Legend of Tumu Rai I te Fenua.

A large octopus sent by the gods

In Papetoai, the area around the temple has always been a sacred place. In Fa’ato’ai as this district was once called, there was a marae, a fresh water spring Vaiteraraepu, and a large octopus.

This octopus, Tau Mata Fee Faatupu Hau, was also called Tumu Rai Fenua and was sent by the gods of ancient times to bring love and harmony to the people. All of the inhabitants came to listen to the octopus who spoke to them about nature, the stars and completed their knowledge of the world. For a long time, the octopus had fulfilled its mission and the inhabitants lived together in peace and harmony.

The arrival of the turtle people

One day, strangers, landed on the beach of Vaihere, and these ta’ata honu or turtle-men, had swam from far away. They told the surprised people that on the other side of the sea there were other lands, other countries and other people. The Turtle-Men then went to see the octopus at the marae Tapuatea and told him their story. Curious, the people of Fa’ato’ai asked the Turtle-Men to take them to see where they lived. At first, the octopus refused to let them go, but to avoid conflict, he reluctantly agreed to let some of the people leave.

The return from the land of the turtle-men

When the people returned from their stay in the land of the turtle-men, they began to share all that they had seen and all that they had learned in this new land. They spoke about how the people lived and what they did. Soon, discord arose among the people, for some of the people had changed their way of life and were quarreling and saying:

« No, it’s not like that over there, in the land of the turtle people – this is how things are, this is how they think, and this is how they do. »

When the gods heard these disputes, they said to the octopus: « We’re giving you land so that you can show people how to love each other and live in harmony, and now they’re quarreling. If you are unable to guide the people of the island, we will punish you. »

The octopus runs away

The upset octopus came out of its den and decided to leave Fa’ato’ai and to take refuge on Mount Rotui. In anger, it spread its ink on the mountain down to Vaihere Beach where the turtle-men had landed.

Then the octopus called all the nohu (= stonefish) and asked them to settle and guard the bay. Since then, the name ’Opunohu’ (Opu= belly; nohu: stonefish) still remained.

The octopus’ head became a rock and its tentacles spread over the eight mountain ranges of Moorea. But before he transformed, he said to Taaroa: « I will come back one day. Signs will precede my return, that is, the return of peace and unity. »

Extracted from Moorea d’autrefois. Ed. Le Motu 2006, by Hinano Murphy, Association Te Ati Matahiapo Nui Aimeho Nei

Origins of the name of Moorea: Aimeho or Eimeo The old name of Mo’orea, “Aimeho” (or Eimeo),

which means to eat in secret, comes from this legend. Indeed, you’ll never see an octopus eating because its mouth is located underneath the body. That’s why we say the octopus is eating secretly.

The full name is “‘Aimeho-i-te-rara-varu” or Aimeho with eight radiations, representing the eight tentacles of the octopus. The octopus’ head sits on Mount Rotui and its tentacles radiate out to form the island’s eight mountain ranges. From the temple of Papetoai, we can see the head and the two eyes of the octopus lying on Mount Rotui.