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Indigenous Religion of Hawaiʻiunlocked

Indigenous Religion of Hawaiʻiunlocked

  • Marie Alohalani BrownMarie Alohalani BrownDepartment of Religion, University of Hawai'i


Hawaiian religion is a nature religion in that the island environment is the matrix of traditional Hawaiian beliefs and belief-related practices. For this reason, nature as a whole is considered sacred. Creation chants in the form of genealogies establish the Hawaiian people as the younger relatives of these other-than-human entities termed “akua” that comprise and populate this island world. There are countless akua, thus making it impossible to know all their names and functions. To address this issue, a prayer acknowledges and honors these innumerable akua and the existence and vastness of the potentially significantly unknown. Hawaiian religion is practice driven. While a great number of deities are recognized and honored, not all of them are actively worshipped. Practitioners focus their attention on the akua who are in one way or another relevant to their occupation or craft. In addition to the belief in nature deities, Hawaiian religion is informed by other foundational concepts such as kino lau (the forms a deity may assume or the forms with which a deity is symbolically associated), ʻaumākua (ancestral deities), mana (a complex concept broadly related to “power”), and kapu (prohibition) related to the sacred. These concepts are inextricably intertwined in Hawaiian religion. In an earlier time in Hawaiʻi’s history, this religion regulated nearly every aspect of life—familial, societal, political, and economic. Thus, Hawaiian religion and Hawaiian culture are nearly indistinguishable.


  • Indigenous Religions

Origins and Cosmogony

Nearly two thousand years ago during a series of migrations, a group of seafaring Polynesians left their homeland and navigated the ocean until they reached the islands known since the 20th century as Hawaiʻi. They were from the area known as French Polynesia in the 21st century—specifically Te Henua ʻEnata (Marquesan Islands) and Tahiti. Like their distant ancestors who settled the Pacific over the millennia, they brought their old gods with them to their new home.

As the centuries passed, their culture and language evolved to the point that they became a distinct people. They called themselves “Kanaka” (human being; plural, Kānaka). After many generations, cognizant of the fact that the bones of their ancestors were now a part of the ʻāina (land), as would their own one day, they also referred to themselves as “ʻŌiwi” (of the bones).1

The religion they inherited from their ancestors also changed over time as they took those foundational beliefs and made them distinctly their own. These are the people known since the mid-19th century as the Hawaiians.

Kānaka ʻŌiwi ways of knowing and being are grounded in the realities of their island world existence. This environment has shaped them physically, intellectually, and spiritually. The perception of sky, land, sea, and all therein as animate and sacred is at the center of Hawaiian religion and culture. For countless generations, the Kānaka ʻŌiwi have lived in close connection with their island world and observed it. Not only that, they claimed kinship with it. They consider themselves part of a complex web of relationality in which all—sky, land, sea, and everything therein—are kin. Kānaka ʻŌiwi are the younger human relatives of the older other-than-human entities that populate their island world. This perspective is reflected in different creation chants composed as genealogies.

The longest creation chant is the Kumulipo (2,100-plus lines), which also references other creation stories.2 The Kumulipo divides creation into sixteen eras: The first eight eras take place in the Pō (night; realm of the gods), and last eight sections take place in the Ao (light; realm of humans). It begins with a description of the Pō, the deep darkness whence life begins, in a state of turmoil. The earth burns hot as it forms from primordial slime, the sun begins to emerge, and the heavens start to unfold. The Pō, the fecund night, the cosmic womb, is in the throes of contractions, creating life from chaos. She births Kumulipo, the source of deep darkness, a male, and then Pōʻele, the dark night, a female. The rest of the 1st era sees the birth of the coral polyp, the foundation for reefs, reef-dwelling creatures, and the different types of seaweed upon which they feed, each of which is matched with a land-plant relative that acts as its guardian.3 The next six eras follow the same format: The union of a male and female night results in the respective births of swimmers (fish), fliers (insects and birds), creepers and crawlers (sea turtles, lobsters, jellyfish, and lizards), rooters (pigs), nibblers (rats), and barkers and screechers (dogs and bats).4

The 8th era, which begins in the Pō and ends in the Ao, chronicles the birth of four siblings: two divine humans, Laʻilaʻi and Kiʻi, and two gods, Kāne and Kanaloa.5 The 9th era exalts Laʻilaʻi, describes her union with Kiʻi, the birth of their offspring, and reveals that she gives birth to her children through her brain and has mysterious forms. She is thus revealed as a form of the earth goddess Haumea.6 The 10th era chronicles Laʻilaʻi’s union with her brother Kāne, the birth of their children, and Kāne’s anger at being Laʻilaʻi’s second union, which makes his lineage junior to Kiʻi’s whose children were born first.7 The 11th era names Laʻilaʻi’s children by Kiʻi and Kāne and their descendants, which includes stars and constellations.8 The 12th era glorifies the lineage of Wākea (wide-open expanse), whose name announces his status as a sky deity. It concludes with his birth from his parents’ union. The final line declares that Wākea slept with Haumea, who is also Papa, and Hoʻohokukalani (Wākea’s daughter by Haumea/Papa), which resulted in the birth of Hāloa, the first Hawaiian.9 The 13th era traces the lineage of Haumea/Papa (alt. Papahānaumoku, island-birthing stratum). It with the announcement of Papa and Wākea’s union and the birth of Hāloa.10 The 14th era continues honors the lineage of Papa and Wākea. Planets, stars, constellations, and months make their appearance.11 The 15th era explains Haumea’s unique traits, which include giving birth from different parts of her body, and the fact that she is reborn every generation as her daughters and the women who her sons take as wives. This era also announces the birth of the cultural hero Māui, identifies Hina as his mother, and catalogs his remarkable feats.12 The 16th era is dedicated to the descendants of Māui, which include the famous ruling chief Piʻilani and concludes with the birth of Kalaninuiīamamao Lonoikamakahiki, for whom this genealogy was composed and who was named after the god Lonoikamakahiki.13


While “akua” is commonly translated into English as “god” or “goddess,” they are not perfect equivalents. The category of “akua” includes the following: a deity, a spirit, mana, strength, knowledge, things without a source, an aliʻi nui (a high-ranking member of the ruling class), a corpse, a ghost, a kauā (a member of the despised outcast class), a malevolent entity such as a “devil” or “demon.” Clearly, what is considered a god from a Kanaka ʻŌiwi perspective is not analogous to a Western (i.e., European and American) understanding of it. Broadly speaking, however, “akua” refers to “nature” deities.

Like other Polynesian religions, Hawaiian religion is based on the idea that nature is populated by entities who embody the diverse phenomena that comprise the environment, which they term “akua.” The Hawaiian peoples’ island world—from the sky and its celestial bodies to the islands and the ocean that surrounds them, along with the myriad natural phenomena, geographical features, flora, and fauna of sky, land, and sea—is the modality by which akua make themselves known. The greater Hawaiian deities embody nature’s most powerful natural forces. The sun and fresh water falling from the sky in the form of rain is Kāne, the sky’s wide expanse is Wākea, the strong rains and winds of the winter season are Lono, the earth is Haumea, the earth’s island-birthing stratum is Papahānaumoku, the ocean is Kanaloa, the lava is Pele, and so on. Moreover, while some akua may manifest as human, it is not their primary form.

