The Hawaiian God

The following is the result of research conducted by
Randolph Craft & selected associates for the purpose
of developing a visual image to create a sculpture representing
the Hawaiian mythological entity,
The God Kanaloa.

I. Overview - The Hawaiian Gods:

In the beginning
in Hawaiian mythology, Po was a vast, empty land, a dark abyss where only one life form dwelled. This was the spirit of Keawe. A single light shown through the darkness of Po-a flame holding the energy of creation.

In this chaotic vortex, Keawe evolved order. He opened his great calabash and flung the lid into the air. As it unfolded, it became the huge canopy of blue sky. From his calabash, Keawe drew an orange disk, hanging it from the sky to become the sun.

Next Keawe manifested himself as Na Wahine, a female divinity considered his daughter. In addition, he became Kane, his own son, also known as Eli or Eli-Eli, who was the male generative force of creation. In the Kumulipo, the best known of the Hawaiian creation chants, the feats of Eli-Eli are detailed in rhythmic litany.

Na Wahine and Kane mated spiritually to produce a royal family, who became additional primary gods worshipped by the Hawaiian people. In ancient chants and rituals, three sons: Ku, Lono, and Kanaloa, along with Kane are the four major Hawaiian gods. Keawe made Kane the ruler of natural phenomena, such as the earth, stones, fresh water. Most importantly, Ku as Kukailimoku was god of war, but he also reigned over woodlands and crops, and in various forms was worshipped by craftsmen. Bird catchers and feather workers appealed to Kuhuluhulumanu, fishermen to Ku'ula, sorcerers to Kukoae, for example.

Kanaloa was responsible for the southern Pacific Ocean and as such was god of seamen and lord of fishermen.

Lono, as lord of the sun and of wisdom, caused the earth to grow green. As a god of medicine, he had a particular interest in keeping herbs and medicinal plants flourishing. Lono was the god who presided over the makahiki season when war ceased and taxes were paid to the ali'i.

Kane and Na Wahine also had daughters. Among them, Laka was the goddess of hula; Hina was the mother of Maui who pulled the Hawaiian Islands from the ocean; and Kapo was the goddess of the South Pacific and was largely worshipped on Maui. Among the major divinities was the goddess Papa, queen of nature, and the man she married, called Wakea.

In legend, Papa and Wakea's first child was born deformed like a taro root. From the child's grave, the first taro plant grew to furnish sustenance to the rest of the human race, which had its origins in this first couple.

The twelfth deity was Milu, lord of the spirit world and lord of Ka-pa'a-he'o, where souls who had departed their sleeping or unconscious mortal body might end up if they were not pardoned by their 'aumakua (personal gods) during their wanderings. One of several entrances to the barren, arid land of Milu was thought to be through a pit situated in the mouth of Waipi'o Valley on the Big Island.

Each man worshipped a deity, or akua, that represented his profession. Gods existed for bird snarers, canoe makers, robbers, kapa makers, fishermen, etc.

Most farmers revered Lono, who was considered a benign god. When crops ripened, farmers performed religious services to the gods by building a fire to honor whichever god they worshipped, be it Ku, Kane, Lono, or Kanaloa. During the ceremony, food was cooked and portioned out to each man who sat in a circle around an idol of that particular god. A kahuna offered the food to heaven. After the ceremony was completed, the people could eat freely of the cooked food, but each time new food was cooked in the imu (underground oven), a bit of it had to be offered to the god again before the common man could eat.

Interestingly, kanaka maoli, commoners, could freely worship their personal gods, voicing their own prayers. For the ali'i (royalty), however, a kahu-akua, who was a priest or keeper of the idol, uttered the prayer. The king was the only one allowed to command the construction of a luakini (sacrificial) heiau to honor Kukailimoku, the war god, which required sacrificial offerings of human life during its construction. Lesser chiefs could build mapele, stone temples, to invoke the blessing of gods like Lono who could insure abundant crops. These temples were surrounded with posts carved with images, while inside idols carved of wood, stone or sea urchin spines, or fashioned of feathers attached to woven i'e i'e netting represented various gods. Oracle towers that jutted 20 feet into the sky held offerings made to the gods on wooden platforms far above the ground.

