Hawaiian Mythology
by Martha Beckwith 1940



Ku and Hina, male or husband (kane) and female or wife (wahine), are invoked as great ancestral gods of heaven and earth who have general control over the fruitfulness of earth and the generations of mankind. Ku means "rising upright," Hina means "leaning down." The sun at its rising is referred to Ku, at its setting to Hina; hence the morning belongs to Ku, the afternoon to Hina. Prayer is addressed to Ku toward the east, to Hina toward the west. Together the two include the whole earth and the heavens from east to west; in a symbol also they include the generations of mankind, both those who are to come and those already born. Some kahunas teach a prayer for sickness addressing Ku and Hina, others address Kahikina-o-ka-la (The rising of the sun) and Komohana-o-ka-la (Entering in of the sun). Still others call upon the spirits of descendants and ancestors, praying toward the east to Hina-kua (-back) as mother of those who are to come, and toward the west to Hina-alo (-front) for those already born. The prayer to Ku and Hina of those who pluck herbs for medicine emphasizes family relationship as the claim to protection. All are children from a single stock, which is Ku.

Ku [or Hina], listen! I have come to gather for [naming the sick person] this [naming the plant] which was rooted in Kahiki, spread its rootlets in Kahiki, produced stalk in Kahiki, branched in Kahiki, leafed in Kahiki, budded in Kahiki, blossomed in Kahiki, bore fruit in Kahiki. Life is from you, O God, until he [or she] crawls feebly and totters in extreme old age, until the blossoming time at the end. Amama, it is freed. 

Ku is therefore the expression of the male generating power of the first parent by means of which the race is made fertile and reproduces from a single stock. Hina is the expression of female fecundity and the power of growth and production. Through the woman must all pass into life in this world. The two, Ku and Hina, are hence invoked as inclusive of the whole ancestral line, past and to come. Ku is said to preside over all male spirits (gods), Hina over the female. They are national gods, for the whole people lay claim to their protection as children descended from a single stock in the ancient homeland of Kahiki.

The idea of Ku and Hina as an expression of common parentage has had an influence upon fiction, where hero or heroine is likely to be represented as child of Ku and Hina, implying a claim to high birth much like that of the prince and princess of our own fairy tales. It enters into folk conceptions. A slab-shaped or pointed stone (pohaku) which stands upright is called male, pohaku-o-Kane; a flat (papa) or rounded stone is called female, papa-o-Hina or pohaku-o-Hina, and the two are believed to produce stone children. So the upright breadfruit (ulu) tree is male and is called ulu-ku; the low, spreading tree whose branches lean over is ulu-hapapa and is regarded as female. These distinctions arise from analogy, in the shape of the breadfruit blossom and of the rock forms, with the sexual organs, an analogy from which Hawaiian symbolism largely derives and the male expression of which is doubtless to be recognized in the conception of the creator god, Kane.

The universal character of Ku as a god worshiped to produce good crops, good fishing, long life, and family and national prosperity for a whole people is illustrated in a prayer quoted by J. S. Emerson as one commonly used to secure a prosperous year:

O Ku, O Li! (?) Soften your land that it may bring forth. Bring forth where? Bring forth in the sea [naming the fishing ground], squid, ulua fish. . . .

Encourage your land to bring forth. Bring forth where? Bring forth, on land, potatoes, taro, gourds, coconuts, bananas, calabashes.

Encourage your land to bring forth. Bring forth what? Bring forth men, women, children, pigs, fowl, food, land.

Encourage your land to bring forth. Bring forth what? Bring forth chiefs, commoners, pleasant living; bring about good will, ward off ill will. 

Here again, in the antithesis between sea and land, is another illustration like that between male and female of the practical nature of prayer, which sought to omit no fraction of the field covered lest some virtue be lost. The habit of antithesis thus became a stylistic element in all Hawaiian poetic thought. Imagination played with such mythical conceptions of earth and heaven as Papa and Wakea (Awakea, literally midday). Night (po) was the period of the gods, day (ao) was that of mankind. Direction was indicated as toward the mountain or the sea, movement as away from or toward the speaker, upward or downward in relation to him; and an innumerable set of trivial pairings like large and small, heavy and soft, gave to the characteristically balanced structure of chant an antithetical turn. The contrast between upland and lowland, products of the forest and products of the sea, and the economic needs dependent upon each, shows itself as a strong emotional factor in all Hawaiian composition. It was recognized economically in the distribution of land, each family receiving a strip at the shore and a patch in the uplands. It was recognized in the division of the calendar into days, months, and seasons, when those at the shore watched for indications of the ripening season in the uplands and those living inland marked the time for fishing and surfing at the shore. It modified the habits of whole families of colonizers, some of whom made their settled homes in the uplands and in the forested mountain gorges. It determined the worship of functional gods of forest or sea, upon whom depended success in some special craft.