The power of akua far eclipses that of humans. Humans cannot control natural phenomena such as storms, earthquakes, lava flows, and tsunamis—they can only survive them. Prayer and ritual are ways to navigate akua-human power relations. Because there are countless akua, it is impossible to know all their names and functions. For that reason, there are formulaic prayers to acknowledge and honor these innumerable akua, or to put it another way, to acknowledge the existence and vastness of the potentially significant unknown:

E kini o ke ʻkua
O forty thousand akua
E ka lehu o ke ʻkua
O four hundred thousand akua
E ka lālani o ke ʻkua
O ranks of akua
E ka pūkuʻi akua
O assembly of akua
E ka mano o ke ‘kua
O four thousand akua
E kaikuaʻana o ke ʻkua
O elder siblings of the akua
E ke ʻkua mūkī
O akua who make loud smacking sounds
E ke ʻkua hāwanawana
O akua who whisper
E ke ʻkua kiaʻi o ka pō
O akua guardians of the pō
E ke ʻkua ʻalaʻalawa o ke aumoe
O akua watching late into the night
E iho, e ala, e ʻoni, e ʻeu,
Descend, awake, bestir, animate
Eia ka meaʻai a ʻoukou la, he hale.14
Here is your food, a house.

Like their Polynesian forebears, the Kanaka ʻŌiwi people’s close relationship with nature was the basis for their theories about the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. Intellectuals across the islands observed their environment. They were often kahuna (experts in a given profession who perform the religious rites for said profession), seers, and individuals with a prodigious capacity for memorization tasked with preserving oral traditions and genealogies. In this way, a vast amount of knowledge was created and preserved for future generations. These intellectuals were at once keepers and creators of knowledge. After they identified natural phenomena, they incorporated it into their belief system. This information might be linked to an existing akua or treated as a new one—“new” in the sense of an existing but previously unnamed phenomenon—and given a name. By this method, an individual deity may become a multitude of gods who bear similar names. The deities Kāne, Lono, Kū, and Hina epitomize this practice. The epithet “nui ākea” (great vastness as in limitless) is given to a few deities to emphasize their status as a primary akua comprising numerous aspects, each of which is embodied by their akua namesakes. Deities who bear this epithet include Kāne (Kānenuiākea), Kū (Kūnuiākea), Lono (Lononuiākea), Haumea (Haumeanuiākea), and Papa (Papanuiākea).15

Kāne is, more often than any other akua, cited as foremost among them. His importance stems from the fact that he is identified with the sun and fresh water without which life could not exist.16 There are at least two hundred Kāne forms, which speaks to his significance and his influence across time. As these forms attest, although Kāne is an acknowledged sky god, ultimately, he is connected to each of the three main realms—sky, land, and sea. Each of his forms bear his name followed by a descriptor: Kāne i ka ʻōnohi o ka lā (Kāne in the eyeball of the sun), Kāne hekili (Kāne who thunders), Kāne ka uila nui mākēhā i ka lani (Kāne the great flashing lightning in the heavens), Kāne i ka wai ola (Kāne in the life-giving water), Kāne i lū honua (Kāne who shakes the earth), Kāne in ka pua lehua (Kāne in the lehua flower), and Kāne pili koʻa (Kāne of the pilikoʻa seaweed, or who clings to the coral).

Deities’ realms of influence sometimes overlap. For example, whereas Kāne’s dominion as a sky god is the heavens in their entirety, from the sun to the earth, Lono’s primary realm is the troposphere, the area of the sky that directly affects life on earth where the clouds and winds form. In particular, Lono is associated with the rainy, winter season. One of the meanings of “lono” is “to hear, as a sound,” but it also refers to sound itself.17 The latter definition is in keeping with Lono embodying noisy winter phenomena such as strong winds and heavy rains. Several of his forms mark this connection: Lono i ka hekili (Lono in the thunder), Lono i ka hekili kaʻa (Lono in the rolling thunder), Lono i ka uila (Lono in the lightning), Lono i ka ua loko (Lono in the heavy rain), and Lono ma ke ao uli, Lono ma ka uli lani (Lono in the dark firmament).18 Lono is the predominant akua of the Makahiki season, and hence he is called Lonoikamakahiki (Lono in the makahiki). Makahiki coincides with the rainy season and lasts around four months. It begins when the Makaliʻi constellation (Pleiades) rises in the eastern sky (in October or November) and is visible from sunset to sunrise; it ends when Makaliʻi is no longer visible.19 Lono presides over the extensive rituals that marked this season, a period of rest and renewal after harvesting crops.20 Additionally, he is an agricultural god who brings fertility to the earth; his heavy rains prepare the ground for cultivation. He is said to have brought farming techniques and plants for cultivation to Hawaiʻi.21 Another definition of “lono” is “hurling as practiced in casting weapons through the air”; a meaning in keeping with Lono’s connection to war as Lonomakaihe (Lono in the spear), who presides over the art of throwing and parrying spears and the art of slinging stones.22 As Lono pūhā (Lono who coughs up mucus or Lono of the ulcer/abscess), he is a god of healing.23 As Lonomakua (Lono the parent/uncle/elder), he belongs to the family of volcanic deities and the custodian of their fire-plow.24

Kanaka ʻŌiwi recognized that the different phenomena in their island world did not exist in isolation but were part of a complex system, including natural cycles. They took this into consideration when theorizing about akua. For example, Kāne and Kanaloa are paired as brothers, and even twins.25 Kāne is always depicted in oral or written traditions as the eldest of the two. This makes sense if one envisions them as representing the water cycle. From this perspective, Kāne in the form of rain replenishes Kanaloa’s ocean. The ocean’s steady evaporation forms clouds that are then drawn to the islands’ mountaintops and forests. Kāne’s rains then fall upon the land, creating river and streams, some of which empty into the ocean. Kāne’s rains also replenish the aquifers, which are associated with Kanaloa because he is also the akua of fresh water deep within the earth.26

In the case of Kū and Hina, the rationale for pairing is less obvious. In several traditions, Kū and Hina forms are paired as siblings and/or a couple.27 Their names offer insights into them as individuals and as a pair. Among the many meanings of “kū” are “to stand,” “upright,” “perpendicular,” “erect,” “extending upward,” “aligned vertically,” “to rise,” and therefore by association, “to rule or reign, as a land.” “Hina” denotes “to fall, tumble, or topple over from an upright position.” Thus, Kū and Hina form a directional dyad (vertical and horizontal) in terms of alignment, orientation, and progression.

When analyzing the connection between these two akua, it is essential to understand “hina,” the movement from vertical to horizontal, as intentional and meaningful, rather than occurring solely by chance as “fall, tumble, and topple over” imply. Hina is not inferior to Kū. Given that Kū, as an akua associated with vertical movement, symbolizes ascendancy, one can understand Hina as a horizontal expression of the same, but furthermore, she provides the stable foundation that makes Kū’s ascension possible. Instead, the concept of vertical and horizontal must be understood in terms of alignments and cycles in the island world. Kū and Hina’s association with the sun is a good example of how this reasoning works.