The old gods were disavowed just prior to the coming of Christian missionaries in 1820. Temple idols were pushed over and destroyed, but often commoners were faced with the problem of what to do with stone images that represented various gods, since neglect of the idols might cause unknown disasters. One stone god literally re-surfaced in 1885. An old man who lived with his son and a brother and sister near a fish pond in Kawaihae on the Big Island, woke them all one night, commanding his son to catch three fish from the pond. The girl was told to chew a mouthful of awa and her brother was told to climb a tree for coconuts. The old man directed them to dig in a certain place, where they uncovered a stone idol. The old man circled the idol's neck with coconuts, laid the fish in front of it and poured the awa over its mouth. He told the three young people the god's name was Kane; then he predicted his own death. In three days he was gone.

The stone idol is now displayed at Bishop Museum on O'ahu, an intriguing reminder of the mana, the power, the Hawaiian gods once embodied. Today, though the gods may have disappeared from every day life, in many Hawaiian households, they will never be completely forgotten

(Note: With all research from various places in Hawaii, we find little to no existing imagery to draw from to give a foundational visual reference. We are left to the creation of visual imagery that comes from the following information and further research that will be done in the circumstance of contractual commission of this sculpture.)

From ancient times, it is believed that gods Kane and Kanaloa came together from Kahiki (foreign gods). Of one sighting of the two gods was at Keei on Maui. They traveled together as they were known to bring water sources for crops and fishing.

Kane and Kanaloa's main food was the drinking of awa. The mixing water with the awa made water a vital food source for them. The working relationship between Kane and Kanaloa was important as Kanaloa was known for finding the source of water and Kane, the execution of creating the pond or source for it.

Both Kane and Kanaloa live in a place called "lost islands" or "islands hidden by the gods". These islands may be seen on the distant horizon, sometimes never to be pointed at.

Kanaloa is:

  • One of four major 4 major Hawaiian deities &endash; Ku, Kane, Kanaoloa, Lono.
  • Kanaloa is almost always associated with Kane, god of fresh water
  • Kanaloa is described as being tall and fair, and Kane being dark with curly hair and thick lips
  • Kane and Kanaloa are represented as traveling about the country establishing springs of water and seeing that they are kept clear for drinking purposes or for uses of the chiefs. Here Kanaloa acts as the urge, Kane as the executor
  • Kane and Kanaloa are represented as gods living in the bodies of men in an Earthly paradise situated in a floating cloudland or other sacred and remote spot where they drink awa and are fed from a garden patch of never-failing growth
  • Kane and Kanalooa are lords over the children of the gods who peopled the Earth in the early days
  • Kanaloa is referred to in the Kumulipo (Hawaiian creation chant) in the 8th era (which ushers in humans) as one of three male gods. He is known as the Great Octopus.
  • Kanaloa is known as the god of the squid; Kahe'ehaunawela
  • Fishermen call on Kanaloa for protection
  • Kane and Kanaloa are both invoked by canoe men &endash; Kane for the canoe building and Kanaloa for its sailing. In a chant consecrating a new canoe, Kanaloa is specified as the "awa drinker" (a sacred position of honor).
  • Kane and Kanaloa are known in legend as the cultivators, the awa drinkers, the water finders, who migrated from Kahiki (Tahiti) and traveled about the Islands
  • Kane and Kanaloa were from Kahiki (Tahiti) &endash; foreign gods. They came traveling on the surface of the sea and first caused plants for the food of the man to grow. Kamakau says that they "came from Kahiki in the shape of human beings,"were sighted off Keei, landed on Maui.
  • "Here is food, O Gods, Kane and Kanaloa! Here is food for us. Give life to us and our family. Life for the parents feeble with age. Life for all in the household. When digging and planting our land, life for all."
  • "O Kane, O Kanaloa, here is the taro (sacred Hawaiian plant), here is the sugar cane, the awa. See, we are eating it now."
  • Kanaloa is the leader of the first company of spirits placed on Earth after Earth was separated from Heaven. These Spirits are "spit out by the gods." They rebel, led by Kanaloa because they are not allowed to eat awa. They are defeated and cast to the underworld where Kanaloa, known also as Milu, becomes ruler of the dead. (from legend of Hawaiil-loa in Kumu honua account)
  • There is a hidden island of Kane and Kanaloa &endash; Kane huna moku &endash; known as the "the deathless land of beautiful people." It is forbidden to weep here.
  • Kanaloa is associated with the underworld in a chant where Hawai'i is spoken of as "fished up from the very depth of Kanaloa."
  • Awa is their (Kane and Kanaloa's) principal food, which leads to water finding activities, as they must have water to mix with awa.
  • "Kane and Kanaloa go into the precipitous mountains back of Keanae on Maui and lack water. They discuss whether it can be obtained at this height. "Oi-ana (Let it be seen)! Says Kanaloa; so Kane thrusts in his staff made of heavy, close-grained kauila wood (Alphitonia excelsa) and water gushes forth. They open the fishpond of Kanaloa at Laula'ilua and posses the water of Kou at Kaupo. They kill the kahuna Koino at Kiko'o in Kipahulu because he is guilty of defilement at mealtime. They cause sweet waters to flow at Waihee, Kahakuloa, and at Waikane on Lanai, Punakou on Molokai, Kawaihoa on Oahu. On Kauai they leave few springs because they are not recognized a gods. The impress of their forms as they slept is left on the rock above the pool of Mauhili in the Waikomo stream in Koloa district where, on the cliff below, are two pointed rocks named Waihanau and Ka-elelo-o-kahawau. Two holes are pointed out just below the road across Ohia gulch beyond Keanae on Maui where Kane dug his spear first into one hole and then into the other with the words, "This is for you, that for me." The water gushing from these apertures is called "the water of Kane and Kanaloa." The gods land at Hanauma on Oahu and springs flow at various places where the two mix awa on their way to Waolani in Nu'uanu valley. In Manoa valley they see a pretty girl and both gods try to seize her. The attendant changes into a great rock in their path, a spring of water trickles where the girl stood, and over it lean two ohia trees, symbols of the gods. This is the spring called "Water of the gods," which was sacred to Kamehameha.
  • When Kane draws a figure of man on Earth, Kane's figure lives while Kanaloa's image remains in stone
  • Kanaloa seduces "Eve out of the garden of Eden." He is then known as the Great White Albatross.
  • Kanaloa of the Great White Albatross of Kane is the name given to him as resposible for driving the first man and the first woman out of the garden spot the gods have provided for them.
  • There is a famine on the Island of Lanai. A fisher boy comes daily to a little hut has erected for his god and lays a bit of fish there, saying, "O god, here is a bit of fish for you." Kane and Kanaloa are so pleased with his piety that they bring the famine to an end.
  • Fish altars have been set up to honor Kane-Ko'a along streams to increase the catch of oopu fish
  • Kanaloa is said to have been worshipped with awa and aholehole (whitefish) upon his arrival from Kahiki
  • Kane and Kanaloa were said to have been followed from Kahiki (Tahiti) by the amanama fish (mullet)
  • Kane and Kanaloa are connected with fishponds &endash; they are credited with building the Paohua fishpond
  • Kanaloa is the diety of the heiau of the po'okanaka class called Hauola at Hoea, Waiawa, on Kauai. They are worshipped as gods and a temple is built for them.
  • The direction West is known in Hawai'ian lore at the "much traveled road of Kanaloa" The Ease is spoken of as the "high road traveled by Kane" or the "red road of Kane."
  • The southern limit of the sun in celestial eclipse is "that of Kanaloa." The northern limit is called the "black shining road of Kane."

Note: Varying legends and oral histories exist regarding Hawaiian gods and religions. This information was gathered from: The Hamilton Library, Mark Fukuda / Hawaiian Art consultants, Children of the Rainbow by Leinani Melville, Hawaiian Antiquities by David Malo, The Works of the People of Old by Samual Kamakau, and Arts and Crafts of Hawai'i (Religion) by Peter H. Buck.

Client Page