A great number of these early gods of the sea and the forest are given Ku names and are hence to be regarded as sub-ordinate gods under whose name special families worshiped the god Ku, who is to be thought of as presiding over them all. As god of the forest and of rain Ku may be invoked as:

Ku-moku-hali‘i (Ku spreading over the land)
Ku-pulupulu (Ku of the undergrowth)
Ku-olono-wao (Ku of the deep forest)
Ku-holoholo-pali (Ku sliding down steeps)
Ku-pepeiao-loa and -poko (Big- and small-eared Ku)
Kupa-ai-ke‘e (Adzing out the canoe)
Ku-mauna (Ku of the mountain)
Ku-ka-ohia-laka (Ku of the ohia-lehua tree)
Ku-ka-ieie (Ku of the wild pandanus vine)

As god of husbandry he is prayed to as:

Ku-ka-o-o (Ku of the digging stick)
Ku-kulia (Ku of dry farming)
Ku-keolowalu (Ku of wet farming)

As god of fishing he may be worshiped as:  Ku-ula or Ku-ula-kai (Ku of the abundance of the sea)

As god of war as:

Ku-nui-akea (Ku the supreme one)
Ku-kaili-moku (Ku snatcher of land)
Ku-keoloewa (Ku the supporter)
Ku-ho‘one‘enu‘u (Ku pulling together the earth)

As god of sorcery as:

Ku-waha-ilo (Ku of the maggot-dropping mouth)

These are only a few of the Ku gods who play a part in Hawaiian mythology.

The Ku gods of the forest were worshiped not by the chiefs but by those whose professions took them into the forest or who went there to gather wild food in time of scarcity. Ku-mauna and Ku-ka-ohia-laka were locally worshiped as rain gods. Canoe builders prayed to the canoe-building gods for aid in their special capacities: Ku-moku-hali‘i their chief; Kupa-ai-ke‘e (Kaikupakee, Kupaikee), explained as adz (kupa) which eats (ai) the superfluous parts (ke‘e), and worshiped as inventor of the bevel adz for hollowing out the canoe; Ku-pulupulu (Ku-pulupulu-i-ka-nahele) called "the chipmaker"; Ku-holoholo-pali (-ho‘oholo-pali) who steadies the canoe when it is carried down steep places; Ku-pepeiao-loa and -poko, the "long-" and "short-eared" gods of the seat braces by which the canoe is carried. They prayed also to the female deities: Lea (La‘e, Laea) who appeared in the body of a flycatcher (elepaio) and tapped the trunk to show if it was hollow, and Ka-pu-o-alakai (Ka-pua-) who presided over the knot (pu or pua) by which the guiding ropes (alakai) were held to the canoe; goddesses identified in some legends with Hina-ulu-ohia (Woman of the ohia growth) and Hina-pukuia (Woman from whom fishes are born), wives respectively of the gods of fishing and of upland cultivation, Ku-ula-kai and Ku-ula-uka, and sisters of the first three canoe builders' gods named above. Some equate Ku-pulupulu with the male Laka, called ancestor of the Menehune people, and hence with Ku-ka-ohia-laka, god of the hula dance. When the people of Ka-u district hear for the first time the sound of the kaeke drum and flute, as La‘a-mai-kahiki passes their coast on one of his visits from the south, they say, "It is the canoe of the god Ku-pulupulu," and they offer sacrifices.

Ku-ka-ohia-laka is worshiped by canoe builders in the body of the ohia lehua, the principal hardwood tree of the upland forest. His image in the form of a feather god is also worshiped in the heiau with Ku-nui-akea, Lono, Kane, and Kanaloa. He is the male Laka worshiped in the hula dance. That is why the altar in the dance hall is not complete without a branch of red lehua blossoms. In Tahiti, Rarotonga, and New Zealand, Rata is the name of the ohia tree. In the cave of this god in Ola‘a on Hawaii grows an ohia lehua which is looked upon in that district as the body of the forefather, Laka. It bears only two blossoms at a time. If a branch is broken blood will flow. The story of its origin is as follows:

Ku-ka-ohia-a-ka-laka and his sister Ka-ua-kuahiwa (The rain on the ridges) come from Kahiki to Hawaii and live, Ku with his wife at Keaau and Kaua with her husband in the uplands of Ola‘a. When the sister brings vegetable food from her garden to her brother at the sea, her stingy sister-in-law pretends that they have no fish and gives her nothing but seaweed to take home as a relish. In despair at this treatment, Kaua transforms her husband and children into rats and herself into a spring of water. Her spirit comes to her brother and tells him of her fate. He visits the uplands, recognizes the spot as she has directed in the dream, and, plunging into the spring, is himself transformed into the lehua tree which we see today.

