Saturday, 4 June 2011

Calendar Entry #12: Matariki & Arrephoria

We continue our journey through the Cauldrons Calendar feast/festival/holidays.

Pleiades star cluster - NASA
Matariki is the Maori name for the group of stars also known as the Pleiades star cluster or The Seven Sisters.  It is also what is referred to as the traditional Maori New Year.  The new year is marked by the rise of Matariki and lasts for up to 3 days after the new moon has risen following Matariki becoming visible.
Traditionally how bright Matariki was visibly determined how well the year's crops would be.  If the stars were clear and bright, the season would be warmer and the crops more productive.  If they were hazy, the year would be less productive. 

Matariki is a time to celebrate concepts and activities related to unity, gatherings, harvesting and planting, paying tributes to ancestors, honouring earth based deities and looking ahead to the future.

Acropolis at night

Arrephoria is a festival in Athens.  During this festival the Arrephoroi (two young girls between 7-11 years of age) were dressed in white and carried 'unspoken things' (or more likely things that were hidden from their view) from the top of the Acropolis to the garden of Aphrodite (at the Acropolis' base).  This is where it is suggested by scholars that this festival may have been confused in Classical and Hellenistic times with one to Erse, the Goddess of Dew.  In his book Greek Religion, Walter Burkert suggests that the girls carried dew, although not only in honour of Erse.  The underground passage they went through on their journey to the garden of Aphrodite passed an ancient spring which is where they could have obtained the 'dew' they carried.  He suggests that the festival also commemorates two daughters of Cecrops, both named for dew (or new growth) who fell from the Acropolis.

It is also believed that the Arrephoria was more likely a ritual completion of the old before the beginning of the new year (which was just after mid-summer in Athens - June in the Northern hemisphere).

In the present, this day would be a time to begin to complete unfinished projects, to remove what is no longer needed and making room for the new. 


  1. " It is also what is referred to as the traditional Maori New Year"

    Yet if you research it, the "tradition" is even more recent than Wicca! But it does give some people a reason to sell tourists stuff and to organise festivals. And no-one really cares if the Offical History is more "Offical" than "history" eh?

  2. Does tradition have to be ancient for it to be a tradition? Does it have to be historical?
    Regardless, my research led me to believe that Matariki celebrations were around before the arrival of Europeans in NZ and continued in to the 1900s. They slowly died out and the last recorded festival was in the 1940s. Modern Matariki celebrations are a revival of those earlier celebrations.
    However I'm always open to others who may have an difference of opinion or knowledge that proves otherwise, because unfortunately, I don't know everything lol. :)