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Living WorldSeasons


Rain clouds

Rain over He‘eia fishpond.

Seasons in the Hawaiian islands vary from place to place, so much so that the names for months on different islands differ. “I’ve seen calendars and the complexity for the five major islands,” Kalani says. “The month names differ, it’s not a uniform calendar. I’ve seen the printout, island by island for the five major islands and what the months are called and what order they are in, differ.”

I’d always laugh when people come in from another place telling us how to plant taro with their lunar cycle,” Kanekoa says, “when they have not taken the time to understand our lunar cycle here. Every land is different, every part of the island has different climates and different seasons. You might have ‘ulu season on this side of the island, and in Wai‘anae—which is beautiful—might have a completely different season for ulu. Every area has a little different lunar cycle.”

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“I think it empowers communities to know what we’ve always known,” Hi‘ilei adds, “which is we’re very much place-based. You cannot do in one place as you would do in another place. Seasons for this particular fish are not the same seasons that apply for this particular fish in this area. And so it tells us that we want to steward and take care of our resources, it really needs to be place-based.

"Here’s the evidence to tell you that the manini are spawning now here in Kāne‘ohe Bay and might not be spawning elsewhere. So it really tells us that state rules and regulations, that sort of blanket approach to managing resources, doesn’t work.

“I’m part of this ‘Aimalama team, so that’s kind of the work that we do is empowering community, teaching community to interpret their surroundings using kaulana mahina—our lunar calendar—as a tool to help facilitate and organize what it is we see.”

Hi‘ilei explains the Hawaiian Lunar Calendar

Watching the seasonal cycle in He‘eia.

At the very least, the year is divided into two main seasons: Kau (associated with summer) and Ho‘oili, the rainy season associated with winter. Kalani explains how these are related to the major Hawaiian gods:

“Kāne supplies us with water, fresh water. The god Kāne represents fresh water, sunlight, natural growth. Everything for the natural world to thrive. All of the natural world: forests and everything else. Lono, on the other hand, Lonoikamakahiki, Lono is the god of human efforts in horticulture. We can’t say 'agriculture.' Horticulture is like gardening, while agriculture is wide-scale farming. So this is horticulture, they were gardeners. Human activity, what we can earn or have the Earth produce, is what we owe Lono for the success of our endeavors. And so we honor him during the Makahiki season, that period of three to four months in celebration of the harvest. It is a long 'harvest festival,' you can say.

Carved statue of Kū

One of three remaining pre-contact imagies of Kū,this one at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. Photo by Wally Gobetz.

“We honor him and warfare is forbidden during that period of the year. The closing of the Makahiki coincided, of all things, with the time of Captain Cook’s passing—February fourteenth, Valentine’s Day in 1779. And then warfare resumed. That was the period of Kū, the god of war, which also including human sacrifice.

“And of course the fourth god is the least important for Hawaiians: Kanaloa, the god of the ocean. He’s the least in the consciousness of the Hawaiians except for males because Kanaloa and Kū both have a lot to do with male activities like fishing, farming, canoe building. It’s an interesting, complex world really.”

“Hawaiians were so acute with their understanding of nature,” Ian points out, “and the subtleties of not only nature in general. Science is so macro but micro. The way that we look at it is mythology of the landscape, because it really supports the natural science with the specifics about each place. It’s not just a wind. It’s not just a rain. It has a character. It has a place, a home, and the people of that place love or fear that character and respect it all around but know it. They know it because there was just not one god. There was one god, and the four gods, and gods, goddesses, deities, and 40 deities. 400, 4,000, 40,000, 400,000 deities presiding over all aspects of nature, each with name and character, nā kini akua.”

Ian explains the story of Keaomelemele and its relationship to clouds and weather.

Ian goes on to tell of the rains in this part of Ko‘olaupoko:

Man wearing hala lei

A hala lei worn by a Hawaiian man. Wikipedia photo by Makana Chai.

“He‘eia is the Kālepa, the coral-shattering rain of He‘eia that run up and get the boots wet, the Hō‘ilo [winter, stormy season] rain when you’re up there picking the ferns in the back.”

In her 2017 book, The Power of the Steel-Tipped Pen: Reconstructing Native Hawaiian Intellectual History, Noenoe Silva tells of a kānaenae, “a chant of affection that Hiiaka offers when she is standing atop Mahinui in Kailua observing the wahi pana and people around her. She looks at He‘eia to the northwest and sees a group of women travling to the uplands of ‘Āhuimanu to make lei from hala fruit.”

Ke pii ae la ka huakai wahine e
Apahu lei hala i uka o Ahuimanu
He manumanu au i ka lokoino e—
Pau ke aho i ka loa o Auliilii
Ke hele ae la ka ua kalepa e—
Ka ua okoiko koa o Heeia;
Ke hehi la i ke kai o Luhi e—
Luhi i ke kai ke koa o Heeia-kea.

The women’s journey is climbing
To cut hala for lei in the uplands of ‘Āhuimanu
I am bruised by the malevolence [I‘ve been experiencing]
Exhausted by the length of Auli‘ili‘i
The fluttering rain is traveling
The coral-carving rain of He‘eia
(Is) stepping on the sea of Luhi [tired; worn]
The coral of He‘eia is worn down by the sea.

