Image from www.tangatawhenua.com.
Matariki, was one of those celestial objects that were very significant for navigation in the Pacific. Naturally such objects had also spiritual and religious meaning.
As it happens in the South Pacific, Matariki
does have its heliacal rising close to midwinter, and the fact that
it is close
to the ecliptic and thus rises at almost the same point where the Sun appears a short time later, has undoubtedly added a
lot of significance to this event for Māori.
One traditional account is that Matariki is the mother surrounded by her six daughters, Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi, Waitī, Waitā, Waipuna-ā-rangi and Ururangi. It explains that Matariki and her daughters appear to assist the sun, Te Rā, whose winter journey from the north has left him weakened. Ref...
When Matariki and her daughters first reappeared they were greeted with songs lamenting the loss of those who had died in the previous year. But the singers’ tears were joyful too, because the New Year had begun.
The Tapu period of the year was the time when Matariki appeared above the horizon in the morning. That was the occasion on which the Māori elders of former times held festival, when the people rejoiced, and women danced and sang for joy as they looked on Matariki” Ref...
Matariki literally means the Eyes of Rā (Mata a Ariki), Rā being the Sun God. Ref...
Another translation is ‘little eyes’ (mata riki).
Some say that when Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother were separated by their offspring, the god of the weather, Tāwhirimātea, became angry, tearing out his eyes and hurling them into the heavens.
Video Matariki Events. More...