Hina-ulu-ohia (Hina the growing ohia tree) is the female goddess of the ohia-lehua forest. In the genealogies, legends, and romances she appears as mother of Ka-ulu, the voyager, and wife of Ku-ka-ohia-laka; Kailua on the northern side of Oahu is their home. As wife of Kaha‘i she is mother of Wahieloa and grandmother of Laka at Kauiki in Hana district of Maui. In the shape of an ohia tree she protects Hi‘i-lawe, child of Kakea and Kaholo, and Lau-ka-ieie the daughter of Po-kahi. To both god and goddess the flowering ohia is sacred and no one on a visit to the volcano will venture to break the red flowers for a wreath or pluck leaves or branches on the way thither. Only on the return, with proper invocations, may the flowers be gathered. A rainstorm is the least of the unpleasant results that may follow tampering with the sacred lehua blossoms.

Ku-mauna (Ku of the mountain) is one of the forest gods banished by Pele for refusing to destroy Lohiau at her bidding. He is said to have lived as a banana planter in the valley above Hi‘ilea in Ka-u- district on Hawaii which bears his name. There he incurred the wrath of Pele and was overwhelmed in her fire. Today the huge boulder of lava which retains his shape in the bed of the valley is worshiped as a rain god. As late as 1914 a keeper escorted visitors to the sacred valley to see that the god was properly respected and his influence upon the weather restrained within bounds for the benefit of the district. The legend runs as follows:

A tall foreigner comes from Kahiki and cultivates bananas of the iholena variety in a marshy spot of the valley. Pele comes to him in the shape of an old woman and he refuses to share his bananas with her. She first sends cold, then, as he sits doubled up with his hands pressed against his face trying to keep warm, she overwhelms him with a stream of molten lava. In this shape he is to be seen today encrusted in lava.

Sick people are sometimes brought to a cave near the place where stands Kumauna and left there overnight for healing. In case of drought an opelu fish is brought from the sea and struck against the rock in order to call the rain god's attention to the needs of his worshipers. In case a fish of the proper variety is lacking, a rare plant growing in the vicinity, which has leaves mottled like the sides of the opelu, may be used as a substitute. But all this must be done with the greatest reverence. Visitors to the valley are warned to be quiet and respectful lest a violent rainstorm mar their trip to the mountains. The story told of Johnny Searle has become a legend of the valley and a warning to irreverent foreigners. About the year 1896, while Johnny Searle was manager of Hi‘ilea sugar plantation, there occurred a prolonged drought and one evening as he was riding home down the valley with a party of Hawaiian goat hunters he raised his gun and shot at the Kumauna boulder, exclaiming, "There, Kumauna! Show your power!" The shot broke off a piece from a projecting elbow, which some say he took home and threw into the fire. His companions fled. That night (as the story runs) a cloud-burst rushed down the valley and flung great stones all over the back yard of the plantation house, where they may be seen today as proof of the truth of Kumauna's power.

Rain heiau were still to be found in early days on Hawaii. A famous healing kahuna of Ka-u nicknamed Ka-la-kalohe, who worshiped his god the sun in Honokane gulch, is said to have been constantly appealed to by the white planter to invoke rain or sunshine. In the Chatham islands an old Moriori could raise a favorable wind for fishing by tapping on the trunk of a special kopi tree. Other trees or rocks sent "a deluge of rain" in response to tapping. In Samoa two spirits, Foge and Toafa, have charge of the rain. When a company go out after doves, offerings are made to them of taro and fish in order to insure fair weather. But if someone follows and strikes the stone which is dedicated to the two spirits, a thunderstorm will fall. In Nanduayalo in the Lau islands a small rock below high-water mark brings a tidal wave if anyone strikes it or breaks off a piece.