Although Kāne embodies the sun, Kū and Hina are associated with its rising and setting. From our perspective on earth, the sun appears to rise (, upward movement) and set (hina, going from vertical to horizontal). Additionally, and by correlation, because the sun rises in the east in the morning, Kū is linked to the east and the morning, and because the sun sets in the west in the afternoon, Hina is linked to the west and the afternoon.28 The correlation between these akua and cardinal directions is further exemplified in the practice in which prayers to Kū are made while facing the west and prayers to Hina are made while facing the east.29 As a directional dyad, they encompass everything between them and thus symbolize wholeness and balance (see figure 1).30

Figure 1. Kū and Hina.

Source: Courtesy of Marie Alohalani Brown.

Kū and Hina also personify “male-generating power” and “female fecundity,” respectively.31 In Hawaiian ways of knowing and being, the left side of the body is female and the right side is male. Furthermore, Hina represents “the interior” while Kū represents “the exterior.” These beliefs come into play in the art of lāʻau lapaʻau (healing with plants), for which Hina and Kū are tutelary deities. When lāʻau lapaʻau practitioners collect medicinal plants, they use their left hand to gather plants considered female—plants used for interior healing—while praying to Hina, and use the right hand to gather plants considered male—plants used for exterior healing—while praying to Kū.32

Another Kū-Hina pairing symbolizing wholeness and unity is Kūʻula (Red Kū) and Hinapukuiʻa (Hina who gathers edible sea creatures), both fishing deities.33 Fishers honor Hinapukuiʻa as the akua who makes fish thrive and Kūʻula as the akua who helps them to catch fish. Together, these two akua represent fishing in its entirety. This akua pair is also linked to healing practices that require a fish. A woman who wished to stop being infatuated with a man asked a kahuna for advice. The kahuna advised her to go just before dawn to a certain stone through which the ocean flowed on the nearby seashore, and when the top half of the sun appeared out of the ocean, she was to put her hand in the stone and grasp the first fish that touched it. At that moment, she was to say a prayer that evoked first Hina and then Kūkalaʻula (a variant of Kūʻula) to ask them to send her a high-ranking husband who would provide for her and their future children, which would imaginably end her infatuation with the man who she apparently realized was not a good husband material.34 In this instance, the Hina/left-hand and Kū/right-hand practice of lāʻau lapaʻau-related rites is not applied.

Kino Lau

Over many generations, the Kanaka ʻŌiwi, through their close interactions with and scrutiny of their island environment accumulated extensive knowledge about the similarities between natural phenomena, features, flora, and fauna in terms of form, markings, color, and habit. Based on these observations and their understanding of their akua, they devised the kino lau system. “Kino” (body, form) and “lau” (many, multiple) are the forms—natural phenomena, features, flora, or fauna—that akua can assume or with which they are symbolically associated, and may be connected to a deity’s function, realm, as well as name.

By way of illustration, Pele is the leader of the clan of Hawaiian volcanic deities. Her function is to create new land; her realm is the volcano, and lava is her most famous kino lau. “Pele” means “lava”—Pele is the lava, and she also controls it. Pele’s youngest sister is Hiʻiakaikapoliopele, whose function is to revegetate the land after Pele’s lava flows. This new vegetation emerges from the cracks in the lava. Her name reflects her function and her relationship to her sister: the embryo cradled in the lava—hiʻi (to hold), aka (embryo), i (in), ka (the), poli (bosom), o (of), and pele (lava). Given that lava or destruction precedes revegetation or healing, it makes sense that Pele is the elder sister and Hiʻiakaikapoliopele is younger.

Kamapuaʻa provides another clear example of the reasoning behind a deity’s kino lau. He is called “pig child” because he was born as a pig and did not assume a human form until he was much older. Because of this, his kino lau resemble a pig in one way or another: The sweet potato recalls the form of pig excrement as does kūkaepuʻa (Digitaria; a Hawaiian crabgrass), which means “pig feces,” the leaf of the kukui (candlenut tree) recalls the head of a boar with tusks; the fuzzy stalk of the ʻamaʻu fern (Sadleria) and the prickly trunk of the hāpuʻu ʻiʻi fern (Cibotium chamissoi) recall the bristles on a pig’s legs; two of his fish kino lau, the mullet and the ʻāholehole (Hawaiian flagtail), are called “puaʻa kai” (sea pigs), while the name of his other fish kino lau, humu-humu-nuku-nuku-a-puaʻa (triggerfish), means “humuhumu fish with a pig snout.”35 Kamapuaʻa himself is a god form of Lono, who also counts the pig, sweet potato, kukui, mullet, and ʻāholehole among his kino lau.36

Another illustration of how the names of akua and their kino lau are mutually informing regards a pairing of Kū and Hina forms. Kūkaʻōhiʻalaka (Kū the ʻōhiʻa tree of Laka) and Hinauluʻōhiʻa (Hina who makes ʻōhiʻa grow) embody the ʻōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha), as evidenced by their names, and thus it is their kino lau. Hawaiʻi Island is famous for its ʻōhiʻa lehua trees with their characteristic lehua blossoms—a cluster of bright-red flower stamens. They figure prominently in rainforests and are only second to the koa (Acacia koa) in terms of height: The former reaches fifty or more feet, and the latter, in the right conditions, can exceed one hundred. With their great height and massive trunks, old lehua trees are majestic.37 The ʻieʻie (Freycinetia arborea) is another Kū kino lau. This woody vine can be found growing at the base of ʻōhiʻa, which winds around their trunks as it climbs the tree to reach the canopy. Together, these two kino lau represent upward movement, and thus, progression, which is also in keeping with the meaning of Kū’s name. Hinauluʻōhiʻa is also linked to the ʻieʻie because she fosters its growth, further underscoring the significance of this akua pairing.38 Because several of Kū and Hina god forms are forest deities, they are also honored by canoe builders. The Kū forms connected to canoe instruction include Kūkaʻohialaka, Kūmokuhaliʻi (island-spreading Kū), Kūpāʻaikeʻe (Kū of the crookedness-eating adze), Kūpepeiaoloa (long-eared Kū), Kūpepeiaopoko (short-eared Kū), and Kūpulupulu (Kū of the undergrowth).39 Hina’s forms honored as canoe-construction akua include Hinauluʻōhiʻa, Hinakūwaʻa (Hina who transforms the canoe), Hinakuahoano (sacred-back Hina), and Lea, who appears as an ʻelepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis) bird to indicate to canoe builders the trees that have insects in their trunks, and should thus be avoided.40

Given Kū’s symbolic associations with a rise to power, we can better understand how some Kū god forms, most notably Kūkāʻilimoku (island-snatching Kū), are associated with war and politics.41 To rule is the outcome of an ascent to supremacy, and war is the means by which many aliʻi (members of the ruling class) maintained their reign or rose to power. Moreover, given the phallic conations of Kū’s name, it is to be expected that his kino lau might reflect this association. Kū’s kino lau that fit this rationale include the coconut, breadfruit, eel, and sea cucumber. The coconut tree trunk recalls an erect phallus, while the coconuts recall testicles. The tall ʻulu (breadfruit) tree with its round fruit, especially cultivars with two fruits hanging from one stem, also recall a penis and testicles. The eel and sea cucumber recall a phallus in repose.42

Among the most nuanced examples of kino lau “logic” (rationale for akua–kino lau affiliations) concern the class of moʻo akua (reptilian water deities). These akua have a reptilian form and are thus termed “moʻo” (lizard, reptile) akua. They are water deities because they live in or near bodies of freshwater or in damp places like rainforests. Moʻo akua kino lau fall into two large categories: kino lau associated with all moʻo akua (“general” kino lau) and kino lau that are specific to certain moʻo akua (“moʻo-specific” kino lau), which are nearly always actual forms a moʻo akua can take. The lizard, the brindled dog, and the goby fish are symbolic kino lau in that not all moʻo akua manifest in these forms, and thus are an exception to the general rule that kino lau are physical manifestations. For this reason, tracing their connections furthers our understanding of the kino lau system.

