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Using the stars to indigenize the public sphere: Matariki over New Zealand

As the rate of affiliation to Christian identity continues to decline in Aotearoa New Zealand (only 49 percent of the population said they were Christian in the last census), public space has become more receptive to other forms of religiosity. In particular, community rituals around the winter movements of the Matariki (Pleiades) constellation have gained support since the year 2000. For instance, the capital city, Wellington, has replaced a centuries’ old British fireworks festival, Guy Fawkes, with an enlarged version of its Matariki celebrations: an action seen as a tipping point in the incorporation of Māori spiritual values into public life. Interactions between European colonisers and Māori have been characterised for more than 250 years by tensions between the relational thinking of Māori who see human beings as both participating in and constrained by an environment resonant with divine energies, and the quantitative, hierarchical, ‘Great Chain of Being’ model that had long been dominant among Europeans. Now, when the natural environment worldwide is under strain from population and economic pressures, it seems to some both appropriate and vital to look to epistemological and spiritual models that are intimately responsive to the specificities of location.
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Hardy, A., & Whaanga, H. (2019). Using the stars to indigenize the public sphere: Matariki over New Zealand. RELIGIONS, 10(7). https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10070431
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