Puanga, the star of the Maori new year

Author(s): Sam Rerekura

Maori Books

Puanga is the star Rigel in Orion. Most of the tribes of the Māori people in Aotearoa observed Puanga to mark the beginning of the Māori New Year. In Māori mythology he was believed to be the older brother of Matariki. His cosmic rising between May and June in the early morning sky signalled the beginning of winter. Which is why Māori knew him as the foremost winter star. A practical reason why Māori marked the New Year at this particular time of the year was because Puanga’s heliacal rising coincided with the end of the harvest where the first fruits were eaten during a three-day festival of lights. The religious reason why Māori began the New Year in May-June was because it was the only time in the year when all the most significant stars important in Māori mythology rose at the same time at dawn. The kūmara had been lifted, pigeons were being stored away in calabash containers and shark had been hung out to dry ready for the winter months. The New Year was a sacred time for Māori when offerings were made to Puanga and laid out by the tohunga priesthood on tūāhu altar shrines as a gesture of thanksgiving. Through the study of the oral literature we are able to gaze through a window into the past to understand how Māori perceived the star Puanga in ancient times. In some traditions he is said to be the son of the Goddess of the underworlds and was only born as a result of the shaking of the earth by Ruaūmoko the God of earthquakes. He was then pushed up into the sky by the sun. Puanga is known to bring about the autumn rains and cause flooding throughout the country to replenish the land and leave much needed nutrients to fertilise the earth. He is believed to descend from thunder and lightning, which is logical as rain is sometimes accompanied by the elements of lightning and thunder. The Ngāpuhi people saw him in the shape of a Pewa bird snare. Ngāpuhi also perceived him in the form of a tūāhu altarpiece. Mōriori considered Puanga as the pole that held up a whata storehouse. Tūhoe Māori believed he was the father of the Kūmarahou tree. Kahungunu Māori knew him as the father of a number of shark species. Taranaki Māori would follow his pathway across the night sky to return to Rarotonga. Tainui Māori revered Puanga so much that they named their children after the star. Te Arawa Māori would instruct the spirits of their dead to fly toward his cavernous abode. Ngāti Porou believed the cosmos to be empty without his presence in the sky. Rangitāne Māori believed that Puanga was the exclusive pillar that propped up the sky father’s sacred head. Kaitahu Māori would wait for him to appear to officially open their Whare pūrākau. The Puanga year can be traced back to India to ancient astronomers of the Hindu faith where a schism occurred between two distinct rival schools of philosophy creating the Puanga and Matariki traditions for the last six thousand years. Ko Puanga-nui-ā-rangi te whetū mātāmua o te tau hou Māori. Ko Matariki tana tuahine tō muri iho -


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General Fields

  • : 9780473278304
  • : Te Whare Wānanga o Ngāpuhi-nui-tonu
  • : Te Whare Wānanga o Ngāpuhi-nui-tonu
  • : May 2014
  • : New Zealand
  • : May 2014
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Sam Rerekura
  • : Paperback