Ordinary lizards are just that—ordinary. They are not akua. But because the little lizards bring to mind the great, terrifying reptilian forms of moʻo akua, they are the primary kino lau of these deities. A saying attests to this belief: “Mai kolohe i ka moʻo o lele i ka pali” (do not harm lizards lest you jump off a cliff). The implication here is that these little lizards are sacred to moʻo akua, and may punish you if you harm them by “caus[ing] a madness that makes one leap off a cliff.”43 The lizard species (geckoes and skinks) with which Kanaka ʻŌiwi were familiar before Western contact are brindled (and are still present in the Hawaiian Islands), the word for “brindled” is also “moʻo.”44 For this reason, dogs (ʻīlio) with a brindled coat are termed “ʻīlio moʻo.” In other words, the status of ʻīlio moʻo being kino lau for moʻo akua is predicated on the ordinary lizard, the primary kino lau of this class of deities. The lizard is also the basis for the connection between goby fish and moʻo akua: Gobies are brindled and have lizard-like characteristics in that their fused pelvic fins allow them to climb rocks. In this case, the kino lau logic is similarity in markings and habits.45


As creation chants attest, the Kanaka ʻŌiwi are kin to the nonhuman, though the kinship degree can be remote or near. Thus, the use of “ancestor” as a descriptor is not limited to human relatives. Should an akua have a child with a human, the human child’s progeny would be the direct descendants of that akua. For this lineage, the akua would be an “ʻaumakua” (ʻaumākua, plural)—ʻau (group) + makua (parent, parental relative, or progenitor)—a family god. ʻAumākua play an important role in Hawaiian cultural–religious traditions as ancestral guardians who protect and comfort their descendants, impart knowledge, offer guidance bestow spiritual or physical strength, escort their progeny upon their death to the spirit world, and intervene on their behalf to ensure that their prayers to other akua are received.

Many akua have human forms, but when people think of ancestral guardians, they most often envision ʻaumākua with nonhuman forms, such as a shark, owl, eel, or moʻo. Perhaps this is because another way that a family obtained an ʻaumakua was when a deceased relative underwent the kākūʻai ceremony, which transformed the deceased into a nonhuman form, often an animal, which would then go on to exist in that akua form to protect the family. An ʻaumakua might also be born into the family in a nonhuman form. Children born in nonhuman forms are considered akua. Because of the supposed resemblance of miscarried fetuses to fish or lizards, such fetuses were dedicated to a shark or moʻo akua.

Although ʻaumākua are beneficial deities, should descendants offend them, they can mete out punishment in the form of misfortune, illness, death, or a refusal to escort the offender into the spirit world. Without an escort, the offender would then forever wander the areas it frequented when it was alive. A most grievous infraction is to eat or otherwise harm the kino lau of one’s ʻaumakua because these forms are sacred to it. By way of example, a family with an ʻaumakua who has a shark form cannot eat or otherwise harms sharks in general because the ʻaumakua and non-akua sharks have that form in common. Here, it is important to note that a shark ʻaumakua is a specific shark—not sharks collectively. As another example, if a family counts a moʻo among its ʻaumakua, they must not harm the ordinary (non-akua) lizard because lizards as a collective are sacred to these reptilian water deities.

ʻAumākua include the collective ancestors and near relatives who preceded their kin in death and then became spirits. Significantly, spirits are a type of akua. Whether we call these ancestor spirits ʻaumākua or kūpuna (grandparents, ancestors), the fact remains that many Kanaka ʻŌiwi continue to acknowledge their existence. The belief in ʻaumākua is one that even some Hawaiians who had embraced Christianity in the 19th century refused to leave behind. Indeed, a Hawaiian lay church leader was criticized in 1888 for setting apart time in his Christian services to pray and make offerings to ʻaumākua.46

Although death results in the separation of the deceased from the living, who must then dwell in different planes of existence, ancestor spirits and their descendants are nevertheless still united by familial ties of love. Kanaka ʻŌiwi continue to call upon them, and in turn, these spirit relatives may make their presence known in the course of the day or evening or visit them in dreams. A twenty-line traditional prayer to ʻaumākua, “Nā ʻAumākua” (Ancestors), evinces their importance in Hawaiian religious and political life. Kanaka ʻŌiwi have also evoked their ʻaumākua in times of need as a collective by chanting this prayer. Kiaʻi (protectors) chanted “Nā ʻAumākua” four times a day in the daily ʻaha (rituals) held at Mauna Kea for eight months (July 2019–March 2020) to ask their ancestors to help them protect this sacred mountain from the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, also called the “TMT” (this topic is discussed in in greater detail in the section “Hoʻomana”).47


“Mana” is broadly related to power, although “power” is inadequate to capture fully the nuances of this complex concept. To begin, mana has other-than-human origins; it has been variously described it as “supernatural,” “spiritual,” or “divine” power.48 Because everything in nature comes into existence (natural phenomena, humans, geographical features, flora, fauna) with some degree of mana, it is reasonable to describe it as an entity in its own right in the sense of “a thing with distinct and independent existence.”49

While mana is generally intangible, its manifestations are usually tangible. For example, a seer has the mana to foresee events or outcomes but is not the catalyst for them. A medium has the ability to channel akua or spirits. Their abilities are spiritual in nature, and can be perceived only because of their outcomes—a prophecy that comes true, an akua or a spirit possessing a medium to make itself known. A prodigious memory is also an expression of mana, an ability that mea mālama moʻokūʻauhau possessed. These individuals were entrusted with the responsibility to preserve the lengthy genealogies of aliʻi by memorizing them. This included the individuals who composed the 2,100-plus lines of the Kumulipo and then memorized it so they could recite it. Even words and speech have mana. For this reason, those who composed chants to honor someone were very careful in their choice of words, avoiding the ones with negative connotations, especially death. If these words were used, they ensured that their phrasing offset the potential to cause harm.50 Breathing itself may also contain and transmit mana. Medicinal kahuna would perform a ritual in which they bestowed their “healing mana by breathing on the plants or other medicinal substances” they used.51

Mana can also be inherited. High-ranking aliʻi owe their status to their genealogy. They are considered divine humans because the purity of their direct descent from akua had been preserved by unions between close relatives of equal or higher rank. This is an example of how mana informs status and grants authority. Because of their immense mana derived from their special status, their entire persons were considered sacred. Even their shadows were concerned receptacles of their mana. In the case of Liholiho, King Kamehameha II, not only was his shadow sacred but also the shadow of his primary residence because in dwelling there, he imbued it with his mana.52

A single object can also be the recipient of mana from several sources. The palaoa, or whale-tooth pendant, is a case in point:

The whale is the largest ocean form and majestic manifestation of Kanaloa. From the ivory of this creature, the highly prized “Palaoa” or whale-tooth pendant is carved. This palaoa was only by aliʻi of high rank. The scarcity and beauty of the palaoa and its connection to Kanaloa brought mana to the carver, to the pendant itself and eventually to the wearer of the pendant. The aliʻi who possessed this kinolau or body form of the great God would himself/herself acquire the characteristics, intelligence and knowledge of the God.53

In other words, mana can also be increased.

