Reflections on the stars in the season of Matariki
By Rev David Bell
It is winter, and the hard and bitter frosty nights open up views into the very heart of the universe. Scorpio rises to dominate the eastern sky, and the Southern Cross sings its silent song of triumph above a dimly comprehending planet.
The Gospel is in the stars and the stars are running their courses. Each year at this time, the gods come down to question us, to probe our knowledge, our sense of destiny and fulfilment. Then the One, behind, below, beyond and, above all gods, the Holy, insists that we stand up and give an account. Why we have begun to observe? Why we have grown conscious? Why we have awakened and to what end?
The questions grow ever more complex and run in so many different directions, yet they track to the same orbit, the same music of the spheres. Here, in this land, Matariki signals the recurrence of the cycle, as it has in many places before.
As Elsdon Best once wrote, “From some far land lost amid the shades of the setting sun the Maori brought hither the Pleiades year and his crude reckoning of time by the lunar month. He brought also the knowledge of Ra, and Sina, and Rongo, and Ira, and the Whanau Marama, the Shining Ones who gleam across the realm of Watea when Whiro sends darkness to cover the body of the old Earth Mother. He invokes the aid of those beings in his perilous journey down the path of life, for he believed them to be wondrous powers, to be potent gods in themselves.”
Those gods and the stars and planets prick my conscience, delight and torment my rationality, insist upon searches for patterns and demand internal equilibriums of the soul by way of compensations and sacrifices.
We are children of star-dust; yet our whakapapa is more than the heavy metals of ancient stellar explosions, our minds more than electro-chemical pathways in brains. The west has been corrupted by selfish materialism at every level, and even science itself has become a caricature betokening what knowledge is not.
Truth and wisdom lie in a quite different direction, are pulled willingly into those orbits of the soul where tacit knowledge is more potent than intellect. It is found in the ancient astrologies and the places of departure, like Te Reinga, where the living and the dead see through golden mists into realms beyond imagining.
In truth, we are the universe looking at itself. We are the fishhook of Maui, we catch ourselves, we catch our consciousness, our awakening, pull it up out of the deep and find new ground upon which to stand. Yet no physical territory is ground for ever.
Hence the dominance in the night sky of Maaui’s fish-hook. The Scorpion is the bringer of death: the redeemer must die, the final conflict, the necessary, deadly conflict. In the tail of the Scorpion is the sting and only in the sting is the light of the Son.
The age of Pisces-Virgo is drawing to its close. The mazzaroth and its symbols have yet more to reveal. The world is changing and never more urgent was the need for the Church to live by its myths and into its myths and out of its myths.