Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby: Not sir by chance

Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby was given a knighthood for his service to Māori on this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

He is known by many names: Papa Hec to some, Hector to others. And now Sir Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby. You may not have heard of him but it is a name you should know.  His name is known all over the Pacific for his huge contributions to the revitalisation of celestial navigation, as a master carver, Te Rarawa elder, a font of cultural knowledge, for the revitalisation of waka building and waka hourua (double-hulled boat), as kaitiaki of Waitangi waka Ngātokimatawhaorua, and as he man responsible for the first return journey of Māori to Rarotonga by traditional methods after more than 600 years.

In February, I was extremely lucky to attend ACE Aotearoa’s Hui-Fono (an annual conference for Pasifika and Māori educators working in the Adult Community Education space) in Te Tai Tokerau – the Far North where we got to hear Sir Hec speak at his beautiful home in Aurere. Turning onto the Doubtless Bay Road after Te Awanui if you are heading north, you drive a few kilometres to the turn off to Aurere. There is no sign. Just a bridge that leads to a dirt road. Our two coach buses crossed that bridge, and although we couldn’t see the bridge under our bus we were assured that it was safe as Papa Hec was a bridge builder before he retired to carve waka and learn celestial navigation.

About two kilometres up the dirt road, we came to a clearing. A grassy hill, bordered by a warehouse, a carved whare, a waka hourua resting under a tarpaulin, and a house that had been extended several times looking out onto the expanse of the Doubtless Bay Sound.

On top of the emerald green, grassy hill was a ring of pou. And inside the ring was a group waiting to welcome us on. Papa Hec sat in the middle on a seat next to his golf cart. The scenery was breath taking. When Papa Hec began to speak his reo was so fluid, initially our group of over 100 sat far away from him. But as his sharing continued we crept forward mesmerised by his kōrero, and even when the Northland skies decided to sprinkle us with rain we still sat there listening intently.

Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby sitting next to his golf cart
Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby sitting in his special chair next to his golf cart

The circle that we sat inside was actually a compass. Each of the 32 pou, set 11 degrees apart represented a direction, and when he began to swivel in his chair we realised that through his own design Sir Hector had manufactured a seat centred in the middle of his compass, complete with adjustable sights to study the night sky. It was here that Sir Hec began to study celestial navigation guided by Master Navigator Mau Piailug who came to stay with Sir Hec at Aurere to teach wayfinding and navigating using the sun, stars, clouds, other indicators of nature, and the importance of finding true north.

32 pou on a hill at Te Aurere
32 pou on a hill at Aurere

I came away from Aurere, the lucky winner of a copy of Sir Hec’s biography written by Jeff Evans. I devoured that book, hungry for more and inspired by the ability of our ancestors to traverse the largest ocean in the world with ease. The things that are shared in that book made me realise that our hour with Sir Hec shed very little light on his amazing achievements and contribution to navigation worldwide.

Sir Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby and Jan-Hai with a copy of his biography
Sir Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby and Jan-Hai with a copy of his biography

I am blessed to have had the opportunity to hear such a man speak in person at his beautiful home in Te Tai Tokerau, and we as a community that spans the Pacific Ocean are immensely grateful for your efforts and willingness to share your knowledge and inspiration to find our true North.

Thank you Sir Heke-Nuku-Mai-Ngai-Iwi Busby.

Find out more

Jan-Hai
Libraries Learning Specialist

Te Iwa o Matariki – The Nine Stars of Matariki

Kua ara ake ahau i te papa o te whenua
Kua kite ahau i ngā whetū e tūtaki tahi ana
Ko Matariki te kairūri
Ko Atutahi kei te taumata o te mangōroa

The scope of our imagination is from the earth to the stars
Professor Te Wharehuia Milroy, Kura Reo ki Te Waipounamu 2014

Matariki 2017 is a fresh look through old eyes at Māori oral traditions, practices and customs associated with the Māori New Year. Over the next three years the Christchurch City Libraries will be re-introducing ‘Te Iwa o Matariki – the Nine stars of Matariki’ beginning with Te Kātao o Matariki – the water stars of Matariki, Waipuna-ā-rangi, Waitī, Waitā.

Matariki 2017

Nine or Seven? That is the question!

