Pa‘ao was a priest, Makuaka‘umana a prophet, Pilika‘aiea a chief coming after La‘au-ali‘i in the genealogy of Hema. They were from Wawau [Borabora] and ‘Upolo [Taha‘a] and islands to the west. Ka‘akoheo was the sea-cliff from which they departed; and Malaia was the mountain ridge in ‘Upolo where the grass (mau‘u) grew which Pa‘ao brought with him to Hawai‘i. (A sister of Pa‘ao who came to Hawai‘i with him was named Na-mau‘u-Malaia, or ”The grass of Malaia.”)

Pa‘ao left his birthplace because of a quarrel with his older brother Lonopele, who was a kahuna, a man of mana (supernatural power), very intelligent, with knowledge of everything of concern to a kahuna. Both were farmers. Lonopele cultivated his land near the seashore with sweet potato, taro, banana, and other fruitful plants. Once all the fruit was stolen and he believed Pa‘ao’s son was the thief. He went to his brother and told him, “Your son has stolen all my fruit.”

Pa‘ao said: “Are you sure my son is the thief?”

Lonopele replied: “I saw him in my field. I didn’t see him taking the fruit, but I believe he is guilty.”

“If that’s so,” Paao replied, “I’ll cut open his stomach and find the evidence. But if your fruit is not there, then what?”

Lonopele replied: “What you do is up to you. If you cut open your son’s stomach, that’s your affair.”

Pa‘ao answered: “I’ll cut open his stomach, and if fruit is found, you are right; if not, you are wrong.” Pa‘ao caught his son and cut open his stomach. No fruit was found. Then he told Lonopele to look and see.

Lonopele declined: “You’re the one who should look into your son’s stomach.”

Pa‘ao was full of grief over of his son’s death. He said to his brother: “I’ll find a way to kill your son. Then I will leave this land.”

Pa‘ao ordered his men to build a double-hulled voyaging canoe. His kalaiwa‘a (canoe carvers) hollowed out logs, carved the fittings, lashed and rigged the canoe, and painted the canoe black. The canoe was well-made. He placed a kapu on it: no one was to touch it until the lolo sacrifice was offered to insure a safe voyage.1

The kapu had been established for some time when the son of Lonopele came along and slapped on the sides of the canoes. Pa‘ao heard the sound and told his servants to find out who it was. They reported that the son of Lonopele was slapping the sides of the canoe. Pa‘ao commanded them to kill the boy, which was done. Then the sacrifice to the canoe was made and the kapu was lifted. Pa‘ao took the body and placed it under the supporting block at the stern of the canoe. After a few days Lonopele came to the canoe shed, greatly troubled, trying to find his son who, he feared, was lost.

Lonopele admired the fine finish of the canoe. While looking it over carefully from end to end, he noticed flies buzzing under the stern. He searched and found the corpse of his son and knew the boy had been murdered. He was sick with sorrow for his son and wailed grievously. Crazed with anger against Pa‘ao, he said: “You’ve done a crazy thing, O Pa‘ao! You’ve killed my son. You waited for an opportunity to take his life. Go! Leave this land, for you are an evil man!” With a mournful love song, Lonopele carried his son’s corpse away.2

Pa‘ao loaded his canoe with food, water, and supplies for an ocean voyage. The name given his canoe was Kanaloa-a-muia. [Or Ka-nalo-a-muia, “the swarming of flies.”] Forty paddlers boarded the canoes. Also on board were two stewards (kanaka ‘aipu‘upu‘u); the chief Pilika‘aiea and his wife Hina-au-kekele (also called Hina-‘au-aku); and Pa‘ao’sister Na-mau‘u-o-malaia. Pa‘ao was the kahuna; Maka‘alawa, the kilo-hoku (astronomer and navigator); Holau, the steersman; Pu‘ole‘ole, the conch shell blower; Nu‘u and Holawa, the ‘awa chewers. Pa‘ao was consecrated for this voyage to find new land (ka holo ana e imi ‘aina). When everyone was ready to sail, Pa‘ao stood on the canoe while some prophets were standing on the Ka‘akoheo cliff. One called to him: “O Pa‘ao! Let me go with you!”

Pa‘ao asked, “Who are you?”

He replied: “I am a prophet.”

“What is your name?”

“Lelekoa‘e (‘Leaping tropic bird’) is my name.”

Pa‘ao called back to him: “Leap onto the canoe.”

Lelekoa‘e leaped and fell on the stones below and died. Then Pa‘ao tested the powers of one prophet after another—Maku‘epali, ‘ohuku-pali, Kikaha-pali and so on, but all of them failed and fell to their deaths.

Pa‘ao sailed on and was nearly out of sight of land; only one cliff could be seen above the horizon behind him. A prophet stood there and called, “O Pa‘ao, Let me go with you!” He called two or three times before Pa‘ao heard the voice, a faint whisper in the wind.

