Wed 10 Jun 2020

Celebrating Puanga

‘Ko Puanga te pae ārahi i ngā tohu o te tau hou i te pae ururangi' 

– 'Puanga leads the celestial signs to herald the New Year.’

Each year around Pipiri (June), the stars of Matariki and Puanga signal the end of the year in Aotearoa and the start of the next. In most places, the Māori New Year is marked by the rise of Matariki and the sighting of the next new moon.

In parts of Taranaki, the Māori New Year is marked by the rise of the star called Puanga. Puanga is also known as Rigel – the brightest star in the Orion constellation - and appears in the north eastern horizon in late May or early June.

“Puanga is given prominence in our part of the world, because our location means that many of our Taranaki iwi can’t see Matariki clearly,” WITT Kaitakawaenga Allana Prestney.

“We therefore look to the next important star near Matariki. That star is Puanga.”

There are iwi in Whanganui, parts of the Far North, and the South Island that also recognise Puanga.

Like Matariki, Puanga is a time of reflection, preparation, learning, and celebration.

“Puanga, Matariki and the Māori New Year are a way of paying respect to and celebrating the unique land on which we live, and it is a chance to reflect on the past year and to remember our loved ones.”

Puanga is also a time to prepare the māra (garden) and ensure that winter frosts will help to kill any weeds or soil infections.

Allana said the celebration of Puanga is not a rejection of Matariki.

“Many of Taranaki’s iwi still refer to Matariki and the other names in the constellation in their korero,” she said.

Here at Te Kura Matatini o Taranaki (WITT) we are looking forward to celebrating Puanga over the coming weeks and learning more about this special time in the Māori calendar.


Pictured: The location of Puanga in the mid-winter sky. From Work of the Gods by Kay Leather and Richard Hall