The Matariki star cluster – are there seven or nine stars?

For some people the Matariki star cluster is made up of seven stars, while for others it’s nine. So which is it? Both.

We’re often asked about the number of stars that make up the Matariki

  MatarikiA star cluster which appears in the night sky during mid-winterMāori | noun

The information that you will find on this website and in other sources will differ because different iwi

  iwitribesMāori | noun
share different kōrero regarding Matariki.

Some iwi are unable to see Matariki from their rohe

  roheregionMāori | noun
, while some iwi herald the new year with a star named Puanga – kōrero tuku iho kōrero tuku ihooral historiesMāori | noun passed down will differ between iwi, hapū

  hapūsubtribesMāori | noun
, and whānau

  whānaufamilyMāori | noun

Moon phases

Traditionally, Māori observed a maramataka

  maramatakaMāori lunar calendarMāori | Noun
guided by the phases of the moon and our natural world. Because of this, the dates to celebrate the Matariki period will also differ from year to year and will be dependent on where in Aotearoa you live.

Since we began celebrating Matariki at Te Papa we have been guided by the many iwi that have participated in our Iwi in residence programme and in this way, kōrero has evolved over that time to acknowledge the iwi in residence while also acknowledging the rohe in which Te Papa is situated, Te Whanganui-a-Tara

  Te Whanganui-a-TaraWellingtonMāori | noun
. Matariki is visible in our rohe.

As such, we acknowledge the nine stars of Matariki.

Two men fish with an eel trap. Blocks have been put up in the water to guide the eel into the trap


Fishing with a hīnaki (eel trap), 1923, by James McDonald. Te Papa (MU000523/005/0257)

When is a good night for eeling? Nights in the maramataka

What the stars mean

  • Matariki is the star that signifies reflection, hope, our connection to the environment, and the gathering of people. Matariki is also connected to the health and wellbeing of people.
  • Waitī is associated with all fresh water bodies and the food sources that are sustained by those waters.
  • Waitā is associated with the ocean, and food sources within it.
  • Waipuna-ā-rangi is associated with the rain.
  • Tupuānuku is the star associated with everything that grows within the soil to be harvested or gathered for food.
  • Tupuārangi is associated with everything that grows up in the trees: fruits, berries, and birds.
  • Ururangi is the star associated with the winds.
  • Pōhutukawa is the star associated with those that have passed on.
  • Hiwa-i-te-rangi is the star associated with granting our wishes, and realising our aspirations for the coming year.

A time for reflection

The last two stars mentioned, Pōhutukawa and Hiwa-i-te-rangi, are particularly important to us this year as our focus is on reflecting on what we can learn from the past and those who have passed on in order to realise our aspirations for the coming year. We are asking all of Aotearoa and the world to share these reflections with us as oral histories to help guide our future generations via any digital platform and #MauMatariki.

Our current iwi in residence, Rongowhakaata, have shared with us that their traditions do not centre on the stars above but their gaze shifts to the whenua below. What is important to Rongowhakaata is this cold time of the year – the hard work of harvest is completed, and it is a time to huddle together with your whānau in the long nights to cook together, share kōrero and family histories and whakapapa

  whakapapagenealogyMāori | Noun
, share waiata

  waiatasongsMāori | noun
, and to come together to look forward to the coming year.

Te learn more about Matariki and how to celebrate it we recommend reading Dr Rangi Matamua’s (Ngāi Tūhoe) book Matariki: The Star of the Year. This book is a constant source of wisdom for Matariki at Te Papa.