ʻAnāʻanā, a death-dealing practice, offers insights into mana and how it can be harnessed. ʻAnāʻanā often relies on maunu (bait). The most effective maunu is something that carries a great deal of the intended victim’s mana. Because a person’s body is embedded with his or her mana, the best maunu is something from the victim’s body, such as hair; nails; food the victim had masticated and spit out (saliva also carries a person’s mana), such as gristle; and excrement. When none of these can be found, a personal item that has been in close contact with the victim’s body, such as clothing or adornments, will also suffice because over time, the victim’s mana permeates them. Once an ʻanāʻanā practitioner has the maunu, he or she will then chant the appropriate prayer for the desired outcome—death, physical or mental illness, or other forms of incapacitation that would cause great hardship.54

Akua may choose to transfer some of their mana to a worthy human. Kamakanuiʻahaʻilono, a god of healing who came to Hawaiʻi, passed on his ability or mana to heal Lonopūhā by spitting in his mouth. Upon his death, Lonopūhā was deified into a healing god.55 The implication here is that a god’s saliva is also imbued with his mana, which upon being transferred to a human recipient also increased the human recipient’s mana and knowledge.

In extreme cases, the transference of mana from an akua might be unintentional and yet be the impetus for the creation of a new akua. The great war god Kūkāʻilimoku sprang into being when the sacred forehead feathers from the supernatural bird Kīwaha fell upon the lap of Nāmakaokahaʻi, one of Pele’s formidable sisters. There, these feathers accumulated mana and became Kūkāʻilimoku. The feathers landed near her genitals, the source of her procreative mana, bringing this god into being.56 In summary, mana is largely intangible but has tangible manifestations. It may be expressed as an inherent ability, whether spiritual, intellectual, or physical in nature. It powers and empowers. It can be embedded in or transferred to something else. It is innate but can be increased or diminished. It grants authority and defines status.57


The Hawaiian word for what in English is termed “religion” is Hoʻomana (noun) and hoʻomana (to worship). “Hoʻo” expresses causation. Thus, the Hawaiian understanding of “religion” is to cause, create, or increase mana. Through prayers and rituals, Hoʻomana practitioners can increase the mana of an akua and their own, petition an akua to intervene, as well as evoke and direct mana to achieve an intended result. Historically, these desired outcomes include protection, inspiration, guidance, knowledge, and healing. They also include causing harm to another, gaining favor with akua, attaining healthy crops, being successful at fishing, winning a battle, obtaining political power or lessoning another’s political power, overcoming another’s mana, and stopping or redirecting a lava flow.

Hoʻomana, like other religions, is a dynamic system that has evolved over time. At one point so long ago that its origins are the topic of myths, a new religious system founded on older beliefs but that established new practices emerged—the ʻAi Kapu. For countless generations, the ʻAi Kapu was the core of Hawaiian political–social organization and regulated nearly every aspect of Hawaiian life. “ʻAi” refers to food or food consumption, while “kapu” refers to prohibitions, restrictions, or interdictions that could be practical in nature or related to the sacred. Thus, ʻAi Kapu indicates the idea of food or food consumption as sacred and therefore in need of regulation. ʻAi is sacred because most, if not all, of the flora and fauna Kanaka ʻŌiwi eat are the kino lau of akua.

Under the ʻAi Kapu, men and women were forbidden to eat together, and each had their own houses for eating; men did the bulk of the cooking for themselves and for women, and were required to cook their food in separate imu (underground ovens); women were required to sequester themselves in a special house during their menses and men were prohibited from frequenting the immediate area of that house; women were prohibited from entering heiau (a structure designated for formal worship) dedicated to the worship of male akua with the exception of women who were rulers; and women could not eat certain foods associated with the primary male deities, such as pork (kino lau of Lono), most kinds of coconuts (kino lau of Kū), shark and most kinds of bananas (kino lau of Kanaloa), and certain kinds of red fish (kino lau of Lono and Kū).

The historical premise of the ʻAi Kapu, according to Samuel Mānaiakalani Kamakau, a noted 19th-century historian who contributed extensively to 19th-century Hawaiian-language newspapers, is that because women “bleed” (menstruate), they are considered “haumia” (unclean) and paumāʻele (impure).58 Lilikalā Kameʻeleihiwa, a noted 21st-century Hawaiian historian, makes this correlation:

With red being the color of sanctity, as well as the color of menstrual blood, this may have been the time when women were most kapu, or sacred; certainly it is the time when we are most sensitive to the suggestions of the ancestors.59

Kameʻeleihiwa observes that the ʻAi Kapu’s purpose is to segregate “the sacred male element from the dangerous female, thus creating order in the world.” This would account for why certain kino lau of male deities were prohibited to women. She offers a cogent explanation, namely that the kino lau in question are priapic:

For women to eat these foods would not only allow their mana to defile the sacrifice to the male Akua, but would also encourage them to devour male sexual prowess . . . Given that the world ʻai means “to eat, to devour,” and also “to rule and to control,” if women at the kinolau of these Akua, they would gain the mana to rule the domains represented by these Akua; women could then rule male sexual prowess, including war, agriculture, ocean travel, and deep-sea fishing.60

Despite this view of women as ceremonially impure, women did hold positions of power, including reigning over an entire island. Kameʻeleihiwa notes, “Female sanction was important in every major ceremony . . . so that a women’s temple, the Hale o Papa, was attached to every important male heiau.”61 Also, “The ʻAikapu religion ends only when the women decide that it should.”62 Here, she is referring to Kamehameha I’s wives, Keōpūolani and Kaʻahumanu, who convinced Liholiho, King Kamehameha II, son of Kamehameha I, to abolish the ʻAi Kapu after his father’s death in 1819.

