Topic: Stars / Whetū

Summer Solstice over Aotearoa

By Peata Melbourne

While most people are celebrating Christmas and the birth of Jesus Christ at this time of the year, many others are celebrating the summer solstice. This time last year a celestial star compass was built in the tribal area of Ngāti Kahungunu to mark days such as this, and this week they welcomed their first summer solstice at the site.

On the Māori calendar each year during the month of December, the Southern Hemisphere bares witness to the summer solstice.

Piripi Smith or Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Raukawa says, "This is the time when the Antares star rises, the summer star. It's also when the Sun unites with the Goddess of the Summer."

"For the Napier locals, an opportunity to see for the first time how their new celestial star compass connects them to a calendar used by Māori." 

Matiu Nohokau Eru of Ngāti Kahungunu and Tūhoe says, "It's been one year since we completed this star compass, that's why we're here today, to acknowledge the uniting of Anatares and Hineraumati."

Smith says, "There's a rock over there, the summer solstice rock and it marks the place where the Antares star and the sun will rise."

"Just before Christmas day the sun is seen rising from the furthermost point in the south marking Aotearoa's longest day of the year."

"Māori celebrate the Pleiades which appears on the horizon at dawn during winter, so it's only right that we do the same with the Antares star."

Those gathered here hope to erect more rocks and poles outside of the celestial star compass and will return here during March to welcome the spring equinox.