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Etahi Whetu

Māori Star and Constellation Names

Compiled by C J Hilder, June 2000-May 2003.
URL: http://www.teapot.orcon.net.nz/maori_star_names.html
The assistance of Lorraine (Te Rohe) Johnston is gratefully acknowledged.

There are no definitive Māori names for particular stars. The various tribes often have different names and different traditions. It is probable that each tribe had its own names for something in the vicinity of 300 stars, with some names being used more universally throughout Aotearoa. These 'universal' names were often used for different stars by different tribes. To further add to the complexity of the situation, some stars were given different names at different times of the year, or when appearing in different parts of the sky. Several Māori star names have been recorded and published, most with no indication of which tribes made use of the names, and most not identified with specific stars.

This list has been compiled for the purpose of putting names to actual stars and groups of stars. Only published star names have been used, and only those that can be definitely identified with a particular star, constellation or planet. Where more than one name is known for a single star, constellation or planet, one name has been chosen and an attempt has been made to select the commonest or most representative name from those available in the literature. The result is a collection made up of names taken from more than one iwi.

This practice has been adopted in order to create a list of names that can be used as labels on a star map. It creates a one dimensional picture of what was once a complex system of inter-related names that were almost certainly used for many purposes besides those we know about today from the literature.

This list of names has been used as the basis for a bilingual Star Wheel, published on the web site Astronomy In Your Hands. This is believed to be the most comprehensive Māori star map published.

Due to the incompleteness of this list any additions that you might offer are welcomed. (Contact the author Chris Hilder .)

Stars and Constellations

Autahi

Canopus

Kaikōpere

Sagittarius

Māhutonga

Southern Cross

Mairerangi

Scorpio (body)

Marere-o-tonga

Archernar

Matamata Kāheru

Hyades

Matariki

Pleiades

Ō-tama-rākau

Fomalhaut

Pīawai

The False Cross

Poutū-te-Rangi

Altair

Puangahori

Procyon

Puanga

Rigel

Pukawanui

Canis Major (triangle)

Pūtara

Betelgeuse

Ranginui

Beta Centauri (closest pointer)

Rehua

Antares

Ruawāhia

Arcturus

Takurua

Sirius

Tama-rereti

Scorpio (tail)

Taumata-kuku

Aldebaran

Tautoru

Orion's belt

Uruao

Alpha Centauri (furthest pointer)

Whakaahu kerekere

Pollux

Whakaahu rangi

Castor

Whānui

Vega

Whetū Kaipō

Bellatrix

Whetū Matarau

The Pointers (to the Southern Cross)

Whiti-kaupeka

Spica

Milky Way and Nebulae

Kapua Puehu o Tautoru

The Orion Nebula (M42)

Matanuku

Large Magellanic Cloud

Ngā Pātari

Magellanic Clouds

Ngā Pātari Kaihau

Small Magellanic Cloud

Te Māngōroa

The Milky Way

Te Pātiki

The Coal Sack

Sun, Moon, and Planets

Sun

Marama

Moon

Whiro

Mercury

Kōpū

Venus

Papatūānuku

Earth

Matawhero

Mars

Kōpūnui

Jupiter

Pareārau

Saturn

Rangipō

Uranus

Tangaroa

Neptune

Whiringa ki Tawhiti

Pluto

Sources and Notes

Best, E The Astronomical Knowledge of the Maori Government Print, Wellington, NZ, 1922 (reprinted 1986), available online at http://www.knowledge-basket.co.nz/kete/taonga/taonga.html

Hana Limited (publisher) Te Ao Hurihuri (Internet publication) Hana Limited, Porirua, NZ, 2001, Contributors Tony Fisher and Hapimana Rikihana, URL http://www.hana.co.nz/teao.html, Files dated 11 May 2001, Accessed on 19 Oct 2002

Leather, K Taatai Arorangi (Internet publication) Phoenix Astronomical Society, Wellington, NZ, URL http://www.astronomynz.org.nz/maori/maori.htm, Files dated 5 January 2003, Accessed on 1 May 2003

Moorfield, J C Te Whanake 4: Te Kōhure Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato, Hamilton, NZ, 1996

Ngata, H M English-Maori Dictionary Learning Media, Wellington, NZ, 1993

Orbell, M The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Māori Myth and Legend Canterbury University Press, Christchurch, NZ, 1995

Williams, H W A Dictionary of the Maori Language (7th edition) Government Print, Wellington, NZ, 1971

Key to abbreviations used in the following table:

B = Best, H = Hana, M = Moorfield, N = Ngata, O = Orbell, W = Williams. The numbers are page numbers. H references include a reference to the pdf file on the Hana web site, as follows:

(i)  http://www.hana.co.nz/te_whanau.pdf
(ii) http://www.hana.co.nz/glossary.pdf
(iii) http://www.hana.co.nz/raumati.pdf
(iv) http://www.hana.co.nz/summer_notes.pdf
(v)  http://www.hana.co.nz/takurua.pdf
(vi) http://www.hana.co.nz/winter_notes.pdf



Name
Sources
Notes

Autahi

N 48; W 23; B 42ff; O 33; M 176

Aotahi and Atutahi are different forms of this name.

Kaikōpere

H (ii)1

Literally "archer" (Ngata p 18).

Kapua Puehu o Tautoru

H (ii)1

Literally "dust cloud of Tautoru"

Kōpū

W 138; N 520; O 90; M 176; H (i)1

It was common for this planet to have different names as morning and evening star, but Kōpū appears to be acceptable as a general name for the planet itself.

