Kōanga is the Māori word for spring (September to November). It includes the word ‘kō’, a digging implement: spring was the time for digging the soil. ‘Takē Kōanga, whakapiri Ngahuru’ (absent at planting time, close by at harvest) refers to people who disappear during the hard work of planting in spring, but show up when food was abundant at the autumn harvest.
Light spring showers were known as ‘ua kōwhai’ or kōwhai showers, referring to the September bloom of yellow flowers on the kōwhai tree.
Summer, from December to February, is known as raumati. One tradition holds that Te Rā (the sun) and Hine Raumati (the summer maid) had a child, Tānerore. The saying, ‘Te haka a Tānerore’ (Tānerore's war dance) refers to the shimmering of the hot air during summer.
In other traditions, Parearohi, the wife of the star Rehua (Antares), personifies heat-shimmer. When she dances around the margins of the forests, summer is approaching.
Summer and Rehua (Antares)
Antares is one of the brightest stars in the night sky. Known to Māori as Rehua, it was closely linked with summer, when it became visible. There is a saying, ‘Te tātarakihi, te pihareinga; ko ngā manu ēnā o Rēhua’ (the locust and the cricket are Rehua’s song birds) because these creatures sing when the heat of summer has arrived.
The flying kēkerewai or green manukau beetle was also known as ‘Rehua’s bird’. Plentiful in summer, the beetle was harvested for food when it became trapped in mud around streams and lakes. Similarly, ‘Ngā pōtiki a Rēhua’ (Rehua’s infants) were the fish maomao and moki, which ran in large shoals during summer.
Days of good and bad weather were compared to the birthdays of good-natured or unpleasant ancestors. On a beautiful day people would say, ‘Mehemea ko te rangi i whānau ai a Te Rangitauarire’ – ‘It’s like the day when Te Rangitauarire was born’. On a stormy, miserable day, they would say, ‘Mehemea ko te rangi i whānau ai a Te Tuarariri’ – ‘It’s like the day when Te Tuarariri was born’.
The trials of summer
Māori often expressed a negative attitude towards the arrival of summer. ‘Rehua whakaruhi tangata’ meant Rehua the weakener, and referred to the exhaustion which summer could bring about. ‘Ngā te rā o te waru’(‘the days of the eighth month’, in the traditional lunar calendar) meant the height of summer, when food was often scarce. ‘Rehua pona nui’ (Rehua of the big joints) referred to how the summer heat could make people lose weight and their joints appear larger.
The name for autumn was ngahuru, an archaic word for ten. This was because autumn started during the tenth month (February–March) in the traditional calendar. Ngahuru was also the name for harvest, which occurred at this time. The saying ‘Ngahuru, kura kai, kura tangata’ (harvest-time, wealth of food, the wealth of people) indicated that food was plentiful in autumn.
Hōtoke and Makariri were two words for winter (from June to August), and for cold. Winter was associated with the star Sirius or Takurua – another word for winter. People would say, ‘Takurua hūpē nui’ (winter, when your nose runs).