Hawaiian Mythology
by Martha Beckwith 1940



From Ulu and Nana-ulu, sons of Ki‘i, twelfth in succession from Wakea and Papa, all high chief families count descent. Hikapoloa, as well as the Waha-nui and Keikipaanea families of early legend, belong to the Nanaulu line, The important Maweke family is, according to Kamakau, the first of that line from whom men today trace ancestry. Their contemporaries are the Paumakua of Oahu, the Kuhiailani of Hawaii, Puna of Kauai, Hua of Maui, and the Kamauaua of Molokai. To the Ulu line belongs the late migration of chiefs introduced by Paao to the island of Hawaii, from whom most families of that island trace descent. Both legends, that of Paao and that of Maweke, are believed to have bearing upon early colonization of the Hawaiian group from North Tahiti.

The coming of Maweke and his sons to the Hawaiian group is dated sometime between the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Their descendants are supposed to have occupied the whole of Oahu and spread to the islands of Kauai, Maui, and Molokai, and hence, some say, the differences in speech and custom between these islands and Hawaii. Of the three sons of Maweke, Mulieleali‘i who inherited his father's lands on the south side of the island of Oahu, Keaunui who settled the western end of the island, and Kalehenui who took the north side, it is the children of the first about whom legends are told today. Of the three sons of Mulieleali‘i, Kumuhonua, Moikeha, and Olopana, it is the firstborn, Kumuhonua, who succeeds to his father's lands. Kamakau asserts that the two younger brothers, Moikeha and Olopana, make a sea attack upon him and are defeated and taken captive, together with La‘a. However this may be, the Kumuhonua line of Oahu ruling chiefs ends with Haka. With Mailikukahi, who succeeds Haka, the Moikeha branch is established as the ruling line. 


Olopana settles in Waipio on Hawaii and Lu‘ukia, grand-daughter of Hikapoloa of Kohala, becomes his wife. They are driven out by a flood and retire to Kahiki where some say Moikeha is living, others that he was with Olopana in Waipio. Moikeha becomes infatuated with Lu‘ukia and Olopana raises no objections; but a rival suitor, Mua, who cannot win her favor, pretends to her that Moikeha is defaming her publicly, and she will have nothing more to do with Moikeha. The chief therefore leaves his lands under the care of Olopana and paddles away in a canoe manned by companions whose names, as recorded, are perpetuated as place names on the Hawaiian group. His canoes beach on the island of Kauai, at Waimahanalua, in Kapa‘a in Wailua. The pretty daughters of the chief Puna are out surfing. They take Moikeha for their husband and he succeeds at Puna's death to his father-in-law's lands. . . .

Moikeha's son Ho‘okamali‘i settles at Ewa on Oahu, Haulanui-aikea remains on Kauai, Kila goes to Hilo, Hawaii. Other sons named are Umalehu, Kaialea, Ke-kai-hawewe, Lau-kapalala. His two wives are Ho‘oipo-i-ka-malanai and Hina-uulua [but both names may belong to a single woman and "Sweetheart in the trade wind" may be a chant name for the Hina-uulua who appears on the Nana-ulu genealogy as wife of Moikeha and mother of Ho‘okamali‘i who succeeds his father].

On the journey from the south the party touches first at the easternmost point of Hawaii and the younger brothers of Moikeha (Kumukahi and Ha‘eha‘e) remain at Puna; the kahunas Mo‘okini and Ka-lua-wilinau make their home at Kohala; Honua-ula lands in Hana on Maui; the sisters Makapu‘u and Makaaoa land on Oahu [where Kila visits them when he sails after La‘a, and Hi‘iaka claims Makupu‘u as relative in ghost form on her journey about Oahu]. The rest of the party go on to Kauai. These include the paddlers Ka-pahi and Moana-ikaiaiwe, the sailing master Kipu-nui-aiakamau, with his mate, especially skilled in maneuvering a canoe by backing water; the spy Kaukaukamunolea, with his mate, who goes later as pilot with Kila to Kahiki; and the foster son of Moikeha, the chanter Kamahualele (Child of the flying spray). Between Lanai and Molokai, Moikeha has joined to his company a kupua called Kakaka-uha-nui (Strong-chested Kakaka) who has such long legs he can steady a canoe as he stands in the water and can stay under water for a long time without breathing. It is he who, on the return voyage with Kila, wins a match in a diving contest with the tide kupua Ke-au-miki and Ke-au-ka by staying under water "ten nights and two" to their ten nights.