A fisherman might choose any one of various fishing gods to worship, and the tapus which he kept depended upon the fish god worshiped. Ku-ula-kai (Ku of abundance in the sea) was one of these gods, some say the one who had control over all the gods of the sea. Reddish things were sacred to him. The fisherman's heiau set up at a fishing beach is called after him a kuula. The god lived as a man on earth on East Maui in the land called Alea-mai at a place called Leho-ula (Red-cowry) on the side of the hill Ka-iwi-o-Pele (The bones of Pele). There he built the first fishpond; and when he died he gave to his son Aiai the four magic objects with which he con-trolled the fish and taught him how to address the gods in prayer and how to set up fish altars. The objects were a decoy stick called Pahiaku-kahuoi (kahuai), a cowry called Leho-ula, a hook called Manai-a-ka-lani, and a stone called Kuula which, if dropped into a pool, had the power to draw the fish thither. His son Aiai, following his instructions, traveled about the islands establishing fishing stations (ko‘a) at fishing grounds (ko‘a aina) where fish were accustomed to feed and setting up altars (kuula) upon which to lay, as offerings to the fishing gods, two fish from the first catch:  one for the male, the other for the female aumakua. Some accounts give Aiai a son named Punia-iki who is a fish kupua and trickster and helps his father set up fishing stations.

In this story the god Ku-ula-kai who supplies reproductive energy to all things of the sea is represented by his human worshiper. The man Kuula who served the ruling chief of East Maui as head fisherman has a place on the genealogical line stemming from Wakea. The fishpond over which he presided, the place where his house stood, the bones of the great eel he slew, the stone of victory (Pohaku o lanakila) set up by his son at the famous surfing beach of Maka-ai-kuloa to commemorate his triumph--all are pointed out today by natives of the locality in verification of the story. At the stone Maka-kilo-ia (Eyes of the fish watchman) placed by Aiai on the summit of Kauiki, fishermen still keep a lookout to watch for akule fish entering the bay. A haul of 28,000 were drawn up there only a few years ago. It is the old fishing technique still practised, both in its practical and its religious aspect, which is referred to Kuula's teaching. All the places named in the legend of Aiai remain as authentic fishing grounds and stations for fishermen in island waters. Nor is the old practice of offering fish from the first catch to the god upon the fish altar entirely forgotten.


Wahiako version. While Ka-moho-ali‘i (The shark chief) is ruling chief over Hana, the god Kuula is living in human form at Leho-ula by the sea with his wife Hina-puku-ia (Hina-pupu-kae) while his brother Ku-ula-uka (Sacred one of the uplands), god of cultivators, is living in the hills with Hina's sister Hina-ulu-ohia (Laea) as his wife. The chief finds the food supply diminishing and his people in want. He appoints Kuula-kai head fisherman and Kuula-uka head cultivator for the whole island. Kuula-kai builds a fishpond with walls twenty feet thick and ten feet high and an inlet for the fish to go in and out at. The pond is always full of fish because of Kuula's power, and men crowd to see the wonder he has made. Finally appears an enemy who breaks down the walls of the fishpond. At Wailau on Molokai lives a handsome chief named Kekoona who has kupua power and can turn himself into an eel three hundred feet long. He sees the fishpond swarming with fish and slips in through the in-let, but when he has fed well he cannot get out without breaking down the wall. He goes away and hides in a deep hole about seven hundred feet beyond Alau island called "Hole of the ulna" because it is a feeding place for ulua fish. The chief's kahuna points out the enemy and his hiding place. Kuula fishes for the eel with the famous hook Manaiakalani baited with roasted coconut meat and attached to two stout ropes held by men standing on opposite sides of the bay. These draw the hooked eel to shore, Kuula kills him with a stone, and there his body lies turned to stone with one jaw smashed and the other gaping. The dog Poki is set to watch him and may be seen also turned to stone looking off to Molokai where the friends of the chief are bewailing him. Often one hears a shrill sound like mourning and the bubbles that push up into the rock pools are the tears of those who mourn.

The dead chief's favorite determines to revenge himself upon Kuula. He gets himself appointed Ka-moho-ali‘i's messenger to the fishpond and one day when the chief has sent him for a fish and Kuula has given him instructions how to prepare it by cutting off its head, baking it in the oven, slicing, and salting it, he throws away the fish and pretends that Kuula's words were directed toward the chief's own body. The chief orders Kuula to be burned in his house with all his family. Because he is a god, Kuula knows of the order and prepares to save himself, his wife, and son. He bequeaths to his son Aiai his magic objects and his power of drawing the fish, instructs him about setting up fishing stations, and bids him escape with the smoke when it turns to the west; then he and his wife escape into the sea "carrying with them all the things for the people's good." Aiai escapes with his calabash from the house when the smoke turns to the west, and hides in a hole in the cliff. Three gourds pop in the fire and all believe that the three inmates of the house are consumed. A storm arises and all those who have taken part in the burning are killed.

