Translated by Moses Nakuina
Ku‘ula-kai and his wife Hina-puku-i‘a lived at Leho‘ula in the land of Aleamai, Hana, Maui.1 Nothing is known of their parents, but tradition tells us that Ku‘ula, his wife Hina, their son ‘Ai‘ai, and Ku‘ula-uka, a younger brother, lived together for a time at Leho‘ula; then the brothers divided their work between them, with Ku‘ula-uka choosing farming, from the seashore to the mountain-top, and Ku‘ula-kai choosing fishing, from the pebbly shore to the ocean depths. After this division of labor, Ku‘ula-uka went up to the mountains to live and met a woman known as La-ea also called Hina-ulu-‘ohi‘a, a sister of Ku‘ula’s wife Hina-puku-i‘a. These two sisters had three brothers named Mokuhali‘i, Kupa‘aike‘e, and Ku-pulupulu-i-ka-nahele, who were the ancient gods of the canoe-making priests na akua ‘aumakua o ka po‘e kahuna kalai wa‘a.2
Ku‘ula had a human body, but was possessed with mana kupua, or supernatural powers, in directing and controlling the fish of the sea. While Ku‘ula and his wife were living at Leho‘ula, he devoted all his time to his chosen vocation of fishing. His first work was to construct a fishpond handy to his house, but near the shore where the surf breaks, and he stocked this pond with all kinds of fish.3 Upon a rocky platform, he also built a house, which he called by his own name, Ku‘ula, to be sacred for the fishing kapu. Here he offered the first fish caught to the fish god, and because of his observances, fish were obedient (laka loa) to him; all he had to do was to say the word, and fish would appear. This was reported all over Hana.
Kamohoali‘i, the ali‘i, was then living at Wananalua, the land on which Ka‘uiki Hill stands. When he heard about the fishpond, he appointed Ku‘ula as his head fisherman. From this well-stocked pond, the ali‘i’s table was regularly supplied with all rare varieties, whether in or out of season. Ku‘ula was his mainstay for seafood and was consequently held in high esteem by Kamohoali‘i. They lived without any disagreement for many years.
During this agreeable period, Ku‘ula’s wife gave birth to a son who was named ‘Ai‘ai-a-Ku‘ula. The child was brought up properly according to the customs of those days. When he was old enough to take care for himself, an unusual event occurred.
A large puhi called Koona lived at Wailau, on the windward side of the island of Moloka‘i.
This eel was worshiped by the people of Wailau, and they never tired of telling about the mighty things their god did, for example, that a big shark came to Wailau and gave it battle, and during the fight the puhi caused a part of the rocky cliff to fall upon and kill the mano. A cave was thus formed, with a depth of about five fathoms; and that large opening is there to this day, situated a little above the sea and close to the rocky fort where the well known Kapepeekauila lived.4 This puhi then left Wailau and came to live near Aleamai, in Hana, in a sea cave called Ka-puka-ulua (“The ulua hole”), some distance out from the ‘alau rocks; it came to break into and rob the pond that Ku‘ula had built and stocked with fish.
