The Three Baskets of Knowledge
Tenei au, tenei au
Te hokai nei i taku tapuwae
Ko te hokai-nuku
Ko te hokai-rangi
Ko te hokai o to tipuna
I pikitia ai
Ki te Rangi-tuhaha
I rokohina atu ra
Ko Io-Matua-Kore anake
I riro iho ai
Nga Kete o te Wananga
ko te Kete Tuauri
ko te Kete Tuatea
ko te Kete Aronui
Ka tiritiria, ka poupoua
Ki a Papatuanuku
Ka puta te Ira-tangata
Ki te whai-ao
Ki te Ao-marama
Tihei mauri ora!
Here am I, here am I
here am I swiftly moving by
the power of my karakia for swift movement
Swiftly moving over the earth
Swiftly moving through the heavens
the swift movement of your ancestor
who climbed up
to the isolated realms
to the summit of Manono
and there found
He brought back down
the Baskets of Knowledge
the Basket called Tuauri
the Basket called Tuatea
the Basket called Aronui.
Portioned out, planted
in Mother Earth
the life principle of humankind
comes forth into the dawn
into the world of light
I sneeze, there is life!
This is the story of how Tane, the progenitor of mankind, of the forests and all the creatures of the forest, ascended through the many realms to the uppermost realm, occupied only by Io-Matua-Kore, God-the-Parentless, and there obtained from Io the three baskets of knowledge. Tane returned to Earth with the knowledge, and there created humankind from the Earth.
Here follows an abridged version of the story as told by the Rangitaane, Ngati Kahungunu and Ngati Ira people of the Wairarapa region of Aotearoa/New Zealand.
According to the ancients there are twelve Rangi or realms, which some call heavens, beyond this earthly realm; these are their names:-
This last one is the realm of Rangi-nui, Sky Father, and is the nearest to our earthly realm.
In each of these realms reside both male and female "Apa", spiritual beings.
Io, the supreme spiritual power, resides in the uppermost, at Tikitiki-o-rangi. Many are his names:-
Ko Io-nui (almighty)
Ko Io-Roa (eternal)
Ko Io-Matua (parent)
Ko Io-te-Wananga (all wise)
Ko Io-taketake (foundation of all)
Ko Io-te-waiora (fountain-head of life)
Ko Io-Matangaro (hidden )
Ko Io-Tikitiki-o-Rangi (supreme over all realms)
Ko Io-te-Whiwhia ( all encompassing)
Ko Io-Mataaho (glorious one)
Io decided that one of the children of Ranginui and Papatuanuku should ascend to his uppermost realm to obtain the three baskets of knowledge, the wananga, for the children of the primal parents, and for mankind to come. So he sent his messengers, Rehua, Ruatau and Paoa down to earth to report to him about things in that realm. On their return he decided that the seeker of knowledge should be chosen from among the offspring of Rangi and Papa by the offspring themselves. He said "Go to Tu-te-aniwaniwa, to Wharau-rangi, to Huaki-pouri and ask who among them shall seek the wananga". Whiro-te-tipua, Uru-te-ngangana and others lived at Tu-te-aniwaniwa. Tumatauenga, Tamakaka, Rongmaraeroa and others lived at Wharau-rangi. Tane, Paia and others lived at Huaki-pouri.
Whiro said that he would be the one to get it, but those at Wharau-rangi said it should be Tane. When Rehua asked the question at Huaki-pouri Tane said "I will ascend to the uppermost realm to get the wananga and the two sacred stones." He said he would ascend by way of "Te Toi Huarewa", the "aratiatia". Some say that these names apply to the whirlwind. Suffice to say that it is the sacred way.
Rehua said to Tane "Follow us and ascend to the entrance to the uppermost realm", but Tane demurred saying that the winds were violent at that time, and the upper realms disturbed, and that he would follow in the summer. The messengers, Rehua, Ruatau and Paoa then returned to Io.
When summer came Tane called upon Tawhiri-matua, God of winds, to help convey him on his journey, and they set out; Tane, Te Haeata, Tawhiri-matea, Uruao, Tukapua, Taka-wairangi, Rangi-ihi-matua and others. And they arrived at the second of the twelve realms or heavens, Rangi-tamaku, and consulted with the many winds, among them Huru-te-arangi (who agreed that Tane would be conveyed to the uppermost realm), Huru-mawake, Huru-nukuatea and Huru-nukurangi. The resting place of these Wind Children was at Tihi-o-Manono, at Rangi-naonao-ariki, the tenth of the twelve realms.
On their arrival there, Tane and Taka-wairangi had a ceremony performed for them through which they were prepared for entry to the uppermost realm, and they were instructed not to eat or drink until they returned for another ceremony to prepare them for their return to Papatuanuku, Earth Mother.
So Tane, Te Haeata and Taka-wairangi were then conveyed to Tiritiri-o-Matangi, the eleventh realm. Then Te Haeata and Taka-wairangi turned back.
Tane then left for the entrance to Tikitiki-o-rangi (the uppermost) but when passing Rangi-naonao-ariki he was attacked by hordes of Pepetua, or spiritual demons of the insect and bird clan. These were bidden to do so by Tane's older brother, Whiro-te-tipua, who wanted Tane slain or wounded. But the attack was thwarted by the many winds, offspring of Tawhiri-matea, who whirled and whirled so that the attackers did not even get near to Tane. This incident is known as Kopara-kore.
On arrival at the entrance to Tikitiki-o-rangi Tane was met by the many spirtual beings who guarded that place, and who live at the house called Tawhiri-rangi. The door in the middle of the house is called Te Pumotomoto and it leads to the eleven lower realms, and to this earthly realm. The doorway to Tikitiki-o-Rangi is called Tahurangi. So Tane was conducted to Tikitiki-o-Rangi, and underwent another ceremony, before being conducted to the presence of Io.