Meanwhile the fish have followed Kuula and Hina and the pond is empty. The chief threatens the people with death if no fish is brought him. Aiai is befriended by a little boy named Pili-hawawa and to save the family of his friend he drops the kuula stone into a pool and the fish swarm into the pool. The first fish that the chief eats slips down his throat whole and chokes him to death.


The first fishing ground marked out by Aiai is that of the Hole-of-the-ulua where the great eel hid. A second lies between Hamoa and Hanaoo in Hana, where fish are caught by letting down baskets into the sea. A third is Koa-uli in the deep sea. A fourth is the famous akule fishing ground at Wana-ula mentioned above. At Honomaele he places three pebbles and they form a ridge where aweoweo fish gather. At Waiohue he sets up on a rocky islet the stone Paka to attract fish. From the cliff of Puhi-ai he directs the luring of the great octopus from its hole off Wailua-nui by means of the magic cowry shell and the monster is still to be seen turned to stone with one arm missing, broken off in the struggle. Leaving Hana, he establishes fishing stations and altars along the coast all around the island as far as Kipahulu. At the famous fishing ground (Ko‘a-nui) in the sea of Maulili he meets the fisherman Kane-makua and presents him with the fish he has just caught and gives him charge of the grounds, bidding him establish the custom of giving the first fish caught to any stranger passing by canoe. Another famous station and altar is at Kahiki-ula.

At Hakioawa on Kahoolawe he establishes a square-walled kuula like a heiau, set on a bluff looking off to sea. On Lanai he fishes for aku at cape Kaunolu and there (some say) finds Kaneapua fishing. At cape Kaena a stone which he has marked turns into a turtle and this is how turtles came to Hawaiian waters and why they come to the beach to lay their eggs, and this is the reason for the name Polihua for the beach near Paomai. On Molokai he lands at Punakou, kicks mullet spawn ashore with his foot at Kaunakakai, and at Wailau where Koona lived and where he finds the people neglecting to preserve the young fish, he causes all the shrimps to disappear and then reveals their retreat to a lad to whom he takes a fancy. This is a rocky ledge called Koki and hence the saying "Koki of Wailau is the ladder to the shrimps." Kalaupapa is still a famous fishing ground because of the stone Aiai left there. A good place for fishing with hook and line on Molokai is between Cape-of-the-dog and Cape-of-the-tree.

On Oahu, Aiai lands at Makapu‘u and makes the stone Malei the fish stone for the uhu fish of that place. Other stones are set up at grounds for different kinds of fish. The uhu is the common fish as far as Hanauma. At Ka-lua-hole the ahole fish run. The fish still spawn about a round sandstone (called Ponahakeone) which Aiai placed outside Kahuahui. It is Aiai's son Punia who, instructed by Aiai, sets up the Kou stone for Honolulu and Kaumakapili; the kuula at Kapuhu; a stone at Hanapouli in Ewa; and the kuula Ahuena at Waipio. The fishing ground outside Kalaeloa is named Hani-o; grounds for Waianae are Kua and Maunalahilahi; for Waimea, Kamalino; for Laiemaloo, Kaihukuuna. The two, father and son, visit Kauai and Ni‘ihau and finally Hawaii, where the most noted fishing grounds are Poo-a, Kahaka, and Olelomoana in Kona; Kalae in Kau; Kupakea in Puna; I in Hilo.


(a) Thrum version. At Kakaako, Aiai lives with a friendly man named Apua. The chief Kou is a skilful aku fisher at his grounds from Mamala to Moanalua. At Hanakaialama lives Puiwa and she seeks Aiai for a husband and they have a son Puniaiki. One day while she is busy gathering oopu and opae the child cries and when he asks his wife to attend to it she answers him saucily. Aiai prays and a storm raises a freshet which carries away fish and child downstream. He sees Kikihale, daughter of Kou, pick up a large oopu from the stream and recognizes his child transformed into a fish. The chiefess makes a pet of it and feeds it on seamoss. One day she is amazed to find a man child in its place. She determines to have the child reared to become her husband, and this comes to pass. When she reproaches him for doing nothing but sleep, he sends her to ask for fish-hooks from her father, but burns as useless the innumerable hooks which Kou sends him. In a vision Aiai appears to him at Kaumakapili where is the famous lure Kahuai which he had from his father Kuula. With this in hand, Punia fills the canoe with aku, which fairly leap into the canoe after the lure.