The fine chant calling upon Moikeha to make his home in Hawaii is supposed to have been composed by Kamahualele as the canoe first sighted land, some say at South cape in Kau district, others off the Hilo coast.

Eia Hawaii, he moku, he kanaka,
He kanaka Hawaii--e,
He kanaka Hawaii,
He kama na Kahiki,
He pua alii mai Kapaahu,
Mai Moa-ulu-nui-akea Kanaloa,
He moopuna na Kahiko, laua o Kapulanakehau. . . .

"Here is Hawaii, an island, a man,
Hawaii is a man indeed,
Hawaii is a man,
A child of Tahiti,
A royal offspring from Kapaahu,
From Moa-ula-nui-akea of Kanaloa,
A grandchild of Kahiko and Kapulanakehau.
It was Papa who bore him,
The daughter of Ku-kalani-ehu and Kahaka-ua-koko,
The island offspring from a single group,
Set evenly from east to west,
As if spread out in a row,
And joined onto Holani,
Kaialea the seer journeyed about the land,
Separated Nu‘uhiwa, landed on Polapola,
Kahiko is the rootstock of the land,
He divided up and separated the islands, p. 355
The fishline of Kaha‘i is broken, Cut by Ku-kanaloa,
The lands are divided into sections, into districts,
Divided by the sacred bamboo knife of Kanaloa,
Haumea is the bird sailing to Kahiki,
Moikeha is the chief who dwells there,
My chief dwells in Hawaii,
He lives! he lives!
The chief lives and the kahuna,
The soothsayer lives and the slave,
He dwells on Hawaii and is at rest,
He grows to old age on Kauai,
Kauai is the island,
Moikeha is the chief!" 


(a) Moikeha wishes to summon from Kahiki a certain La‘a (Sacred one) of peculiarly high rank, either a son or adopted son, left behind at the time of the migration to Hawaii. The object seems to be to insure the transportation of his bones back to Kahiki at his death. He tests his sons to see which will have endurance for the voyage to Kahiki. Kila's toy boat made out of a ti leaf passes directly between the father's legs; the other boys' boats miss the mark. The boys are jealous and try to trap Kila away to a dart-throwing contest in order to make away with him, but the father will not allow it. Before the expedition starts, Kila proposes to take a "god" along with him to protect him from his brothers, and the brothers are afraid to accompany him. On the journey to Kahiki, Kila first visits the members of Moikeha's company who have settled on other islands and at each stop there ensues a repetitive dialogue: "Who are you?" "Kila of the uplands, Kila of the lowlands, Kila born of the Woman-of-the-trade-winds, the child of Moikeha." "Is Moikeha then alive?" "He is alive." "What kind of life is he living?" "Dwelling at ease on Kauai where the sun rises and sets; where the surf of Makaiwa curves and bends; by the changing blossoms of the kukui of Puna; by the broad waters of Wailua. He will live on Kauai and die on Kauai." "What is the journey of the chief for?" "A journey to seek a chief." "What chief?" "La‘amaikahiki." Kila goes on to Kahiki, stopping first at a place called Moa-ula-nui-akea-iki to get a food supply from his uncle Ku-pohihi the rat-man, then greeting his aunt Lu‘ukia, and finally ascending to Lani-keha at Moa-ula-nui-akea to find La‘a. Kamahualele advises his consulting the aged priestess Ku-hele-po-lani. She tells him that when he hears the beating of Moikeha's drum Hawea from the mountains of Kapaahu where La‘a is in hiding under tapu, he must sacrifice a man on the altar of Lanikeha, then go up with her to the heiau and hide himself inside while she, as a woman, remains outside, and when his brother comes to strike the drum and the priests line up and begin chanting, then he must address La‘a and give Moikeha's message. Kila obeys these instructions and La‘a obeys the message. By the sound of the drum beating off Kauai, Moikeha is made aware of La‘a's coming. 