In addition to the many food-related kapu, there were other prohibitions and restrictions, such as those regulating interactions between high-ranking aliʻi and Hawaiians of a lesser rank. As direct descendants of akua, high-ranking aliʻi were considered divine humans. For certain aliʻi, whenever they or their belongings passed by, people of lower rank were required to lie facedown on the ground. Aliʻi with a kapu that exempted them from this law were allowed to sit rather than prostrate themselves. Servants to aliʻi with the burning-back kapu were not allowed to walk directly behind their back but at a diagonal. The homes of high-ranking aliʻi might also be kapu, sometimes to the extent that a person of a lesser rank could not even step into their shadow. In these cases, servants were compelled to rid themselves of all clothing except for a loincloth to enter. Furthermore, at night, when candlenut torches were used, their shadows must not touch the aliʻi. Because so many types of kapu regulated this religious–cultural–political system it is also known as the Kapu System.63Although the ʻAi Kapu/Kapu System was officially abolished in 1819, Hoʻomana practitioners continued to honor the foundational elements of that system.64 To avoid persecution, many Hawaiians practiced Hoʻomana in secret and transmitted their beliefs and belief-related practices to their children, who then became the next generation of practitioners. Major changes in belief-related practices include the following: humans or animals were no longer sacrificed to akua, men and women no longer follow the edict prohibiting them from eating together, and women were no longer segregated during menstruation. On this last point, however, certain groups, including both men and women members, require women who are experiencing their menstrual cycle to refrain from entering a loʻi (irrigated taro field) or participating in certain rituals, such as Makahiki ceremonies.

In addition to Hawaiian families who never stop practicing Hoʻomana, there are also Hawaiians who navigate between two belief systems, Hoʻomana and Christianity, or Hoʻomana and Buddhism, for example. Even staunch Hawaiian Christians continue to honor their ʻaumākua, a practice that has a long history, as it has been discussed in 19th-century Hawaiian-language newspaper editorials. Some Hawaiians, but not all, attempt to come to terms with being believers of Hoʻomana and Christianity by finding ways to reconcile the two. One example is understanding ʻaumākua as “guardian angels,” a position made famous by Kamakau in the mid-1800s. According to one 21st-century Hawaiian, the “path” he follows

appears like Christianity to the outside eye, but the truth of the matter is that when I am looking to pray towards God, “God” is too much of a limited concept in language for us to encompass the totality of what “akua” is; it even feels more comfortable to refer to it as “Akua” than just “God” in English because it is too literal and linear.

This Hawaiian Christian, who was part of the 2019 stand to protect Mauna Kea, also participated in ʻaha, and continues to offers prayers to Hawaiian gods and ʻaumākua while also regularly attending Christian services on Sundays.65

Notwithstanding the long-term efforts to Christianize Kanaka ʻŌiwi and shame them for practicing their traditional religion, Hoʻomana is experiencing a revival. As more practitioners incorporate Hoʻomana practices to protect the sacred, these practitioner-activists increase the visibility of Hoʻomana. Notably, during the 2019 effort to protect Mauna Kea, anywhere from twenty to a hundred kiaʻi participated in ʻaha held at sunrise, morning, noon, and evening. The intent of chants and hula (here, a form of kinetic prayer) in these ʻaha was to manifest mana to protect Mauna Kea. Because thousands of visitors witnessed or participated in these ʻaha, which were filmed and made available to the public, there is a growing global awareness about Hoʻomana as a living religion. Kanaka ʻŌiwi have fought and continue to fight for their rights to practice their religious traditions. Efforts to protect the sacred include preventing the desecration of ancestral remains, preserving the viability of fresh water sources and the ocean, stopping the US military from using the island of Kahoʻolawe, a kino lau of Kanaloa, for bombing practice, and protecting native flora and fauna in danger of extinction.

Despite the fact that certain families continued to secretly transmit knowledge about beliefs and belief-related rituals, some knowledge was nonetheless lost. So, as part of the revitalization of Hoʻomana, cultural experts have reconstructed certain practices, such as Makahiki rituals, on the basis of treatises by 19th-century Hawaiians in Hawaiian-language newspapers to revive them. Twentieth- and twenty-first century Hawaiians have also adapted rituals and composed new prayers to suit their needs, created new hula dances to honor akua, and even established “new” akua on the basis of their observations of natural phenomena, which is a traditional practice of long date, noted in the 19th-century treatises.

Primary Sources and Review of the Literature

The greatest archive of Kanaka ʻŌiwi knowledge on nā mea Hawaiʻi (things Hawaiian) are the Hawaiian-language newspapers published from 1834 to 1948. As soon as the first generation of Kanaka ʻŌiwi acquired literacy between the 1820s and 1830s, they began writing about their cultural–religious system in the missionary-run newspapers beginning in 1834. By the 1860s, they owned their own newspapers. Everyone was welcome to contribute an article or a series, whether a political commentary, a genealogy, a funeral lament, a treatise on one aspect or another of Hoʻomana, an epic myth, or a legend.

Indeed, most of what is known about Hawaiian culture and religion comes straight from the works of these contributors. This valuable Hawaiian-language archive is inaccessible to anyone who cannot access Hawaiʻi. In the 21st century, however, a growing number of Hawaiian-language speaking scholars has resulted in books and articles that rely primarily on Hawaiian-language archives, such as Hawaiian-language newspapers, private manuscripts, and recorded interviews housed in various archives (see the Further Reading section). Early ethnographers of Hawaiian culture and religion such as Edward Smith Craighill Handy and Martha Beckwith relied on the translations by renown cultural expert and prolific translator Mary Kawena Pukui, who worked for the Bishop Museum. Pukui collaborated with the scholars who came to the Bishop Museum to do research, and she was an author, coauthor, and cultural consultant for many works. Among these are Pukui’s ʻŌlelo Noʻeau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings (Bernice P. Bishop Special Publication no. 71); Handy and Pukui’s The Polynesian Family of Ka-ū, Hawaiʻi; Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert, Hawaiian Dictionary; Pukui, Haertig, and Lee, Nānā I Ke Kumu [Look to the Source], 2 vols.; Martha Beckwith’s The Kumulipo: A Hawaiian Creation Chant; and Beckwith’s Hawaiian Mythology.

