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Lono of the Makahiki

THE prose note explains the name Lono-i-ka-makahiki with which the final genealogy of the chant concludes-"To Ahu, to Ahu-a-'I, to Lono-i-ka-makahiki"--as the name given to the infant by his mother at his birth, to be replaced after his consecration in the temple by the name by which he is known in history. The word maka, "eye," refers to the constellation of the Pleiades, hiki is a sign of movement; the word translated liberally hence refers to the rising of the Pleiades in the heavens corresponding with the time of the sun's turn northward, bringing warmth again to earth, the growth of plants, and the spawning of fish. At this time a festival was celebrated in honor of the fertility god Lono, god of cultivated food plants not alone in Hawaii but throughout marginal Polynesian islands, and prayed to in Hawaiian households to send rain and sunshine upon the growing crops, spawn to fill the fishing stations, offspring to mankind. His signs were observed in the clouds. Heiau were built to Lono not in time of war but under stress of famine or scarcity. His worship was mild, without human sacrifice such as belonged to the severer worship of the war god Ku. Any man might set up a temple to Lono, a ruling chief alone to the god Ku as a prayer for success in war, for life in case of illness, or upon the birth of a first-born son.

During the Makahiki period athletic sports were celebrated, said to have been inaugurated by the god Lono in person. "Father Lono," symbolized by a long pole with a strip of tapa and other embellishments attached, was carried about from district to district to collect taxes ('auhau) in the

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shape of products given in return for the use of the land distributed by each overlord among his family group. There was also a ceremony in which "a structure of basket-work, called the wa'a-'auhau," literally "tribute-canoe," was sent adrift "to represent the canoe in which Lono returned to Tahiti," or more probably the tribute paid to the absent god from the food supply of the past year, earnest of similar gifts in the year to follow.[1]

Symbolic forms of this sort look as if Lono of the Makahiki had once appeared in the person of some voyager who brought culture gifts, introduced athletic sports, perhaps also the Polynesian custom of the ho'okupu or tributary offering, a word meaning literally "to cause to grow, as a vegetable; to spring up, as a seed." The offering sent to sea to feed the god was hence to come back to the people in abundant crops for the coming season. The basket of food was to provide for the god's "return" in symbol in the year to follow.

There was indeed a tradition that such a human manifestation of the god had actually appeared, established games and perhaps the annual taxing, and then departed to "Kahiki," promising to return "by sea on the canoes 'Auwa'alalua" according to the prose note. "A Spanish man of war" translates the queen, remembering a tradition of arrival of a Spanish galleon beaten out of its course in the early days of exploration of the Pacific; "a very large double canoe" is Mrs. Pukui's more literal rendering, from 'Au[hau]-wa'a-l[o]a-lua. The blue-sailed jellyfish we call "Portuguese man-of-war" Hawaiians speak of, perhaps half in derision, as 'Auwa'alalua. The mother honored Keawe's son, perhaps born propitiously during the period of the Makahiki, by giving him the name of Lono-i-ka-Makahiki, seeing perhaps in the child a symbol of the god's promised return.

[1. Malo, pp. 186-210; Makemson, pp. 82-84; Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology, chap. iii.]

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Another and earlier Lono-i-ka-makahiki on the 'Umi line of ruling chiefs of Hawaii is better known to Hawaiian legendary history. This Lono was born and brought up not far from the place where were laid away the bones of Keawe and his descendants, woven into basket-work like those of his ancestors from the time of Liloa, near the place where Captain Cook's grave stands, a monument to a brave but in the end too highhanded a visitor among an aristocratic race such as the Polynesian. This Lono cultivated the arts of war and of word-play and was famous as a dodger of spears and expert riddler. He too may have contributed to the tests of skill observed during the ceremony of the Makahiki.[2]

It is not, however, likely that either of these comparatively late ruling chiefs on the 'Umi line was the Lono whose departure was dramatized in the Makahiki festival and whose "return" the priests of the Lono cult on Hawaii anticipated so eagerly. Both were born in Hawaii, and no legend tells of either of them sailing away with a promise to return. A more plausible candidate for the divine impersonation is the legendary La'a-mai-Kahiki, "Sacred-one-from-Tahiti," who belongs to a period several hundred years earlier, before intercourse had been broken off with southern groups. La'a came as a younger member of the Moikeha family of North Tahiti, older members of whom had settled earlier in the Hawaiian group. He brought with him the small hand drum and flute of the hula dance. As his canoe passed along the coast and the people heard the sound of the flute and the rhythm of the new drum-beat, they said, "It is the god Kupulupulu!" and brought offerings. Kupulupulu is Laka, worshiped as god of the hula in the form of the flowering lehua tree and welcomed also as god of wild plant growth upon which the earliest settlers had subsisted and still continued to subsist to some extent during the cold winter months before staple crops were ready to gather. This La'a-mai-kahiki took wives

[2. Beckwith, Hawaiian Mythology, pp. 392-94.]

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in various districts, especially on Oahu, stronghold of Lono worship, from whom families now living claim descent. He seems to have sailed back to Tahiti at least once before his final departure.[3] In this sojourner belonging to a great family from the south, who came like a god, enriched the festival of the New Year with games and drama, possibly organized the collection of tribute on a southern pattern, and departed leaving behind him a legend of divine embodiment, one is tempted to recognize a far earlier appearance of that Lono of the Makahiki in whose name the Kumulipo chant was dedicated to Keawe's infant son and heir.

Not that it is necessary to attach the symbol of divine incarnation to any actual historical event. Arrival and departure by canoe would be the normal way to dramatize the advent of a god. Just as Vedic hymns visualize the arrival of invited gods to the sacrifice in chariots drawn by steeds each of a distinctive color because thus they were accustomed to see their own superiors approach, so Lono would come to island dwellers in a double canoe of divine proportions such as their own chiefs employed. Not this chief or that was the unique god of the Makahiki. In each human birth of a niaupi'o child there lived anew a Lono to preserve and carry forward the sacred stock. Each year when the sun turned its course northward and warmth and quiet weather prevailed, there returned to his worshipers this procreative force, the beneficent god of the Makahiki.

[3. Fornander, Collection ("Memoirs," No. 4), pp. 152-55.]

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