Steeped in rich Māori culture and history, New Zealand is home to many landmarks with profound significance. One such place that has piqued the interest of Kiwis and tourists alike is Tangi Te Keo.
Tangi Te Keo is the Māori name for Mount Victoria, a prominent hill in Wellington, New Zealand. The name literally means “the weeping of the keo”. It’s derived from a Māori legend about a taniwha (water spirit) named Whātaitai.
Let’s explore more into the meaning of the legends behind ‘Tangi Te Keo’ and unveil its cultural significance in New Zealand.
What does Tangi Te Keo mean?
The name ‘Tangi Te Keo’ itself reverberates with cultural depth. In the Māori language, ‘tangi’ translates to ‘weep’, while ‘te keo’ refers to ‘the sound of the wind’. Thus, Tangi Te Keo can be poetically interpreted as ‘the weeping sound of the wind’.
This melancholic moniker is believed to have originated from a legend involving two taniwha (supernatural creatures in Māori mythology) named Ngake and Whātaitai, who were trapped in what was once a lake.
According to the legend, Whātaitai was killed by a group of hunters. His soul left his body and flew up to the top of Mount Victoria, where it wept and mourned for its lost body and life. The sound of its weeping could be heard throughout the land, and the mountain became known as Tangi Te Keo.
Cultural Significance of Tangi Te Keo
Tangi Te Keo holds a special place in Māori culture, representing a tangible connection to their ancestors and the spiritual realm. As per the legend of Ngake and Whātaitai, it serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by the taniwha to shape the landscape of Wellington.
The story also symbolises the enduring spirit of the Māori people and their profound connection to the land and sea. It also speaks to the importance of mourning and grieving the loss of loved ones.
Role in Traditional Māori Ceremonies
Tangi Te Keo is a sacred place for Māori, and it’s still used for traditional ceremonies and rituals. In the past, it was utilised as a vantage point for spotting incoming canoes or ‘waka’, enabling early communication and preparation for either hosting visitors or defending their land.
The hill has also been associated with spiritual ceremonies. The Māori people believe that upon death, the spirits of their departed travel to the northernmost point of New Zealand, Cape Reinga.
Given its high elevation and unobstructed view towards the north, Tangi Te Keo has been considered a launching place for these spirits – a notion that adds a sacred aspect to this hill.
The Evolution of Tangi Te Keo
Over time, Tangi Te Keo has evolved from being a sacred site in Māori mythology to a key landmark in modern Wellington. With the arrival of European settlers in the 1800s, the hill was renamed Mount Victoria.
Despite this, the original Māori name and its significance have not been forgotten.