Ku‘ula was surprised to see his pond stock disappearing, so he watched all day and night, and at last, about daybreak, saw a large puhi come in through the makai wall of the pond. Then he knew the puhi was taking his fish and began devising a way to catch and kill it; but after he consulted with his wife, they decided to let their son ‘Ai‘ai try to capture and kill the thief. When ‘Ai‘ai was told about the puhi, he sent word to the people of Aleamai and the people of Haneo‘o to make two ropes several hundreds of fathoms long from hau tree bark. When the ropes were ready, two canoes went out, one from Aleamai and one from Haneo‘o, with ‘Ai‘ai-a-Ku‘ula in one of them. He had put two large stones in the canoe and carried with him a hokeo, or fishing-gear gourd, containing a large fishhook called Manaiakalani.5
When the canoes had proceeded far out to sea, ‘Ai‘ai determined their position by landmarks; then looking down into the water and finding the right place, he told the paddlers to stop. He stood up in the canoe, took one of the stones in his hands, and dove into the water. The stone took him down rapidly to the bottom, where he saw a big cave opening right before him, with ulua and other deep-sea fish scurrying about the entrance. Certain that this was the hole where the puhi lived, he surfaced and climbed into his canoe, and after resting for a moment, he opened the hokeo, took out the hook Manaiakalani, and tied the hau ropes to it. He took a long stick and placed at the end of it the hook baited with a preparation of coconut and other substances attractive to fish.6 Before taking his second dive, he told those on the canoes that if he succeeded in hooking the puhi, he would give the ropes several quick jerks. Then he picked up the other stone, dove down into the sea again, and placed the hook in the cave while murmuring a few incantations in the name of his parents. When he knew the puhi was hooked, he gave the ropes several quick jerks. He surfaced shortly and climbed into one of the canoes. The two canoes paddled toward shore, each trailing a rope behind. He told those in the Haneo‘o canoe to paddle to Haneo‘o and Hamoa and tell the people there to pull in the puhi; he told those in the Aleamai canoe to paddle to Leho‘ula and tell the people there to do the same. The two canoes set forth on their courses to the landings, and after going ashore, the crews gathered crowds of people at Hamoa and at Leho‘ula to pull in the puhi, as ‘Ai‘ai had instructed.
‘Ai‘ai ascended Ka-iwi-o-pele Hill and motioned to the people of both places to pull in the puhi. It was said the Aleamai people won over the much greater number from Haneo‘o, and they landed the puhi on the pahoehoe stones at Leho‘ula. The people tried to kill the prize, but without success till ‘Ai‘ai came and threw three basalt stones (‘ala) to kill it. The head was cut off and cooked in an imu. The bones of its jaw, with the mouth wide open, are seen to this day near shore, washed by the waves. (A rock formation resembles an open jaw.)
Kama‘aina of the place say that all ‘ala near the imu in which the puhi was baked do not crack when heated (as they do elsewhere) because of the imu heating of ‘Ai‘ai’s time. It is so even to this day. The iwikuamo‘o, or backbone, of this puhi is still lying on the pahoehoe a rocky formation, about thirty feet long exactly resembling the backbone of a puhi.7
The killing of this puhi made ‘Ai‘ai famous among the people of Hana. Its capture was the young boy’s first attempt to follow his father’s vocation, and his knowledge of fishing surprised the people.
After this event, the kahu of the slain puhi came over from Wailau, Moloka‘i, to investigate because the puhi’s spirit had visited him one night in a dream and told him that his ‘aumakua had been killed at Hana. Arriving at Wananalua, the kahu became friends with one of the retainers of Kamohoali‘i, the ali‘i of Hana, and lived there a long time serving under the ali‘i, during which time he learned how the puhi had been caught and killed by ‘Ai‘ai, the son of Ku‘ula and Hina-puku-i‘a. After learning this, he sought to kill the three of them in revenge.
This Moloka‘i man went one day to Ku‘ula, without orders, and told him the ali‘i had sent for fish. Ku‘ula gave him an ulua, with a warning: “Go back to the ali‘i and tell him to cut off the head of the fish and cook it in the imu, and to cut up and salt and dry its flesh in the sun to preserve it, for ‘This is Hana, the starved land; Hana of the scarce fish; the fish of Kama; the fish of Lanakila.’ (‘Eia o Hana la he ‘aina aupehu; o Hana kéia i ka i‘a iki; ka i‘a o Kama; ka i‘a o Lanakila’).”
The man returned and gave the ulua to the ali‘i, whoasked him, “Who gave you the fish?” and the man answered, “Ku‘ula.”
Then the Moloka‘i man saw his chance for revenge, so he told the ali‘i: “Your head fisherman told me to come back and tell you your head should be cut off and cooked in the imu, and the flesh of your body should be cut up and salted and dried in the sun.”
Hearing this, the ali‘i was so angry with Ku‘ula he ordered the Moloka‘i man to go and tell all the konohiki and people to go up into the mountains immediately, gather firewood, and place it around Ku‘ula’s house, for Ku‘ula and his wife and child should be burned to death.
