Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ancient Hawaiian Gods

Geographically, Hawaii is the most isolated place on Earth! It is believed that the first Polynesian settlers were skilled ocean navigators and astronomers, and traveled to Hawaii in double-hulled canoes. They sailed from the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific in an age when Western boats rarely went out of sight of land.

Over the generations, Lawai'a (fishermen) honed their hunting skills with the help of tools such as the spear, net, trap, line and hook. Lawai'a used hooks (makau) to catch fish in the open ocean. They possessed knowledge of specific techniques such as which hook was needed to catch a particular type of fish.

The ancient Hawaiians were a deeply religious people, and the Gods played a big role in their daily life. Kanaloa was/is the god of the Ocean, however most fishermen appealed to one of the lesser gods: Ku'ula (the deity presiding over and controlling the fish in the Sea) for his benevolence, though a variety of deities might be worshiped. To insure a good catch, the early Hawaiians built a fishing heiau (religous site), called ko'a.

These heiau were named in honor of the particular god, that each fisherman chose as his good luck deity. Before setting out to fish, offerings of bananas and baked pig would be made at the heiau. Small Ku'ula alters, smooth stones pointing toward heaven, also existed where offerings could be made. Ku'ula rocks can still be seen on promontories overlooking favorite fishing sites.

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