(b) Moikeha tests his three sons to see which one is ablest for a journey to Kahiki. Kila's toy boat strikes his father's navel and by this sign Moikeha knows that he will excel the others. Moikeha later fits out a canoe and sends Kila to avenge him upon his enemies in Kahiki. On the journey the long-breathed man Kakaka-uha-nui saves him from the tide kupua who would drag the canoe to the bottom. At a neighboring island to Kahiki lives Kane-pohihi, a rat-woman who is Moikeha's aunt. Kila finds her blind and roasting bananas, makes himself known, and is told that the chiefs are all dead, Kahuahuakai being the last of them; but Kila knows that La‘a is still there, guarded by Huihui and Maeele. He is in need of food and his aunt in rat form nibbles the rope which releases the food that Makali‘i has drawn up in a net out of reach.

At the tapu harbor of the main island, Mua, the lover of Lu‘ukia who caused Moikeha's withdrawal, comes down to meet the canoe and, finding in Kila a man handsome enough to be-guile Lu‘ukia, whom he still hopes to win, determines to use him as a lure; for Lu‘ukia, although her husband Olopana has dropsy and cannot enjoy her favors himself, has refused all lovers since Moikeha left her. Kila pretends to accept the plot, but has Mua killed. His warriors then defeat those of Makali‘i, although half their size. He himself gives their leader such a blow that Makali‘i lies stunned "long enough to cook an oven of food," then picks himself up and returns "up above," where he remains until his death and never shows himself on earth again.

Kila ascends, greeted by the wailings of the former people of the land, until he comes to Moikeha's ancient house, built with posts of kauila wood and battens of birds' bones, but now empty and overgrown with weeds. One by one the guards come to life as he enters. He goes to sleep on Moikeha's couch. Lu‘ukia enters and, seeing his resemblance to Moikeha, embraces him, al-lows him to untie the cord with which she has been bound against the approach of men, and the two become lovers. (The mission to La‘a is omitted in this romantic version.) 

(c) Kila is named in memory of Lu‘ukia and is more beloved by Moikeha than any of his brothers. Moikeha hence instructs Kila in the art of navigation and the knowledge of the stars and makes him leader of an expedition to Kahiki after La‘a. His place is on the high platform between the canoes while the two older brothers manage the canoes. The canoe calls at Waianae to acquaint Moikeha's former companion of the life the chief is living. At Kahiki, Olopana is high chief and Lu‘ukia chiefess. La‘a is the heir. The land is rich and people are living at ease. Olopana refuses to let La‘a go until after he himself is dead; then he may go to Moikeha. On the return of the expedition, Kila settles at Hilo, Ho‘okamali‘i at Ewa on Oahu, Haulanuiaiakea on Kauai, and from all three descend chiefs and commoners of these islands. 


La‘a-mai-kahiki returns to Kahiki after Moikeha's death and Kila becomes ruling chief of Kauai. The brothers are jealous and entice him away on an expedition to Waipio after their father's bones, which have been left hidden in the cliff of Haena.

They abandon him there and tell their mother at home that the canoe was upset, Kila seized by a shark, and the bones lost. He passes in Waipio as a slave, but often when he climbs Puaahuku after firewood a rainbow accompanies him and the priest of the temple of Pakaalana suspects his rank. When he is accused of eating tapu food, he flees to this temple. The ruling chief adopts him under the name of Lena and makes him land agent. It is he who devises the system of working a certain number of days for the chief. He is beloved for his industry. In the time of Hua there is a famine. His brother Kaialea comes from Kauai after food. Kila has him thrown into prison until he will confess the whole truth, but saves him from death. The mothers and brothers are summoned. When the mothers learn the truth they say the brothers must die. Kila intercedes and all are reconciled. The mothers are given the rule over Kauai and Kila remains in Waipio. Later he goes to Kahiki with La‘a-mai-kahiki to deposit Moikeha's bones. 