(b) Fornander version. Kuula and Hina live at Niolopa, Nu‘uanu, and are famous for their luck in fishing. This comes from a pearl fishhook named Kahuoi, which is guarded by the bird Ka-manu-wai at Kau-maka-pili. When it is let down into the water the fish jump after it into the canoe. Kipapalaulu, ruling chief of Honolulu, steals the hook. Hina bears the child Aiai and throws him into the Nu‘uanu stream. He is borne down-stream to the bathing place of Kipapalaulu's daughter Kauaelemimo near the rock Nahakaipuami [pointed out today in the Nu‘uanu stream]. The chiefess brings up the beautiful child and takes him for her husband. When about to bear a child she craves aku fish and Aiai bids her ask her father for his pearl fishhook and a big canoe for fishing. He makes a great haul of fish, which he brings to his wife, but the hook he returns to the care of the bird, which has been ailing since the loss but which now recovers strength.


Puni-a-ka-ia (Hankering after fish), the handsome son of high chiefs of the northern districts of Oahu named Nu‘upia and Hale-kou, who live at Kaneohe, nurses the fish Uhu-makaikai, parent of all the fishes, and his pet drives fish into his nets. He marries a pretty, well-behaved woman named Kaalaea, to whom he and his father and mother bring gifts according to custom. She gives herself alone by coming to him and placing herself in his lap. He goes to live with her family but they insult him for doing nothing but sleep and he goes away to Kauai, takes a high chiefess to wife, and lays a wager to bring in a great catch of fish. His pet fish in the pool at Nu‘upia, apprised by his mother of the wager, sends him fish enough to win the whole island of Kauai. He gives these away to the men who have taken him across to Kauai and returns to Oahu with his new wife.

The theme of the stolen luck-bringing fishhook is common in the South Seas. It occurs again in Hawaii in the story of Iwa the master thief, which appears in a later chapter.

New Zealand. Tau-tini, son of Tari's sister Hine-i-taitai, recovers the fishhook which Ra-kuru, brother-in-law of Tari, stole from Rari. 

Tokelau. Kalokalo-o-ka-la, child of the Sun in Fakaofa, starts up a tree to visit his father in order to get a lucky fish-hook as a bridal present for his wife. Directed by an old blind woman whose eight taro sprouts he has broken off and whose sight he has restored, he passes stinging insects, then crabs, goes through a spinning door, and finds his father. He is given a bundle and told not to open it, but does so and is swallowed by a shark because the Sun is angry. The hook falls into the sea and is taken by the Fiji chief and shaped into a lucky spoon bait. Hina's husband tries it and is so pleased with it that he carries it away with him. The whole wedding party except Hina are in consequence drowned. Hina returns to her father and her child Tautini gets possession of the shell and is successful in bonito fishing until he loses the hook.

Samoa. ‘Alo‘alo is sent to heaven after the lucky fishhook in order to satisfy his wife's pregnancy craving for fish. He disobeys the tapu and falls into the sea near Fiji and the hook he has obtained is lost.

Tonga. (a) An old man's daughter is taken to the sky. A man crawls up the fishline leading to the sky and she bears twins. The twins are sent to their grandfather for "the hook for pulling up land." The old man tells them to select a bright hook, but they take the dull one and it turns out to be the lucky hook.

(b) Maui-kisikisi comes to Manu‘a after a lucky fishhook, meets the fisherman's wife Tavatava-i-Manuka, and wins from her the secret that the dull-looking hook is the one he must take. "Tavatava-i-manuka" has become the saying for one who has betrayed a secret.

At the time of Cook's discovery of the Hawaiian group, priests of the strictest religious order followed the Ku ritual. According to the Ku worship any public calamity which threatened the whole people, like prolonged drought, was to be averted by the erection of a special form of heiau (luakini) in which was observed a prolonged ritual involving the whole people as participants and demanding exorbitant offerings to the gods in the shape of pigs, coconuts, redfish, white cloth, and human victims. This was especially the practice in time of war. The ruling chief alone could erect such a heiau, but subject to the advice of the priests, who picked out a favorable site and decided whether an old heiau was to be repaired or a new one set up. Tradition was consulted to determine the plans of heiau whose erection had been followed by success in battle. Variations in plan might occur, but all must include the essential parts laid down at the time of the building of the first heiau by the gods at Waolani on Oahu, and it was to the national god Ku-nui-akea that such a heiau was erected.