When Pa‘ao looked back and saw a person standing on the brink of the cliff, he called out, “Who are you?”

The man replied, “A prophet.”

“What is your name?”


Pa‘ao replied: “The canoe is full, there is but one place left, on the momoa [a projection at the stern].”

“That’s my place.”

“Then leap!” The prophet flew like a bird, landed on the momoa, and grabbed onto the manu (a piece covering the stern).

He called out: “ Here I am, where is my place on the canoe?”

“On the pola (platform between the two hulls).”

Thus, the prophecy of Kalaikuahulu concerning the prophet Makuaka‘umana was fulfilled:

A fragile-tailed fish am I,
Moving swiftly before the heavens,
Travelling the dark, dark ocean
That roars at Halekumukalani.
I am the man, Makuaka‘umana,
The prophet who traveled the islands,
Who circled the Pillars of Kahiki,
Who leapt and sat on Kaulia (a perching place).

When Pa‘ao’s canoe was out on the ocean, his brother Lonopele tried to sink the canoe. He sent the stormy south winds Konaku, Kona-nui-a-niho, Kona-moe, and Kona-ho‘apuku, and the gusty winds, the gales, and the stormy winds of Ho‘oilo. But Pa‘ao had mats to cover his hulls and keep the water out. While the wind was blowing fiercely with much rain, and the waves ran high, two kinds of fish, the aku and the ‘opelu, gathered in the waters and quieted the waves. The Kona storms died down. Because of this help, both these fish were made kapu to the Pa‘ao family and their descendants.

Lonopele looked out and saw that Pa‘ao had not been destroyed, so he sent the cold northerly winds—Ho‘olua, Malualua, Kiu, Waikoloa, and Makanihaunone, but the hulls were covered with mats to keep the water out and did not sink. Lonopele then sent a large bird, Kikaha-‘iwa–ina-pali, to defecate on the canoe and sink it. But the mats again protected the canoe.

Pa‘ao landed in Puna, Hawai‘i and built his first heiau as a temple for his god and named the heiau Aha‘ula. It was a luakini heiau (a temple for human sacrifice).

From Puna Pa‘ao went to Kohala, landing at Pu‘uepa where he built the luakini heiau called Mo‘okini. It was thought that Pa‘ao came in the time of the high chief La‘auali‘i, because Pili became the ruling chief of Hawaii after La‘auali‘i in the genealogy of Hanala‘anui. The island of Hawai‘i was without a chief, and so a chief was brought from Kahiki.3


This version of the story of Pa‘ao has been compiled from Thrum’s More Hawaiian Folk Tales (46-52); N.B. Emerson’s “Long Voyages of the Ancient Hawaiians”; and Kamakau’s Tales and Tradtions of the People of Old (3-5; 97-100). Another version of the Pa‘ao tradition appears in Laura Green’s Folk-tales from Hawai‘i (120–124); the story was told in Hawaiian to Mary Kawena Pukui by Mrs. Kanuikaikaina of Hilo, Hawai‘i; it was translated by Miss Green. Mrs. Kanuikaikaina begins: “Two brothers, Pa‘ao and Lonopele, were priests of the gods Ku and Lono in ‘Upolo, Samoa. Pa‘ao was the priest of Ku-ka‘ili-moku, who later became the war-god of Kamehmameha I, as ‘Ku-snatcher of islands.’”

According to Kamakau, Kuka‘ilimoku “was made of fine, soft feathers from the forehead of Kiwa‘a. Kiwa‘a was slain by Wai-kele-nui-a-iku after he had been carried away by the bird. These feathers from its forehead were sacred feathers called Hina-wi-koli‘i. They flew to the lap of Namaka-o-kaha‘i. These feathers acquired mana and became Kuka‘ilimoku” (Kamakau 3). Kuka‘ilimoku eventually was passed down through through the ruling chiefs of the island of Hawai‘i—through Liloa, ‘Umi a Liloa, and Keawenui a ‘Umi to Kamehameha the First, who conquered and united the islands of Hawai‘i. This god demanded human sacrifice. Aha‘ula heiau later became known as Waha‘ula (“Red Mouth”), perhaps because of the human sacrifices laid there to Kuka‘ilimoku.

1. The lolo sacrifice for consecrating and lifting the kapu on a canoe so it could pass from the carver to the owner involved prayers and offerings to the canoe gods. Malo says pig, red fish, and coconuts were the offering “spread out before the kahuna” (129). Kamakau says the symbolic foods were pig and dog, the “pig symbolizing the ‘rooting’ (‘eku) of the canoe into the open sea and the dog the ‘tearing apart’ (hae aku) of the billows of the ocean. Sweet potatoes and taro were the vegetable foods” (Works 121-122). The Pukui-Elbert Dictionary (1986) defines lolo as “brains” and explains that it was a religious ceremony “at which the brain of the sacrficed animal was eaten (such ceremonies occurred at a canoe launching, start of journey, completion of instruction),” apparently to signify completion.