The ali‘i’s order was carried out by all the konohiki and people, except those of Aleamai, who refused to obey the ali‘i’s order, because Ku‘ula had always lived peaceably among them. On days when they had no fish, he had supplied them freely.
When Ku‘ula and his wife saw the people of Hana bringing firewood and placing it around their house, they knew they were in trouble, so Ku‘ula went to a place where taro, sweet potatoes, bananas, sugar cane, and some gourds were growing. He asked the owner for three dry gourds and was told to take them. He took the gourds to his house and discussed with his wife his plan for the evil day to come. He told his son their house and his parents’ bodies would be burned, but not to fear death or trouble himself when the people came to shut them in. After some thought, Ku‘ula remembered giving the ulua to the ali‘i’s retainer and was sure this retainer was to blame for this attack against himself.
He turned to his son and said: “Our child, ‘Ai‘ai-a-Ku‘ula, if our house and our bodies are burned, look for the smoke when it goes straight up Kaiwiopele Hill. That will be your path out of the burning house follow it till you find a cave where you will live. Take this hook called Manaiakalani5 with you; also this pearl shell fishhook for called Kahuoi; this leho (a cowry shell lure for catching octopus) called Leho‘ula 8; and this small sandstone from which I got my name, Ku‘ula-au-a-Ku‘ulakai. This stone is the progenitor of all the fish in the sea. From this time forth, you will be the one to establish all the Ku‘ula (stone altars for rites to attract fish and cause them to multiply) and the ko‘a lawai‘a (fishing grounds) 9 in the sea throughout the islands. Your name and the names of your parents shall be perpetuated through all generations to come. I hereby confer upon you all my power and knowledge. Whatever you desire, call on us and ask it in our names, and we will grant it. Soon we will leave this place and go into the sea to abide there forever; and you, our child, shall live here on land without worrying about anything that may happen to you. You will have the power to punish with death all those who have helped to burn us and our house. Whether ali‘i or maka‘ainana, all must die; now, let us calmly await our calamity.” ‘Ai‘ai agreed to carry out all his father’s instructions, from first to last, as a dutiful son.
Then the ali‘i’s people came one day and caught Ku‘ula and his family and tied their hands behind their backs, the evil-doer from Moloka‘i being there to aid in executing the ali‘i’s cruel orders resulting from his deceit. Ku‘ula and his family were taken into their house; he was tied to the pouhana (end post supporting the ridgepole), his wife was tied to the kai waena (middle post) of the house, and the boy, ‘Ai‘ai, was tied to one of the pou o manu (corner posts). Then the people went outside, barricaded the doorway with wood, and set the wood on fire. Men, women, and children watched the burning house with deep pity for the family within, and tears were streaming down their cheeks as they remembered Ku‘ula’s kindness during the time they had all lived together. The people didn’t know why they had been ordered to burn this family and this house.
Before the fire was lit, the ropes which bound the captives had dropped from their hands. When the fire was raging all about the house and the flames were consuming everything, Ku‘ula and his wife gave their last message to their son and left him. They departed from the house as quietly as the last breath leaves the body, and none of the people standing there saw from where, or how, Ku‘ula and his wife left. ‘Ai‘ai was the only one that retained physical form. His parents’ bodies were transformed by some miraculous power and entered the sea, taking with them all the fish swimming in and around Hana, as well as all the seaweed, crabs, crawfish, and the various kinds of shellfish along the seashore, even the ‘opihi-ko‘ele at the rocky beach. All the i‘a was gone. This was the first stroke of Ku‘ula’s revenge on the ali‘i and the people of Hana who obeyed his mandate; they suffered greatly from the lack of seafood.
After Ku‘ula and his wife left the house, the three gourds exploded, one by one, from the heat, and all those watching the burning house believed the explosions were the bursting bodies of the three people inside. The flames shot up through the roof of the house, and the black smoke hovered above, then turned toward the front of Kaiwiopele Hill. The people saw ‘Ai‘ai ascend through the flames and walk upon the smoke toward the hill till he came to a small cave that opened to receive him.
