Maramataka 101

Thanks for all the feedback from our first blog last week! We hear ya all, we jumped the gun a little diving straight into one of the lunar phases without some background korero on what exactly the maramataka is. Aroha mai, step back a little and start again.

What is the Maramataka?

You can google and find definitions of the “maramataka” most commonly referred to as a planting and fishing monthly almanac.  The kupu itself reveals it as the Marama (moon) taka (to turn), Maramataka, the turning of the moon.  

While important, it is one part of an overall view of time and space by Maori, it does not stand alone or operate in isolation, but is informed and practiced in connection with other korero and practices.   Cue here – why we regularly share korero from many others who speak of the stars, the environment, rongoa, atua…etc etc. 

Everything is connected.  Like EVERYTHING.

Our tūpuna understood the importance of the connections of our marama, our skies, our stars, our moana, our whenua and ourselves.  Each maramataka is reflective of the iwi/ hapu it is based in.  As Pauline Harris & Lilliana Clarke explain;

 “The maramataka is a complex system that utilises the sun, moon, stars, environment and ecology to track time and occurrences. It requires a broad understanding of many facets from the world around us and above us”

(Harris & Clarke, 2018)

So yes, aroha mai, it’s never a quick 2 minute korero – but hopefully in 2 minutes you do get an appreciation for the vast body of knowledge it is, how amazing our tūpuna were, and find ways you can connect to this korero and practice it in your daily life.  

 First steps

  • Maramataka is a lunar calendar, meaning it’s based on the cycle of the moon. The calendar most of us live our lives by – the 7 days a week, 365 days a year calendar - is a solar (sun)  calendar called the Gregorian Calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. The Julian Calendar (Julius Caesar) and Egyptian calendar existed prior – but the Gregorian Calendar is now most commonly followed worldwide.
  • Majority of indigenous cultures around the world follow the lunar calendar, and our calendars, plus the marama phases are very similar – especially in Polynesia. The Lunar Calendar is also followed by the Hindu & Muslim religions, and by Chinese and Indian peoples too. 

 So……if people say you’re a “bit woo woo” wanting to learn more about the lunar calendar – you can remind them a big chunk of the world already does follow the lunar calendar – so catch up already :) 

  •  Maramataka differ depending on the environment of the iwi/ hapu who is following it. There are many similarities, in names, phases and practices. There are over 400 maramataka recorded to date.  400!  You can read the research report done by Lincoln University in 2006 that reviewed 44 of these maramataka, but there is many more.
  • The majority of Maramataka identify between 28 -31 moon phases and commonly start the first night based on Whiro (New Moon) while others may start on Te Rākaunui (Full Moon). So instead of thinking – 1st of the month begins my Gregorian calendar month, with the maramataka you will either look to the new moon or full moon as the beginning of your month.  This month – New Moon falls on the 8th November, so if your maramataka started on the New Moon - Whiro – then it will start 8th November instead of the 1st November.  Make sense?  Yes? Not yet? Don't worry, it will eventually!

There’s a little trick to this also…that varies amongst hapu/iwi…that in some ways has adapted due to the technology we have nowadays as we can identify to the second when each moon rises and sets now…………but we will leave that to a later blog post to explain! For now – just start with understanding that the lunar “month” does not begin on the 1st…..it begins on the New moon.

  • Whiro also marks the start of a Maori Month based on a lunar/ stellar calendar
  •  When you see a layout of marama like this one– you read the moons from left to right, and then back to the beginning of the next line. Not up and down or around……left to right.  Or another common tool people use is a dial (which we will share in next weeks blog)
  •  Many people look to the stars to signal the year ahead, the moon to track the month, the sun to note the days, and the environment to see the seasons. That’s a big korero unpacking that sentence – so we will let that just sit awhile……and get some much smarter people to korero and explain each aspect of that in upcoming blogs!.

 As a starter, know that after years of living by a solar calendar, learning about, then trying to live by a lunar calendar takes some practice….ok a lot of practice (!)…. and the reality is we have to follow both – or we will never get to our day jobs on time!

The “art” of Maramataka is in the observations of your tai ao – your environment.  

Knowing what day it is, then what they are known to be good/ not good for, then adding in your own observations from wherever you are.  

What do you notice in your day to day life?

What changes over the different moon phases?

This month? Next month? What changed? Where was I at those times?

Be kind to yourself, it takes time and learnings and recording your observations over days, nights, months, seasons and years.

We designed our journals to record our own observations and be able to go back and review them month by month.  As old school as that is – it was the only way we could start seeing the differences, the similarities, the patterns that were emerging in our lives. Its one thing to know what phases are "good" or "not good for" but then we needed to observe things daily and see how its actually been for us - were we on point or not? If not, why? 

We hope others will use the journals in the same way.  Whether as a beginner, or experienced practitioner - theres always something new to observe!

We know it’s going to take awhile to build up the knowledge and practices till it becomes second nature.  Just like the pantene shampoo ad, it doesn’t happen over night….but we have faith it will happen!

Would love to hear how you are going with resetting yourself to the maramataka.

Don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter so we can stay connected on this journey of learning we are all on!

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3 comments

  • Great information. Eventually want to do this. Thank you ❤️

    Nadia webber
  • This is awesome alright keep up the great mahi xox 🕉💞♾☯️🌠👽😘

    Trayc
  • Nga mihi mo enei whakamarama mai. Yes just a beginner at tracking but sooo excited of the possibilities ahead for my whanau and I

    Lulu Manaena

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