Kōpūnui

B 39; H (i)2

Rangawhenua is given as another name for Jupiter in W 323, N 243, and M 176. Leather gives Hine-i-tiweka as a name for Jupiter, and gives Best as the source.

Māhutonga

W 166; B 39; O 98; M 176

Taki o Autahi is another common name for this constellation N 441, W 371, H (ii)2.

Mairerangi

W 478; B 6, 41 & 56ff

Tūhoe usage, according to Best.

Marama

W 180; N 285

 

Marere-o-tonga

M 177; W 182

Williams does not give this name as Achernar, but does give it as te kai arahi mai o Atutahi. Hana gives Tautahi for this star H (ii)1.

Matamata Kāheru

B 40; H (iv)1

Literally "pointed spade." Best lists it as Mata-kaheru. This group of stars are also known as Te Kōkōtā (W 121; B 6 & 40) or Te Kōkota (M 176).

Matanuku

H (ii)1


Matariki

N 343; W 190; B 52ff; O112;
M 176; H (ii)2

This name, in various forms, is used Pacific wide, according to Best. Leather gives Matariki as a name for Capella, and gives the source as Stowell.

Matawhero

B 40; M 176; H (i)2

Best gives his source as Stowell. Leather has Matawhiro but does not give a source.

Ngā Pātari Kaihau

H (ii)1


Ngā Pātari

W 270; B 39; M 176; H (ii)1

Hana gives  Ngā Kapua Pātari. Kapua literally means "cloud" (Ngata p 58)

Ō-tama-rākau

M 177

Hana gives Te Mahurahura for this star.

Papatūānuku

H (i)2


Pareārau

W 266; N 243; B 31; M 176; H (i)3

Hana gives this as a name for Saturn. Ngata and Williams give it as a name for Jupiter. Best mentions it as both Jupiter and Saturn.

Pīawai

H (ii)1

In H(v)1 the Diamond Cross has been labelled Pīawai. This is apparently an error.

Poutū-te-Rangi

W 299; B 59; O 142; M 177

Williams identifies this name as also being applied to Antares. (Antares appears in this list as Rehua.)

Puanga

W 302; B 47ff; O142-3; M 177; H (ii)1

Puaka is the South Island variant according to Best. Another probable name for this star is Pipiri. According to Williams p 283 Pipiri is a star visible in the mornings a little earlier in the year than Matariki. At Auckland latitudes Puanga rises approximately one week earlier in the year than Matariki and is therefore very likely to be Pipiri. (Leather gives Pipiri as being "Scorpio generally" but gives no source.)

Puangahori

W 302; B 41; M 177; H (ii)1

Hana gives this name as Puanga Hori. 

Pukawanui

B 33

Possibly is Pūkawanui. Best does not indicate vowel length. Best gives his source as Stowell.

Pūtara

H (ii)1


W 319; N 464; H (i)1

Tamanui-te-rā is the full name of the sun. (Melbourne, Hirini Te Wao Nui a Tāne Huia Publishers, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, NZ, page 62.)

Ranginui

H (ii)1


Rangipō

H (i)3

Presumed to be a modern name because traditional Māori would not have been able to see this planet.

Rehua

N 14; W 334; B 56ff; O 154; M 177

Tūhoe usage, according to Orbell. The name Rehua was used for Betelgeuse or Sirius by others. See entry for Takarua.

Ruawāhia

W 350; B 41; M 177

Williams cites the name, but does not identify it as Arcturus. Leather gives Turu as a name for Arcturus, and gives Makemason as the source.

Takurua

N 431; W 375; B 60ff; O 173; M 177

This star was known as Rehua during the summer according to H (iv)1 and H (vi)1.

Tama-rereti

B 35, 41, & 56ff; O 176; M 176

 

Tangaroa

H (i)3

Presumed to be a modern name because traditional Māori would not have been able to see this planet.

Taumata-kuku

B 40; M 177; H (ii)1

Best does not specify a source.

Tautoru

N 312; W 404; B 47ff; O193;
M 176; H (ii)2

Tautoru has been listed here for stars in Orion, but another common name for stars in Orion is Te Kakau, the name for the adze handle seen in the constellation (Best pp 31 and 38; Williams p 104). Moorefield lists Te Kakau as applying to the star Regulus (p 177), but it appears to be more commonly used for stars in Orion. Te Kakau has not been included in this list as applying to Regulus - this is to make it simpler for teachers to use Te Kakau to refer to stars in Orion if desired.

Te Māngōroa

W 178; B 32; O 203; M 176; H (iv)1

 

Te Pātiki

W 271; B 41; M 176; H (ii)2

 

Uruao

H (ii)2


Whakāhu kerekere

M 177

 

Whakāhu rangi

W 3 & 486; B 34; O 243-4; M 177

Williams & Orbell identify Whakāhu as either Castor or Pollux. Only Moorefield gives the second part to the name: rangi.

Whānui

W 487; B 42 & 63ff; O 246-7; M 177

 

Whetū Kaipō

H (ii)2


Whetū Matarau

N 441; H (ii)2

In Ngata this name is used in an example under the head word "Southern Cross." There is no head word "Pointers."

Whiringa ki Tawhiti

H (ii)4

Presumed to be a modern name because traditional Māori would not have been able to see this planet.

Whiro

B 42; M 176; H (i)1

Best gives his source as Stowell.

Whiti-kaupeka

M 177; H (ii)2