Further Reading

  • Beckwith, Martha. Hawaiian Mythology. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, Ulukau: The Hawaiian Electronic Library, 1976.
  • Beckwith, Martha. The Kumulipo: A Hawaiian Creation Chant. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, Ulukau: The Hawaiian Electronic Library, 1972.
  • Brown, Marie Alohalani. Facing the Spears of Change: The Life and Legacy of John Papa ʻĪʻī. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2016.
  • Brown, Marie Alohalani. Ka Poʻe Moʻo Akua: Hawaiian Reptilian Water Deities. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2022.
  • Brown, Marie Alohalani. “Mauna Kea: Hoʻomana Hawaiʻi and Protecting the Sacred.” Special issue, Indigenous Knowledge, Spiritualities, and Science. Edited by Robin M. Wright. The Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture 10, no. 2 (August 2016): 155–169.
  • Brown, Marie Alohalani. “Mourning the Land: Kanikau in Noho Hewa: The Wrongful Occupation of Hawaiʻi.” American Indian Quarterly 38, no. 3 (Summer 2014): 374–395.
  • Craighill Handy, Edward Smith, and Mary Kawena Pukui. The Polynesian Family System of Ka-ʻu, Hawaiʻi. Honolulu: Tuttle Publishing, Ulukau: The Hawaiian Electronic Library, 2011.
  • Hoʻomanawanui, Kuʻualoha. Voices of Fire: Reweaving the Literary Lei of Pele and Hiʻiaka. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014.
  • Kamakau, Samuel M. Ka Poʻe Kahiko: The People of Old. Edited by Dorothy B. Barrère and translated by Mary Kawena Pukui III, Joseph Feher. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1964.
  • Kamakau, Samuel M. The Works of the People of Old: Na Hana a Ka Poʻe Kahiko. Ed. Dorothy B. Barrère.Trans. Mary Kawena Pukui. III. Joseph Feher. Honolulu, Bishop Museum Press, 1976.
  • Kamakau, Samuel M. Tales and Traditions of the People of Old: Nā Mo`olelo a ka Poʻe Kahiko. Edited by Dorothy B. Barrère and translated by Mary Kawena Pukui. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 2011.
  • Kamakau, Samuel M. The Works of the People of Old: Na Hana a Ka Poʻe Kahiko. Translated and edited by Dorothy B. Barrère. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1992.
  • Kanahele, Pualani Kanaka`ole. Ka Honua Ola:ʻEliʻeli Kau Mai; Descend, Deepen the Revelation. Honolulu: Kamehameha Publishing, 2011.
  • Kepelino, Zepherin. Kepelino’s Traditions of Hawaii. Translated and edited by Martha Beckwith. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 2007.
  • Malo, Davida. The Moʻolelo Hawai`i of Davida Malo. Translated and edited by Charles Langlas and Jeffrey Lyon. 2 vols. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2020.
  • Pukui, Mary Kawena. ʻŌlelo No`eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings, Bernice P. Bishop Special Publication no. 71. Honolulu: Bishop Museum, 1983.
  • Pukui, Mary Kawena, and Samuel H. Elbert. Hawaiian Dictionary: Hawaiian-English, English-Hawaiian. Rev. ed. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, Ulukau: The Hawaiian Electronic Library, 1986.
  • Pukui, Mary Kawena, and Laura C. Green. Folktales of Hawaiʻi: He Kaʻao Hawaiʻi. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 2008.
  • Pukui, Mary Kawena, E. W. Haertig, and Catherine Lee, Nānā I Ke Kumu [Look to the Source], Vol. 1. Honolulu: Hui Hānai, Ulukau: The Hawaiian Electronic Library, 1972.
  • Pukui, Mary Kawena, E. W. Haertig, and Catherine Lee. Nānā I Ke Kumu [Look to the Source], Vol. 2. Honolulu: Hui Hānai, Ulukau: The Hawaiian Electronic Library, 1979.


  • 1. Their identity markers continued to evolve, each modification underscoring their status as a people whose island world had shaped every aspect of their culture. Beginning in the 1820s, the number of foreign residents began to increase, and by the 1830s, Hawaiʻi was a regular port of call for foreign ships. Although “kanaka” means “human being,” foreigners were generally referred to as “malihini” (foreigners, newcomers) and “haole” (foreigner, especially white people, as they were the first and only foreigners for many decades). The influx of foreigners to Hawaiʻi and a subsequent need to distinguish between “Hawaiians” and foreigners in general discourse was the impetus behind a burgeoning practice of adding qualifiers to “Kanaka” and “ʻŌiwi.” As the Hawaiian Kingdom’s Hawaiian-language newspapers (1834–1948) reveal, while “Kanaka” was by far the most common identity marker for “Hawaiians,” newspaper editors and contributors began to refer to Kānaka as “Kanaka Hawaiʻi,” “Kanaka maoli” (actual, true, and thus “native” and “Indigenous”), “Kanaka ʻŌiwi,” “ʻŌiwi Hawaiʻi,” and “Kanaka ʻŌiwi Maoli.” Many Hawaiian-language newspapers have been microfilmed and a portion of these were converted into searchable documents with optical character recognition technology. Out of the one hundred or so newspapers printed between 1834 and 1948, about half are available online at the Papakilo Database, which also includes other archives such as Ulukau, an electronic library.

  • 2. Martha Beckwith, The Kumulipo: A Hawaiian Creation Chant (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1972), 187–240.

  • 3. Beckwith, Kumulipo, 187–190.

  • 4. Beckwith, Kumulipo, 194–202.

  • 5. Beckwith, Kumulipo, 202–204.

  • 6. Beckwith, Kumulipo, 204.

  • 7. Beckwith, Kumulipo, 204–205.

  • 8. Beckwith, Kumulipo, 205–226.

  • 9. Beckwith, Kumulipo, 226–231.

  • 10. Beckwith, Kumulipo, 231–233.

  • 11. Beckwith, Kumulipo, 233–236.

  • 12. Beckwith, Kumulipo, 236–239.

  • 13. Beckwith, Kumulipo, 239–240.

  • 14. Abraham Fornander, Fornander Collection of Hawaiian Antiquities and Folklore, vol. 4–6, ed. Thomas G. Thrum (Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1915–1916), 4, 606–607.

  • 15. Samuel M. Kamakau, “Ka Moolelo Hawaii,” Ke Au Okoa, March 24, 31, October 20, 1870, 1; O. Z. W. Kalai (opio), “Moolelo Hawaii Kumuhonua,” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, July 17, 1896, 12; Joseph M. Poepoe, “Ka Moolelo Hawaii Kahiko” [Ancient History of Hawaii], Ka Na’i Aupuni, March 10, 1906, 1; and Kalei Nuʻuhiwa, “Makahiki—Nā Maka o Lono Utilizing the Papakū Makawalu Method to Analyze Mele and Pule of Lono and the Makahiki” (PhD diss., University of Waikato, 2020), 215.

  • 16. Pualani Kanakaʻole Kanahele, E Mau Ana O Kanaloa, Hoʻi Hou: The Perseverance of Kanaloa, Return! The Cultural Practices and Values Established at Kanaloa/Kahoʻolawe Past and Present. Prepared by the Edith Kanakaʻole Foundation for the Kahoʻolawe Island Conveyance Commission. Wailuku (Hawaiʻi): Kahoʻolawe Island Conveyance Commission, 1993, 1.

  • 17. Lorrin Andrews, A Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language (Honolulu: Henry M. Whitney, 1865): s.v. “lono”; and Nuʻuhiwa, “Makahiki,” 32.

  • 18. Fornander, Fornander Collection, 6:367, 4:380fn9; and Jane Gutmanis, Na Pule Kahiko: Ancient Hawaiian Prayers (Honolulu: Editions, 1983), 7, 105.

  • 19. Nuʻuhiwa, “Makahiki,” 12, 15, 32, 71–74.

  • 20. Nuʻuhiwa, “Makahiki,” 108–150.

  • 21. Gutmanis, Na Pule Kahiko, 6; and EEdward SSmith Craighill Handy, Elizabeth Handy, and Mary Kawena Pukui, Native Planters in Old Hawaii: Their Life, Lore, and Environment (Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1991), 12.

  • 22. Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert, Hawaiian Dictionary, s.v. “lonomakaihe”; John Papa Ii, “Na Hunahuna,” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, March 13, 1869, 1; and Davida Malo, The Moʻolelo Hawaiʻi of Davida Malo, trans. and ed. Charles Langlas and Jeffrey Lyon (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2019), 143, 165.