As ‘Ai‘ai left the house, it burned fiercely, and ‘Ai‘ai called upon his father, as his father had instructed, to destroy by fire all those who had caught and bound the family and set the house on fire. As he finished his appeal, he saw the rippling of the wind on the sea and a misty rain coming with it, increasing as it came till it reached Leho‘ula, where it fanned the blazing fire so that the flames reached out into the crowd for those who had obeyed the ali‘i and the man from Moloka‘i who had caused the trouble, and consumed them all. Strangely, all those who had refused to participate in the burning of Ku‘ula and his family, though closer to the burning house, were uninjured. The tongues of fire reached out only for the guilty ones. Their charred bodies were left to show the people remaining the second stroke of Ku‘ula’s vengeance. Because of this selective destruction of the fire, some of the people doubted Ku‘ula and his wife had died, and much disputation arose among them on the subject.
After ‘Ai‘ai walked out through the flames and smoke to the cave, he stayed there through the night. The next morning, he left his hook, his pa, his leho, and his sandstone in the cave and walked to the road at Puilio, where he met several children amusing themselves by shooting arrows; one of the children befriended him and invited him home. ‘Ai‘ai accepted the invitation, and the boy and his parents treated him well, so ‘Ai‘ai remained with them for some days.
While ‘Ai‘ai was living there, the parents of the boy learned of the ali‘i’s order for all the people of Hana to go fishing for hinalea. The people obeyed the royal order, but when they went down to the shore with their fishing baskets,10 they looked around for ueue, the usual bait, which was to be pounded up and put into the baskets, but they could not find any, nor any other bait material; nor could they see any fish in the sea. “Why?” they wondered. Because Ku‘ula and his wife had taken away all the fish and everything pertaining to fishing.
Finding no bait, the people of Hana pounded up limestone and placed it in the baskets and swam out and set them. They watched and waited all day, but in vain, for not a single hinalea was seen or caught. When night came, they went home empty-handed and came down again the next day, only to meet with the same result. The parents of the boy who had befriended ‘Ai‘ai were in this fishing party, in obedience to the ali‘i’s orders. Seeing them go down daily to Haneo‘o, ‘Ai‘ai asked what was going on and they told him; so ‘Ai‘ai told his friend to come with him to the cave. There ‘Ai‘ai showed him the stone fish god Pohaku-muone and said, “We can get fish with this stone without much work or trouble.”
Then ‘Ai‘ai picked up the stone and they went down to Leho‘ula, and setting it down at a point facing the pond which his father had made, he repeated these words: “E Ku‘ula, my father; e Hina, my mother, I place this stone here in your name, Ku‘ula, which action will make your name and mine famous. I place my friend in charge of this Ku‘ula stone, and he and his offspring hereafter will do and act in all things pertaining to it in our names.”
Then he explained to his friend the duties and observances related to the stone and the benefits to be derived from them for influencing each kind of fish, as his friend desired. This was the first establishment of the ko‘a Ku‘ula on land a place where a fisherman is obliged to offer his first catch to Ku‘ula and Hina by taking two fish and placing them on the Ku‘ula stone. Thus the boy ‘Ai‘ai first put into practice the fishing oblations established by his father at the place of ‘Ai‘ai’s birth; but he was able to do this only through the mana kupua of his parents.11
When ‘Ai‘ai had finished calling on his parents and instructing his friend, he saw several persons walking along the Haneo‘o beach with their fishing baskets and setting them in the sea, but catching nothing. ‘Ai‘ai suggested he and his friend go over to witness this fishing effort. When they reached the people fishing, ‘Ai‘ai asked them, “What are those things you placed in the sea?” They answered, “Those are baskets for catching hinalea, a fish our ali‘i craves; but we can’t get any bait to catch the fish.”
“Why not?” asked ‘Ai‘ai.
“Because Ku‘ula and his family are dead, and all the fish along the beaches of Hana have been taken away.”
Then ‘Ai‘ai asked them for two baskets and told his friend to take the baskets and follow him. The two boys went to a little pool near the beach, and setting the baskets in it, ‘Ai‘ai called on his parents for hinalea.