"Are you alone?" Io asked.
"My elder brother, Whiro-te-tipua, is ascending by way of the side of the realms", replied Tane.
Io replied that he would not succeed for the winds of Tiritiri-o-Matangi are fierce. "Why are you here?".
"To obtain the baskets of knowledge and the sacred stones", said Tane.
Tane was then taken to the place called Rauroha where the male and female beings of Tikitiki-o-Rangi are, and where he underwent ritual ceremonies to prepare him to receive the knowledge. It was during these that he received his many names, including -
He was then conducted to Rangiatea, the house where the knowledge is kept to get the three baskets and the two sacred stones, and again was subjected to ritual ceremonies. Te Kete-o-te-Wananga, the baskets of knowledge are:-
Te Kete Tuauri
Te Kete Tuatea
Te Kete Aronui
The sacred stones are used in the graduation ceremony of the Whare Wananga, house of learning.
The spiritual beings of that place, Tikitiki-o-Rangi, then escorted Tane with the three baskets and two stones on his descent from there. When they got to Tiritiri-o-Matangi they were joined by the winds of Tawhirimatea, and when they arrived at Rangi-naonao-Ariki they were once again attacked by the forces of Whiro-te-tipua. Once again the wind forces were victorious and the attackers defeated. Some were captured and Tane brought them to live on Papatuanuku, Earth Mother. They included Bat, Owl, Mountain Parrot, Brown Parrot, Sparrow-hawk, Night-parrot, Parakeet, Green Lizard, Mosquito, Sandfly, Midge, Butterfly, Mantis, Moth, Fly and others.
So Tane returned to Earth with his precious items, and once again there was a ritual ceremony; a ceremony preserved down through the generations of learned men of Te Whare Wananga, the sacred Maori house of learning.
To many, this is a simple mythological story which seeks to explain how te ira tangata (humankind) gained its knowledge of things both earthly and spiritual from te ira atua (the gods). The story is but the beginning of the stories of the Whare Wananga, which describe how this Earthly realm came to be, and how everything in it came to be ordered as it is, including how mankind was created by Tane. But those are other stories within the whakapapa of the whole of creation.
To some it is a metaphor for the ideal life, a journey of striving for knowledge and education and enlightenment, to become better people. In this context it graphically depicts the striving after knowledge of those chosen few who in days gone by were allowed to enter into te whare wananga, the house of learning.
But it is more. It is also a metaphor for the archetypal inner journey of the mystic, as he or she travels inwards, seeking always to find unity with the universe, and to become one with his or her concept or knowing of Io or God or the Supreme Being or the Way. To me this story is a blueprint for the ancient mystical journey of the Maori, left to us by the tohunga, spiritual masters of old, to guide all who would follow in their footsteps.
Here is an excerpt from "He oriori mo Tuteremoana" (a chanted song for Tuteremoana). Tuteremoana was a high chief and was the most famous descendant of Tara, the eponymous ancestor of the Ngai Tara tribe, and this oriori was composed for Tuteremoana, probably when he was born, by Tuhotoariki. Tuhotoariki was the brother of Tuteremoana's grandfather Turia, and he was a renowned tohunga or priest of the Ngai Tara tribe. Tuteremoana lived nineteen or twenty generations ago.
Download sound file (recorded by Dr Tamati Reedy)
Either tehiringa.wma (832kb) or tehiringa.mp3 (618kb)
"Whakarongo mai e tama. Kotahi tonu te hiringa
i kake ai Tane ki Tikitiki-o-rangi;
ko te hiringa i te mahara.
Ka kitea i reira ko Io-matua-te-kore anake.
I a ia te Toi-ariki, te Toi-uru-tapu,
te Toi-uru-rangi, te Toi-uru-roa;
Ka whakaputa Tane i a ia ki te waitohi
na Puhao-rangi, na Oho-mai-rangi,
te wai whakaata na Hine-kau-orohia;
kauorohia nga Rangi-tuhaha.
Ka karangatia Tane ki te paepae tapu
i a Rehua i te hiku mutu o te rangi;
ka turuturu i konei te Tawhito-rangi
te Tawhito-uenuku, te Tawhito-atua;
ka rawe Tane i e hiringa matua,
i te hiringa taketake ki te ao marama;
ka waiho hei ara mo te tini e whakarauika nei,
E tama, e i!"
"Listen O son. There was only one spiritual energy
that transported Tane to the Uppermost realm;
it was the spiritual power of the mind.
Nought seen there but Io-the-parentless.
Source of all authority, Source of all spiritual energy,
Source of all heavenly origin, Source of all creation.
Set free was Tane by the water ritual
of the Awe-inspiring-realms and the
at mirrored waters of Hine-the-maid-of-the-smoothing-stone
Smoothed and a-glistening were the Bespaced Realms
when Tane was summoned to the sacred beam
in the presence of Rehua at the tail end of the realms;
distilled then was the Ancient-knowledge of the upper realms, Ancient-knowledge of the rainbow,
and the Ancient-knowledge of the spiritual powers.
Provided then was Tane with the power of the Parent
with the spiritual energy for the World of Light;
Left as a pathway for the myriads who come and go,
O son, ah me!"
Those who would set out on such a spiritual journey will be confronted by many challenges, as Tane was, but for those who persist on the journey, knowledge and enlightenment await; perhaps even a meeting and unity with, and in, Io.
Although this story is specifically Maori, in the context of a blueprint for the journey of the spiritual travelleer or mystic it will be readily understood and appreciated by the mythologically, spiritually and mystically inclined of all cultures.