La‘a is received on Kauai by Moikeha and his kahuna Poloahi-lani. He settles at Kahiki-nui on Maui but, finding it too windy, removes to the west coast of Kahoolawe, whence he sails back to Kahiki. His principal place of residence is at Kualoa on Oahu. Here he has three wives, daughters of three chiefs of this region, all of whom give birth on the same night. Hoaka-nui-kapuaihelu, daughter of Lono-ka-ehu, chief of Kualoa. is the mother of Lauli-a-la‘a; Waolena from Kaalaea, of Ahukini; Mano from Kaneohe, of Kukona. Mano's child came last, but when she heard that the other wives had given birth she used energetic means to hasten her child's arrival and hence her name of "Mano who slapped her abdomen" (Mano-opu-pa‘ipa‘i). A chant [from Kamehameha's day] records the incident:

"Ahukai (the father), La‘a (the son),
La‘a, La‘a, La‘a-mai-kahiki the chief;
Ahukini son of La‘a,
Kukona son of La‘a,
Lauli son of La‘a,
The triple canoe (triplets) of La‘amaikahiki,
The sacred firstborn sons of La‘a
Who were born on the same day."


(a) It is La‘a-mai-kahiki who introduces image worship in the shape of the figure Lono-i-ka-ouali‘i and the coconut fiber rope called Lanalana-wa‘a. He is most famous as the bringer of the kaeke drum and the hula dance to Hawaii. When the people hear the noise of the drum and the nose-flute as his canoe passes the coast of Hawaii they say, "It is the canoe of the god Kupulupulu (Laka)" and bring offerings. 

(b) La‘a sails with a company consisting of his kahuna Kukaikupolo, his astronomer Kukeao-ho‘omihamiha, his diviner (Luhau-kapawa), his seer Maula, his drummer Kupa, and forty men to handle the canoes. They pass to the left of Hawaii and sail north past Maui and Molokai sounding the drum over the sea. A certain man named Haikamalama hears the strange sound from the Oahu coast at Hanauma bay and follows the canoe along the shore, beating out the notes on his breast to get the rhythm, and repeating the drummer's chant. When the canoe beaches at Ka-waha-o-ka-mano in Waihaukalua, he pretends, in order to get a good look at it, that the drum is well known on Oahu, and then makes an exact copy of his own. 

The names of Olopana and Lu‘ukia in the Moikeha-Kila legend for relatives of Moikeha left behind in Kahiki make it probable that the Moikeha family migrated from the north-western of the three land divisions into which old Tahiti was divided; that is, from the Oropa‘a (Olopana) division dominated by the powerful Oropa‘a family. Puna-au-ia is the chief district, through which runs the great valley of Punaru‘u, a name found also on Hawaii. Mou‘a-ula-nui-akea as the former name for the land division on the north now called Tahara‘a suggests the Moa-ula-nui-akea of the Kila story. Taputapuatea is a great marae (temple) at Opoa on Ra‘iatea. 

The Oropa‘a were a rugged family of warriors whose name appears far up oh the line of descent of the Pomare family. Later they retreated into the mountains before invading peoples. Lizards (mo‘o) were their family gods and lowering clouds lying with fringed edges on the horizon are called after the fork-tailed lizard. Tipa, whose "shadow" on earth was a species of lizard, was the healing god of sickness and disease of the Oropa‘a chiefs. In myth there is an Oropa‘a, god of ocean, son of Tumu-nui and Papa-raharaha. The man-of-war bird is his shadow, the whale his messenger. In chant it is said that "he lies with head upwards when the breezes come. The white-foaming breakers are his jaws. He swallows whole persons and fleets of people; he does not spare princes." 

