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Marama & Me

by Briar Pomana (Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Rakaipaaka)

feature writer

In the age of social media, maramataka, the Māori lunar calendar, is re-entering the chat. Similar to other mātauranga tuku iho, the maramataka is growing in vastness and followers every year. I’m surprised something like @maramatakamemes hasn’t become a glorified Instagram account to follow given the popularity that actual accounts like @maramataka.maori and @maramataka_in_action generate.

The maramataka is the observance of moon cycles and lunar months. To break the word up, the word “marama” can be interpreted as the moon itself, or the lunar month. Mārama can also mean to make light/clear, or to understand. For Māori, we understand the maramataka by how our environment is affected. As we know trans-culturally, the moon is significant for many reasons. It influences tidal activity in our oceans and bodies of water, it plays a part in the growth of our gardens and can even have an effect on how we interact with each other, behave and feel. Māori knew this and used the maramataka to mark time, prepare and plan for everyday life.

Last month, I jumped on a Zoom call with Heeni Hoterene, the creator of Maramataka Māori, a group which brings Māori knowledge of the lunar calendar to communities and runs an Instagram account with the same name. I was alongside a bunch of other incredible Māori artists - we’d been given the opportunity to have one-on-one time with the ‘Marama Queen’ herself, through The Basement Theatre’s Matariki Wānanga. Although the maramataka has been active in many Māori communities across Aotearoa, Heeni and her mahi were my first introductions to this mātauranga. Needless to say, I was pumped to talk to her, and with a new notebook and ink pen, I was all ears. The purpose of the session was to learn how we could plan our lives using the maramataka as a tool. Heeni even joked that she’s used to seeing people blame the moon for their misfortunes on social media. Her response to those complaints was that the moon is not out to get you, but perhaps we could use its cycles and influence to our advantage. Although there are stages of the moon that require precaution, we should heed the warning signs early - before the aftermath of said moon.

A couple of weeks following the call with Heeni, each of us from the call were sent a calendar from Heeni’s brand Maramataka Māori that was colour-coded and beautifully designed so that even the most novice of astronomers could understand. This past weekend I set my calendar behind the door to my bedroom. I live with two other Māori, one being my cousin, who are both definitely aware of the maramataka in their own lives and so I did think twice about just putting the calendar up in our lounge or office space, but for now, my own personal journey with the marama feels super vulnerable and in a stage of growth that didn’t feel right to plaster on a wall where everyone that visits our whare can see. It kind of felt more like a goal setter and tracker than a calendar - something most people wouldn’t blow up into A0 and put up in their living room. Behind my door, I see my maramataka tracker every day. Before, I would check the @maramataka.maori page to set my day up right, or regretfully do it after the fact, just like those people that Heeni aunty-growled at. But now, I have colourful tabs. I’m planning for days I should get up early, days where I should focus on self-care and even classic calendar-marked days, like my mum’s birthday, which is on a Tamatea-whakapau moon, in the Tamatea lunar month. Interestingly, during this phase of the moon energy isn’t the highest, and we should be gentle with ourselves.

It’s all so incredibly affirming, and after using my notes from the session with Heeni I couldn’t believe I didn’t do this earlier. The maramataka has given me a sense of control and foresight that I didn’t even realise I was lacking. It’s welcomed me back into a way of life that feels more connected to my environment and whakapapa every day. It has also reminded me that there is a living tipuna that we all have access to and can learn from - our moon.


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