Before colonisation, we were experiencing our agricultural revolution in Te Tai Tokerau and largely living peaceful lives. And we, Māori, have a natural genius for growing food, using Maramataka as guidance.
The Maramataka is the lunar calendar of us Māori, which means “the turning of the moon.”
Our tūpuna developed the maramataka based on their close relationship and understanding of our taiao. It connects the whenua, rangi, and moana. By closely observing the environment, those clever tūpuna were able to identify days each month that were better suited for particular activities and to help predict the season ahead.
The maramataka can tell us the best days for planting, fishing, and harvesting. It also tells us high and low energy days, the effect those days can have on people’s moods, and how you should best spend your day.
The days of the maramataka include:
Oturu – high energy, good day to finalise big decisions
Rakaunui – high energy, schedule special occasions
Rakau a Tohi – high energy, good day for big meetings
Tangaroa a Mua – surging energy, complete your chores
Tangaroa a Roto – surging energy, make the most of your productive time
Tangaroa Kiokio – surging energy, try something new
Ohoata – building energy, do some exercise
Ouenuku – building energy, move your tinana
Okoro – building energy, a great motivation day
Tamatea a Ngana – unpredictable energy, avoid making big decisions or scheduling meetings
Tamatea a Hotu – unpredictable energy, have patience
Tamatea a Io – unpredictable energy, focus on yourself
Omauri – low energy, take it easy
Mutuwhenua – low energy, rest, relax and plan
Whiro – low energy, motivation is low, sit on the couch with a good book or movie
Tirea – low energy, a good day to plan and schedule
Tamatea Kai Ariki – low energy, time to reflect
Huna – low energy, meditate
Ariroa – rising energy, rest day
Hotu – rising energy, practise mindfulness
Oike – rising energy, have a break, have a KitKat
Korekore te Whiawhia – static energy, be mindful of what you say and do
Korekore te Rawea – static energy, be extra patient
Korekore Piri nga Tangaroa – static energy, start to reinvigorate
The Moon Phases Are:
It is similar to Oturu and Rakau Matohi (full moon). The moon is at its largest on those days. Pulling strongly on the currents, which have high energy.
These are the best days to fish. There are other days, but the tangaroa phase is the best for fishing and planting food.
The new moon is when nights are darkest. You don’t see the moon during this phase, and it has the lowest energy.
It is quite similar to the Tangaroa phase, but there is a caution for coastal communities. Be careful at sea.
To better understand this, take a look at this figure below:
This Maramataka below was taken from a 1918 book by ethnologist Elsdon Best. It was provided to him by Rev. Metara Te Aomarere of Ōtaki, but the calendar itself was credited to Mita Te Tai.
It names the 29.53 nights in the lunar calendar, and the symbols next to each night represent how favourable the night was for certain food gathering activities.
For instance, straight lines indicated good nights for line fishing, and black dots for fishing by torchlight. A night such as Whiro with a dot and a line was good for both.
A night such as Atua ‘is always condemned as unlucky for all forms of food-seeking’.
Do people still use the lunar days today?
Fishing and planting food by the way of the moon, the tides, and the elements is still common today – the Maramataka still plays an important part in people’s lifestyle, especially for indigenous farming.
Crop schedule depends on the lunar cycle, which influences most farming activities based on the nature of crops and inter-cultural practices needed.
We believe that the cycle of farming activities must coincide with the cycle of natural systems, especially cosmic cycles, for optimum production with minimum resource input. The primary concept of this belief is that the insect activities and dynamics alter with the lunar cycle.
Scientific investigation was done to validate this. One example is the phenomenological approach used to study the knowledge system and sex pheromone traps used to study insect population and activities.
Validating the traditional belief, the catches of all the three groups of insects were found to be highest in the vicinity of Full Moon and lowest in the vicinity of New Moon.
When it comes to planting crops, the gravitational pull of the moon is thought by some to influence how much water is in the soil. The amount of light coming from the moon may be another contributing factor. This may be why, according to the Maramataka, there are good and bad days for planting seeds.
On Winter Solstice - Te takanga o Te Ra and Whiro - New Moon!
When midwinter is upon us, Tama nui te ra (the Sun) will begin his return north to his wife Hine-raumati, the Summer goddess who dwells on land and who is associated with the gathering of forest food, game and the growing of crops.
We commemorate the moon's revolution of the earth and acknowledge that this is the Marama i whanake, waxing phase.
On The Full Moon
We call this phase the big moon phase as it brings abundant energy for three days. The full moon phase is a great time to sow or transplant root crops (keep an eye on temperatures dropping in the northland too). This is also a good phase to take cuttings & divide plants – another great way to increase your supply and diversity.
On this day, be mindful of your maramataka. Be conscious of your surroundings & tune in to the energy. This, we acknowledge, as the full fertile phase.
Our Maramataka Calendar For Planting and Harvesting
“Maramataka is a season, a reason, a purpose for everything. It guides our timekeeping, our planting, harvest, and maintenance work, bringing variety and invention to an already interesting outdoor occupation.”
We are often thinking about optimising the growing season and the cycle of succession planting to ensure sustainable supply of vegetables coming out of the maara.
It's a matter of timing.
- Frost dates (growing season) according to your region
- The maramataka – lunar gardening
- Germination, planting out, harvest of specific vegetables
That’s why we produced our own lunar gardening calendar.
It serves as a guide for the crazy amount of species we like to grow, so you always have a harvest for your family (or in our case, our wider community)
Sharing It To You
We’ve designed a Maramataka/Moon Calendar as a guide for fellow growers to plan their own garden or farm. It outlines harvesting times for plants and plant parts based on the different moon phases that affect plant growth.
It was also designed to give a sense of the overall flow of birth, growth, bloom, fruit, and seed that the year follows and how you can integrate yourself and your medicine making in this powerful, magical cycle.
This is available for purchase, and you’ll receive a digital copy that is beautiful and high-definition along with a comprehensive explanation.
It's not every day that your sister is on the front cover of a magazine you are both featured in. An edition of Tahi Magazine features a discussion of Maramataka by my sister Heeni. There, I also discussed reconnecting people, whenua, and kai.
“For Hoterene, using indigenous knowledge like the Maramataka is a powerful tool to reclaim mana motuhake, which refers to Māori's independent or separate identity, autonomy, authority and self-determination.”
– Heeni Hoterene