  • 23. Lorrin Andrews and Henry Parker, A Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language. Revised by Henry H. Parker (Honolulu: Board of Commissioners of Public Archives of the Territory of Hawaii, 1922), s.v. “lono”; John Papa Ii, “Na Hunahunano ka Moolelo Hawaii,” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, October 23, 1869, 1; and Gutmanis, Na Pule Kahiko, 6.

  • 24. P. W. Kaawa, “Ka Hoomana Kahiko: Helu 5,” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, February 2, 1865, 1; and Hooulumahiehie, The Epic Tale of Hiʻiakaikapoliopele, trans. M. Puakea Nogelmeier (Honolulu: Awaiāulu Press, 2006), 4, 56, 97, 98, 351.

  • 25. Joseph M. Poepoe, “Ka Moolelo Kahiko no Hawaii,” Ka Hoku o Hawaii, January 1, 1929. This article is attributed to Poepoe but was published sixteen years after his death. An explanation beneath the title of this series notes that Poepoe prepared but that the writer who is (re)publishing this work has edited it. The writer, however, does not reveal their identity.

  • 26. Kanahele, E Mau Ana O Kanaloa, 1.

  • 27. Anonymous, “He Moolelo Kaao Hawaii no Kaulu ame na Kaikuaana: Ke Keiki Hookalakupua a Kukaohialaka ame Hinauluohia,” Ke Alakai o Hawaii, May 2, 1935.

  • 28. Mary Kawena Pukui, E. W. Haertig, and Catherine Lee, Nānā I Ke Kumu [Look to the Source], Vol. 1 (Honolulu: Hui Hānai, 1972), 1:147; and Mary Kawena Pukui, E. W. Haertig, and Catherine Lee, Nānā I Ke Kumu [Look to the Source], Vol. 2 (Honolulu: Hui Hānai, 1972).

  • 29. Martha Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1975), 12.

  • 30. Pukui, Haertig, and Lee, Nānā I Ke Kumu, 1:147; and Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology, 12–13.

  • 31. Pukui, Haertig, and Lee, Nānā I Ke Kumu, 1:147; and Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology, 12–13.

  • 32. Pukui, Haertig, and Lee, Nānā I Ke Kumu, 1:147.

  • 33. Holokahiki, “Ka Hoomana Kahiko: Helu 10,” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, March 16, 1865, 1. Kūʻula is sometimes paired with Hinahele (Hina who goes), another Hina fishing deity, rather than Hinapukuiʻa.

  • 34. Margaret Ticomb, Native Use of Fish in Hawaii (With the collaboration of Mary Kawena Pukui) (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1972), 46.

  • 35. Edward Smith Craighill Handy and Mary Kawena Pukui, The Polynesian Family System of Ka-ʻū, Hawaiʻi (Honolulu: Tuttle Publishing, 2011), 81, 125, 216.

  • 36. Handy and Pukui, The Polynesian Family System, 81, 177.

  • 37. Native Plants, “Metrosideros polymorpha”; and Native Plants, “Acacia koa.”

  • 38. Mose Manu, “Laukaieie,” Ka Leo o ka Lahui, October 2, 1894.

  • 39. Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology, 15–16.

  • 40. Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology, 16–17.

  • 41. Pukui and Elbert, Hawaiian Dictionary, “kū,” 167–168.

  • 42. Handy and Pukui, The Polynesian Family System, 33, 177; and Lilikalā Kameʻeleihiwa, Native Land and Foreign Desires: Pehea La E Pono Ai? (Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1992), 25.

  • 43. Mary Kawena Pukui, ʻŌlelo Noʻeau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings (Bernice P. Bishop Special Publication no. 71 (Honolulu: Bishop Museum, 1983), 225.

  • 44. Pukui and Elbert, Hawaiian Dictionary, s.v. “moʻo.”

  • 45. Marie Alohalani Brown, Ka Poʻe Moʻo Akua: Hawaiian Reptilian Water Deities (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2022), 84.

  • 46. Anonymous, “E Aho e Hoopau ke Koena Naaupo,” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, August 11, 1888. Papakilo Database.

  • 47. Marie Alohalani Brown, “Aloha Wale Mauna Kea, Aloha Wale Kuʻu Poʻe Hoapili Kiaʻi ma ke Anuanu,” Biography 43, no. 3 (2020): 581–586.

  • 48. Pukui and Elbert, Hawaiian Dictionary, s.v. “mana,” 235; and Pukui, Haertig, and Lee, Nānā, 1:10.

  • 49. Pukui, Haertig, and Lee, Nāna I Ke Kumu, 1:150; and Webster and Merriam Dictionary, “entity.”

  • 50. Mary Kawena Pukui, “Songs (Meles) of Old Kaʻu, Hawaii,” The Journal of American Folklore 62, no. 245 (July–September 1949): 247–258.

  • 51. Pukui, Haertig, and Lee, Nānā I Ke Kumu, 1:45.

  • 52. John Papa Ii, “Na Hunahuna no ka Moolelo Hawaii,” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, August 7, 1869, 1.

  • 53. Kanahele, E Mau Ana O Kanaloa, 4.

  • 54. Pukui, Haertig, and Lee, Nānā I Ke Kumu, 1:29.

  • 55. Ii, “Na Hunahuna,” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, October 23, 1869, 1.

  • 56. Kamakau, “Moolelo o Hawaii Nei,” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, June 15, 1865, 1. For more details on this topic, see Brown, Ka Poʻe Moʻo Akua, 124.

  • 57. Pukui and Elbert, Hawaiian Dictionary, s.v. “mana”; and Pukui, Haertig, and Lee, Nānā, 1:10.

  • 58. Kamakau, “Ka Moolelo Hawaii,” Ke Au Okoa, March 24, 1870, 1. Papakilo Database.

  • 59. Lilikalā Kameʻeleihiwa, Native Land and Foreign Desires, 25, 33–39.

  • 60. Kameʻeleihiwa, Native Lands, 33–34.

  • 61. Kameʻeleihiwa, Nā Wāhine Kapu: Divine Hawaiian Women (Honolulu: ʻAi Pōhaku Press, 2002), 9.

  • 62. Kameʻeleihiwa, Nā Wāhine Kapu, 9.

  • 63. Marie Alohalani Brown, Facing the Spears of Change: The Life and Legacy of John Papa ʻĪʻī (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2016), 31–33, 39, 41–45, 49–50, 53, 54.

  • 64. There is substantial evidence in the form of testimonies about the continuity of Hoʻomana despite the 1819 abolition beginning in 1820 with missionary journals and reports, in the form of editorials in Hawaiian-language newspapers from 1834 to 1948, and other writings from missionaries, missionary descendants, ethnographers, anthropologists, archaeologists, folklorists, psychologists, social workers, and cultural experts from the late 1800s to the late 1900s. From the 2000s on, it has been the Hawaiian people themselves who have not only offered testimony about the continuity of Hoʻomana but also carry out their belief-related practices in public. For a treatise on this topic, Marie Alohalani Brown, “Mauna Kea: Hoʻomana Hawaiʻi and Protecting the Sacred.” Special issue, Indigenous Knowledge, Spiritualities, and Science, ed. Robin M. Wright. The Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture 10, no. 2 (August 2016): 155–169.

  • 65. This informal conversation, which I had permission to record, took place on September 16, 2020, at my home.