Lu‘ukia is not mentioned in Tahitian genealogies, but in Maori tradition Tu-te-koropanga and Rukutia his wife (Olopana and Lu‘ukia in Hawaiian) appear on the royal genealogy "relating to the period of occupation of the Society islands." The names of Koropanga and Rukutia occur in Tongareva as "two adjacent islands on the north side of the lagoon." Rukutia introduces culture elements. "Be ye girded with the mat of Rukutia," says a Maori chant, and again, "Be ye tattooed after the manner of Rukutia." Irapanga is said by the Maori to have migrated with his children and sub-tribes to Ahu (Oahu) and hence originated the people of Hawaiki, Maui, and other islands. To reach it they sail north-east from Tawhiti-nui. They name the big island Hawaikirangi, and this is the old name for the Hawaiian group. From here they migrate to Rangiatea (Ra‘iatea) and Rarotonga. The Maori call Lanai, Maui-pae; Molokai, Maui-taka.

In Hawaii the introduction of the bark-cloth skirt of five thicknesses commonly worn by women is ascribed to Lu‘ukia, as well as the network cover used for water gourds and for the lashings of the outrigger of a canoe, supposed to be wrought after the pattern of the protection with which her thighs were bound against the approach of lovers after her quarrel with Moikeha. So sacred is such a form of canoe lashing that death is the penalty for intruding while the work is being done. According to one story, the house of separation set up between Kawaihee and Waimea while she and Olopana were living at Waipio, to which she retired during her monthly periods, was a novelty in Hawaii. Waiauwia, a man of prominence in Waimea who followed her there, had never heard of the tapu for women at this time. A cave is pointed out in Hana district on Maui where Lu‘ukia is said to have taught tapa beating to the women of Hana. The cave goes by the name of Hana-o-Lu‘ukia (Work of Lu‘ukia), the long a representing a profession carried on, rather than incidental labor.

Hawaiian legend links Lu‘ukia with the Hikapoloa family of Kohala on Hawaii, but some say she belongs to Tahiti and not to the Hawaiian group. In the Hainakolo romance she is a relative of Hainakolo belonging to Waipio or to Hamakua district, who adopts Hainakolo's child, brings him up as a waif, and later makes him her husband. In the Uweuwelekehau romance she is daughter of Olopana at Wailua on Kauai and takes as husband her cousin, who comes to her from Hawaii in the form of a fish but with the marks of a chief. An incomplete story from a school composition makes her the daughter of Hamau and Hooleia of Puako, South Kohala, and wife of Kama-o-ahu on Oahu. When her young brother Makahi comes to visit her and wins a betting contest in spear throwing with Kaaiai of Oahu, Lu‘ukia's husband takes him for a former lover of his wife and insults him. All these stories agree in making Lu‘ukia the heroine of a love affair with a young husband, which makes trouble with her first husband or an older relative.

About the name of Olopana also certain traditions persist in Hawaii. He is said to have been afflicted with dropsy. After Moikeha's departure one version has it that as ruler of Moaula-nui-akea he makes himself so beloved that Moikeha's uncle sends him away and he emigrates to the Hawaiian group. He is said to have brought there the style of tattooing and to have enforced the tapu system. Some say there are three different Olopana chiefs mixed up in Hawaiian story, one belonging to Tahiti, another to the legend of Moikeha, a third to the Kamapua‘a legend. In one romance, that of Uweuwelekekau, Olopana is the older brother of Ku and Hina at Wailua, Kauai. Olopana and Ku quarrel and Ku, followed by his sister Hina, settles at Pi‘i-honua, Hilo, Hawaii. In the romance of Ke-ao-melemele, when Ku has an affair with in "one of the large islands of the heavens," his wife Hina is taken by Olopana and their child is adopted by Ku and Hi‘ilei. Here again the woman seems to be the wife of two brothers.




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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