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Tane and the Three Kete of Knowledge

Ko tōu rourou                                                 

Ko taku rourou

Ka ora ai te iwi                 

With your basket

With my basket  

The people will prosper

 

Tane Mahuta is one of the most important gods in Maori mythology. He is one of the many children of Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatuanuku (mother earth). In fact, it was Tane who separated his parents by lying on his back and pushing up with his feet.  Tane allowed the sun to shine between his parents, bringing light and warmth to the world, and allowing plants to grow and thrive. He represents light and life.

He was responsible for creating the first woman, Hineahuone, from the soil. Through Hinetitama, the daughter of Tane and Hineahuone, mortal man was born.

Having created man and provided him with food and a source of warmth from his great forests, Tane decided to gather together knowledge and understanding for people to enjoy and govern themselves by.

The knowledge Tane craved was held in the highest heavens of the sky. Tane decided to climb to the top of the skies to fetch the three sacred kete of knowledge held by Io-the-Wise. The baskets contained the knowledge of all things- every thing man required to fully appreciate his existence.

               Te kete aronui the basket of pursuit - the knowledge humans currently seek.                                                                                                    

           Te kete tuauri the basket of darkness - things unknown

       Te kete tuaatea the basket of light – present knowledge

As Tane’s older brother, Whiro-te-tipua (god of darkness, death and destructor of mankind) thought that it should have been his task to get the kete. He went up via aratiatia or whirlpools and sent pepetua – insect and bird-like spiritual demons to attack Tane before he reached Io. Twelve times did Whiro’s hordes attack. Twelve times Tane moved from one heaven to the next, helped by the winds of Tawhirimatea.  From Io he received the three kete of knowledge.

The spiritual beings of that place, Tikitiki-o-Rangi, including Pukeko, our Manaaki (meaning to cherish, to nourish and sustain) and the winds of Tawhirimatea then escorted Tane with the three kete tied firmly to him, on his way down. Again and again they were attacked by the forces of unrelenting Whiro and the skies shuddered as their battle raged on. Finally Tawhirimatea and his wind children were victorious and the pepetua defeated. Some were captured and Tane brought them to live on Papatuanuku. They included Bat, Owl, Kea, Kaka,  Kakapo, Kakariki, Green Lizard, Mosquito, Sandfly, Midge, Butterfly, Mantis, Moth, Fly and others.

Tane gave the three kete and all the wisdom within them to the humans, his offspring so they would prosper. He charged them with protecting this knowledge forever..  It is this sacred knowledge that our ancestors have used to guide our people through the many generations into the strange new world of today. Whiro continues to be our ‘balance-keeper’ and challenges all those that seek the knowledge, as he did with his younger brother.

Kia aho matuahia te taketake

       Kia Tuwaerea te tau

When intuition replaces intellect,

          knowledge turns to wisdom.

Whaia te matauranga hei oranga me koutou.

Seek after learning for the sake of your wellbeing.

Tāne’s famous journey to the heavens is remembered in the following ritual chant:

Tēnei au te hōkai nei o taku tapuwae

Ko te hōkai nuku ko te hōkai rangi

Ko te hōkai a tō tupuna a Tānenui-a-rangi

Ka pikitia ai ki te rangi tūhāhā ki te Tihi-o-Manono

Ka rokohina atu rā ko Te Matua-kore anake

Ka tīkina mai ngā kete o te wānanga

Ko te kete-tuauri

Ko te kete-tuatea

Ko te kete-aronui

Ka tiritiria ka poupoua

Ka puta mai iho ko te ira tangata

Ki te wheiao ki te ao mārama

Tihei-mauri ora!

This is the journey of sacred footsteps

Journeyed about the earth journeyed about the heavens

The journey of the ancestral god Tānenuiarangi

Who ascended into the heavens to Te Tihi-o-Manono

Where he found the parentless source

From there he retrieved the baskets of knowledge

Te kete-tuauri

Te kete-tuatea

Te kete-aronui

These were distributed and implanted about the earth

From which came human life

Growing from dim light to full light

There was life.

 

 

adapted from Traditional Maori Legends Nga Tai Korero by Warren Pohatu

Legends of Aotearoa Chris Winitana

Ranginui: the sky  Maori Marsden (teara.govt.nz)