As soon as he finished calling, the fish came in such great numbers that the pool was overflowing with them. ‘Ai‘ai now told his friend to go home and tell his parents and relatives to come with baskets so they could gather the fish and carry the catch home. The boy’s relatives should have the first pick, and the owners of the fishing baskets should have the next pick. His friend went quickly and brought his parents and relatives as directed. ‘Ai‘ai then took two fish and gave them to his friend to place on the ko‘a Ku‘ula they had established at Leho‘ula. ‘Ai‘ai also told his friend that before sunset on that day, they would hear Kamohoali‘i, the ali‘i of Hana, had choked to death on a fish.
After ‘Ai‘ai and his friend had made their offering at the ko‘a Ku‘ula, his friend’s parents arrived at the pool where the fish were gathering. The parents were told to take all they desired, which they did, returning home happy for this liberal supply of fish obtained so effortlessly. The owners of the fishing baskets were then called and told to take all the fish they wished for themselves and for the ali‘i. When these people saw the great supply, they were glad and very surprised at the success of the two boys. The news of the reappearing fish spread throughout the district, and the people flocked to Haneo‘o in great numbers. They gathered hinalea to their satisfaction and returned home rejoicing. Some of those who had given ‘Ai‘ai the fishing baskets returned with their bundles of fish to the ali‘i. When the ali‘i saw so many of the fish he craved, he became excited and grabbed one, intending to eat it raw (the usual way of eating hinalea), but the fish slipped down his throat and got stuck there. His retainers tried to reach in and take it out, but they were unable to, and before sunset Kamohoali‘i died.
The death of the ali‘i completed Ku‘ula’s revenge. The evil-doer from Moloka‘i and those who had obeyed the ali‘i‘s orders had been destroyed, and ‘Ai‘ai had triumphed over all his father’s enemies.
This story of Ku‘ula-kai originally appeared in Thrum’s Hawaiian Annual in 1901 and was reprinted in Thrum’s Hawaiian Folk-Tales in 1907. The story was translated and condensed by Moses K. Nakuina from an account in Hawaiian by Moke Manu, a legendary storyteller of Hawai‘i. Moke Manu, born in 1837, is mentioned in a series of articles on “Fishing Lore” by A.D. Kahaulelio, which appeared in the newspaper Ku‘oko‘a in 1902. Manu’s father was a tax assessor in Hana.
A similar but shorter version of the tradition of Ku‘ula-kai appears in Hawaiian, with English translation, in Fornander (Appendix 2, “An Account of Fishing,” 107-109). Ku‘ula (“red Ku”) was a fisherman who was possessed by the god Ku and given power over fish. (The color red was sacred to the gods, and reddish things became sacred to Ku‘ula.) Ku (“upright” or “erect”), associated with male power, is often paired with Hina (“prostrate”), a goddess associated with female fecundity, growing things, and the moon and setting sun (Beckwith 12-13). Kamakau says Ku‘ula, “a great fisherman of ancient times,” was “the main ‘aumakua [god] of fishermen,” but not the only one. Other ‘aumakua included “Hinahele, to whom the ‘ohua fish in the sea were said to belong; Kanemakua, one of the forms of [the god] Kane in the sphere of fishing, who ‘possessed’ (noho maluna) a man by the name of Kanemakua in ancient times; ‘the coconut shell of Kapukapu,’ ka puniu o Kapukapu; and, for some fishermen Kinilau, and for others, Kaneko‘a. There were a great many fishing ‘aumakua, each related to his descendants, and each raised above [all others] by his own descendants” (The Works 61). Malo says the gods worshiped by fishermen “were various and numerous, each [fisherman] worshiping the god of his choice.” (208). “Kaneaukai” in Thrum’s Hawaiian Folk Tales (250-54) tells the story of a fishing god who instructs two kahuna (priests) in setting up a rock and a piece of wood sacred to him at Waimea Bay on O‘ahu to insure the supply of fish. Some of these fishing gods, like Ku‘ula-kai, were of local origin actual Hawaiian fishermen deified; others, like Kinilau (Tinirau in Tahiti and New Zealand, Tingilau in Samoa), were worshiped as fishing gods on other Pacific islands and were brought to Hawai‘i by early settlers.
