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Maori New Year looming

By BERNIE NAPP

With the Maori New Year looming, Carter National Observatory skygazers are reflecting on the sexier side of ancient Maori calendar tradition.

All contracts, including marriage, would be off between June 2 (next crescent moon) and June 14 (full moon) if pre-Christian Maori tradition still applied, observatory astronomer Richard Hall said. “During the period of misrule, all contracts were off, including marriage ““ a slave could sleep with a queen.”

Such legalised infidelity was abolished when European missionaries arrived, and later caused confusion in fixing the start of the Maori year, Mr Hall said.

Carter Observatory is this week celebrating the yearly late May predawn appearance of the Pleiades star cluster (Matariki), which alerted ancient Maori to the coming of the new year.

When tohunga (wise men) spotted Matariki for the first time they would look out for the next new moon, Mr Hall said.

The first sighting of a crescent moon in the evening sky ushered in the period of misrule, which ended on New Year’s Day (Matariki) at full moon, falling this year on June 14.

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