The Hawaiian islands and culture are unique in a way that is like no other. One may have heard of many different versions of legends and mythical stories of the demigod Maui and his many adventures on how he attains and conquers great feats with his magical hook made from the heavens.
In the Kumulipo, one of the oldest and most sacred of religious chants which also outlines genealogy of Hawaiian royalty is first recorded in the 18th century by Westerners. The Kumulipo tells the story of the beginning of time that in the way it was perceived by the elder kahunas or priests and ancient leaders of the day. This chant is still used today during the annual Makahiki season which is held in honoring Lono the god of peace, rain, fertility, agriculture and music. The sky god, Wakea is said to be made a direct ancestor of Maui whom is also mentioned repeatedly in the Kumulipo.
Maui, apart from his brothers was an unconventional character, a sorcerer, trickster and hero of his time. Born with miraculous powers of shape shifting and super human strength, he had the ability to change the lives of those he loved and the lives of humanity for the better. One story tells that long ago, a young Maui saves his people from crawling along the ground as the sky had been held too close to the Earth. Maui with his fantastic strength lifts up the cosmos for all the plants and trees to grow to their fullest potential and his fellow man to walk and travel upright.
Another story tells that Maui grows weary of eating only raw fish and vegetables and longs for a cooked meal when one day he sees a plume of smoke at the top of a mountain where fire is kept secret by hens that are not keen to share. Maui, first politely then forcefully coerces the secret from the stubborn chickens. They tell him unwittingly that he must rub together the stalks of the taro and ti plant which prove to be inaccurate. Held by the throats, the hens engage with Maui one last time with him asking for the much guarded secret. The hens tell him that the consecrated tree of the wai mea is what is used. Successful with the unrevealed answer to cooking his sustenance, Maui shares this with his people and he is revered as the great founder of fire.
Hawaiian mythology would not be complete without the story of how Maui pulled out the eight Hawaiian islands with his magical hook. Being the trickster that Maui is he convinces his brothers to take him on a winning fishing trip with them to catch the prize ulua and pimoe fish to feed their families. Having said this, Maui is harboring other grand intentions those of pulling out of the sea; not fish but an immense continent. Much to Maui’s dismay and due to his brother’s looking back too prematurely at the progress, the islands were separated and not a full land mass as was desired.
Lastly, a story that of a young man whose adoration toward his mother, Hina is so endearing that he sees her daily struggle when drying tapa, wood bark made of the hibiscus plant too time consuming. The sun must stay in the sky longer to dry the tapa quicker, Maui thinks to himself and uses his lasso and hook to hold the mighty sun into submission until it can appease his mother’s wishes. The sun finally agrees to adjust its duration in the sky to reside longer in the summer months and shorter in the winter, hence providing the world with the change of its seasons forever more.
The state motto and known Hawaiian phrase is Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ‘Aina I ka Pono which translates: The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. Remember to treat all land, foliage and artifacts in Hawaii with respect. Be kind. Never leave your trash behind. –End-
By: Karissa A. Among