Story: Maramataka – the lunar calendar
Page 3 – Planting and fishing
A calendar of work
The most important function of the Māori lunar calendar was to regulate planting and harvesting, fishing and hunting. The four seasons − raumati (summer), ngahuru (autumn), kōanga (spring) and takurua (winter) − called forth a series of activities to do with procuring food. These tended to vary among tribes, depending on where they lived, local climate, and the availability of edible plants, birds and seafood.
Time for planting
Māori farmers planted kūmara (sweet potato) on the nights called Ōuenuku, Ari, Rākau-nui, Rākau-ma-tohi, Takirau and Ōrongonui, which were the 4th, 9th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 27th nights of the lunar month. No planting was done during full moon or on Korekore days (the 20th, 21st and 22nd nights). The planting months were in spring: September, October and November.
By the early 2000s there was renewed interest in the maramataka, and it was used by some Māori for planting and fishing. Many fishermen believe that they catch more fish on a day deemed favourable by the calendar. The fishing personality Bill Hohepa printed a version of the calendar that was popular with recreational fisherman.
Weather reports on Māori Television have information from the maramataka, such as tides and when to plant, alongside meteorological highs and lows. In another example where Māori knowledge and science come together, a group of researchers at Massey University in Palmerston North have planted 25 varieties of taewa (potato) according to the Māori lunar calendar, with the dual aim of preserving traditional knowledge and establishing the crop commercially.