The star cluster of Matariki (Pleiades) has long been associated with the Greek tale of the seven daughters of Pleione and Altas, who, upon being harassed turned into doves and flew into the heavens. In this version of the story, two stars were not included in any traditions or commemorations, rather the mythical seven were embraced.

Pleiades star cluster
Pleiades open star cluster, public domain image via Wikipedia

However history records that Māori were aware of the presence of more than seven visible stars within the cluster as noted by historian Elsdon Best in his 1955 book The Astronomical knowledge of the Māori:

“[Historian William] Colenso writes [in 1839 in the far north]: “I found that the Maori (sic) could see more stars in the Pleiades with the unaided eye than I could, for, while I could only see clearly six stars, they could see seven and sometimes eight.” (Best, 1922)

Associate Professor, Dr Rangi Matamua, Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato, is a leading Māori astronomer. He has spent over 20 years researching indigenous astronomy. Awarded the 2014 Fulbright Scholarship – Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, Rangi used the grant to study how astronomy is embedded into the cultural practices of indigenous people. That same year he was successful in leading a group of Māori astronomers in securing funding from the Royal Society – Te Apārangi (the Marsden Fund) to continue this study. It is through his Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga research and the work of the Marsden Fund project Te Mauria Whiritoi that Rangi has re-confirmed that there are nine stars that constitute the star cluster of Pleiades or Matariki not just seven stars as commonly believed.

For this reason Rangi and Te Reo Māori Language expert, Paraone Gloyne produced an article in Mana Magazine reclaiming the two missing stars and providing an insight into Te Iwa o Matariki.

“Contrary to popular belief, there are nine stars in the constellation of Matariki, rather than seven. They all hold dominion over particular areas of our environment as seen from a Māori world view. They are; Matariki, Pōhutukawa, Waitī, Waitā, Waipuna-ā-rangi, Tupuānuku, Tupuārangi, Ururangi, and Hiwa-i-te-rangi. Traditionally, our ancestors did not just look at the constellation as a whole, but rather viewed each star individually, gaining an insight into the year ahead.” (Gloyne, Matamua, Mana, May 2016)

Puanga or not to Puanga?

For some iwi, Puanga not Matariki marks the start of the New Year as it rises just before Matariki. For others Puanga is seen as the pre-cursor to the rise of Matariki. It is Puanga that foretells the fortunes of the coming of the New Year by his appearance and placement when he first rises after the first new moon. It is Matariki who confirms it through her placement and appearance when she appears three days later.

According to some oral traditions, Puanga is the older brother of Takurua his younger brother, and his pretty younger sister Matariki. Jealous of the attention Matariki gets, “the task of Puanga is to strive ahead of Matariki that he may again take possession of the year for himself.” (Puanga, Star of the Māori New Year) It is for this reason he appears prior to Matariki in the hope that he may be heralded as the bringer of the New Year, only to be overlooked with the appearance of Matariki.

Does Matariki always rise in June?

No, the last quarter of the moon cycle known as the Tangaroa nights of the moon is when Matariki rises. This can vary from year to year but is always in the cold months from May to July. This year the rise of Matariki is from 17 to 20 June while the period of Matariki is from 17 to 24 June.

Further Reading

This article was published in issue 4 of our quarterly magazine, uncover – huraina. Read it online.

Researching Aurora Australis

I have been out trying to catch a glimpse of Aurora Australis or the Southern Lights. I spent last evening out on the port hills star gazing, I was unsuccessful again.

My first attempt to see the polar lights was when I was living in the UK and wanted to see the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. I booked a weekend in Iceland, which is supposed to have excellent viewing of the northern lights. Alas the weather in Iceland was cloudy, so no Aurora Borealis for me.

My children are now are asking lots of questions so I decided to do some research on the Auroras. My starting place is eDS, the libraries eResources Discovery Search which searches across heaps of eResources all at once. First result was the Research Starter on the Auroras which gives you a really good starting point for information, explaining how phenomena is caused by the interaction of solar radiation with the earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field. Other results include news stories, and articles from magazines such as Australian Geographic.

This got me thinking about another great eResource we have at Christchurch City Libraries, New Zealand Geographic Archive. NZ Geographic always has such great photos and didn’t let me down with this great article Nature’s Neon.

