An original story about Matariki that draws on the themes of Toitū Ngā Mahinga Kai o Matariki – Sustainable Natural Resources of Matariki. The kaupapa (focus) for Matariki 2018 is sustainable natural resources of Matariki – Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi and Ururangi. These whetū (stars) are connected to food that is grown in the earth, food that comes from the sky, and the wind. It is essential for us to look after our Earth, and its natural resources, so that it can continue to sustain us.
Ururangi's Gift - A Matariki Story
“Koro! Koro!” Nikau ran as fast as he could muster, dodging rocks and hurling over bushes. Branches even grasped at the threads of his red hoodie, but they were no match for his speed.
“What is it Nikau?” a voice rang from the vegetable patch, pricking at his ears as he gleefully followed the sound.
” Koro!” Nikau almost tripped over his laces as his arms wrapped tightly around the old man, making Koro’s wrinkles iron out with a smile. “Look what I found!” Excitedly, Nikau opened his palm, showing the tiny seed hidden within.
“Ah! My dear moko you have found a Kōwhai seed.” Koro delicately lifted the seed from Nikau’s palm and pinched it between two fingers; gazing at it through the sunlight. “Ururangi must have brought it to us!”
“Ururangi?” Nikau was puzzled. “who is Ururangi?”
Sighing Koro started, “Ah, sit down Nikau, and let me tell you a story. You must know this- it is part of your whakapapa."
“Really?” Nikau hurriedly sat on the grass, his shorts turning green from its stain.
“Do you know Matariki? It is our celebration of the new year- it is very, very special to us for many reasons.”
Nikau leaned in.
“Ururangi is one of 9 stars in the star cluster Matariki- there are hundreds of stars within, but these 9 are especially important as we can see them with our naked eye, and each hold domain over different areas of our environment. Their names are; Matariki, Pōhutukawa, Waitī and Waitā, Waipuna-ā-rangi, Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi, Ururangi, and finally Hiwa-i-te-rangi. Our tupuna would gaze at each of these stars, who would tell us what the year ahead would be like. You my dear moko, have the speed of Ururangi,” Koro chuckled “but the clumsiness of- maybe a duck?”
“Hey!” Nikau’s face turned bright red, with a sheepish grin breaking through his lips.
“Uruangi is fast too and has domain over the wind and its nature for the coming year. He gave you this special little seed, and soon you will need to pass it on for Tupu-ā-nuku to protect. We can't plant this yet Nikau, as it's too cold for the little Kōwhai - it is fast alseep. You will have to keep it safe until it is ready to plant in spring where it will be wide awake; but we can get the soil ready for it, and find it a safe spot for it to grow."
Koro led Nikau by the hand, and together they found a perfect clearing for the Kōwhai to grow. Using Koro's old trusty tools, Koro teaches Nikau how to till the soil, carefully breaking up clumps of dirt and preparing the little patch of garden.
“Tupu-ā-nuku has domain over the food grown in the earth,” Koro whispered. “Under her protection it will grow proud and tall bearing its yellow flowers as thanks.”
Nikau rubbed his hands together. They were sore, but the work they had accomplished together made him smile.
“So once Tupu-ā-nuku has it that’s it?” Nikau questioned, placing a little worm carefully back into the dirt.
“Ehē of course not Nikau, life has a cycle, and that is only the first step.”
Nikau jumped into grandpa’s lap, relieved that isn’t the end of the story.
“Once it's time to plant the little seed we will place it in the ground, cover it with soil and give it plenty of water. It will eventually grow its first leaves, sprouting from the ground, Tupu-ā-nuku will then help care for it, hiding it under the blades of grass, as it slowly grows and becomes stronger. The higher it reaches and the stronger it grows, the further from the ground it goes- until it cannot reach anymore!” Nikau gazed up at the sky “My seed will reach the clouds, I know it!”
Koro chuckled, “maybe not- but Kōwhai has its own purpose in life, as do I, as do you. Kōwhai gives thanks by bearing beautiful yellow flowers- this is part of its purpose.”
“So.. its purpose is to just be pretty.. that’s it?” Nikau’s heart sank.
"Ehē Nikau, kōwhai also has an ability to help us when we are unwell; its bark has healed many, as it can become a medicine to help wounds heal- but only when it grows; and once Kōwhai reaches up to the heavens, it becomes part of the domain of Tupu-ā-rangi who has domain over food from the sky.”
“Koro,” Nikau started, “you must be getting old- you can’t plant kumara in the sky!”
“Food is in many forms Nikau- and you are very cheeky!” Koro laughed, messing up Nikau’s hair.
“Kōwhai’s purpose is to feed the birds that fly in Tupu-ā-rangi’s domain-our native birds such as Tui, bellbirds, and wood pigeon feast happily on those bright flowers and lush leaves- Kōwhai give nectar as food for many of our bird life, and in return Tupu-ā-nuku cares for all of them.”
Nikau felt the inside of his pocket where the seed safely slept, excited about of what the little seed will achieve.
“The circle of life is completed when that little Kōwhai produces seeds, giving them back to Ururangi to scatter over the land. Each plays an important part; it is special to us and to our tupuna, as it will be to your own tamariki.”
Nikau hugged koro as hard as he could. He now knew why his Kōwhai seed was such a special gift to him and his whānau.
“Thank you for the story koro, I can’t wait for Matariki!”
Nikau jumped up and raced inside, hoping to have a taste of the Matariki feast.
"Nikau! Aren't you going to help me harvest the kumara?" Koro questioned, but Nikau was already out of sight.
Koro chuckled "One day Nikau will learn," he murmured, as he continued to prepare the soil; breaking up massive clumps of dirt and pulling out old plant roots,planning where the new plants could grow. It was hard work, but worth it for the new year coming, as then he would be ready to plant in spring. Koro had to work fast, as the kumara harvest would soon end at Marariki, which would fill their winter stores until he could plant new crops-just like his tupuna before him. Dusk soon basked the sky in bright colours, signalling the end of the day.
Koro cleaned his tools, storing them in the nearby shed. He then gathered the freshly harvested kumara in hand and made his way inside, waiting for the new year to begin.
Want to read more?
This year Christchurch City Libraries continue to explore the reintroduction of Te Iwa o Matariki - The Nine Stars of Matariki. This booklist features new favourites and some of our old favourites, as well as resources which relate to this year's theme - Toitū Ngā Mahinga Kai o Matariki - Sustainable Natural Resources of Matariki. These three whetū are Tupu-ā-nuku which is associated with food that grows in the ground. Tupu-ā-rangi, associated with food that comes from the sky, and Ururangi, connected to the nature of the winds for the coming year. A Christchurch City Libraries list.
Learn about the Nine Stars of Matariki in the episode. Pipi Mā make a mobile of the star constellation Matariki and celebrate each star.
Associate Professor Dr Rangi Matamua talks about his recently released book, Matariki: The Star of the Year, at Te Herenga Waka Marae, Victoria University of Wellington.
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