Ku-nui-akea was represented in the heiau by a block of ohia wood freshly cut under strict ritual ceremonies. A human sacrifice was offered as payment for the tree both at the spot where it was cut down and at the posthole where the image was set up. In the forest the gods of the growing tree were invoked in a prayer which seems, with its reiterative phrasing, a very old one: 

Ku of the forest, Ku-lono, strike gently,
Ku-pulupulu, Ku-mokuhali‘i, strike gently,
Cut a pathway, strike gently,
Cut a pathway above, strike gently,
Cut a pathway below, strike gently,
Hew down the ohia Ku-makua, strike gently,
Hew down the ohia of the forest, strike gently,
Hew down the ohia of the moist forest, strike gently,
Hew down the ohia of the koa forest, strike gently. . .

The public ceremonies at the heiau covered ten days, or might be extended if the auspices were unfavorable. They have not been studied in detail, but the accounts include a circuit run about the images in the heiau carrying the port-able gods and led by a naked man impersonating Ka-hoali‘i; recitation of sacred "binding prayers" during a period of complete silence, called an aha (assembly); dedication of the mana (sacred) sanctuary where the priests assembled for two days to chant prayers; another aha ceremony followed by a symbolic "binding of the heavenly to the earthly realm" by means of a rope of sennit run around the inside of the sacred house; the offering to Ku of a human victim or of an ulua fish whose eye was plucked out for Ka-hoali‘i; the cutting of the god's navel string, represented by a girdle of coconut leaves, in a ceremony corresponding to that for a chief's son, and the girding of the god and of each of the other images with a loincloth; the dressing with white tapa of the three-tiered prayer tower, into which the priest then entered; a visit to the mountains by priests and people carrying the portable war gods of the chiefs and returning with shouts and singing, bearing branches of koa trees to make a temporary booth; the sacrifice of a pig and its entire consumption, each man in the group sharing the feast; a ceremonial bath in the sea from which each returned with a piece of coral in his hand and piled it upon a heap outside the temple; and finally the presentation by the female chiefs of the ruling family of a great loincloth for Ku.

The occasion of the offering of human sacrifices brought together only those of rank and those who had prepared themselves under careful discipline. It followed, according to Kamakau, a strict period of prayer during which the audience all "sat firmly on their buttocks, the left leg crossed over the right leg in the position called ne‘epu and the left hand crossed over the right." At the command of the priest everyone held up the right hand pointing toward heaven, kept this position while the group prayed in unison, and then went back to the first position, all exactly at the same time and without moving the body. A mistake meant death to the awkward or careless. If the body to be offered was that of a chief slain in battle the ruling chief took hold of the hook Manaikalani (the famous hook that drew up land), which hung from a cord, and hooked it into the mouth of the victim, at the same time reciting the prayer which condemned the traitor, and the body was laid on the altar with each arm embracing the body of a hog laid on either side of the dead man. After a war there might be many such victims.

Four feather war gods were worshiped in the heiau in the time of Kamehameha as visible forms of the god Ku-nui-akea under the Paao priesthood. These gods are described by Kamakau as "sticks of wood below, draped in folds of tapa . . . and at the head a very fine feather hung dangling so as to cover the head. When the god was consulted to know the truth, the feather stood straight up, whirling about like a waterspout as if full of electricity, and flew from its place and rested on the head of a person and trembled on his head, his arm, or shoulder. This was a sign that the god would help and bless him in war and give him prosperity." Impotent gods who remained obstinately passive were rejected by war leaders or the battle was called off. Kawelo, the story says, smashed the god Ku-lani-hehu with a club and called it a coward because it showed not even a flutter of feathers when consulted about the success of his expedition to Kauai.

