Monday, December 20, 2004



Games and prayers
mark Lono’s visit

Makahiki -- The Return of Lono


Many people came to the village of the chief to see the return of Lono. Some slept in caves while others built shelters of palm fronds. "We are lucky," Moku said. "My older brother has room for us in his sleeping house. He says we are just in time, for Lono will soon be here."

Hawaiian Mythology
Next morning the young men joined the crowd. Moku had never seen so many people. All wore new kapa and numerous lei of vines or flowers. The feather capes of the chiefs were beautiful in the morning sunlight!

One chief was in a long feather cloak and helmet. "Our great chief," Moku's brother said, "ruler of this island."

The crowd watched as the chief removed his cloak and helmet, stepped into a canoe and was paddled toward the open sea. "Where?" Moku asked.

"He goes to fish. While Lono traveled around the island all fishing was kapu. Our chief must catch one fish. Then the kapu will be lifted." Moku knew that the chief ruled in the name of the gods so he must be the one to lift the kapu.

A line of warriors carrying polished spears went by. Then a shout! Moku saw Lono's procession -- the many kahuna dressed in their dull red kapa, the pole with the little carved figure and the white kapa blowing in the morning wind, the warriors guarding Lono.

"Look, Moku! Our chief is back. He has caught a fish."

The chief leaped from his canoe. He put on the cloak and helmet he had taken off to go fishing. How splendid he looked! I thank the gods that I am a feathergatherer, Moku thought as he admired the cloak made with thousands of tiny yellow feathers tied to a fine net. Crescents of red feathers and triangles of black feathers added to the color and design of the chief's cloak.

Suddenly a spear was thrown right at the chief. The chief caught and held it. A warrior ran forward and touched him with another spear. "Why?" Moku could not understand.

"Did the spears hurt him?" Malu's brother asked.


"That proves that he is able to rule for the gods. Come now," he added. "Here is a good place to see the sham battle."

"Battle?" Again the birdcatcher did not understand.

"Our warriors are on this side," Malu's brother went on. "Over there are the enemy."

A little while ago these were all friendly warriors. Now they were going to fight!

The two bands of warriors came toward each other. Some shouted angrily. Some boasted of their strength. A spear was thrown. Then everything was a great confusion of flying spears, running and shouting!

Moku watched a tall enemy warrior rush forward and throw his spear. The warrior did not run back, but caught two spears thrown at him. He threw one and a man fell.

"Our chief! Our brave chief!" Shouts rose on every side. There he was in the middle of the battle -- the ruling chief. He threw his spear, then caught one thrown at him. Men fell around him.

Suddenly -- as suddenly as he had come -- the chief left the battle. "That is what he does in real war," Malu's brother was saying. "When his men are driven back he is suddenly among them, helping and giving courage. Then he is off to help other warriors.

"Look!" he added. "The enemy are trying to get their dead."

Moku heard only the one word, "dead." That tall young warrior had fallen. Many had fallen. Were they dead?

Moku felt hot with anger as he saw the tall young warrior being dragged off by his feet.

"It's over." Malu spoke calmly. "But wasn't it exciting? Watch them now!"

Newspapers in Education

Every Monday this fall, the Star-Bulletin Newspapers in Education Program and Kamehameha Schools are presenting Hawaiian folklore collections and Hawaiian stories, selected from four titles published by the Kamehameha Schools Press: "The Water of Kane and other Legends of the Hawaiian Islands," "Hawai'i Island Legends: Pikoi, Pele and Others," "Tales of the Menehune" and "Stories of Life in Old Hawai'i."

These books may be purchased at local bookstores and complete editions can also be found on the Hawai'i Digital Library website (hawaiidigitallibrary.org), a sister site of the Hawaiian/English website ulukau.org.

The NIE program helps students and teachers better use and appreciate the newspaper as a tool to promote literacy.

The "dead" men jumped to their feet and ran to the ocean to wash off the sand. There was the tall young warrior laughing among his friends. He hadn't been killed! No one had.

The warriors were beginning a contest of fencing with spears. Each tried to win points by touching his opponent with his blunt spear as he warded off the thrusts directed at him.

Next day everyone went to the heiau of Lono. The chief made an offering of food to thank Lono for his care of the people. Then the kahuna put away the pole with its little carved figure. They put away the beautiful white kapa. The spirit of Lono was no longer in the little image. It was journeying toward the island in the deep blue of heaven which was his home.

The kahuna had filled a basket with niu and other food for Lono's journey, placing it on the outrigger of a small empty canoe. The canoe was launched and its sail set. As the crowd watched it journey toward the horizon, one thought was in every mind, Lono will come to us again next year.

"Now the net-shaking," said Malu's brother. He led the way to a large net filled with kalo, mai'a, niu, 'uala and 'ulu. A kahuna of Lono stood, waiting for silence. Then he prayed:

"Net of heaven!

Green are the leaves of god's harvest fields.

The net fills the heavens.

Shake it."

Four men lifted the corners and shook the net. Kalo, mai'a, niu -- everything was falling out. The year to come would be a good year! Crops would grow and people would be fed. Thankfully the crowd chanted:

"Shake down the god's food!

Scatter it, O heaven!

A season of plenty this.

Earth, yield thy plenty!

This is a season of food.

Life to the land!

Life from Kane!

Life to the people!

Hail, Kane of the water of life! Hail!

Life to the lord of the Makahiki!"

"Makahiki -- The Return of Lono" is from "Life in Old Hawaii," by Caroline Curtis and illustrated by Oliver C. Kinney, and published by Kamehameha Schools Press, ©1970 and 1998 by Kamehameha Schools. Reprinted by permission.

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