Hānau ka Ua

Hānau ka Ua cover.

Noenoe adds that Hi‘iaka always sings to the ‘āina as she goes along. “Various places, which/who speak and act, will be insulted or hurt if she doesn’t recognize them. She, in turn, demands recognition and hospitality from both these divine characters who are landforms and so forth, and humans. Mutual recognition and hospitality to travelers are central values of Hawaiian culture, as is often seen in the oral tradition.”

Similarly, Akana, in her book Hānau ka Ua —Hawaiian Rain Names, translates a letter describing Quen Kapi‘olani’s journey from Honolulu to Ko‘olau, clearly drawing on the above chant( Akana p. 47):

Ne nihi a‘ela ka ua Kālepa
Ka ua ‘oki‘oki ko‘a o He‘eia
Ke hehi maila i ka maka o ke ko‘a
A luhi ēLuhi i ka ua ke ko‘a
O He‘eia Kea ē

The Kālepa rain moves quietly
The coral-breaking rain of He‘eia
Trampling on the bud of the coral
Until weary—Weary from the rain is the coral
Of He‘eia Kea.

“‘Āpuakea is the rain that’s Waimānalo and Kailua,” Ian continues, “runs up into Luluku in Kāne‘ohe. And then on this side, we have the Ulumano ['blowing hard'] rain because Moku Manu was the home of the shark god, Kūha‘imoana. And so that pass between the island of Moku Manu and Mōkapu Point was known as Kawahookamānō, which is the mouth of the shark.

‘Āpuakea: Rain name associated with Ko‘olau Poko, O‘ahu, said to be named for a beautiful woman, ‘Āpua-kea, changed to rain by the goddess Hi‘iaka.

‘Ulumano: A strong wind blowing from a given direction in each locality, as a strong southeast wind in Ka‘ū and Puna, Hawai‘i, and at Kāne‘ohe, O‘ahu. Also ‘Ao‘aoa. Lit., blowing hard. ‘Eha i ke ku‘iku‘i a ka Ulu-mano, pained by buffets of the Ulu-mano wind.

“Ulu also means ‘growth’ so it may be the point where the rains grow, but I start to wonder if it’s Ulumano with that relationship to the shark, and how it comes through this pass. Because the other rains over there, this one comes in this side and sweeps across here, and then goes up and goes into the Kālepa rain.

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Holopali rain.

“That looks like the Holopali rain,” Ian points from Mōkapu towards the mountains of Kualoa, “the wind and rain that ‘runs along the cliff’ [holo pali] from Kualoa to Ka‘a‘awa. Because either way you go, it splits and runs along the cliff. Each rain had a name.

“Across the peninsula it goes up to the whole Hō‘ilo right up there. This one goes into the back. But then you have the Kauapō‘aihale for Kahalu‘u because that whole Waihee-Kahalu‘u area, the rain swirls around, gets caught in that whole area. And then you have the Kiliua, the white rain of Waikāne and Waiahole.”

In Archaeology of O‘ahu, McAllister wrote of Kauapo‘aihale o Kahalu‘u, “This is the region known by old Hawaiians as Kauapo‘aihale o Kahalu‘u because the rain circles round and round the hills and never goes beyond Kahaluu.” In Sites of O‘ahu, page 194.

“Now in Hakipu‘u,” Ian goes on, “this is it not a named rain, but Keoki Fukumitsu’s family says great, great grandma called it the Kēhau, which is the convective mist and light rain that comes down off the mountain in the morning, that was the menehune, that was the Lono, the kēhau mist, the kēhau lani, the tears from heaven.”

Akana also presents the following additional rain names for He‘eia:

Kaniko‘o: refers to the tapping sound of a cane

A ku‘u hoa e noho lā i ka la‘i
I walea i ka ua Kaniko‘o o He‘eia
I ka ua Pō‘ailau‘awa o Moelana.

And my companion who resides in the calm
Relaxing in the Kano‘o rain of He‘eia
In the Pō‘ailau‘awa rain of Moelana

(p. 49)

Līpoa: Same as Uaakalīpoa, also the name of a seaweed:

Aloha nō ‘oe, e ka Mālualuakele
E ka makani anu o ku‘u ‘āina
He ‘āina , he hoa aloha no ka pali
He kāne ho‘i, he ipo no ka ua Līpoa.

Beloved are you, o Mālualuakele
The cold wind of my homeland
A home, a friend for the cliffs
A mate, a sweetheart for the Līpoa rain.

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Waterfalls above H-3 during a heavy rain.

This chant comes from the legend of Kamaakamahi‘ai, recited by Kahelekūlani of He‘eia as she left her husband,m Waikūmailani, who had found another women. Source: Kaualilinoe, “Ka moolelo,” 11/5/1870. (Akana, 163-4).

Akana also lists Ki‘owao as a rain for He‘eia. According to Pukui and Elbert’s Hawaiian dictionary, this is a “cool mountain rain accompanied by wind and fog.”

“Wind and rain names go together here,” Ian remarks. Like everything else, it’s relational and genealogical. If you want to talk about it in general, it’s nāulu [“shower clouds”].


The variations in rainfall within He‘eia itself makes for different vegetation and forest zones.



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