How the name ‘hautapu’ was rediscovered — and its link with Matariki

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The celebration of Matariki has brought to light use of the word ‘hautapu’ as a name rediscovered in the Waikato.

Matariki expert and astronomer Dr Rangi Mātāmua says hautapu was revived in 2015 at Rāwhitiroa Marae in the Wharepuhunga rohe, south of Te Awamutu, by the Ngāti Takihiku hapū.

He explained to that hautapu is a name for an old Matariki ceremony involving feeding the constellation’s whetū (stars) with steam (hautapu) from an oven.

The story in Stuff says:

“The hapū’s Paraone Gloyne – a Ngāti Raukawa te reo and tikanga expert also recognised nationally as a rangatira in kapa haka – said it was a term rediscovered (in about 2015).

“An old kauta (cookhouse) built in the 1800s, which had belonged to a tupuna (ancestor) Marerahi, is based at Rāwhiritoa. Marerahi had bought up a first cousin to Gloyne’s grandfather.

“In a conversation about Matariki with that first cousin some years ago, he had revealed how Marerahi had carried out a ceremony around the 1940s involving an umu. The word “hautapu” was part of a haka relating to this, said Gloyne.

“A Te Wānanga o Aotearoa booklet quotes the haka as saying: “Ko te hautapu e rite ki te kai nā Matariki pakia.”

“The hautapu is the steam from the umu that rises to feed the stars,” Gloyne explained.”

Ngāti Takihiku holds annual hautapu ceremonies.

Over that time, hautapu had become a widespread term.

“Rangi took that word hautapu and it’s become now the name, the word for that ritual,” said Gloyne.

And the point of hautapu?

“It’s to sustain the whetū for the next year that’s coming.”

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