Ku‘ula-kai and Fishponds
In Moke Manu’s version of the tradition of Ku‘ula-kai, Ku‘ula-kai is called the Hawaiian god of fishing.
A couple of puzzling questions emerge from this designation. First, Ku‘ula-kai is unheard of as a fishing god in the rest of Polynesia. Ku was traditionally a war god. Kanaloa was the god of the ocean and the patron of fishing in the Marquesas and Society Islands (Tanaoa, or Ta‘aroa). How then did Ku, in the form of Ku‘ula-kai, become the main god of fishing in Hawai‘i?
From Moke Manu’s version we learn that nothing is known of Ku‘ula-kai’s genealogy, suggesting that perhaps he was a maka‘ainana, or commoner. After his untimely death, he became deified as a fishing god. Thus he is a local addition to the Hawaiian pantheon of gods, not a god brought by settlers from the South Pacific. He is associated with fishponds, a Hawaiian innovation not found in other islands of the Pacific.
Fishponds were a relatively late development in Hawaiian culture. Based on references to fishponds in traditions from the 14th to 19th century, William Kikuchi speculates that fishponds appeared in the Hawaiian Islands sometime prior to the 14th century. Based on the genealogy of chiefs who had fishponds built, Patrick Kirch says the earliest ponds may have been built in the 14th century. Kirch places this development in what he calls the expansion period of Hawaiian culture, from 1100 to 1650 A.D. During this period:
As Kirch writes “Success in warfare provided opportunities for increasingly powerful chiefs to annex conquered lands and to place the control of ahupua‘a units in the hands of junior ali‘i” (306). He suggests that religion was also changing with the elaboration of the Ku cult and the building of larger heiau.
The culminating figure in this rise of ruling chiefs was Kamehameha, whose war god was Ku ka‘ili moku (“Ku, the island-snatcher”), a manifestation of the war god Ku. This war god is said to have been brought to Hawai‘i by Pa‘ao during the 12th or 13th century and passed down to Kamehemeha through Liloa and ‘Umi.
Given these developments, the relationship between the god Ku and fishponds becomes clearer. Only powerful chiefs who could command many workers could have built and maintained the largest of the fishponds. In Thomas Wahiako’s version of the Ku‘ula tradition (Beckwith 20-22), the pond at Leho‘ula beach is said to have had walls twenty feet thick and ten feet high with an opening to let fish enter and exit. Kamakau says that some of the fishponds would have required thousands of workers to build and maintain. Kikuchi notes that the large fishponds eventually served as status symbols for chiefs, because they allowed the chiefs to enjoy “select fish on call.” “Fishponds became symbols of chiefly right to conspicuous consumption and to ownership of land and its resources” (299).
Since the power of the chiefs came through their god Ku, the fruits of their conquests i.e., land and fishing rights, as well as innovations in production of food such as fishponds which added both to their food supply and their status, also became associated with the mana of Ku.
Ku‘ula-kai was perhaps an honorific name given to the man who built the first fishpond. His power of invention as well as his power to attract fish are seen as deriving from Ku. The offshore fishing grounds called ko‘a, which also came to under the ownership of ali‘i and were attached to ahupua‘a were said to have been established by Ku‘ula-kai’s son ‘Ai‘ai. Through the power of Ku, ‘Ai‘ai was able to locate these fishing grounds; or he established them by placing in the ocean stones which attracted fish. Puniaiki, the grandson of Ku‘ula-kai became successful at aku fishing, another activity associated with the ali‘i class because it required canoes, paddlers, and equipment.
In Moke Manu’s story, the name Ku‘ula is given not only to a god of fishing, Ku‘ula-kai, but a god of farming as well, Ku‘ula-uka. While Ku‘ula-uka, the brother of Ku‘ula-kai, never became widely accepted as a god of farmers, the farmer going into the forest to cut wood and fashion it into an ‘o‘o, or digging stick (the main implement for farming) prayed to Ku. And Ku also became the god of another upland activity cutting trees for canoe-building. Thus in Moke Manu’s account, Ku‘ula-uka is said to be a brother-in-law of the canoe-building aumakua, who have names beginnning with Ku. Kamakau mentions six Ku gods as gods of canoe-building.
