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The Hawaiian Creation Legend and Taro

sun shining through forest o'ahu

By Dan Scroggins

There are a few different creation chants but I will focus on the Kumulipo which is translated as “beginning in deep darkness.” I have not read the entire thing but WAIT! Before you leave my page thinking “This guy is going to write a blog post on something he hasn’t even read?” Google search the Kumulipo. Follow the link to where you will find Queen Lili’uokalani’s translation. Then scroll through the entire text of over 2,100 lines divided into sixteen different era’s and maybe you won’t be so hard on me. Keep in mind that incredibly this was all memorized and passed on orally. The Hawaiian language and people were very adept to memorization. I will be using texts and notes from my Hawaii State Tour Guide Certification Course to try and break down the Kumulipo.

“Creation chants remind us of our place in the universe and our connection to all living things (Ho’okipa, Module One, 3).” It all begins with Papa “Earth Mother” and Wakea “Sky Father.” As well as creating the islands they gave birth to a daughter, Ho’okuokalani. He has a son with Wakea whom they name Haloa, he is a stillborn. From the ground he is buried in grows the first taro (kalo) plant. Taro has fed Hawaiians for a couple thousand years and the physical as well as spiritual importance of the plant cannot be understated.  From the first taro plant descended all taro. When it is harvested the root section as well as the leaves are eaten but the stalk is replanted to grow more taro. For Hawaiians the similarities between taro and the family unit is so close that they use the same words to describe parts of the taro plant as they do to describe family members (see picture A). Taro reminds Hawaiians of their connection to the past and their responsibilty for the future as well as the importance of caring for the land or aina, the source of life.

So the next time you get the chance, have some poi (taro pounded into a paste) and think about your connection to the past and your responsibilities to the future. We are all linked together by our ancestors, our children, each other, our communities and to the source of life, the aina. Now when you think of Hawaii, please don’t think about pineapples, think of taro. Aloha \m/

Ho’okipa Me Ke Aloha, Module One.  Professional Training in Hawaiian Hospitality Kapi’olani Community College, Interpret Hawai’i, 2004.

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