Kukailimoku is the most famous of the Ku gods of battle owned by Kamehameha. Kalakaua describes the image as "a small wooden figure, roughly carved, with a headdress of yellow feathers." This god was said to utter cries during a battle which could be heard above the sounds of the fight. It was supposed to represent the god Kaili of Liloa, which was given to Umi at the time when the rule over the land was given to Hakau, to have been carefully preserved and worshiped by Umi, and to have descended to Keawe-nui-a-Umi and from him to his son Lono-i-ka-makahiki. Ka-lani-opu‘u gave it to Kamehameha. This was not, however, the original Kaili god, according to some old Hawaiians. The original god (akua) was a stone (or gourd) about the size of two fists, bound about with sennit, and having at the top two feathers from the mythical bird called Hiva-oa, which were secured by prayer. When Kamehameha conquered all the islands, the saying was "E ku kaili moku," that is, "Kaili has risen over the islands." This expression became attached to the image. After the abolition of the tapu by the chiefs after Kamehameha's death, the keeper of Kaili in Kohala made a canoe and placed the god in it, together with food, awa, and tapa cloth. He wept over the god, saying, "O Kaili, here is your canoe, here is food, here is awa, here is tapa; go back to Kahiki." Then he set the god adrift on the ocean and by the mana of the god the canoe sailed onward to Kahiki and was never seen again.

All of these war gods were ultimately regarded as gods of sorcery. It was for this reason that Kamehameha was careful to secure the gods of the islands over which he had gained rule. Ku-ho‘o-ne‘e-nu‘u was the god of the Pakaka temple at Kou (Honolulu) and the principal god of Oahu ruling chiefs. Ku-ke-olo-ewa was worshiped on Maui and became a god of Kamehameha when he gained possession of that island. Kukaili-moku was the most powerful sorcery god of Hawaii until the rise of the famous sorcery god of Molokai, Ka-leipahoa, whose story will be told later.

Ku-waha-ilo (Ku maggot-mouth) was by tradition a man-eater and the god responsible for the introduction of human sacrifice. Ellis's story is that, after Umi's victory over his elder half-brother Hakau, the voice of "Kuahiro his god" was heard demanding more men for the sacrifice, until eighty of the enemy had been offered. The legend runs that when the body of Hakau himself was laid on the altar the god came down from heaven in a pillar of floating clouds with thunder and lightning and dark clouds, and "the tongue of the god wagged above the altar."

In fiction the place of this god is in the heavens. He pours "death-dealing bolts" in the Aukele legend. In the Anaelike romance his coming is preceded by earthquake and heavy winds, then by a tongue carrying victims in its hollow, followed by the body. In the Hainakolo romance he is a man-eater with terrible bodies such as a whirlwind, an earthquake, caterpillars, a stream of blood, a mo‘o body with flashing eyes and thrusting tongue. All these manifestations are among the bodies of the Pele family of gods, and Ku-waha-ilo's name is one of those given for the husband of Haumea and father of Pele. Male chiefs worshiped him as a god of sorcery under the name of Ku-waha-ilo-o-ka-puni. In the legend of Hawaii-loa he is the god worshiped by the man-eaters of the South Seas, because of whom Hawaii-loa forbids further intercourse with southern groups. In a Hawaiian newspaper he is invoked as:

Ku with the maggot-dropping mouth,
Ku big-eyes,
Ku little-eyes,
Ku long-eyes,
Ku short-eyes,
Ku rolling-eyes,
Ku strolling about in the rain,
Ku like a seabird,
Ku the parent,
Ku of the uplands,
Ku of the ohia tree,
Ku of the low-lying islands,
Ku mountainward,
Ku seaward,
Ku with a mouthful of maggots,
  Return! Return!

Source: http://www.sacred-texts.com


1. Coming of the Gods
2. Ku Gods
3. The God Lono
4. The Kane Worship
5. Kane and Kanaloa
6. Mythical Lands of the Gods
7. Lesser Gods
8. Sorcery Gods
9. Guardian Gods
10. The Soul after Death
11. The Pele Myth
12. The Pele Sisters
13. Pele Legends

14. Kamapua`a
15. Hina Myths
16. Maui The Trickster
17. Aikanaka-Kaha`iI
18. Wahieloa-Laka
19.  Haumea
20. Papa and Wakea
21. Genealogies
22. Era of Overturning
23. Mu and Menehune
24. Runners, Man-Eaters, Dog Men
25. Moikeha-la`a Migration
26. Hawaiiloa and Paao
27. Ruling Chiefs
28. Usurping Chiefs
29. Kapua Stories
30. Trickster Stories
31. Voyage to the Land of the Gods
32. Riddling Contests
33. The Kana Legends
34. The Stretching-Tree Kupua
35. Romance of the Swimmer
36. Romance of the Island of Virgins
37. Romances of Match-Making
38. Romances of the Dance
39. Wooing Romances
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