Now I armed with more knowledge about the Auroras will I go stargazing again and try to view the southern lights? Yes, I probably will.

Screen shot of NZ Geographic
A screen shot from New Zealand Geographic Archive – an eResource accessible with your Christchurch City Libraries membership.

Find out more

A literary Matariki

Matariki, Aotearoa New Zealand New Year has arrived with the return of the star grouping of the same name, what is widely known as The Pleiades, a star cluster within the constellation of Taurus.

In some Māori traditions Matariki forms a pou or post along with Tautoru (Orion’s belt) and Takurua (Sirius). This is the post of Hine-nui-te-pō, the goddess of death, and symbolically marks the death of the old year.

The Matariki cluster, for whatever reason, has fired the imagination for millennia, appearing in poetry and stories since time immemorial. All around the world there are many traditions, legends, and stories based on this cluster of stars.

Matariki in Māori songs and poetry

The stars of Matariki make an appearance in a number of Māori songs and mōteatea (a traditional form of chant or sung poetry), in the latter it is often in a lament or remembrance of a loved one.

Such as this lament by Mere Reweti Taingunguru of Te Whanau-a-Apanui for her husband Te Whatu-a-Rangahau which opens with the lines –

Cover of Ngā MōteateaTērā Matariki huihui ana mai. / Ka ngaro rā, ē, te whetū kukume ata.

(Behold the Pleiades are clustered above. / Lost, alas, is the star that hauls forth the dawn.)

Or this one by Mihi-ki-te-kapua –

Tirohia atu nei ngā whetū, / Me ko Matariki e ārau ana; / He hōmai tau i ngā mahara / E kohi nei, whakarerea atu / Nā te roimata ka hua riringi / Tāheke ware kai aku kamo.

(I gaze up at the stars, / And the Pleiades are gathered together / Which gives rise to many thoughts / That well up within, and freely / Do the tears pour forth / And flow shamelessly from mine eyes.)

Wow. That’s almost got me a bit teary myself.

Then there’s this lament for Ngati Mutunga chiefs Te Whao and Tu-poki

Cover of Ngā mōteatea the songsKa ripa ki waho rā, e Atutahi koa, / Te whetū tārake o te rangi, / Ka kopi te kukume, / Ka hahae Matariki ē, / Puanga, Tautoru, /Nāna i kukume koutou ki te mate, ē.

(Away out yonder is Atutahi, / The star that shines apart in the heavens. / The noose was pulled taut / At the rising of Matariki, / In the company of Puanga and Tautoru. / It was thus you were all hauled down in death, alas.)

The presence or rise of Matariki is also used to indicate the time of year as in this action song of Ngati Rangiwewehi –

Mō te Matariki, e totope nei te hukarere, / Ngā taritari o Matariki.

(In the winter time, heralded now by snowstorms,  / And this cold weather of Matariki.)

Or this lament for Te Umukohukohu –

Ka puta Matariki ka rere Whānui. / Ko te tohu tēnā o te tau e!

(Matariki re-appears, Whānui starts its flight. / Being the sign of the [new] year!)

More recent examples include the song “Te Aroha” by Tuini Ngawai, written in 1960 which has the lines –

Horohia e Matariki / ki te Whenua / Te māra-matanga mo te motu e / Kia tipu he puawai honore / Mo te pani, mō te rawakore e / Mo te rawakore e

(Spread your light oh Matariki / On to Mother Earth / As a guiding light for this land / May the seed become an honoured bloom / for the poor, for the needy. / For the needy.)

The Pleiades in poetry around the world

These same stars, though called by other names have been referenced multiple times in poetry in other cultures too. In the 20th century a Japanese literary magazine mainly focused on poetry, was called “Subaru”, the Japanese name for the Pleaides/Matariki cluster.

In 16th century France there was a group of poets who called themselves “La Pleiade”, naming themselves after an even earlier group of poets from 3rd century BC Alexandria, the Alexandrian Pleiad. Another french group of poets based in Toulouse in the 14th century and made up of seven men and seven women also used the name to describe themselves.

