Saturday, November 22, 2008

Makahiki Time

Ted Trimmer Photo; rights reserved
"The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful."
- e. e. cummings

"I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone."


- Rainer Maria Rilke












In the old times, Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) studied nature and her changes closely, especially the movements of the heavens. The first sliver of November's new moon marks the beginning of Hawaii's winter months, the Makahiki Season that some call Hawaiian New Year.

It was by navigating across the vast Pacific, guided by the star Hokule`a (the star of gladness) that the first people had voyaged to Hawaii Nei. Their children trusted the wisdom embodied in the stars to indicate proper times to plant, harvest, observe festivals, or even when to make war. The stars have guided the Hawaiians from the kahiko (ancient) days.

Makahiki begins with the appearance in the eastern sky of a star constellation called in Hawaiian: Na Huihui o Makali`i, in which name my poor Hawaiian sees the (na) club (hui, saying it twice a sort of emphasis) eyes (maka) Ali`i (royal chiefs); perhaps "The League of Watching Chiefs" would not be an entirely incorrect translation. Yes, "The Pleaides," or Seven Sisters, as they are called in English, are very significant to foundational Hawaiian thought. In fact, according to the ancient tradition, the first Hawaiian people came to Earth from the Makali`i! The star-based Hawaiian calendar has always placed a special significance on these interstellar ties to the Makali`i.

For four months, the Ho`o-ilo (winter season) will be taken up by the Makahiki, the year's most important holiday and traditional celebration of the harvest. It is a time of personal rest, and spiritual & cultural renewal, a 'jubilee' so to speak. It was a time when all wars and battles were ceased, tributes and taxes were paid by each district to the ruling chief, sporting competitions and contests between villages were organized, and festive events were commenced. Even some of the rigid kapu (taboos) were suspended for this period of rest and renewal. As in the Bible, the land lay fallow in preparation of the next growing season. The Makahiki is considered a species of "first fruits" festivals common throughout the world's first nations. It is cousin of our own American and Canadian Thanksgiving, of Oktoberfest, and numerous other harvest celebrations of our present day as well.



Though a somewhat similar holiday period was observed throughout Polynesia it was here in pre-contact Hawaii that the festival reached its fullest flower. Lono, the god of peace, agriculture and fertility, was especially propitiated during this period. Lono was said to be embodied in a certain clustering of dark clouds, in thunder, in the partial rainbow, whirlwinds, and even waterspouts - all Hawaii winter phenomena.

The Hawaiian Makahiki festival proceeded in a clockwise circle around the island. The image of Lono (Akua Loa - a long pole with a strip of white tapa cloth) was carried thither by the kahuna. It is said that Captain Cook's sails resembled these lono standards. Arriving as he did during Makahiki assured a peaceful visit. It was not till he returned unexpectedly later that tension developed. You see, at the very end of the Makahiki festival, the chief would go off shore in a canoe. When he stepped back on the beach, a group of his warriors threw spears at him which he had to deflect or parry. Success proved his worthiness to continue his rule. Perhaps Cook merely failed to "duck," proving unworthy?

Today, late November is still the beginning of the Ho`o-ilo (winter or rainy season) in our modern Hawaii. The Makali`i cluster once again rises at sunset and sets at dawn, visible through the night. The Heavenly Chiefs are still watching. Lono, god of peace and harvest, will remain close until Kau (summer) begins with the Makali'i rising in the dawn's east, no longer visible in the dark, sacred night. Till then, Lono is said to be in the rain that falls from the Kona direction, just as I shelter from today. So you see, even now the ancient energies renew the vitality of our `aina (land), nourishing our gardens with liquid blessing.

Todays Makahiki events and activities are practiced in abbreviated form. Still, there are said to be Hawaiian souls who return from the past to embrace their descendants and Hawaii people of today. Island residents still hear ancient drums sounding on certain nights, especially near ancient Heiau (temples) and other sites of timeless significance. Some have even witnessed spectral apparitions, processions of chiefly spirits in ancient regalia, along the ancient, half forgotten ala (paths).



So brew another cup. Pull the covers tighter around you, and listen to the whisperings of your own local gods in the branches and among the buildings. It is a time of rest and renewal; a time of looking forward and back.

Happy MAKAHIKI season to you. Let the games & feasting begin!
A L O H A ! Cloudia









20 comments:

Anonymous said...

nesting time!

gigihawaii said...

Cloudia, you seem to know quite a bit about Hawaiian culture and history. What are your sources? Did you get them from Hamilton Library?

Good stuff.

BJ Roan said...

Interesting post. I'm learning a lot about Hawaiian culture.

Anonymous said...

good pictures!

I Ponder said...

I'm so enjoying this Cloudia, thank you ! :)

Charles Gramlich said...

The main thing I know about Hawaii is that it is home to the world's greatest diversity of fruit flies. Hundreds of species. It's a speciation event of huge proportions.

Aileni said...

Fscinating and informative, Cloudia. Thank you.
Explains the death of Cook.

Mediterranean kiwi said...

mud luscious
puddle wonderful
double rainbow

now i want to see a moon bow!!!

Dave King said...

Mud luscious and puddle wonderful says it all, I think. But your narrative and images are the icing on the cake. great post.

RiverPoet said...

And a happy Makahiki to you, too! Peace - D

Akelamalu said...

Your posts about Hawaii are always so informative and interesting Cloudia - I love them!

There is a tag for you on my post tomorrow, if you fancy having a go m'dear. :)

Greyscale Territory said...

Love these traditional stories! There is a mystic oneness with the eternal landscape! A oneness we would do well to try to cultivate again!

debra said...

cultures have many similarities don't they. it's interesting to find the parallels. Thanks for the wonderful photos. I am looking at 5' of snow.

Barbara Martin said...

Thank you for this wonderful historical information. I like the idea the Hawaiians came from the celestial heavens.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Thanks so much for this wonderful history lesson.

Terrie

Mary said...

Happy MAKAHIKI to you as well!

Thanks for your posts about Hawaiian culture and history. Your photos are wonderful as well.

laughingwolf said...

thank you, and a happy makahiki to you as well, cloudia :D

aloha....

Travis Erwin said...

You know, to call it winter at all is a stretch for us mainlanders.

lyzzydee said...

very interesting and stunning photos!!

Cloudia said...

Thank you ALL for visiting & commenting! Big ALOHA!