2. The Kanuikaikaina version of this tradition gives a slightly different account of the quarrel between the two brothers: “Pa‘ao and Lonopele each had a son, and their pranks often led to quarrels between the fathers. One day, Lonopele’s son entered the temple and stole a bit of the food placed for the sacrifice. Lonopele accused Pa‘ao’s son of the theft. A few days later, Lonopele’s son stole more of the sacrifice and his father seized Pa‘ao’s son and had him put to death. Pa‘ao was deeply grieved and in his heart he knew that Lonopele’s son was at fault. He watched closely and was rewarded by seeing him run out of the temple with a bit of the offering in his hand. Then Pa‘ao put Lonopele’s son to death and hid his body under a canoe. For days Lonopele looked for his son and when at last he found him, he ordered his younger brother to depart and seek a new home.”

3. Emerson writes that Hawai‘i island had been without an pure-blooded ali‘i for a long time; those that ruled Hawai‘i were ali‘i maka‘ainana (royalty with the blood of commoners intermixed through marriage), or just commoners, maka‘ainana. Thus, Pilika‘aiea, of pure ali‘i blood, became the ruler of the island. Pa‘ao became his high priest. He established a strict religious system, introducing to Hawai‘i the custom of kapu-o (prostration), the puloulou (a royal insignia marking off a kapu area), and the walled heiau (previously, heiau had been open courtyards.)

The Kanuikaikaina version gives the following ending: Pa‘ao landed at Puna on the island of Hawai‘i. There Pa‘ao built the temple of Aha-‘ula, or “Red-assembly,” so named because of the red feather cloaks worn by the god Ku-kaili-moku and the other gods. He left priests here to care for the temple and to cover the lava rock with soil brought in pandanus baskets from the hill country, to plant rare trees and dig a well, so making an oasis in that desert place.

The priests kindled a fire in the temple grounds, which was consecrated to their gods and kept burning night and day. Whatever man the smoke of that fire fell upon, whether high or low in rank, became a sacrifice to the gods. Hence the name of that temple was changed to Waha-‘ula, “Red-mouth,” because it devoured men.

Pa‘ao went to Paka‘alana in the Hamakua district of Hawaii, where he built another temple. Here he left two white stones which were worshipped by the inhabitants of that district, especially by the high chief, Liloa. Pa‘ao saw how the chiefs, or ali‘i, had sinned by intermarriage with commoners, thus diluting the sacred blood. [The chief of Hawai‘i at that time was Kapawa (Fornander, Vol. IV, 22-23).] Pa‘ao sailed back to Tahiti and brought a chief and his family from there to restore the ancient rank of chiefs in Hawai‘i. This chief was Piliaoao, ancestor of Kamehameha 1st.

[According to Fornander (Vol. IV, 22-23), the chieftainship was first offered to Lonokaeho, who was invited to come to Hawai‘i to rule by Makuaka‘umana, the singing-priest of Pa‘ao’s expedition:

O Lono! Lono! Lonokaeho!
Lonokulani, ali‘i of Kauluonana,
Here are the canoes, come aboard
Return with us to live in green-backed Hawai‘i
A land discovered in the ocean,
Thrown up amid the waves
From the very depths of Kanaloa
The white coral jagged in the water
Caught on the hook of the fisherman
The great fisherman of Kapa‘ahu
The great fisherman of Kapuhe‘euanu‘u-la
When the canoes land, come aboard,
Sail to rule Hawai‘i, an island,
Hawai‘i is an island,
Hawai‘i is an island
For Lonokaeho to live on.

Hawaiian text:

E Lono! e Lono—e! e Lonokaeho!
Lonokulani, ali‘i o Kauluonana,
Eia na wa‘a, kau mai
E hoi e noho ia Hawai‘i-kua-uli
He ‘aina loaa i ka moana
I hoea mai loko o ka ale
I ka halehale Poi pu a Kanaloa
He koakea i halelo i ka wai
I lau i ka makau a ka lawa‘ia
A ka lawai‘a nui o Kapa‘ahu
A ka lawai‘a nui o Kapuhe‘euanu‘u-la
A pae na wa‘a, kau mai;
E holo e ai ia Hawai‘i, he moku;
He moku Hawai‘i
He moku Hawai‘i
No Lonokaeho e noho.

Lonokaeho refused the chiefship and proposed Piliaoao (or Pili-Ka‘aiea).] Pa‘ao set up Piliaoao as the highest ruler on Hawai‘i and served as his kahuna until Pili’s death. Pa‘ao’s son served the son of Piliaoao, and so on for succeeding generations. Hewahewa, who was high priest in the time of Kamehameha 1st, was a descendant of Pa‘ao and in 1819 when King Liholiho broke the tabu, Hewahewa was the first man to apply the torch to the King’s temple and reduce his ancestral gods to ashes.

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