our collective voices ensured that the powers above heard our chants. It was a deeply spiritual and moving experience for all.

The four principal stones mark the cardinal directions of a compass. These stones named by respected tribal elders of the wider Ngāti Kahungunu and Rangitāne tribes. Each of the elders was given autonomy to chose a name that they felt was most appropriate. The elders shared their reasons behind why they chose those names which celebrated the whakapapa connections between our tribes. The east stone and site named by our very own Sir Tīmoti Kāretu KNZM QSM reflect the rising of the stars, the sun and the moon from the sea.

The ceremony coincided with Matariki, the rising of the Pleiades constellation seen in the night sky just before dawn. Matariki is a time when we remember the dead and celebrate new life. After the ceremony, our tohunga offered a chant to the star Pōhutukawa. This star connects Matariki to the dead, and our women play a vital role in calling their names and lamenting. As our ancestors did, we looked to the stars for the signs of new life and beginnings.

Our ceremony was a poignant reminder of how important it is to protect our traditions from disappearing. In a world where we are increasingly finding our traditional ways of life eroding, our youth must absorb the knowledge of our elders. The pressures of the 21st century can be demanding, but it’s important we retain our traditions with integrity.

Perhaps we should embrace the conviction of our ancestors, the great Polynesian explorers when they left their homelands to discover Aotearoa. Join us on our Pillars of Knowledge tour and together let us look up and let the stars be the guide.


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