This association of Ku with the upland forest is a uniquely Hawaiian development. Peter Buck notes that elsewhere in Polynesia, Kane rules the forests and is the god of canoe-building and carpentry. Buck wrote in 1964, “It is therefore evident that the Hawaiian ancestors confused the functions of the two gods and erroneously transferred the functions of Kane to Ku.” But was this confusion, or part of coherent political and religious developments that took place in Hawai‘i after Ku-ka‘ilimoku was introduced to Hawai‘i. As the ali‘i took control of the forest lands and built large canoes for interisland travel and for fishing, it seems natural that the god that gave the ali‘i the power to take control of the forests through conquest should also rule the forests.
Whether this was the case or not, we can see that what was originally a war god became a deity of peaceful arts as well, such as fishing, farming, and canoe building. There are prayers to Ku asking for rain, suggesting that Ku was also becoming a god of rain and fertility. Ku’s association with the digging stick, the main and only implement of Hawaiian farming, suggests that Ku’s domain was beginning to include farming. Ku is associated with two food plants, the breadfruit and the coconut, which Handy believed to be late introductions to Hawai‘i (Native Planter), and which would link the god with the migrations of the 12th-13th century, the period when Kuka‘ilimoku is said to have come to Hawaii.
A similar phenomenon of war god becoming god associated with agriculture occurred in Tahiti with the war god ‘Oro. Handy notes in Polynesian Religion that ‘Oro, “after gaining a position of political ascendancy as a war god, absorbed the functions of Ro‘o, or Lono, the god of peace and agriculture. In Tahiti, “the god Oro came into such favor as to supercede the original patrons of the chiefly families, Ta‘aroa and Tane, and in the late pre-European history of this island, Oro is found to be simultaneously the ferocious war lord, the recipient of the peacetime harvest offerings, and the patron of the dancers and singers whose activities were intended to forward fertility in nature. Therefore, there can be no question but that Oro in historic times in Tahiti was fulfilling the same functions as harvest and fertilizing god as did Rongo in New Zealand, and Lono in Hawai‘i” (109).
To conclude, the god Ku, originally worshipped as a war god, continued to be so worshipped; but his mana also became applied to peacetime activities as well to building things and making the land productive. Ku became associated with fishponds, and other aspects of fishing such as offshore fishing grounds and aku-trolling. Fishing altars along the shores of the islands were called Ku‘ula. Ku also became associated with forests, canoe-building, and some aspects of farming.
Of fishponds, Kamakau writes, there were many on “Oahu, Moloka‘i, and Kaua‘i, and a few on Hawai‘i and Maui. This shows how numerous the population must have been in the old days, and how they must have kept the peace for how could they have worked together in unity and made these walls if they had been frequently at war and in opposition one against another? If they did not eat the fruit of their effort, how could they have let the awa fish grow to a fathom in length; the ‘anae to an iwilei, a yard; the ulua to a meter or a muku (four and a half feet); the aholehole until its head was hard as coral (Ko‘a ka lae); and the ‘o‘opu until their scales were like the uhu? Peace in the kingdom was the reason that the walls could be built, the fish could grow big, and there were enough people to do this heavy work” (Works 47).
1. Leho‘ula and ‘Aleamai as well as other places in Hana mentioned in this story can be located on the map on page 136. The names of these gods associated with Hana translates as follows:
2. These three brothers, like Ku‘ula himself, are manifestations of the god Ku, the male generating force associated with forests, trees, and plants; Beckwith gives their names as (Ku)mokuhali‘i (“Ku island spreader”), Kupa‘aike‘e (“Adze eating crookedness”), Ku-pulupulu (“Ku kindling in the forest”) (12-16). The sister La-ea, or Hina-ulu-‘ohi‘a (“Hina of the ‘ohi‘a growth,” also called Lea), was also considered an ‘aumakua of canoe building, as was another brother, Ku-ka-‘ohia-laka, whose story appears in the introduction to this collection.