Sappho, the greek poetess, thought to have been born around 630 BC, made at least one reference to The Pleaides in her “Midnight poem” –

Tonight I’ve watched / the moon and then / the Pleiades / go down / The night is now / half gone; youth / goes; I am / in bed alone

Industrious astronomers have used this description of the relative positions of the moon and the stars – making a guess at the rough year and place to determine which time of year the poem was written in.

The Pleiades also turn up in the poem “On the Beach at Night” by Walt Whitman

And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades.

Cover of John Milton's Paradise lostThere’s also an appearance in Book 7 of John Milton’s Paradise Lost

His longitude through Heaven’s high road; the gray
Dawn, and the Pleiades, before him danced,

And in “Locksley Hall” by Lord Tennyson

Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro’ the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.

There are also multiple references in the star cluster in the epic poetry of Homer, in The Iliad and The Odyssey.

Pleiades references in other literature

Cover of Ethan FromeOther literary associations include novels like Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome. Here Ethan describes the night sky to his cousin Mattie.

That’s Orion down yonder; the big fellow to the right is Aldebaran, and the bunch of little ones-like bees swarming-they’re the Pleiades…

In more recent times popular novelist Lucinda Riley has undertaken a series called The Seven Sisters with each book focusing on a different one of the seven sisters.

What’s your favourite mention of Matariki or the Pleiades in literature?

For more poetry about Matariki and the stars try –

Learn more about Matariki –

Science Snippets – Matariki

Each week during term time (except the first and last week) the team from Science Alive bring their Science Snippets sessions into our libraries. Excellent Science Alive educators lead children through interactive activities to stimulate their interest in science, and there is something to take home every week! There is a different theme for each session and this coming week from Monday 30 May it’s Matariki.

You are sure to learn all about Matariki and the stars. We have a great page for kids about Matariki. Learn all about Matariki and traditions, what happens at Matariki and find some cool colouring pages.

Here are some great nonfiction books that we have in the library if you want to learn more about Matariki and the stars:

Here are some stories about Matariki and stars to read too:

We also have some fantastic eResources with heaps of information about stars.  Check these out:

  • Britannica Library Kids– a search for ‘stars’ gives you information about stars, with different levels of information for different ages.
  • World Book Kids – a search for ‘stars’ gives you some basic information about stars, along with some suggestions for other topics you might like to look at for more information.
  • National Geographic Kids – a search for ‘stars’ gives you some great information from the National Geographic Kids magazine as well as access to several eBooks about stars and the solar system.

More information about Science Alive’s Science Snippets.

Science fiction newsletter for June

Our June Science fiction newsletter included the following titles:

Cover of Farside by Ben Bova Cover of You by Austin Grossman Cover of Prophet of Bones - by Ted Kosmatka  Cover of The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway Cover of Shadow of Freedom by David Weber Cover of How to build an android: the true story of Philip K. Dick's robotic resurrection by David F. Dufty

Plus: Nebula award winners, an interview with Kim Stanley Robinson from the Sword and Laser book club and some more robotic titles. Subscribe now to get a copy of our bi-monthly email newsletter.

Reach for the stars

Search the catalogue for AstronomyI’ve been doing a lot of navel gazing lately. You know the stuff – Who am I?, What am I doing with my life?, Why am I here?, etc, etc, etc. I guess it’s all to do with my age (isn’t it always) and the fact that I’ve come through a massive great earthquake and lived to tell the tale. One of the DIY self-help books I read recently made me pause for thought. It asked, “If money was no issue and you had all the time in the world, what would you do for work?”

Now, I’m a very happy and contented librarian but there is a small part of me that yearns to know more about astronomy. I visited the Mt John Observatory last year and was overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of space. If I had my time over, I’d conquer my irrational fear of physics and study the stars.

However, it’s never too late to learn and Christchurch City Libraries has many resources for those of us who want to explore new boundaries and expand our extragalactic knowledge.

It seems the more astronomers discover about space, the larger and more complex it becomes. No one believes there’s much chance of bumping into Vulcans or Klingons by traveling at warp speed to the next galaxy any more. Now we’re talking of globular clusters, cosmic strings, and quasars kiloparsecs away. The search for the meaning of life continues in a universe vast beyond measure.

Although poles apart in dimension, it seems to me that self-engrossed introspection and extraterrestrial investigation have a lot in common. Both ponder the mystery of time and existence. It’s only the scale that varies.