Knowledge Baskets Legend

When Tāne decided to climb up to the heavens to seek the baskets of knowledge for mankind, his brother Whiro was angry. Whiro thought he had more right to the baskets than Tāne, because he was the elder brother.

The two brothers struggled for power, but it was Tāne who was favoured by Io, the supreme power, so Tāne was allowed to ascend the twelve heavens.

His task was made more difficult by Whiro who sent plagues of insects, reptiles and carrion-eating birds to attack Tāne.

But Tāne, with the aid of the winds, was able to proceed until he reached the summit of all the heavens.

Here, at Toi-ō-ngā-rangi, he was welcomed by Io and received the three baskets of knowledge and the two sacred stones.
The baskets, or kete were –

The kete-aronui which held all the knowledge that could help mankind

The kete-tuauri which held the knowledge of ritual, memory and prayer

and the kete-tuatea which contained knowledge of evil or makutu, which was harmful to mankind.

The stones, or whatukura held the power of knowledge and added mana to the teaching of knowledge.

On his return journey, Tāne was again attacked by Whiro and his allies, the birds and insects. Tāne would have been defeated if the winds had not once more, come to his rescue. The winds blew the birds and insects back down to earth where they remain today.

When Tāne finally reached earth again he placed the baskets and stones in a special house of knowledge – whare kura, which he had built before his journey to the heavens.

Whiro was back on earth too, and he demanded that he should be the one to take care of the treasures.

But Tāne and his supporters refused Whiro’s demands and Whiro was eventually banished to the underworld where he still lives, and continually tries to cause trouble for gods and mankind.

Tane-te-wānanga-ā-rangi (Tāne, bringer of knowledge from the sky) was left to maintain order on earth.

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  1. […] meaning “basket” but also in reference to the Maori account of Maui collecting the baskets of knowledge. The “Huia” part is kind of obvious especially when “ngutu huia” translates […]