3. Ku‘ula’s fishpond is believed by some to be the first in Hawai‘i. According to a kama‘aina from Hana, the fishpond was located at Leho‘ula near the base of Kaiwiopele Hill; he recalls that during his childhood, the walls of a fishpond were visible beneath the surface of the water, but when we looked for the walls, we couldn’t see any, the walls perhaps having been washed away by the strong surf of the area. For descriptions of fishponds, see Appendix 1, “Hawaiian Fisheries” (105-106); Kamakau’s The Works of the People of Old (47-50); and Summers’ Hawaiian Fishponds.
4. A reference to the rocky fortress of Kaupeepee on the steep promontory of Ha‘upu, between Pelekunu and Waikolu valleys on the north shore of Moloka’i, west of Wailau. See Kalakaua’s The Myths and Legends of Hawaii (69-94) for the related legend.
5. Manaiakalani, “Come from heaven,” is also the Hawaiian name of the Polynesian constellation Maui’s Fishhook (the constellation called Scorpio in the West).
6. Kenneth P. Emory, in Material Culture of the Tuamotu Archipelago, describes the use of a baited hook mounted on a stick to catch eels in the Tuamotus. The hook was attached to a stick so that the fishing line would not be severed by the eel’s bite. In shallow water, this stick could be inserted into an eel hole by someone standing on the reef; in deeper water, a diver had to insert the stick into the eel’s hole, and a partner, “in a canoe above, held the line, on which he would haul as soon as the eel had taken the hook.” The eel was clubbed to death after it was brought into the canoe (205-6). Appendix 2, “An Account of Fishing” (110) describes a similar implement in Hawai‘i a hook placed at the head of a stick used for fishing for eels in clefts between rocks.
7. The backbone can still be seen in the pahoehoe at Leho‘ula. A rock formation at Kamalino on the southwestern side of Ni‘ihau is also said to be the backbone of an eel a great eel called Puhi‘ula (“Red eel”) caught there and cut into four pieces by Pahaunui and Pahauiki, two fishermen of Maui (Tava and Keale 75-6).
8. Kahuoi, the pearl shell aku lure, or pa hi aku, is named for a chief. Kamakau tells the story of the pa: “On the north side of the church of Kau-maka-pili in Honolulu, there once was a kuahu altar for the fishing lure, the pa hi aku, that belonged to Kahuoi. This was a very famous lure; when it was shown, the aku would fill the canoe. At that time the harbor of Kou was not entered by ships; the aku and ‘ahi fish came in there.” When Kahuoi goes fishing for uhu at Hana, Maui, the pa is stolen from him by Pu‘olo-kalina (Tales 8). For an illustration and descriptions of the pa hi aku, see page 43 and Appendix 1, “Hawaiian Fisheries,” 98; see “Hawaiian Fisheries,” 93-94, for a description of the leho‘ula and its use.
9. A ko‘a is a deep sea mound where fish gather to feed and where they can be caught in great numbers. Appendix 2, “An Account of Fishing” describes a ko‘a for kahala (amberjack): “The ko‘a is a place of great enjoyment by all the kahala. The ko‘a is about the size of a small village with houses standing and people gathering in crowds” (115-116). Walter Paulo and Eddie Ka‘anana, two fishermen of Miloli‘i on the Big Island, describe the ko‘a for ‘opelu (mackerel) in Miloli‘i as being a couple of hundred yards long about a quarter of a mile offshore in 150-200 feet of water. The ko‘a are spaced a quarter to half a mile apart, and different families of Miloli‘i feed and fish for ‘opelu at different ko‘a.
10. See “Kalamainu‘u” for the story of the origin of the hina‘i hinalea (basket for trapping hinalea). See Appendix 1,“Hawaiian Fisheries” (95), for a description of the hina‘i ho‘olu‘ulu‘u, used to catch hinalea.
11. According to Handy, this offering was made to thank the fishing god for his help in securing fish, to give the god a share of the catch to insure future supplies, and to lift the kapu from the rest of the fish so that they could be consumed by mortals (Polynesian Religion 298-300).