This year I’m planting according to the moon, not just any moon, but our moon, marama.
Haha! Don’t worry, I’m still on the same planet as you – (most of the time) and I’m well aware there is only one moon for us earthlings.
I’m following Maramataka Māori, the Maori lunar calendar for fishing and horticulture. Maramataka means literally, turning of the moon.
(Artwork by Wiremu Barriball of Revolution Aotearoa)
When Europeans arrived in Aotearoa (the ones that knew these sort of things) they were well impressed with Māori horticultural practices; neat, weed-free and obviously productive. Of course Māori weren’t vegetarian and they lived in a mixed economy of gardening, gathering and fishing.
Long long before “gardening by the moon” became hip and before even your grandparents or great-grandparents talked about planting with the moon (lucky you). Māori were walking the talk with Maramataka. In fact the moon and the cosmos were reference point and guide in all aspects of pre-european Māori life. Matariki didn’t start happening in the 1990’s.
So. In my admittedly complete amateur understanding of Maramataka – like most cultures, time was cut up by the cycles of the sun and the moon. (Month = moon. My bet is women cottoned onto the rhythm of the moon before men!). But instead of breaking the month up into weeks then days, Māori had a different name for every single night (which also typically marks a day) in a lunar month.
The lunar month starts with Whiro. Ko te rā i muri iho ō tā tō Pākehā new moon (the day after the new moon on the calendar) and ends with Mutuwhenua… E hara i te rā pō pai tēnei kua hinapouri te ao e ai ki ngā kōrero ō neke rā. It is not a good day at all: The world is in darkness!
It takes a bit of working out if you haven’t been brought up knowing Maramataka and I’m going with the very basics. I imagine that, especially back in the day, it would have slight variances between iwi’s depending on the Tohunga’s readings of the Matariki stars at the start of the year and a lot of other nuances non-related to fishing and horticulture. (Please, if you know more, enlighten me and others in the comments section below!)
My journey has just begun, literally, two days ago. when I bought my seed potato and thought I better start planning when I’m going to start everything.
Last year I noticed I had pretty rubbish outcomes with seed I sowed during the new moon but had much better luck during the last quarter. I’ve acknowledged moon calenders and they’ve been pretty useful for reminding and planning of things to do in the garden. Koangas Garden Guide (by Kay Baxter) has been my guide, but not my ruler!
Then I read a book earlier this year called Moon Gardening by John Harris, head gardener of Tresillian Estate in the UK. He explained really simply, the moons effect on the water table. (Rises as the moon is coming up to full – waxing, whilst the water table drops when the moon is waning and at its lowest during new moon).
I recommend this book if you can get your hands on it. In it, the author mentions how a television crew came from New Zealand to interview him about moon gardening and he over-heard a crew member murmuring to a mate “Why’d we have to come 18,000 km’s to hear about something the Māori have been doing for hundreds of years?” Fair bloody call. White validation?
Anyway, the good man devoted a whole chapter to Maramataka Māori.
I also have a booklet called NGĀ PŌREAREA ME NGĀ MATEMATE O NGĀ MĀRA TAEWA, Pests and Diseases of Taewa (Māori potato) Crops. You can get this through Tāhuri Whenua the National Māori Growers Collective. This, amongst other good things to know has the Maramataka Maori (Te Āti Awa version) in it. And it is from here that I’m getting my info from.
I’m not going to go over the whole Maramataka here but you can join me on my journey…
Right now (the 4th August 2018) it is Tangaroa piri a mua – the 23rd day after the new moon. He rā pai tēnei ki te ono kai, ki ngā mahi hī ika koura. A very god day for planting, fishing, crayfish and eels, especially from noon until sunset.
According to Maramataka Māori it’s a pretty good day for planting (and fishing) from midday til sunset three nights before last quarter, called Korekore tūroa (which was the 2nd August). and we’re all good for sowing and planting and fishing until Mauri (a couple of night before new moon), the 9th August, E hara i te rā pai tēnei he oro mauri te kai ka omo. Not a very good day for planting or fishing. fish, eels and crayfish are very elusive.
I have sown white sage, licorice, thyme, motherwort, common sage and spillanthes so far (with use of a heat-pad). With dill, parsley, chervil, shiso, savory, tulsi and catnip to go. It’s a bit early for some but I always like to push the boundaries! (My early potatoes will go in next month).
Another book I highly recommend if you’re into this sort of thing is A Tohunga’s Natural World, plants, gardening and food. by Paul Moon. Gardening from a Tuhoe Tohunga’s perspective.
I’ll be updating on here on how I go and what I’ll be doing next according to the Maramataka. Have you done this/do this? Please comment below on how it works for you~ ngā mihi!
2021 Update; I am now doing monthly guides on what to do according to Maramataka Māori, they will be published as blog posts but can also be found under the heading “Maramataka Māori” in my menu.