The Tiare Apetahi is a splendid and odorous flower which only grows on the Mount Temehani in Raiatea. A marvellous legend of love explains its origins…
Once upon a time Vahine Moea, a young girl of an incomparable beauty lived in the valley of Araau in Raiatea. She met a fisherman called Ariifaite – from Taha’a. They got married and had a girl whom they called Tiaitau.
One day Ariifaite heard some good news, a missionary had arrived on the island and he was teaching the alphabet and how to write. Ariifaite hastened to inform his wife who was happy to learn that. They decided to go and live in Opoa, the district where the missionary lived, so that their daughter, who had become a beautiful young girl, could learn the alphabet and writing. Tiaitau followed her lessons and when she became a young woman, she met King Tamatoa and became his lover.
Some time later, the King Tamatoa left Raiatea to join King Pomare of Tahiti for the battle of Fei Pi. The King, accompanied by his warriors, left his island and lover. He asked Tiaitau to wait for him at home. However, the young woman told her lover that she felt like she was saying goodbye for the last time and she would never see him again.
King Tamatoa tried to reassure her by saying that he was surrounded by his best warriors. Then Tiaitau took a coconut and told him she would go on the Mount Temehani and watch out for his return, and possibly see him leave to Tahiti.
She told him:
“I will put this coconut in the hole of Apo’o hihi ura. The coconut will travel underground and will emerge close to the sea at the Piha ura source. From there, the coconut will float from one island to another and will follow you. If you are thirsty, take the coconut, make a hole and drink its water by bringing your mouth to it in the same way that you would do to kiss me…”
On these words, they parted.
On her way, she stopped at the Torea cave in which she fell asleep. The next morning, she went to the Tarei platform, looked at Taputapuatea and the sacred passage Te ava moa and exclaimed:
“Oh, your paddle is shining in the sun, my love; it is shining in the foam of the waves. ”
Then she continued to Vaiumete where she took a bath and quenched her thirst.
She finally arrived at Apoo hihi ura; put her coconut in the hole, stood to the right and looked once again in the direction of Taputapuatea and saw the outrigger canoe of her beloved:
“Oh my love, your oar is shining in the sun in the foam of the waves; your outrigger canoe is bobbing in the waves; Oh! My heart hurts; it hurts very badly, my love! I will plant my arm in the ground of my mountain; then it will flower and its flower will have the visual aspect of my open hand. It will be this hand, which is a flower now, which will give you a sign Oh my love. Leave my love and return quickly to me – Leave Oh my love and return quickly to me”
Then, she looked at the hole of Apoo hihi ura and let herself fall inside to die as her sorrow was so huge and she could not bear to learn the death of her King whom she adored so much.
(Source : Tahiti Heritage – Félix Faaeva)