‘Be cautious because Whiro is at  war with the Moon’

By Taroi Black

The first long lunar eclipse in 800 years, the blood micro moon or marama kūtia is a full moon that comes as a warning, Māori astronomer Professor Rangi Matamua says. 

“Blood moons aren't a good time for anyone. We have to be cautious because Whiro is at war with the Moon,” he says.

Whiro-te-tipua is the lord of darkness and a symbol of all evil in Māori mythology.

“Sometimes, across the year, Whiro comes out. His intention is to kill the moon or the sun, which takes us into the realm of Whiro, living in complete darkness.”

Tonight Aotearoa will witness a partial lunar eclipse that will last for three hours. If you are lucky, Matariki will also be visible below the marama kūtia, northeast of Aotearoa.

Much of what is known about blood micro moons has been based on Western science where the reddish colouring that eclipses the moon is illuminated by the sunlight.

It is not a perfect circle as the moon orbits around Earth. Its closest point is called ‘perigee’ – a super moon that is about 360,000 kilometres away. As it swings to the other side it is known as an ‘apogee’ – 400,000 kilometres away.

Summer on the way

Over the next 20 years Aotearoa should witness 13 total or near-total lunar eclipses.

In some stories of mātauranga (knowledge) Māori the marama kūtia also paints the land in red, which is an indication of the summer season - a time when the Pohutukawa flowers start to blossom.

Heeni Hoterene is an expert in the traditional practices following the Māori lunar calendar. Her Facebook page ‘Maramataka Māori’ is about teaching whānau about indigenous kaupapa which provides a platform for understanding the ‘taiao’ or environment and how you cultivate.

“At the moment we’re in the lunar phase of Ōturu,” she says.

“We’re very exhausted right now but our energies are very high. By next week Monday our energy will coming down. So all this weekend we’ll be doing gardens.”

“This is also the time where people need to ‘korikori tinana,’ you know, exercise.”