Sacred Texts  Pacific  Index  Chant Index  Previous  Next 


The Dawn of Day

WITH the eighth chant begins the period of living men called the "Day" or Ao. There appears now the "well-formed child" in the "time when men multiplied" and the "time when men came from afar," as the Po-kinikini and Po-he'enalu-mamao, generative agents of the period, have been paraphrased. Men multiply "by hundreds," and the function of sex is once more emphasized in the familiar antithesis

Man born for the narrow stream
Woman for the broad stream.

The time of the gods, po akua, is here; a time long ago, po mamao. Wave after wave come the new race, one following after another, the "gods" distinguished by ruddy faces and "white chins" or beards, the men of undetermined ancestry, the kanaka, dark in color.

There follows a play upon the words ho'omalino and ho'ola'ila'i, the word malino synonymous with malie meaning "peaceful," used here with la'ila'i, "calm, still," to express the moment of suspense in nature preceding the birth of gods and men. The juxtaposition of the two words has passed into classic use. An old mele ascribed to the wife of Kalaniopu'u begins

O Kona kai opua i ka la'i
O pua hinano i ka malie

Kona of tranquil seas
Pandanus blossom in the calm,

where the flower named, the pungent-scented pandanus

{p. 95}

blossom regarded by Hawaiians as an aphrodisiac, gives an erotic turn to the couplet. Compare the similar pause in nature preliminary to a new birth reported from New Zealand at the moment when the Wide Sky above, Rangi-nui, seeks Earth in the person of Papa-tu-a-nuku: "In that period the amount of light was nil; absolute and complete darkness (pokutikuti kakarauri) prevailed; there was no sun, no moon, no stars, no clouds, no light, no mist-no ripples stirred the surface of the ocean; no breath of air, a complete and absolute stillness." There follows the "planting" (hikaia) of land growths corresponding to the "births" recorded in the first seven chants of the Kumulipo.[1]

In the Kumulipo this stillness in nature prepares for the emergence of gods and men. There are born the woman La'ila'i and three males, Ki'i a man, Kane a god, Kanaloa "the hot-striking octopus." With them comes Day, the Ao. There follow a trio of more generalized concepts. "The wombs [?] give birth." "Ocean-edge" (Moana-liha) and "The-damp-forest" (Ka-wao-ma'aukele) possibly refer to the land and sea forms born into the night world in the preceding sections but more naturally to the economic divisions based upon the two sources of food supply, fish and vegetable food, i'a and 'ai, upon which life was regulated for island dwellers. Last, in the lines sometimes paraphrased

The first chief of the dim past dwelling in cold uplands
The man of long life and hundreds upon hundreds of chiefs

is summed up the whole generation of the earliest stock from the beginning, whose genealogy, set down as man and wife in the eleventh section, occupies about one-third of the whole Kumulipo chant.

The lines undoubtedly have historical significance. We know from old sources that remote valleys inland were the preferred homes of the ancient chief stock. The gods Kane

[1. Smith, Lore of the Whare-wananga, p. 117]

{p. 96}

and Kanaloa are associated in chant and story with such habitations. Homes "in the heavens" may denote other islands left behind in migration. At some time the old line was superseded by a new branch who became the chief stock on the family genealogy. There came a split between gods and men, and this split is laid at the door of the woman La'ila'i who left her divine husband in the sacred place of the gods to live "as a woman" (i kanaka) and people the earth with mankind. "The woman sat sideways" is an old saying for a wife who takes another husband; keke'e ka noho a ka wahine, says the text.

The affair took place at a time of unfathomable antiquity, referred to in the two phrases ka po he'e mamao and ka po kinikini; Kanaka wai ka po mai, that is, "from the far past," is the modern expression. It took place in "the land of Lua." The word means "cave" or "pit," and we at once connect the place with stories of the 'Olohe or pit-dwellers already alluded to. Pokini Robinson knew of a place on the island of Oahu, "a little pool up somewhere in Wahiawa" called "Ka lua a Ahu," of which the native-born say, "If you bathe in that pool you have seen Oahu."[2] The three children born of this adventure are named in the text according to some obscure connection with the dim story of the past. "Clothed-in-leaves," Lo-palapala, is a name given today to a class of chiefs who, owing to some unlucky turn of fortune, are obliged to retire to the back country and live obscurely until fortune favors them once more, often in the shape of a child who gives promise of superior qualities. This last birth is thus definitely connected with the half-mythical 'Olohe people. Their pairing as male and female in the lines following plays once more upon the dominant theme of sex. The story seems to point to a debasement of rank through intermarriage of the "gods" with an inferior stock. But whether the newcomers or the old were the "gods" is not

[2. Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology, pp. 287-88.]

{p. 97}

made clear. Nor is it clear whether the part played in the spread of mankind over earth in line 635 is to be referred to La'ila'i herself or to the daughter Maila ("Beautiful"), as some would amend the text Noho mai la. The series of births which follow, after the first, which seems to be suggested as a play upon the name of the mother, must be taken as a purely figurative approach to the coming of Day and is not to be found listed among the genealogies of the Kamokuiki book, as is that born to La'ila'i in a later chant, assigned by Kamokuiki to the man Ki'i. A new race spreads over the land as a result of La'ila'i's affair in the land of the pit-dwellers. They cover earth like the creeping ti plant, the Cordyline terminalis of the botanist, to be found everywhere in damp growth of the low uplands. The night world presses on toward the dawn until day finally comes forth, "opening wide."


595. Well-formed is the child, well-formed now
Child in the time when men multiplied
Child in the time when men came from afar
Born were men by the hundreds
Born was man for the narrow stream
600. Born was woman for the broad stream
Born the night of the gods
Men stood together
Men slept together
They two slept together in the time long ago
605. Wave after wave of men moving in company
Ruddy the forehead of the god
Dark that of man
White-[bearded] the chin
Tranquil was the time when men multiplied
620. Calm like the time when men came from afar
It was called Calmness [La'ila'i] then
Born was La'ila'i a woman
Born was Ki'i a man
Born was Kane a god

{p. 98}

615. Born was Kanaloa the hot-striking octopus
    It was day
The wombs gave birth [?]
The-damp-forest, latter of the two
The first chief of the dim past dwelling in cold uplands, their younger
620. The man of long life and hundreds upon hundreds of chiefs
Scoop out, scoop out,
Hollow out, hollow out, keep hollowing
Hollow out, hollow out, "the woman sat sideways"
La'ila'i, a woman in the time when men came from afar
625. La'ila'i, a woman in the time when men multiplied
Lived as a woman of the time when men multiplied
Born was Groping-one [Hahapo'ele], a girl
Born was Dim-sighted [Ha-popo], a girl
Born was Beautiful [Maila] called Clothed-in-leaves [Lopalapala]
630. Naked ['Olohe] was another name
[She] lived in the land of Lua [pit]
[At] that place called "pit of the 'Olohe"
Naked was man born in the day
Naked the woman born in the upland
[She] lived here with man [?]
Born was Creeping-ti-plant [La'i'olo] to man
Born was Expected-day [Kapopo], a female
Born was Midnight [Po'ele-i], born First-light [Po'ele-a]
Opening-wide [Wehi-loa] was their youngest
These were those who gave birth
The little ones, the older ones
Ever increasing in number
Man spread abroad, man was here now
    It was Day

{p. 99}

Next: The Woman Who Sat Sideways